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 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 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.