For the arrival of each generation, student housing operators need to extend the welcome mat long before the key goes in the lock. In recent years, generational preferences made a big leap with Millennials and they continue to evolve with next group leasing student housing. The evolution is affecting the way operators produce and capture leads.
Traditionally, student housing operators have been able to cast a big net through third-party lead generators in hopes of attracting prospects to their websites. While website presentations have become differentiators, property managers have generally been at the mercy of one-way traffic flowing into their webbing of prospects.
But technology has reshaped how student housing operators can stand out in the crowd. Properties now have the ability to better target prospective student renters in the places where they are looking for housing. Through geo-targeting and greater search and social media visibility, properties can extend their brand into the places where students look for a place to live.
It’s an approach that the student housing industry has long needed, says Brock MacLean, senior vice president of business development for RealPage, Inc.
“The industry desires to be more efficient from a lead generation standpoint,” he said. “There is a need to focus on those leads that are more likely to convert and extend reach of brand to places where consumers search today. It’s more varied than ever with Google, social media, Facebook marketing and geo-targeting people as they search a general area.”
“The idea is to give greater flexibility to the customer and how they market properties.”
Reshaping the pursuit of leads and conversion
LeaseLabs by RealPage GoDirect Marketing is reshaping the way property management companies can generate and convert leads in the student housing market through a single platform. Property management companies can simplify their multi-channel marketing strategy to one seamless stage and create brand awareness that promotes new, qualified leads. Each marketing channel is unified to provide analytics and insights into marketing and forecasts reporting throughout the leasing season.
MacLean says the changing student housing market needs a combination of high-ranking, engaging website content and social media presence along with geo-targeting to meet today’s student housing prospects on level ground. Through search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), along with quality content to increase website visibility in organic search rankings, technology can now boost forecast marketing performance and identity student prospects who are prime candidates to lease.
Instead of painting marketing dollars with a broad brush, MacLean says, property management companies can be more strategic about their investments. Properties now have greater options through wider marketing avenues.
“Technology has arrived in a fashion that drives prospects to websites and allows property management companies more control over what they are spending,” he said. “It allows them to be more flexible as directed with marketing spend versus casting a wide net with more traditional methods.”
Knowing where your prospective renters are searching
A strong web presence and knowing where prospects are searching are critical elements for effective lead generation and conversion.
A visually pleasing website with quality photos, 3D floor plans and strong content attract prospects but opportunities to engage while they are looking is just as important. Prospects should have the ability to easily chat or communicate with the community, either directly with the leasing staff or through a contact center.
Also, effective and targeted SEO and SEM strategy should be deployed to find where people are searching, where they’re finding reviews and what social media channels they are perusing. Properties should also be aware of how they are being rated and encourage happy residents to share their experiences.
“Being cognizant of where your target prospects and demographics are searching is incredibly important,” MacLean said. “Traditional forms of marketing are still viable, but being creative and aware of where people are searching today is essential.”
Acknowledging the technology intersection of parent and student
And property managers shouldn’t ignore the important intersection of student and parent and distinctly different expectations of technology. Students may be living in the communities and attracted by what technology has to offer but it’s the parents who usually foot the bill and have to be able to communicate in their own way with the property.
MacLean says the leasing message has to be shared across a platform that appeals to both. That may include varied content of music-generated messages or visual property presentations to reach students, and reassurance for parents that the community has a good public image.
“Once kids become the residents, there has to be an intersection with the parents so they can access that technology,” MacLean said.
Uniting marketing strategy, execution and analysis
LeaseLabs by RealPage GoDirect Marketing unites marketing strategy, execution and analysis to reduce the cost per lead, increase qualified leads to the property, and optimize spend for the most impact to performance. Learn more!