This article was original published by Multifamily Executive Magazine
In 2021, between Facebook rebranding, Instagram repositioning for video, and QR codes making a comeback, multifamily marketers had their hands full with social media. Outside the social silo, marketers also were challenged with the arrival and management of countless marketing tech options for email, CRM, CXM, plus software solutions for reputation management and digital platforms for detailed reporting.
Not only are tools and technologies rapidly evolving, but so are customer preferences. According to the 2020 NMCH/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences report, more than 70% of consumers would use text messaging on a community website in their next apartment search while nearly 50% of consumers would use a leasing chatbot.
What’s next for 2022? Only time will tell. Yet, as the marketing ecosystem continues to grow and diversify, we recognize a few key opportunities for multifamily marketers to fire up their efforts.
1. Plant in the Time of Plenty and Weed Where Necessary
According to the 2021 Freddie Mac Midyear Multifamily Outlook, as economic conditions improved so have expectations for the apartment market. In short, rents are up, vacancy is down, and investment activity is surging. Now is the time to look holistically at your marketing approach. What’s working? What’s not? Where’s the rub? As with many multifamily companies, the Fogelman marketing team cross-pollinates with operations, customer service and experience, business management, and legal. We’ve made a concerted effort during this season of plenty to audit touchpoints across all teams, evaluate recurring challenges, and uncover opportunities for low-hanging fruit. Instead of piecemealing tech implementations together in a time of need, we now have a plan to prioritize the tools and technology that make a long-lasting business impact. In the world of multifamily marketing, it’s all too easy to point to what competitors are leveraging or trip up on what’s shiny right now. In our experience, planting now and developing a rubric, based on time criticality, business needs, and customer demand, qualifies your marketing tools and helps weed out inefficient, redundant, or “not right now” tools.
2. Your Customer’s Journey = Your Marketing Team’s North Star
In the simplest terms, success for multifamily marketers means meeting renters where they are in the marketing funnel, i.e., on the right channel, with the right message, at the right time, while driving business impact and proving ROI. According to Gartner’s 2022 trends, “consumers are in the midst of [an overhaul], one that is more exhausting than exciting.” The report indicates that consumers are hungry for more straightforward, simple messages and a streamlined journey in which a brand emphasizes authenticity, identity, and self-esteem.
At Fogelman, our guiding principle is “the customer is at the heart of everything we do.” Think about your specific resident and prospect. Are they a busy parent who prefers texting for quick answers, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., after the kids have gone to bed? Or is it a Gen Zer who is motivated by perks and prefers to watch a short-form Q&A video a la TikTok? Start with a visual representation of your ideal customers and map their journey through each step to leasing. Do customers first find your community through a news story, a referral site, or a direct search? What actions do they take next in moving down the sales funnel: signing up for your email newsletter, chatting with a lease bot, or popping around your social pages? The journey map is the story of how the customer experiences your brand across all digital and on-site touchpoints and offers a strategic approach to better understanding customer expectations while optimizing customer experience for retention. In mapping from awareness to advocacy with your advertising, technology, and service teams, you can see the gaps and points of friction.
3. Digital First ≠ Digital Only
Marketing success in 2022 requires deep audience segmentation, serious message customization, and putting omnichannel strategies and technology in place with the end user in mind. A digital-first approach assumes a new challenge is easily solved with a digital solution. Digital first aligns with customer expectations and trends and also allows multifamily companies to automate, build efficiencies, reduce costs, and create lasting infrastructure to appropriately scale. When apps first arrived, brands and marketers clamored to build and onboard their audiences. While apps look great, they are time-consuming and can be expensive to maintain without in-house development. According to experts on the Forbes Technology Council, oftentimes a mobile-friendly and responsive website completes the same functions of an app without the extra work of development and maintenance, plus the extra lift of a user downloading, inputting personal details, and using another platform.
Yet, digital first doesn’t mean digital only. Where face-to-face human interaction was once the only key component to resident and prospect communications, our audiences now prefer the ease of access to virtual, digital, and self-service tools, including texts, chatbots, and 3D virtual and self-guided tours, plus, the face-to-face and over-the-phone human interaction, when necessary. Both experiences are required to seamlessly blend together. With amenity spaces opening up and resident events kicking off again in 2022, we foresee an increased opportunity to create meaningful IRL (in real life) experiences. While amazing spaces and places are a solid starting point for face-to-face interaction, the shared connection between residents and the larger community is truly the secret sauce for stellar engagement.
4. Measurement Matters Now More Than Ever
According to Gartner’s annual Spend Survey, market analytics are considered one of the most vital capabilities among chief marketing officers, continuing a pre-COVID trend where analytics and measurement became a top investment priority. In short, marketing teams are now tasked with both strategy and implementation, plus justifying every dollar spent to prove how programs help the business reach its goals. Thankfully, we now have access to more intelligent reporting to see the impact that ad sources and marketing efforts have on leads and leases. The lease attribution models we review most at Fogelman include first touch, last touch, and multi-touch. We compare results across the portfolio and drill down on wins and misses on the property level to see which lead source is converting best. We then integrate spend to measure ROAS (return on ad spend) and work to understand cost per application, etc.
Algorithm changes aside, multifamily marketers will be challenged next year with planning their work, working their plans, and then measuring and analyzing the metrics that truly matter to the business—leads, leases, and, ultimately, retention.
About the Author
Melissa Brady is vice president of strategic marketing at Fogelman Properties. She is responsible for driving the overall strategy for regional property and corporate marketing initiatives, including optimizing digital experiences, bolstering current redevelopment marketing, and leading the company’s martech and brand strategies. Brady’s prior experience includes consulting for several public and private firms, in addition to her marketing and brand communication work at ServiceMaster, FedEx, and Juice Plus+. Melissa earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Mississippi State University.