Finding Riches in Niches
Residents come in as many varieties as multifamily communities themselves, so marketing a property is merely a matter of identifying the prospects most likely to love it, getting them in the door, and signing them up. Right? If only it were that simple.
By Jeffrey Steele
Residents come in as many varieties as multifamily communities themselves, so marketing a property is merely a matter of identifying the prospects most likely to love it, getting them in the door for a look, and persuading them to sign up.
Simple? Of course not. As demographic niches become ever more segmented by age, location and lifestyle preferences, marketing strategies must show equal flexibility. To reach so many distinctive slices of the audience, owners, managers and leasing agents are coming up with remarkably inventive and varied solutions. The results reflect everything from the latest in mobile technology to fresh versions of time-tested methods.
Conveying a community’s essence to the appropriate niche requires plenty of forethought. One of the first steps Beach Co. takes is to create a messaging brief that goes well beyond listing features and services commonly offered by competitors, like granite countertops and valet trash pickup. The document spells out the property’s highlights, identifies differences with competing communities and summarizes the appeal of each feature.
The document is “the basis for our web content, and we use these same topics to build our social media editorial content and ads, and our online and print ads, as well,” said Karen Bacot, the firm’s director of marketing.
Here’s a real-world example. For a community in Mount Pleasant, S.C., a seaside town in the Charleston metro region, the company sought to reach affluent young professionals who wanted to live near the beach and Baby Boomers pursuing high-quality multifamily in a neighborhood offering more than the typical features and space—an “instant walkable community with shopping right there,” as Bacot put it.
“But since it was really one of a kind, it was hard to convey how integrated the apartments were in the shopping village. We wanted a ‘Best of Southern Living’ theme with a Southern accent, so to speak.”
The marketing team summed up its message with the line, “Riviera at Seaside Farms Is Right Near Perfect.” Photos of outdoor activities were captioned, “Friendly as all get out”; photos of the model unit carried the label “Southern comfort.” And the advertising heralded the appeal of sun, sand and shopping with the catch phrase “So close to everything, you can just take your time.”
The campaign paid off with a quick lease-up of the studios as well as three-bedroom townhomes with garages, a rare type of unit in the area, Bacot noted.
Sizing up the neighborhood is crucial to pitching the marketing campaign to the right audience. Rivergate KW Residential puts boots on the ground and talks with business owners, restaurant wait staff and anyone else who’s tuned into the neighborhood. The firm gleans further knowledge by taking part in neighborhood associations and business development groups, reported Marcie Williams, president of the firm, which is jointly headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and Miami.
Draper & Kramer is monitoring the changing demographics of visitors to the websites of its properties in Bronzeville, an up-and-coming neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, where the firm manages some 3,000 units, and researching the preferences of customers who patronize the neighborhood’s dining and shopping venues.
“Maybe before, we didn’t get traffic from a pet-friendly boutique, and now that’s picking up and we have to start marketing to pet owners,” said Michael Lojas, the firm’s leasing and marketing director.
Along with new ways to pinpoint the target market for a community, owners, managers and leasing agents are experimenting with fresh ways to bring them in the door. Luxury Living Chicago Realty (LLCR), a multifamily leasing specialist, nurtures relationships with businesses and schools, and partners with local bars or eateries to sponsor events.
Once signs go up at development sites, the firm also builds priority sign-up lists to keep prospects engaged through construction and pre-leasing. For one recent lease-up, LLCR unveiled a “lifestyle quiz” on living, play and transit preferences to gauge prospects’ compatibility with the property. To date, the quiz has drawn more than 1,000 responses and accounts for 15 percent of all rentals at the property, reported Aaron Galvin, the firm’s owner and managing broker.
KW Residential is using walk-in attribution to keep track of consumers who interact with an ad on their mobile devices and walk into the company leasing office. The strategy employs geofencing, which creates a digital border around an area and delivers advertisements to the mobile devices of people in those areas. “We also believe in the power of in-reach marketing,” Williams said. “Our residents work and play with the demographic we are targeting.” Residents get the company’s foot in the door at their workplaces, ideally major employers or businesses that are actively recruiting.
“For some, we bring bagels, donuts and coffee to a small department. For others, we have set up an ice cream bar in the office lobby and served up to 150 people.” KW Residential brands the experience and provides printed materials like brochures and special-offer postcards. “The goal is to generate word-of-mouth marketing by giving prospects a memorable experience they talk about with friends and co-workers.” KW also promotes the brand name by sponsoring community events like 5K races, cornhole tournaments and concert series.
Billboards touting the convenience of a location are old standbys that use some variation of the familiar pitch, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now.” Draper & Kramer tried a new twist when marketing Lake Meadows in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Noticing that the location a half mile from the city’s 31st Street Harbor was attracting boat owners to the community, Draper & Kramer teamed up with a boat rental shop and arranged for signage with the tag line, “A 15-Minute Walk to Your Own Private Pier.”
That was a way to particularly target Millennials, young professionals and students who enjoy the beach. “Some may own boats, but most just want the proximity to the beach and harbor,” Lojas said. To convey the message, Draper & Kramer bought outdoor ad space highly visible to Bronzeville residents.
The medium and the message
Aggregating websites may be going through a transition, as well. Trion Properties Managing Partner Max Sharkansky believes that Craigslist is ceding its place as the longtime favorite to sites like Apartments.com, as well as Zillow, Trulia and Redfin.
“Unlike Craigslist, these ILS sites are much more interactive and user-friendly,” he added. “Many of them also offer mobile apps, which are increasingly gaining popularity among prospective residents.”
Residents like the transparency of these sites, which often incorporate reviews and aggregated data, allowing prospective residents to compare prices and make informed leasing decisions, Sharkansky explained. “In addition to partnering with ILS, we also utilize remarketing, meaning ads that reappear after a visitor looks at our property websites.”
Draper & Kramer gets “more push” from social media campaigns in trendy downtown areas, but in suburban hamlets leans heavily on employer-preferred programs and promos in company newsletters and employee welcome packets. “Or we take an ad in a local newspaper,” Lojas said.
For its part, Beach Co. relies on “compelling websites that are mobile-responsive,” Bacot said. It is active on social media, works hard at SEO and tweaks its Google Adwords and Facebook ads to match the inventory it needs to promote. “We also execute on the basics,” she said. “If we have a great location with lots of drive-by traffic, we get tons of leads from signage.”
Originally appearing in the May 2017 issue of MHN.