For multifamily operators to achieve sustained success with their apartment communities, they must avoid placing their property managers and marketers into separate silos where neither has any awareness of what the other is doing.
Managers answer to owners, who want their apartment communities to maintain above average occupancy and financial stability. Marketers are tasked with building awareness and generating leads for the community. It's clear that both have similar responsibilities, and should strive for collaboration while handling upticks in vacancies or other problems.
When managers make decisions without thinking about how they affect marketers, however, it limits the two sides' ability to work together. Here are five examples of managerial decisions that place marketers in a separate silo:
1. Do you have budgeting policies that get in the way of effective marketing when you need it?
In the middle of the busy leasing season, we'd advise our clients to spend higher amounts on marketing. This is a dynamic reaction intended towards generating the correct number of leads necessary to account for the increased turnover also occurring during that time for their apartment communities.
If the management team has incentives in place for staying within a certain marketing budget, that creates a roadblock. Marketers are prevented from increasing the digital advertising budget to generate more leads when turnover occurs because managers have more interest in maintaining a strict budget.
Naturally, this causes communities to steer towards a static and ineffective marketing strategy that never changes regardless of performance.
A better alternative is to create a marketing budget that accounts for every apartment community's unique seasonality, so that there's more room to spend on marketing during the busy leasing season and vice versa when demand wanes. In fact, RentVision clients with predictive digital ads are able to establish the high end of their monthly marketing budget, giving them more control over spend. Managers and marketers can both benefit from this strategy!
2. Do you allow your vacancy to drive your marketing strategy?
Vacancy crises put a lot of pressure on property managers. They must not only solve the issue in a timely manner, but also figure out how it began in the first place. Was it incorrect pricing? Poor showings? An unhelpful website? Or, something else preventing a community from earning more leases?
Marketing teams possess valuable data—such as website traffic or the cost-per-click of digital ad campaigns—that can help diagnose any root cause of vacancy. This is why marketers must have a seat at the table. Plus, they have the tools to help fix the issue!
It comes down to whether or not the marketing team is focused on brand or performance. Which brings us to our next question…
3. Do you want each of your properties to be branded uniquely and have a custom website?
If the answer is yes, a property management company must have a huge (and very expensive) in-house marketing team at its disposal. That's because every single apartment community in its portfolio would require its own branding, ad campaigns, and website—all of which can't be accomplished without assigning multiple individuals to each particular property.
That creates problems with scale. If a company buys or develops a new apartment community, how long will it take to create a unique look and custom website for just that property? That can create a challenge in a lease-up or property management transitions, where it's valuable to have a marketing system that can be implemented in a timely manner.
It also distracts the marketing team from it’s primary job of solving vacancies because it’s new assignment is to focus on 'building the brand'.
4. Who is making decisions on pricing and specials?
Whenever these decisions are made, each should be marketed on an apartment community's website and digital advertisements. If managers and marketers are operating in separate silos, not communicating these changes can unintentionally hurt an apartment community's ability to achieve and sustain occupancy targets.
Pricing, in particular, is obviously very influential in a prospective resident's search. The marketing team needs to be in the know of any changes to a floorplan's monthly rent so that prospects can get the latest and most accurate pricing data online.
The same can be said for specials. If a certain floorplan or bedroom is struggling, marketing the special online will help gain more interest and leads for those specific areas of the community.
Consider it this way: when prospective residents only find out about a special during their in-person showing, it may help with the close, but it doesn't necessarily fix the vacancy problem. Marketers can use specials to dial up more interest and leads for a community at the exact time it needs help.
5. How do you structure lease expirations?
Finally, how property managers decide to structure lease expirations can significantly impact the difficulty of a marketer's job.
A specific example of this is if communities let all leases expire on the last day of the month. This incurs an instant vacancy crisis on a monthly basis that requires the marketing team to stretch the budget and pay for more traffic to the website. Rather than safely dialing down the advertising budget when occupancy stabilizes, marketers will never feel safe making changes to spend when they know a vast number of vacancies is always around the corner.
A better (and far more cost-controllable) option for managers is to space out lease expirations so that it's easier to react to smaller changes in vacancy at the floorplan or bedroom level rather than having to solve a crisis at the community level. The marketing team can run campaigns, or rearrange the website, so individual floorplans are given the most visibility exactly when they need it.