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Marketing magic

Combining marketing fundamentals and emerging tactics to showcase properties and attract the industry’s top talent

By Megan Orser

Effective marketing requires more than posting promotional content. Successful campaigns feature user-generated content, real-life testimonials, compelling visuals, and videos that showcase a property’s unique strengths.

At my company, Smart Apartment Solutions, we’ve adopted a “show, don’t tell” approach, focusing on demonstrating our excellence through personal interactions and organic media rather than simply stating it. This strategy is particularly crucial given the challenges the property management industry has faced in recent years.

The industry has also seen slower absorption rates of units, leading to extended vacancy loss, which has exacerbated the need for skilled talent and effective marketing. Historically high staffing shortages have made it increasingly competitive for property management companies to attract and retain top talent online. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there will be approximately 35,900 job openings for property, real estate, and community association managers each year, on average, over the next decade. Standing out among the competition is only half the battle; convincing sought-after professionals to choose your company amidst a sea of options is equally challenging.

In this article, we’ll explore how industry leaders are leveraging “show, don’t tell” strategies to market their brands, fill vacancies, and recruit top talent.

Attracting a tech-savvy demographic

Bonnie Wu, CPM®, Tripalink

Across the board, property management companies are successfully leveraging a diverse array of marketing channels and tactics to reach prospective residents. Bonnie Wu, CPM®, property manager with Tripalink, has seen powerful results from social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, which have helped raise awareness of and showcase her property’s unique co-living concept at their new Chicago asset, The Post. “We have advertised on Facebook Marketplace and Instagram and even had some TikTok influencers visit our property to give potential renters a better understanding of what our community has to offer,” Wu notes.

This social media-driven approach has allowed Wu and her team to engage with a younger, tech-savvy demographic that is increasingly gravitating toward digital platforms for their housing search. By creating visually compelling content and leveraging influencer partnerships, Tripalink has been able to cut through the clutter and effectively communicate its brand messaging and build community trust and awareness faster.

Focusing on fundamentals

Faith Barker, Trilogy Property Management

Faith Barker of Trilogy Property Management emphasizes optimizing existing resources and platforms rather than relying solely on external suppliers. Trilogy has focused on developing its team’s skills and training opportunities to build a solid foundation. Barker notes that this approach, rather than constantly seeking new tactics, has been key to Trilogy’s marketing success. By honing in on the fundamentals of their craft and leveraging the expertise within their own team, Barker and her colleagues have been able to create highly effective marketing campaigns without heavy reliance on external partners. As a result, Trilogy has remained nimble and responsive in an unpredictable market.

Integrating resident reviews and testimonials has also proven to be a highly effective strategy for many property management companies. As Barker explains, these “social proof” elements, where potential customers are shown evidence that others have used and found value in the product, are leveraged across her marketing efforts, from email campaigns to video content. “I look at resident reviews a lot to see what things people are talking about,” she says. “These are the types of insights we capitalize on when creating our social media posts or highlighting certain aspects of our properties on platforms like Google Business.” By closely analyzing resident feedback, Barker and her team can highlight the key selling points that resonate most with potential renters.

Tracking and measuring marketing effectiveness is another focus for these industry leaders. Wu’s team at Tripalink monitors lead-to-tour and tour-to-lease conversion rates,

as well as lead quality over quantity. As Wu explains, “The KPI for leads-to-tours is 20%, which should be higher. But this is a new concept we’re introducing to the Midwest, so we’re using these metrics to ensure our product and expectations match our clients’ and prospects’ needs.” By closely monitoring these KPIs, Tripalink can continuously refine its marketing strategies to maximize efficiency and results.

Social-first strategy

Tony Sousa, RPM Living, LLC, AMO®

As the property management industry evolves toward a more “show, don’t tell” approach, Tony Sousa, vice president of operations at RPM Living, LLC, AMO®, believes social media and organic, viral marketing will be at the forefront. “What we are doing is the future. There are a lot of signs that social connectivity, social selling, and social community building are working,” Sousa emphasizes. This confidence in the social-first shift is backed by RPM Living’s recent success, including being named No. 3 on the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) “50 Largest Apartment Managers” list—a testament to the effectiveness of their “show, don’t tell” marketing approach.

By empowering employees to become brand ambassadors and tapping into resident-created content, RPM Living has been able to craft a unique and authentic brand identity that resonates strongly with both internal and external stakeholders. This innovative, social-first strategy has directly contributed to RPM Living’s impressive growth, enabling them to rise on the NMHC list.

Sousa sees this shift toward social media and user-generated content as a fundamental industry transformation, rather than a passing trend. He believes the approach will become essential for property management companies going forward. RPM Living’s inclusion on the prestigious NMHC 50 list demonstrates that their unconventional, social-first approach is a strategically sound model capable of driving significant business growth and industry leadership in the property management sector.

AI and automation

Another emerging trend impacting the property management industry’s marketing strategies is the integration of AI and automation. Barker explains that these technologies extend beyond call centers, with applications in tenant screening, predictive analytics, personalized advertising, and marketing.

Property management companies are leveraging AI to automate repetitive tasks, enabling teams to focus on higher-touch, strategic activities like reviewing rental applications or forecasting market trends. By adopting these technologies, firms can increase efficiencies, improve resident experiences, and strengthen their competitive edge in a crowded market.

However, vigilant oversight is required to ensure AI-driven solutions maintain compliance and prevent unintended biases or discriminatory practices. As AI and machine learning gain prominence, maintaining transparent and ethical practices will be crucial for the industry’s long-term success.

Branding and company identity

Establishing a unique brand identity has been a critical focus for many property management companies seeking to differentiate themselves. As Barker explains, “When I first started working with Trilogy, I looked at resident reviews a lot to see what things people were talking about.” By closely analyzing this feedback, Barker and her team identified the key attributes that resonated most with Trilogy’s residents. This deep dive into customer insights has allowed Trilogy to craft a brand identity that truly resonates, moving beyond generic industry platitudes.

Sousa emphasizes the increasing importance of user-generated content from both employees and residents as a powerful branding and engagement tool. By empowering internal teams and the external community to create authentic, organic content, RPM Living has built a strong brand identity and deeper connections with its target audience.

The company has found great success in empowering and supporting their employees to become authentic content creators, while also providing guidelines and resources to ensure the messaging aligns with the brand. “The first step is really aligning leadership—marketing, operations, everyone—to say, ‘Are we going to trust our people to be themselves? And are we going to support them to be themselves? And if so, are we going to allow them to express themselves publicly?’” Sousa explains. “I think there are a lot of companies that are really afraid of that.”

This user-generated content approach has also helped RPM Living attract top talent, as it highlights the company’s culture and values in a genuine and compelling way. “I’ve come to see, in slow motion, because nothing in our business happens very fast, that the investor side—the side that typically saw marketing as sort of fluff and not as valuable—has started to come around post-pandemic,” Sousa notes. “They understand now, ‘I get it. You’re trying to attract the best residents or the best top talent for your company, and as an owner, of course, we want the best overseeing our assets as well.’”

Since RPM began empowering employees to become brand ambassadors and leveraging content created by residents, the company has been able to craft a brand identity that resonates with internal and external stakeholders, including owners, current and potential residents, and current and potential talent.

As the property management industry evolves, these emerging marketing trends will follow, and even shape, the sector’s future. From the rise of social media and user-generated content to the growing influence of AI and automation, the industry pioneers featured in this article are driving innovation and success in a competitive landscape. By embracing a “show, don’t tell” approach and optimizing resources, property management companies can position themselves for long-term growth in the new frontier.

Journal of Property Management

Megan Orser, known as Smart Chick Megan, is CEO of Smart Apartment Solutions. She has over 20 years of industry experience and three decades of generational perspective in the apartment management profession.

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