When most people think about the residential rental market, online marketing is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. That was certainly my thought when I was invited to speak at last year’s Apartment Internet Marketing conference in Huntington Beach. I quickly learned just how valuable online marketing is for this industry and how technology can help deliver exceptional results.
When I think of apartments I think of small buildings and couldn’t imagine how online marketing might help. Of course when I learned people attending AIM were responsible for thousands – and even tens of thousands of units – it began to make more sense.
If a property has just been renovated with all the latest amenities it makes sense to let renters in the area know what they’re missing. This requires some very careful consideration if you want to make the most of every online impression. A management company might also want to build a resident base of mid-career professionals, or may realize that rents will limit the pool of applicants, or want to attract recent college grads. In each case, great targeting is crucial.
When people think of targeting – especially when there’s a geographic element to consider – ZIP Codes quickly come to mind. ZIP Codes, though, are a blunt instrument given they typically reach 2,500 to 5,000 households. While it may be true that those households include prospective tenants, it is equally true that more non-tenants are included as well.
And just try reaching those households using an online campaign. In most cases the process is cumbersome, costly and not terribly effective.
All of these ideas were rattling around in my head as I thought about digital marketing for apartments. The other thing that came to mind was a technology I’d recently started experimenting with – SmartZones – from a company called Semcasting. When they first explained it to me I was a little unclear on the concept; but one day a light went off and I realized that they were essentially offering cluster codes (which I was familiar with from working in direct mail) for the Internet.
They created 30 million targetable zones across the U.S. These zones are based on IP addresses, which means they can be used for online targeting. Each zone includes anywhere from 8 to 12 households, which means they are far more granular than ZIP Codes. For each household there are hundreds of targeting attributes – things like age, income, whether it was owner occupied, etc. – which means it is possible to do very fine targeting very efficiently.
Suddenly, the prospect of reaching empty nesters within 50 miles of a building, or people living in units of fewer than 800 square feet, or recent college graduates becomes a simple task. I was excited to share details of this approach with the AIM attendees and they were excited too. In fact, over the course of the year since the conference, I have had the opportunity to run successful campaigns for a number of the companies that attended. In many cases, initial programs expanded and pilot programs renewed.
For marketers responsible for reaching potential tenants, the IP-based zone approach offers a lot to like. It’s highly targetable, can be narrowly focused and delivers clear and measurable results. What’s not to love?
Marty Agius is a seasoned sales and marketing professional that has spent the last 20+years in the ever evolving world of marketing and branding. His company, The Marketing Grid, has worked with clients to provide everything from sales collateral to Web site development to direct mail to online display.