Insight 15: Take Back Control of Your Brand


By Jay Parsons, Tracy Saffos, Andrew Bowen and Jonathan Breakstone

In the not-so-distant “old days,” most companies and public figures relied on newspapers to get their messages out. Newspapers and other media outlets were the gatekeepers. Your brand depended on advertising spend and placement.

Today, pretty much everyone has their own messaging channels – websites, email lists, blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, social media…and the list goes on. Companies and public figures control their own messages, their own brands, their own marketing strategies. Advertising spend is now strategic – particularly via search engine and social media optimization.

And then there’s the apartment business, which remains among the few industries still reliant on old-fashioned subscription advertising. The format has shifted over the years from print to digital, but the basic concept is the same.

Why haven’t we evolved more?

Why Apartments Are Changing the Advertising Model

There are at least five challenges with traditional advertising through third-party channels:

  • Renters are doing more searching, less shopping

Google and the various social media channels continue to change how consumers shop. The more sophisticated these tools become, the easier it is for prospective renters to find housing options that match their search. Traditional “shopping” means going through the virtual “aisles” sifting through many irrelevant options to find what you’re looking for. In the apartment world, this process can leave both the apartment operator and prospective renter frustrated and empty-handed. Imagine if your property is the most precise match for that renter, but you’re buried down the list due to less relevant competitors buying more expensive advertising packages. Searching can now be much more efficient – showing only relevant options.

  • Scalpels are more precise than chainsaws

Traditional advertising reaches a large audience, but more and more companies are eschewing the traditional mass-blast strategy for very targeted messaging designed to reach the most likely customers. Who is your target demographic, and what is the most effective way to reach them? Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), geotargeting and geofencing empower companies to narrow their focus to very targeted demographics.

  • Ramp up marketing when you need it, taper back when you don’t

Subscription models benefit marketing companies with a guaranteed revenue stream. But that model isn’t necessarily the best fit for apartments, where demand is highly seasonal. If you’ve entered the slow winter months with strong occupancy and minimal exposure, why pay the same rates for advertising as you would in the peak demand seasons of spring and summer? Ramp up marketing whenever and however you need it – driving cost savings or empowering you to spend more when you need a bigger boost.

  • Third-party sites promote parity, but your website allows you to stand out

On many internet listing services (ILS), every community intentionally looks similar – same fonts, same structure, same template. That serves the host service but dilutes your brand. The only way to stand out in that environment is to spend more on advertising to get a larger or more prominent placement. On your property website and social channels, you can build your own brand and control your own message. And it’s easy to do – low-hanging fruit – by investing in low-cost enhancements like updated media (photography, video, 3D floorplans) that give prospects a clear idea of what it’s like to live in your community. Then close the loop with real-time pricing and availability, online chat with contact center support, virtual tours and a fully online leasing process.

  • Know your prospect, and manage their journey

Among the many advantages of direct leads, one big plus is this: You know who the prospect is, and you can manage their journey. Indirect leads give you little insight into the prospect. Visibility into the prospect is critical to driving an effective marketing strategy. And doing that requires one thing: data. Who is looking at your properties? What amenities do they most value? What floorplans are most interesting? What is their price point? When are they looking to move in? The more you know about your prospects and their behavior, the more empowered your leasing team is to focus on what matters to any one particular prospect.

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