By reducing the cost of producing and distributing information, the internet transformed marketing. It made it possible for businesses to produce their own marketing material and for new kinds of marketing content to emerge.
Consumer expectations have begun to shift when it comes to finding information. Since it is easier than ever for businesses to produce content, including facts about the business, educational materials, and more, consumers believe information should be easy to find and their questions answered before they actually contact the seller.
In fact, according to Target Marketing, 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier. One group estimates that by 2020, that figure will be closer to 85%.
This blog is intended as a basic introductory level guide, introducing the what and why of content marketing for apartment communities.
1) What is content marketing?
Content marketing is using free content to inform visitors about your business, help those visitors become leads, and, ultimately, convert them into customers. What is "free content?" That could be a number of things:blog posts, product pages on a website, a company “about” page, white papers, videos, infographics, Ebooks, checklists, and downloadable templates are a few examples. Some of these pieces of content should be accessible to anyone online—they get on your website and learn about your community from the blog, videos, product pages, and so on.
Other pieces work better as gated content in which you put the content behind a form, which requires the visitor to enter their email address before they can download the piece. This gives you the person's contact information and allows you to develop a relationship with them over time, rather than simply trying to sell to them during a single interaction. NOTE: In the multifamily industry, we generally discourage communities from using gated content of this sort. (https://www.rentvision.com/blog/rent-prices-apartment-websites)
2) Why do people use content marketing?
Content marketing radically reimagines the work of marketing and advertising. You cannot take the same content that used to go on billboards or in newspaper classifieds and stick it in an ebook or on your website. The old forms of marketing content were often simply trying to get a person’s attention or convey a minimal amount of information. Now if someone finds your marketing material it is likely you already have their attention. You need to create marketing content that keeps their attention. And doing that well is really difficult!
Ad fatigue is a widespread problem facing marketers. 48% of consumers think they are hit with too many online ads, and 30% will either boycott a company or complain about it online if they feel the company is advertising to them too much.
To prevent this from happening, you need to fundamentally reimagine your approach to marketing. Rather than simply trying to do something to get people's attention and provoke them to buy, you have to provide them with something that is actually valuable to them. This could take a lot of different shapes.
For example, marketing software company Hubspot, writes ebooks about common marketing issues—how to do marketing on Pinterest or how to better align sales and marketing. A law firm might use content marketing by creating a guide to some common legal problem. As an apartment marketing firm, we create ebooks and blog posts about common apartment marketing problems and solutions.
This approach to marketing does two things:
- Helps people solve real problems.
- Establishes a relationship of trust, so that they'll be more likely to do business with you in the future.
In the multifamily industry, we encourage all communities to be as transparent as possible in sharing basic information about their community online. This means floorplan-specific visual content, rental rates, amenities, and so on. By using content to make this information as accessible as possible, communities can serve prospective residents and make renting apartments easier.
Ideally, content marketing allows everyone to win. Marketers win because they create content that potential customers enjoy and that builds a relationship with the brand. Consumers win because they get relevant information about the business.
3) What content should create for marketing apartments?
As an apartment community, you're trying to sell a living space to prospective residents. So, as we have already briefly discussed, ebooks or whitepapers probably don't make a lot of sense.
The best kind of content you can give them is something that helps them make a purchasing decision—so give them walkthrough video tours. Apartment walkthrough video tours have a proven record of success that is unparalleled in the industry. One client of ours leased 66% more units with the exact same staffing hours simply by adding video tours.
If you're still not convinced, check out some of these stats:
- Web visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after seeing a video.
- Real estate listings with videos receive 403% more inquiries than those without.
- 90% of online shoppers report that they find video helpful in making shopping and buying decisions.
4) So how does content marketing work compared to traditional apartment marketing practices?
The good news is that you can do content marketing for apartments alongside more conventional advertising. You can build your own website with floorplan-specific content, rental rates, and amenity information, while still maintaining a presence on a few listing services if you wish.
In fact, you could look at content marketing as simply being a way to cast a broader net.
A company we partnered withthat had 2500+ units saw massive improvements in their marketing performance after they included walkthrough video tours onto their website. One of the biggest changes they noticed was that their lead to lease time was much quicker since prospects were able to take a tour of the unit before scheduling a meeting with the leasing staff. Additionally, this company found that 60% of their new residents only looked at communities in their portfolio—they didn’t look at any of this company’s competitors while shopping. Their content is uniquely valuable and informative that people don't look elsewhere.
5) Where do I start?
Effective content marketing for apartments comes down to three factors:
- Video and Photo Content
- A Website to Host the Content
- Traffic Generation
In terms of building your website, you'll want an attractive yet functional design that doesn't overwhelm visitors with unnecessary pages or glitzy design.
Once the site is up, you'll want to create floorplan-specific pages that will host floorplan-specific visual content. So you'll have a page for the studio, a page for the one bed, a page for the two bed, and so on. Each of these pages will feature a walkthrough video tour of each floorplan along with high-quality photos of the unit.
Generally speaking, we have found that these strategies will, over time, produce an appreciable amount of organic traffic, such that organic traffic supplemented by effective Google Ads will usually be sufficient for most communities. It is possible, particularly during lease-ups, that you will need more expansive plans for generating traffic. But in almost all cases a well-designed website with relevant content will perform well on organic search, such that Google Ads plus organic traffic will provide what you need in terms of marketing.
The difficult part here is that each of these pieces is essential to successful content marketing. You can try to use one piece on its own and you may experience a small level of success, but these three components all feed into each other to create the highly-efficient marketing machine we're describing above.
We believe that renting apartments should be easy. It should be easy for you and it should also be easy for your prospective residents.
The best way to simplify the leasing process is to produce useful content that helps potential residents make informed decisions about their next home. That means you need to produce certain types of content—walkthrough video tours especially—and you need to make it accessible to people by hosting it on a well-designed and functional website. By doing this, you are giving today’s shopper what they want—easily accessed transparent information. This will build trust with potential residents and also help your bottom line by attracting a higher-quality caliber lead, thereby, making your leasing team even more efficient. If you have additional questions, feel free to ask about them in the comments below!