Why a Multifamily Marketing Agency Should Employ Live Chat

Live chat can improve multifamily marketing conversions by offering prospects speed, convenience, and a more comfortable way to communicate.

Marketing for property developers has evolved considerably in the past few years. In particular, one innovation holds immense promise to improve digital conversions. According to Neil Patel’s research, just including live chat on a multifamily marketing agency website can improve conversion rates by as much as 45 percent. Beyond improved digital conversions, live chat also enhances the customer experience and saves time.

Look into the reasons why property development marketing plans should include live chat to connect with renters.

Why a multifamily family marketing agency should use live chat

Conversion Logix offers live chat technology solutions. According to them, the best live chat solutions for apartment marketing mix technology with people on the other end of the chat line. They backed up the effectiveness of their solution with performance data from their own marketing for property developers:

  • Five-year average response speed: Their solution employs live agents. Over five years, they maintained an average response time of only five seconds.
  • Query-to-lead conversion rates: About 75 percent of potential renters submitted contact information.
  • Scheduled-tour conversion rates: One in three people who engaged in live chat scheduled an apartment tour.

Why does live chat perform better than other marketing channels?

While apartment marketers have employed live chat for years, today’s era of social distancing makes it particularly attractive. When combined with virtual tours, it provides a way to introduce renters to both a property and people without having to first schedule in-person visits.

Zendesk found that customers really do appreciate live chat sessions too. Their benchmark studies found that 92 percent of customers felt satisfied with live chat. They compared that with 88 percent who felt satisfied with a phone call, 85 percent with an email, and about 85 percent with Facebook or Twitter messages.

Some particular advantages of live chat include:

  • Speed: It sometimes takes hours or even days to get responses through email or social media channels. Automated phone systems generally require users to dial through lots of annoying options. Compare that with the average response time of five seconds for live chat. This also helps establish the community as one that’s responsive to its renters.
  • Convenience: In general, both agents and prospects can conduct a live chat session while they’re also doing something else. Since most people tend to message apartments during the day, they can chat while they’re working, supervising children, or browsing the internet.
  • Comfort: Since people can chat from anywhere they have a device, they can make themselves comfortable. They can also begin the conversation fairly anonymously, so prospects tend to feel more comfortable asking questions than they do on the phone or in person.

Using live chat most effectively for apartment marketing

Just about everybody, including staff and consumers, already have experience using some sort of messaging software. That means incorporating live chat into property development marketing should not require a long learning curve. At the same time, staff should have some training to use the system and of course, to represent their apartments well.

Typically, chat sessions should begin with a professional and formal tone. As the conversation continues, the agent can use more casual and friendly language. For instance, most people don’t use complete sentences when they compose text messages, and it’s fine to adopt the style of the prospect.

Just as with any marketing, leasing agents should have a marketing goal in mind. For instance, they may hope to prompt people to complete a lead form, click through to a virtual tour, or schedule a visit. Along with these goals, it’s important to keep track of results to help measure performance and tune messaging.

Benefits of live chat for the leasing office

Not only does live chat offer speed and convenience to customers, it also saves representatives time. For example, today’s systems may include templates that the agents can use to greet customers or answer common questions. Prospects can use live chat while they’re attending to other tasks, and in general, so can apartment representatives.

Besides just using live chat for leasing, many apartment communities also employ it to provide customer service for current tenants. It’s a great way for renters to ask questions about service requests, events, or lease renewal specials. As live chat has evolved into consumer’s preferred method of communication, it’s also great for the leasing team.

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Everything You Need to Know About Living in Austin, Texas

Learn everything you wanted to know about what makes Austin, Texas weird from the people that call it home. Download our Austin, TX research report to review all of the details.

Introduction

The capital city of Texas, Austin is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the seat of Travis County.  Located nearly in the center of the state, Austin is about three hours south of Dallas; three hours west of Houston; and about 90 minutes north of San Antonio.

Experiencing a population growth of 34.1% between 2007 and 2017, the Austin region is one of the fastest-growing in the country  Austin has been the fastest-growing major metro in the country for nine straight years, from 2010 to 2019. The metro population jumped to an estimated 2.2 million people as of July 1, 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau. That is an increase of 2.8% from the prior year, bigger than any other metro with at least 1 million residents. That’s 169 people added every day, on average.

With a vibrant, well-educated, and youthful population of 2.2 million in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the median age in Austin is 34.7 years. Of Austin’s population aged over 25, 44.8% have a Bachelor’s Degree. Leading the US in tech salary growth, it’s the number four city tech workers would consider moving to.

Austin’s laid-back, take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude matches well with its fun and “weird” culture, celebrated on bumper stickers and T-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”

“Everyone is welcome and has a place somewhere here. And it just makes it such a unique place because you just never know who you’re gonna meet or what experience you’re going to have just ‘cause there’s so many different things.”

Jamie E, 38

Austin Neighborhoods

  • Downtown Austin is popular with younger residents with middle to upper household incomes. These Austinites love the convenience of being just blocks from shopping on Congress Avenue, live music venues on 6th Street, and even some great parks, hiking, and biking along the Colorado River. 
  • Across the Colorado River from Downtown Austin sits South Austin, where young, artsy types congregate. Barton Heights offers great family areas, while Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek attract mainly hip, liberal Austinites.
  • North and Northwest Austin include Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Leander, which attract a lot of families. The Leander is an award-winning school district, and Apple and Dell have large operations in the area. North Austin also has some great luxury apartments. These fast-growing Austin neighborhoods are popular with families.
  • West Austin has some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, such as Westlake Hills and Steiner Ranch. The commute into town is a bit longer than in other areas of Austin, but residents are closer to Lake Travis and the great outdoors. Neighborhoods Oak Hill and Circle C Ranch are further south.
  • Although East Austin used to be considered the poorest part of the city, the area is now mostly a hipster neighborhood with many sleek, modern developments. 
  • Southeast Austin is home to a lot of University of Texas students, likely because of the large numbers of apartments and other rental properties in the area.

“I am in a tiny house in East Austin. With three dogs – I have two Huskies and a mix. You’d be surprised the people who to live in the tiny houses where I’m at.”

Shelly S, 42

Doing Business in Austin

The Austin region offers businesses deep talent, education, quality healthcare, telecommunications, and a modern, international airport.  The major employers include: Amazon, AMD, Apple, Charles Schwab, Dell, General Motors, IBM, Intel, National Instruments, Samsung, Tesla, VISA, and Whole Foods.

Key Industries include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean Technology
  • Creative & Digital Media Technology
  • Data Management
  • Financial Services and Insurance
  • Life Sciences
  • Space Technology

The growth isn’t slowing down any time soon. The new Tesla Gigafactory, set to be located in eastern Travis County, will be one of the world’s largest and most advanced automotive plants and will bring an estimated $1 billion in capital investment to the region.

In addition to being home to tech giants, Austin has a thriving startup scene. Austin area startups attracted $2.2 billion across 263 venture deals in 2019. Startups account for a larger share of businesses in Austin than in nearly all major US metros and Austin ranks 6th for new businesses per 1,000 population.

“A couple of my friends work at Google and Facebook and they’re always saying so many people are moving in. I would say those apartment complexes are definitely to cater to people like that. Cause it’s like the new hub.”

Madison P, 28

The Cost of Living in Austin

Texas consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most favorable business climates based on its low tax burden and competitive regulatory environment. Texas features no personal or corporate income tax, and overall the state has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the US.

According to Austin’s Chamber of Commerce, the cost of living is 2% lower than the national average.

Austin Apartment Costs

Renters will generally find more expensive prices in Austin than most similar cities. The median two-bedroom rent of $1,450 is above the national average of $1,193. The city’s median one-bedroom rent is $1,175. While rents in Austin fell moderately over the past year (-0.6%), many cities nationwide saw slight increases (+0.2%). 

According to RENTCafé, these 5 Austin neighborhoods offer a good selection of rental apartments, unique dining, shopping, atmosphere, walkability, and a sense of community:

  • Downtown Austin (average rent $2,200/mo)
  • Central Austin ($2,100/mo)
  • Clarksville, between downtown and the MoPac Expressway ($2,100/mo)
  • Zilker, South Austin ($1,400/mo)
  • Travis Heights, South Austin ($1,400/mo)

What Austin Renters Want

No two renters are the same but many Austin renters are consistently seeking features and amenities. Here are the top things tenants report looking for in a property: 

  • Convenient Location – People want to live, work, and play in a geographically convenient circle. If your multifamily property is located near the University of Texas, show how it’s a convenient walk to campus to appeal to professors, graduate students, and staff. Similarly, if you have property near the new Apple campus, play up this proximity and go after Apple employees.
  • Pet-Friendly – The American Veterinary Association estimates that 50 percent of renters have pets and that 3 out of 10 renters without pets would have pets if their landlords allowed it. Allowing pets in your multifamily property opens up your prospective pool of renters and provides you with a competitive edge.
  • Key Appliances – Renters are on the lookout for properties that have garbage disposals, washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and microwaves. In higher-end rentals targeted at tech industry workers, potential residents may expect smart thermostats and TVs.
  • Connectivity – Wireless connectivity is extremely important to renters. Ninety-one percent of renters say reliable cell reception is important, and 44 percent say they won’t rent without reliable cell service.
  • Outdoor Living – One of the bigger benefits of living in Austin is the ability to enjoy warm water all year round. Tenants respond positively to multifamily properties that offer outdoor living space such as balconies, patios, or decks.

Arts, Recreation, and Entertainment

The city’s official slogan promotes Austin as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, a reference to the city’s many musicians and live music venues. It’s also home to events like Austin City Limits and SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive.

Instead of the flat terrain common to most of the state, visitors are greeted with stunning vistas, rolling hills, and wildflowers. Austin’s natural setting, in one of America’s most unique landscapes, offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors for fitness, recreation, and relaxation.

Austin has a reputation as one of the nation’s fittest cities, since there’s plenty to do outside to stay fit and enjoy an active lifestyle in the area’s mostly temperate climate. 

Ask any Austinite about their favorite sport and you’ll hear about everything from football to roller derby to cycling to kayaking. Austin is also home to many sports teams including:

  • Austin Spurs: NBA D-League Basketball Team
  • Round Rock Express: AAA Baseball Team
  • Texas Stars: AHL Ice Hockey Team
  • Texas Longhorns: Big 12 Conference College Sports
  • Austin FC (2021): Major League Soccer
  • Austin Bold: United Soccer League
  • Circuit of the Americas: Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, INDYCAR Challenge, MotoGP
  • Austin Herd: Major League Rugby

“The music scene is one of the things that was appealing to my husband and me when we moved here. Austin is the live music capital of the world. Every single weekend there is live music from local folks and from up and coming artists from around the country. And it is every type of genre that you can think of – from rap to alternative to bluegrass country. It is really culturally diverse.”

Theresa M, 39

Read the full research report: Austin, TX research. We interviewed Austin, Texas residents to find out why they live there what makes their city special. Stay tuned for more city research.

Social Media Retention Tips for Property Development Marketing

Property development marketing with social media can help keep current residents engaged as well as bring in new ones. Learn how with our 10 tips.

Property development marketing should do more than attract new renters; it should also retain loyalty from current tenants. After all, it’s almost universally true that retaining customers costs less than bringing in new ones. Besides, at least some satisfied residents will probably help spread news about the property to their own connections. Social media can provide the perfect platform to keep residents updated and engaged in their property.

Ten multifamily marketing agency tips to use social media to retain residents

People tend to check their social media daily, and even more, they spend quite a bit of time doing it. As an example, average users spend about 40 minutes a day on Facebook, according to Marketing Land. They visit social sites to check up on friends and family, research businesses, and even get their news.

That’s why apartment marketing should include some of these social media retention ideas in their tool kits.

1. Respond to resident messages

Today’s social media users often feel more inclined to message via social media than to pick up a phone and call. Encourage contact via messaging on social pages. In turn, ensure somebody monitors these pages and can provide timely responses.

2. Publicize community events

Community events provide a great way for residents to connect with each other and their property management. Even if the property doesn’t hold its own events, it’s still a good idea to promote events in and around the surrounding community. If the property intends to get a booth at a local festival, for instance, make sure to invite residents to stop by for a free keychain or bottle of water.

3. Hold contests on social media

Contests can generate a lot of excitement and, of course, attract more followers to a property page. Prizes could include local business gift cards. In fact, some local stores and restaurants might even donate gift cards to help promote their own business, and that can reduce the costs of running the contest considerably.

4. Share apartment notices and updates

If the pool’s closed for maintenance or landscaping needs to take care of a fallen tree, share this kind of news on social sites. Since renters may spend more time on social sites than they do looking at their email inbox, this can provide a great way to make sure people know abut it.

5. Provide a community guide

Besides promoting local festivals or other events, keep people engaged by sharing interesting things around the surrounding area. Some topics could include top seafood restaurants or nearby parks and day trips. Even though these kinds of posts won’t directly promote the property, they will help promote the community and help keep residents interested in the property’s content.

6. Share news about residents and staff members

With permission, some residents and onsite staff members might want to share news about having a baby, getting married, winning an award, or even involvement in worthy causes. This will help staff and residents get to know each other, and some people might appreciate the help spreading good news.

7. Share vacancies

Even though this campaign might mostly focus on retention, it can also help generate some word-of-mouth marketing. Some residents may have friends who need an apartment or even want to upgrade to a larger unit. Marketing for property developers can incorporate both acquisition and retention in a very synergistic way.

8. Gather information

Instead of only sending surveys by email, consider using social media to run quick polls get get quick answers. Residents will appreciate having their opinions count, and these polls can provide a simple way to learn which areas need improvement and which upgrades to prioritize.

9. Promote social media pages

Help the property discover the social media pages by mentioning it on new resident materials, the website, and on email communication. Include a quick message to let people know that they can benefit by getting prompt updates about the property, a chance to enter contests, and so on.

10. Post consistently

Countless studies have demonstrated that businesses can keep social site users engaged by posting regularly. Even the algorithms of social sites may tend to favor pages with regular posts and engagement. To make social media an effective part of property development marketing, post at least two or three times a week.

Start by defining goals and making a plan

Any effective multifamily marketing agency will begin by figuring out measurable goals for their social media campaign. An obvious example might include retention rates, overall satisfaction, or word-of-mouth referrals . Then create a plan to develop social posts that help support this goal and ensure somebody will monitor the page for messages. This plan might start with a content calendar, but it needs to have enough built-in flexibility to include urgent updates.

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Signage for Multifamily Property Developments

Multifamily marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast this week focuses on property signage and the value of a cohesive strategy from lease up to resident engagement. 

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Multifamily marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast explores the design and fabrication of signage for multifamily and mixed-use developments. From lease-up to resident engagement, expert Steven Hauck of Poblocki Sign Co explains the importance of pre-planning and identifying branding and wayfinding signage needs early on. Steve explains the permitting process, provides “dos” and “don’ts” for visual design and discusses new opportunities afforded by digital solutions.

In Clear Focus: Signage for Multifamily Property Developments

In Clear Focus this week: Multifamily marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast explores the design and fabrication of signage for multifamily and mixed-use developments. From lease-up to resident engagement, expert Steven Hauck of Poblocki Sign Co explains the importance of pre-planning and identifying branding and wayfinding signage needs early on.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Bigeye is fortunate to serve a number of clients who develop and manage multifamily properties, student housing, and senior living communities. Influencing the success of any new or rebranded development is the strategic use of signage. Branding and directional signs need to be both visually impactful and easy to understand for residents and visitors alike. Modern multifamily apartments and student housing often have multiple buildings. Signage design can tie together amenities across several blocks, giving properties a cohesive look and feel and aid navigation.To discuss practical and logistical considerations for property signage, I’m joined in the studio today by Steven Hauck, who is Vice President of Business Development with Poblocki Sign Company. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Steve!

Steven Hauck: Thank you, Adrian. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So first, Steve, could you tell us something about your background in signage?

Steven Hauck: Absolutely. I started in the sign business in the mid-Nineties. Moved to Orlando with my girlfriend. She was going to UCF and I started at Valencia doing web and graphic design and quickly learned I was actually out-learning my teacher ’cause he was learning the class the night before and teaching it. So I started my own business then and got into the graphics side. Realized that coding wasn’t for me and liked the graphics and got into doing sign graphics and got a job as a designer. And then from there I got into the project management side and for the last 26 years, worked every position from install to design to sales and in the last 10 years actually had the fastest-growing sign company in Central Florida. And just recently, we went through a merger acquisition with Poblocki Sign Company, based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a 95-year history in the industry, it was a family-owned company so it was a perfect match for us ’cause they specialize in custom signage and do a lot of work with developers.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. So in what ways can signage influence the success of new multifamily property developments?

Steven Hauck: Well, signage is your curb appeal. It’s the first impression sometimes that visitors will have. So you want to have that lasting impression with them. Your wayfinding signage is highly important for a complex property because you don’t want visitors to get lost. So you want them to have that good feeling and positive feeling when visiting sites and that’s a great opportunity to also showcase the property amenities, social gathering areas, to give the visitors the sense that, “This is where I want to be,” “This is where I want to live,” or “This is where I want to visit.”

Adrian Tennant: So I mentioned in my intro, Steve, that branding and directional signage both need to be visually impactful and easy to understand for residents and visitors. Tell me about some of the tricks we can use to make sure that all visitors have a cohesive brand experience.

Steven Hauck: It’s important to maintain the brand through all the signage, but I also have seen where the brand can overpower the signage and make it less effective. So I think having your impact from the start, your curb appeal, which is your exterior signage, is the main full brand. And then as you enter the property, sometimes it’s hard to always incorporate the full brand in the signage, but have elements of the brand that tie it all in together. And I think if you can find that perfect balance, it has a great flow to it. And especially with wayfinding, ’cause wayfinding is highly important on complex properties. You want to have people to feel comfortable navigating the property and not feel lost. I think once you have issues of people not knowing where they’re at, not knowing where they’re going, it starts to create a negative feeling about the visit. So you want to make sure you have really good wayfinding so people can find their way to the amenities, to where they’re going, to visit friends or family. And it’s a good way to also showcase your property and what your property has to offer. I think sometimes the amenities are overlooked as far as on the branding to show, “Hey, this is what we have to offer.” It kind of gives people that feeling that, “Wow, I would love to live here. ‘Cause I have all this stuff that I can experience if I lived here as well.” So I think maintaining the brand through all of that helps tie it all in together. And it also helps your property stand out, especially if someone’s looking for a new place to live, they might remember the branding because it looked so good and it made them feel good and gave them that good feeling as opposed to the last property looked at, didn’t have that. And it helps kinda, I think, keep that in their mind as they’re exploring and touring properties.

Adrian Tennant: There are obviously some differences between permanent signage and that which is intended to be temporary. How does that temporary signage typically evolve as communities are being constructed?

Steven Hauck: Well, temporary signage is made with different materials so we’re using plastics or sometimes wood or just final decals. A lot of times with multifamily developments, we have to put temporary signage in for certain code compliance to identify doors and locations before the permanent signage is ready. And it’s also a good marketing piece as well. A lot of multifamily developments will have a construction fence up. So that’s a perfect opportunity to put branding around the property to build awareness before the property is actually available.

Adrian Tennant: Typically, what’s your role in the planning, design, and installation of property signage?

Steven Hauck: So I’m usually the first contact. So my role is typically to gather as much information as possible. So that way I can bring back as much information as I can to my team. So that way they start the process for usually the due diligence. Our first step is to always go through the code compliance and look at the wayfinding system to start to build the traffic patterns for pedestrians and vehicular as well as to look at the municipality where the project is located to see what logistical challenges they will have. Every municipality is different. So that timeline for permitting is controlled by them. And so we want to make sure that we get projects in the permitting for the right time to make sure that we can hit the deadlines and goals of the development.

Adrian Tennant: So different types of signage have different permitting rules?

Steven Hauck: They do. And every municipality has their own set of rules and some municipalities have multiple sets of rules for different overlay districts, so that can sometimes create major logistical challenges.

Adrian Tennant: How do you assess the number of signs that a property requires?

Steven Hauck: Typically what we do is once the drawings are at a 95 percent completion level, we’ll have our programmer come in and review the sitemaps and the location plans and the floor plans. And they identify every single location that their sign will be: interior, exterior, traffic patterns for pedestrians and vehicular, and they build a message schedule. So at the end, we will have a location plan that matches a message schedule that shows what the sign type is and the message on the sign for the entire property.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the logistical issues that you have to consider for signage designed for multifamily developments?

Steven Hauck: Most of that has to do with compliance. So for the interior signs, making sure that every door is marked and is marked properly, and the exterior signage goes back to the rules and regulations set by the municipality. So not all municipalities have the same rules. Some don’t allow high rise signs, some don’t allow illuminated signs. Some only have very minimal square footage allowances for residential where some municipalities are, I would say, more gracious on what they allow.

Adrian Tennant: What are the different categories of signage for property development?

Steven Hauck: Property development has a large sign family. So your interior signs, you have your regulatory signs, your ADA signs for door identification, wayfinding. You can have information kiosks, reception branding opportunities, as well as wall wraps, wall murals, your amenities’ rules, your amenity identification signs, and on your exterior, you have your monument signs, wall signs, your vehicular wayfinding signs, your parking, which is your DOT-style signs. That’s about it. 

Adrian Tennant: Just help me understand – you referred to a monument sign. What does that mean?

Steven Hauck: So a monument is a standalone ground sign. Typically that would be at the entry point or entry points of multifamily development. And then your wall signs would be something that would be identified on the wall which is not allowed in every municipality. So when you get a municipality that allows those, we’d like to capitalize on that ’cause that’s certainly a great way to get branding out there

Adrian Tennant: Now, depending on the scope of the project, signage needs may go beyond the branding and obviously, as you’ve described, incorporate onsite wayfinding to help visitors and residents navigate that physical space, especially if it’s a larger development. How early in the process are wayfinding requirements typically identified? Is it at that same drawing stage?

Steven Hauck: Exactly. I think that’s something that we like to get in the earlier the better. So when the initial meetings with our architect or your contractors and your agencies are kicking off, that’s a great time to bring us in because we want to be able to identify possible branding challenges in the design. Some logos and designs look great on paper, but when you try to build it in the three-dimensional world, they don’t always work out. So the earlier we can get in there and help contribute to those early design stages, the better.

Adrian Tennant: Now do timeframes for fabricating branding signage typically run in parallel with wayfinding signage?

Steven Hauck: Yeah. So all signs have their own kind of timeline. With Poblocki, our interior facility is in North Carolina. So that’s where 95 percent of all our interior signs are made. And the exterior signage, it’s either fabricated in Milwaukee or here in Florida at our facility, which obviously has a much longer lead time. Interior signs have compliance, but it is a compliance market we have to hit by the end of the job, whereas exterior signs, we have to go through permitting. So we have to prove compliance at the beginning stages to show the sizes meet the local ordinances. But both parts into your next year, both travel their own timelines, and we can move those around to make sure we hit the goals and needs of the clients.

Adrian Tennant: Steve, ideally how early in the process should a creative agency, like Bigeye, be involved in designing signage?

Steven Hauck: We’re ready for design assistance from the very beginning. So understanding the challenges of sign manufacturing gives us the ability to spot challenges in brand development early. So some logos, with the design, certainly it helps to have us there in the beginning. So we can point out a feature of the logo or something to say, “Hey, that’s going to be a difficult feature to produce in your branding.” So that way we can help kind of control some of that when it comes to the signage standpoint or maybe there’s an alternative brand standard for the signage compared to the other branding. So we can kind of help with that in the beginning.

Adrian Tennant: And in what kinds of ways can agencies partner most effectively with signage experts, such as yourself?

Steven Hauck: We’ve created successful relationships with design agencies all over the East coast of the United States. And we like to consider ourselves your signage partner when it comes to signage and wayfinding. So we’ve worked directly with the architects, the builders, we come in as your code experts to make sure that the project stays on task with compliance and code and we’ll meet the regulations of the local municipalities.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Now are there certain types of materials that work best in all environments, or do you typically tailor fabrication recommendations based on each location’s local weather or average temperatures?

Steven Hauck: That’s a great question. I think aluminum is the best product all around for signage. It works great indoors outdoors. It’s lightweight, it holds up to the elements well, so that’s typically our go-to product. Obviously the price point of that’s usually sometimes higher. We also use lots of acrylics in photopolymers for interior signage. There’s PVC and foam, which are typically your temporary signage or at a low cost point. So it’s not something we would ever use in a permanent application. When it comes to colors, I certainly look at the fact that Florida has the sun and it is super bright here. And it’s funny, you will see on some signs, the east side of the sign looks perfectly fine and you look at the west side of the sign and it’s completely faded. The yellows and reds get beat up in the sun. So sometimes we try and keep those colors out of large exterior signs, just because of the impact from the sun.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Lauren Fore: Hi, I’m Lauren Fore on Bigeye’s operations team. Property development and management present their own unique sets of challenges. Growing a powerful, lasting brand takes industry expertise, strategy, and insight. Bigeye’s portfolio of property clients reflects our award-winning, extensive experience in all aspects of creative marketing – for multifamily and mixed-use developments as well as student housing, senior living, and real estate. To see case studies and learn more about Bigeye’s creative and media solutions tailored to property development and management, please visit BigeyeProperties.com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Steven Hauck from Poblocki Sign Company about signage design and fabrication for property developments. Signage that appears a certain way during the daytime can be lit to look quite different at night. What practical issues should your agency partners consider when designing signage to be illuminated?

Steven Hauck: I think the most important question is, is when’s the most important visibility of the sign? Is it nighttime or daytime? That’s probably a good way to start. Obviously, your retail and restaurant spaces – the nighttime visibility is important. I think for family development projects the daytime is probably the most important. And then you also have to factor in that some municipalities don’t even allow illuminated signage for mixed use development. So the external illumination for signs to light up, shine up on a monument, is sometimes the only lighting you’re allowed to do.

Adrian Tennant: What are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for visual designers when it comes to selecting typefaces and colors in signage?

Steven Hauck: Well, thin font strokes are a challenge especially if you are working with illuminated signage to get LEDs inside of letters and some of the thinner strokes, which we’ve noticed branding has trended that way for a little while. I think it’s kind of trending back the other direction a little bit sometimes. And also with vehicular traffic and the speed of the traffic, thin fonts are difficult to read. So I think we take all those into consideration when looking at logo and brand design to make sure it would not have those challenges. For colors, there’s certainly compliance regulations for the interior signage and ADA. It has to have a contrast with the background. The ADA requirements do require certain contrasts of light and dark. They’re not necessarily policing it. It’s more implied so it’s one of those really hard targets to hit because the rules aren’t really clear. There’s a lot of interpretation open to that.

Adrian Tennant: We’ve been referring to ADA – that is of course the Americans With Disabilities Act. Steve, what are some of the most interesting property signage projects you’ve worked on?

Steven Hauck: Personally, my favorite sign that we did was for NASA. And I actually got to be there when they brought the Space Shuttle by the sign and the wing of the Space Shuttle just cleared the top of the sign by a couple feet. In fact, at one point when they knew this was going to happen, they told us to stop production until their engineers could confirm the wing was going to clear the sign and then they allowed us to continue. They did have to lay down all the streetlights to bring the Space Shuttle Atlantis through this business park on its way to the Kennedy Space Center where its final resting place is in the Visitor Complex. My plan was to get out there super early to have pictures of my sign with the Space Shuttle going by it. But by the time I got out there, the Space Shuttle was already in its parking spot. But it is still an amazing experience.

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely, on so many levels. Wow, truly iconic.

Steven Hauck: Absolutely. Another project just recently we did was for Lakewood Ranch, which is over in the Bradenton Sarasota area. We got to work on a full mixed development that has retail and multifamily in it. And the multifamily apartments’ called The Greens. So they have a very natural feel to it. And all the interior signage we got to use real pecky cypress with a green tactile braille panel over it. It was great to be able to use a natural product and it fit with their theme perfectly.

Adrian Tennant: You also work on signage projects for clients in different verticals. What similarities or differences, if any, are there between your approach to property developments and say, quick service restaurants?

Steven Hauck: Well, every project starts out the same way: understanding your client’s needs and identifying the challenges upfront: timing, location, municipality access. And then from there, it all changes considerably from the planning aspect. You know, retail signs usually have a shorter timeline to get in and out, whereas your larger development signs have much more time for planning. The retail signs also are a one-off location. So sometimes we’re working with a branding, it was already set in place and you know, if it’s a single location, sometimes we can work to tweak the design of the brand a little bit just for that location. Whereas some of the larger developments and larger brands, maintaining those brand standards is highly important. And so we’ll have to work through those challenges, uh, to maintain the brand at that time.

Adrian Tennant: What opportunities with signage design do clients often overlook?

Steven Hauck: I think the logistical challenges with permitting are overlooked the most, and the timing it takes to sometimes get a signage project approved, with a local municipality. There’s nothing worse than designing something that your client loves. It meets the budget and you go to permit it and then the city or County comes back and their interpretation of the code is different and they say, “You can’t have it.” So that’s kind of heartbreaking to do sometimes. So that due diligence upfront is highly important. There’s all kinds of situations we’ve run into. Like even the plan development, which is the first step of any new development that goes on record with the city or County, will sometimes have language in it that controls the signage. But sometimes the interpretation of it can be misleading. Like we just had one where the PD said no high rise signage. And the developer came up from Miami and he was putting in a five-story apartment building on his development. So he didn’t think anything of it because in high rise signage in South Florida is 10 stories or more. Well, in the city of Orlando, high rise signage is just anything above 30 feet. So he planned to put a sign at the top of his building and in his PD saw no high rise signage, and wasn’t concerned with it until we went to permit.

Adrian Tennant: So I notice a lot of multifamily properties when they’re launching use feather banners outside so there’s some kind of movement from the wind. Is that a good idea longer-term, or is it one of those very difficult things to find fabrics that will survive over a long period?

Steven Hauck: Typically, those are in the temporary signs category. They’re at a low cost point. So it’s something that can be refreshed or updated along the way. A lot of municipalities will only allow them to be up for a certain time as well. But most municipalities don’t have someone policing it so basically, developers will keep those up as long as they can until they are pretty much told they have to come down because I believe that they are a great attention-grabber for traffic. ‘Cause obviously the movement is something that draws people’s attention. So I think they’re pretty effective, especially for the cost point.

Adrian Tennant: How do you see signage evolving in the next few years? 

Steven Hauck: I’m a big fan of technology and about 12 years ago is when LEDs really completely changed our industry. The digital signage is actually becoming more effective and cost less. So I think you’re going to see that incorporated into more signage now than you have before, just because the price points are starting to come down. There’s lots of really unique digital signage out there for retail. That’s some of it’s a little scary. I’ve seen some stuff at our conventions where retail signs will actually have built in facial recognition software that can tell the age and gender of the people viewing the sign and it can change the message according to the age and gender of the person looking at it. So that’s kind of spooky at the same time, but I think the technology and the information kiosks we’re seeing a lot more requests for those. And the interactivity of some of these signs, I think that’s going to be a way of the future where you can walk up to signage and interact with it and get information faster. Here at Poblocki, one of the things we’re doing, we’re working with RFID chips and putting those into ADA signs. So that way the visually impaired can actually walk up with their cell phone wave in front of the sign and listen to a recorded message to help guide them to their location as opposed to having to read braille.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Steve, if listeners are interested in your organization, the services you offer, or want to see examples of signage, what’s the best way for them to learn more?

Steven Hauck: We’re on all the social media platforms, but I think Instagram is probably one of the best because we’re constantly posting pictures there, not only of projects we’re working on, but just of people in our organization. Since we have offices in four or five different States, it’s a great way for our team to always stay connected. Our website’s a great resource as well – we have drone footage of completed projects as well as testimonials from clients and you can see a lot of the projects we’ve worked on. And, we’d like to consider ourselves the sign company that people call when other sign companies say “we can’t do it.” So we have a lot of high difficulty, high challenging projects that we’re able to pull off which makes a great showcase for our company.

Adrian Tennant: Great! And of course we’ll include links to those on our website too. Steve, thank you very much for being on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Steven Hauck: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Steven Hauck, Vice President of Business Development with Poblocki Sign Company. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you like the show, please tell a friend! If you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. If you’d like to see more of Bigeye’s work for multifamily, student housing, senior living communities, and real estate, please check out our dedicated website at BigeyeProperties.com. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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Property Development Marketing 101: More Than Just a Logo

Property development marketing should begin with branding that provides a roadmap for decision making and a consistent branding message for renters.

When many property managers think about branding, an image of a logo generally pops into their heads. Branding includes logos and other graphics; however, that picture should mainly serve as a reminder of all of the other things that the brand message communicates. Ideally, property development marketing should create a logo that represents a brand — and not do it the other way around.

What does a multifamily marketing agency mean by branding?

To precisely define what marketers mean by a brand, it’s often helpful to contrast it with the definition of a logo:

  • Logo: A logo refers to a visual image that represents a company. Some of the most recognizable logos in the US include Apple’s apple, McDonald’s yellow arches, and Twitter’s little bird. Without any other information, most people couldn’t guess what those logos represent, but they make sense in context. For instance, Apple’s apple may signify simplicity, and McDonald’s may promote their “golden” arches to symbolize quality. Obviously, Twitter’s little bird represents a “tweet.”
  • Brand: In contrast to a logo, a brand includes everything people think about a company. They may remember the logo, but for a strong brand, consumers also may think about what the company offers and how they feel about their values, service, and quality. If Apple intends to promise simplicity, then the design of their devices needs to back that up.

Ideally, multifamily complexes or even portfolios of properties should develop a brand before they create a visual representation. Obviously, existing properties may already have an established logo. In this case, the multifamily marketing agency will need to decide if they should redesign their logo or simply work to get people to see it differently within the context of their newly defined brand identity.

Establishing a brand identity for apartment marketing

AM Digital highlighted some statistics that demonstrate the importance of focusing on branding as more than simply having a logo designed:

  • Shared values: Out of all consumers, about two-thirds say that they would prefer to patronize businesses with shared values.
  • Growth: About three out of four of all marketers believe businesses need strong brands to grow.
  • Identity: About three-fourths of Millennials say they would abandon a brand if it failed to fit with their own identity.

Today’s apartment marketing tends to try to differentiate properties by promoting amenities, location, or in some cases, rent prices. Such positive features as a great location, pet-friendly policies, and high-tech security can factor into brand development. At the same time, features still don’t always add up to the way renters react to a solid brand.

For one thing, property development marketing may need to create a brand for multiple locations or at least, think that’s a possibility in the future. Every property might not have exactly the same locations or even amenities. Also, some properties could focus on different amenities because their target market in some areas may care about some things more than others.

Listing amenities and features can help with the logical decision-making process; however, the brand helps create an emotional relationship that can help differentiate the housing complex from others in the area.

Research Values and Behavior

No apartment marketer should ever assume they know exactly what potential or current renters want. Multifamily Executive said that researching the market frequently gets overlooked by apartment marketers. They suggest having a professional research firm conduct surveys and focus groups to ensure reliable information.

As an example, LMC chooses to brand each property individually, instead of trying to develop one brand identity for every complex. Before they even engage in property development, they hire research firms to make certain they understand renters in the community. In turn, they can use this information for marketing and to help develop their brand message.

Existing properties can take advantage of even more useful research. Instead of only surveying the general community, marketers can learn a lot from the on-site team. Employees work in the complex and probably live nearby. They can also ask for opinions from current residents to find out what they like or would prefer to change about the complex.

Develop a Brand Messaging Strategy

After figuring out the most important things that would draw a prospective renter and retain a current one, it’s important to craft a messaging strategy to communicate it. Most important, this message needs to differentiate the property from other choices in the community.

For some examples:

  • Student housing marketing may focus on the benefits that student housing has over typical housing in the same area. Perhaps student apartments offer flexible leases, appropriate furnishings, study areas, and even an opportunity to socialize with other students. A multifamily brand for students may want to emphasize these features.
  • A high-end apartment might want to focus upon the superior services that can help busy professionals save time over living in an average apartment or even owning a home. For doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, saving time may be more important than saving a few dollars on rent by moving down the street.

Create a Brand Identity to Reflect the Brand Message

At this point, multifamily marketers may want to develop logos or consider adjusting old ones. With apartments, it’s important to ensure that the graphics look as good and distinctive on business cards and brochures as they appear on large street signs. Naturally, the graphics, colors, and other elements used on logos and signs matter.

Still, apartment complexes also need to ensure that everything they do reflects their brand image. As a simple example, student housing will probably do fine with a relaxed dress code, so that kind of housing might let employees wear jeans and sporty T-shirts. On the other hand, a luxury apartment building might want to require at least business casual clothes for office staff and provide uniforms for maintenance workers.

Promote the Apartment Marketing Brand Strategy

Again, business cards, signs, and other vehicles to display the logo will provide part of the marketing. Beyond that, marketers should look into social media, paid ads, and even press releases to let people know why they’re different and of course, better than the competition. Promotions should still mention amenities and features, but they should incorporate those into their overall brand message.

Why focus upon multifamily branding

Mostly, defining a brand helps businesses ensure that customers have the intended reaction to all touchpoints. These encounters with the brand could range from street signs and paid ads to an online bill-paying system or prompt maintenance calls. The brand doesn’t just evoke a reaction from future or current renters but also provides a roadmap that multifamily property managers can base decisions upon.

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Renter Pain Points a Multifamily Marketing Agency Should Target

Multifamily marketing should understand both market and marketing distribution to solve renter pain points and attract qualified renters.

In marketing, a pain point refers to a problem that businesses can provide a solution for. A multifamily marketing agency can benefit by understanding their potential customers very well. They can learn about the issues that might motivate people to move from their current housing or choose one apartment community over another one. By communicating solutions to these pain points, apartment marketing can make sure that people find their message and pay attention to it.

What pain points can a multifamily marketing agency address?

For established complexes or property development marketing, consider these common renter pain points:

Outdated tech

Apartment marketers can scratch off a lot of a modern renter’s boxes with the right tech. For instance:

  • According to the Rental Housing Journal, younger adults look for such features as smart thermostats and security systems that can help them manage electric bills and protect their home. Renters want to save money and feel safe.
  • While new developments probably already have a design that includes good mobile and Wi-Fi reception, some older buildings may have dead zones. These days, everybody expects to have good mobile and Wi-Fi.

Technical solutions can also make it easy and convenient for renters to pay bills, manage serve request online, and even sign their leases. Some of these products allow renters to login and handle their business 24/7 and even send out automated email or text alerts alerts. They can also interface with accounting and rental management systems to ease the property manager’s workload.

Apartment location

Renters will want to know more about the location of any apartment community they’re considering. For instance, commuters may desire easy access to public transportation and freeways. Parents will want to know how close they are to neighborhood schools. In some cases, a location near shopping, restaurants, and entertainment may help attract people. Either way, it’s a good idea to highlight any positive aspects of the complex’s location on the apartment’s website, blog, and social media. 

Apartment amenities

Today’s renters will generally expect certain amenities, so it’s a good idea to use these as a selling point. The Rental Housing Journal mentioned that many Millennials have gotten married and started to have children, so they might prefer such family-friendly features as a playground, pool, sidewalks, pet-friendly policy, dog park, and bike stand. Renters without children may enjoy some of these amenities as well.

In particular, younger adults tend to prefer patronizing eco-friendly businesses, and landlords should emphasize features like smart thermostats, low-flow faucets, and any other environmentally friendly amenities. Very often, these eco-friendly features can also help save money, which helps address another potential pain point.

Timing property development marketing

For projects in development or undergoing remodeling, pre-development marketing can provide investors with great returns. Not only can they potentially run specials to lease units before they’re even completed, they can use the opportunity to gain valuable information about potential tenants.

As an example, one marketing style may not appeal to every kind of tenant or even every community. By starting early, it’s possible to ensure that social posts, websites, and other marketing materials are prompting the right kind of prospects to schedule visits and complete application forms. Learning to target the best prospects can help improve marketing returns and save property managers a lot of time.

Also, it’s important to time messages well. If a qualified prospect didn’t end up leasing, consider sending an automated message in about 11 months, shortly before their current lease gets ready to expire. It’s possible that the apartment they rented did not satisfy their expectations or doesn’t meet current needs. At least, they’re already familiar with the property, so they’re more like warm prospects than cold ones.

Creative problem-solving for apartment marketing

Moving’s always a hassle, so some apartments offer some creative specials to make the move as convenient and attractive as possible. Some fairly inexpensive examples could include free truck rental, move-in boxes, and of course, pizza. Partner with moving companies, daycare, storage companies, and maid services to offer discounts on moving, childcare during the move, storage, and getting their old place cleaned up. Some of these other companies may work out a deal to share promotions, which can help expand the audience for both the apartment and the service.

Distributing marketing for property developers

Of course, no amount of reducing pain points will help if potential renters don’t see it. It’s a good idea to keep up an active social presence on local groups. Tailor website pages and blog pages to address various needs that renters might look for and make sure to optimize them to get found by search engines. If a prospect searches for easy ways to move to your locality, make sure they can find the complex’s specials for free or discounted moving trucks. In that way, apartment marketing can let renters know that the complex can offer a better experience than they may have even expected.

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