If you had to predict how many leases a specific community of yours will need to sign six months from now, could you do it?
You may be able to figure out how many leases they need to sign in the next 30 days with some accuracy, but a lot can change in half a year. What if things slow down in your market or half a dozen residents you thought would renew move out instead? What happens when one of your competitors starts giving away two months free or a new community opens its doors just down the street?
Or, maybe leasing will be even better than expected. You’ll maintain a steady stream of qualified traffic, your leasing staff will successfully close everybody who walks through your front door, and your residents will be so satisfied they’ll never consider moving to a new community. In this scenario, you may ask yourself why you spent marketing dollars on traffic your community never really needed.
Now imagine you have to commit to a specific marketing strategy today and you won’t be able to make any changes or adjustments until a full year has gone by. That’s probably not too hard to imagine since that’s how most traditional apartment marketing works.
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." –Nils Bohr
Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics, once quipped, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And he’s right. Even in our modern world with all the data, analytics, and tracking information that’s available to us real-time it’s far easier to tell what has happened than it is to predict what’s going to happen.
Despite all of our attempts to control it, the world is a complex, interconnected, chaotic, and unpredictable place. To put it bluntly, there’s just too much going on for us to be able to understand it all in an exhaustive, comprehensive way.
What determines a community's marketing needs?
Think about all of the different factors that influence a single community’s traffic needs—you can track showings and applications along with your current count of units that are either vacant or on notice. You may be able to do market surveys of your competitors to give you an understanding of their current pricing and maybe even their current occupancy, which may give you a sense of where you need to be to stay competitive.
The Unpredictability of Marketing Needs
But what happens if a local employer has to lay off a few hundred people who may have to move away to find new jobs? Or the district adjacent to yours opens a brand new school, drawing families with young children into their neighborhood instead of yours. Maybe the national economy slows down just a bit, which leads to lower interest rates, encouraging some of your most qualified prospects to consider home ownership instead of renting?
And this is just scratching the surface. There are countless factors like those mentioned above that make it virtually impossible to accurately predict what the future holds, even for a single community’s leasing needs.
"Antifragile: I want to live happily in a world I don't understand." –Nassim Nicholas Taleb
In his book, Antifragile, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb quips, “I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand.” He goes on to write several hundred pages explaining how we can successfully navigate our vast, interconnected, unpredictable world.
Why You Need Options
His strategy can essentially be summed up in one word: optionality. Rather than trying to accurately predict the future and then planning accordingly, Taleb argues the Antifragile path involves building systems and strategies that allow you to adapt and change as an unpredictable future becomes the present.
In the world of digital apartment marketing, the differences between traditional SEO (search engine optimization) and Google Ads make for an interesting case study in optionality.
Focusing Only on Organic Search Makes for Fragile Marketing
When most companies talk about SEO they have in mind a strategy of making changes to a community’s website hoping to improve their positioning on Google’s organic (free) search results for a handful of keyword combinations. There are several key ideas to unpack here.
- The first is the belief that Google is simple and understood well enough that their search platform can be manipulated and outsmarted.
- Second, SEO always takes time. Changes made today aren’t expected to make a significant difference for at least three to six months.
- Third, in most cases you’re expected to pay up front for these services, along with an ongoing maintenance fee, whether they produce the intended results or not.
In other words, you’re paying up front for a solution that may or may not pay off six months from now. You’re also assuming you have a comprehensive understanding of Google’s entire system and that it won’t change in the months ahead. Sounds pretty fragile, right?
Why Google Ads Are Antifragile
Now think about the way Google Ads pay per click (PPC) campaigns work. They’re a perfect example of the concept of optionality. If you need more traffic you can increase ad spend budgets and add new campaigns. If you don’t, you can decrease budgets or even suspend your campaigns, saving precious marketing dollars for when you need them in the future. Google Ads gives you the ability to guarantee you’ll have the necessary traffic when you need it most without committing to paying for surplus traffic when you don’t.
There are three key features that define a marketing strategies that put optionality into practice:
- Transparent—You have the ability to accurately assess what’s working, what’s not, and to identify your true marketing needs in real time.
- Dynamic—You are able to make changes on the fly, adapting and evolving your traffic generation platform as needs change.
- Strategic—You have solutions available that work in practice, not just in theory.
If any of these components is missing the performance of your marketing strategy will suffer. It also helps to have a team of marketing advisors working alongside you, experts who are there to help you live happily in an industry where change is the norm and unpredictability is a part of life.