Can you afford to effectively advertise your apartments for rent?
Can you afford not to?
What, if anything, could you do instead of spending on more advertising?
A lot, it turns out!
While paid advertising gets you exposure online, it also has two major drawbacks:
- First, of course, is that whole paying for it part. Ads can be expensive, often with a poor return on investment.
- Second, ads are interruptive, not additive. In other words, unless someone is searching for an apartment right now, your ad is more likely to interrupt whatever they're doing and feel annoying, not useful.
The good news is that some of the ways to be useful to your prospective renters are also the most cost-effective.
To Get More Web Traffic, Give More Value
Consumers don't pay attention to conventional ads like they used to, even though they are online more than ever. They're better at ignoring things that don't provide them value.
Think: fun, entertaining, useful and informative content.
If you can offer that kind of experience, your listing will get found more often, for less money. Here's how.
1. Blog Like You Mean It
Great content is what users go online for, and it's what Google serves up in free organic search listings. So, when your prospective tenants are searching for information on local schools, restaurants, entertainment, and other ins and outs of your area, be the best source of that information and you'll score more website visits without paying a dime.
Of course, they are also Googling with specific questions in mind. Focus on asking and answering those questions as a powerful way to get found (and read) more often. Once you've written some articles, use them as a basis for short videos on the same topics to boost your YouTube channel and create more ways for prospects to find you.
"Evergreen content" is also a powerful way to build up traffic without rewriting dozens of new posts every year. Use seasonal topics and events to refresh content throughout the year, like a detailed events calendar, or an infographic about your part of town and what makes it awesome.
2. Create Sharable Content
Let's run with that infographic idea for a moment. If you're acting as a booster for the neighborhood, your actual neighbors (and tenants) are likely to want to share your content through Facebook and Twitter. Give them something they enjoy and can be proud of like a fun infographic or cool-looking Instagram shots around the neighborhood. Chances are, you have at least one or two staff members who know their way around a slick Instagram filter. Show how much you appreciate and enjoy your community by highlighting it on your blog and social media.
3. Crowdsource with a Contest
Photo contests are a powerful way to encourage your audience to participate and, more importantly, to rope their friends and neighbors into participating, too. Services like WooBox make it easy to launch and share your own contest through Facebook and other social platforms. Setup and administration are all handled in a simple-to-follow, templated fashion.
Contests are a triple threat of marketing magic because they are inexpensive, naturally viral, and the content comes from the crowd! Less work and more reach? That's a winner.
4. Give Value In Real Life
Marketing "in real life" goes beyond writing about something to create content to actually doing it. If writing about a neighborhood cleanup project or school fundraiser is great, hosting one of those projects is even better. Look for community organizations in your area who would welcome extra help from a sponsor and encourage your employees and tenants to participate.
Yes, doing good in your community is its own end. It also doesn't hurt that the "halo effect" can boost your marketing efforts by aligning your apartment complex with a community event, gaining the exposure that comes with promoting the event (not your own complex).
5. Encourage Clicks with URLs or QR Codes on Every Sign You post
Web traffic often originates offline, like when a prospective renter (or her friend) is walking down the street past your sign. Chances are very high they are going to have smartphones on them and rather than call or stop into your leasing office, they'll look it up online.
QR codes are a cool and easy way to get more clicks to your listing landing page without making users type in a URL. They just snap and go.
Don't want to bother with a QR code? Try a URL shortener, instead.
Services like Bitly allow you to create custom URLs that are quicker to type and that are also trackable, which means you can stay on top of where your web traffic is coming from.
6. Optimize Your Listings for SEO
Title tags, keywords, meta description, unique content, page structure... oh my! If search engine optimization is a daunting prospect for you, don't worry, there are many in-depth, useful guides out there with accurate, actionable advice. There are also very good marketing firms that specialize in getting your pages better visibility in local search listings.
Search engine optimization is no longer the "dark art" of doing tricky things to get your website found by more users. The best methods are now well-documented and straightforward. The bottom line is if your site is structured properly and you're creating useful content on a regular basis (like new listings, resource pages, and blog posts), search engines like Google will serve up your site to more visitors, more often.
7. Solicit Customer Reviews
Prospects want to see the stars. Ask your tenants for feedback on a regular basis—quarterly is usually a good clip—so that new prospects can tell what real people think of your complex. No one expects to see a perfect rating, so don't fret a few downers. It's more important that you have stars and renter comments than none at all.
To get your star rating seen online, you'll need to set up a Google My Business listing for your apartment complex. Google My Business is also an important step in your local SEO strategy because it provides for more detailed listings of your apartment complex in search results. So even if you don't do it for the stars, do it for the SEO!
8. Create a Referral Network
It's kind of like advertising, but it's only paid when you lease an apartment, so the act of getting the word out is still close to free. Tell everyone at local businesses, as well as your own staff and tenants that you're offering a sweet referral fee/incentive and how to redeem it. You can consider open-ended deals, but it's usually better to run time-bound promos, like "this month only."
Email is still one of the best ways to share news with your audience and send more clicks to your site. Include one type of promo in your tenant email and another in your emails to local businesses. Many businesses will be happy to share the news of a special promotion with their customers in exchange for getting their promos in front of your tenants.
9. Be Active on Social — And Not Just a Little
Remember, the social media landscape is noisy and what was posted a few minutes ago is no longer in your audience's feed. In fact, posts on business pages are only seen by about 10% of the page's fanbase, so don't be shy about posting more often or paying a few dollars to "boost" your Facebook posts to reach more followers and their friends.
To help automate your activity, use tools like Buffer to publish an article a couple of times to Facebook and maybe several times a week to Twitter, for example. Single posts just aren't seen by enough people. To drive traffic through social, you have to stay active.
Another way to get past the noise is by using Nextdoor.com. This hyper-local social site is gaining traction across the country and is a useful way to create an online community for your tenants and to interact with your neighborhood at large. But be careful: Nextdoor is for acting neighborly, not like a business.
Get Started in a Way that Suits You
Whew! That was a lot of advice in a little space. We wouldn't blame you if it feels like too much to handle at once. The great thing about extending your marketing reach beyond advertising is that it isn't an all-or-nothing proposition.
Whatever you can start doing this week to deliver more value to your prospects, the better off you'll be. So choose one tactic that fits with the time, resources, and skill you have available and work on dialing in that one first.
As you see results and gain momentum, you'll gain the confidence to gradually add more tactics into the mix. Before long, you should find yourself attracting more tenants for less money. And that's a beautiful thing.