Data-Driven Marketing: Separating the Signal from the Noise

The days of scraping property management systems and website surveys for data are over. Today’s multifamily marketer has more data than they can even begin to analyze.

Just the thought of beginning to analyze that data is an astronomical chore for even the most sophisticated marketer. Fortunately, according to a panel of industry experts on the Data-Driven Marketing: Separating the Signal from the Noise Session at the 2017 NMHC OPTECH conference held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort Oct. 25-27. Among the solutions are better planning to gather data in a way that leads to actionable results, a return to the scientific method and hiring marketing team members with analytical prowess.

“We use what we’re trying to solve for to determine which data we’re going to use because there is so much data available from a macro to a micro perspective,” said Elaine De Lude, vice president of LIVEbe. “You have to ask yourself if the data your getting is going to result in a decision maker being able to take an action to improve a process or address an issue.”

Even owner/operators with sophisticated business intelligence tools and customer relationship management systems need to be mindful of gathering data in a way that results in an actionable outcome.

“We dissect the data in a way that makes sense for the end usage, so we do a lot of benchmarking and put in a lot of KPIs,” said Ryan Perez, vice president of marketing for CF Real Estate Services, of the data in the companies internal BI tool as well as a CRM system. “But there’s a lot of data that doesn’t end up being used.”

Doing so effectively, often means a return to the scientific method — developing a hypothesis, making predictions and testing the hypothesis. “I love the scientific method for data collection. You have to start with a hypothesis,” said John Thornton, senior director of performance marketing at RentPath.

“A really good example happens when we build a new community,” De Lude said of the scientific method in practice at LIVEbe. “We make an educated guess based on whatever data is available to us at that time. We say, ‘Here’s who we think is going to live at this community and what kind of amenities they’re going to like.’ But as you go through the process you find that maybe it’s not all millennials, it’s a larger spread of age ranges. Then you have to ask what you can do with that data, are there things you can modify in the very beginning of the development that will help satisfy the needs of those people as well?”

De Lude shared the example of a lease up taking place at a community in Washington, D.C. Going into the project, Elaine’s marketing team made the hypothesis that young working professionals with an average age of 27, a job in the private sector and an income of $75,000 a year. In actuality, 40 percent of the individuals leasing the apartment homes were on average 37 years old with a government job paying more than $95,000 a year.

LIVEbe reacted by changing the keywords it optimized its website copy for and the keywords it bid on in pay-per-click campaigns. The community also adjusted the on-site activities it hosted. “Instead of a night at the bar, it’s a show, drinks before dinner type of thing. Those are the things you can quickly adjust to meet the needs of the actual people who are coming through the door and leasing at your community. “

Being able to quickly identify data that conflicts with original assumptions and then make the appropriate changes is a different skillset than what multifamily marketers of the past brought to the table. CF Real Estate Services and LIVEbe have both completely changed their hiring practices for marketing team members based on marketing’s greater reliance on data.

“I’ve been in property management since 1991 and the way marketing people were hired back then was very different,” De Lude said. “Those days of just being the good cheerleader slash trainer is not enough. You need to have somebody who understands data and demand and how to be flexible and how to adjust. Things change all the time and keeping up on that is challenging for people who aren’t analytical.”

These new marketing associates have to be able to operate effectively in numerous different digital channels from social media to Google Adwords, according to Perez.

“You have to be able to manipulate all of the social channels that touch your world,” Perez said. “That could be through corporate marketing strategy, your corporate LinkedIn page right down to the individual property’s Facebook and Snapchat.”

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