How to Understand and Market to the Current Student Demographic | National Apartment Association

How to Understand and Market to the Current Student Demographic

Today’s student population selects apartment communities differently than prior generations. Use these successful marketing tactics bolster community sales in student-centric markets.

Technology has advanced many aspects of day-to-day life, including apartment-community shopping. Today’s students use the Web not only to search for various communities around their colleges and universities but also to share information with other potential stakeholders (i.e., Mom and Dad). This can be communicated by taking virtual tours of apartment sites or even using FaceTime during on-site tours to show off different features in a unit, observes Melanie  Ling, director of digital marketing for Gainesville, Florida-based CMC Apartments. 

Marketing to these students can differ significantly from campaigns used for prior generations, Ling notes, so it’s important to know what today’s demographic is looking for and how best to communicate with them. Keep the following tips in mind for future sales opportunities:

Not all students are the same. There are two different types of student residents, Ling notes: the incoming students, whose parents are often heavily involved in the decision-making process; and the upperclassmen, who often have a better sense of the area, what they’re looking for and how to gauge potential deals. But, even then, parents are still involved far more than they used to be.

“Students [35 years ago] were more independent, more self-sufficient. There was more of that atmosphere of being on your own away from home,” Ling states, based on conversations with colleagues. “Now, the students leave home, but they’re bringing families with them quite literally, whether that’s in the apartment, on the search through the process or doing virtuals.”

Meet them where they are. As noted above, online research is a more important component of the community-shopping process. That includes social media, where students may send messages as late as 11:30 p.m., Ling notes.

“They don’t expect you to answer,” she’s quick to share. 

“I’m not saying you have to be up 24/7,” she adds. “But be in the places that you think they’re going to ask you questions, like social profiles, as opposed to, you know, back in the day, it was strictly a phone number and an email.”

This also applies to other communications, where text messages may be more effective than paper messages to relay information or engage current or potential residents. Just make sure they’re comfortable with such use of their personal information first, as communicating via personal channels can also be a quick turnoff for some. 

Figure out the community’s selling points. Another essential aspect to communicate to potential student residents is what it feels like to live in a particular apartment community. This doesn’t necessarily equate to creating party central either. 

“Residents respond better to a place where they feel like there’s a little bit more controlled chaos,” Ling explains. “You don’t have to go crazy. You don’t have to trash the place. You don’t have to have wild parties and the cops coming in. It’s more like, what’s the morale of not only the residents that live there but how the office presents itself.”

Communities that cater to students also have the benefit of being able to reinvent themselves every couple of years as a new student body cycles in. So if the community’s public perception isn’t where it should be, there are opportunities to change it over the course of a few years and really turn the property around.  

2015 NAA Student Housing Conference

For more information on student marketing opportunities, check out Ling’s presentation, “Don’t Kiss When Your Prospect Expects a Fist Bump,” at the 2015 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition, in February.   


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