Content Marketing is No Bull

Oh no…not another blog about content marketing

I recognize that we get tired of hearing about the same marketing topics.  However, it seems sometimes, in our industry, it feels like every marketing concept is only half attempted. We will try some new idea or concept, but usually with one foot out the door and with most of our old tactics still in place. I’m not advocating being reckless with our marketing dollars {and time}  or abandoning our marketing strategies completely. I am questioning if we can ever truly measure the effectiveness of any campaign if it’s only half an attempt…or if the onsite teams don’t even know it exists. With our last lease-up, 2M Street, we made a concerted effort to consistently create content for our blog, social media, and even press releases. Our goal was to determine whether or not content marketing was just another buzz word or if it could be a legitimate marketing tool and a major piece of our strategy. I am opening up my numbers both to your scrutiny and so we can learn from each other. 2M is a 314-unit high-rise built in one of the most competitive submarkets of DC, NoMa. When 2M opened for leasing it was one of 5 luxury apartment communities in lease up within a 4-block radius. 2M was the only building to not offer a concession.  For the duration of our lease up, at least two of our direct competitors were offering 2 months free!  Before I dive into our strategy, I will give you the results.  2M Street opened the doors to the leasing office on June 1st, 2014 and welcomed it’s first residents on August 1st, 2014.  Today we are 95% leased.  I broke down the numbers a couple of different ways. The first is what I consider to be most important-leases by lead source. The next is sources to the property website by medium.

Finally, I understand that the property website is considered by some to just be a collection point of leads, not a stand-alone advertising source. So below, I list out the top 25 converting referrals sources to the website according to Google analytics. Converting is the key word there. Like traffic in the office I really don’t consider it a great source if it isn’t converting. The sources are listed by number of leads produced.

You will note that there is an absence of traditional advertising sources listed. We did use a few ILS, and a plethora of affiliate listing sites. While they did produce some traffic, they did not break even the top 25 referring sources. They also resulted in zero directly attributed leases. Does that mean you should or shouldn’t use them? I can’t answer that for you. There is an argument from some marketing professionals that says to use the buckshot approach and be absolutely everywhere that your target customer could possibly be. I would argue that instead of advertising, we try to helpful to our customers. We become a trusted source early on in the buying cycle. We are there again as a venue, hosting a party they are invited to, and again as the flag football team they are playing against. We show up in their news feed because their favorite blogger is writing about us. When they finally get frustrated and vent on social media because they can’t find a place, we’re the one’s reaching out and offering to help. They already know us, they trust us, and they come to live with us. This approach is not passive. It’s intensively proactive. It’s deliberate. It works.

Being Useful

Coming up with content can be challenging if you are trying to come up with 101 ways to sell your apartment community. If instead, you start to approach content marketing as a way to answer questions and be a useful resource to apartment hunters and your target audience in general, all of a sudden content ideas are everywhere. One basic thing we did is created a list of questions for apartment hunters to ask while they were out on tour. {Later we created an actual checklist, but initially it was just a blog post.} This was a useful piece of information we could email anyone who contacted 2M. It was also something we could share with anyone we talked to on social media that was apartment hunting. No one minds helpful information. And now they were carrying around a piece of paper with our name on it.

Graph showing spikes in traffic from blogger mentions
Spikes in traffic from local blogger mentions.

Give trusted resources an opportunity to talk about you

We had learned the power of local blogs on a previous lease up. So when we learned that a local blogger was celebrating her blog’s anniversary. I offered 2M’s party room as a location for her party. I went a step further and put $1000 towards her food & wine budget. In return, 2M was mentioned multiple times in her blog leading up to the party, we had 250 potential renters come to our building, see the amenities in use and of course take pictures galore. We took additional photos and in a follow up email encouraged everyone to tag their friends in the photos on our FB page. (As did the blogger) You can see the spikes in traffic below from the couple of mentions from the blogger before the party, the day of, and the round-up post after. Another bump in traffic came from a post with just a casual mention of 2M. For anyone who has had interior renderings of their building done, you know that it is a process that requires several rounds of revisions. I got to know my digital artist really well. When she said she was going to do a promoted post in a local real estate blog, I told her to feel free to use our renderings. The day the story came out of course our traffic spiked and resulted in leads. What was interesting to learn is a year later, that story still resulted in monthly website traffic and conversions. This specific real estate blog is always going to have better SEO and more traffic than my property website…understanding this and harnessing their audience is what made 2M successful.

DO something worth talking about

LC communities habitat for humanities volunteers
LC Communities residents & employees coming together to work on a Habitat for Humanities house

We know that people trust people more than advertising. How do you get people to talk about your community? Simply put, you need to do something worth talking about. A perfect example is LC Communities in Columbus, OH. They recently participated in the build of a Habitat for Humanities house. It was cool enough that about 50 people from the corporate office pitched in. WAY cooler than that was the 170+ residents that gave their time and efforts to the project. An opportunity to volunteer, do some good, and socialize at the same time? Talk about creating a lifestyle and delivering exactly what the Millennials are craving, these guys knocked it out of the park!  I know they didn’t do this for the publicity, but allowing their residents to be involved in giving back in such a charitable way gave those residents something to talk about. Can you even imagine how many hardhat selfies were posted across Instagram? How many Facebook status updates about what they were doing with their Saturday got posted? It all ties back and this was a phenomenal example of earning the customer’s attention and doing something easy for people to talk about!

graph content marketing increase
Note the bump in traffic from the Huffington Post article.

2M identified our opportunities to do something different. An easy one was of course, @2mpup. While we knew she would be something to talk about, no one had any idea of the instant fame she would bring our community. Emmy hangs out in the leasing office during the day and goes home with the building manager at night. She demonstrated how pet friendly the building was. She also provided puppy therapy to those busy DC professionals that were too busy to own their own dog. She’s incredibly photogenic and personable so she was a total win. When word got out about Emmy, the tidal wave of press was unstoppable. The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and picked up her story. We had made it easy to share content about her by having an FAQ and Day in the life post on the blog. We also made sure her Instagram and Twitter were populated with the best photos. The result was an initial spike of traffic that you can see from the Google Analytics graph below.  It didn’t stop there.  Average traffic to the site elevated by about 20%. As we rolled out more initiatives, the daily visits continued to increase.  Referral traffic from all of the PR pieces continue to result in leads & leases even one year later.


Content marketing should have a place in your strategy and it doesn’t have to be on the back burner.  If you truly think you don’t have the time to create the content yourself, find a partner that lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes multifamily to assist you.  Whomever is tasked with the creation make sure they follow the five steps below and you are sure to see results!

  1. Provide useful information
  2. Give trusted resources an inside scoop to talk about you
  3. Do something worth your audience talking about.
  4. Make it easy to share info about what you’re doing.
  5. Earn your customer’s attention instead of buying it.

As always, Apartminty is here to serve you!  Have ideas for content, but need help with execution?  Give us a shout!  We are happy to help!

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