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 70 these days, and it's an effective tool for com- municating a brand, infusing it with personality and getting out strong messaging that converts leads. "We're seeing that when we create campaigns that show personality, they create impact," Matusek says. "They increase your renewals and they increase new leasing potentials. If we can just take that one step further and bring that forth onto what may have typically been a very business-like or bland website, then that's going to be a differentiator." Matusek points to Catalyst's Campus Advan- tage Cyber Monday campaign from 2015 in which students were invited to stay home, relax, de-stress and "save big" on leasing. "I love the use of video in this particular cam- paign," she says. "A strategic, targeted and per- sonal approach results in, well, results. This left the portfolio 40 percent ahead in renewed leases from the previous year and 76 percent ahead in new leases and significantly surpassed the goal of being 100 leases ahead." Matusek also says fly-through drone videos in particular are effective in documenting the full scope of a community as well as heavily attended key events on property. Such event- based drone videos can also be parlayed into social media ads, she says. In addition to video that showcases the per- sonality of a property, students are also increas- ingly using online chat, virtual tours and video conferencing or other modes of live commu- nication between lease candidates and on-site property staff. "We are always exploring new and innovative ways to connect with prospective residents and parents who are often international or out-of- town via WeChat, Skype and other social media communications," Pinder says. "At CA, we are focusing on reaching out- of-state and international students in personal ways. We are very passionate about developing a comprehensive program to accommodate our international students. I think you will see stu- dent-based programming experiences increase across the space." There are many examples of student-based programming. Those cited by student housing companies include community service initia- tives, fundraising events for local or national nonprofits, or even offering career-development resources right at the property. In September, Campus Advantage launched the Campus Advantage Career Success Portal, which provides residents with 24/7 access to tools such as instant job alerts and matches, online career management, resume develop- ment, social media development, company research, interview skills (including the ability to record a mock video interview), career assess- ments, document libraries, and online work- shops for career transition. Matusek says the Generation Z demographic today longs to belong to something greater, and it's important for marketing to display anything your company is doing to create those opportu- nities for students. "They want to see their student housing community giving back to the larger commu- nity," she says. "Even though students today are online and on mobile devices, which might make it appear they don't desire connection, that is not what research shows. It's important for properties to really start showcasing what they're all about and highlighting their residence life programming options and what it means for students." Drawing a Bull's Eye The medium is being personalized as much Online property reviews can be filed under headings like reputation management, but they are also leading the charge in market- ing departments. In fact, online reviews are beginning to spill into virtually all areas of operations. "As a company, online reviews are the thing we're focused on most," says Joe Goodwin, senior vice president, Asset Campus Hous- ing. "We used to be focused on PPC and SEO campaigns and making sure we were popping up in people's searches. That's not enough any more. Rankings are crucial." Most companies today are dedicating more of their budgets and staff to ratings. Catalyst, for example, staffs for a reputation manage- ment specialist position (a person whose sole job is to manage reviews), and similar titles and teams of staff who monitor and respond to reviews are being added or expanded through- out student housing. "No one has mastered reviews yet, but everyone in the industry knows the topic is huge, so we're all trying to figure out the best way to manage it," says Lindsay Brown, vice president of leasing for Campus Advantage. "I think Catalyst has hit on something by having someone dedicated in-house to just focus on reviews, which will alleviate some of the stress on regionals and managers. It is literally a full- time job." With its young, plugged-in audience, stu- dent housing is capturing the same savvy mar- ket of consumers who've spent their whole lives buying products and services online. "Platforms like Amazon and other sites where you make purchases are affecting how students shop for apartments," Goodwin says. "It's so important to invest in ways to effec- tively manage that review process." Many companies are investing in tools designed to stay in control of reviews. Approx- imately 50 student housing companies are cur- rently using J Turner's Ratings Tracker, which produces a property's Online Reputation Assessment (ORA). Each month, J Turner Research monitors online ratings and reviews of approximate- ly 67,000 multifamily properties nationwide, 1,100 of which are student housing properties. The firm, which released its ORA rank- ing of student housing properties earlier this year, reports that a slightly higher number of stu- dents (74 percent) are likely to post reviews online for an apartment com- munity compared to non-student residents of con- ventional multi- family housing (66 percent). The tool aggre- gates reviews across all review sites to result in a single score based on a scale of 0 to 100. Joseph Batdorf, president of J Turner Research, says this score is a bench- mark against which a company can compare and contrast individual properties and portfo- lios locally, regionally, nationally, and against competition. Batdorf adds that researching resident and prospect feedback is critical because it iden- tifies trends, areas of improvements, and it enhances resident satisfaction, increases clos- ing ratios and improves online reputation. "From a marketing perspective, it is impera- tive for a student housing company to view online ratings and reviews as an integral part of operations management," he says. "While monitoring online ratings and reviews, companies can identify areas for improvement, as well as trends at properties or with their staff that are impacting their online reputation. Many of our clients incentivize their operations team and property managers based on the resident satisfaction scores and online ratings and reviews." J Turner has produced several studies that report on these trends as well as on shift- ing demographics, industry best practices and new market opportunities. Student housing companies that use Ratings Tracker also use J Turner's student surveys in conjunction. "We deliver student insights for seven of the top ten student housing compa- nies," Batdorf says. "Our greatest strength is the ability to benchmark with the nation's top student housing providers." — Lynn Peisner Reviews As Marketing JOSEPH BATDORF President, J Turner Research

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