SURVIVING CRAIGSLIST’S APARTMENT AD CHANGES

By now you’ve heard about the Craigslist changes and how the site no longer allows HTML code in the description box (leaving you with an error message “IMG, FONT, DIV, TABLE tags are no longer supported”). This significantly affects property management marketing and the way communities can post housing ads on its site, and the new policy sent the apartment marketing industry into a scramble.

What matters now? The best, first image you upload to grab attention in the thumbnail and gallery views. But here’s the crazy thing — perform a quick search in your area and you’ll notice about 50% of housing ads have no image, not even the very important first photo. Their only hope for a click is a few keywords in a short headline. We telephoned a sampling of communities and asked why they’re missing images and found they don’t know how a housing ad displays on Craigslist.org, most likely from using a third-party listing service to create ads.

Beyond Wine & Cheese Marketing quickly launched a solution for members and their apartment advertising by creating dozens of Craigslist Image formats featuring leasing themes — they’re eye catching and work within the revised requirements. Our new Craigslist Images are JPEG files sized to fit perfectly as the featured image to grab attention of prospective renters.

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to promote pet-friendly communities

Craigslist also changed their policy on links – clickable external links are not allowed. You can and should still post the URL of your website in your text and encourage users to copy and paste it into a browser to explore more info on your site. But here’s the thing: Can you add two links? Many communities have a link to an HTML ad and then further challenge a prospect to click a second time to reach their leasing website. Will they do it? It remains to be seen.

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to promote communities with locations near major employers, transportation corridors and landmarks

 LESSONS LEARNED:

1)   Your marketing strategy should not solely depend on Craigslist. As we’ve seen, the site can and does change its policies – and you have no control over that, so you will always be scrambling to conform to their rules. Craigslist is great because it’s free and has a huge viewership, but you are pitted in the same place side by side with your competitors, which is great if you have what it takes to outshine them. Not so great if you don’t. If you want to learn about other ways to handle your apartment marketing, call or email us and we’d love to share what we know about:

  1. Using your own website
  2. Keeping up with the masses on Facebook, social media, blog
  3. Sending blast emails
  4. Partnering with local businesses
  5. Targeting companies near your community with a large number of employees

2)   PHOTOS are more important than ever in your Craigslist posts (and otherwise). If your property photos are not great, you need to WOW readers with an image that draws them in, which is why Beyond Wine & Cheese offers professionally designed eye-catching ads (saved as a JPEG) for members to upload as their “first” image to be featured.

  1. A property’s photos are huge in snagging potential renters, so if you do not have high quality images of your community, you should spend the effort to make this happen.
  2. Not many readers will get through a big chunk of plain text about a property, but if you capture them with outstanding photos first, then they’re more likely to dig deeper into your paragraph of words to find out more. Photos really help to illustrate the personality of a community. Text “tells” – photos “show.”

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to appeal to renters about moving

Have questions, want to learn more, or need a CUSTOM Craigslist ad featuring your brand colors and photos?

Beyond Wine & Cheese Marketing

MAKE SOME NOISE

White noise: uniform, steady, drone

Make some noise: To attract attention. To do something noticeable.

We follow the Multi-housing News blog where senior editor Jessica Fiur recently commented on the dangers of apartment marketing becoming the kind of white noise that renters overlook and tune out when community managers post repetitive content in their ads. We couldn’t agree more. Are you using the same text in your ads? The same property photos? The same designs? You need to mix it up since repetitive content blends into the background like white noise, but fresh content knows how to make some noise.

Recently on Craigslist, we saw the word “beautiful” used 8 times in several apartment ad subject lines to try and capture renters’ attention. The ones that stood out among the “beautiful” white noise used less common descriptors: delightful, adorable, unique.

Beautiful 3 Bedroom Townhome with Attached Nursery $1999/3br

Beautiful Apartment Close to shopping $885/2br

Beautiful views, 1 bedroom apartment in heart of Tacoma

Beautiful 2 Bedroom 2.5 bath in Puyallup

Beautiful 1 Bedroom October move-in W/D $954/1br

Again, to stand out among the stale ads on Craigslist, MIX IT UP.  If your apartment community has 12 worthy amenities, create 4 different ads focusing on 3 different amenities at a time to post on Craigslist, interchanging them throughout the weeks to gauge each one’s success.

Speaking of using campaigns to showcase your amenities:

a.  Beyond Wine & Cheese’s library of ready-to-go apartment marketing campaigns make it easy for you to grab several different ads and quickly customize with your information.

b.  We have themes about washer & dryers, covered parking, swimming pools, storage and a variety of amenities. Examples are illustrated below.

c.  Our software allows you to quickly and easily paste a professionally designed ad that you’ve customized with your details on Craigslist and measure its “hits” and “clicks.”

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And our last suggestion to stand out (in a good way) on Craigslist – proofread for typos so that when you look back at your apartment marketing, you don’t have any regrets like a poorly spelled tattoo. Live a life of no regrets!

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Attention Kmart Shoppers: I Just Shipped My Pants!

By now you’ve probably seen the controversial Kmart commercial showcasing their shipping services. The company injected humorous wordplay into the ad whereby actors performing as Kmart shoppers say they shipped items in such a manner that it actually sounds like they did the unthinkable:
Standing in the store, a customer says, “I just shipped my pants!”
Another claims, “I just shipped my drawers.”
“I just shipped my nightie.”
And my favorite, “I just shipped my bed!”

The commercial went viral, getting 17 million hits on Youtube, which is every marketing team’s dream. But it also got bombarded with a lot of criticism due to its crass nature. Watch the “Shipped My Pants” commercial on Youtube and decide for yourself.

Really? I can ship my pants, right here, right now?

Really? I can ship my pants, right here, right now?

I’m not a Kmart shopper and have never noticed their marketing besides past obvious catchy slogans like “blue light special,” but the shipping commercial is one where I’ll stop, watch, laugh and remember and talk about it to others instead of fast forwarding through it on my DVR. It doesn’t make me want to shop there any more than I did before, but it has everyone talking about it, which is half the battle. And a good laugh never hurt anybody.

Kmart followed up the shipping campaign with a similar one: Big Gas Savings. Say that phrase fast over and over and it sounds like something else:
A woman in the ad says, “Sounds like you could use some big gas savings”
“Thirty cents a gallon, that’s a big gas discount,” says another.
A kid proclaims, “Dad, look at that big gas truck!”

Watch the big gas video here.

Kmart says, “Creativity is important in Kmart’s advertising to engage our members and share new information on promotions and initiatives. We believe that humor is a natural part of the strategy.”

What do you think – brilliant advertising or clean up on aisle 9 with marketing gone awry? What are some ways that community managers can include creativity and humor in apartment marketing? Can you think of any apartment advertising that was so funny you had to share or that it was so bold it crossed the line? Let us know in our comments section below.

Fried Chicken Relieves Anxiety

vintage kfc woman eat chix

Recently we saw food researcher and writer Michael Pollan speak in support of his new book Cooked. A smart man with great insight into how our food system works, Pollan knows about marketing, having written and published four books. One of the things he said that stood out: “Marketing is relieving anxiety.” The example he used was the anxiety created when in the 1960s women left the home and joined the workforce, yet they were still expected to deal with the kids, house cleaning and cooking. The marketers behind Kentucky Fried Chicken recognized the anxiety and tension this created within families and jumped in with their advertising to convey, “Hey, we’ll take care of that for you, don’t waste your precious time in the kitchen, let us cook you a family size bucket of fried chicken instead.” Watch this vintage KFC commercial where the fast food chain tries to relieve a family’s anxiety over who’s going to make dinner.

Here’s another video with the same theme — a scattered mom with a lot to do picks up a bucket of chicken to the catchy jingle of “Why Cook?”

I’m a sucker for vintage videos, and I can get caught up on youtube for far too long. If you’re the same, check out these other old school videos below and let us know what you think — are these examples of good promotion or marketing gone awry?

mc hammer

Uh oh, it’s Hammer time! How many of you lived through the late 80s doing the MC Hammer dance with those funky flowing pants? Here MC Hammer is featured in a KFC commercial, but they didn’t take enough advantage of his wacky dance moves. After all, BET ranked him the #7 best dancer in the world. You can’t touch this!

After watching many KFC commercials, I can say that most of them included singing and dancing as if they were musicals, which was probably a sign of the times, such as this one from the 1970s. Do you remember this catchy jingle?

Oh, bless his heart, Colonel Sanders botched this commercial voiceover again and again — I’d say this might fall into the category of marketing gone really awry.

wheres the beef

To end our commentary on commercials, the fast food chain that beat them all with the best marketing is the Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the Beef?” I know you remember this one!

NEED PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FOR YOUR MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING?
If you’re an apartment community manager who needs to market to your residents, we’ve already done the work for you. Beyond Wine & Cheese has hundreds of marketing campaigns catered to your industry on numerous topics in a variety of formats (posters, door hangers, e-flyers, postcards). Call us at 888-472-8898 or email us at hello@beyondwineandcheese.com and we can tell you more about becoming a member and get you set up to log in to our exclusive website so that you can start taking advantage of completed marketing campaigns today.

Do Sparkling Pools Make High Quality Content?

DO SPARKLING POOLS MAKE HIGH QUALITY CONTENT?

This week the Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) conference takes place in Huntington Beach, California, not a bad place to go to learn new ideas. We love the overall theme of the event: The Art of Creativity. How many of you are attending? What do you hope to learn? Let us live vicariously through you and tell us about your experiences when you get a chance.

We are big advocates of the ideas and presentation topics at the conference such as writing quality content. In our last blog, we talked about people who use “romance copy” to trick or seduce residents, so to continue that conversation, let’s talk about the other side of that – providing honest, quality content.

Keith Brown/RealPage, the official social media sponsor of the AIM conference, talks about using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content so that what you post online is picked up by Google searches. Of all the vast information out there in the Internet universe, Google focuses on providing the highest quality search results, which gives those people with the best content more visibility. So the lesson is: the better content you provide, the more people will see it and perhaps act on it. In the apartment industry, this means catching the attention of potential residents and keeping the attention of existing ones by offering them quality content that showcases your community and activities.

Brown has 3 SEO rules below for providing great content, which we’ve merged with our own and other ideas:

Rule 1: Well-Written Text – This means not only providing grammatically correct text without typos, but also connecting emotionally with your residents. Have a unique voice and be accessible, allowing for human connection. Tell your audience what kind of value you can provide to their lives and how you can fulfill their rental needs. Describe your apartment complex in such a way that makes potential residents feel like it’s a place they want to be, avoiding using clichés or over-used adjectives such as “sparkling” pool. For example, the below picture of the pool is not sparkling as advertised, and the photo isn’t a great one to try and sell it as such.

bwac sparkling pool

Rule 2: Beautiful High Resolution Photography – Words alone can’t accurately describe a place, but the addition of great images will attract attention and residents. Words tell, images show. You need to show and tell if you want people to be talking about and sharing your content with others. A resident can better picture herself living in your apartment community if the photos are eye catching and clear with great composition, and it’s these images that will move her to come see the space in person. As Brown states, “data shows that listings with high-quality photos are contacted eight times more often than listings without them.”

Rule 3: Engaging and Professional Videos – We have all seen those videos that are less than stellar. The camera is wobbly and all over the place, making it hard to watch, or the audio is too low or scratchy, making it hard to listen, and some are just downright boring. Not all of us can create a fantastic video that goes viral, but we can implement simple things to make our videos engaging: steady camera work, good sound, and interesting and useful information. A good example of a great video with all of these components is “Getting to Know Ava,” which is one of 33 entries from apartment professionals who submitted videos for judging in the AIM Conference’s “best community marketing video” contest.

Watch all of the videos here and let us know which ones are your favorites.

Do you have any of your own apartment marketing videos to share? We’d love to see them.

A reminder to close with – if you are having trouble providing content with well-written text and eye-catching images, don’t forget to check out Beyond Wine & Cheese’s vast online library of marketing ideas already completed for your use. We’re here to help, so let’s talk and work together on attracting and keeping residents.

Fa La La La La Apartment Romance

How many of us in the apartment industry have been victims of Romance Copy? Either we’ve slung it out there to seduce residents to rent with us or we’ve been the ones who have fallen for it. I know I can’t resist the word cottage when I’m looking for a place to live, and I conjure up all kinds of cute things in my mind, a cozy farmhouse near a lake, for example, but then I get to the site and realize their use of the word cottage really means a plain, tiny space. Creative, seductive words lure residents to imagine their lives nestled amongst the trees adjacent to a babbling brook. However, apartment marketing such as this doesn’t set us up for success, but only increases a resident’s disappointment when she arrives to find her high expectations of lounging by a sparkling pool replaced with the reality of a pool filled with murky water and debris.

On the other hand, if your apartment community really is fit for a Queen and residents will be tempted by secret closet space and find their paradise at their new place, then go ahead and spruce up your copy with flowery words. The article “Romance 101: How to Use Feminine Words That Sell” has tips to help you with resident temptation.

In the world of good apartment marketing, we use not only words, but also amenity photos to paint a picture of a place to call home. As the article “Real Estate Agents And The Art Of Seductive Home Staging” demonstrates, we get caught up in sexy imagery such as placing candles and wine near the bathtub or a big colorful bowl of fresh juicy fruit when in reality the residents who will dwell there snack on bologna sandwiches and Doritos.

wine bath

Another way we use staging to lure residents is by placing certain coveted objects in our photos. According to Curbed, the trend now is the strategically placed guitar. As a music lover, I would totally fall for that, especially if it were a banjo.

guitar

What strategically placed items in photos would you fall for or have you used as marketing strategy in your apartment community pictures? If you know of any other language or imagery tricks to trick residents, let Beyond Wine & Cheese Marketing know in our comments section here or on our facebook page.

Spring Out Of Hibernation

This week marked the first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox, derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night,” where daylight equals that of night. We the soggy people of Seattle welcome this time of year with longer light-filled days and more sunshine. I spent my first days of spring walking the dog, taking photos of daffodils that have sprouted all around, watching a sunset, eating homemade vegetable soup and listening to bluegrass at a local tavern. But more than all the fun springtime stuff, this time of year is also the time of plans and projects, and my list is long: deep clean and declutter the whole house, yard work, take more walks, etc.  Speaking of plans and projects, what marketing plans do you have for your apartment community to attract or retain residents? It’s a lovely time of year to tackle both, while also helping residents reach their springtime goals, which are likely to be similar to mine. Below we have some ideas to help you and them get started on such projects.

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people, and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

 

Alright, Hemingway, don’t be grumpy, it’s springtime, after all. But speaking of people and happiness, what is your apartment community staff doing to help make residents happy? If you’re due for some activity in this area, now is the time to spring out of hibernation and engage your community.

Now is the time when spring cleaning urges arise with the need to purge. While residents are likely taking this transition time into the next season to get their apartments in order and purge the stuff that no longer serves them, help make it easier for them by holding an apartment-wide tag sale. Invite everyone out to a common place to gather with their things for a good old fashion yard sale. Who doesn’t like to get rid of their junk and perhaps find that one-of-a-kind treasure from a fellow neighbor? This gives residents time to bond with each other and with you. Whatever doesn’t sell, make your residents happy by scheduling a Salvation Army truck to pick up the rest for donation or have your staff box it up for a trip to Goodwill. If such a tag sale sounds like a springtime activity that will help you retain residents, we have done the marketing for you and have a campaign with all you need, from posters and door hangers to postcards and e-flyers: The Ultimate Tag Sale


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