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Interest rate hikes, inflation, market volatility—with so much up in the air, it can be hard to know where marketing fits in. But it’s during this uncertainty when your multifamily marketing plan matters the most.
“Marketing has value year-round,” said Marci Rankin, Head of Commercial Real Estate Marketing at JPMorgan Chase. “But in times of economic uncertainty, it can be even more beneficial.”
“Multifamily property owners can use marketing to open the lines of communication between residents and their property manager,” she said. “Similarly, multifamily owners can use marketing to proactively reach future renters to keep their occupancy full—and even build a wait list.”
Here are five tips to help you optimize your multifamily marketing efforts during economic uncertainty.
It’s common to ask new residents where they heard about the apartment, which can be valuable for marketing efforts and general operations.
This information, along with analytics, reviews and social media, can teach you a lot about your residents and their concerns. But direct communication is best to make sure you’re on the same page as your residents. Communication can be done via email surveys or in-person focus groups. Even an informal chat about residents’ biggest concerns can help you and your renters better weather uncertainty.
If your business isn’t digital-first, it’s time to make the transition. Manual, paper-based processes are not only time-consuming, but they’re often expensive. Plus, they can leave you vulnerable to fraud. Adopting digital processes for rent payments, payables and receivables can help you operate your property more efficiently.
Digitization can also be a selling point for renters, who may use their checks solely for rent payments. Giving residents multiple payment options, including digital wallets and credit cards, can help ensure they pay rent on time. Be sure to market this digital experience in your apartment listings.
Once you’ve digitized your back-office processes, look closely at how you can use proptech to attract and retain renters while saving time and money:
Automation is great when it’s business as usual, but uncertainty frequently requires a more manual approach. For example, you may want to turn off your scheduled posts to avoid any social media snafus.
Before you post, Rankin suggested putting yourself in your residents’ shoes. “Consider what they are feeling and where they might need support,” she said. “Question the message you want to relay, to who, why and if this is the right medium.”
Social media marketing requires follow-up efforts, too.
“Remember that social media can be used as a great tool to communicate quickly with large groups of people,” Rankin said. “But as a company, you must be available after posting for questions, comments and clarifications that may be needed in a time of stress.”
Economic uncertainty might require you to examine your marketing budget and focus on efforts with the highest return on investment. Look at data and analytics to focus on market initiatives that deliver results. If your ads in a local publication aren’t performing well, for example, it may be time to reevaluate them. You may also want to narrow your marketing focus to existing clients and receptive prospects and look at retargeting and remarketing opportunities.
In place of print ads, you can shift to low- and no-cost marketing efforts.
“Take advantage of free marketing such as social media, word-of-mouth, influencers, email and online forums before spending money on other options such as content creation, website development and paid advertising,” Rankin said. “Consider asking renters for things like social reshares, tenant referrals or content creation related to the property. In exchange, you can provide rental discounts or prizes.”
Maintaining ongoing communication with residents is critical to addressing their needs. Messaging is important, too. For example, you may want to emphasize amenities such as free Wi-Fi, dog runs and gym space—amenities that can be especially attractive to renters trying to save money.
Outside of regular communication, you should also create messages for unexpected disruptions, including:
“Ultimately, home is where you want to feel safe,” Rankin said. “So marketing the value of your safe, clean, supportive property or community can go a long way to retain and attract quality tenants during a downturn.”
Commercial real estate is, by nature, a cyclical business. Amid economic uncertainty, keep an eye on costs and other metrics, look for efficiencies, focus on marketing efforts with a proven record of success and communicate with your residents to stay on top of their needs. When multifamily property owners and investors make wise marketing decisions during uncertain times, they can come out on top.
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