Strategies and Mindsets for Recession-Proofing Your Multifamily Marketing
In an economic downturn, a resilient marketing strategy can make all the difference for resident recruitment and retention.
At some point over the next year or two, the United States is likely to see a recession, a word that is sure to send a shiver down the spine of anyone involved in multifamily marketing. The business of trying to get people to spend their money on a given property can be difficult, especially at a time when most are justifiably reluctant to do so.
However, even when facing a downturn, a solid, recession-proof marketing strategy can make all the difference for retaining residents and attracting new ones. So how can those in the multifamily industry best improve their marketing?
Optimized automation: doing more with less
Some see a potential downturn as not so much a burden, but an opportunity for those in multifamily marketing to tighten up their skills. Sean Landsberg, senior vice president of operations, Dasmen Residential, adopts such a view. “I’m thinking about optimizing our performance in today’s market,” he said. “How can I get more, better-qualified leads spending less money?”
For Landsberg, much of this is brought about by leveraging automation. Dasmen Residential uses Meet Elise, an artificial intelligence-based chatbot that can communicate with prospective residents in real time. “It’s incredible to see that somebody can send an email to our property at 4 a.m. on a Saturday, and at 4:02 they get an extremely detailed response targeting any question that they asked,” Landsberg said.
In an age of instantaneous communication and the oftentimes just-in-time nature of conducting business, using such software makes a big difference in maintaining a strong reputation of reliable communications, and, in turn, marketing resilience. “Leveraging an artificial intelligence-based software really helps get us there,” Landsberg added.
Ellen Thompson, CEO of multifamily digital marketing and leasing automation firm Respage, agrees. “If you have a chatbot, you can convert 38 percent more leads,” she said. “It makes sense: Folks want to communicate with the chatbot and find out (and) schedule a tour right then and there. It’s not about getting leads, but about converting them.”
Bolster your Google business profile and social media presence
Another important way to stay relevant is to have a broad array of favorable reviews and details about a property. “People are spending more time looking for an apartment before they start contacting communities,” Thompson said. “Along the way, they’ll see (your) reviews and reputation signals.”
An important place to start is the Google Business profile. According to Thompson, 60 percent of organic traffic comes from there. The reasons for this are myriad, from Google’s dominant market share, its strong performance as a driver of business relative to other advertising channels, the platform’s inexpensive and accessible nature and the fact that a great deal of SEO is curated specifically with Google in mind.
Landsberg also sees the act of actively monitoring and enhancing a Google business profile as one of the quickest things a manager looking to bolster their marketing can do. “In today’s market, something as simple as increasing your Google rating (will have) a lot more people that see your listing who will be a lot more inclined to fill out a contact form,” he said.
Beyond Google, a healthy and cost-effective presence across the social media and advertising landscape is equally important, particularly an understanding of which specific sites prospects may be looking at.
There is value in both high-profile web listings and taking advantage of free listings and websites such as Bing, Yelp, rentpath.com and apartmentratings.com, according to Landsberg. Casting a wide net yields more engagement, and making sure that net is strong in all its knots is paramount to maximizing the engagement a firm has.
Starred reviews take center stage
Making sure that your community rating is up is another important part of a resilient marketing program. “If you’re at 3.1 (stars) and everyone else is at a 4.1, you may lose leads,” Thompson said.
Landsberg has adopted a strategic understanding of when residents should be asked to write a review. “Target and ask for reviews at the right time, after when somebody moves in, or when a maintenance request is completed, when they’re probably happier,” he said. The team at Dasmen Residential has automated this process by utilizing a software that requests a rating upon a move-in or work order completion.
Beyond the digital: meet people where they are
It may be tempting for marketers to think they are done once they curate a multifamily business profile or get a lot of positive ratings, but it is important not to get complacent.
“Things that may have worked prior to 2020 may not work anymore as the economy, market and renter perspective change,” Noah Echols, senior vice president of marketing and customer experience, of Atlanta-based multifamily investment firm and property management firm CARROLL, said. “The game of marketing is figuring out where to push and pull based on where your audience is and where your segmentation is heading.”
Barbara Savona, CEO of multifamily apartment marketing, consulting and advertising solutions firm Sprout Marketing agrees. “The best marketers adapt to what is happening in the moment in a super authentic way, tailoring marketing to meet the consumer where they are at in life,” she said. Savona sees the type of multifamily marketing that can weather a recession on a case-by-case basis; what may greatly boost one firm’s performance during a recession might not work for another.
Still, the emphasis should be on the very people being marketed to. “Eighty two percent of people want to connect a face to a brand,” Savona said. “Have an understanding of how to speak to each group. For some, you might have a team dedicated to social media. For others, you might want to double down on customer service. Which ones have the biggest impact on your bottom line?”
The ability to distinguish oneself as not just a brand, but as a service that can connect with residents on a more personal level will greatly bolster their confidence.
“Separate yourself from the pack,” Savona said.