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How Hiring Helps Marketing

By Barbara Ballinger

Despite advances in technology, the human component remains key to getting out a company's message.

"If a staff member doesn't pick up phone calls, respond to emails and texts, or is not hospitable when someone is in front of them, [whatever] amount of dollars spent on marketing will have absolutely no impact," says Wood Partners' Managing Director Steve Hallsey.

The NRP Group, based in Cleveland, which manages 20,000 market-rate and affordable units in 14 states, is also focusing on marketing that targets hiring the right people, says Executive Vice President Phillip Boatwright. NRP's approach is to zero in on its recruiting efforts at colleges and universities that have property management courses and majors, such as Ball State and Cleveland State, which is offering a new degree program. "Last year we hired 420 new people, a record, and this year we'll increase the number to at least 500," Boatwright says. "We need a lot of people who can go right from internships and management training programs they've been in during school to jobs when they graduate. And because it's very competitive to get them, we know we have to start as soon as we can."

Another part of The NRP Group's marketing approach this year is rewarding staff who can offer customers a great experience. The company uses a point system that translates into dollars that can be exchanged for merchandise through an online catalog, which has worked well, says Boatwright.

Effective hiring also means knowing who's best suited for a company's leasing positions. Wood Partners has found that highly gregarious, self-confident and experienced recruits best meet its needs since the company must lease 100 percent of its properties each year to be able to turn them around and sell them, Hallsey says. So the company is willing to pay a higher starting salary and better commission to its marketers than a lot of the competition, he adds.

Because marketing has become more complicated and specialized, RKW Residential is hiring more staff with specific expertise in certain marketing disciplines, such as digital marketing or branding and content, social media, and so on. "We don't believe in having one generalist handle all facets of a complex role," says Joya Pavesi, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for RKW Residential.

In addition, marketing roles continue to evolve, creating a need for specialized roles, so RKW is on the lookout for those with these new specialized skills. The company also plans to make greater use of social media and visual content to share its story with prospective residents. This approach will include more videos. "Even with voice search on the rise, visual content will continue to be a strong focus for us," Pavesi says.

The NRP Group, which also has found great value in using videos and virtual tours, plans to improve its offerings by hiring its own videographer rather than using outside companies, says Boatwright. "Having our own person on staff lets us tell our story better—why our properties are the best place to live and play—and better reveals our culture," he says. NRP has also found the more concise the effort the better, which may mean videos under two minutes long.

ZRS Management agrees. It is now asking its internet leasing partners to use material ZRS develops in-house. This allows the ad's messaging to convey the company's story better than using a generic, one-size-fits-all strategy.