The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics kicks off this week, unfortunately shrouded with controversy over lack of preparation. The hashtag #sochiproblems is trending over #teamusa. As we think about our marketing to college students, one event that puts everyone on the same competitive playing field are the housing expos or housing fairs held by many colleges and universities. It’s your time to compete against the comps and shine. Certainly you don’t want #housingfairproblems to follow you around. Here are some tried and true tips:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan You probably put a lot of time into your yearly marketing plan, but your housing fair marketing needs to be more than a line item. Develop a separate housing fair marketing plan and checklist to make sure all staff members are on the same page.
2. Set Goals Obviously you want more leases, but also set clear goals that can be achieved at the housing fair. For example, encourage your staff to collect 1,000 guest cards or give out 500 promo bags. Rewarding your staff with a free lunch if they meet their goal will help motivate. And a little friendly competition between your different properties never hurts.
3. Prizes, Giveaways and Promotions This is the key to a successful showing. A small giveaway (iPad, gift card, etc) will help collect guest cards. And have a larger giveaway if they tour and/or sign a lease the day of the housing fair. To give your leasing numbers a quick surge, offer a temporary special beginning the day of the housing fair through the end of the week. Market it as a housing fair special.
4. Generate Buzz At smaller universities, housing fairs might not draw a big crowd. If this is the case, it’s your job to get the word out. Include a quick line like “Look for us at the Housing Fair” in your marketing materials leading up to the housing fair. And make sure your staff members are talking up the event as well.
5. At the Fair I’ve seen it too many times. A leasing agent, on their phone, lazily slouched in a chair behind their table, expecting their science-fair style poster board to get leases. Engagement is critical at housing fairs. Make sure your staff is on their feet and in front of the table. Spend the extra money on a professional backdrop and make sure your marketing materials (from cups to brochures) are consistently branded. If possible, bring a flat screen TV or iPads to play a leasing presentation or community video.
6. After the Fair, it’s the After Party Develop a strategy to get students to your community after the housing fair. Throwing an After Party with prizes, giveaways, food, music will help drive traffic. For a VIP treatment, rent a limo to shuttle students to and from your property during the party.
Follow these steps and your property will win the Housing Fair gold medal and #housingfairsuccess will be trending for you.