Consumers across industries are becoming more and more educated and demanding when it comes to the products they purchase and the services they receive. Renters, home buyers and apartment purchasers are no different: They expect value and the latest and greatest bells and whistles. They expect bang for their buck and then some.
Residential apartments, condos and HOA communities need to meet these demands and more, not only in the short term but also as these needs and desires morph over time. As resident demographics change, your common spaces and its amenities need to evolve as well. Keeping your building fully occupied or your new home sales and resales humming is as much about marketing a lifestyle as it is about great home products.
Amenities play a crucial role in marketing a lifestyle to increasingly selective consumers. Your property management firm needs to invest in the right amenities, know when to change them and, most of all, understand how to leverage these amenities in its marketing.
As quoted by the National Apartment Association (NAA) website, Valet Living CEO and President Shawn Handrahan stated at this year’s National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize Conference and Exposition that the industry is… “in the middle of an amenities arms race.” To stay competitive, property management firms have to stay ahead of the curve while remaining rational and pragmatic--not an easy task for sure.
To help you and your community management team keep up without getting lost following every new amenity trend, here are some general tips to remain a competitor in your market.
Understand Your Current and Future Consumers
Baby boomers. Generation X. Generation Y. Millennials. Each of these cohorts has different needs and seeks a different lifestyle to go along with a desirable home product. That’s the easy part: understanding that each audience is unique. The more challenging part for community managers is investing in and marketing amenities that work for your current market while planning for the future.
- To do this, a community management firm needs to intimately understand the nature of the community it manages and where its future lies. Will existing baby boomer residents age in place? If so, tailoring your amenities to match a 55+ or senior audience might make sense, as will adopting marketing messaging that attracts this demographic.
- Perhaps your apartment under management is in an urban, walkable area where there is an ongoing influx of younger renters or buyers. This could be coupled with a potential out-flux of Boomers or Generation X’ers. Pivoting your amenity investments and your marketing approach to attract the younger demographic to maintain occupancy or sales momentum could be the key to the financial health of your community.
- As an owner or manager of a residential community, having a very strong sense of your market demographics must underpin your amenity investment and marketing strategy for it to be successful. Following the latest trends or fads without a strong data anchor is a risky approach to property management.
Understand What’s Out There, Identify What Really Matters
Again, move forward with amenity research intelligently, using your market research on who your audience is and who it might become. Think for the future while planning for the present.
Toni Reeves, executive director at Greystar’s central division, as quoted by Multi-Family Executive, stated that her team tries to “determine what’s already in the market, what things in the market we really need to have as well, and what would be really nice to diversify us from what’s already there...I think you can be really deliberate and accomplish that without 100 different things going on.”
Once again, determining what amenities will work for your property is about context: You must know your audience and then build or revamp amenities to meet their needs while also pinpointing areas where you can use lifestyle perks to differentiate your building or community.
Investing in technology trends that might be hot now but might have no appeal in a year is not a wise move. The key is remaining flexible and thinking about how an existing amenity can be created to satisfy existing and potential residents while being adaptable to future needs and wants.
According to Taylor Johnson, a PR and marketing firm that focuses on residential property marketing, “Gone are the days of inflexible theater rooms with bulky amphitheater seating and business centers with rows of facility-owned desktop computers. Even tennis and racquetball courts are becoming passé, replaced by more social, communal and flexible spaces. Our experience, and that of our clients, has been that these spaces eat up valuable square footage–not only because they’re underutilized, but also because of their physical constraints, which make the spaces difficult to adapt when tastes change. After all, an amenity is only as good as the current demand for it.”
Do the Math
Like your renters and buyers, you and your community management team need to keep value front and center. The math has to make sense for whatever amenity you add or existing amenity you upgrade or change. That sounds simple, but again, when put into a complex ecosystem of demographics, market conditions, competition and inevitable change it can be tough.
Remember adaptability, relative simplicity and value, both for your residents and bottom line and you’ll do well. Follow the latest tech trend, install some very expensive amenity that takes up space and is difficult to alter and you might create a financial black hole. Your investment in amenities is directly tied to the rent you can charge, the HOA fees you can collect and the home prices you can market.
Creating pet amenities is a great example of providing what consumers want (staying relevant with trends) while remaining simple, cost effective and flexible. A dog park or dog run is practical and provides value on a daily basis to residents with pets and potential residents that have pets. Moreover, the appeal of pet amenities goes beyond cohorts as well, as its an attractive community feature for Millenials, Baby Boomers and seniors.
As noted by Urban Land Magazine, “ProMatura, a Mississippi-based real estate research and advisory firm specializing in age-qualified housing, surveys seniors every year on what they want in their housing communities. In last year’s survey, 43 percent of respondents indicated they thought a dog park was essential or desirable, up from 33 percent the previous year.”
Investing in lower-cost, higher upside amenities like pet runs or grooming services that cater to more stable, longer term consumer needs is a great strategy for amenity marketing.
In addition to the standard, expected amenities like pools, fitness centers and business centers, find a few pragmatic, adaptable and universally appealing amenities that are highly marketable and, should they not produce, not financially back breaking to alter.
Market to Your Audience Where It Lives
Cookie cutter marketing won’t work in today’s ultra-competitive landscape. Your property management firm needs to go where you target audience lives and create messaging around your property that is meaningful to them. You might have selected the right amenity package to develop but if no one knows about it it won’t matter.
This goes back to understanding who your prospective buyers are and who they might become in the future. Marketing to Millennials is a very different animal than marketing to seniors and requires the deployment of the right messaging across very different channels.
When revamping your property marketing approach, keep these general best practices in mind:
- Identify your demographic/s and research which marketing and communications platforms they engage most.
- Take an integrated approach: Use a blend of social media, PR and traditional marketing (if these make sense for your audience) to engage them in different ways, on different devices and at different times.
- Know your brand: Have confidence in your brand voice and image and be consistent across all marketing channels. A fragmented, disjointed brand that looks and sounds different depending on the channel or staff member is a recipe for disaster.
- If you have multiple audiences, make sure the appropriate messages are emphasized, tailoring your approach to each audience’s needs and desires.
- Develop a marketing plan that’s reasonable for your budget and your team to implement; grandiose marketing plans that get partially executed or not executed at all are a waste of time. Like developing your amenities, stick to practicality and value over all else.
Understanding which channels work best with particular audiences is very much like determining what amenities will work best for your community. Property marketing and amenity development require a blend of art and science to maximize success.
We can help. At Illumine8 Marketing & PR we’ve had great success helping community management firms and residential communities leverage the right marketing channels to maintain occupancy and reach their respective sales goals. Reach out to us today. We’d love to learn more about you and your vision for the future.