The more things stay the same in the multi-family real estate industry, the more things change. Marketing multi-family developments has always required an insightful, data-supported knowledge of the target audience and a strong commitment to serving their daily needs. While all those fundamentals still ring true, we are, however, seeing a shift among the largest living generation in the United States: Millennials. Leasing at one time was considered just an interim stage between matriculation and a mortgage, and developers would market their communities accordingly. But today, Millennials in particular view multi-family living as not just a place to live but a home for the long-term, and developers need to appeal even more to that emotionality―much like they would court a prospective home buyer.
Abstain From the Mundane
One thing that has stayed constant in multi-family marketing is the importance of advertising and signage, but in today’s environment it’s more strategic. There’s no second chance to make a first impression so developers must ensure their visuals engage and drive value. A brand’s messaging must stand out, and an effective way of doing that in a shifting market is making it about an experience. The form and function of signage must agree―with the balance not too loud, chaotic nor robotic―but also evoke emotion in its delivery.
No detail can be glossed over when it comes to marketing a community and doing so for multi-family developments must go the extra mile, utilizing key spaces and using an array of creative options. Think about what residents will see as they walk down or through stairways, parking structures and hallways.
One should consider all types of materials and finishes in these spaces with fearless colors, vinyl material, graphic wall design and even a 3D look to bring the room to life. Materials that look and feel different to help turn mere space into a sense of place.
You’ll want quality design in key areas, such as recreation rooms and gyms, and even utilitarian spaces to store bikes and grooming stations. Be sure to maximize all spaces to add lifestyle imagery and thought-provoking messaging that can engage the consumer, appeal to the senses and eventually register with the soul.
The Ins & Outs of a Leasing Center
A multi-family development’s advertising and design will have the optimal effect on the consumer if the community is equipped with a welcoming and effectively designed leasing center. This is the base of operations with which to engage, inform and, ultimately, drive action.
The leasing center must deliver detailed information about the housing community and accommodations in appealing, interactive ways. Top-of-the-line interior is a must, followed by convenient and seamless options for prospective lessees to consume key community information. You’ll want to make sure your leasing center is equipped with optimal connectivity so community details can be viewed via a monitor or tablet and consider 3D maps and virtual tours. Preferences obviously vary, but we do know the consumer’s journey in choosing a home is much different than it used to be. Developers’ marketing strategies must adjust to that new journey.
The Audience: Lifestyle is Key
Business leaders, no matter what industry, try to reduce variables as much as possible. They don’t like surprises. That’s why it’s so vital to know one’s target audience. When it comes to consumers looking for a home, it goes beyond age and income while placing a laser focus on lifestyles. Studies show that Millennials tend to prefer an urban location and design, simple yet sleek layouts, smart-home technology, easy maintenance and walkability. Whereas communities targeting the 55-plus demographic should focus on community-centric design, rich amenities, open, single-story floorplans and also close proximity to shopping and entertainment.
It Comes Down to Emotion
The shift away from a commodified renting environment should play to the advantage of a well-prepared multi-family marketing team that leverages stand-out visual campaigns and materials and quality, versatile leasing centers. They study the new lessee’s path and preferences and know how to connect and engage by incorporating visual and interactive tools.
Now more than ever, multi-family developments and their leasing teams should strive to make an emotional connection with prospective lessees. Design, materials and messaging should make people feel welcome and demonstrate that the community is a place where they can relate and belong.
Jonathan Wilhelm currently serves as chief digital officer for Marketshare Inc.