The terms ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising’ can mean so many different things, yet what renters search for basically boils down to simple needs and wants which we refer to as ‘pain points’.
Why People Spend Money
At the most basic level, people typically spend money on two things: First, they readily spend money to combat pain. Second, they spend money to pursue pleasure. This couldn’t ring more true for renters, and this week we have a firsthand look at how these two factors influenced renter’s decisions. Identifying some common pain points among renters in your market and demographic are enormously powerful tools that could mean the difference in converting leads into residents.
Two team members at GTMA recently moved in two very different markets: Downtown LA, and suburban Seattle. We looked at this as the perfect opportunity to get some honest answers about the moving process and how it could be improved to alleviate those pain points. The following interview and answers are from GTMA team members Mare (Seattle), and Christian (Downtown LA). Enjoy candid answers about apartment hunting!
Two Renters Share Their Experience
Q: First off, can you tell me about the general areas you were looking in? What were some of the issues you faced in that particular rental market? (i.e. competitive, expensive, etc.)
Mare: I was looking in a specific part of Washington, south of Seattle. I wanted to be close enough to Seattle for a convenient drive into the city, but also a little closer to Portland to make my drive there easier. It was a bit tough because Tacoma south of Seattle isn’t a very safe or desirable area. Any further south than Tacoma would have been too far from Seattle. So I was confined to a very small chunk of area south of Tacoma but north of Olympia, which landed me in a small city called Dupont. Dupont is one of the safest cities in Washington and in a great location -- close to the water, freeway, convenient to the next biggest city over (Lacey). Dupont is REALLY expensive for this area since it's so desirable, but I knew I wanted to live there. There are probably about 3 or 4 apartment communities in this little town but the other communities were too cramped, had less amenities, and all around weren't somewhere I wanted to live if I was going to be spending this much money. The apartment I ended up picking was actually the most expensive out of all of the ones I looked at in this area but it's the least "apartmenty" feeling. The apartments are actually in buildings of about 4 units each and they all have their own personal enclosed garages, giving you more of a condo feel.
Christian: I specifically wanted to live within walking distance of the office (DTLA). The local area has a mix of new construction, classic gems, and total dumps. Unfortunately the marketing efforts of each property worked very hard to hide their dump status. Another interesting twist was that the price wasn’t much of an indicator. The whole area is expensive and the dumps and gems were priced similarly.
Q: What was one thing you absolutely had to have in your next apartment, and what was a 'deal breaker' for you? (amenities, location, etc)
Mare: I was pretty set on a few things like washer and dryer, spacious layouts, and a garage. I would have even been okay with not having a pool and hot tub, grills, and clubhouse. I would rather have my actual home be nice and happy with it rather than having those extra amenities but I'm glad I got them in the end. I also HAD to be in a safe area - I wouldn't have felt comfortable moving to a new state in unfamiliar territory without knowing I was in a safe city which is why I was so set on Dupont.
Christian: Two things actually, (1) if I’m going to live in this neighborhood it had to have a legit loft feel and (2) it had to have good windows for city views.
Q: What did you use to find your apartment? (CL, agent, rental sites)
Mare: I used Internet searches for "Apartments in Dupont Washington" as well as just driving around. Since it's such a small city and I knew I only wanted to live in this city the hunt was pretty easy. Just drove around and saw the 3 or 4 communities and then decided on which one I liked best.
Christian: I tried Internet listing services, but mostly found newer construction. Most of the best places I found by physically walking the streets where I wanted to live. For the place I ended up renting I saw it while walking the streets but couldn’t find any way to contact the manager either at the property or online. Ultimately I stumbled on it on Craigslist and made contact with the manager that way. I later learned that the management company had just changed and the website was a couple weeks away from being launched.
Q: Was there a particular pain point during your search, and what would have alleviated this to make your search easier?
Mare: Being out of state and trying to hunt was pretty difficult - the most success I had in the hunt was when I came up here to drive around and look at places. It's hard because a few of the communities would be on one website (like Zillow) but some wouldn't, and then some would be on another website (like Craigslist) but when I googled "Apartments in Dupont" only one would come up and none of them were using PPC or anything. So I knew there was stuff I was missing out on which is why I ended up coming up here. I didn't want to pick something from out of state and then get here and realize I didn't even see most of my options.
Christian: The lack of structured data and meaningful comparisons. If there was an ILS that had every property on a neighborhood map, all the reviews from all the review sites, real photos, real lists of comparable amenities, etc., I would have made that ILS the primary tool of my search. As it is, there’s no way to create a definitive list of all the apartment buildings in the neighborhood where you want to live.
Q: In some of the places you looked at, did available technology influence your decision? such as: online payment systems integrated into the website, card operated laundry, electronic keys, or built in security?
Mare: Not really. All of the places that I looked at were pretty technologically advanced so they all had essentially the same options. I was able to pay my rent online with all of them, they all had key FOBs to get into the amenities, etc. My current apartment has an enclosed garage with a remote though so I guess you could say that was something that influenced my decision because I knew I wanted a closed garage.
Christian: In a normal search I would have said yes, I certainly considered these factors at the places I looked, but ultimately the place I chose was the only place in location and my price range that had my big two: loft feel and good windows.
Q: Did the apartments you moved into have any sort of social media, blog, or way to highlight the surrounding neighborhood?
Mare: Yes, my apartment community has a Facebook page but it's not active AT ALL. They post once every few months so I didn't really depend on it much. None of the other communities I looked at had facebook or social pages and most of them have pretty basic/not so great websites. My communities website isn’t great, but it gets the job done for paying rent -- which is all I ever do on the website. There was nothing to be found about the surrounding area on any the property's site. I had to go into Google maps and walk myself through the town to see how close I would have been to gas stations, restaurants, etc.
Christian: A few of the bigger, newer, more expensive properties had a meaningful social presence, but for the most part, not really. My apartment is managed by Greystar (3rd party), but with only 72 units they don’t have the marketing budget to really do it right.
Q: In the end, what did you have to compromise and what were you pleasantly surprised by? What would you do differently next time around?
Mare: I didn't really have to compromise too much, I got exactly what I was looking for and more! I guess the one thing I don't like about my city is that it's so small we don't even have a grocery store. We have a local general store and gas stations for necessities but I'm not close to a big store. But on the other hand I actually really appreciate that sometimes because it keeps my city quiet. No traffic or crowds of people here ever which is nice.
Christian: My building is nice but I compromised on customer service (the manager is a little difficult with zero organizational skills and I’ve had to re-do all of the maintenance manager’s fixes in my apartment), high end amenities (we have a great rooftop deck but a tiny workout room and nothing else), and easy access to parking (2.5 block walk to the structure).
Q: Do you feel like you found the right place for right now?
Mare: Definitely, I love where I'm at. I won't leave this apartment until decide to get a house (or if they raise rent astronomically). No complaints at all for my new home!
Christian: I do, from everything I looked at, my unit was among my favorites and only mid-range on the prices I found. To go with any of the others nearly as nice would have cost much more.
For both Mare and Christian, the area defined their search and not the other way around. Location was a number one priority for both, but for different reasons. For Mare in suburban Seattle, it was a convenient middle ground and a question of safety. For Christian, it had to be walking distance to the office and meet his loft-look requirements. Simply using this information to target keywords that address renter priorities like ‘safe neighborhood south Seattle’ could lead to a huge influx in qualified leads.
Of course they both had a budget to mind, but in this case Mare was willing to pay a little bit more to meet her criteria. Both renters ultimately ended up with what they wanted, but if you look at these experiences from a marketer's perspective there’s a lot of room for improvement. You might use information about renter’s pain points to create more compelling copy for your website, ads and social platforms. First and foremost, both renters expressed that their chosen communities were lacking polish and presence on both their websites and social media channels. Social media and blogs provide enormous benefit when it comes to location and local features. A blog titled ‘7 Best Walkable Destinations in DTLA’ would paint a picture for a renter like Christian who is interested in a downtown apartment that would allow him to walk not only the office, but other downtown attractions.
Although Christian was able to find his home because he walked in the area daily, this same community likely misses many out of area renters. And in an area like downtown LA which is incredibly inundated with new construction, competition for renters is becoming more and more fierce. In Mare's case, a move out of state required much more time and effort, but it could have been streamlined with the presence of comprehensive website, virtual tours, and more information on the local area. So what we see in both situations is a huge opportunity for expanding online presence and in turn, many more prospects turned residents.
Speaking to specific pain points allows you to tap into the emotions of prospects and speak directly to their needs. If your website just lists features and slaps a couple pictures up, you’re missing opportunities. Start by adding in content that targets specific pain points in your area, and the solutions your community provides. You might be surprised by the difference it makes! And the best part? Not only does your business benefit, renters get to live happily ever after in their ideal home!