The Fall Part 2

Joshua Swanson

IT’S NOT OUR FAULT

Look, we get it. Leasing apartments or selling condos and houses during the fall is THE WORST! Traffic dries up and it’s nobody’s fault but the time of year. Our blog from last year proves that search traffic drops through the 🚽 toilet in September and October. Given our close partnership with Google, they were able to provide us with some staggering numbers.

Apartment-Related Google Searches, by Month copyright

  • Apartment search traffic peaks June – July
  • August is off 4.8% compared to July
  • September is off 13% compared to July
  • October is off 16% compared to July

Then, to make matters worse, the CPC of apartment related searches goes up, peaking in October. That dastardly supply and demand curve is at it again.

Google Apartment Ad Cost-Per-Click, by Month copyright

So, in preparation for “The Fall,” we have some ideas to help ease your pain and increase your gains.

THE EXPENSIVE ROUTE – SPEND MORE MONEY

Now, try and tell a developer in the midst of a lease-up NOT to spend money on marketing because it’s September and said developer will probably throw something at you. Hopefully, you’ve got your 👷🏻‍♀️hard hat on. That means for some of our clients that spending more is the only option if they want to compete for whatever lease activity there is in their market during September and October.

Therefore, accurate expectations need to be set. Due to the dramatic drop in search inventory during The Fall, marketing apartments on digital platforms will be an average of 15%-20% more expensive. In some markets, the cost will be double. If this is factored into your marketing budget ahead of time, then the shock of The Fall won’t be as dramatic. If it wasn’t factored in and you really need that leasing engine to continue to chug along, then get out your checkbook or draw double the marketing spend on those construction loans that you did in August.

THE EXPENSIVE ROUTE – ADD MORE CHANNELS (OH YEAH, AND SPEND MORE MONEY)

Other strategies that GTMA suggests if the expensive route is your only option and you do increase your budget is to spread that increase out on new and different platforms. Your GTMA packages give you the ability to ramp up and down services during the term of your agreement. Going up means you’ll have access to more advertising channels and more monthly social posts.

One specific channel that we would recommend right now would be Yelp. We’re believers in Yelp CPC due to the data showing us how Yelp continues to reign supreme as the top referral of high-quality traffic to apartment and real estate related websites. Working with GTMA gives you access to advanced Yelp advertising that most other agencies don’t have access to. We have a blog all about the latest features we’re piloting with Yelp here and read about our initial engagement with Yelp here.

We also have been seeing some cool results in the brand awareness category as we’ve expanded our relationship with Waze. GTMA has been a Waze Preferred Partner since 2018 and we’re seeing high impressions for low costs, affordable minimum rates of just $60/month, and great exposure in highly-saturated markets. Waze is heavily geared towards brand awareness objectives, but the ads still see good metrics in navigations to the property and ad unit clicks.

THE EXPENSIVE ROUTE – FRESH CREATIVE CONTENT

We are believers in higher quality ad content as we see a correlation between good content and better results. Basically, the money you spend on fresh visual production like some cinemagraphs, new micro-moments for your social ads, video content, and fresh photos you’ll see back in your pocket as this new content nets better results.

So, our recommendation is to take some of your fall ad spend and instead invest that money into some new creative content so that when leasing picks up again in the spring your ads will outperform your competitors.

PIVOT YOUR STRATEGY – AIN’T GOT NO MO’ MONEY

Can’t spend your way out of this problem because your budgets are set? We get it. So here are a few pivots you can apply to your strategy in order to give yourself the best chance of filling those vacancies during the fall.

BUCKET BUDGETS

If your budgets are fixed, GTMA offers the opportunity to allow clients to “bucket” their budgets for the remainder of the year. What we mean is take Q4 ad dollars, throw them in a bucket (figuratively speaking) and then allow GTMA to ramp up your spend in September and October and slow it way down in November and December. December is pretty much a wash no matter where in the country your community is, but November can give you an organic uptick in traffic before the end of the year, so take some of that money and spend it where you’ll need it in September and October.

REBUILD & RETOOL

Given that the fall is just slow in general, why not focus on retooling in preparation for the spring? If your occupancy is at acceptable levels and we know the cost to advertise in the fall, as we’ve already stated, is a lot more, then why not spend that money in an area where you’ll see a higher return?  Again, as we’ve identified above, fresh creative content pays for itself so why not start there?

In addition, have you thought about your signage, collateral, and floor plan designs? Could they use a new more modern look? How about your SEO situation…need a free SEO appraisal? Email Partnerships about that, but remember that good SEO pays dividends for years to come and if you do some great SEO work in the fall, you’ll start to see the benefits from increased organic search in the spring!

LAST YEARS LEADS + LEASING INCENTIVES THAT REALLY ROCK

There’s no way around it. You’re going to need to offer leasing incentives. Now, have you thought about offering shorter leases (10 months) so that renters renew in July instead of September? Or longer leases at a discount to push those September renewals into January (15 months)?

What about last year’s leads!? Those renters that rented from the community across the street, but took a tour towards the end of August or in September? Their lease is up at that other place, so time for you to convince them they made a mistake by choosing that other community over you.

PRO TIP – send that prospect email list to your GTMA Team so we can retarget them on Facebook, Instagram, and Google! We’ll remind them how awesome you are and how 12 months ago they made a horrible mistake by going with that other community.

FOCUS ON RETENTION – EVENTS + RESIDENT REFERRALS

During those slow months, it never hurts to focus on retention. A good monthly event is oftentimes enough to convince a resident that it’s worth the extra $50-a-month to stay at your community instead of move to that cheaper apartment across the street. After all, you have Wine Down Wednesdays! They drink their $50 in additional rent in wine each week!

Also, don’t forget that your residents have friends! Well, most of them do. So, the fall is the perfect time to increase your resident referral bonus program just to try and turn your residents into your salespeople.

PRO TIP – send your resident email list to GTMA so we can create a “special audience” on the Facebook Ad Platform and target your potential resident’s that are similar to your current residents on Facebook, Facebook Canvas, Instagram, and Instagram stories!

Also, have you and your onsite teams made any new friends with any cool new local businesses? The fall is a great time to co-sponsor a resident event with a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar since the fall is a slow season for them too!

BOOSTING BUDGETS AND REVIEWS

Another great strategy is to pivot some of your spend into boosting budgets on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in organic traffic as a result of boosting budgets being instigated on some of our accounts that have a healthy social advertising budget.

Lastly, reviews still matter… a lot. Look through all of those great reviews you received during those fun summer months and turn some of those reviews into social posts that you boost as ads! Bragging on yourself in a professional way is now an acceptable marketing practice…so say we at GTMA.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Fall can be tough, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any additional strategies you can implement to stave off that drop in traffic. Look at spending more money during the slow months. Ask your GTMA Digital Marketing Manager about some of our other strategy recommendations that include savvy techniques like bucket budgets, adding additional ad networks like Yelp or Waze, and shooting some fresh content that will separate your ad strategy from the pack going into the busy leasing season starting in January.

Joshua Swanson

First Agency in Real Estate Marketing to Pilot Innovative CPC Program

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