Setting a new start community up for success is among the most complex projects you can undertake as a real estate developer or property manager. From branding and positioning to floor plan creation and event planning, the sheer number of marketing projects necessary to attract new residents and turn great construction into a successful community can quickly become overwhelming. That complexity is multiplied when you take into account the various touch points you’ll need along the way to translate a central brand identity across every digital and print asset, from websites to brochures to signage.
That’s why new start developers and asset managers often turn to full-service marketing agencies to help them navigate all the moving parts. A full-service agency is a marketing partner that covers the full array of digital, print, and strategic services that feed into a successful marketing plan for you property. Because new start developments are working from scratch to stand out among the competition and reach an untapped audience, working with a full-service partner is key. Spreading your marketing needs across multiple partners and vendors can compromise your strategic vision and dilute your brand identity, leading to less effective real estate marketing.
So what services should you look for in a real estate marketing partner? For new starts, here are the key services your marketing partner should be able to cover.
Research & Discovery
Any good real estate marketing plan begins with research and discovery. Skipping this step can be tempting if you are already familiar with your market (especially if you live locally yourself), but that’s never a good idea. Every new start enters a unique market defined by its precise location, existing competition, and ever-changing audience demographics and interests. That’s why we always recommend working with a marketing partner that will do their own research and discovery before launching into the branding process.
Although savvy developers usually conduct their own internal market research in order to design communities that will meet market demand, a marketing partner will cover additional nuances that help you activate a specific target audience and ensure your vision comes through loud and clear. While a developer might pay attention to rental rates, amenities, floor plan availability, and housing density in the area, a marketing partner might pay extra attention to competing brands, audience demographics, local history and culture, and other details that complete the picture of how your community can connect with new residents.
Naming & Branding
Without a cohesive naming and branding strategy, all marketing collateral suffers. You need a brand identity that is unique and recognizable so that potential renters have something to latch onto when comparing you to a sea of competitors. After all, details like amenities and floor plans matter when selecting a home, but what matters even more is how you tell the story of those advantages so that your audience takes the time to engage and learn more.
Telling this story begins with a suite of branding decisions that can be consistently applied across all collateral in order to amplify brand recognition and brand loyalty. That means naming, logo design, colors and patterns, typography, voice guidelines, and lifestyle imagery guidelines should all be established with your marketing partner, then codified into a comprehensive brand guidelines document so that future collateral builds upon the central brand identity.
Web Design & Development
In many cases, a landing page or full website is the first place your brand will come to life and get the chance to connect with your audience. Working with the same marketing partner on web design and development that you worked with for research, naming, and branding helps ensure that this crucial milestone fully realizes the brand identity you worked so hard to create. Few things can compromise an otherwise solid marketing plan more easily than a poorly executed website that is out of step with your larger marketing strategy.
Along the way, it’s also essential that your web designers and developers understand UX and SEO best practices so that your website isn’t just pretty and on-brand, but also pleasurable to use and easy to find so that your audience of potential renters can actually connect and take action. Make sure your marketing partner is well-versed in UX and SEO so that your websites and landing pages continue to pull their weight long after they’ve been launched. In fact, we recommend working with a real estate marketing partner that offers long-term hosting, management, optimizations, and periodic design refreshes on your site so that as trends change, you can stay ahead of the curve.
Print & Digital Asset Creation
In addition to website design and development, there is a wide array of digital and print assets that contribute to your brand efficacy and help your audience make their housing decision. Included in this category are assets like floor plans and site plans, virtual tours, photography and videography, brochures, flyers, business cards, and letterhead. Each of these separate touch points is a chance to amplify your brand identity and engage your audience. If executed poorly, they can have the opposite effect—diluting your brand identity and failing to connect with potential renters.
Once again, consistency is key when it comes to asset creation. Every asset should be an extension of your larger branding and marketing strategy in order to maximize ROI. Details like these can often go unnoticed unless they clash with your brand or otherwise fail to meet expectations, so they can sometimes become an afterthought for developers and property managers. A great marketing partner knows how important it is to get these details right so that everything fits seamlessly together.
The real estate marketing funnel is increasingly digital, but environmental graphics still play a key roll in raising awareness, driving foot traffic, and creating great tour experiences. From construction banners and billboard graphics to temporary lease space design decked out with floor plan graphics, rendering graphics, and targeted messaging that speaks to your unique differentiators, your marketing partner should be able to help with it all. Meanwhile, permanent signage should also be carefully crafted to amplify your brand identity so that you’re never at risk of blending in among your local competitors.
As you work hard to complete your new development project, your digital marketing should be working just as hard to raise brand awareness, generate leads, and nurture those leads so that your efforts pay off with a swift lease-up. When it comes to digital marketing, you’ll benefit from having the same partner involved in your ad campaigns and email tactics that was present for the research & discovery, branding, and design projects along the way. This digital marketing partner is then better equipped to target your unique audience with the right message at the right time in the right place.
Promo & Swag
As you prepare for open houses, housing fairs, grand opening events, and move-ins, branded promotional items can go a long way in keeping your new community top of mind with prospects and delivering a great move-in experience that turns residents into brand advocates. Welcome kits, giveaway items, and event promo should be more than an afterthought; the right item outfitted with a unique design can be the difference between a memorable brand experience and a throwaway object that people quickly forget about.
If you’re still looking for a new start marketing partner who covers all these bases from discovery to promo, we’d love to chat! Threshold covers all this and more in order to deliver cohesive marketing strategies that build on one another to accelerate lease-ups and drive high ROI. Keep us in mind for your next new start project or use our chatbot, Trent, to schedule a no-strings consultation to learn more about what we do.
Out of all the digital real estate marketing strategies available today, it can be hard to determine which strategies will best help move the needle on your leasing and sales results. After all, you’re not just choosing from the wide variety of advertising platforms out there, you’re also sifting through many different types of ad campaigns those platforms offer—so how do you make the right choice for your real estate brand?
Answering that question comes down to your marketing priorities and the results that are most important to you right now. For those who are launching digital marketing for a new development or getting the word out while occupancy rates are already stable, brand awareness tactics should be at the top of your list. Brand awareness tactics help you reach potential residents during the Awareness phase of their digital renter journey, sometimes before they’ve even begun their housing search.
Brand awareness tactics aren’t focused on getting quick conversions so much as they’re focused on, well, making people aware of your brand. That means impressions and views are the name of the game more so than clicks and conversion actions. So when focusing on brand awareness, you’ll want to select digital real estate marketing tactics that optimize for impressions and views rather than skipping straight to the click-driving, conversion-oriented tactics like lead generation ads or retargeting ads.
Here are some of the top-performing digital tactics for real estate marketers looking to drive impressions and views that increase awareness among your target audience.
Video Ads on YouTube
Since views and impressions are the name of the game with brand awareness, YouTube ads are an excellent place to start. Video ads on YouTube can be targeted to a wide audience in your area based on a variety of targeting characteristics. With an average view rate of 31.9%, YouTube ads are a great way to get in front of your audience at any stage of their renter journey, including before they’ve even performed a housing search.
Video ads are also a great awareness tactic because they are engaging and informative—far more so than a static display or search ad tends to be. You can feature more photos, value propositions and qualifying details in a 30-second video ad.
If you’re early in your development process and have limited photography or renderings to include in your video ad, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Supplement your visual assets with lifestyle footage, which can be found on platforms like Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.
Social Ads on Facebook & Instagram
Social ads for apartments on Facebook and Instagram offer similar targeting capabilities compared to YouTube, giving you the opportunity to reach your audience on some of the digital spaces where they spend the most time.
There are a variety of ad types you can run on these platforms, but to reach prospects in the awareness phase, we recommend Traffic ads on Facebook and Instagram. Traffic ads are focused on driving traffic to your real estate website, so those who do click are given the opportunity to learn more about your property. When optimizing for brand awareness, we particularly recommend opting for carousel ads over single image ads because they provide a fuller glimpse of your community and provide a way for users to engage with your ad (by scrolling through the images) even if they’re not ready to click through to your website and really dive in. This provides a fuller opportunity to become intrigued and commit your brand to memory.
Addressable Marketing & Geofencing Ads
Targeting specific households, businesses, hotspots, or competitors in your area can help you raise awareness among a highly specific audience who is most likely to resonate with your brand. Addressable marketing and geofencing ads both rely on virtual “fences” drawn around specific locations within which users may be served your ad. Typically, a conversion zone is also drawn around a physical location such as your leasing office in order to measure offline conversions, but you can also measure online conversions from these ads when a targeted user visits your apartment website.
When a prospect enters the fenced location (e.g. their home address), they will be targeted with your ads on their mobile and desktop devices for 30 days. When the customer enters the conversion zone (e.g. your leasing office) with their mobile device after being served your ad, the conversion zone recognizes the prospect and attributes their visit as an offline conversion. Or, if a prospect converts online by filling out a contact form, that action is measured as an online conversion.
Addressable marketing campaigns allow you to target prospects based on household location, income level, home equity information, number of household members, and a variety of interests, contributing to highly qualified online and offline traffic down the road. By raising awareness among a highly qualified audience, you increase the chances that awareness eventually turns into action when your prospects are ready to start or continue their housing search.
One addressable marketing tactic we recommend is CTV (AKA Connected TV) ads, which allow video ads to be served to Smart TVs while your target audience is using a TV app like Hulu and other streaming services. Like YouTube video ads, these ads are more engaging than static display ads and reach prospects while they’re going about their day-to-day lives, so they’re aware of your real estate brand when it comes time for them to search for housing.
Here’s Why Addressable Marketing Campaigns Should Be Part of Your Real Estate Marketing Plan
Google Display Ads
Though video ads may on platforms like YouTube tend to be more engaging, Google display ads are also a great way to increase brand awareness among your target audience. Whether you create an animated ad or keep it simple with a static image, Google serves display ads over a vast network of partnered sites, targeting users across many of the same parameters you’ll find on YouTube ad campaigns (Google owns YouTube, after all).
Display ads are a strong choice for brand awareness because they reach users while they’re going about their normal online browsing activities, but also link directly to your website so that impressions can easily turn into traffic. And even if a user doesn’t click through when served your ad, just getting their eyes on your brand makes them more likely to convert later when they are ready to conduct their housing search and learn more about some of the options in their area.
With many different ad sizes available, you can choose a variety of placements, but the 300×250 size tends to get the most impressions and clicks.
Written by Abby Browning, Digital Marketing Manager
Are you finding it more and more challenging to keep up with the inevitable changes to your digital marketing platforms? Google and Facebook are constantly evolving, and so must your approach for digital real estate marketing. Recently, Google announced some changes that affect keyword behavior and ad types. We’ll review what these changes are, how they affect your digital apartment marketing, and how you can continue to drive results despite these changes.
What changes have been made to keyword match types and behavior?
In July of 2021, Google officially eliminated modified broad match keywords. Previously, ads would show for search queries that contained all of the keywords included in your modified broad match keyword, regardless of order. For example, a user could be researching moving companies Atlanta to Austin. By using a broad match modified keyword in your search strategy, “+moving +companies +atlanta +to +austin” would show ads for any query that contained all keywords, regardless of order, including moving companies from Austin to Atlanta.
As of September 2021, Google has loosened up restrictions to phrase match in order to operate more similarly to broad match modified, though they will not be an exact replacement. The main reason for Google making these changes is to boost the relevance of ads that are being served to users by focusing more on text and intent behind the query. According to Google, “The updated phrase match simplifies match types by combining the control of phrase match and the expanded reach of the discontinued broad match modifier.”
What happens moving forward?
Take this opportunity to reduce keywords in your thematically consistent ad groups by removing any match type duplicates or close variants. We recommend leveraging negative keywords to ensure that you’re filtering out unqualified traffic. The newly improved search terms report will also be a useful tool to reference to understand which keywords and match types are triggering your ads, providing insights into new keyword additions to build or exclude in your campaign.
What changes have been made to expanded text ads?
Earlier this year, Google announced that Expanded Text Ads (ETA) will no longer be available to create or edit as of June 2022. Expanded text ads have three headline fields and two description fields and are optimized for mobile. After June 2022, ETA will still be able to run, but the only changes that you will be able to make are to pause or remove them from your search campaigns.
What happens moving forward?
Google released Responsive Search Ads (RSA) in 2018, and over time, we have seen RSAs dramatically improve clicks, CTR, conversions, AND conversion rates. RSAs allow you to create ads that adapt to show more text and more relevant messages by entering multiple headlines and descriptions. Because of the responsive nature of this ad type, RSAs increase ad group performance because they help you compete in more auctions and reach more people. With the announcement of the changes occurring to ETA in June 2022, you will want to be sure that all of your ad groups contain at least one RSA as this will be the new default ad type when creating search campaigns. Now is the best time to perform A/B tests, if you are not doing this already, to see which of your ETA headlines and descriptions perform best. Save this information and be sure to use it come June! Dynamic search ads, which are ads created by Google, and call ads will still be available despite the elimination of expanded text ads.
In an ever changing digital landscape, your digital marketing strategy must adapt. The changes that were recently announced by Google to keyword match types, behavior, and ad types are improvements overall. As with any shift in strategy, continue to monitor campaign performance and traffic quality driven by the updated phrase match keywords, and continue testing multiple headlines and descriptions to encourage continued interaction and engagement through the use of Responsive Search Ads.
If you have a real estate website, when is the last time you dove into your Google Analytics? While most real estate marketers have a Google Analytics account set up for their website(s), many of them still underutilize this tool.
Not only is Google Analytics (GA) a must when it comes to integrating your Google Ad campaigns with site data like traffic volume and on-page conversions, it’s also one of the best tools at your disposal for understanding your online audience. Whether your goal is to reach more qualified users, improve conversion rates, or just gain a deeper understanding of who your audience really is, Google Analytics can help. You just have to know how to use it.
Today, we’re covering some of the best features of GA and showing how they can help you understand your audience better so you can execute more effective real estate marketing.
How To Find Out What Content Interests Your Audience The Most
Finding out what areas of your site draw the most attention from your audience can teach you a lot about what motivates them to take the next step and eventually become a tenant or customer. You can then use this information to make it easier to reach those sections of your site or even link users directly to this information by creating Search, Social, and Display Ad campaigns with messaging related to this information. For example, if users are engaging most with your floor plans page, you may choose to run ads highlighting your floor plan availability, or you may even choose to run a special on specific floor plans that are getting attention.
There are two key ways to gather this information: Screen Performance reports and Event Performance reports.
This report can be found in the Behavior section under Site Content. This will tell you the top pages on your site so that you can see which areas draw the most users. Bear in mind that this can be influenced by how easy it is to reach that section of your site, so take this information with a grain of salt. Think about how many clicks or turns of the scroll wheel it takes to view an area of your site and compare this to how many users actually view that area. If you have easy-to-access sections that no one is viewing or difficult-to-access sections that many users are seeking out, that can help give you ideas for site improvements or marketing campaigns.
This tool can also show you the time spent on each of these pages and the bounce and exit rates for each page, which offers further insights into which pages are your most successful drivers of prospect engagement.
Your Event performance can be found in the Behavior section under Events. This shows you what events people take most often on your site.
This information can help you diagnose whether people are taking the actions you want them to take on your site. For example, if you want people to use the contact page to get in touch with your leasing staff, you can check how often this event actually occurs on your site. If it’s not occurring very often, this could indicate that your contact form is difficult to find or use. It may even help you catch problems with your form, like a broken link or other UX issues.
Similarly, GA can show you your top conversions along with an Event count for those conversions. This can be found in the Conversions section in the left panel. Note that in order to get accurate conversion information, you first need to tell Google Analytics which events count as conversions.
How To Use GA To Tap Into Your Audience’s Interests
Did you know that the user demographics information in your Google Analytics account can show your users’ interests as well as their city, gender, age, and language? Not only that, but you can see which user interests correlate with the highest site engagement and conversions. This is located under “Audience” in the left pane, in the Interests section.
This information can help you create more accurate audience personas and inspire more effective marketing tactics. For example, if you find that many of your users are interested in the automotive industry, you might be inspired to draw more attention to your attached garages, covered carports, or EV charging stations through ads with targeted messaging or an amenity highlight on your home page, Google My Business page, or social accounts.
How To Find Out Who is Most Likely to Convert
At the end of the day, you want visitors to your website to take further action like scheduling a tour or starting an application. Luckily, Google Analytics has tools to help you understand who is converting, where they’re converting, and how often.
Engagement reports show you what actions users take once they’ve reached your site. An engagement report can be found by selecting “Audience” then “Behavior” and then “Engagement” in the left panel. These reports help you determine how well your site gets people to engage (by comparing total site users to users who actually engage). It can also show you which users are most likely to convert across factors like how they navigated to your site (e.g. organic search, link from social, search ad click, etc.) and user demographics.
Similar to engagement reports, retention reports can tell you which users are interested enough to become a return visitor. A retention report will show you the number of return visitors you have over time, but it will also show you your number of return visitors by cohort. A cohort is a group of users who share a common characteristic such as when they first viewed your website. This feature is useful when you are making website updates, because it helps you determine whether those changes result in more return users, fewer return users, or no change. If a site update results in more return users, that’s a great sign that it’s generating more interest, more brand awareness, and ultimately more brand loyalty.
If you’ve configured your conversion events, you can easily compare users who convert to users who don’t convert. Navigate to Audiences in your left pane, then create an audience that includes a particular conversion event and another audience that excludes that conversion event. Once you’ve created these audiences, you can compare them in your reports. This will help you compare the behavior and attributes of converters vs. non-converters directly.
This can tell you the user behaviors and attributes that are most likely to lead to a conversion. For example, it might reveal to you that users who navigate to your floor plans page first are likely to convert, while users who visit your amenities page tend not to convert. This can help you diagnose site issues and show you where you should direct users through ad landing pages, home page links, or social media posts.
How To Understand Your Audience’s Full Renter Journey
Acquisition reports and user journey information in Google Analytics can teach you a lot about how users find and navigate your site and what behaviors make them most likely to eventually become a tenant. These features are particularly useful for understanding how your audience thinks as they navigate your site and can also give you insights into how to make your site experience more conducive to conversions.
Acquisition reports are a small glimpse into your prospects’ renter journey before they have arrived to your site. It tells you where the user was before they came to your site and/or what action resulted in them arriving on your site. In other words, clicking on the Acquisitions section in the left panel will bring up reports showing you the sources bringing in new users; that might be organic searches, ad clicks, referrals from your social media accounts, or other behaviors like typing your URL directly into their address bar.
Knowing how users tend to get to your site is useful because it shows you where your energies are best spent when it comes to digital and print marketing strategies. For example, if people are coming in from organic searches, that could mean SEO enhancements are your best low-hanging fruit to gain even more users. But, if people are clicking over directly from your social media accounts, that means putting extra effort into your social media presence could deliver the highest ROI when it comes to generating site traffic.
Not only that, but these reports can show you whether a particular acquisition source correlates with higher rates of engagement and conversion. This information provides additional insight into how your different marketing tactics are resonating with users and whether a particular marketing tactic is aligning with what users eventually find on your site. For example, if users arriving from ad clicks tend not to engage with your site very much, you might want to ask yourself whether your ad messaging and design is consistent with what a user sees when they first land on your site.
User Path Exploration
One of our favorite features of GA is the ability to explore a user’s full journey through your website. The path exploration or Behavior Flow feature allows you to see how users tend to move from one screen, page, or event to another.
For example, it could tell you that users tend to start at your home page, scroll to a CTA button about amenities, click that button, arrive on the amenities page, then bounce. Or, it might show you that a common user journey is arriving on your floor plans page, clicking on a particular floor plan, viewing a virtual tour video, then navigating to your contact page and filling out a contact form. Each step of the way, you can see how many users make it to the next step, how many end up somewhere else, and how many exit your site altogether. You can even dive down into a specific user’s journey to help troubleshoot a specific user flow or create an audience segment based on that specific user flow to help you gain further insights into your audience.
All this information about how users move through your site can be an eye-opening experience for real estate marketers, designers, and web developers. For one thing, it can help diagnose problem pages that lead to the most exits and give you the opportunity to redevelop those pages. Or it can help you identify which landing pages lead most consistently to a conversion action further down the line, giving you the opportunity to direct more of your ads, social media links, or links in email campaigns to that page. Whatever you discover, diving into path exploration really helps you get in the mind of your users and see what’s important to them, what they find most eye-catching, and what messaging leads them to keep exploring and/or take action.
Digital apartment marketing experts will often say that it’s important to update your website frequently, but have you ever wondered why? We are often recommending periodic website updates to our clients, but not always for the same reason. The truth is, there are many different reasons why updating your website frequently pays off for your digital apartment marketing goals. Here’s how updating your website can boost your SEO, improve your user experience (UX), increase your online conversions, and more.
Google Will Reward You With Higher Search Rankings
Google takes a lot into account when determining where your site ranks in search results and how current your site is plays a key role in their search algorithm. Think about it: Google wants to deliver users relevant and accurate info when they search so that they keep using Google. Having updated your site recently signals that your website more likely to be up-to-date with accurate info, modern web design, and other factors that contribute to a positive user experience.
Web Standards Are Constantly Changing
If your website hasn’t been updated in several years, there’s a good chance some of the web standards you’re following have gone defunct, fallen out of vogue, or even become illegal. For example, Flash used to be the main way to display multimedia content, but now fewer operating systems are supporting it because there are better ways to accomplish what Flash was once used for. Web security guidelines and requirements are also constantly being updated.
Helps You Keep Up With Apartment Marketing Trends
You may be keeping up to date with apartment marketing trends in your industry, but does your website reflect that? Planning regular website updates puts you on a schedule to audit your website for off-trend features, messaging, and design elements that can make your community seem older and less desirable. For example, it may be time to update your amenities list to reflect how people are referring to their amenities these days (e.g. dog park vs. bark park, sparkling pool vs. resort-style pool, etc.). Additionally, take a look at the functionality your competitors are including on their site: Do they have a chatbot? An online tour scheduler? Virtual tours for every floor plan? Are you less competitive in your market if you don’t have these features?
On a related note, take a look at the information your competitors are including on their websites. The recent example of COVID-19 messaging, which is now common on apartment websites, shows how important it can be to make timely website updates in order to meet the new expectations of your audience and keep up with your competitors.
Leads to More Conversions
Keeping up with or even pushing ahead of the curve goes a long way to inspiring confidence from prospects and current residents alike. Your site doesn’t have to be flashy and cutting edge, necessarily, but just having accurate information, timely specials, no broken links, and messaging that speaks to trending housing needs can ensure your property makes it from a prospect’s awareness phase to their consideration phase. Plus, residents who see their apartment community working hard to maintain consistent website functionality and provide current information will be that much more likely to renew their lease and recommend your property to others.
Best Ways to Update Your Real Estate Website Regularly
So now that we’ve established why you would want to update your website regularly, what are the best ways to go about that? It all depends on what your primary goals are and what resources you have at your disposal.
Adding a blog to your website is one of the most common ways to incorporate regular website updates into your digital marketing strategy. This isn’t just so that you can share useful information with residents and prospects, it’s also a great way to boost your on-page SEO efforts. Not only does it allow you to update your site each time you post (signaling to Google that your site is current), but it also gives you added opportunities to incorporate SEO keywords without running the risk that Google interprets your efforts as keyword stuffing because your keyword density is too high on a given page (which can actually hurt your SEO).
But while a blog is great for SEO, it isn’t the only way to update your website regularly. Consider: what do your prospects need from your website? Were there features you didn’t initially include that you could add now, like a chat bot, tour scheduler, or virtual tours? Do you have current photos or video of all your amenities and community spaces? Do your prospects have a way to view current specials? Could you benefit from adding resident reviews on your website?
In addition to these considerations, we recommend that once a year or so, you review your keyword strategy. If you’re not sure how to create a keyword strategy, check out our post on How To Do Keyword Research For Your Real Estate Website. As search trends change, you may find that you’re missing out on a lot of potential traffic from keywords you hadn’t been targeting before.
Finally, every few years, we recommend that you do a more in-depth design update. Trends change and a website can begin to look out-of-date quickly. You don’t necessarily have to overhaul your entire website design, but a few tweaks here and there can help you keep up with the times.