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The Best Apartment Marketing Tips for Millennials...From a Millennial

millennial-apartment-marketing.jpgA few days ago, I was catching up on my reading and downloaded a white paper from one of the many marketing vendors in multifamily housing. As with so many of these, the paper purported to unlock the secrets of marketing to millennials. I’m always a bit skeptical of these sorts of buzzword-laden attempts to claim that somehow this strange beast, homo millennius, is a completely different offshoot from the rest of homo sapiens and thus needs special care and attention.

The paper started with some basic facts that seemed reasonable, though hardly differentiating. For example, Milliennials have been slower to marry than earlier generations. A true statement that means they will probably be renters longer than prior generations; but it hardly seems to indicate that we need to do something different in marketing to them than everyone else.

Then there’s the fact that they grew up digital natives. Okay, but the notion stated in this paper that this means “They expect on-demand processes, instant gratification, immediate access to information, …” doesn’t sound any different than what my wife and I (right on the edge between Baby Boomers and Gen X) expect. Again, a true statement, but hardly a differentiating thing for marketers to treat them differently.

The paper goes on to give three specific prescriptions for marketing to Millennials

  • Go live
  • Go personal

I suspected some of the above is useful advice and some may be more hype than reality, but what do I know? I’m too old to be sure I understand what Millennials want. So I sent the paper to the D2 Demand Solutions Millennial Focus Group…well, really just my 23-year old daughter who actually rents an apartment in Highland Park, New Jersey. While admittedly a data set of only 1, I thought her reactions were quite interesting. So here they are, reprinted with her permission.


Ok we don't actually want videos. Yeah, millennials like videos but not about our apartments? We like Buzzfeed videos. We do not expect Buzzfeed videos from apartment companies, and if they attempt that, it feels like a parent who's trying to be cool and just isn't. We are also not going to post anything about apartment companies on social media. The only good use of video I can think of would be a video tour of what the apartments and amenities look like.

Well okay one kind of cool use for video I can think of is this but it would take a lot of effort. Millennials really like "behind the scenes" type stuff. So, maybe if the apartment was doing some sort of renovation like adding a gym or something like that, you could make a little documentary video of the progress of the renovation, little interviews with the managers and the builders, some time lapses of people working, that sort of thing. That would be pretty cool, if it had a high enough production value.

We do like pictures. Having pictures of your units, and also floor plans, is good bc then we can imagine ourselves living there. I think this is a pretty universal thing though.

This is what millennials really want:

  • Ability to do everything online, preferably without ever having to talk to actual people.

  • Websites that are intuitive/easy to navigate, where you can easily and quickly find things like floor plans, rent prices, amenities, rules/restrictions, unit availability, contact information, instructions on how to apply for a lease. When I was looking for apartments online often few of these things were available and I was like why.

  • Personalization is good. We like feeling like companies actually care about us. We also know that most companies do not care about us, and for most people that includes their landlords, so overcoming that will take genuine effort. Ways to make us feel like you care about us include providing clear instructions for how to lease and making that process as straightforward as possible, having a good "contact us" page and replying to emails within a business day, and giving us useful tips when we move in like how to use nearby transportation, what fun things to do in the area are, and how to minimize our utility bills. Also, responding quickly to things like maintenance requests.

  • If you have a social media presence make sure it is something that is actually useful for residents. A FB page staffed by someone who is there to answer questions about the residence, who posts interesting tips like what I listed above or posts about public events happening in the area, and who keeps people updated about maintenance of the public areas in the complex, etc. would be useful and therefore is something that millennials would likely follow and would help establish a sense of community at the apartment. If it is just a repository for advertisements no one will follow that.

I’m sure this doesn’t represent what every Millennial wants or does, and I’m equally sure we can poke some holes in the above. But there you have it…one Millennial’s raw feedback on what we really should care about. And just as the HBR article I blogged on a couple of years ago, a lot of it sounds like things Boomers and Gen Xers want as well.

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Leave your comments

  • Donald: Good, honest stuff here. Glad you were able to share the raw perspective.
    Your daughter should speak at an industry conference... :)

  • She's available! I may make more if I were just her agent!! :)

  • Matt Weirich

    While I support the personal annotation, a sample size of one does not support a title of "The Best Apartment Marketing Tips for Millennials", nor does it support making claims like "this is what Millennials really want". I AM a Millennial and have to agree with actual research done by companies like Facebook, Forbes, Hubspot, and more when it comes to online marketing trends and demographic trends / general desires. Each individual is going to be different, but as a marketing or leasing agent, you need to equip yourself to understand your target audience and what they as a whole are looking to engage with online.

  • Matt,
    Thanks for your comments and insights. I suggest you read https://hbr.org/2016/04/what-do-millennials-really-want-at-work? by Bruce Pfau. The key point I'm making here is that Millennials are not nearly as different as many people make them out to be. The HBR article cited does a great job of explaining how there's a whole industry trying to make money on teaching us "how to work with Millennials" when the differences are more about age and circumstance than any material difference. As marketers, we'd be better served asking ourselves how we can meet out residents' and prospects' needs more than separating Millennials from Gen Xers from Baby Boomers. I could go on, but I'll let that article speak for itself. jmo

  • Kristen L Coultas

    As I am getting ready to launch two apartment buildings that don't have the money for fancy websites, I struggle with how to capture their attention. I'd rather hear what to do then what not to do. The tips here are so general and frankly how we just give good service to any age.

  • I'm glad you left a comment. I hope I'm not misinterpreting your response, but I think your comment about how this is "how we just give good service to any age" is actually the point of the blog. Millennials aren't some strange beast different from other people who need completely different care and feeding. They're just young people who need and want the things that young people have wanted for decades.

    As for some specific advice, here's a couple of thoughts:
    1. I'm nervous when you say you don't have money. I don't know that "fancy websites" are needed, but you certainly have to invest something to get good returns.
    2. If you are limited, I would focus on two things. First, invest in good photography (or video). Every study I've ever done shows quality of photography matters. Second, make your calls to action obvious. Make it easy for people to find content (size, layouts, pricing, amenity lists, ..) and easy to convert--at least to create a guest card, but even better to schedule a tour (there are scheduling widgets out there at reasonable costs--check out AnyoneHome and Knock...full disclosure: I'm on the board of AnyoneHome)
    3. Run A/B tests on your CTAs. What you or I might think converts best doesn't always convert best. The only way to know is to test. I hope that doesn't sound general, but so many people say it and then never do it. If you DO A/B testing, you'll beat most of your competition.

    If you have any other specific questions, please don't hesitate to email me: donald@d2demand.com and I'll try to help. I hope the above was useful.

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