Marketing is one of today’s most dynamic industries, and the strategies we use to reach our target customers and gather key data are constantly evolving.
We talked with Ryan Perez about the evolution of digital marketing, social media, and how to stay up to date in such a fast-moving industry. As the Vice President of Marketing at CFLane, a full-service property management company, Ryan offers valuable insights drawn from her ten years of experience as a marketing professional.
What has changed the most since you started in marketing?
I began working in marketing about ten years ago, and the biggest change has been the onset of the digital revolution. In 2006, our customers received much of their information from print publications, and our marketing team was always preoccupied with submitting picture changes and pricing changes for magazines that went to press every four weeks. It was an entirely different world.
We don’t really dabble in any type of print now. Having a full digital strategy is more exciting, but it’s also more time-consuming and requires more education for you and your team. You have to stay on top of what’s happening, what’s new, and what technology fits your portfolio and benefits you.
When everyone started to use pricing optimizer tools, it was such a foreign concept. We had to educate the customer on the benefits of daily pricing changes, but now these tools are the norm. Some markets are using them as a part of their lease-up strategy. And marketing strategy is not the only thing that has changed—how customers shop has changed as well. So much is changing, and while sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to stay on top of what’s coming up, it’s more exciting than anything else.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in how people shop for an apartment?
Everyone is online now, and they are going to multiple outlets. Whether your target demographic is Generation X, millennials, or baby boomers, you can disregard their ages because we all live in this digital space. Marketers just have to embrace the fact that all our customers go to multiple websites to shop and get the best price.
Unless someone in the multifamily property world creates a Travelocity for apartment feeds, our customers will continue to go to multiple sites, banner ads, Google, Yelp, review sites, et cetera. They are going to do their homework and visit an average of four to six different websites, including listing sites, paid listings, social sites, and review sites. They’re searching for photos, location, and price, and after they’ve narrowed it down, then they will start submitting guest cards and sending inquiries.
If you have good exposure in the marketplace and your digital presence and strategy are strong, then you’ll be easy to find on all these different channels.
How has your plan for social media developed and changed over the years?
We have a very mixed property portfolio ranging from student housing and affordable, conventional properties to high-end properties, and each requires a different social media strategy. For student properties in particular, social media must happen at a very fast pace. Younger renters are still responding to Facebook, as well as Instagram, Twitter, and especially Snapchat. A great way to reach these younger renters is to employ social media specialists in that age range, who can really connect with them and make the interactions fun.
Ten years ago, we were still printing out community newsletters. I remember proofing one and struggling to decide whether we had the budget to print in glossy full-color. Back then, it was a big deal to deliver an actual paper to a resident’s door. Now there are probably five different ways to communicate with a resident outside of picking up the phone or sending a piece of paper. We can communicate online through our portal or text them if there’s an event or an outage. I think that makes marketing a really interesting place to be right now.
What do you do to keep up with the digital world?
I network a lot with folks that I really respect in our industry. LinkedIn is a really great resource for blog posts and forums that help keep you up to date. Conferences, local networking, travel, and just being visible in the local apartment associations are important. It’s always easier when you have strong partners like G5, and can pick up the phone and call someone to ask a quick question, especially as it relates to new tools in the marketplace. We actually just had an impromptu call with our Texas region regarding our data and Google Analytics, and why our keywords were ranking the way they were. The call ended up taking only ten minutes, but the information we received was exactly what we needed.
As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, it gives me confidence to know I have partnered with a company that keeps us ahead of the game. It’s just so easy, and I’m really excited to see what comes next; this is an exciting time to be a marketer in multifamily!