Millennials, Gen Y, the kids who went off to college but then came back and are now living in your basement…whatever you call the children of the Baby Boomers, they’re well on their way to becoming the next big generation of renters. MultifamilyBiz.com released a new webcast this week focused solely on this generation–who are they, and how do we reach them? You can check out the full webcast, presented by Ernest Oriente and Kerry Kirby; in the meantime, we’ve got the key points below.
1. Know the millennials: What defines this generation?
85 million strong, millennials (born 1978-1995) witnessed the housing crisis, so as they move into adulthood, they are by no means eager to purchase a house. These children of boomers will comprise 36% of the workforce by just 2014, and the fact that many of them lived either in student housing or with their parents for some time after they turned eighteen means that pent-up demand is unleashed as the economy improves and they move into their own places. Space isn’t a priority to millennials, but high-speed wifi and good cell reception are.
2. Shift your marketing paradigm: become an advocate for your building and your neighborhood.
Excepting a few hipster luddites, millennials are all digital all the time, which means they probably won’t see an ad in print–and that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful anyway, since many of them have a bit of a distaste for overt marketing.
Instead of focusing on static advertising, in the words of Kerry Kirby, “become an advocate for your community.” Sponsor local events and create a website that acts as a hub of neighborhood information instead of a kind of internet brochure. Tune in to the neighborhood and reflect that local sensibility throughout your branding. And remember, all information you post online should be easily accessible in mobile form–at least 25% of social media use is now conducted via smartphone or tablet.
3. Leverage your online reputation–reviews are powerful things.
It is, as they say, the information age–and now that Yelp and a thousand other sites are out there allowing people to rate their experiences, people take real stock in what they read online about an apartment building or community. In fact, Yelp’s apartment ratings are some of its highest-trafficked areas.
Good reviews can be very powerful, and people who have good experiences will leave good reviews–especially if you plant the seed in their minds. Consider exit questionnaires or other ways to ask tenants if they would give your building a good review, and when bad reviews are left online, be visibly accountable to the reviewer. Amazon.com has found that quite often, once they follow up with consumers who have left bad reviews, the review is amended to reflect the consumer’s now positive experience–and that is powerful as well.
4. Keep the SEO going: multiple online platforms now allow great internet search visibility for even the smallest buildings.
It used to be that a content-heavy website and/or a large online advertising budget was the only way to stay visible online, especially with so many apartment communities clamoring for space–but these days, that’s simply not the case. Once your building or community has a distinct name and identity, posting regularly on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, WordPress and elsewhere can ensure that you show up on a regular basis–and with plenty of positive results–when a user searches.
Millennials are, as Kerry puts it, “the information generation;” they search for a new apartment just 30 to 60 days before they plan to move, and for many potential tenants, if you don’t have a robust presence online, you may as well not exist. It’s easy to feed social media into the pages of your website, adding to its image as information hub (in the words of the older generation, think online community center) instead of static brochure.
5. Move your leasing center online.
Is a particular floorplan available? What are the current lease rates? Which forms does a potential tenant need to fill out? If millennials need to know this information, they are less likely to call or enter a leasing office and ask someone than they are to look for it online. In an ideal world, any information, forms, etc. that a tenant can get from a real leasing center, they should be able to access online. This accessibility is also conducive to the tenant sharing it via Facebook or other social media platforms. In Kerry’s words, “your online leasing center should be the center of your universe when it comes to generating leads.” A millennial is much more likely to apply for a unit if they can do so from their phone or laptop, instead of sitting down in a leasing center and filling things out manually. Viva la digital revoluciòn!