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The new year poses significant uncertainty for the multifamily industry as new supply comes to the market and construction starts are facing a notable decline. Rent growth has stalled, and financing continues to be a challenge. As a result, multifamily owners and operators are exploring ways to reduce costs, and cutting marketing expenses is part of this belt-tightening.

“Going into 2024, we will be looking at what we are spending on each service and looking at real-time data to see if we are maximizing our dollars spent,” says Tarra Secrest, director of marketing and property development for Drucker + Falk. “Our occupancy has remained consistent over the last several years, but our marketing spend continues to increase.”

Multifamily marketers are facing a tough challenge going into 2024, being asked to achieve more with less money. According to a survey by Rent. released in November, 66% of multifamily professionals indicated that their budgets will decrease or stay flat this year. Despite the financial constraints, digital marketing is continually evolving to meet these challenges, and operators are leveraging the most effective channels.

Put Money Toward the Things That Work

When funds are limited, it’s crucial to invest in campaigns, tools, and channels that are proven to be effective and appeal to renters during their search.

Take It Personally: Today’s renters crave more personalized interactions with apartment communities. The e-commerce and retail industries have forged the path for personalization, and other industries are following suit. In the age of growing digital leasing, personalization helps leasing teams establish a connection during that important phase. The collection of data and preferences can help craft a targeted message that appeals to prospects. It’s also a great opportunity for leasing teams to learn more about their prospects and customize in-person tours. For example, if the prospect makes it known they have a dog, then targeted messaging, as well as the in-person tour, should highlight pet amenities. That human touch is crucial to getting a lease signed. When leasing teams take a few moments to learn about prospective renters’ desires and priorities before they walk through the door, it becomes easier to close the deal.

Get Social: Social media has the advantage of marketing to two audiences simultaneously—current residents and potential future residents. By sharing updates about events and resident experiences in real time, a sense of community is created, which is becoming increasingly important for renters. Moreover, prospects are increasingly using social media to gather information, and these posts can demonstrate that on-site teams care about the people living there.

Create Thumb-Stopping Content: Visual content is one of the most important aspects of marketing and will likely continue to be so in the future. To be successful, marketers should create short-form, visually appealing, and immersive content that captures the viewers’ attention and stops them from scrolling. Be creative with events, behind-the-scenes footage, and videos showcasing the units, the amenities, the community, and the surrounding neighborhood. The goal is to present content that inspires people to want to live in the community.

Don’t Be Afraid to Test New Channels

Regardless of a marketing team’s budget situation, exploration should not be neglected. Testing new channels that may appeal to the target audience is an outstanding way to boost marketing return on investment (ROI). By leveraging a multichannel strategy, operators are seeing more effective results.

“We’ve used geofencing for a long time, and it’s been an effective tool,” Secrest says. “Our top marketing channel remains PPC (pay-per-click), but geofencing is second, followed by social and TikTok.”

Building New (Geo) Fences: The marketing tool grabbing attention is geofencing, which is starting to replace billboards as the preferred method to attract local attention. According to the Rent. survey, only 17% of multifamily companies are using this technology. However, location-based marketing is becoming more appealing based on its ability to reach a specific audience.

Put It On Display: Digital display advertising is in use by many industries throughout the country, and multifamily is also embracing its use. The same recent Rent. survey showed that 79% of the industry has instituted digital display, and 35% of the remaining ones plan to try it in the coming year. Display ads are gaining traction, allowing for retargeting and personalization.

Be Mobile: Mobile devices have become an integral part of daily life, so the tools to create mobile ads are becoming more essential in multifamily. Surprisingly, according to Rent., more than 87% of marketing professionals are not yet using mobile advertising in their campaigns. However, mobile ads can be a cost-effective approach to marketing that melds well with shrinking budgets.

The Basics Aren’t Gone

Maintaining consistency across all channels—whether it’s a website, TikTok video, or a digital display—is crucial. This not only helps establish a clear message but aids in building a strong brand identity.

The Internet Listing Service (ILS) continues to be one of the most popular resources for apartment searches with some prospects using up to three when finding a new home. The high usage of these sites emphasizes the need for content on these channels to be consistent with the community’s overall messaging and web presence.

While the largest portion of the marketing budget is typically allocated to the property website and ILSs, they are necessary to attract new renters effectively. The website should be an immersive experience with rich features to enable prospects to have a real feel for the community and create a desire to live there.

Measure and Adjust

When a marketing team has limited funds, it is vital to use the available resources efficiently, and data-driven decisions are necessary to achieve this. Real-time data collection and a thorough analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential in monitoring the success of each channel and reallocating resources to the most productive ones.

“You need to have a clear understanding of the channels that are generating qualified leads,” says Kathy Neumann, chief marketing officer for Rent. “Diversification is essential for reaching your audience wherever they are. Broad-based approaches breed inefficiencies and consume a budget without producing the desired results. Targeted marketing is the optimal strategy for attracting prospects, particularly in today’s market.”

Even if a marketing team is not facing budget challenges, being creative provides greater opportunities with new technology. For those teams experiencing budget cuts, a sensible approach that prioritizes the strongest channels while still allowing room for exploring new avenues can form a solid data-driven marketing strategy in 2024.