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There are more than 16 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges today. That’s a lot of students who are just now getting out on their own, and a great deal of opportunity for student housing providers.
But to get in front of this many students requires a tuned-in student housing marketing strategy.
So get studying — here are 10 student housing marketing tactics to generation new leads and keep student residents happy.
| Related: 19 Multifamily Marketing Ideas for 2019
We all know that lead generation is crucial to any student housing marketing campaign. The good news is that student housing occupancy rates aren’t hurting too badly right now - rates were 93.9% in August 2018. That’s all thanks to climbing enrollment rates and more student living apartments in close proximity to campuses.
Take a look at lease velocity from 2017 to 2018.
While it appears student housing lease velocity is reaching a peak, student housing providers feel the industry has much more room to grow.
As the industry expands, many students are still choosing non-student housing options. This could explain the peak and make marketing to student housing renters challenging in years to come.
To stay relevant in student housing and increase customer acquisition, marketers have to stay ahead of the curve.
Here are some key lead gen initiatives to get in front of student renters today.
Yes, we’re talking chatbots. They can be great lead capture tools on your website. If a prospect lands on your website after hours or while an agent is out giving a tour, a chatbot can answer generic questions or set up a meeting right there.
This saves your leasing agent some time, and ensure you’re not missing out on those valuable leads that land on your site while a human is away.
One thing is certain about today’s student renters: they’re most active at night. And when are your leasing offices open? We could put money on a solid 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Catching those internet leads that come in after hours can be tricky though. Chatbots help, and so do call centers - but what if you could offer a 24/7 tour of your student housing complex?
Video content marketing tools such as a 360 walk-through or virtual video of your student living apartments gives leads the opportunity to view your entire complex online. This further qualifies the lead, keeps prospects engaged longer on your website, and gives you a competitive edge against surrounding student apartments.
Check out these case studies to see how virtual tours have made an impact on apartment lead generation.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Today’s student renters want amenities. They want to know exactly what they’re getting for that monthly rent payment - so push a lifestyle rather than just a place to live.
It’s how you sell that lifestyle that will make the biggest impact, however. Whether it’s a 360 virtual tour, enhanced floor plans or a photo gallery specifically highlighting your community features, it’s all how you show off your amenities.
You can also learn a lot about which amenities are most important to prospects. Virtual tour analytics will give you a closer look into what viewers are engaging with the most. As a result, you get a better idea of what your audience cares about and which amenities to push in your next marketing campaign.
But most importantly: don’t just list amenities on your website. Designate a specific section of your website strictly to amenities. Show off your club house, fitness center, pool and fire pits. Highlight your morning coffee station or include user-generated photos of a recent resident event. One simple hack we’ve seen done well is to add an Instagram widget to the gallery section of your website.
To be best in class, you have to keep testing. And to do that, you need to continually analyze what renters’ needs are. Student housing has one of the most dynamic target audiences. As we saw with the shift from Millennials to Generation Z, the change has been pretty drastic. The needs of students changes year-to-year and your marketing approach must tune in to these swift transitions.
That means testing out newer approaches like student housing virtual tours, 3D walk-throughs for developments and testing out unique advertising opportunities. These kinds of new technologies can also tell you a lot about your community and help cater your message more directly.
We can’t talk about marketing in student housing without the use of social media. The average college student is between 18 and 23 years old, which means that age group has just fallen into the top range of Generation Z.
If you think Gen Z social media use is right up there with Millennials - think again.
Unlike Millennials, Generation Z has never known a world without social media. Nearly half of Generation Z checks their social media profiles on an hourly basis. What’s more, most of the generation admits they can’t live without YouTube.
Which brings us to some of our top student housing marketing tactics as it pertains to social media use. Here’s how your student living apartment can dominate the social scene:
Gen Z is most receptive to video (as you probably already know). That's why it's crucial to make the top video platforms your main sources of social content. That means YouTube and IGTV.
Sure, video can cost more and require more time, but the return is well worth it.
Remember to keep your social videos quick and engaging. Get straight to the point and don’t let videos stretch longer than two minutes. The average attention span for Gen Z is eight seconds (compared to twelve seconds for Millennials), so you have very little room to catch their interest.
And don’t forget that once you’ve posted content to YouTube, you can share it across Facebook and email, too.
Consider creating resident testimonials, 360 virtual tours like this one here, or capture fun video from resident events. The possibilities are endless - it just takes some creativity and unique perspective to create engaging content that will help your prospects see what a great community they’re missing.
Pinterest is a great tool for first-year renters just discovering your community. The organization of Pinterest lets you easily display amenity options, mood boards for room inspiration, and trends that pertain to your prospects.
Additionally, Pinterest is actually a wonderful social listening tool for student renters. It’s not a typical tool used for that purpose, but that’s what makes it such a competitive barrier. It can help you find what your audience is talking about, what their passions are, and what sparks their inspiration. Utilizing that knowledge, you can cater your marketing strategies more specifically to your ideal audience.
Last (but certainly not least), Instagram needs to be your top social marketing channel. Student housing complexes that invest time and resources into displaying content on Instagram see higher returns than more traditional platforms like Facebook. And it’s not hard to see why - Gen Z prefers Instagram the most when hearing from brands.
It’s how you use Instagram that will be key.
Take MSULiveOn for example. They are Michigan State University’s student housing Instagram page, and they definitely know how to rock it.
They’ve got a great mix of content, photos that pertain to the season and what’s going on around campus, and plenty (and we mean plenty) of resident portraits. What they share the most tends to be resident quotes and amenity features. Plus, they post nearly every day.
Follow those guidelines and you’ll be rocking your student housing Instagram just like MSU.
Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition. But as we all know, student housing has one of the highest turnovers. It simply comes with the territory, but there are ways to keep students on the lease for much longer than twelve months.
Utilizing your amenities while you have your renters will strengthen retention. Here are just some quick wins that will keep residents engaged:
Let’s face it: today’s student renters get bored easily. It’s important to rotate your resident events and what your community offers to keep things interesting.
Property managers can have a difficult time letting go of original apartment states, but we’re not talking about making drastic changes.
Small changes to club houses or lobby furniture can liven up the space and keep residents happy. After all, club house furniture gets worn over time, and sometimes it takes a little sprucing up to make a big difference.
Here are just some other quick renovation ideas you can consider for your student living apartment:
Sure, this is just regular upkeep, but it’s necessary to keep residents happy.
You may also consider allowing residents to make minor adjustments to their own apartment units. Far too often, student living apartments don’t let allow nails in walls or allow painting. But small changes like this gives your residents creative freedom.
Think about it: they’ve been living with mom and dad for 18 years. They’re ready for a place to make their own, and a place they can feel confident and comfortable in during their time at school. Allowing minor decor adjustments to model units can make a world of a difference for student renters.
It’s easy to let student residents just become student residents. After all, the turnover is high and many students aren’t quick to get to know their property managers.
But you can change that narrative.
From the time you greet them for an on-site tour to the time you hand them the keys, you have to be building that relationship with the resident. Once they’re moved in, encourage them to join your resident events. Or send personalized thank you notes to residents that have just moved in, introducing yourself and letting them know a little about you.
If tenants are late on rental payments, form a policy that creates a polite and reasonable conversation between property managers and the resident.
Finally, set up group social accounts (Facebook for instance) for all of your student residents to engage with one another and your on-site managers. They can ask questions, find dog-sitters and discuss what’s going on in the neighborhood. Or, they can find study partners and even find a friend to go to the next cooking class in your club house.
Relationship building is the key to keeping residents. It’s inexpensive and it’s genuine.
Marketing to student housing renters is no easy feat. It requires creative ideas, knowing your prospects’ needs, and frequent testing.
So here’s your homework: dig deep to find opportunities you’re still missing. Ask yourself where your audience is most active. What are your competitors doing now that seems to be working, but you have yet to test?
Fine tune your student housing marketing to create best-in-class strategies that really pull in your audience.
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