Student Housing Business

NOV-DEC 2017

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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LEASING & MARKETING November/December 2017 68 Balancing Art with Science Today, lease-ups depend on using every data tool in the toolbox to target the student audience, all while keeping campaigns authentic and lively. By Lynn Peisner I It's hard to measure happiness. But gauging whether your students like where they live — and fixing any reasons they may not — is an underlying theme in leasing and marketing strategies aimed at students and guarantors. There are many boxes to check to satisfy your current residents so that they renew or to entice potential residents to sign new leases: have a responsive website (virtual tours are all the rage), understand your market's overall supply, make online leasing fast and easy, and, most importantly, use technology and data to target your desired demographic. But as the tools for capturing a market become much more sophisticated and specific, some caution against considering them quick- fix cure-alls. "Marketing conversations continue to be more and more driven by the science of mar- keting," says Ryan Sundling, marketing man- ager for Cardinal Group Management. "Don't get me wrong, data is extremely important and will always have a heavy importance in mar- keting. However, sometimes we overly rely on data to make decisions and forget that we're marketing to humans, not robots." Today, owners are beholden to data, ana- lytics and technological tools, particularly as selling in general moves away from mass mar- keting and toward more individualized sales tactics. At the same time, many own- ers, managers and third-party firms are advocating for branding that is more human, authentic and intui- tive rather than one that's solely shaped by report results. "I see a lot of properties using a templated and bor- ing website, which is the front door to your property and community," says Jamie Matusek, president of Catalyst, a full-service marketing agency spe- cializing in student housing and multifamily marketing. "You see a lot of great photos of empty ame- nity spaces, and there really is no personality that would create a connection. Many of our clients say they have very specific goals in terms of occupancy and being able to raise rents each year. But what are you doing to truly differentiate yourself?" Some of the most successful marketing cam- paigns communicate an understanding of how a property is different or special compared to its competition and what type of community culture it can deliver. "I like to talk about assets as though they're people," says Del de Windt, CEO of Cardinal Group Management. "I think too many times people just look at them as brick and mortar. But the identity or the personality of the asset needs to be reflected in everything you do." What's Working on Your Website? Maintaining an effective website for a stu- dent housing property is a continually chang- ing demand, but as the virtual front door, it's a foundation for establishing an authentic iden- tity that will leave a lasting impression. Analytics are providing results regarding the website features that are most popular with students and guarantors who are shop- ping online. Many owners are therefore focus- ing their efforts and budget dollars toward shaping and mold- ing the most highly trafficked areas. "Watching trends on your website can really paint a pic- ture of your mar- ket and show you where the demand is," says Beth Pin- der, executive vice president of prop- erty management for CA Student Living. "For example, tracking floor-plan clicks can give insight into what the market is shopping for, and if clicks aren't turning into leases, these analytics provide an opportunity to adjust strategies as needed." Pinder says videos are among the top three pages visited across CA Student Living web- sites. Thus, the company is interested in grow- ing video marketing. "Currently we produce video ad campaigns that are used for social media, Google ads, ILSs (Internet Listing Services), YouTube, Google+, websites, blogs, etcetera, as well as videos we post on our social media pages to increase engagement on our platforms with our demographics." Video is definitely popular with students " I think too many times people just look at assets as brick and mortar. But the identity or the personality of the asset needs to be reflected in everything you do. — Del de Windt, CEO of Cardinal Group Management BETH PINDER EVP, Property Management, CA Student Living JAMIE MATUSEK President, Catalyst

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