Featured image is of Coast at Lakeshore East in Chicago
How building and property owners can use a new digital marketing strategy to navigate new trends.
Multifamily real estate relies heavily on ILS sites to list properties and rent units. This strategy is becoming more and more expensive without nearly the desired turnaround. Especially for smaller buildings with much smaller advertising budgets. Additionally, we are relying on our lead generation and marketing value to come from external sources that could dry up at any time. Instead, we want our building owners to take control of their digital real estate to generate their own long-term leads for less.
As we come around from the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing an uptick in people searching for apartments, booking tours and renting units. And where rent prices in 2020 were on a steady decline, they’re turning around this year and heading back up. With ILS sites becoming more expensive and producing less results, building ownership groups are searching for alternatives. It’s more important than ever to be visible and competitive in the multifamily space, before your competitors do.
Digital Marketing for multifamily real estate isn’t just one tactic or strategy. There are several moving parts that, when used effectively, can get you the results simply listing on ILS sites alone won’t do. The most impactful, and free, aspect of marketing a building is creating a strategy. Asking the right questions and planning based on the answers.
This is where you start to get into the details, the nitty gritty of digital marketing. Throwing listings out there or putting up paid search ads or organic social posts isn’t going to get you the results you want if you don’t map out your strategy. Who is your audience? Not just their age or where they live, but who are they?
Learn the affinity categories that make up your target audience and identify a few different personas. Write them down, because we will refer back to them often.
You need to know where your personas are online. Do they use Google or Bing? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.? This is where you start figuring out which channels you need to engage with to reach the right people. And there are a LOT of marketing channels.
This is also how you start building your conversion funnel. Who is at the top, just casually browsing for apartments with no timeline in mind; who is in the middle, knowing their lease is coming up in a few months, thinking about making a move; who is at the bottom, ready to take a tour and sign a lease? And which channel will reach which part of the funnel?
Now that we have an idea of who we’re targeting and where they spend their time online, let’s break down those channels and the best way to utilize them.
Google My Business is a huge part of this conversation. If you’re going to do even one thing, creating a GMB page for your property should be first. It’s almost like having a micro-website, and it’s free. All you need is a physical location and an address, but there are plenty of other tools and opportunities to share information.
Google My Business is also critical for review/reputation management: having a large quantity of good reviews makes a difference in local SEO, because many people start their apartment search looking at stars on Google. If you have a poor reputation or no reputation, you will be passed over.
Optimizing for search engines is an important part of digital marketing, and multifamily websites tend to miss it. In fact, many very popular multifamily website management companies don’t offer options to conduct ongoing SEO for your own website! Think about most of the apartment websites you come across—they typically have about four pages total, have a similar template to most other sites, and the pages haven’t been updated in months or years. This only gives Google and other search engines four little pages to rank, and you have less of a chance hitting that first page in search.
Additionally, the more content you build out on your website, the better you’ll perform in organic search. For example, we have a building in Chicago that offers an on-site pet spa. By creating pages with content on that amenity, they’re now crushing it in organic search results for pet-friendly apartments. Neighborhood pages with details about the area, local hot spots, etc. provide great SEO value, too.
Moving down the funnel to the middle, this is where you start looking for more short-term results. SEO is a long-term strategy, you’re not going to see results immediately. The next step is to look at social ads. This is where you nurture people who have already made the first step. Maybe they already know the neighborhood they want to live in, for example.
This section of the funnel is long and complicated. There are several different types of social ads, and you have both prospecting and retargeting strategies available. And this is where testing is really important. Experiment with targeting affinities, with different ad copy, with images and videos to see what really drives clicks and quality traffic.
Social ads are powerful. You can target apartment hunters based on where they want to live, what they like, where they spend their time, and what their price range may be. All using fair-housing-friendly ads. There are people actively searching for apartments in your neighborhoods and making decisions from the ads they see on social media. And you aren’t showing up there.
Now you’re ready to look at the intent question. You want to show up for someone who is actively searching for an apartment right now. This is where Google paid search comes in.
You can actively purchase advertising space when someone is looking exactly for what you have to offer online.
Imagine the tenant is searching for a 1-bedroom apartment in a boutique building in your small cultural district for a specific price point. Your building matches all the criteria and you show up first in that search. There’s a reason Google and Bing Ads are the most impactful digital marketing channel. Normally this traffic would go to your competitor or to an ILS where they would see dozens of buildings. Why not capture them first? You want to drive traffic to your website, convert on your own terms more so than through Zillow or Apartments.com. That’s how you own your marketing real estate and retarget and reach out to these apartment hunters during their decision-making process long term.
Use retargeting ads to connect with people repeatedly over the course of, say, 90 days while they are actively searching, and showing them amenities, or recently available floor plans, or a new deal you’re offering.
Now we talk about data tracking. You want to take advantage of the tools that tell you what’s working, so you know when and how to adjust your strategy or rewrite your ads. Even if you’re not ready to start analyzing data, at least set it up. In six months, a year, five years, someone is going to look at your data in Google Analytics and see where all your traffic is coming from. That’s how you make strategic and educated decisions on what actions to take.
Without data tracking, Digital Marketing doesn’t work. Connect Facebook, Google Ads, Instagram, your website, Google My Business, Bing Ads, Apple Maps, YouTube, and so many other digital properties together to create a digital web. All these properties provide user data that helps determine which channels are working and where to allocate budget to make the most impactful marketing decisions.
It’s all about strategy, and knowing your audience. Understand the different channels and how to capitalize on them to hit all three sections of your conversion funnel. Local and organic SEO, social ads, and paid search are a great combination, especially when you follow up with data tracking and analytics.
If you have questions about digital marketing strategy for multifamily real estate or you want to share a cool story, let us know! And don’t forget to share the podcast and blog on social media. Get out there and grow good companies.