The typical pre-leasing process might look a little bit like this:
- Operations, marketing and development come up with a plan.
- Construction challenges delay the groundbreaking and grand opening.
- Everybody forgets about the plan.
- Suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, someone learns the community is ready to open in a month.
- Development yells at construction, operations then yells at development and marketing goes into a full-on panic.
Ah, the glamorous job of marketing a brand-new, Class A apartment community. Fortunately, the typical doesn’t have to be the mad scramble that it seems to be, as long as someone maintains a basic structure to every new lease-up that leaves room for a little last-minute creativity. “The Idiot’s Guide to Pre-Construction Marketing” panel at NAA’s Apartmentalize made that easy by providing that structure.
That structure includes three main phases: Pre-development, pre-leasing and lease-up.
During the pre-development phase, marketers must focus on market research, branding, renderings and marketing technology.
“You have to be really cohesive with your branding on the inside of your development and your brand identity,” says Samantha Posin-Trammell, Senior Marketing Manager of National Marketing for Greystar. “Be sure to connect your branding agency with your interior design agency.”
A big part of branding today is considering the prospect-facing technology that will be implemented into the development and affect the leasing processes.
“You have to have interactive technology in leasing office,” says Allison Pulaski, Director of Marketing for Engrain. “I would argue that you also need this even with a small budget, especially with self-touring coming up in our industry.”
With branding figured out in advance of the start of construction, much of the strategic marketing work is completed, leaving marketers to work on pre-leasing. In the pre-leasing phase, marketers should be developing a marketing plan, creating awareness with digital channels like social media and garnering innovative spaces for a pre-leasing office.
“We’ve set up shop in WeWork spaces and collaborative workspaces,” Posin-Trammell says. “And we’ve seen it work well. You just have to make sure it’s in alignment with your target audience." Posin-Trammell also mentioned that Greystar has used airstreams and art galleries as spaces for leasing offices.
That audience should be targeted even more directly on digital marketing channels such as social media during the pre-leasing phase. By garnering an engaged audience at this stage, marketers can get a jump-start on the lease-up process. To do this well, marketers have to create high-value content designed to drive engagement rather than views.
When pre-leasing, Christina Singleton, Managing Partner, Show My Property TV, says the social media and video posts should be consistent and educate new followers about what it’s like to live at this location and what is nearby.
“Consistent video content is not only educational, it’s captivating; and most likely, your competitor down the road is not doing it,” says Singleton. “Small videos on construction updates, the local area and small businesses nearby are effective.”
By thoroughly completing the pre-development and pre-leasing phases, marketers can avoid the stress when a new development that was delayed suddenly actually becomes ready to execute its lease-up. Most of the marketing work already will be done.
All that’s really left is to set goals, push send on the move-in emails and put together an exciting grand opening. Hopefully, you’re already well on your way to meeting your lease-up goals thanks to pre-leasing.
And the mad scramble that is the lease-up is more like an agenda item during a regularly scheduled marketing team meeting.