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Is Outreach Marketing a Necessary Evil?

I got my belly laugh of the day on Saturday when I read a facebook post from a work-friend stating she would scream if she got back another Weekly Marketing Report from an onsite team listing nail salon, hair salon and something else I can’t recall. I think I spit out my tea! Oh my, oh my, I started singing, I know what that means!

 

I know because I have seen these same things listed many times and NOT for the right reasons on weekly reports. J When someone lists “Betty’s Hair Salon” I immediately know that the Manager went to get her hair done that week and it is now a part of her “outreach marketing plan.” When I see, “Our Nails Are Fabulous!” salon listed on the report, I think, again, hummm, she must have gotten her nails done there. The best one is someone listing Toys-R-Us (during the first week of December) – we all know that small children plus holiday coming equals outreach marketing. Of course!

 

First of all, I have been there, done that. Not proud of it, but I did not know any better and I had no one to teach me. After all, I had been affiliated with Section 8 housing for five years and I didn’t deal with true outreach marketing duties there, unless you count marketing to the social service agencies as outreach marketing. Then I went on to conventional housing and in that world, wow, there are all kinds of happy marketing people cheerleading and enthusiastically espousing all manner of traffic generators. I was fascinated! And it was fun to watch, but it wasn’t my personality. So, I have customized the art of Outreach Marketing to fit my needs and accomplish our goals.

 

Encourage team members to embrace this fundamental. Shy people can participate successfully in this activity. Assertive people can really sparkle at it! Try to utilize all your team members in this endeavor, and this definitely includes the Maintenance Team. I loved going with the Maintenance Supervisor to some of the hardware and big box stores and bellying up to the Contractor Counters to shoot the bull for a bit. Let him/her introduce you to the commercial accounts reps. Meeting face-to-face is great and before you know it, you may be able to get their store to sponsor some classes at your clubhouse on simple home projects (like hanging a shelf), decorating and gardening projects. You can also grab some info to put in New Move-In Packets for paint (a lot of our Residents like to re-paint or add accent walls of their own in their apartment homes.)

 

What I like to share with leasing professionals and other onsite team members is that it doesn’t matter who completes this, what matters is that it be consistent so that it adds value to your overall leasing goals. Sometimes, the Manager isn’t the person for this task. Sometimes it is that charming leasing person (or team) or a member of the service team. I certainly have found many Maintenance Techs to be completely wonderful at outreach marketing! Secondly, there has to be a real BUDGET for this activity. And it all starts with The Plan. If someone assigns you to “do outreach marketing” you better know why, where, how, and when before you get your car keys and head out the door thinking it’s all fun and glory.

 

Some people will tell you that Outreach Marketing on a weekly basis is boring. Maybe. If you have a plan though, you will not find it boring at all. Understand first that there are two kinds of Outreach Marketing. The first kind is what some refer to as Resident Retention – this is called Internal Marketing. The other kind is External Marketing, which is really more networking and connecting with the outside community off site. It is highly likely that one team handles the Internal side and another takes care of the External. It depends on how large your team is. I believe this can be further broken down into another category each.

 

  1. Internal Marketing > Resident Referrals + Resident Retention Activities
  2. External Marketing > Publicity Outreach + One-to-One Outreach Activities

 There are so many ways to market your apartment community! The trick is to stay creative (not necessarily be creative) in your attempts to connect with others to build your relationships. That’s really all Outreach Marketing is – building a relationship. First of all, your team should identify characteristics of the resident demographics. Where do they shop? Do they receive packages? Where do they work? What do they like to do? Which pizza delivery people do you see on site? How many own pets? Then plan accordingly.

 

Examples of Resident Retention activities include:

  • Yappy Hours for Pets and Owners
  • Walk/Fitness “Clubs”
  • Dog Grooming Stations or Mobile Grooming Site Visits
  • Personal Services: Dog walking, Plant Watering, Package Receiving, Valet Dry Cleaning, Supper Clubs
  • Referral Program
  • Pet Parades, Paws Treats, Dog Adoption Events
  • Child Care onsite for one Saturday a month
  • Foreign Language classes, Cooking Classes, Wine Tastings, Beer Fests
  • Safety Workshops: fingerprinting, car seat installation checks & Neighborhood Watches, Pool Safety and swim lessons

 

Examples of Outreach Marketing activities include:

  • Sponsoring leagues in exchange for some advertising space (T-shirts! Uniforms!)
  • Sponsoring school science fairs and art exhibits, writing theme contests
  • Include articles on local businesses in the Community Newsletter
  • Connect with local Bloggers (interior designers, parenting experts, chefs, business professionals) and Guest author a post, link from their site to your website
  • Hair Salons & Nail Salons – it’s fine! Just host a Spa Day for residents, too
  • Sponsor the magazines each month for these salons, doctors and dentists, waiting rooms in Hospitals, car repair shops, car dealerships
  • Offer to speak at Career Day at the high school
  • Host Realtor luncheons a few times throughout the year
  • Hold a Food Drive, Blood Drive, or become a Poll during the elections
  • Offer to host Chamber of Commerce meetings in your Clubhouse

 

If you are a shy person, you will want to start with people you already have a relationship with, which will make approaching him/her more comfortable. People will tell you to “get out of your Comfort Zone” but honestly, that’s easier said than done. Once you contact people you know: the owner of the flower shop you already know (so you can set up an exchange of services, perhaps?), the manager of your grocery store, the real estate agent who may have sold you your house, etc. you can then start the networking process. Always bring a “little something” in the way of a gift to leave with anyone you visit with while performing off site visits (besides your own marketing materials.) These do not have to be expensive. Make cute gift tags, too, tied with ribbons and raffia. (Now this is my area of expertise!) In this manner, it isn’t bad to list the places the staff patronizes for their own needs on the weekly report; it’s important to teach them how to incorporate these places as Outreach Marketing worthy places.

My personal approach to getting our Brand “out there” is to collaborate with community activities in such a way that others notice my property(ies). This is the main reason I love sponsoring youth league teams, sponsoring school contests, scholarships for high school students who may wish to major in property management, construction, real estate finance, and why I like to alert the media to any charitable events the community may be hosting, such as the food drives. However, I prefer to partner with someone else in the city on big events, such as a Food Drive or 5K Walk/Run. Supporting everyone else in your city is very worthwhile and sometimes you don’t reap any outward benefit or notoriety. But it makes you feel good to know you are contributing to society in another way. Besides, the more your community’s name gets “out there,” the more likely someone will remember you when they or someone they know needs an apartment.

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