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Multifamily Marketing Companies Struggle to Stay Relevant

Multifamily Marketing Companies Struggle to Stay Relevant

Change is coming to multifamily marketingWith the current spate of multifamily apartment projects either making their way through the permitting stage or set to break ground, the area’s leading multifamily marketing companies are trying to switch gears.  For years, these companies have focused on condominium marketing and sales, but with the condominium market currently floundering compared to the halcyon days before 2008, it’s a mad dash to learn how to market and lease the many large apartment complexes about to hit the streets over the next few years.

What is the challenge?  For starters, most apartment developers have traditionally relied upon property management companies to do the lease-ups, often for uber-competitive rates in order to land and benefit from the long-term cash flow that characterizes property management.  This is still more the rule than the exception and only a change in the demand/supply for apartments is likely to change this long-standing methodology for lease-ups.

Well, we’re about to see this kind of change…

While many developers don’t necessarily foresee a “glut” of apartments in the near term, there are many developers, contractors, architects, etc., wondering if these rental units may come to market in the midst of an extremely competitive rental environment.  Worse, some observers wonder if these apartments may be coming on line at the beginning of a reviving condominium market that will cause a quick reversal of the move from condominiums to rentals that has occurred over the past few years.  Either way, the need to differentiate one apartment complex from another is about to become more important than ever, especially since most of the apartment developments that we’re about to see are large (i.e. hundreds of units) and, in many cases, aimed at the high-end of the rental market due to some spectacular locations and the corresponding cost of land.

In order to capitalize on this coming plethora of apartments, almost all of the usual suspects in Boston’s world of multi-family marketing, from TCC to Primetime, are approaching apartment developers and trying to convince them that there is a need for the type of marketing that had typified condominiums before the economic downturn.  Traditional tools such as sophisticated branding, glossy brochures, sophisticated websites, and large display ads are being presented as the coming requirements of a well-marketed apartment development that will need to differentiate itself from the competition.  And, more and more, apartment developers are starting to listen to the message and, where once these services were deemed un-necessary for a rental project, there are some early indications that the idea of sophisticated marketing for apartments is starting to take root.

One of the interesting aspects of this transition from marketing condominiums to marketing apartments is that it comes at a time when the whole world of real estate marketing, especially residential real estate marketing, is undergoing the greatest change since the advent of advertising as the primary tool for marketing real estate.  Within just a short period of time, web-based marketing has almost completely replaced print advertising (check out the once-proud and once often-used Sunday Globe Real Estate section).  An entirely new lexicon has developed around this new form of attracting an appropriate target market.  Any multi-family marketing firm that isn’t familiar with the difference between In-bound and Out-bound Marketing, the meaning of terms such as “Landing Pages” and the use of behaviorally segmented prospect funnels, to name but a few, will quickly find itself playing “catch-up” in a virtual world that isn’t waiting for it to adapt.

The result will be a long learning curve for both apartment developers and the marketing companies that are trying to convince them that their services are needed or even relevant despite the coming abundance of apartment availability, especially in the Boston area.  Is there a way to breach this gap?

At IGNITION Residential, we believe that there is, indeed, a way to combine the best of product differentiation with the most sophisticated tools for web-based marketing that exist in the residential marketplace.  The former is the result of over three decades of distinguishing a particular multifamily development from the competition in a way that sets the tone for an entirely new marketing concept: Project Branding.  From positioning a former Smallpox Hospital (The Grand in Brookline) or a former prison (Stoneleigh in Dedham) from a place with an onerous history to a great place to call home, we know how to make an apartment development stand out from the competition and become the choice of a discriminating renter — even in a crowed marketplace.

Web-based marketing, the other half of the equation, is one of our core competencies with one of our principals, Michael DiMella, credited with pioneering the use of the Internet to identify, nurture, and convert prospects into renters.  Equally important, and one of the most underused tools in multifamily marketing, Mike has also pioneered the use of marketing metrics to analyze everything from “what’s working and what’s not,” to where the project marketing should be focused to best reach and qualify the intended target market.  All of this is set within an overlay of several decades of experience on the parts of both Mr. DiMella and PT Vineburgh (another principal of IGNITION Residential), in renting all types of rental units, from “one-offs” to multi-family offerings.

If you’re interested in learning more about what we can do to assist a developer of multifamily apartment developments, we invite you to CONTACT US.   We think that you’ll see that, in a small sea of multifamily marketers and a large sea of apartment developments, IGNITION Residential is a leader in ensuring the best results in the shortest amount of time from the most economical methods.

photo courtesy flickr


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About Merrill Diamond

Merrill H. Diamond is a trained architect and a founding principal of IGNITION Residential, an interdisciplinary multi-family marketing firm. He is also a founding partner of Diamond/Sinacori, a Boston-based real estate development company founded in 1978. Mr. Diamond has been the recipient of numerous local and national awards for both development and marketing. He has served as both a gubernatorial appointee to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and to the Senate Special Commission on Historic Preservation. In addition, Mr. Diamond has been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Arthur Young / “Venture Magazine;” “Merchant Builder of the Year” by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), and one of “America’s Most Valuable People” by “USA Today".

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