Forbes — Three Ways To Make Brand Matter In Multifamily
Funnel Leasing CEO on how you can get ready for the brand revolution.
Brand influences nearly every area of our life: what we eat, what we wear, what we drive, how we travel and where we stay on vacation. But when you’re moving and ready to rent an apartment, do you think of the brand or the specific property? Brands influence our behavior in everything except where we live, and that’s about to change.
35% of the nation’s 122.3 million households rent, as of 2020, the last year for which the Census Bureau has reliable estimates. With the ongoing housing crunch, this number is expected to grow. Multifamily property management companies need to invest in building a relationship with renters or brand loyalty will remain out of reach.
Here are the three action items to get your properties prepared for the brand revolution.
1. Build a relationship with renters.
A prerequisite to building brand loyalty in any industry is to have a one-to-one relationship with your customer: in this case, the renter.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been possible in the multifamily industry, because when property management software is leveraged for renter-facing workflows, vital information is siloed in ways that hold property management companies (PMCs) back. They have no way to know that a renter who lived in their community in one location is the same renter living in another.
The multifamily brand litmus test is: Does brand influence a renter’s propensity to lease at a community?
The multifamily brand litmus test is: Does brand influence a renter’s propensity to lease at a community? To influence renter behavior through brand, PMCs need to operate in ways that put the renters at the forefront both in their amenities and with their digital platforms. This includes things like providing amenities renters want and need; beautiful, safe places that feel like home; intuitive digital experiences; and a welcoming atmosphere. All of this begins with building a one-to-one relationship with the renter.
For inspiration, let’s consider airlines and how they’ve led the charge to build brand loyalty all while taking us around the world. Each airline company can’t have a flight to every airport worldwide, which is why they build partnerships with one another. Star Alliance, the first global aviation alliance, started in 1997 with five airlines. Today, they have over 26 member airlines and offer easy connections to nearly any destination worldwide. Because airlines have a one-to-one relationship with the traveler, they collectively reward travelers loyalty for flying regularly with any sister-airline within the alliance.
2. Reconsider the brand name.
Generic property names are a missed opportunity. It’s time for PMCs to sunset ambiguous names and create brand recognition by including the company’s brand in properties’ names.
A challenge to making this happen is the properties themselves. Brand can’t matter to PMCs if properties change hands often. In other words, brand only matters to PMCs if they have a long-term hold strategy to the communities they acquire. Today, most owner-operators are moving toward brand awareness for communities, but their efforts aren’t without challenges.
Rebranding in multifamily isn’t as simple as launching a new website. It includes the usual things in a digital rebrand and property-level renovations too. Renovations can include removing old branding from the community pool or sandblasting exterior building logos. Due to expense and logistics, these projects are easy to place on the backburner.
3. Improve your renters’ experience with user-friendly tech.
Brand conveys experience and matter in all asset classes and property types. For multifamily property management companies, technology influences expectations for your brand. Renters don’t differentiate the chat function on your website, their rental application process or your app from your actual properties themselves. The frustrations or ease created by any renter-facing technology reflects back—for better or worse—on your brand. If you’re investing in creating a digital experience for your renters, make it a good one that helps build your properties’ brand loyalty.
The future of multifamily is brand.
The bottom line is: Brand will become an element of the multifamily industry via companies that have the scale and density to benefit from it.
The bottom line is: Brand will become an element of the multifamily industry via companies that have the scale and density to benefit from it. Larger operators will lean into brand to garner lower acquisition costs and longer lifetime customer value, creating a competitive advantage. This will influence smaller operators to create an intra-portfolio model much like a multifamily version of the Star Alliance loyalty program for renters. Partnerships allow smaller brands to collaborate and earn the same benefits as larger operators. Being a brand latecomer, or having a walled-garden approach to renter rewards, will disadvantage smaller companies disproportionately. Perhaps these models feel revolutionary, but brand matters deeply to the future of multifamily. We either choose to rethink the status quo and disrupt internally, or external companies will drive the disruption for us.