Josh Grillo, co-founder and president of Resident360, is back with Todd Anderton and Chad Colley to finish their discussion around what works, what’s changed and what is to come for multifamily marketing. Josh explains how the Metaverse and VR/AR technology will impact resident experience and other residential real estate trends that will emerge in the next 5-10 years. Josh also discusses what consumers are demanding in today’s evolving market.
Leaning In is published every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. You can find the first half of this discussion on your preferred podcast app. Tune in for our next episode with Ethan Chernofsky, Vice President of Marketing for Placer.ai.
Todd Anderton: This is Todd Anderton and Chad Colley, and we’re back with Josh Grillo to wrap up our conversation on multifamily marketing and 2022 trends. Josh shares the important aspects of multifamily marketing and how his strategies have held up over the last two years. We hear advice from Trademark’s venture into the multifamily market and how or if the metaverse might shape emerging trends in this market.
Chad Colley: Through the pandemic and I guess kind of now, are you seeing the marketing budget – you said, hey, don’t slash the marketing budget, don’t pause – are the marketing budgets now smaller or larger through the pandemic and where we are today because of the internet? I mean, it’s cheaper. We can put content in front of a lot more people for a lot cheaper, but have those budgets increased, decreased? And then my second question to you is give us a little bit of a nugget as we do this on your SEO. As you’re optimizing, you kind of brought up earlier SEO is “best apartment in Dallas,” but you have tails that you put on the back of that. Everybody is wanting their apartment to be the best Dallas apartment. What kind of things do you utilize or do to ensure that you’re kind of pushing that SEO and optimizing it without paying the most per click?
Josh Grillo: Sure. So, let’s talk about budgets first. Has a lot changed with budgets? Yes and no. Everybody needs traffic always it seems like, unless you have a small property, 50 units or so. That’s pretty easy to fill, that’s fairly easy. But once you get to a hundred units and above, especially when you’re in the 3- to 400 mark, you’ll always need traffic. Anytime I’m having a conversation with somebody, it’s a matter of saying, okay, well, where are you located at? What’s the competition like? Tell me about the product. What’s the property like? Is this A plus property? Is there anything unique about it? What’s the rents? What type of rents are you going for? All of that is going to play into that budget. So, I can’t really give you a straight answer and say, yeah, budgets are decreased or stayed the same or increased. It is really dependent on that particular product and that particular market. For example, property right now in an area of Arizona, which is a very luxury area of Arizona, but there’s not a lot of population there. So, how are you going to market that property, especially when it’s 300 units? So, you’re going to have to pull from the surrounding cities, and that’s going to cost a lot. So, all of a sudden, you’re running heavy paid traffic in the Phoenix market. You’re running heavy paid traffic in the Tucson market. Same thing, you could be out in Pennsylvania and have a property that’s kind of in a really nice area out there. There’s not a large population center. The closest population center might be 60 miles away. So, how are you going to fill that building? How are you going to bring those people to your property? So there lies the great budget, having the budget and having to spend quite significantly at first to pull that traffic from these different cities. Of course, you can use stuff like you mentioned earlier, geo-fencing and geo marketing, all that. And you can draw circles around employers that if you have any large employers that are near a community, you can draw a circle around those or radius around them and serve those people your ads all day long, but that’s going to be- the quality of that traffic is going to be hit and miss. So, you’re going to be spending a lot to pull people in. It’s so, so dependent on that particular property, where it’s at, what’s the competition, how much they want to charge for rents. And honestly, what type of image they want to put out to the world. If they say, hey, we want to be everywhere, we’ve got this incredible property, it’s got so much good stuff going on, that means we’re probably going to be doing a lot of video, a lot of YouTube as well, Facebook, Instagram, probably going to be coming up with some type of TikTok strategy. So, all that’s going to come into play. And obviously, all that comes at a price. As far as SEO is concerned, so I’ve been in SEO for a long time now, probably 20 years plus, and learned a lot through the years, but a lot of the stuff is still remaining the same. On page SEO is, on page is probably the strongest part in any property website first and foremost. So anytime you’re putting up a new property website, you want to make sure that you have all the right on page items in check. So what I mean by that is you want to have, so if you’re going for a specific keyword, and Chad, sounds like you’re a smart guy when it comes to SEO, you’ll know trying to have a website rank for best apartments in Dallas, Texas, is probably going to be almost impossible if not impossible because those positions are probably going to be reserved for apartments.com, Apartment Finders, Zillow, these massive, massive, massive companies are probably going to occupy those first three or four positions. Almost always the case for every single major keyword that you have out there. So, what I like to do is and what I like to tell people is the first checks and balance is get that on page SEO straight. So, having the right keywords in your description that’s on Google, your meta-description on your title tag. And I don’t want to get too complicated here, guys, or too technical. But having the right keywords that are in your copy as well, having a site map submitted to Google so Google knows to crawl your website. Then if you want to go after some of those major keywords, then you really need to have some type of linking plan in place. And that’s how we built Resident360. I mean, our website Resident360 ranks probably for the majority of marketing keywords out there in the multifamily space. And the only way we’ve done that is we’ve done that through putting out an absolute ton of education, webinars, blog post after blog post, we get a lot of back links from other websites that link to us. So that’s a big thing. You want to have all your social properties, you want to have them all linked back to your website. You want to have your Google My Business profile link back to your website. So, all that stuff adds up over time. And one quick thing on that is when you have a new development, if you have developers out there that are listening to the call, a lot of times when you have this new development, you come up with a name for it, and then you get your domain for it. Well, that domain’s brand new. Google’s not going to know what to do with that domain. They have no idea. So, the very first thing is you want to get a landing page up as soon as you can on that domain. Number two, you want to get that Google My Business listing as soon as possible as well. So that both, the two can work hand in hand together. And then at that point, Google will start indexing your website and start showing you at least when somebody Googles your name, which you want to make sure that you are showing up at least in the first, second, or third position anytime somebody does Google your community name.
Anderton: It sounds like we probably got a lot of this next question answered from your response to that one, which was really excellent, Josh. Let me just put this out there. I’m going to sort of rephrase the topic. I think a lot of times across commercial real estate, you’ll run into someone within any of the various asset classes, and they’ll say, you know what, if I’ve got good real estate, I got a good zip code, and my asset is not properly deployed in that market, then I’m just going to be fine. I mean, if I build it, they’ll come. Do you get that a lot in multifamily? And if you do, how do you respond to that, for the folks who say, look, I’m just going to build it, they’re going to show up?
Grillo: Well, you know what, I think a lot of developers think that because we have a lot of clients that reach out to us like, yeah, our building is going to open in two months, I need help getting some eyeballs on it. I’m like two months, are you kidding me? You’re just now starting your marketing? And Todd, this happens all the time. We get these calls all the time. It’ll be a property management company that just got a developer client, and they literally are working with a 60-day window until the property is going to be open. And they’ve done nothing. It happens all day long. So, to answer your question, you got real estate, hot zip code, what else do you need type thing, the biggest thing is simple. You can have the best product in the world, you’ve got to have great photos, as I said earlier, and you want to have great copy. Like those two things, and then you partner up with a great website. So, I’m using the word great a lot, but beautiful photos, good copy, just good written copy in a beautiful website because the website’s going to be your salesperson. Literally, it’s going to be your salesperson. You’ve got this great property and all of a sudden now when somebody goes and looks at it online, which they’re all going to look at it online, you have this beautiful website with gorgeous photos and good copy to accompany that, that’s your foundation right there. If you piggyback a great team on top of that, then you’re in business. If your onsite team is stellar and fantastic, and they know how to respond to people, easy peasy, that’s the foundation.
Anderton: Yeah, I’ll definitely state for the record that a creative copywriter in the CRE space, they are worth their weight in gold.
Grillo: They’re hard to find in general. I mean, great copywriters are, I mean, they’re worth their weight in gold. There’s lots of writers out there. Let’s face it, there’s a ton of writers out there, but having a great copywriter, a great creative writer, they are hard to find for sure.
Colley: Josh, what is your advice for Trademark as we move further into the multifamily asset class? What are some of the best marketing practices you have observed from your own roster of clients?
Grillo: I would say take your marketing seriously. That’s probably the biggest thing. What I mean by take your marketing seriously is know you’re lead and lease sources. Most people don’t know. They just have no idea. So, you want to know that. You guys are going to have these great properties. You’re going to put out a great brand. You’re not going to be scared to spend money to get the traffic that you need. So, when you do all that and you spend the money and you bring in a partner or whatever to help you with all these things, you have this incredible brand on this property you have, and you’re spending your money, you want to make sure that you’re on top of your lead and least sources. That is the biggest thing. You want to know what’s working and what’s not, so you don’t just keep churning money, and that’s the biggest thing. And then on top of that, get a good property management system in place. Don’t be running this out of Excel or QuickBooks or whatever. A lot of management companies, believe it or not, do that. You want to get a good CRM system in place as well. So, you’ve got your property management software, and then a lot of the property management software systems kind of have a CRM system built in, but the reality is they’re truly property management software systems. They’re not so much a CRM. So, getting a good CRM that caters to multifamily, like Knock is a good one. And then think about a good marketing partner if needed. I know it’s you guys, but if you have how you handle your marketing in-house and getting all those things done that need to be done, having a good partner for that, somebody that you can trust, rely on, and pick up the phone and actually talk to them where you’re not just another number, where they’re there to grow with you and help you grow, to give you consultation in terms of don’t use these guys, use these guys, use this because it works great, or don’t use this because it’s not good. So that’s what I mean, understanding your lead and lease sources is probably the biggest thing, because at the end of the day, it’s about keeping those buildings leased up and full.
Colley: Todd, I just heard, he said it without saying it, he said hire Resident360.
Anderton: Well, I’ll tell you this, if he didn’t say it throughout this interview, he missed a good opportunity. I mean, it’s free marketing after all. Yeah, I would agree. Josh, we’ve had a great chat about what this discipline looks like now, kind of where it came from a few years ago. So, let’s touch a bit on where it’s going. In my mind, I’m looking at the next five to ten years. We’ve already hit the theme, shocker, technology plays a role in everything. Technology is growing at a pace that is very difficult to keep up with. I’m curious what you think trends are going to be emerging in this marketing space in the next five to ten years. I mean, what’s augmented reality going to look like? Is metaverse going to be a thing? Get your crystal ball out, I guess, and tell me what you’re thinking.
Grillo: When I think about the metaverse, and from what I’ve read and seen about it, I’m not a participator myself, but what I know, I think that when you say five to ten years, maybe you are in that seven, eight year mark where people are putting on the goggles or maybe glasses of that time and they’re able to tour an apartment directly from the headset that they have on their head. I think that’s a real possibility as soon as that metaverse becomes more mainstream. And again, I think it’s a way off. But when it does, that might be the conversation we’re having in five years. How are we creating our apartment tour in the metaverse? Like what does that look like? How are we creating our own community in there where somebody can tour and actually lease, but they’re actually leasing in the metaverse, but actually they’re living in the apartment they just leased in the regular world, which sounds kind of weird when you think about it. I think that could be a real reality there. Someone else I think about is Google’s really trying to get in the game as hard as they can. I mean, they’re already doing it in the hospitality space with reserving hotels and so forth. To me, I think it’s only a matter of time and it may take five years, and maybe it’s eight years, nine years, before they are heavily influenced in the multifamily space as well. I mean, if they’re already driving a lot of traffic, which they are with Google My Business listings that they have, how are they going to operate that in the future? What does that look like? Is that going to be a pay to play model? It might be where they’re charging multifamily companies to have that Google listing, to have a schedule tour button, or a real time check availability button right there on it. I think, and it’s already kind of happening, but I think Google My Business ends up becoming the first website and then the property website becomes the second website. So, people now are in this universe of Google My Business, and then the property website, that’s something that’s behind the scenes. Again, years down the road, but I think they’re going to play a lot bigger role in it. Then when I think about stuff like leasing agents and how leasing agents work and so forth, I’ve read a lot and some insight on this, and it would be interesting if leasing agents end up becoming like relocation specialists where you’re calling a leasing agent, but the leasing agent is really over multiple properties, and their job is to find out a little bit more about your wants and needs and then to place you in the property that fits best for you versus you just calling a property, they answer the phone and then coach you in to come take a tour. So just a different little bit more centralized way of looking at it. And I think that actually would be really, really cool if you have a multifamily company that has a lot of properties, say you’re in the Dallas Fort Worth, and you have just a ton of properties around there, where all your leasing agents become relocation specialists and they’re coaching throughout all the different properties that you have. So that may be something that comes in the near future. And then I think about this whole everything on social and what’s going on and these shorts and so forth. And the big issue is- I don’t see it as a big issue, but as a multifamily company, how in the world do you begin to instruct your properties to create content for this stuff? Because everybody’s there, but how do you get your properties to actually stop what they’re doing and create content for these platforms, to keep your property top of mind, like how do you do that? So, I think that these multifamily companies out there, they may be hiring somebody on staff on the local level at the property, and that’s all they’re doing, these content creators that are a part of the property. And then obviously what’s happening now is influencers. That’s a big thing right now, and it’s making its way pretty heavily in multifamily. It’s fairly inexpensive to find influencers to promote your apartments. And if you can do it the right way and find ones that actually live at your community, you’re way better off. And I think that over the next five years will play a huge, huge role where a lot of our traffic and content even that will be surrounding that property will be done by the way of influencers. Maybe that’s the secret then in terms of getting the content created. So that’s kind of some thoughts.
Colley: I’ll be honest with you, we’re guilty of all the above there. So, hiring local content creators, doing a residence program, hoping that they come up with content as well that we can share, and then also having influencers. But Josh, if our listeners want to jump in and learn more about multifamily marketing, what resources would you recommend?
Grillo: I’ll give a shameless plug for ourselves. If you go to Resident360.com and just click on “resources,” we have a bunch of webinars there from Google ads to lease ups to chat bot to Google My Business all throughout there, all kinds of different webinars that are really good. I do a newsletter as well. You can sign up right there in that resources tab. It goes out every Wednesday, I’ve been doing it for about three years now. I’ve linked some articles there as well. So that’s a good way to learn. There’re some forums out there, Multifamilyinsiders.com. That’s a forum that’s been around for quite some time. There’s some good content on there. And then I think Multihousing News is another one. I do pay attention to what they put out. They put out some good articles from time to time. So, I think that’s a real good place to get started.
Anderton: Fantastic. Josh, this has been a great conversation. I know I’ve learned a lot. It’s been great getting your insight. There’s no doubt that we could speak on this topic another hour if we wanted. And when we started, I didn’t know this topic had two hours of things to talk about. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. We appreciate your time, and thanks again for joining us on the podcast today, and we’d love to have you back sometime in the future.
Grillo: Awesome. Sounds great, guys. Love it, enjoyed it.
Colley: Thank you, Josh.