Multifamily Outlook and Marketing: COVID-19 Update
With COVID-19 at the forefront of every multifamily owner’s and operator’s mind, it is essential to monitor the rapidly changing economic conditions and understand the role marketing plays in helping you overcome the challenges ahead. G5’s latest Multifamily State of the Industry Report dives into the challenges facing the industry and how digital marketing can provide actionable solutions to help businesses thrive.
Economic & Market Impact
As the number of COVID-19 cases rises, so do fears of a global economic recession. On March 20, Goldman Sachs forecasted the United States GDP to fall 6% in the first quarter of 2020 and then contract a staggering 24% in the second. Although the demand slowdown will have the greatest impact on the restaurant, entertainment, and travel industries, the trickle-down effect will also be heavily felt in the housing sector. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warns U.S. unemployment could reach as high as 20% – leaving 32 million Americans out of work, many of whom will have difficulties paying their rent.
On March 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer multifamily property owners mortgage forbearance with the condition that they suspend all evictions for renters unable to pay rent due to the impact of coronavirus.
“Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building, due to the coronavirus,” FHFA director Mark Calabria said in a statement. “The multifamily forbearance and eviction suspension offered by the Enterprises should bring peace of mind to millions of families during this uncertain and difficult time.”
While this provides a measure of financial security, it does not address another major concern impacting the industry: recruiting. Short-staffed properties will continue to struggle to fill open positions as current employees stop showing up to work. Many new hires are also being delayed due to hesitation in the labor market, which is pushing existing staff to operate in increasingly challenging environments.
While the full extent of COVID-19’s impact is yet to be known, many economists are predicting a financial fallout that will surpass the Great Recession. There is good news though. Today’s economy is much more robust than the one that preceded the Great Recession and is likely to rebound at a much quicker rate.
The duration and severity of the impending recession depend on the containment of the virus and the government’s ability to respond with appropriate protective measures.
Marketing Tactics to Implement Now
Social distancing measures, stay-at-home orders, and fear of infection are keeping many Americans at home. Even if your office hours remain unchanged, prospects may wish to interact with your staff virtually. New technology gives prospects a simple way to interact with your staff and learn more about your property, from the comfort of their home (or at a safe distance).
- Chatbots provide renters with an alternative way to communicate with your property, especially when your on-site staff is limited. Now more than ever, your sales team needs help keeping up with the high quantity of incoming inquiries. G5 Bot can answer frequently asked leasing questions, even when your offices are closed. And, now your prospects can experience your property through virtual tours embedded directly in the G5 Bot experience.
- Virtual tours offer prospective renters a way to view and experience your property, while offering them peace-of-mind. Staff can Skype or FaceTime their virtual tour, allowing renters to interact and ask questions as they arise.
- Interactive floor plans and property tours give your prospects a 360-degree view of your property.
Tips for Marketing During a Crisis
According to Forbes, businesses that keep their marketing machines humming and healthy during a crisis or recession typically come out on top. Now is the time to shift priorities to help your properties pull through these tough times. Here are our tips for marketing during a crisis.
- Take care of your current customers. Communicate any policy changes or updates quickly. Ensure that your staff is equipped to provide empathy and answers when questions arise. Industry associations, like NAA and NMHC, have provided a number of resources to assist communities.
- Use your marketing channels to stay in touch with your customers and the community. Your renters, prospects, and the wider community will need the latest information about your property hours, policy changes, or other news. In addition to your website and social media channels, use your GMB page to communicate information quickly. Use Posts and Q&A to provide up-to-the-minute info.
- Don’t arbitrarily slash your marketing budget. Completely cutting off advertising and marketing will result in an empty lead flow after things settle down. Instead, find opportunities in your budget to make wise decisions.
- Evaluate your marketing data now. Now is the time to re-evaluate your marketing goals for the rest of the year, knowing that you might have some ground to make up later. Look at website traffic, search terms, and ad performance to understand what’s driving prospects to your property now.
- Re-think your message and timing. The fact is that many people are trying to figure out how to survive in the short-term and plan for their welfare in the long-term. What can you offer now that will ease their minds and provide a solution to their problems now?
- Learn how to market with a reduced workforce. Leverage technology to lighten your load and be more efficient. Automating workflows can reduce paperwork and manual tasks, freeing up staff to focus on more strategic activities for your community or property.
Remember that marketing can work to your advantage, especially during and after a crisis. You may need to adjust your plans now, but maintaining a steady presence will ensure long-term results.
For more resources:
- Download our 1H 2020 Multifamily State of the Industry Report
- Read our blog, Marketing During A Crisis
- Download our checklist, Digital Marketing Best Practices During A Crisis
- Watch our video, G5 Bot: Virtual tours