More multifamily units will enter the U.S. market this year than in any year since the late 80s. How will your property stand out from the competition?
Branding can certainly help generate the buzz that draws attention to a new property, but beware—pitfalls abound in this process. It’s important to approach building your brand strategically.
President of Catalyst
Using the expertise Matusek has developed as president of an Austin-based agency specializing in real estate marketing, we’ll highlight four aspects of apartment branding that need the most attention for lasting success.
1. Your Target Demographic
When you develop a new brand for a multifamily property, you need to start research on some key factors:
- Market data
- Renter behavior
- Local businesses
- Partnership opportunities
Begin research early—essentially once the purchase is going through or completed—to avoid missing something big down the line, Matusek says.
Make sure you have the right people together from the beginning, including the acquisition team, marketing team and anyone in a managerial role for the property, such as a general manager.
This combination of people will have an intended strategy for the property, whether it’s to acquire then lease and sell, or it’s a long-term hold. This information will also help inform the size of your budget.
“Marketing and leasing can be very successful when we have direct communication with the acquisitions team and asset management team and really look at what their strategy is for the asset,” she says.
Then you need to know the market you’re buying into. Here are some important resources:
|Look at market survey data for your area.||Several organizations offer rental data: Fannie Mae, CoStar, most rental listing sites like Zillow or Apartments.com as well as local apartment associations to find multifamily market inventory rates, vacancy rates, rent growth and new construction, among others.|
|Find out how people in the area search for rentals.||Some of the same sources can help you determine how your target demographic looks for a place to live:
• Do they perform their own research?
• Do they prefer to use apartment locators or realtors to help them narrow down a shortlist of options?
|Identify the anchor businesses.||• Are there major companies headquartered nearby? Schools or universities? These could be excellent places to find renters.
• What restaurants or nightlife are close? Are you near an airport? These could be effective businesses to partner with for specials or advertising.
With this research, you can start to design marketing initiatives and tactics that compel your preferred tenants to take notice of the new brand, Matusek says.
2. Your Online Presence and Reputation
Another separate, but very important, piece of the research phase is assessing the strength of your online presence. There are two considerations here:
1. Is your website optimized for the demographic?
Since online research is so prevalent, Matusek says her company will stack client websites against their top competitors. A good user experience, easy navigation, high-quality photos and social media links are to be expected.
How do you set yourself apart online?
- Strong tenant portals offer a convenient way for residents to pay rent, set up recurring payments or make maintenance requests.
- Reviews and testimonials from real tenants conveys a commitment to service.
- Video content that shows off your amenities or designs for upgrades in the works.
2. What is your online reputation?
Find where current and former tenants are reviewing your property. Although places like ApartmentRatings.com, Yelp and most other review sites tend to attract the most extreme reviews (both glowing and scathing), this is how renters will see, so it’s important to tune into what’s being said.
An example of ApartmentRatings.com comprehensive review breakdown
“If an asset has a bad reputation, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Matusek says. “That goes into play when outlining not only a rebranding and naming strategy, but what we have to do with messaging and design. How do we go about repositioning the asset itself?”
You’ll get a sense of the foundation you’re starting from and how the branding can address that. If people complain about long waits for maintenance requests, explain how you’re adding more staff or improving the portal. If people complain about outdated units, offer images of new countertops and fixtures.
3. Your Capital Improvements
Branding (or rebranding) usually involves upgrades and new amenities, and a capital improvements plan showing what these are can help create excitement for the upcoming opening.
Including a list of new property upgrades in your online and print marketing materials will entice the demographic you want to reach.
Online messaging can highlight new features, like this example from Catalyst
Matusek recommends also offering a timeline showing when improvements can be expected. Particularly during a rebrand, current residents need details about what to expect.
“Everyone’s not always excited about construction,” she says, “but you can communicate to the residents in advance of what’s planned, how that’s going to be phased, when they’re going to have access and how they’re personally going to be benefit.”
4. Your Property’s Personality
Good looks are one thing, but a brand’s personality can go a long way to drive interest to your property, and a lot of the research you’ve already done can help to develop it.
What are the components of your property’s personality?
- Your amenities: Fitness centers, common areas, pools, lounges or dog parks reflect the lifestyle of your target demographic.
- Your events: Parties, contests, group activities or rewards for good tenants show engagement with your community.
- Your people: The values, professionalism and behavior of your managers and staff has a big impact on the quality of living for your residents.
- Your surroundings: The walkability of your area, nearby nightlife and restaurants and proximity to universities makes your brand more attractive.
If you embrace and highlight these attributes with help from a marketing and design firm, your property’s personality comes to life in logos, signage and marketing collateral.
Catalyst’s work for ROAM, a student living property in Montana, conveys a sense of adventure with its name and focus on fitness, outdoor amenities and nearby natural attractions.
Branding for your property should call attention to the attributes that draw a target demographic
These materials should be used to reach out to key players in your market. In addition to your target demographic and real estate professionals, the HR departments at your anchor businesses can be valuable partners, Matusek says.
“Putting together a really nice package for HR departments so they can promote to anyone looking to lease within their organization, or maybe being recruited into their organization, and providing a special offer for their employees is also a great way to create some awareness,” she says.
Next Steps to Make Your Brand Work for You
Your brand is the first thing renters experience. With strong research, a professional online presence and clear communication about improvements, you can share your true brand personality and attract the tenants you want.
Technology can play a big role in maintaining your brand, from customizable websites to tenant portals that enable communication. You can find several property management systems here or call us at (844) 687-6771 for help.
And if you have other questions about apartment branding, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.