Mindful Multifamily Management In The 21st Century
How and Why Reaching Millennials Authentically is Everything
A recent Wall Street Journal report indicates that many Millennials may become a generation of perpetual renters. A broad swath of the middle class have been affected by a shortage of affordable homes, damaged credit, swelling student loans, and tough approval standards for buying a home. Clearly, long-term renters will want their residence to feel like home, so it is more important than ever for multifamily managers and management companies to find ways to connect authentically with current and potential residents for a myriad of reasons.
In addition, a recent survey from the Allen Matkins/UCLA Anderson Forecast showed increasing demand for multifamily housing, which follows job growth in many densely populated cities, and multiffamily construction is growing sharply while residential construction lags behind. As of 2016, millennials have officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S. and by 2017, they will possess the bulk of the spending power. Although the same principles apply for Gen X, the ability to engage authentically and build rapport with the growing Millennial pool of renters is paramount for any astute multifamily management team in the evolving 21st Century marketing landscape.
The problem? This tech-savvy generation of consumers is incredibly diverse and also averse to canned corporate culture. The key to effectively engaging millennials is acknowledging that a “one-size-fits-all” strategy simply won’t cut it. Managing multifamily properties presents it’s own special list of challenges, so let’s explore key core themes that will enhance how your management team manifests the right marketing strategy and organic brand for the Millennial target group.
Tough to Pigeonhole
When trying to characterize the millennial generation, this pool of 75 million people is incredibly diverse, but one clear fact is that the variety of information and transparency found on the internet has a powerful influence on their attitudes, beliefs, and decision-making process. What they see on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram matters.
For the Baby Boomers and Gen X, by age 30, most people were already settling down, getting married, buying homes, and having children. That was the norm. That’s absolutely not the case today. While some millennials are choosing to have children, others are delaying that step. While some are paying down a mortgage, others are living with mom and dad, or becoming part of a forecasted “permanent renter” generation. There’s no blueprint to follow; millennials are choosing their own paths.
Millennials don’t see themselves as a homogenous group, so marketers shouldn’t treat them as such. – @stephawharton, blogger for Curalate.com
By understanding the diverse subsets that comprise Generation Y, multifamily managers can begin to act more like shepherds rather than cattle drivers when looking at how the corporation and its employees handle the rental lifecycle for residents on all fronts.
Reviews, Reputation, and Influencers
Everyone knows that the opinions of family and friends have a strong influence on any major decisions one makes. Social media posts from friends do more than just spark interest; they influence and drive purchase decisions, too. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 68% of millennials reported that they are more likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media post. What does this mean for multifamily marketers? One authentic positive review or post from a resident can go a long way. By encouraging likes, fans, fun posts, and event photos in and around the apartment community, brands can significantly extend their reach. Source: Webby Awards survey conducted by Harris Interactive
On the flip side, one negative review can elicit more like-minded responses, creating a viral wildfire. To prevent these all-too-common gripe sessions, it is crucial to develop a strong reputation in the property management field. Regardless of whether you’re seeking candidates for employment, trying to build up your prospect base or looking for long-term, stable residents for your properties, the more people feel they can trust you, the better your marketing results will be. Community and resident relations are more crucial than ever to have an authentic and compassionate connection with tenants, and that is one reason GTMA’s reputation management services are so valuable. Our latest Reputation Management Theatre productions also provide some comic relief from the usually tense arena of online review warfare.
It’s obvious that every manager should be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to reputation management, but sometimes it is hard to be objective and responsive in a timely manner, with so many tasks on one’s plate. GTMA is a great resource in this instance, to create a professional buffer in regards to personal criticisms and to expedite effective responses that will turn negatives into positives. A good on-site manager can dramatically enhance resident relations, and a good digital marketing firm will help managers focus on their priority, which is being authentic during face-to-face interactions on a daily basis.
One recent survey indicated that almost two-thirds of residents would be willing to post a positive review about their apartment complex, if they LIKED the people who worked there. What does that spell out? Ask for reviews. If your manager or any staff member receives a compliment from one of your residents ask them if they would be willing to share it online, and let them know you plan to share it with the rest of the management team.
The transparency that that ratings and review sites have created highlights the critical need for management companies to have or build a formalized reputation management program. – Doug Miller of StatisFacts
No Bait and Switch. No Hidden Red Tape.
Honesty and transparency are crucial for large property management corporations, so that residents do not feel they are under of thumb of big bureaucracy when it comes to maintenance issues, valid complaints, or claiming their security deposit upon moving out. Although previous tenants are an obvious source of scathing negative reviews, this aspect of reputation management is fundamental to losing new prospects based on old complaints and online rants. It doesn’t take long for one bad experience to spread out of control, effectively tarnishing your brand. To avoid this slippery slope, always be ready to acknowledge, empathize, and outline new actions being taken to remedy the situation with an authentic, honest tone. Also, never participate in any type of marketing or advertising that could be perceived as deceptive or misleading and avoid engaging in any sort of “bait and switch” activities. Instead, always be up-front about what you’ve got to offer and if any mistakes or issues have occurred on the premises. Your prospects will appreciate it.
Multifamily corporations entrust their property managers with more than just their physical assets. Property managers handle rental income, reserve funds, security deposits, and handle a variety of situations with tenants. It is easy to be trained on protocols, contracts, and rules, but it is quite another to navigate the human element of conversations, emotions, and the inevitable friction between corporations and individuals. To function properly, this relationship requires trust, transparency and accountability. Security deposits are an important tool for motivating tenant care and recouping losses due to tenant damage, but if they aren’t handled correctly you could lose future tenants if there are reviews about lack of transparency or unwarranted automatic deposit deductions. Being authentic means instilling ethical core values and procedures throughout the entire corporate team.
Interpret and Act on Trending Data
It’s not only about connecting authentically with residents, but also authentically helping your staff to succeed. The more information you have on the multifamily industry via various marketing avenues, the less wasted time and resources you and your team will endure. It is crucial for management leadership to utilize seasonal data and year-over-year trends to pinpoint traditional lulls or hotspots in the prospect pipeline. For instance, October has the lowest monthly percentage of apartment related searches. This might be a good time to offer resident reward program enhancements to your current residents for telling their friends and family about vacant units at your property or to host a fall foodie event or a Halloween costume contest with desirable prizes.
The Ubiquity of Imagery
The ubiquity of images has made it easier than ever for millennials to consume more content. Images make every narrative easier to digest, and that’s exactly what people are turning to. Tumblr, Pinterest and especially Instagram—which are all dominated by images—are three of the fastest growing networks, and Instagram membership has grown dramatically in 2015-16, according to GlobalWebIndex. The prevalence of digital devices has turned us all into content creators, whether we like it or not, and many advertising strategists realize that organic images and authentic, “true-to-life” content is favored over staged or idealized scenes. With new blog posts, pictures, status updates, articles, videos and so much more being published every millisecond, it’s impossible to consume everything of interest, so we need to craft wisely.
Social media has enabled Millennials to peek incessantly into the lives and experiences of their peers. Combined with the rise of experiential marketing, which elevates what is being advertised to such an appealing level that you want it for yourself, experiences now trump possessions for many in Gen Y. Whether that’s eating a beautiful lobster at a seaside restaurant, having an amazing time at a music festival, or loving the lifestyle around your new apartment community, identifying the target market of Lifestyle Renters is just as important as the physical space you are marketing for rent.
Many Millennials report that they would rather spend money on a desirable experience or event rather than buying something desirable. What does this mean for multifamily brands? It means they need to go above and beyond selling their site; they should be selling experiences.
Choosing an apartment community is not only about amenities onsite, it’s about having a great time whenever the opportunity presents itself in the area. Of course the amenities are important in the evaluation process for potential renters, however many multifamily management professionals and marketing specialists emphasize that the lifestyle permeating the community is what captivates prospects and turns them into residents. “When we create a lifestyle apartment video,” said Pete Schwartz, the art director at GTMA, “we focus on not only the highlights of the apartment community, but the captivating and engaging aspects in and around the community which truly create the experience for what style and vibe is to be expected for the potential resident. Lifestyle is just as important as a stylish dwelling.” GTMA employs a balanced approach when producing a community feature video, showing local hangouts, coffee houses, and main drags, around a university, for instance, in conjunction with showcasing the decor and premium features of the apartment community itself.
GTMA capitalizes on this experiential media marketing by combining various styles of cinematic storytelling (layered 3-D photos, actors, a dynamic graphics package unique to your property, professionally produced, high quality video, etc.), finding a fresh way to bring your unique apartment homes to life. We paint a picture of the surrounding neighborhood’s dining, culture, and nightlife. Everyone wants to be part of something—we invite your future residents to be a part of something great: your community—your neighborhood—a new lifestyle. This approach drives relevancy and affinity among potential residents.
Giving Back, Going Green, & Random Acts of Helpfulness
Millennials may also feel an authentic connection with management companies who are actively involved in charitable causes or those which take clear steps to go green by reducing their carbon footprint, having eco-friendly facilities which limit energy or water waste, or which make recycling a clear focus on the premises. Many businesses make giving a fundamental part of their mission. From the small grassroots enterprises to multinational organizations, businesses often like to give back to society, but Millennials now almost expect any large company to do so.
Although charity is a totally voluntary choice, some people feel that corporate responsibility is mandatory. The key to successfully managing apartment communities of reasonable size is to have solid systems in place, which of course all well-positioned corporations do. The X-factor is the human element in regards to how your team enacts these protocols and how to “read between the lines” when it comes to factors like acknowledging resident hardships, showing compassion, and helping in extraordinary circumstances. It is these small acts of kindness which really make a difference. Being authentically compassionate is also a win for employees of large companies who have the desire to be selfless and build morale, not only with the community, but with co-workers in a cause or event which is outside of the daily grind of management duties.
Every multifamily team must utilize the proper skills and talents to establish an authentic brand legacy. Technologies such as geotagging, social media, SMS, satellite imagery and electronic mapping have been combined to provide people with a picture of what is really happening around them. This is giving companies to power to then use their resources and connections to make positive changes.
Keep it Real, Go Organic.
The beauty of marketing your property management business in today’s digital age is the instant access social media provides to your target audience. Leverage this powerful tool to showcase your brand’s unique personality and connect with your prospects on a more authentic level. GTMA nurtures this geo-targeted and mobile-centric audience when spearheading each community campaign.
Generating leads is an important part of any business. The good news is that effective hyper-local marketing strategies and dynamic media assets, like those produced by GTMA, will organically improve the quality of the prospects you’re bringing in, which further boosts the efficiency of your property management business. GTMA methodically delivers the proverbial needle in the haystack.