How to Market Your Apartments With a Smaller Budget

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Apartment marketers at Class B or C properties face a different set of challenges compared to luxury, or Class A, communities.

The first, of course, comes down to financial limitations. Smaller property management companies definitely have big marketing goals for their apartment communities, but just don't have the money to hire a full marketing department to achieve them. 

Secondly, it's hard to not get caught up in the comparison game. For whatever reason, Class B or C properties carry the stigma of being 'second-best'. Apartment marketers there don't feel as comfortable showcasing their units or amenities because they believe their communities aren't attractive enough to compete with others.

Our goal with this blog is to show apartment marketers at B or C properties how to overcome these challenges. Just because you're working with a smaller budget doesn't mean you have to lower your marketing expectations or provide a lesser experience for those interested in your apartments. Here's how to make it work:

1. Don't compare your apartments with higher class properties.

As humans, we naturally place our own biases on things. We say to ourselves we'd rather have that new SUV than a used car. This comparison game is such an easy trap to fall into, especially for apartment marketers at Class B or C properties. It's hard to get over that fear about having their units and amenities compared with others online.

This is why it's so important to put yourself in your prospective residents' shoes. Just because your personal biases say you'd prefer to live in a luxurious, high-end apartment community, your job as an apartment marketer is to serve those with a budget that fits the property you work for. 

You're not competing with those Class A properties at all. You're just trying to be the best option amongst similar properties—all of whom are facing the exact same financial challenges as you. When your marketing efforts are focused less on winning the comparison battle, and more on serving your prospective residents, you will feel more confident about featuring your properties online. That's how you overcome that 'second-best' stigma.

2. Invest in a website with helpful media content.

Websites are expensive. When you're already dealing with an already limited marketing budget, it sounds counterintuitive to say that you should invest a large chunk of it towards one. But here's the thing: a website that lets your target audience see inside your property will pay for itself over time. 

Utilizing floorplan-specific photography and walkthrough video tours on your website is a great service, regardless of property class. Again, forget about appearances here. You're not trying to win a beauty contest, you're just trying to provide a great shopping experience for the people actually searching for your community. By providing them with helpful media content, you're generating more interest in your apartments, therefore increasing the likelihood that they schedule a tour and sign a lease. This is how you put your prospective residents first when establishing your marketing plan.

For Class B or C properties, a website with this helpful media content may also give you a leg up on similar properties who may not have them. That's why most of your marketing budget should go towards this first.

3. Deploy a targeted digital advertising strategy.

Unlike Class A properties, who usually have an unlimited digital advertising budget, Class B and C properties have to be more measured. Spending on digital ads just to say you have digital ads isn't going to work for communities with smaller budgets.

The right approach is deploying a targeted digital ad strategy that aims to reach your apartment community's most qualified leads for the lowest possible price. Here's how to visualize that:


At the very center of the bullseye is 'You', your apartment community. To reach those closest to your target audience, the best types of campaigns to run are Defensive (the next ring) and Remarketing (the second ring). Defensive campaigns typically use keyword match advertisements, where you bid to own specific keywords for your community in Google AdWords such as your full or partial name and location, so prospective residents can easily find you on Google. Remarketing campaigns then target display ads towards individuals who've already visited your website, keeping your apartments top of mind throughout the duration of their search.

This targeted strategy is best for every apartment community regardless of class, but it's especially valuable for Class B and C properties because Defensive and Remarketing ads are really affordable. They have high click-through rates because they're the most relevant to your community (and your prospective residents). Keep in mind that Google wants its search engine to be used time and time again. In order to do that, it needs to show relevant ads that match what a person is searching for. So even if you bid just $1 per click to own your community's name in Google, the search engine will display your ad because it knows it will generate a lot of clicks, thus helping the company make more money. And for you, if your campaign generates 30 impressions in a month, that costs you only $30. 

Spending around $30/month sounds pretty doable when you look at how much revenue you may be losing due to persistent vacancies. For example, if you have 3 vacant units that rent for $800/month, you're losing $2,400/month until they're filled. Wouldn't you rather have to spend a little on Defensive or Remarketing ad campaigns to generate more traffic to your website and increase the likelihood these units get leased?

This mathematical perspective also helps you become more dynamic with how you proportion your ad budget. If you have a higher number of unoccupied units that need to be filled, you know how much money you're losing the longer they sit vacant. In this instance, you would want to increase your spend to drive the traffic needed to fill those vacancies. Perhaps this means going further out on the bullseye and running Offensive or Facebook campaigns for a short while.

Typically, properties with smaller ad budgets adhere to a rigid monthly ad budget that never changes simply because it's easier to account for. They have to take this careful approach for obvious reasons, but the approach doesn't consider the fact that every community experiences its own busy and slow leasing seasons. Digital ads are intended to drive traffic to your website, so it makes sense to increase or decrease the budget for them to deliver results when they're needed the most. 

4. Set up lease tracking to evaluate the success of marketing sources.

If your budget is limited enough that you can't invest in a great website with helpful media content or deploy a targeted ad strategy yet, there are still other less expensive means available for you to highlight your apartment communities.

The most common are internet listing services, or ILS. Generally, an ILS doesn't perform well because paying to post information about your units there puts them in direct comparison with competing properties. You can also pay to post listings on real estate platforms such as Zillow.

If you're not getting the right amount of engagement from just an ILS, you could also place listings for free on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Whichever sources you choose, it's really important that you set up a system that accounts for their success. This is why we recommend tracking your leases by source, especially Cost Per Lease. Ideally, you want this to metric to be lower. If you're spending hundreds per month on an ILS and not seeing the type of return you need, you may need to start cutting down the spend towards those sources and increasing the spend on sources that actually generate leases. The goal is to make sure you're protecting your precious marketing budget.


If you're marketing for a Class B or C property with a limited budget:

  • Don't get caught up in the comparison game.
  • Serve your audience with a website that lets them see inside your apartments.
  • Defensive and Remarketing digital ads are cost-effective and drive more traffic to your website.
  • Make sure you're not wasting precious money on marketing sources that don't generate leads.
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