What role does email marketing play in your larger real estate marketing plan? What does your email nurture path look like? How effective is your email messaging and design?
If you’re unsure of the answer to some of these questions, you could be missing out on one of the most cost-effective digital marketing strategies available today. Although other digital tactics like search ads and SEO tend to get more of a spotlight, email is still one of the most effective ways to nurture leads without overspending.
There are a lot of advantages email marketing has over other areas of digital real estate marketing. For example, it excels as a retargeting strategy, keeping your property top-of-mind at various stages of a prospect’s housing search or reminding a current resident of all the reasons to renew. It’s also easy to track performance, with open, click-through, bounce, and unsubscribe rates all easily visible in any major email client. Plus, it reaches your audience whenever and wherever they are, with most people checking emails multiple times every single day.
If you’re looking for general email marketing tips, try starting with our post on Email Marketing for Apartments: Best Practices That Actually Earn Leases. That post will get you started with some of the core principles and tactics behind successful email marketing. If you’ve read that article and you’re ready for more email marketing ideas related to nurture paths, online reputation, improved analytics tracking, time-saving tactics, and more, then keep reading. These are the tips for you.
Set Up a VIP List or Waiting List
Setting up a VIP List for a new development that hasn’t begun leasing or a waitlist for your fully leased-up property is a great way to get more leads into your leasing funnel and get a headstart on leasing down the road. After all, email marketing is only as strong as your list of email addresses; you can’t make the most of this strategy if you have no one to send marketing emails to.
For VIP Lists, be sure to add a sign-up form to the landing page for you community and entice sign-ups by giving VIPs the chance to be the first to hear about development updates, availability, and special offers.
To implement a waitlist, consider adding a sign-up form on the floor plans page with messaging that directs users who are looking for currently unavailable floor plans to sign up for the waitlist to be notified when this floor plan is available. That way, once this floor plan has availability you can send their notification email and start them on a lead nurture campaign that includes info about special rates and other community perks to keep your community top of mind.
Define Your Email Nurture Path(s)
Speaking of nurture paths, do you already have an automated nurture path set up in your email client of choice? If not, you’re likely missing out on the full potential of email marketing. Even with a great CRM platform, it’s easy to lose track of all the individual touchpoints that add up to effective email marketing campaigns when you haven’t automated the process.
Creating an automated Customer Journey is possible in most leading email clients, including MailChimp and they’ll save you a lot of time and headache in the long run. Customer Journeys (what we’re calling Nurture Paths) help you create a customized series of emails depending on the behavior of your audience. For example, you can automatically send a welcome email with some basic information when a contact is added to your email list. Then, depending on whether they open that email, you can send different follow-up emails with targeted messaging to try to engage them further. Or, if they clicked a particular link within the email, you can set up an automated email to send them more information related to the link they clicked on. This way, you tailor your marketing messaging in accordance with each user’s individual priorities and needs.
One way to further specialize your customer journey (AKA nurture path) is to create tags for different types of leads coming in. For example, student housing communities might have tags for parents vs. students and senior apartments might have tags for seniors vs. their children while multifamily communities might create tags for resident referrals vs. leads generated by paid marketing strategies. That way, the only manual step you have to do is tagging each new contact that comes in wherever possible. Tags like these help you target your email content based on different segments of your audience and what is most important and relevant to them.
Send Timely Emails About Special Rates
When you implement a special, you want to make sure everyone knows about it. After all, a special rate can easily be the deciding factor in a prospect’s housing decision. Make your specials work harder by sharing them with your leads as soon as they are implemented.
Improve Your Online Reputation By Earning More Reviews
Prospects aren’t the only ones you should be marketing to. Email marketing can also be used to turn current residents into brand advocates. For example, a friendly email asking current residents to leave a review can help improve your online reputation and entice more future residents.
To increase the likelihood of positive reviews, consider the timing of this email. A good time to send review request emails might be after a maintenance request has been completed in a timely manner or after a successful resident event. You can also send tour follow-up emails after a prospect has taken a tour in order to thank them for coming, remind them of any specials, provide an application link, and prompt them to leave a review about their tour experience.
Get Better Insights By Using UTM Codes
UTM codes are added to the end of a URL so that Google Analytics can identify the source of a click more easily. Incorporating them in your emails can help you get more digital marketing insights to understand how your audience thinks and behaves. For example, with a UTM code in place, you can explore the user journey on your site when someone arrives after clicking an email. How many pages (and which ones) do they view after clicking in an email? Do they take certain actions when clicking through from one email more than another? What email content corresponds with more conversion actions? Implementing UTM codes in your email links can help you gain powerful insights like these.
Save Time With Ready-To-Send Email Templates
Designing an email that impresses prospects and stands out from the sea of other emails in their inbox isn’t easy. After all, the message is only part of the puzzle and a poorly designed email could even backfire by making you seem amateurish. But great design takes time and graphic design isn’t a skill most property managers have in their back pocket.
That’s there email templates can come in handy. Whether you create a template internally, buy one for cheap from a site like Threshify, or work directly with a real estate marketing agency to create ready-to-send email templates customized for your brand, using a template can save hours of time, saving you money and headache in the long run. Consider creating templates for everything from tour confirmations to rent reminders to maintenance request confirmations to review requests to rent renewal notifications. Remember, marketing shouldn’t stop after a resident moves in. Emails are a great way to improve resident experiences and earn more renewals, referrals, and positive reviews.
At Threshold, we regularly create ready-to-send email templates customized for seasonal events, leasing milestones like tours, move-ins, and lease renewal reminders, or ad hoc templates requested by clients. In fact, our templates are typically animated in order to increase email engagement and really wow prospects and residents alike. Ask your real estate marketing partner if they can create email templates like these for your community or reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about Threshold’s email marketing services.
Written by Kathy Jones, Agency Operations Manager
With an ever changing real estate industry, developing a real estate marketing plan informed by strategic thinking is absolutely essential to be able to stand out from your competitors. When it comes to your print marketing strategy, you may feel that your number one goal is to create the perfect flyer or brochure that your team can distribute in high traffic areas. However, what happens next when the prospect receives and reads the flyer is oftentimes an afterthought. In reality, it takes careful consideration of the full leasing/sales journey to create print assets that really make an impact on your prospects.
While COVID-19 brought a large decrease in the number of prospects touring leasing offices and sales centers in person, that number is quickly on the rise again and so is print marketing. Since the real estate industry is quickly changing, your strategic plan should also be changing. Your vision will likely remain the same but your goals should be frequently reviewed. For most clients to the real estate industry, the enduring vision is to impact your bottom line (e.g. improving occupancy rates or increasing revenue), but you can’t get there unless you set more specific, granular goals along the way. For example, one goal might be to increase the number of leases or sales contracts that are signed each month. In order for you to achieve that goal, you need to build a hand-crafted strategy that will push prospects into your leasing office or sales center to close the deal.
Every community is different. One might have a great location where others might have strong brand awareness in their market. If your community is located in a great location, guerilla marketing can be a great supplement to your existing digital marketing. But what happens once your prospect receives your flyer? The prospect will likely view your website and head into your leasing office or sales center for a tour.
Furthermore, your strategic plan shouldn’t end once the prospect walks through the door. A well thought out tour is your next step. In what order should property information be presented to your prospect? In most cases, this is the order of operations that yields the best results:
- Property overview
- Apartment amenities
- Community amenities
- Property location
- Floor plan types
This gives prospects the ability to get to know your property and hopefully be wowed by amenities so they’re already picturing themselves living in your community and exploring the local neighborhood by the time you get down to the specifics of floor plan options. This makes many prospects eager to lock down a specific floor plan as you broach this subject with them during your tour.
Leasing offices and sales centers are likely your last chance to wow your prospect and can make or break your prospect’s likelihood of signing a lease. You may have a well thought out strategy to get them in the office and a tour strategy that piques their interest, but what is really going to make you stand out from the crowd? Creating an experience that will resonate is key, so environmental graphics within your leasing/sales center are important factors in sealing the deal. Living green walls, Instagram walls with neon signs, or custom corkboards where you can add photos of prospects signing are all unique ways to achieve that wow factor. If you stay on top of trends, you won’t be surprised. In fact, you’ll be far ahead of others because you’ll have had years to strategize and adapt, so that when disruption hits, you not only have a plan, but are already implementing it.
Written by Heather Ford, Senior Designer & Web Developer
People love a good story. It’s been scientifically proven that when humans hear a story that they like, it can increase their levels of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone that boosts feelings of happiness, empathy and trust. Savvy marketers have been capitalizing on this for ages, creating engaging stories for brands that resonate with people and, ultimately, persuade them to open their wallets. (Super Bowl ads, anyone?) Storytelling works in marketing because, beyond the brain hormones, it gives people a way to relate to your brand on a human level. And in the digital world we live in, this has never been more important.
While print and especially video media seem the obvious choice for this sort of humanized communication, there is another, maybe counterintuitive, area that property developers and managers can take advantage of storytelling’s powerful ability to sway the hearts of their potential tenants: their real estate website.
All good design uses color, shape, flow, imagery and copy to craft a story. Beyond these things, you can consider the common ‘three-act’ structure that many stories use when laying out the structure of a webpage:
Act 1: The Set Up. This is where your audience is introduced to the main idea of the web page they are looking at. It’s the hook that makes them keep reading, so an apartment webpage hero should be visually interesting and clear in its messaging. Act 1 in a story is also when an inciting incident happens, or a thing that drives further action. In the case of web design, this can be a strong, punchy call to action.
Act 2: The Action. This is where the bulk of the plot, or in the case of property websites the detailed information, occurs. Any text or content-heavy sections of your web page, like exhaustive lists of features and finishes, should go in the middle. Once the viewer has been introduced to the main idea of the page they are on, they can decide they want the information that is below the hero section.
Act 3: The Resolution. If you’re feeling super fancy, you can also call this the ‘denouement’. At the end of your webpage, don’t just let your content fizzle out. People have made it all the way to the bottom; they deserve a satisfying conclusion to the story. Use this as an opportunity to outline how your property solves a common pain-point for renters, or create a sense of urgency and provide a clear next-step for your users, like “Apply Now!”
A single page on your property website can encompass an entire story, or a piece (a chapter, let’s call it) in an overall story you are trying to tell about your brand. Given the way people interact with web pages, scrolling is just like page flipping. Rather than jumping randomly from page-to-page, users progress through information as a linear sequence. Because of this, a story on a website has to unfold vertically, and not in small chunks that have no visual connection between them. Unlike books, there are many ways websites can enhance this to their advantage, such as:
- Using animation. Animation on a website can be used to enhance people’s attention toward important plot points (useful information, promotions, or CTAs) and shift their attention from one place to the next, allowing you to control the flow of the story.
- Stories within stories. Embedded, interactive elements and social feeds can be used to strengthen user engagement. These are natural storytelling mediums that have been proven to improve SEO because Google knows they enhance the user experience.
- Parallax scrolling. This technique allows for interesting transitions from one section on a webpage to the next and can be combined with well-crafted illustrations and diagrams to create strong storytelling.
- Video content. Good stories use what is called “indirect characterization,” which means showing rather than explicitly telling the audience something about a character. Video content is a powerful way this can be used in apartment marketing websites. You can say that you are a family-friendly property, or you can display a video hero that shows children playing and family-friendly amenities which says the same thing—if not more—to your viewers.
Storytelling in web design is much more than words and brand voice. While these are definitely important elements, it is the unique opportunities that the digital platform offers that can really enhance a real estate brand’s story and turn a really mundane experience into a compelling one that will keep your viewers at the edge of their seat.
1 – Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication
2 – 5 Storytelling Techniques Applied to Web Design
3 – How To Start Your Story: Story Structures
With COVID-19’s disproportionately high impact on older generations, it goes without saying that the senior living industry has likewise felt the brunt of this pandemic. As we keep our eyes on industry trends, we’ve compiled a few takeaways for our senior living clients and their competitors as they navigate the effects of the pandemic on their brand reputation, lead traffic, and ultimately lease rates. These challenges aren’t felt universally or with the same severity for all communities within the senior living industry, but they may have long-lasting ramifications for brands in this vertical.
In this post, we’ll be breaking down what effects we’re seeing in the industry, what’s causing these effects, what can be done to mitigate them, and what we can expect moving forward. Looking for senior living marketing tips to help your community respond to the pandemic? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s get into it.
The Effects of COVID-19 On the Senior Living Industry
When it comes to the top Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we use to measure marketing success for the real estate industry, the impact of the pandemic on senior living communities is similar to that seen by other segments of the housing industry: occupancy is down, costs are up, and brand reputation is less stable.
But these are the short-term effects of COVID-19. It remains to be seen how these shifts will ripple into the future. Senior living brands enjoy some security in the simple fact that aging is inevitable and the next wave of seniors will still need assisted living and memory care. However, at the present moment, long-term care facilities have been hit hardest by COVID’s effects, followed by assisted living communities. In Q2 of 2020, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care reported that the average occupancy rate for senior housing properties dropped to a historic low of 84.9%.
Less clear is how the pandemic will effect the Active Living industry. The good news for this segment of senior living is that their KPIs have been less impacted than their assisted living and memory care counterparts. Occupancy at active/independent communities has remained relatively stable. Regardless, we may begin to see an increased effort among Active Living communities to distance themselves from the term “Senior Living” in order to skirt the perception of senior communities as risky places to live right now.
What’s Causing These Effects?
In addition to the direct, human impact of the coronavirus, the pandemic also impacts the senior living industry in indirect ways. For example, press coverage focusing on outbreaks or the risk of outbreak in these communities compounds the perception of all such facilities as unsafe places to live (or for one’s parents to live). This negative perception can extend even to those communities that have strong safety measures and have not suffered an outbreak.
After all, while we’ve all seen the headlines about outbreaks at senior care communities, the average person is less likely to look beyond the headline to fully ascertain the factors that are most likely to lead to outbreaks. This contributes to an imperfect understanding of the true level of risk, which is only exacerbated by the fact that scientists and the press alike have been playing catch up to understand how this virus spreads and impacts the body. All that uncertainty makes it hard for seniors and their adult children to feel confident in their housing choices, resulting in fewer leads and leases.
Furthermore, the recession kicked off by the pandemic is still building. Its impact will continue well beyond the current moment, likely for years to come. Since many seniors looking for independent or active living must sell their homes before making a move into a senior living community, a recession may inspire this group to delay this transition for as long as they’re able. In other words, this demographic may choose to age in place a bit longer, resulting in less demand for independent living.
As for memory care and assisted living, the recession may impact these sectors as well, although in different ways. It may impact how much seniors or their families are able to spend on their care. It will also likely mean that some families opt to (or are forced to) care for their senior family members themselves rather than paying for the extra care provided by an assisted living or memory care facility.
In addition, costs are up for senior living communities as they hire more specialized staff, buy more protective gear, and contend with increased demand for the supplies they need to serve their community. Additionally, while senior living has often relied on in-person tours and marketing, the pandemic has required communities to move more of their leasing efforts into the digital space, resulting in additional expenditures on technology like virtual tours, live chat bots, and more. Not only that, but seniors currently residing at these communities are looking for ways to stay connected with their families who may be unable to visit in person, so some communities are accommodating that with added digital amenities, resulting in additional up-front tech costs.
What Can We Do?
We’ve published a number of guides that can empower senior living brands with better marketing during the pandemic, including our blog post on How To Adapt Your Real Estate Marketing During COVID-19.
Additionally, we highly recommend our more recent guides covering Digital Apartment Marketing Tips During COVID and a Tour Guide Playbook with best practices for tours and lead nurturing during COVID.
In addition to what you’ll find in these guides, we have a few recommendations to add specifically for the senior living industry. The first is to explore Addressable Marketing campaigns using geofencing technology. Campaigns like these have the ability to target users at their household—like a direct mailer for the digital age—and can reach audiences based on factors like age, the number of members in their household, and a variety of interests.
Finally, your messaging around COVID is of paramount importance when it comes to nurturing the leads that do come in. This is likely to remain top-of-mind for a while, especially for the senior living industry, so any prospect who is unable to easily find information regarding COVID-19 on your website, GMB page, or by email is likely to take their search elsewhere. Be as transparent as you can about your respond to COVID-19. Make this information easy to find throughout your digital presence, including your website, GMB, and social accounts. Show that you are taking concrete measures to promote social distancing and minimize the risk of outbreaks.
Being up-front with this information may seem like it’s calling attention to the risk the pandemic has created, but that ship has already sailed; your prospects are thinking about COVID when they decide where to live, regardless of whether you bring up the topic yourself. The best you can do is help assuage their concerns by making it crystal clear that you are doing everything you can to keep seniors and their loved ones safe.
Believe it or not, email is still one of the most effective ways to nurture leads. Though the digital landscape has evolved dramatically, folks across all age groups still use email every single day—for many, it’s the first thing they do after waking up.
Not only is email marketing a reliable way to reach your audience, it’s also a powerful strategy for relationship building with prospects and current residents alike. It particularly excels as a retargeting strategy, keeping your property top-of-mind at various stages of a prospect’s housing search or reminding a current resident of all the reasons to renew. But the best part of all is that it’s one of the most cost-effective strategies you can incorporate into your real estate marketing plan. That’s why the right email marketing strategy can make a major impact on your real estate marketing goals. Let’s talk about some of the top strategies you can employ to get better email marketing results.
Always Begin With “WIIFM”
In other words, “What’s in it for me?” Especially in our busy day-to-day lives, people need to feel confident that your email has something to offer them. If it’s a waste of their time and attention, it could do more harm than good as they form their impression of your brand. So avoid waxing poetical about your brand or providing unnecessary information. All the info you include, every link to another page, and every element of the design should provide some clear value to the user on the other end. Remember, it’s not about you, the brand, it’s about the bridge you create between your brand and the user.
Personalize Emails Whenever Possible
People appreciate a personal touch, especially when they get so many emails every day that are sent to a mass audience. Where you choose to live is one of the most personal decisions you can make, so prospects and residents shouldn’t feel like they’re just a faceless number in your leasing pipeline. When you can, personalize emails with a salutation using their first name or, if applicable, a reference to content from their previous email. Touches like these show your audience that they’re seen as individuals, even in cases where you don’t know anything about them yet.
Send Regularly, But Not Too Often
Whether you’re following up with prospects or communicating with current tenants, you need to show you care without becoming a nuisance. Bear in mind that most people get many emails every day and are likely to ignore, archive, or delete emails that arrive so often they become spammy. Sending an email once a week is typically the maximum you should aim for, while once per month is about the minimum.
There are exceptions, of course. When communicating about a time-sensitive issue like community-wide repairs and renovations or following up on a prospect’s email, don’t worry about the frequency of your sends. These should be considered ad hoc emails rather than a part of your regular email marketing cadence.
When it comes to your marketing-focused emails, planning ahead will help you ensure you’re getting the message out without sending emails so often that it becomes spammy. It will also help you plan ahead to for marketing campaigns appropriate to your seasonality. For example, you might plan a renewal campaign in the months leading up to what’s traditionally your slow season, or you might plan an email advertising holiday deals for new leases to go out in mid December.
Improve Open Rates with Better Subject Lines
Even a stellar email design can be useless if the email is never opened. The most influential factor determining whether a user opens your email is the subject line. In order to encourage email opens, it’s essential that you provide compelling info toward the beginning so that the important stuff isn’t cut off based on the size of your user’s screen and inbox layout. Other tried-and-true strategies include using a number (Save $500 By Referring a Friend), including an emoji (Immediate move-ins available on 1-bedrooms😲), including a first name (Hi, Chad, thanks for reaching out!) or posing a question (Have you seen our pet-friendly amenities?).
Improve Click-Through-Rates By Leaving Room for Curiosity
When your goal is to get users to visit a web page, it’s best to leave them guessing. Provide just enough information to entice them without providing the whole story. This way you’ll have convinced them there’s something they want on the other side, but they have to click through to get it.
For example, say you’re running a special on certain floor plans and you want to direct users to your floor plan page where they can see specials, explore floor plans, and hopefully begin an application. You might leave room for curiosity by saying something like, “Get 4 weeks FREE on select 1-Bedrooms! This and other great incentives are available for a limited time. Visit our website to learn more and see if you can snag the perfect deal for you.”
Improve Click-Through-Rates With a Clear CTA
Since the point of email marketing is typically to drive your audience toward specific actions (visiting a webpage, starting the renewal process, completing an application, scheduling a tour, etc.), it’s important to make that desired action clear. The clearest way to signal this information to your audience is through the use of Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons that stand out from the rest of the email.
Keep the copy on your CTA buttons short and to-the-point; it should be clear, when clicking, what the outcome will be (no one appreciates a bait-and-switch). For example, “Apply Now” should take users to a page where they can start an application. “See Floor Plans” should take users to your floor plans page. A “Learn More” button beneath a headline about specials should take a user to a page that contains more information about your specials. It’s pretty straightforward; just bear in mind that the goal is to match up a user’s motivation when clicking to the outcome they actually get on the other side. Otherwise, they’re likely to bounce without ever completing the desired action. And that experience may even sour them to your brand moving forward.
Make Copy Easier to Skim
Even when you have a lot to say, keeping things brief is the best way to ensure your audience actually digests the information you provide. So keep things short, whether it’s your subject line, headers, paragraphs, or CTA copy. The easier an email is to scan, the more likely your audience is to interact with that email and ultimately take the desired action instead of becoming bored or frustrated and moving on with their busy day. Other elements that can make copy more scannable is the selective use of font weight, color, and size to emphasize which parts are most important. We’ve done that in this blog post, for example.
Use Simple, Branded Email Designs
An email doesn’t have to be stunningly designed to be effective, but it should follow the basic principles of UX. That means a design that provides a clear hierarchy of information, appears legibly on all devices (more on that below), and uses a color palette that’s easy on the eyes. Your emails should also consistently use elements of your branding, including your logo, brand colors, and brand voice so that users know exactly what sort of email they’re looking at as soon as they open it, and any users who receive multiple emails from you begin constructing a consistent impression of your brand, building familiarity and hopefully even loyalty.
Since creating excellent email designs can be time-consuming, creating a number of templates can be especially useful. This way you empower your team to do more with email marketing without an exorbitant amount of work needed to make it happen day-to-day.
Use Mobile-Friendly Designs
Bear in mind that, these days, most users will be checking their email on their phone. That’s especially true during the morning and evening hours. So designing an email that looks great on desktop but terrible on a mobile device will likely result in poor click-through-rates and conversions. That’s why we recommend designing emails for mobile first instead of designing for desktop, then trying to translate that design into a mobile version.
The day of the week and time of day can have a significant impact on open rates and CTR. Understand your target audience’s typical day-to-day, then schedule your email sends to go out when folks are most likely to open and click through.
There are a number of philosophies regarding the best time to send out an email. Some like to reach audiences right when they’re waking up in the morning so that their email is at the top of their inbox when they start checking emails. Others find that sending over the lunch hour or as work is wrapping up for the day to be the best time to command the attention of otherwise busy prospects. And different audiences will have different daily routines; for example, consider the different lifestyles of student versus multifamily versus senior housing residents.
The best way to select your time of send is to test the waters. A/B testing is a particularly powerful option to determine what the best time of send may be for your overall audience. Over time, you can learn what times of day result in the most opens and clicks among your audience and then send at those times moving forward.
Build Email Lists With Lead Gen Campaigns and Contact Us Forms
Collecting the email addresses of current residents is easy enough, but building an email list of prospects is harder. While it may be tempting to buy a contact list to expand your email marketing reach, this is a particularly poor strategy for apartment marketers because it mostly results in a list full of unqualified prospects who will ignore or unsubscribe from your emails. They’ll also likely report your emails as spam, which can impact the performance of your email marketing down the road.
So we recommend gathering your contacts list the old fashioned way. The primary way that apartment communities tend to collect email addresses is through contact form fills on their website, but that strategy tends to capture folks later in their buyer journey, when they’ve already entered the consideration phase. Adding other strategies that can collect email addresses from folks earlier in their journey can help bring more prospects into your lead nurturing funnel, where you really have the ability to wow them. Facebook Lead Gen campaigns are one way to capture email addresses from people who have visited your website or searched for housing, but wouldn’t necessarily have reached out to contact you.
Just don’t forget, people are used to getting lots of spam in their inbox, and may feel hesitant to give out their email address. Clearly demonstrating what’s in it for them (i.e. providing clear value) will make them more likely to go through with handing over the keys to their inbox.