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Renewal Conversations Should Start Before the Holidays

Renewal Conversations

Technology and competition are pushing up the renewal timeline for student housing operators.

Traditionally, the holidays meant one thing for student housing companies—ensuring the renewal conversations made it home with the students for Thanksgiving and winter break.

But social media and rising competition in some markets has accelerated the timeline for renewals

“It used to be the rule of thumb to start renewal campaigns before Thanksgiving,” Kim Grisvard, VP of Marketing at EdR Collegiate Housing says. “Students would go home and you’d give them marketing materials to use when they talked to their parents about where they wanted to live the next year. Now, if you wait until then, you miss a huge window.”

EdR’s renewal campaigns are sent out early in the leasing season for the next year. Typically 30 to 60 days after move-in for most markets.

“Some markets are very aggressive and they are sitting at 100 percent occupancy,” Grisvard says. “You would have missed your opportunity if you waited until Thanksgiving to [start the pitch].”

That does not mean holiday marketing is dead for student housing operators come Thanksgiving. Peak Campus sees value in offering promotions around the holidays.

“We offer many specials and inducements around the holidays to gear toward renewals, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” its Director of Sales, Ashly Poyer, says. “These advertisements are sent via email to our parents to get conversations started about renewing at their child’s location. On several occasions, we offer inducements for parents—much like a referral.”

Alexis Krisay, Partner and Vice President of Marketing for Serendipity Consulting, recommends utilizing live chats over the holidays to give students and parents access to onsite staff. 

“Communities that have a strong social and digital presence during this time will skyrocket in renewals,” she says. “Communities should be hosting social media contests, engaging and utilizing specific targeting to drive students to renew online during the break.”

EdR gets its renewal offers out in early October and also will launch digital campaigns over the holidays to stay in front of students while they are away from campus.

“If you are looking for a creative approach, you can send out an email campaign before or during Thanksgiving break to both guarantors and the students so it is a secondary or third reminder about the renewals season,” Grisvard says. “You have a great opportunity through that winter break because students are gone for a month.

The easiest way to engage during the month is through social media and technology messaging campaigns.”

When students do return to campus, onsite staff must target any holdouts who have not renewed.

“For this, immediate communication and engagement are key,” Krisay says. “If targeting was done right, conversions were had, and students are primed to make a decision.”