Marketing affordable housing can be a slippery slope, because it typically means dealing with a constrained budget.
Want to advertise a ritzy community in New York City? Odds are the owner/operator has the capital to do so. No such bottomless bankroll exists when marketing affordable communities, as a panel discussed during the 2015 Apartment Internet Marketing Conference session Workforce Case Studies: Marketing in Affordable Housing.
“Marketing used to be submitting to one magazine and one print publication,” said Carrie Briggs, senior director of marketing for FPI Management. “Now it’s websites, social media, call centers and a variety of other options. Although our budget is bigger than in the past, we still have to be cautious as to where we delegate our money.”
FPI oversees 80,000 units, split evenly between 50 percent conventional and 50 percent affordable. Although some concepts overlap, the marketing strategies have subtle differences. For instance, reputation management can be more paramount in affordable housing because it’s less likely that the property or brand stands for itself.
Those seeking affordable housing often peruse Craigslist, which Briggs indicated is FPI’s No. 1 unpaid listing source – this despite Craigslist’s recent effort to scale back professional-looking ads. The change hasn’t affected Craigslist’s traffic volume, Briggs noted, and encourages properties to continue to use it.
Mary Jo Goelzer, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Jamboree Housing, recommended taking advantage of as many free resources as possible, mentioning Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and others. Study the analytics of each site, she said, and find a way to link your newsletter to them.
“What I recommend to anyone advertising on social media is to hire the best photographer you can get,” Goelzer said “And get your photos in low and high resolution.”
Goelzer also recommended composing press releases differently for digital and print, to be diligent about adding keywords to digital editions.
In regards to reputation management, Briggs endorsed reaching out to a negative reviewer no matter how much time has passed. She relayed the story of a new owner/operator who read a review from two years prior in which a woman nine months pregnant had a mouse inside her apartment and was told that the property doesn’t handle such issues.
The new owner/operator called and apologized, even though he didn’t oversee the property at the time. Without prodding her to do so, the woman updated the negative review.
Sometimes marketing in affordable housing can be as simple as a phone call.