CPE-MHN 2020 Summit Series: Shifting Marketing Strategies

Industry executives Kate Good and David Wolf shed light on new trends in multifamily marketing and amenities.
Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

On the second day of the CPE-MHN 2020 Summit Series, the “Marketing Makeover” breakout session explored the shift in amenities and marketing strategies for the multifamily market. Commercial Property Executive’s Editorial Director Suzann Silverman moderated the session.

The speakers were Kate Good, partner & senior vice president of Multifamily Development with Hunington Residential and also a nationally recognized apartment marketing expert, and David Wolf, founder & CEO of Wolf Development Strategies, a Chicago-based full-service marketing and sales firm that provides research, planning and advisory services to residential developments nationwide.

Just as multifamily operations are evolving and adapting to these challenging times, so is the marketing side of the sector.


READ ALSO: Phones in Hand, Leasing Teams Take On Marketing


In the current pandemic environment, multifamily marketers are working on new strategies designed to provide as much information possible—and in a virtual manner—for both residents and buyers. On the sales front, one of the first shifts in marketing strategies was to convert all in-person interactions to virtual and digital so that the brokerage teams could easily provide the information to the potential buyers, Wolf said.

Adjusting Messaging

David Wolf, Founder & CEO of Wolf Development Strategies. Image courtesy of Wolf Development Strategies

In the lease-up environment, things started getting a bit more complicated, because the marketing cycle tends to be much shorter for renters, and it became vital for the leasing teams to understand what it was that brought the people in. In order to do that, the leasing teams had to change some of the qualifying questions as well as how the tours were given.

“Before (the pandemic) it was all about amenities,” Wolf noted. Most renters were particularly interested in the shared amenities—and were even willing to occupy smaller apartments just to be able to have access to those amenities—and the sense of community and being around people formed the social aspect of multifamily buildings. “Now it’s ‘I want my home office in my space; I don’t want to be around people or that close to people, if I can,’” he explained.  

As a result, the marketing teams had to switch their messaging strategies and gear them toward privacy, exclusivity and design. “The multifamily market—in Chicago at least—has been challenging,” Wolf said. “We’ve had a lot of people breaking leases … because they were (living) in these high-amenity, high-density high-rises and that was a challenge,” he added.

Marketing New Amenities

But as the reality keeps changing, so do building amenities. Bringing some examples of multifamily properties that were designed a few years prior to the pandemic, Good noted several new amenities that would normally take longer to implement but are now in high demand. In one particular example, outdoor extended balconies on first-floor units that can serve as small patios in a COVID-19 world were more intensely marketed in the Google AdWords campaign for the building and that marketing effort paid off in the form of significant rent increases, Good said. Various other companies followed suit with similar marketing campaigns for other in-demand amenities:

  • high-speed internet (for residents who work from home)
  • indoor or outdoor play areas (at properties that now also target families with children, not just single young professionals)
  • designated co-working areas that comply with sanitary and social distancing measures (for residents who can’t afford or don’t want to rent a larger apartment that would allow them to set up a home office)
  • redesigned shared lounge spaces with various uses such as mailboxes or bike rooms.

“The consumer’s desire tends to be toward functionality and practicality more so than access,” Wolf noted.

Social Media Power

Kate Good, Partner & SVP of Multifamily Development at Hunington Residential. Image courtesy of Hunington Residential

Another emerging trend is creating new, unique and exciting experiences for residents and using social media and influencers to promote them, especially through online reviews and testimonials. Getting positive reviews pre-pandemic was certainly a good thing, but during and after the pandemic the reviews will have even more value, according to Good.

“The reason is because (this way) you show people who you are in a crisis … Marketing speaks volumes as far as what we offer and why you should buy it, but then the testimonial comes in through a social media post or a Yelp or Google review … and that’s really where we stand out,” Good noted.

In Wolf’s opinion, social media marketing works much better in the rental world, because the decision-making process is much shorter and prospective residents don’t give it as much scrutiny as they would if they were buying a property. “The for-sale side is really just about creating awareness and your second audience is the broker … and that’s where we’re seeing a lot of traction with social media,” he said.