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Marketing Tactics to Try

By Barbara Ballinger

The economic fallout from COVID-19 is beginning to hamper rents and occupancy. Here are some strategies to reach new residents.

Hire more specialists.

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 prospects. This approach will include more videos. “Even with voice search on the rise, visual content will continue to be a strong focus for us in 2020,” says Pavesi.

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,” says NRP Executive Vice President Phillip Boatwright. 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.

Focus on the customer experience.

Apartment community firms are devoting greater attention to how well they deliver services and products to the end users—the residents.

To improve convenience and quality, RKW Residential is training its leadership to follow the example of companies such as the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center that excel in delivering the ultimate in customer experiences. “This is a huge initiative, and we’re sending staff through the Ritz Carlton Leadership Institute for the best training,” Pavesi says.

As part of meeting customer expectations and experiences, The NRP Group is moving from “pushing” mainstream amenities, such as a swimming pool and game room, to focusing on services that residents most want. It is organizing more focus groups, having residents fill out more surveys on its website and even polling visitors to leasing offices, says Boatwright.

Then NRP delivers what residents desire, such as a regular 5K run, walking group or book club. “It’s harder for a resident to move when they don’t want to leave their book club, for example,” Boatwright says.

During consumer voice searches, Laramar Group has been able to answer customer questions using technology available through different devices and enhancing their experience, says Aids. “This makes it easier for our customers, which is more important than ever,” she says.

Use email more creatively.

Email isn’t going away, so Faith Aids, Vice President of Marketing and Branding for the Laramar Group company is trying to be sure email use evolves as technology does. For example, she says, Google now offers AMP for email, which is an interactive technology that allows the user to act within an email rather than click in and out or “lose their place,” as people have traditionally done. “Doing so will save time and better meet customers’ expectations,” she adds.

Choose A/B marketing/ad approach.

Using split or bucket testing is gaining traction, as companies such as ZRS Management find they can remove the guesswork and best gauge success by comparing two different approaches and seeing which performs better on Facebook, Instagram, Google and other platforms, says Jeremy Brown, Vice President of Marketing at ZRS. “After we have results, we’ll compare the more successful to another strategy and keep working that way until we find the best approach that leads to more conversions and closed transactions,” he says. One benefit of this approach: Results can be known in a matter of days.

Get everything right to begin with.

Because digital marketing is delivered fast, it’s easier to make mistakes. ZRS is working to reduce marketing errors. Its new corporate department focuses on Quality Analysis (QA) and Quality Control (QC) for all its properties, rather than having its regional and property managers be responsible for the marketing on their specific properties, says Brown. “The corporate staff checks the accuracy of all online advertising and marketing pieces, such as making sure a specific floor plan shows a fireplace that’s in the unit and verifying that prices for leases are up-to-date and accurate. “Having everything correct the first time will lead to greater customer satisfaction,” he says.

Leverage products 24/7.

Because customers consider convenience a prime benefit and driver in picking a property, many companies are testing making their apartment homes—both model units and amenity spaces—available at times when a prospect is free to come tour, even if the leasing office isn’t open. The companies are testing technology that can send a code to a prospect’s mobile device to let the person access the building and unit and engage in a self-guided tour. “The concept is still new, but we’ll embrace this more this year to see how well it performs,” Pavesi says.

RKW expects that millennials who work long or late hours may use this type of feature more than retired boomers, who have looser schedules. Another reason is that prospects want to see a property multiple times before signing a lease and the ease of this allows them to do without an agent in tow, she says.

ZRS is also encouraging its ILS partners to include self-scheduling options in a similar way that Open Table allows diners to make online reservations at any time, says Brown. “We anticipate a subsequent reduction in the number of phone calls, emails and texts, which allows leasing agents to focus more time and attention on prospects in the office,” he says.

Continue to focus on lead attribution.

To market to the largest possible audience, finding out where prospects come from remains the most important task, several marketing experts say. Yet no company has been able to crack the code and offer a definitive answer on lead attribution, says Steve Hallsey, Managing Director of Wood Partners. His company will continue to try to do so this year with its varied marketing approaches. “For example, we wonder if we put more pins on a Google map if we will do a better job of securing an answer,” he says.

KW Residential agrees that it’s essential to leverage technology to better track all the touchpoints and advertisements a prospect may interact with so the company can get more strategic with its advertising and marketing, says Pavesi.