Marketing to Millennials

Its important for the apartment industry to learn about marketing to Millennials. For the busy 10-100 unit apartment owner, I digested and summarized the November ’14 issue of MFE, “Multifamily Executive” magazine. The Millennial Generation, aka Gen Y, currently represents the majority of the tenant base (20-30 year-olds), and the Millennial Generation is millions of people larger than the previous group, Gen X.

Millennials are the most mysterious of the generations in America… mostly because they are the newest generation, but also because they are so different having been born with access to technology. A CNN article shows that the Millennial generation started being born around 1980.

Ryan Severino, Senior Economist, at Reis comments to MFE that the prime rental age group at any given time are 20-30 year olds. He further specified that currently the most common age in America is “22;” Taylor Swift fans rejoice! In addition to 22, the next two common ages in America are “23” and “21.” The number of 20-30 year-olds actually won’t peak until 2018.

Can They Hear You Now? by Michael Taus

I was most interested by the MFE article written by Michael Taus called “Can They Hear You Now?” which describes how to market to Millennials. Taus comments that when marketing to Millennials – they don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be a part of the conversation! Taus says that Millennials are skeptical when it comes to traditional, “top down” advertising; he provides 10 ideas to garner attention from Millennial renters. Like a lot of national articles, some of the suggestions might not apply to older 10-100 apartment complexes that don’t have a lot of amenities. I chose to combine four of Taus’ ideas into two of the best suggestions for the Central Denver multifamily investor:

1. Host a party; turn your tenants into community ambassadors
2. Offer as much technology as you can; adopt online leasing

Host a party and turn your tenants into community ambassadors. Everyone likes free food and drinks, right? Hosting a party in one of your vacant apartments can be easy, inexpensive, and the vibe of the party should be a direct reflection of your building. I suggest that you invite your existing tenants to see the newly remodeled apartment BEFORE you post it to Craig’s List. Start the party on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday in the early evening (after work hours and before they might go out for the night). Encourage each tenant to invite 2-3 friends and require all attendees to sign-in to a guest log like a REALTOR would at a residential Open House. Offer existing tenants a referral (either discount on rent, offer to pay one month of utilities, or a gift card to a local restaurant).

Offer as much technology as you can and adopt online leasing. Millennials expect a strong wifi connection in your building. Some of Denver’s smartest owners/managers are offering free wifi to their tenants. There is a one-time setup cost and continual maintenance, but you will play right into your ideal demographic by offering wifi as a free amenity. Caution: adopt a lease clause that restricts the type of internet activity to lower bandwith use (email, Facebook, online shopping, internet browsing, etc.) and monitor the “repeat offenders.”  Millennials are accustomed to online interactions which should include a paperless system (rental applications, lease documents, rental payments, and maintenance requests). An actual client of mine uses an online system for a locally owned, “small” apartment portfolio. Their actual rental application screen is provided below. You don’t have to be a big apartment complex to have an approachable online system.

Online Application

The moral of the Millennial story is related to a growing trend that I’m hearing lately. Millennials ask this question in any circumstance… “are they authentic?” Authenticity to the Millennial generation is paramount. This is largely due to social media where everyone has an outlet to share publicly and the growing concern of this generation is whether the “real you” matches the online version of you. This begs the question, “does your apartment building’s online presence match the actual experience once someone moves in?” You don’t want to be the multifamily investor that over promises and under delivers… especially with the Millennial generation.

~Kyle Malnati, Partner/Shareholder
Madison & Company Properties
1221 S. Clarkson St. #300, Denver, CO 80210