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AIM 2021 Session Recap: Reimagine Everything: Story, Strategy and Staffing

Over the past 18 months, from shopping to parties, it seems that everyone has had to reimagine everything. And the multifamily industry has done its share of reimaging how it operates.

During the 2021 AIM session Reimagine Everything, expert panelists shared their experiences and the adaptations they’ve had to make in these ever changing times. From a brand's story and strategy to onsite staffing issues, it's time the industry rethinks some things.

There was a time when the perception was “what’s good for one community is good for another,” but the industry has quickly learned that is not the case. According to award winning marketer Anna Shea, senior director of marketing for Laramar Group, operators must think beyond the community itself.

“We’re definitely not marketing a square box,” Shea said. “We try to connect our prospective residents with the lifestyle of the neighborhood and show them what they can expect to experience in our community and the community around us. So it’s a bigger picture that’s translated through our digital channels.”

It’s more than just walls and amenities, as each community must have a story. Shea suggests using the identity of a location to create your story and connect your audience to the community.

Once you establish a voice for your community that connects with prospects, use images and authentic messages to make an emotional connection with people. Shea says operators should utilize everything from walk scores to neighborhood attractions to connect with prospects.

“It’s about understanding the demographic and who your prospective renters are,” she said. “Know what kind of lifestyle they’re looking for.” 

Once you have your voice and story to tell, panelists urged teams to reimagine strategies and how you market a community.

“Going into 2020, PRG’s traditional methods of creating a strategy for a property were almost cookie cutter,” said Sara Wieman, senior manager of branding and marketing at PRG Real Estate. “Then a pandemic hit and we had to stabilize our properties and shift where we could spend money.”

So, PRG rebranded its entire portfolio. And after finding what drives the best results, the company made the decision to invest more in those areas. 

Panelists discussed using the TEAR model: Test, Evaluate, Adjust and Repeat. The job is never done and being consistent will ensure that strategies remain relevant as the industry evolves.

A good story that connects with people and a reliable strategy to market your story are instrumental in improving operational performance, but having the right team members to operate a community is what ties it all together, according to panelists

As the pandemic took hold, Jamin Harkness, executive vice president at The Management Group used the lockdown as a catalyst to implement necessary changes for his onsite teams.

“Our doors were closed and we didn't know how to keep renting apartments, so we sent our leasing team out with their phones and said record it and talk just like you’re giving a tour,'' Harkness said. “It was really like a training exercise. They hear what they’re saying and it makes them better and more confident.”

Using tools that were already available, The Management Group then posted the videos on its website and according to Google Analytics, they are now the most clicked item on the website.

With some tasks being removed from the onsite team members’ plates, Harkness said they actually welcome the new roles. 

“They now have the capacity to do it and they like getting out and doing this,” he said.

When it comes to staffing, panelists highlighted that engaging your team members, as well as showing them they are valued, is key to sustaining a strong onsite team and maintaining a successful community.

Harkness said that he tries to make the job exciting and rewarding for his team members. Beyond increasing paid time off and expanding health benefits, he says operators should let them know their worth to the community. 

“Be the company that people want to work at,” Harkness added. 

Click here for the replay:

  • Esther Bonardi, Vice President, Marketing, Yardi Systems
  • Jamin Harkness, EVP & Partner at The Management Group
  • Anna Shea, Senior Director of Marketing at Laramar Group
  • Sarah Wieman, Senior Manager of Branding and Marketing at PRG Real Estate

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