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Taxi drivers used to have little competition. Photographers previously utilized multiple bags of expensive equipment to capture the perfect shot. But technology has drastically reshaped those professions and numerous others across several industries.

Multifamily has another to add to the mix—the industry’s marketing leadership roles. Few roles in the industry have transformed as pronounced as that of a multifamily marketing director or manager. At one time, their responsibilities consisted primarily of lead generation, consumer engagement, and creating a positive first impression.

Marketing directors and managers now work closely with pricing, IT, human resources, and other key departments throughout the company. They have a seat at the table and take part in high-level decision-making. Additionally, marketing leaders are responsible for spearheading the internal and external digital transformations of their organizations, creating programs that build customer loyalty and engagement, and layering in technology to help elevate the performance of their people and properties.

Why has the role shifted so drastically? It’s largely driven by changes in consumer preferences and demands, as many industries are fervently trying to adjust to the ways the modern-day customer wishes to engage, buy, and communicate. In the apartment world, that means the existing resident and prospective renter. Whereas property visits and tours were once the primary deterministic factor as to whether someone signed a lease, those decisions are now based on factors and experiences much earlier in the process, such as the community website, mobile experience, reputation management, social media engagement, and other digital mediums.

With the exception of a visit to the community website, prospective residents can remain invisible to the community while they conduct their research and evaluation of any given property. That makes the requirement of being digitally sharp and transparent that much more important.

The website is now counted on to provide virtually everything a consumer might need, from floor plans, pricing, photos, and virtual tours to interactive maps of the property and answers to ultra-specific questions, such as a community’s smoking or pet policies. From a marketing standpoint, the new leasing office isn’t the physical office—it’s the digital universe.

Breaking Down Silos, Aligning With Other Departments

The modern multifamily marketer is no longer isolated. These professionals now align with several different departments, most prominently pricing. This is a natural fit, as one group is determining where the price should land based on market and availability, and the other group is putting together the promotion strategy that will drive demand to meet pricing expectations. Marketing still largely is rooted in the four P’s—people, product, promotion, and price—with price at the end because pricing is the output of the other three factors. Linking the departments is a must because marketing will promote the numbers determined by the pricing team.

Depending on the company's approach to the customer experience, marketing professionals also have an opportunity to weigh in on everything from amenities, floor plan design, layered services, staffing plans, and tech adoption. They are also involved in property performance discussions that include operations and training. Additionally, marketing teams now have a voice in any capital improvement efforts, such as value-adds, to help align the leasing strategy with the capital strategy.

Marketing professionals thrive on engagement and interaction, so this cross-functional approach works well. The biggest learning curve concerns learning to speak the language of other departments and to properly communicate the marketing perspective into the larger dialogue. When the silos are removed, teams often thrive because they have built a larger network within their organization. This helps push through initiatives more rapidly and fosters universal buy-in.

Who Makes the Best Modern-Day Multifamily Marketer?

Can an associate who grew up as an old-school multifamily marketer adapt? Absolutely. Would a new hire without any preconceptions succeed? Probably so. The debate as to whether a veteran or new hire is best equipped for the modern marketer role largely depends on the organization.

Companies are seeking marketers who not only have the right attitude, personality, and ability to learn, but who also are more tech-savvy than what the previous role entailed and possess the ability to work horizontally and vertically within an organization. For instance, internal Zoom meetings, FaceTime sessions with prospects,and virtual leasing programs are components properties are heavily investing in with their marketing teams.Teams are expected to be adeptly aware of the industry’s fair housing policies and revenue management policies, as well. Although the role has dramatically shifted, longtime associates still qualify as prime candidates for key marketing positions because of their extensive multifamily background.

The Continued Evolution of Apartment Marketing

As the role of multifamily marketer continues to reinvent itself, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts will become more of a focus. The idea of making sure everyone is accepted includes language and photography that makes everyone feel welcome. If an apartment community claims to be universally accepting and then a prospect fills out a guest card without the option of stating the gender they identify with, it sends a conflicting message.

Additionally, how marketers utilize performance and forecasting data via the use of dashboards will continue to evolve. Multifamily is a rare industry that essentially has a crystal ball, in that properties can forecast what will happen in 30, 60, and 90 days in terms of vacancies. Moving forward, marketing will further plan campaigns and advertising spend around those benchmarks. Accessibility to real-time performance and forecasting data will significantly improve the proactive planning and response to occupancy opportunities and challenges.

As part of that effort, teams will implement plans based on a more predictive approach (If “x” happens, do “y”). Marketers will also become more adept at using historical data, such as previous renter tendencies at certain communities, to help craft plans moving forward.

Last, the industry is merely scratching the surface with what automation can do for marketing and operations in general. Many operators have adopted chatbots and automated follow-ups to guest cards, but that is only the beginning of automation’s potential capabilities. Moving forward, automation will make several facets of the industry much easier, including centralizing services, answering labor issues, and advancing human-driven customer engagement. Automation will also be used to peel back the layers of customer sentiment well beyond basic star ratings, enabling teams to address issues before they spiral out of control.

The role of the multifamily marketer is much different than it was a decade prior. For those in the profession, that’s a good thing, as the modern multifamily marketer is more tech-savvy, more aligned with company initiatives, the holistic operating environment and more of a difference-maker than ever before.