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Marketing: Shifting From Cost Center to Revenue Producer

New Apartment Marketing
October 2017

The days of apartment marketers fluffing pillows and arranging balloon bouquets are numbered.

Owners and operators are transitioning their marketers from being promotion-driven to serving in strategic, revenue-enhancing roles. A panel of experts at the session “New Apartment Marketing: From Cost Center to Revenue Producer” at the 2017 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in June in Atlanta explained how the marketing team can increase revenue and efficiency through technology, data and processes.

Ryan Perez, Vice President of Marketing at CF Real Estate Services, says marketers are generally challenged to join the strategic partner table in many industries, “But if marketing isn’t part of the weekly pricing calls or overall strategy, it’s more difficult to generate performance.”

Transforming marketing into a revenue-producing function requires a fundamental change in how operations and marketing work together to produce revenue, says Jennifer Anderson, Director of B2B Marketing for RentPath. That comes partly through the use of technology.

“Everybody wants to jump into the technology because technology is fun and you can do things with it,” says Anderson, who has implemented revenue marketing at several organizations inside and outside the apartment industry. “When we talk about technology, we have to talk about it as an enablement tool. Even the most effective technology is only as good as the process it enables.”

For example, once leasing and marketing processes are aligned, marketing technology, such as customer relationship management systems, and leasing technology, such as property management software, can be integrated to create a bi-directional marketing funnel. Bi-directional funnels allow leads to be passed between the leasing and marketing functions depending on the lead’s propensity to close at that particular time.

With a bi-directional funnel, leads working with a leasing agent that are not ready to sign a lease can be returned to marketing to be nurtured until they are ready to sign. That flexibility increases the efficiency of both leasing and marketing, resulting in higher conversion ratios and enhanced revenue. 

Further efficiency can be created through data that provides a better understanding of renter behavior throughout the prospective resident journey.

“The big switch occurs when you really understand who your customer is,” says Nicole Salmieri, Vice President of Marketing for WinnCompanies. “You should be creating marketing personas and know who the customer is that you’re targeting. Most big brands do that and do it well.”

And marketers should follow their customers throughout the purchase process, accepting that each purchase cannot be assigned to a single lead source.

“When you only look at first- or last-touch attribution, you miss everything else that the lead does,” Anderson says of single-source attribution models. “People are not only doing one thing during their leasing process. Multi-touch attribution is an overview of everything that lead does. You gain a more holistic view of the buyer journey.”

Morgan Porter, Digital Marketing Director for LMC, notes that Google analytics recently released assisted conversion, which measures the interactions a customer has with a website leading up to the final decision to purchase. The more a customer visits an assisting channel, the more value is placed on the assisting channel.

“Prospective renters look at a lot of places before making their decision to lease,” Perez said. “You really can’t assign a lease to the first place they look or the last place they look.”

Understanding the optimal paths prospective renters take to make their leasing decisions is critical to creating the most efficient process for attracting and securing a prospective renter. Aligning marketing and leasing to optimize that path will not only transform marketing into a revenue producing function, but also enhance an owner’s or an operator’s net operating income.

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Weren’t able to join us in Atlanta or want to relive your favorite session? Visit NAA Education Institute presents its REWIND program for the 2017 NAA Education Conference & Exposition and purchase the collection of 50+ PowerPoint-synced audio sessions.