Special Report from AIM: Do What’s Right for Your Brand

Apartment Internet Marketing Conference Explores Best Practices and Emerging Technologies

AIM Conference on day one

Huntington Beach, Calif.–In just a few short years, the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) Conference has developed an enthusiastic and faithful audience. This year, the industry’s marketing intelligentsia is gathered in Southern California at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach for three days of education and brainstorming with industry insiders as well as experts from outside the industry.

Conference sponsors including MHN were invited to a luncheon yesterday with Dr. Michael Smith, NeuroFocus Consulting who shared advances in the field of neuromarketing. A live demonstration showed how this technology can deliver more accurate focus group insights into a range of factors such as design and amenities of a new development by measuring true subconscious reactions to finishes, price point, etc.

Bringing an outside perspective by individuals such as Ruben Sigala, Harrah’s Entertainment (tomorrow he will discuss “Integrating the ‘Science’ of Revenue Management with the ‘Art’ of Marketing”) and Sam Sebastian, director of local and B2B markets, Google (later today he will present “What’s Google Up To and How Does it Affect the Rest of Us?”) is one of the reasons AIM is valuable. And it’s likely to continue drawing a crowd for years to come as multifamily marketing becomes even more sophisticated in its approach.

One industry executive I was chatting with yesterday says she loves being able to just pick up the phone and call any number of marketing colleagues at competing companies to exchange ideas. But she also thinks that as the landscape becomes even more competitive, and more advanced marketing tools are universally adopted, these friendly exchanges will be less revealing and marketing teams will be more guarded about their best practices.

During his opening remarks, Executive Producer Steve Lefkovits awarded an iPad to the first person who registered for the conference. He commented that the great thing about putting together this event is the ever-changing nature of Internet marketing tools. “There’s always something new and interesting,” he said. And the timing of the iPad release couldn’t be better. It’s already being incorporated into the leasing office as an invaluable closing tool (MHN will delve deeper into this in future reports as well as on MHN TV). Lefkovits also stressed the need for collaboration between multifamily marketing teams to navigate the rapidly changing landscape.

Online leasing continues to be a recurring topic from previous years, but now the emphasis is on equipping apartment companies with mobile solutions. Founding Sponsor Realty DataTrust is providing demos that drive home visually exactly what prospects on a Blackberry, iPhone or Android see if they go looking for an apartment online. In most cases, since (except for a handful of early adopters including UDR and Home Properties) multifamily has been slow in incorporating the new technology—prospects will be quickly frustrated and may move on to a competitor whose apartment inventory can be viewed on a mobile device.

According to Mike Cornell, COO, Realty DataTrust, in the last two years mobile has been implemented by the industry at a more regular pace; however, the majority still haven’t implemented. Every month, he says, more and more people, including apartment prospects, are turning to their mobile devices for Internet searches—and they’re doing less searching on their computers.

In his presentation (“Multifamily Internet Strategies”) Kevin Thompson, vice president marketing, AvalonBay Communities, described mobile as the “new hot thing.” But he cautions against jumping in without a plan, especially since we’ve come to know that 60 percent of people who sign up for Twitter never return to the site after 30 days. “There are two types of mobile: mobile search and mobile services such as rent payment, concierge, neighborhood connectivity,” said Thompson. “Don’t jut get excited and grab for the shiny coins. Do what’s right for your brand.”

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