Print: King of the Undead

If there is one thing that everyone has heard about various media outlets, it’s that “print is dead.” Across multiple industries, this mantra has been transformed into a rule of thumb for residential marketers seeking to implement a successful marketing campaign. Gone the way of the dinosaur, print seems to be settling, at least in the public view, wedged somewhere between the rotary dial phone and coal-burning stoves. Quaint and nostalgic, but ultimately inefficient. The past decade or so of dramatically declining subscriptions to printed newspapers and magazines seems to support this, and has served as a catalyst for daily publications like the New York Times and The Guardian to focus on maintaining a strong online presence over trying to regain print readership. The thing is, I don’t think that print truly CAN die, not as long as we human beings continue to be fascinated by our physical surroundings. Print: King of the Undead.

To be clear, this is not a blog bemoaning the fate of the printed word, or about how we had best not forget the skills of screen printing (although screen printing looks beautiful when done well, and I would love to learn on my own time). On the contrary, I think the evolution of digital and web design has led to a dramatic shift in how we think about the way information can be presented to reflect an apartment community’s brand, and I love being able to design something that doesn’t have to be constrained by a physical space, and won’t eventually end up as pretty landfill.

There is still value in choosing to print materials instead of opting for a digital campaign. We’re tactile beings, and I’d be willing to bet that there has been at least one instance in the last month where you have picked up some piece of collateral or marketing swag, turned it over in your hands and thought, “Wow, this is really cool.” A digital invitation would have looked great, and a cohesive web campaign is inarguably valuable when marketing to a large audience, but it was that extra detail that pushed me to mark it on my calendar.

I think the key to deciding whether or not to pursue print within a particular campaign is to ask yourself these three things:

Is it interesting? Printing just to have something to hand out isn’t always as effective as it seems. Simply giving someone something to hold onto without ensuring that it looks different from anything else in the stack of papers they might be holding isn’t going to guarantee engagement with a potential resident. A die-cut shape, an interesting fold, foil overlays, printing on an atypical substrate, there are endless ways to ensure that the materials you’re physically giving to someone looks and feels completely different than everyone else’s.

Mulberry Invitation

Is it useful? Sometimes, a flyer or brochure just won’t have the impact you want for your apartment community, and you’re going to need to use a more utilitarian angle. Is there a way to brand an object that has a further purpose than looking beautiful that delivers the message you want to send? Bringing utility to your marketing materials elevates them from potential junk-pile fodder to something interactive.


Is it innovative? Nothing beats the element of surprise. There are always details that often go unnoticed by both the user and producer that can be incorporated into a brand campaign. Free coffee at a resident event? Brand the cup instead of going generic. Use opportunities to make your mark in places where most people substitute anonymous materials. This attention to the “small stuff” speaks volumes about how you or your company thinks about branding and identity.

Snooze Bar

What Makes a Website COOL?

At Threshold, the anti-vacancy agency, we know that designing a cool website is much like planning your dream home. It’s exciting! But who wants a home that wins design awards for curb appeal but doesn’t have a front door? How about a kitchen without a sink? Or a living room without windows? To be truly cool, a website has to serve many purposes, just like a home. As experts in branding and residential marketing, Threshold concentrates on attracting your future occupants by focusing on their needs before we ever begin construction. What makes a website COOL? So what are the important questions to ask?


  • Who is your target resident/group/audience?
  • What is the top benefit you have to offer your target audience? Price? Location? Amenities?
  • Do you have property application forms, floor plans, and maps available in downloadable PDFs?
  • What categories do we need for concise navigation?
  • Do you have a strong logo, color system, and font set?
  • Are there plenty of photographs to show the beauty of the renovated pool, updated workout rooms and the layouts of the rooms?
  • Are there competitors close by that we must exceed?

Once we gather the information that answers those questions, we can establish the new web structure. What about the visual look of the site? Which style, look and feel is appropriate for your target audience? Rustic? Modern? Playful? Vibrant? Elegant? The Threshold design team will delve into the creative process using our design strategy to craft a custom and unique look. Done well, great design helps future residents see themselves living the good life at your property.

The Threshold consulting team knows that, even then, the evaluations aren’t over! We’ll scrutinize the site using important principles for successful websites:

  • Does it clearly tell the viewer who you are?
  • Is the site eye-catching and design-appropriate for your target audience? (Whether for student housing, senior living, or multifamily units)
  • Is it simple to navigate?
  • Is there a value proposition for the viewer?
  • Is there a call to action?
  • Does the content change often?
  • Is it viewable on all media – i.e. responsive?*


Speaking of viewable, an adaptable or responsive website is a must. Although Cameron Adams demonstrated it as early as 2004, in 2010, Ethan Marcotte coined the phrase “Responsive Web Design” or RWD. That means cool websites “respond” by interchanging the elements of the site so that it they are always legible on the media on which they appear: computers, laptops, iPads, monitors, and various cell phone platforms. How? We must program liquid layouts using media inquiriesLiquid layouts are when elements and images adjust their size and aspect ratio according to the size of media. Media inquiries are the set of programming rules and scripts that enables the elements on a web page to always be legible. When these strategies are applied, as you open your web window larger, the images, text, and ad banners change with you!  At Threshold, the design and development teams will program multiple layouts for every page so that you always shine.

Whether it’s a website for student housing, senior living, or a new residential development, we are your best advocate to make sure vacancies are few and far between! As THE residential marketing experts, we will create well organized, visually stunning, and responsive websites for you.


Content Is King for Your SEO Strategy

Writing a blog is tough work.  Not the actual writing part of the blog, nor the creation of the content calendar.  The tough part is sticking to it.  Sometimes I wish there was a “blog trainer,” you know, someone to tell me to write 15 more words or to get off my lazy butt and get to work.  Surely if it works to get folks into shape, it could also work to get businesses into better shape.

A blog, or any piece of content for a website, is a critical part of the website’s success.  The old adage “build it and they will come” definitely does not apply to a website.  With the growing level of competition in residential housing, owning a website that is found in search results is critical to NOI.  Your digital marketing strategies are now the top priorities in any marketing plan. So, why is it that content will help you maintain a successful website?

Every year, Searchmetrics, the global leader in SEO marketing and analytics for enterprise level companies, releases their SEO ranking factors analysis. Here’s what they found in 2014:

  1. Create robust site architecture
    • Do include good internal links
    • Do aim for short loading times
    • Do keep sites up to date
    • Don’t lose focus or just focus on technical aspects of the site
  2. Pay attention to keywords in titles and descriptions
  3. Relevant content reigns supreme. Keyword is “relevant content”
    • Include semantically comprehensive wording
    • Implement higher word counts using relevant topic terms
    • Use multiple media types (pictures, video)
    • Don’t follow spammy onpage advertising techniques
  4. Use quality backlinks. If you have a large portfolio you should be linking to all of your properties on each website. And they should each have their own website.
  5. Social signals are a bonus. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.
  6. User signals are critical.  What folks do on your site and how they find your site are becoming more relevant with each passing year.

Combining the above into a clear SEO strategy is critical to the success of your website.  Having a well-structured site technically is nice, but if you’re only focused on that than your competitors will leave you in the dust.  Content is King for your SEO Strategy. And luckily there are some good SEO strategists out there to help get you on the right path.

And they may even help write those blogs that seem so difficult to maintain.

Happy Marketing!


New Development Marketing

I love my parents.  They are a big reason I started my own agency so many years ago.  Sure there was some trepidation and fear but I forged ahead.  Made my own path, so to speak.  They’ve lived up in the Dallas area for nearly 20 years now and recently decided to relocate to be closer to the family in Austin.

So began the trek to find them a place to live – something “nice, elegant, upgraded but affordable,” said my mom.  As most of you know, Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America – all the hip, cool, creative types just can’t get enough.  We’re changing the world down here, man!  At any rate, we turned our eyes to the quickly growing city of Buda and all the new housing developments under construction.

Visiting the sales centers I realized just how important new development marketing and pre-sales/leasing centers are when you’re, in all essence, selling dirt.  Good ‘ole Texas clay.  At Threshold, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time developing best-of-class new development creative that gives clients a leg up.  Here’s some advice on new development marketing when breaking ground on a new student apartment community, senior housing facility or any new home division:

  1. Make sure to find a pre-sales or leasing center that can staff your team of marketing experts until the permanent model home or clubhouse is finished.  Preferably, doors for the sales centers need to open well in advance of anticipated move-in (especially in student housing) in order to build the brand awareness necessary to capture folks when they begin searching.
  2. Your digital brochure – aka website – needs to be up and running as soon as a name, the amenities and a contact are ready to go.  Search engines take time to index you and the extra time will be well worth it when things really start to heat up.
  3. Get the construction site filled with as much signage as possible.  Bright, creative, relevant designs that won’t dirty OR are cheap to replace.  We hate seeing great creative all muddied up from the elements.  Check with the city on temporary construction sign ordinances to ensure your sign isn’t removed.
  4. Think about ways your future residents can interact with your community at the pre-leasing center.  Mini-models or interactive display boards are fun and certainly help people pass the time while they wait in the long lines to lease or buy.
  5. Create a solid marketing plan.  New developments will cost more to market becuase you are building awareness.  Do it right the first year and you’ll be thankful the second.

Now, while this list isn’t all-inclusive it’s a good start to ensuring your new start launches well.  Those folks in Buda did a good job at ensuring my parents felt comfortable and excited about that new piece of Texas clay they just purchased.  And we’re certainly excited because we now have another set of well-qualified babysitters moving to town.

Downtown anyone?

Happy Marketing!


Parents – Still the True Frontier

My mom was born and raised in Mexico, moving to the US when she was just 18 years old.  As any of you with Hispanic heritage in your blood – or know folks that do – family is muy importante (very important for the gringos out there).  I was 20 years old when my little sister was born – she’s now in college and my parents watch over her like a hawk.  Not because she needs the help, she’s a feisty 20 year old who wants to make the world a better place, but because they feel they should still take care of her.  Sweet.

In our world, we’re always talking about the “helicopter parents” and how they are involved in the lives of their kids and their kid’s friends.  How they call for maintenance requests, etc.  From a marketing perspective, it’s tough to message for the 20-year olds and the 40-somethings congruently – but it’s not impossible.  Parents still are heavily involved in not WHERE their children live, but rather HOW they are living.  Are they safe? Do they have all the comforts they need? Is their space conducive to getting the heck out of college in 4 years?

Here are a few pieces of advice for messaging to and reaching your secondary customers -Parents.


Peace of mind: individual leases, all-inclusive living, community assistants, professional management companies, fully furnished, full kitchens

Academic focus: study rooms, computer labs, programming

Health/wellness: fitness centers, programing, full kitchens


Renewals:  Be sure to send renewal letters and/or other materials home to parents

Direct mail: When sending to parents, tailor your message and consider sending a larger packet with a formal letter, rates/plans and application

Advertising: Consider regional magazines or newspapers with college editions. Texas Monthly produces a popular yearly guide in print and online

Remember, parents are either decision makers or decision influencers when it comes to housing.  Now that I’m a parent (with Hispanic heritage coursing through my veins) I’m certain I’ll be right there when my son is ready to make that leap.  Granted, he’s just four, but I’m preparing now.  So watch out all you young Community Assistants who want to move up the ladder.  I’ll be seeing you in 14 years.

Happy marketing.


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