Your Unique Marketing Advantage: Part 4

Ideas To Get You Started

By John Hall - December 3, 2018

This is Part 4 of Your Unique Marketing Advantage. If you missed any of the first three parts, you can check them out here:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Hopefully, we have rekindled your interest in brainstorming, and working to find the amenity that makes your leasing shine.
Now, let’s take a look at where you can start to look for new ideas.

At Pynwheel, we work with so many innovative communities, and we see great ideas put into action all the time. So, if you are stuck, here are some areas that you can look at.
  • Shared spaces - Are there common areas at your community that are underutilized? Do your residents crave work areas? Social areas? Pet friendly areas? Example: Common work areas, with free wi-fi for residents, and a coffee bar.
  • Services - Incorporate outside services into your amenity offerings? Personal trainers? Massages? Pet care? How about a concierge service. Pro tip: There are companies like Amenify that can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, while still allowing you brand their offering as your own!
  • Pets - They figure in the two items above, but they merit their own consideration. There are so many different ways to meet the needs of pet-owners. Do you offer unique pet spaces? Pet services? Are you limiting your prospects with unnecessarily prohibitive deposits or policies? Go a different way: If your competitors are already pet-friendly, think about ways that you can help pet-owners and non-pet-owners alike. Designated pet areas let prospects know that their pets are welcome, but they also help keep other common areas attractive for those without pets.
  • Social Events / Groups - Are there groups of your residents that have common interests? Are there classes or gatherings - that your residents routinely leave your community to participate in - that could be brought to them instead? Does a group of your residents have common interests? Your residents are doing things like yoga, working with personal trainers, and even grabbing a cup of coffee on the way to work. There is no reason you can’t arrange to bring these activities to where they live.
  • Transportation - Do your residents have access to multiple modes? Is your community bike-friendly? Is it easy to use public transportation? Ride shares? Can you offer unique access to transportation information to make your residents’ lives easier? Have you checked out TransitScreen? They offer your residents easy access to a multitude of transportation options, and you can provide a link through your Pynwheel application!
  • Technology - Do you offer common areas with convenient technology? Interactive devices? High-speed internet? Are your apartments outfitted with smart technology? How about simple conveniences, like your own applications for rent payment and maintenance requests? Today’s apartment market is driven by technology. Items like app-based security, virtual assistants, or leasing touchscreens(!) stay in the mind of prospects long after they tour your community.
  • Neighborhood Partnerships - Do you work with local businesses to offer services that you do not have? Have you looked to local businesses to offer unique discounts to your residents to both your and their own benefit? Why not work with local restaurants to promote themselves at your community by providing treats to your residents? Smart businesses are happy to offer benefits to your residents. They love the extra business, and you can offer something tangible to prospects that costs you nothing. Win - win!
  • Customer Service - Are your current residents happy? Do you have service promises in place that you can keep, and promote? Improving resident satisfaction with outstanding service is the best thing you can do to maximize word-of-mouth marketing, and focus on the things that matter most to your prospects. Remember, resident feedback is invaluable, and actively encouraging it sends a message to prospects that you are committed to their satisfaction after they sign their lease.
  • Sustainability - Do you make recycling easy? Do you offer options (or incentives) for energy and water saving? Do you make it easy for residents to rely less on their cars? More and more, your prospects want to go green, and they will choose a home that makes it easy for them.

Are you getting any good ideas from reading this list? Is there anything we missed? We would love to hear from you!


Your Unique Marketing Advantage: Part 3

At Last, Ideas!

By John Hall - November 26, 2018

This is Part 3 of Your Unique Marketing Advantage -  where you get to generate ideas! If you are new to this blog, take a look at Part 1 and Part 2, which are about Information Gathering, a very important part of the process.

Ready to generate ideas for your next great amenity offering? Here is the best way to find them:


Don’t let that be a dirty word! You may have had experience with brainstorming sessions that are poorly run, but when well-executed, there is still no better tool for the creation of innovative ideas. There are so many articles out there about how to brainstorm effectively - and you should definitely read up before you start - but let’s talk about what your particular brainstorm session should encompass.

1) Collect your raw data
In other words, everyone makes lists. Lists of information gleaned from talking to prospective residents. Lists of any competitive data they can find. Lists of neighborhood information. Before the session starts, have every participant put all of their intel into lists, and then put that data on to a master list. Don’t assume that any of it is meaningless. You want all of it!

2) Categorize it
Look for common threads in the data, and put it into different categories. There are different ways to do this, but the classic method is called a SWOT analysis. What is SWOT?

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Identifying strengths and weaknesses in conjunction with opportunities and threats will give you a better handle on the best solutions. Here is a cool thing about SWOT analysis: most of the things that you discuss will fit into more than one category. This creates a discussion that inevitably brings you much closer to finding great new ideas.

3) Collect ideas
At this point, you will have identified a handful of areas that you can take advantage of, and it is time to generate ideas. Like you did with your raw data, you need to go back to collecting as many ideas as possible. When brainstorming fails, it is usually because people are afraid to throw things out there at this step. Hint: Start with your weaknesses, but keep the main focus on your strengths.

4- Narrow those down
Once you have a list of ideas, you can start to hone in on specific ones, and put people in charge of further research and implementation. Some ideas will be eliminated, but more will often end up being combined into better ideas - usually much better than what one person will have come up with on their own. And, when participants have truly participated in the process, they have a sense of ownership in carrying out the appropriate action.

So, to put it simply, make sure that you include your entire staff in all four of these steps: Collect (lots of) information - Narrow it down to categories - Collect (lots of) ideas - Narrow those down to working solutions.

Need more inspiration? Next week, we will talk about where some of the game-changing amenities that we have seen come from!

[Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]


Your Unique Marketing Advantage: Part 2

Asking the right questions

By John Hall - November 15, 2018

Our last entry was about market intelligence, and where you can find it.

Now, we will look at some of the questions that you should be asking.

When you gather information, remember that you have a goal in mind, so the information that you acquire should serve to help you with that goal. In this case, your goal is to identify strategies that will set you apart within your market. So, there are two basic questions you need to ask:

1- What is your market?
2- What is currently being offered to your market?

This is the information you need before you can ask the most important question, which is: What can you offer that will give you an advantage in your market?

Here is the thing: You sort of need to avoid asking that question at this stage. You need to tailor your questions to learning about possible differentiators, but you need to do so without specific differentiators in mind.

Let’s simplify that:

As much as possible, you want to be neutral with your solutions, so that you don’t just automatically turn what you find into support for your idea.

Whoa! What??!! Let’s simplify that one more time:

Don’t put the cart before the horse!

Is that simple enough?

Your goal is to gather data, but you don't want to attach too much meaning to that data. Not yet. 

Let’s take a look at some of the information you should be trying to acquire:

-Are there newer communities than yours?
-What are their amenities?
-What are their rents?
-What are they advertising?
-Where are they advertising?
-What is the quality of their advertising? (Web design, photography, etc.)
-What is their social media presence?
-Which ones are you competing directly against? (Similar rent land amenity offerings. Hint: your applicants will typically also look at your most direct competitors. Non-direct competitors will compete at much different reant levels than yours.)

-What are they looking for?
-Do they have pets?
-Where do they work?
-How do they get there?
-Do they have cars?

-Where are people eating? Going out? Hanging out?
-Are there attractions (such as parks and pedestrian areas) near you?
-What are your neighborhood demographics? (Pro tip: In most cities, there are neighborhood organizations. Not only are these a good source of data, but they can also be an ally to you if you show a willingness to help out.)
-Are there changes on the horizon? (Employers moving in? Attractions being built?)

That’s a lot, and this list is just to get you started. The good thing is that this information is always available to you. You just need to be in the habit of seeking it out.

In other words, interactions with any applicant should be approached as an opportunity for you to collect information. Your interactions with your own neighborhood should include observation as to what is going on out there. Looking at what your competitors are doing should be a regular part of your routine. If you approach your days that way, you will soon have a plethora of useful information at your disposal.

And then, you will be able to start using that information!

Next, we will look at how to apply information to create your own unique marketing advantage! 

More Multifamily Insights:


Your Unique Marketing Advantage: Part 1

How To Start

By John Hall - November 6, 2018

There is nothing like marketing a new apartment community. Everything is shiny and clean, amenities abound, and the competition can’t hold a candle to the excitement created by that “new car smell”! (Actually, that new car smell is something that automakers are trying to eliminate, but let’s not ruin a good metaphor.)

If that is where you are, congratulations!

This post is for everyone else.

What do you do when the novelty of a brand new property wears off? How do you respond when newer communities are beating you with all of their shiny, new toys?

You get some new toys of your own! In this case, those toys are called “unique marketing advantages”, and they are they key to your success in your changing marketplace. All you have to do is figure out what they are.

And here is how you do that:

STEP 1 - Market Research

When a new community is developed, there is a ton of market research done. Developers do not like like to sink millions into a project when they don’t everything that is going to influence their ability to make money.

The problem is this: Things change.
New competitors. Changing local economies. Changes in renter demographics. 

Market research is what you do to to figure out what has changed. Simply put, you cannot make smart decisions about marketing your community if you do not know what is going on outside of it.

So where do you go to gather that information?

From the beginning: Look at the marketing plan you are operating under now. Whatever your mix is, it is likely based upon extensive market research. What did your market look like when those decisions were made? What about your community is most emphasized in your messaging, and why? You can’t think about what to change if you are not fully aware of where you are starting.

Check out your competitors. You should be looking at your competitors’ online presence regularly. Read their reviews. Monitor their websites. Their guide listings.

Talk to your applicants. They are conducting market research in real time. Ask them to share what they have found. Ask new residents why they chose your community, what they felt they had to sacrifice, and what appealed to them about other communities. If possible, reach out to people that didn’t choose your community, and ask them the same questions. Then, thank them for considering you. Do not use this as an opportunity to market negatively. You never know who is going to be looking again in a few months time, of what they are telling friends who are looking at a move.

Know your neighborhood. Are there new large employers around? Where do people go in your neighborhood? Read up on city guides to know what is being said about the area where you live. At the very least, you need to know the full range of entertainment, dining, and service options that are available to your residents.

Stay on top of the industry. Somewhere, some community has a great idea that would be perfect for you. You need to stay on top of industry publications, like Units and Multi-housing News. Your local apartment association offers you the opportunity to work with other apartment professionals, as well as a wide range of vendors.

Those are some places for you to start. Are we missing anything? 


Title Photo by David Jiang on Unsplash

How Hiking Got Me Thinking About Leasing

Part Two: Apartments and UX

By John Hall - October 30, 2018

I bought a bunch of hiking socks. There were multiple businesses that would have been happy to sell them to me, but my decision was determined as much by my online user experience as it was by the socks I wanted.

Your prospective residents are like I was. They are motivated, have a budget, and they want to focus their energy on the features of your community that are important to them.

Let’s take a look at the problems that often frustrate motivated online searchers, whether the search be for socks or for a new home.
  • Searches are too broad
  • Searches are too narrow
  • Not enough detail
  • Poor visuals
  • Inadequate saving capability

So, what features would you expect to see with good multifamily UX?

1) Useful search parameters
Prospects don’t all want the same thing, so they need to be able to meaningfully narrow their searches, both in terms of parameters and scope. 

2) Breadth of information
Your prospects are not one-size-fits-all. Your most saleable features should stand out, but make sure that all of your features can be found by those who are interested. Good UX creates a structure where a user is not overwhelmed with information, but has the ability to access certain items with very few actions.

3) Sleek design
Too many apartment applications are unnecessarily cluttered, and complicated to navigate. Simple, intuitive navigation is essential to a positive user experience. 

4) Quality visuals
Visuals - photographs, video, maps, and diagrams - are vastly superior to text, especially with online or touchscreen displays. An overreliance on text, or an application that looks unattractive or out of date, will sink your leasing efforts.

5) Portability
If a prospect finds something they like, make it simple for them to save and share. Good design allows users to design their own takeaways, and save them on their own devices.

Good UX showcases the best features of your community, and makes it easy for your prospects to find the information they value. But it does even more than that. There is a sales element to good UX design that is not as explicit, but is still very important. Think of your online leasing applications like you do your leasing center. You want your leasing center to be beautiful and inviting, while being functional and useful to your prospects and residents. While your residents will not be living in your office, how you treat it sends a message about the quality of your entire community.

Likewise, well-designed user interfaces communicate that you are dedicated to providing a good experience - to prospects and residents alike.

Is UX helping or hindering your leasing efforts? Do your prospective residents have their own sock stories to tell?

Title photo by nic on Unsplash