April 17, 2024

Apartment Marketing Solutions: Which is Best?


Taylor Davis


Co-Founder | Chief Product Officer

Apartment Marketing is an ever-evolving field that depends on consumer trends and behaviors. We invest a lot of money to understand these trends, but our results are often minimal. We celebrate a 2% click-through or 20% open rate because these numbers are higher than the industry average. But is this "industry standard" really a valid measure of success when there are lesser-known solutions that can deliver better results?

At first, we recognized this as a marketing problem for Bonfire. Then, we observed it as an industry problem that developed into a philosophical argument. We accept mediocrity to prove that our decision, the commitment we made, was a good investment. Because “failure is not an option,” we fear the consequences and embrace mediocrity as a result. 

This is where business has to change. 

The companies that fail are the companies that succeed. 

Before you make that a poster or attempt to make a podcast about that notion, take a second to think about it. When you break it down, success comes through the choices we make, and fear often clouds our ability to choose.

Companies marred by fear will avoid taking risks, micromanage behaviors, and seek perfection in all they do. They fear the axe of their overlords—the suits in the boardroom—the “decision makers” who only care about the bottom line, and they make decisions that inevitably leads to frustrated customers, which, of course, impacts those precious numbers. Thus, the cycle of fear continues.

Companies that overcome fear take risks, accept team weakness, play to team strengths, and seek profitability without perfection. In other words, they empower a team to call the shots, make decisions, and take action — even if it means failure. Allow your team to fail, and watch them thrive. 

I will be cliche and point to the companies holding these principles…

The successful ones. 

I could point to SpaceX or Tesla and embed video after video of failed rocket explosions; however, while that would be amazing and far more interesting than what I have to say, I have a point to make. When I say “the successful ones,” I mean just that - look at companies like Ford, Apple, Google, Exxon, and the Dallas Cowboys (that was a joke). They all embraced failure, learned from it, and adapted to succeed in delivering a product we enjoy today…see what I did there with the Cowboys reference? Will we ever learn?

When we (Bonfire) work with property management companies to enhance their apartment marketing services, we repeatedly see the same thing: the same tools that deliver, as the youths say, “mid” results. And it seems the reason companies hold to these underperforming solutions is that they do indeed produce results. It's better to have results than no results at all, right? This, I would argue, is fear-based logic. 

As a startup, we understand the common assumption: "Sure, it's easier to take risks when you have ample funds." Much like Tesla and SpaceX, there's indeed a financial cushion for risk-taking. Nevertheless, pivotal "make or break" instances occur in all organizations. While these moments may instill fear, they do not compromise the core values or strategic decisions at the helm. The crucial equilibrium rests in fear transitioning from a controlling force to a driving force, thereby nurturing the innovative breakthroughs indispensable for a company's prosperity.

That is the risk we take with any decision. Risk has to be calculated, mitigated, and sure of success to yield any possibility of the desired outcome. When we look at apartment marketing solutions, we analyze the basic tools and their overall effectiveness: ILS, websites, chatbots, SEO, PPC ads, social media, digital and print campaigns, and inbound lead handling. 

Question 1: Is the system working? 

Question 2: Are goals being achieved? 

Question 3: Are teams satisfied with the process?

The recurring answer to those questions is “no, no, and definitely no.” This leads to the big question: 

Why not change? 

Well, I would argue it’s because the industry has changed. An industry of early adopters turned risk-averse in a matter of months. Fear won the day. The cycle took hold of the industry. 

So, if we try to answer the question, “Which apartment marketing solution is best?” can we really know the answer if we are not innovating and taking risks? If we aren’t trying the new platforms that offer alternative solutions and promise better results? 

Will Property Management Companies Change?

While the movement is slow, change is happening…finally. 

Bonfire entered this market to solve two critical challenges in the marketing department: outreach and automation. We said if we could plug in and enhance the existing tools to perform better, we’d better serve everyone—not just our customers. We’d be creating a new cycle, a positive one that pushes the industry back into the innovation phase. 

The property management companies that have held back for so long, not even daring to attempt a pilot program, are now coming out of the woodwork. They are no longer looking to implement in 2 years. They are ready to adopt new tech in 2024. 

By nature of the industry, the companies that remain in auto-pilot or cost-cutting modes will see the few innovators capturing higher rates of return, then decide that the risk is finally necessary to stay in the game.

This change means these companies will soon race to add the best apartment marketing solutions to their communities.

Which Apartment Marketing Solution is Best?

By all means, avoid the “do-it-all” platforms of the COVID era. I understand the temptation; however, speaking from experience with our own vendors, the successful formula is without a doubt: 

((specialty platform) + (integrations)) = success

Would you use a mountain bike or a hybrid bike to get down a mountain? 

It all depends on the outcome you are pursuing. Are you dead in a ditch or enjoying some IPAs at the bottom of the mountain?

Oddly enough, the same logic applies to adopting new solutions. The struggle of “General vs. Specialty” will forever exist. The latter is more expensive, yet the outcome is typically worth the added expense.

That puts pressure on specialty software—good pressure—because it forces partnership and collaboration between these providers. Without integration, the service is obsolete. With integration, the service is irreplaceable. 

I’ll be political here and say there is no one BEST marketing solution, as they all play a part in a marketing funnel. However, if we had to choose one, it would be the solution that enhances your core metrics—the data outcomes—the lead-to-lease rates, the lead-to-tour rates, and the overall engagement rates that contribute to renewals while either maintaining the same level of efficiency or creating more efficiency in the process. 

While Bonfire’s solution does not deliver on every aspect of marketing, it improves the outcomes. With SMS marketing, email marketing, marketing automation, and leasing AI, the platform can be applied to an existing funnel and improve every essential metric while saving teams time. 

In our biased opinion, we’d consider that a top contender for the best marketing solution because it focuses on improving the outcome, not achieving the standards.

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