We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Leasing is no longer an “amenities dump.” Your prospects and current renters expect a lot more from you; namely, they expect a full resident experience.
Onsite staff must connect with people to fully understand their audience. Targeting each sale and all corresponding communication to that person is the new norm in leasing.
How Resident Events Impact Your Bottom Line
Did you know that residents who have seven or more friends in their apartment community are 47% more likely to renew their lease? Further, a recent Satisfacts Resident survey discovered that resident events are one of the significant drivers of lease renewals. As such, developing a multifamily marketing strategy around resident events at your property can make a big difference in your bottom line.
That being said, hosting a simple grab-and-go resident event once a quarter is not going to cut it. Resident events need to foster relationships between neighbors and create a unique and welcoming resident experience. Ultimately, you should be consistent and intentional, according to Jackie Ratzlaff, Divisional President of the Apartment Life East Division.
Starting Your Resident Experience Journey
According to Apartment Life‘s Ratzlaff, “Fostering resident satisfaction throughout the leasing and move-in experience is where the journey starts, but certainly not where it ends. Giving your residents that ‘home’ feeling involves creating intentional opportunities for them to make lasting, meaningful connections.”
As part of Apartment Life’s new article series, Ratzlaff details three ways to elevate the resident experience and ensure a happy, loyal resident from the beginning.
Jackie Ratzlaff is the Divisional President of Apartment Life’s East Division. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Did you know that residents with seven or more friends are nearly twice as likely to renew their lease as those who do not know their neighbors? Improving your property’s resident retention all comes down to engagement.
In fact, annual studies show that resident engagement programs like Apartment Life save an average of 42 leases a year.
How It Impacts Your Multifamily Marketing Strategy
When management companies help residents meet and engage with their neighbors, the payoff can be exponential. In recent studies, residents claimed that having friends onsite is an important component in their decision to lease with a property or renew. Some residents are even willing to pay 18% more for a property where they connect with their neighbors.
Just let those numbers sink in and how this could impact your resident retention rate and multifamily marketing strategy as a whole.
For many multifamily professionals, budgeting season — the paramount time of year when you forecast next year’s revenue and expenses — is in full swing. During this time-consuming and stressful time, it’s important for multifamily marketing professionals to brainstorm new ways to boost resident retention and improve engagement.
Up Your Resident Retention With an Engagement Strategy
An engagement multifamily marketing strategy is a smart way to reduce turnover, improve efficiency, and increase your resident retention rate. After all, it is far less expensive to keep an existing resident than it is to find a new one!
Pete Kelly, President and Chief Executive of Apartment Life, offers a few simple steps to add efficiency and dollars to your multifamily property in the below article — part of a new series by Apartment Life.
Pete Kelly is the President and CEO of Apartment Life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The multifamily marketing industry — and your residents — are changing fast. Are your processes changing with them?
There were countless fantastic panels at NAA’s recent Apartmentalize conference, amazing speakers, and quality topics. But one really stood out to us: “Undercover Resident: The Genesis of a Community’s Reputation Begins Onsite, Not Online.”
But wait, we are a marketing company — shouldn’t we advocate for everything online? We do love digital marketing, but we also love people. This panel was a fantastic reminder of why we are in this business.
Too often, companies get sidetracked with what they are selling that they forget who they are selling to. We live in an age where texting supersedes talking. Yet, more than 700 residents across the nation admitted that personalized service goes further in their decision to renew than amenities.
With specialists from Rivergate KW, Apartment Life’s Cares Program, and The Franklin Johnson Group, this panel unpacked what residents really want. And it is different than what the staff thinks they want.
Attracting & Retaining Residents
Online marketing can be one of the most effective ways to draw and engage with residents. However, residents will ultimately choose to stay at your property if it feels like home.
Residents surveyed listed “engaging community events” as the No. 2 factor in their decision to renew a lease. They also ranked “sense of community” as a Top 5 reason to rent even when buying a home is an option.
With more generations renting now than ever before — and homeownership decreasing in nearly every age category — competition is ramping up in multifamily. This makes it more critical than ever for properties to both attract and retain residents.
If a property’s online presence and social media feed are updated and targeted, residents are more likely to be interested. However, if a prospective resident walks in the door and the leasing professional does not understand their life stage needs, how to adapt their sales strategy, or how to communicate with them most effectively, the prospect will likely flip from feeling impressed to feeling like a number, said Jackie Ratzlaff, Vice President of Growth Initiatives at Apartment Life Inc.
In other words, by upholding the same leasing practices you have always used, it will be less likely that you will be able to sell to multiple demographics successfully.
It’s important not to just be experts about your property’s physical space, but to know what resonates with each renter. This is called a buyer persona. A well-defined persona helps target your marketing efforts to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.
Below we explore a few then-and-now comparisons of how renters in the multifamily market are evolving.
- Professionals rented urban apartments until they could buy a house.
- Families preferred to live in suburban apartments until they could buy a house or because of better schools.
- Retirement homes served as a final-stage home option for the senior population, predominantly due to declining health.
- Urban apartments or apartments with urban qualities attract both millennial professionals and Boomers. Boomers desire walkability and a new experience. Meanwhile, young professionals often place the convenience of their urban rental over homeownership even after starting a family.
- Suburban apartments in growing cities rival urban apartment features. They are new, sleek, and geared toward professionals who work away from city centers, or those who work remotely. They are no longer just for families but target a wide variety of demographics.
- Boomers and empty nesters desire a shared community with others in their stage of life and the convenience of walkability. Their health is not declining but is the main priority as they want to engage in activities (e.g., fitness, hobbies).
From increased technology and targeted social marketing campaigns to on-demand customer service, an enhanced online presence is essential. However, what is more important is focusing on the people you are selling to, then honing in on what will make them want to live at your property. Residents will renew their lease because of the way they feel, the way they are treated, and the community they have — not because of a great Instagram feed or a new fitness center.
Rethinking Your Customer Experience Strategy
Several multifamily properties are already rethinking how they do business.
Rivergate KW Residential, for example, is partnering with The Ritz Carlton to train their management staff on superior and personalized service that focuses on the people, according to Joya Pavesi, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy and one of the NAA panelists.
Cortland Partners appointed its first-ever Chief Experience Officer to develop a customer experience strategy and bring the brand to life across all touchpoints.
Apartment Life Inc.’s Cares Program helps properties increase retention by enhancing a sense of community through tailored monthly events, personalized visits, and resident care.
Finally, marketing agencies like Criterion.B are partnering with management companies to train staff on target buyer personas. Knowing this information helps you create content, design amenities, and understand the type of customer service needed to attract and retain your residents.
In short: Leasing is no longer an “amenities dump.” Instead, the onsite staff must connect with the people. Understanding their audience and targeting each sale and all corresponding communication to that person is the new norm in leasing.
From new regulations to advanced technology, the multifamily industry is constantly changing — and so too are your consumers. This is why it is only natural to change the way you lease as well, adapting to today’s renters.
Traditionally, the leasing staff is trained to focus on what they are selling such as high-speed internet, shared community areas, and other amenities. Today, properties are experiencing more success when focusing on who they are selling to — honing in on what’s important to the targeted audience.
For example, if a leasing agent offers the same sales pitch to a Baby Boomer and a Millennial, they may only get one lease. It is important not to just be experts about your amenities and physical space, but to know what resonates with each potential renter. This is called a buyer persona. Building a buyer persona helps you target sales around your audience, and makes the difference between one lease and many.
Understanding Buyer Personas
Do you know who your customers are? Where do they work? Where do they shop? What are their interests? While these questions might seem unimportant in the sales process, they are essential characteristics to know in order to understand your prospective renters’ purchasing decisions.
A well-defined buyer persona helps target marketing efforts toward the right people, at the right time, and in the right way. Personas help you identify your renters and understand how your product can fulfill their needs and wants.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on interviews, market research, and real data about your existing or target audience. These personas capture the demographics, motivations, behaviors, problem areas, and professional/personal drivers of your ideal customer. Knowing this information helps you create content, design amenities, and understand the type of customer service needed to attract residents.
Building Buyer Personas
When working through our research process for branding new developments, we always start with the creation of personas. Through this research, we interview current and prospective residents in order to obtain a 360-degree view of the organization. It is important to dive deep and gain a thorough understanding of your customers, where they spend time online, what resources they trust, and what pain points they are facing.
As a commercial real estate marketing agency, Criterion.B lives in the world of brand identity. We help multifamily properties understand that such a big part of marketing their communities is tied to knowing their residents and then communicating differently with each target audience in the leasing process.
We begin by thinking through very specific examples of the target residents, identify unique qualities about them, and find out what is important to them. This helps create a more personal connection when the ideal resident walks through your door. We take the information we learn and craft personas for each target. Then we give them a fun name such as Empty Nester Nell or Baby Boomer Bob, making each persona easier to remember.
Consider the following when building a buyer persona:
- Memorable name
- Job titles and responsibilities
- Demographics such as age, ethnicity, family status, education, etc.
- Goals you want to accomplish on your website
- Pain points (Why is it so easy for residents to leave? What are they struggling with? What are some of the things that frustrate them about the apartment industry?)
- Technical experience
- Work environment (Do they work a standard 9 to 5 job? Busy stay-at-home mom? Are they on their feet all day in a fast-paced workplace? Is their office located in a large high-rise downtown?)
- Photos (Using realistic pictures, rather than celebrities or stock photography, is always best.)
Leveraging Buyer Personas
After establishing your persona, everything about your brand should be angled toward your ideal customer. But what do you do when your perceived customer comes from two different generations?
For example, if your property is located in an urban area, you will draw several different prospects. One might be a Millennial professional who likes to do fun activities and enjoys the convenience of the light rail. Another might be a recently retired Boomer couple who want the relaxed feeling of less maintenance and walkability.
Building a buyer persona gives the entire leasing process a purpose. Otherwise, you are selling the same physical amenities no matter who walks in the door. If the leasing agents are trained to understand each target persona, they can tailor the sale to that person. This means that when that empty-nester couple walks in the door, the staff will focus their sales pitch around the carefree lifestyle the couple can have with a full-service maintenance team or the community spaces they can reserve for family gatherings.
The Key to Commercial Real Estate Marketing
While building a buyer persona may seem tedious, it gives you the ability to humanize your audience and work more efficiently to let them truly envision what they value most as a renter. Download our multifamily persona worksheet to learn how to develop a buyer persona that speaks to your renters’ needs and helps align your marketing strategy.
For more information on buyer personas and selling to the person, be sure to attend the NAA’s Apartmentalize Conference on June 13-18, in San Diego. The “Undercover Resident” Panel session will delve more into this topic.
When thinking of industries that benefit from inbound marketing, senior living might not jump to the front of the brain. The boomer generation has joined the digital age with heels in the dirt, loudly proclaiming a preference for simpler times. That’s not to say that boomers are digitally inept or that they’ve developed the philosophy of Luddites. However, it’s clear that their preferences lean to tradition, and senior living groups have taken note.
While 87 percent of American adults use the internet, the number drops to 57 percent for those aged 65 and older. This may seem like a clear-cut case for senior living marketers, but when you look at the next demographic group (50- to 64-year-olds), the number jumps to 88 percent.
Suddenly, the issue becomes clear. Not only will the market shift in the next few years to more tech-savvy tenants, but the generation of adults seeking solutions for their aging parents are likely looking for senior living groups where they can’t or won’t be found.
The Newfound Power of Consumer Choice
As the post-retirement lifestyle changes, so do the way people make purchasing decisions. The internet has shifted the buyer’s journey to one where consumers can research their needs without reaching out to sales.
In fact, 72 percent of consumer research occurs on Google before turning to other resources. This is a huge detriment to groups that don’t have a digital presence and instead rely on mailers, word-of-mouth, and brochures. A senior living group that can’t be found through this methodology is missing out on the opportunity for consumer education.
Furthermore, due to the duration of information on the internet, digital content has a longer lifespan than physical materials. This means that the digital content bringing in leads returns a lower lead cost than traditional methodologies.
Targeting the Decision Maker
When thinking of buyer personas for seniors, most people think of the active senior. Active seniors are those who are able to make their own decisions and support themselves in post-retirement. What many don’t consider is the growing population of seniors who require assistance and are reliant on loved ones to make their decisions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2050, the population of individuals using these types of long-term care services will double to 27 million, over the 13 million found to be using the services in 2000. This is a significant shift that will transform the market completely. And for the children of this growing group of adults, research is key to finding high-quality care.
Given the high turnover that exists because the cost and care quality does not meet the expectations of adult children, representing the ability to meet these needs in your online content is vital to success. With the industry shift from institutionalized care to more community-based services, educating leads on these options can build authority.
Why You Need Digital Leads for the Digital Age
These trends are indicative of a bigger change across the economic landscape — that both business and demographic trends are shifting to meet a world where technology is no longer an afterthought. This market shift means a necessary shift in strategy as well.
As older Americans shun traditional homes in favor of new alternatives, senior living groups need to be present online. By targeting online content to the appropriate groups, senior living communities can become a strong resource for the active or older senior. Without adopting this new direction toward lead generation, senior living may very well be shifted out of the market.
Trends come and go, but sometimes they turn into a lifestyle. Improved urban living and environmental efforts are on the rise, but will it last?
As a digital agency, Criterion.B’s expertise in marketing and real estate gives us great insight into what’s coming and what’s phasing out. In fact, the New Urbanism movement is inspiring remarkable change to urban planning, sustainability, and city development. And it just might be here to stay.
What are the challenges, benefits, and concerns with this new-urban renewal plan?
The movement has garnered new life since it first gained momentum roughly 25 years ago. Prior to the late ’80s and early ’90s, the urban environment was typically avoided and crime-ridden; the suburbs remained the hub for retail, restaurants, and recreation. However, New Urbanism changed that by replacing negative city stigmas with fresh architecture, cleaner streets, and green initiatives. As a result, a renewed concept of urban living emerged. New Urbanism brought new life to the city, and Americans flocked to experience this lifestyle.
Nowadays, it’s not a surprising thought for young professionals and active individuals to live in the heart of the city. Millennials, especially, are driving this movement (whether they know it or not). They display a clear desire for prime location, luxurious amenities, and walkable neighborhoods. As a result, these requirements force urban multifamily properties to keep up and stand out. The millennial lifestyle exemplifies New Urbanism and stimulates the evolving urban revival.
A great example of New Urbanism in action is Klyde Warren Park. Take a busy, bustling city, and drop a giant patch of grass on top of an Interstate overpass. That’s the exact action Dallas City Planning took in an effort to revitalize the city streets. Stop by, and you’ll find a line of food trucks, yoga classes in the park, picnic blankets, a playground, and a band playing at sundown. Cities flourish when safety, community, and accessibility are at the
the forefront of planning.
Did you know Walt Disney was a New Urbanist? Although he didn’t use the term, he embraced the concept. His fanciful creations and innovative worlds offered a first look into the future. Always thinking forward, Disney believed in a “community of the future.” He feared the disorganized, chaotic lifestyle of urban cities; this fueled his desire to re-imagine urban living
Disney regularly read books on urban planning, such as Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-morrow. As a result, this largely drove his inspiration for the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (Disney’s Epcot park). He envisioned a radial design with a dense urban center that focuses on community, technology, nature, and accessibility.
Today, one of the most popular New Urbanist towns is Celebration, Fla., built by a sector of the Walt Disney Company circa 1984. The purpose is to create a walkable community that fosters earth-friendly architecture, historic preservation, and healthy living — all encompassed by a distinct quaintness. Like other neighborhoods, Celebration is built to eliminate traffic. In fact, shops, businesses, parks, and schools are all in walking distance within the town, which highlights the advantage of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments.
Although we’ve already seen some examples of New Urbanism today, there is substantial growth in the forecast. What will this living look like? Apartments that blend with the environment; smaller and more thoughtful multifamily projects; car-less cities and larger sidewalks; community gardens integrated into multifamily properties; or even smart cities. New Urbanists are working towards building cities that revolve around maximizing space, community, sustainability, and efficiency.
Buildings will no longer be a monument to themselves, but instead, to the city streets. Streetlights Residential, a mixed-use developer in Dallas, is making this statement a reality with properties like The Kathryn in Frisco.
With over 1,000 units, The Kathryn was designed to accommodate residents at each part of the family lifecycle. Mixed-use projects should be mindful and endearing to the city, as well as accommodate all walks of life. In short: the streets aren’t the enemy, they’re the amenity.
Although the popularity of New Urbanism is widely accepted, there’s “an enormous invisible structure” hindering its full overhaul. To the government, this reinvention of city living is breaking code after code. Local zoning codes restrict modernist design, form, and projects, ultimately restricting wider streets and increased walkability. However, there’s hope in progress; as this movement gains momentum, its impact will reach public officials and make a difference in the urban way of life.
One of the biggest benefits of working at a small agency is the amount of talent we have packed into a 1500-square-foot office space. Fresh out of college, I don’t think there’s any better “first job” than the one where you’re the least experienced person in the room. Sure, there’s a downside to being young. Sometimes a cultural reference will go straight over my head. (What’s a facsimile? Who’s Carol Burnett?)
In this industry, however, my youth is often considered an advantage. I happen to be an expert on one of the fastest-growing, most-powerful consumer demographics in history (millennials). And that’s because I am one.
My Authority on the Subject
I was born smack dab in the middle of the Gen Y, or as we like to be referred, the millennial generation. We are the children of the boomers, and while millennials (age 20-29) are only 48 of the 344 million Americans, in 2018 we will pass baby boomers as the top-spending generation.
Differences between generations fascinate me; they make sense. Culture is a group of people’s way of stabilizing itself. Generation culture is interesting because time is the manipulated variable. When new variables are thrown into the mix, other things adjust.
For example, more women are entering the workplace and staying there for longer. Because they expect to work longer, they are investing more in their jobs and education. Consequently, they are getting married later in life. This, in turn, has changed the college and young adult dating culture … We can track generational changes like these across several lifestyle trends.
The Technology Factor
Technology works in the same way: Millennials are the first generation to grow up around the internet. Interconnectivity and information explains a large part of what makes millennials who they are. By looking at specific digital trends among millennials, we can get an idea of what drives their behavior and how they make purchase decisions. Because of their large purchasing power, marketers are changing their tactics to get in front of this generation. New social media advertising tactics have evolved due to millennials spending more than three hours a day on mobile phones.
While millennials are evolving many industries, purchasing patterns, and online marketing, their lifestyles are also defining the multifamily space. As millennials tend to wait longer for marriage, purchasing a house, and having kids, they’re staying in the renting sphere longer. Multifamily communities have to adjust their marketing tactics to attract these sought-after renters.
Criterion.B is all about learning, evolving, and expanding our marketing tactics to better reach the multifamily space, so stay tuned as we develop more insights for multifamily managers, developers, and more!
For many multifamily properties, the 18-34 year-old millennial demographic makes up the largest group of current and future residents. Ranging from college students to young professionals, this demographic enjoys the convenience and the urban lifestyle that are often associated with renting.
Aside from being the most coveted demographic, they’re also the most baffling for a traditional multifamily industry to understand. Compared to the generations before them, changing lifestyle preferences are beginning to propel several trends in multifamily development. Brad Taylor, Managing Regional Partner at JPI, TDI Companies, highlights some general millennial lifestyle trends that are changing the way properties are being developed and marketed.
Millennial Lifestyle + Rental Trends
- Renting longer. Renting by choice. Millennials are renting longer than generations before them, and oftentimes by choice. On the whole, millennials are waiting longer to get married and start a family, which is generally extending their rental lifetime well into their professional years.
- Location, location, location. Location is consistently among the top criteria for millennial renters. With the tendency toward a more urban lifestyle, millennials are increasingly giving up their cars for public transportation and walkable neighborhoods.
- The finer things in life. Millennials who grew up with granite countertops and hardwood floors are expecting the same from their rental properties. Thus, when it comes to developing for millennials, upscale finishes and “modern luxury” have become more of a necessity than an amenity.
- Smaller spaces. Bigger common places. The active, social millennial generation spends less time in their apartments; they’re also willing to cut down on square footage for prime locations. From a development standpoint, a greater focus is being placed on larger common areas (pools, courtyards, lounges, cafes), which are designed to fulfill any social or business needs they may have.
- Furry friends. Millennials are pet people, and they treat their furry friends as a member of the family. Therefore, not only are millennials looking for an apartment that’s pet-friendly, but they find great value in pet amenities like dog parks or washing and grooming stations.
- Technology focused. Millennials grew up with the Internet. They’re heavy smartphone users, and they’re accustomed to managing accounts and paying bills on their phones. Multifamily properties are increasingly taking these technology needs into account, whether that’s designing common areas with charging stations or accepting rent payments on mobile.
Marketing to Millennials
Millennial lifestyle preferences are driving key changes in multifamily development, but what does that mean for marketing? Quite simply, if you understand what’s important to millennials, then you can understand how to attract them. This is how to maintain a customer-centric approach. Keep in mind, however, that being familiar with trends is only a starting point. Your greatest millennial insights will come from the research you do yourself.
Developing Your Personas
The best way to conduct research about your target market is to develop resident personas. A persona is a semi-fictional character you create that epitomizes your residents. It captures their demographics, behaviors and motivations. Not only does it summarize your target market, but it give you ‘someone’ tangible to market to.
Host a small focus group with your residents (offer an incentive for participation). This is a chance to truly get to know them. Ask questions about their likes and dislikes. How did they find your property? What do they do in their spare time? What keeps them up at night? Listen. From the information you gather, you’re going to create two or three personas that epitomize the residents you talked to. Here’s an example—we’ll call him CrossFit Chris:
Chris is 28 years old, single, and living in a one-bedroom apartment in Uptown Dallas. He’s originally from Chicago, but he stayed in Dallas after college for a job opportunity. By day, he’s a financial analyst; however, every evening, you can find him at the CrossFit gym down the street. He enjoys the camaraderie of CrossFit, which is where he’s made most of his friends post-college. He frequents The Pickled Sub, a sandwich shop two blocks east, where he grabs dinner to-go two or three times a week. He always knew he wanted to live in Uptown, where he can walk to nearby grocery stores and restaurants. He has dog named Champ, who he likes to take out for runs. Most weekends, he’s out of town, either on business or visiting friends. He love his dog, but he underestimated the cost of grooming and boarding Champ while he’s away. He also finds the carpets in his apartment hard to keep clean…
In reality, “CrossFit Chris” doesn’t exist. Rather, he was created based on the insights we received from our focus group. Why did we go through the trouble of making up this story? Because it summarizes what’s important to our residents based on the research we’ve done. Plus, it gives us a tangible person to market to. We’re no longer trying to attract millennials, we’re trying to attract Chris.
What property features would Chris find attractive? Well, first and foremost is location. Chris likes the walkability of Uptown, and he likely narrowed down his apartment search using a location-based tool like Google Maps. (Marketer Insight: Is our information listed on major ‘business locator sites’ like Google Maps? If so, is it accurate?)
Chris’s greatest frustrations have to do with taking care of his dog, Champ. Therefore, our marketing message should focus on any pet amenities we have to offer (Can we partner with a local groomer to offer our residents discounts?). And when we talk to him about hardwood floors, we’re not only pointing out their luxury, but the practicality over carpet (easier to clean).
These are just a few examples of how we use personas to extract key marketing insights. Again, when we know what’s important to prospective residents, we can understand how to attract and engage them.