This article is the first in a series on building practical property management skills. This article focuses on modern marketing methods for multi-family rentals — helpful for both new and experienced landlords to build their business and attract a wide range of tenants.

In this era of online marketing, finding tenants is easier than ever — just not through outdated methods.

Landlords can follow the following steps to improve their property management marketing game, as identified by Apartment List:

  • analyzing the competition;
  • creating website content;
  • establishing a social media presence;
  • sending email marketing and campaigns;
  • reaching out to local businesses and community events;
  • using referral programs;
  • pursuing video marketing; and
  • making online advertisements.

These are basic first steps for slingshotting yourself into the modern marketing world; crucial if you’re going to stay ahead of the competition and appeal to the broadest range of tenants.

Online market allows landlords to:

  • gain traction with potential tenants;
  • showcase rental listings; and
  • keep in touch with past clients, who will be more willing to send a referral your way when they continue to receive online marketing materials.

Online listings

Listing online is the first step in reaching potential tenants. List your units on:

  • Zillow;
  • Redfin;
  • Zumper;
  • HotPads;
  • ListHub; and
  • your local multiple listing service (MLS).

Uploading a listing to the MLS usually ensures it gets posted automatically to major aggregators like Zillow and Redfin. Aggregators extend the reach of your initial MLS entry to a greater sphere of potential tenants.

But it’s also best practice to check how your listing appears on the aggregator’s site. The data might not translate properly when transferred. When it does not, you need to correct it to best market your listed property. You may also consider listing on a neighboring MLS, especially helpful for dense areas where MLS areas overlap.

Professional photos go a long way toward finding a tenant quickly, and for the right rate. Aim for around 20 photos per rental listing, including exterior and interior photos. When professional photographs are not an option, check out these photography tips for real estate professionals.

Finally, use the right keywords in your listing so tenants can easily find it in an online search. Think about what words tenants might use in their search for a home, such as the property’s:

  • school district;
  • amenities;
  • area; and
  • basic features.

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Diving into social media

Individuals use social media to congregate online and find information about local businesses and events. Thus, establishing a social media presence for your mid-to-large sized rental property is much like putting up fliers in the local hotspot (how personal marketing used to happen). To ignore social media is to leave out a large segment of your client base who seek to find out more about your property.

While the number of social media sites available to showcase your business seems to grow every day, it’s best to focus on one or two to start. To build out your apartment building’s social media presence efficiently, you can download an app like Buffer that synchronizes your posts across platforms, which include:

  • Facebook;
  • Instagram;
  • Twitter;
  • LinkedIn; and
  • Pinterest.

Your rental unit’s social media presence will look different from the typical personal page. Some ideas of the kinds of posts you can make to appeal to tenants include:

  • photos of the property, and if you have a Pinterest account, a board showcasing them further;
  • professional successes, such as hitting milestones, making renovations, celebrating tenants (with their permission) and showcasing positive reviews;
  • practical decorating, gardening or home improvement tips;
  • light, friendly posts about your own interests to boost your authenticity ratings; and
  • community events happening in your area.

The most important rule of running social media for any business is to keep things light and free of controversy. To appeal to the broadest range of tenants, avoid hot topics like politics or religion, and it’s also best to avoid sharing any negative opinions.

Further, negative reactions to bad reviews or comments will be noticed. Social media tends to put all interactions in the spotlight, so it’s important to practice a calm, pleasant demeanor when replying or interacting with users. The best way to respond to negative interactions on social media is to:

  • acknowledge; and
  • promise a follow-up conversation via private message or other direct (non-public) means of communication.

Email and other interactive campaigns

Email marketing is an older, but still vital piece of the marketing puzzle.

Client contact information is the basic data you need to develop and grow a long-term email marketing campaign. When you do not advertise, people either do not know about your property or forget. The result: they do not contact you or refer others to your property.

To gather data, request contact information from all past or potential tenants you have contact with, called harvesting data. Make gathering critical information a routine daily practice to provide a steady stream of additional email addresses. Gather email addresses by requesting emails at open houses or any other initial points of contact, including from website visitors.

Creating a website for your properties gives you a space showcase quality, professional photos that portray the general integrity of units for potential buyers to see.

Partnering with local businesses can be another active tool for involvement. Try to think of different businesses where creating a partnership is mutually helpful and reach out to them to form a relationship.

These types of businesses include:

  • dry cleaning businesses — especially when they are willing to offer pick-up and delivery services to the property;
  • house cleaning services;
  • real estate attorneys; and
  • dog walkers — when the property is pet-friendly.

Resident referral programs can be another positive way to gather engagement and gain traction from past and present residents. This can be done by offering a small rent credit to tenants who refer their family and friends to your property.

Video marketing is another way to boost visibility on your website or social media. Online tours are an easy way for many to view a potential place they are interested in from the comfort of their couch. This is particularly useful during a pandemic, when in-person tours may be less desirable and more difficult to schedule.

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