Understanding your target tenant is among the most important tools you’ll need to drive leasing.
I’ve participated in or conducted over 50 creative discovery meetings for multi-family properties, and just about every one has included a discussion about Target Demographics. Why? Because they’re relevant, insightful, and entirely necessary to develop a strong marketing plan that will drive traffic and leasing. But they are nearly always flawed… or at a minimum woefully incomplete.
Many national developers and management companies rely on large scale enterprise level solutions – tools that have been created to churn up data and spit out findings. While these tools have their place and can be very helpful – Esri’s Tapestry Segmentation tool is a great example – they also generally miss the meat of the story.
Good marketing is about making connections. Personal connections that drive an emotional response. We live in a hyper-catered world – ads are served to us based on purchasing decisions, web browsing data, and even conversations our phones hear us having. We’re conditioned to respond to advertising that’s pointed directly at each of us individually. And it works. According to research completed by Salesforce, 52% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a product they’re using doesn’t make an effort to personalize its communications to them.
Let's get back to personas. If we’re going to market directly to our best prospects, we need to know more than the zip-code based demographics these big firms churn out. Our neighborhoods don’t change every five, or ten, or twenty miles – they change street by street, block by block, and the target demos change right along with them.
Large-scale data platforms will pull age, education, and income levels based on a ten mile radius, and then make assumptions about who these people are – generally pulling from a stack of pre-written demographics that assume people of a given age are the same in Boston, Baton Rouge, or Bismark. News flash – they’re not!
So how can we create Target Personas that dig deeper? How can we create profiles that rely more on psychographic and behavioral insights and less on canned data?
Our answer is to dig deeper; go beyond the data. There are two ways to do this:
Whenever we can, we visit the site of a new development. Not just a drive-by iPhone pic of an empty lot – we generally stay the night. We book a hotel in the neighborhood and we hit the streets. We check Yelp for local hangouts and have dinner at a favorite neighborhood spot – we’ll even grab dessert at another one, and swing by a bar for a late night drink. Nothing will tell you more about a neighborhood than hitting these local spots.
The next day we’ll grab breakfast at a local bakery, talk up the waiter, and walk to tour the comps. We’ll pop into open shops and just take in the neighborhood. How are people getting around? What are they driving? What are they wearing? Is there an urgency to their walk, or are they taking time to grab a coffee and visit a friend? Be observant. Take notes. Take pictures. There’s so much to discover, you just have to put on your anthropologist hat and be aware of what’s going on around you. You’ll be shocked what you’ll learn.
No one knows a neighborhood better than its residents. When time or budget doesn’t allow for an on-site visit, we’ll do everything we can to get to know our specific submarket virtually.
Online neighborhood reviews are a great way to understand what makes a neighborhood tick. Most major cities have local papers that break down residential neighborhoods in colorful ways, shining a light on what kind of people will “fit in” best in this neighborhood or that. And restaurant reviews of local hot-spots are a quick way to learn what works in a given neighborhood and why. With an hour to work with and Google search at your fingertips, a curious investigator can paint a vibrant, detailed, and usually very accurate picture of a neighborhood and its residents.
Now that you have your “soft data” – it’s important to organize and evaluate it – even test it with folks on your team that are local to the area. Recognize that this is a less-than-scientific process, and be willing to adjust as you move through it. For us at MBX, that often means combining our findings with a data set provided by the client (or purchased through one of the big firms), and using it as a way to add more local color and flavor. We’ll then present this to the client, who has an opportunity to validate it or tweak it. Ultimately, the result is a much richer, more informative profile of your target tenant. These personas will not only provides baseline information that helps with setting rent prices, but also deeper personality insights that help build a brand that resonates with the unique styles and tastes of your hyper-local market.