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Secrets to Student Housing Marketing Success

Housing Marketing Success

Marketing a student housing community can get tricky. How do you promote a value-add property that could use a little TLC? Should you totally rebrand a community with negative online reviews? Don’t miss “Seeking Professional Help: Leasing Success Stories for Markets of All Sizes,” a panel at the NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition, for a few tricks of the trade from top experts.

Ahead of the conference in February, we spoke with Adam Byrley, executive vice president of property management at The Preiss Company, about his approach to marketing properties that aren’t at the top of the market.

What are some signs that it’s time to completely rebrand a property?

Sometimes properties carry stigmas, and it doesn’t matter how much money you put into improving it. Students will think of it the same way, and they won’t want to live there. At that point, you can’t dig out of a hole unless you start fresh. A new name and an image can go so far. It revitalizes energy. Some communities may have a reputation of being a party place, and maybe you want to rebrand to be more academic. Or maybe there has been a crime issue. Jump-start with a new name and erase the old reputation.

Where do you begin to take a fresh approach to marketing and subsequently stabilizing a value-add community?

Basically, you have to figure out what the property wins at. It may not win on location or square footage, but it may win on price or amenities. Figure out where the property can win in the market. That should be your first priority.

What’s the most effective way of reaching students?

It’s the combination of a lot of different things. You have to have a great website and take advantage of Google pay-per-click. There are plenty of great tools in the industry that can help. Modern Message is great—they take over the review process for you, which is important because online reviews are the top thing that people look at to assess whether they’ll sign a lease. That being said, boots on the ground is hugely important. The smart property manager will host an event on campus or at housing fairs. You want to be heard in the right way, and the best way to do that is through word of mouth.

Is there an amenity that you think appeals most to students that communities should be sure to leverage in marketing efforts?

In the arms race that is student housing, where you have every luxury amenity you can think of including rock walls and lazy rivers, the best amenity that you have at your property is your on-site team. If you have people there that are running it improperly or that residents hate, none of the bells and whistles will matter. A great team can make a C asset a wonderful place to live. The people and the staff at your property are what differentiate your property from everyone else’s.