Reaching Renters Through Integrated Marketing
Holidays are great for marketing. You can bet you’ll get a deal on mattresses on President’s Day, or find a nice couch on sale over July 4th weekend. Big savings are advertised on cars, trucks and SUVs on Labor Day, and, oh, yes. Black Friday. The mother of holiday shopping.
But the last thing most holiday shoppers expect to find a deal on would be an apartment. That’s not exactly a cash-and-carry item.
But one student housing property hit the jackpot last fall on Cyber Monday. The Barracks Townhome Apartments, the nation’s largest student housing property in College Station, Texas, leveraged the Monday-after-Thanksgiving online shopping blitz in a fall lease-up marketing blitz. The effort played well into the company’s target millennial demographic which is ever present online.
On that November day, the property generated 221 percent more leases than any of its other lease-up campaigns, and daily online traffic was 1,400 percent higher, Barracks Townhome Apartments President Kevin Bradt said.
“We absolutely crushed it, and that’s because it was so relevant for students and millennials,” he said. “Regardless of what the offer was, and that’s the critical thing, it was the fact we connected it with Cyber Monday and the fact that we were offering a deal.
“That brand equity that was built actually generated great results. We found that if you could connect those, they’re value-based and have interwoven into their lives. Anytime you can do that, you will find success with them.”
Integrated marketing’s specific call to action drives results
The online leasing campaign resonated among other integrated marketing approaches aimed at reaching millennials and Baby Boomers that student housing leaders detailed at a recent Crittenden Multifamily Conference. Integrated marketing, industry pros say, leads to increases in leasing and renewal rates, particularly among millennials.
Generally, integrated marketing campaigns blend multiple marketing channels into a unified strategy to a specific audience at a certain place and time. Multifamily and student housing properties have empowered the tactic to drive occupancy over short periods of time, typically two weeks to two months.
Jamie Matusek, vice president of Austin-based Catalyst Marketing Agency, said integrated marketing may sound like the latest buzzword but it’s a deep-rooted dive into a specific call to action – like increasing renewals or leasing up – that drives results.
“The value is that it is very laser-focused,” she said. “Integrated marketing is to create an impact, stand out, be different, really focus on a key audience, really focus in on a message and key offer to drive impact.”
Marketing table is already set by certain events
The success of the approach depends on how well the campaign focuses on a particular audience and its psychographic profiles or behavior patterns, and makes an impact after basic marketing groundwork has already been established.
With Cyber Monday, Bradt figured the Barracks Townhome Apartments, a luxury student living community, had a natural opportunity to create a special one-day offer during an event that already had top billing nationally. All the Barracks had to do was create the offer and send the message over its marketing channels.
“A lot of times we spend money trying to educate (millennials) on a campaign,” Bradt said. “What we found is that if there are certain events during the year, both nationally and locally that you can leverage into, that your bases are already (in play) because other people are giving marketing spin on that. That’s something you can leverage to your advantage.”
Catalyst Marketing Agency didn’t focus a quick lease-up campaign for Dobie Twenty21 on a special day but instead targeted that other demographic in student housing – the guarantors – at a time when leasing for the fall college semester gets in motion. Using some old-school marketing, the results were financially pleasing, said Strategy and Operations Director Christy McFerren.
A fixture at the University of Texas for years, the property had undergone a recent upgrade under previous management but had fallen behind on leasing. Only 24 percent of the community was leased and students were about the leave the market for the summer.
Catalyst quickly orchestrated a campaign to reach out to parents and encourage a free stay with their incoming student during summer orientation. While there was a social marketing component, the marketing strategy was based on direct mail, an ad strategy well recognized by Baby Boomers.
“That’s typically not our first reach, but we chose mailers because we knew we could get list where the guarantors were living, send these mailers to their permanent addresses and really get this in-hand to Baby Boomers who like to read more, have information in their hands,” McFerren said.
Catalyst collected nearly 500 pieces of traffic, McFerren said, and pre-leases grew to 37 percent by the third week of the campaign. By the end, 236 leases were signed, including 71 the first week and 88 the second.
“It was a pretty incredible, impactful, kind of a rush campaign,” she said, “but it’s because we chose a media that the Baby Boomers were going to pay attention to. We had an offer in there that grabbed their attention, and we timed it with something that was going on in the market that everybody was already doing. It was highly successful.”
A short-term marketing tactic that leads to long-term results
McFerren cited another example of an older property near Marquette University in Milwaukee that was repositioned with the help of a market survey and a crafty marketing spin. The property, operated by Trinity Property Consultants, underwent a makeover with the goal to add splash and pizzazz. Vibrant colors replaced grays inside, and windows facing sidewalks were covered in reds, blues, yellows and greens.
A fresh market was added and a large gym expanded to include on-demand fitness. The game room was turned into a coffee shop, and other areas upgraded.
The topper was that during the renovation, the property didn’t disclose the new name, hoping to stimulate curiosity. When the property was ready for market, a quick campaign using mailers, press releases and social media touted the opening of the new 2040 Lofts. A V.I.P. party featured a giveaway of tickets and a limo ride to a Green Bay Packers game, which these days needs no special billing.
The party drew 250 people and netted 51 leases that night. Another 87 signed up in the following days, ultimately helping boost occupancy 17 percent, not to mention rent growth by 3 percent.
“Between the effort with the capital expenditure, market surveys and the prep work we did to set goals for the property, you could really see that in the long-term results,” McFerren said.
All it took was a nicely focused short-term marketing approach when buzz already was in the air.