Multi-family: In-House or agency for your digital marketing

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Multifamily Marketers have spent much of the past two years assessing, reassessing and adapting to the changing behaviors and needs of our tenants. How can we reach them? How can we involve them? What do they want from us? (Functional websites, accurate pricing, and always-on communication, for starters.)

With a new year comes a new set of opportunities. Ideally, we will learn all lessons from the pandemic and continue to improve our marketing. But concretely, do we have the time?

Imagine, your company has just unveiled exciting plans to grow the portfolio. Even better, he recognizes the importance of a strong digital marketing presence when it comes to attracting leads. As a marketing manager, you have an important decision to make:

Are you developing your internal team or using an external agency?

Both options are common in multifamily marketing, as is choosing to use a combination of the two, with the internal team managing a set of projects, such as creating rental flyers, while an external agency oversees other projects, such as managing SEO and PPC ads for hire.

If you’re struggling with this decision or wondering how to strike the right balance, it’s important to consider the strengths of each approach, as well as the budget and bandwidth of your operations.

When to keep marketing in-house (or not)

Wondering if your in-house team can meet the needs of your properties? Digital marketing can be like a web, as you layer on additional strategies the overall strength and reach should increase.

This begs the question, if you are building your internal team, how many people will you need? Will you hire generalists and/or specialists? Some strategies can be bundled and overseen by one person, but the more you overlap, the more expertise and analytics you risk losing. Can you sufficiently develop your own unique approach if everyone is a generalist or tries to over-supervise?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of internal marketing.

In-house pros

  • Control: You control and manage all of your accounts.
  • Culture: Your team has a deep understanding of your brand and company guidelines.
  • Visibility: You get instant insight into your portfolio, occupancy rate, and reputation (hopefully).
  • Consistency: It’s easy to manage messages across your portfolio.
  • Flexibility: You can adjust budgets and messages immediately.

Internal disadvantages

  • Lack of resources: Many internal teams struggle to get the staff they need to support multiple properties and schedules.
  • Bandwidth issues: Small teams are pulled in many directions, making it difficult to manage SEO, ads, reviews, and social media at the same time.
  • Skills gaps: SEO and marketing data analysts are often highly skilled professional roles that cannot be mastered by multitasking marketers.
  • Incomplete analysis: Internal teams often have to jump from one critical priority to another without having time to analyze what is working. As one area or portfolio improves, it may not be obvious that other areas are suffering.

When to hire a marketing agency (or not)

If managing your multifamily marketing in-house seems impossible, due to staffing issues, scope changes, or something else entirely, you may want to consider hiring an outside agency. A marketing agency can take on as much or as little as you want.

Choosing an agency that focuses on property management will save you a lot of time as the staff will understand the challenges and opportunities in the industry.

If you’re worried that working with an agency means you’ll have to cede all control and lose oversight, rest assured, that’s not the case. Your marketing agency should be an extension of your team. A good agency will provide you with a dedicated marketing specialist who oversees all the properties in your portfolio. This ensures that your brand message is consistent while working with a marketing partner.

The agency pros

  • Time saving: An agency can manage the structural work, routine maintenance and technical audits. This frees up your team and your bandwidth to focus on a larger vision and strategy.
  • Growth: As your portfolio grows, integration is simple and there is no management loss for existing properties.
  • Scalability: When you work with a digital marketing agency, they have the resources to scale with you at a fraction of the cost of adding in-house resources.
  • Expertise: An agency has the resources to hire specialists, which results in a better return on investment.
  • Corporate partnerships: Marketing agencies often have strong relationships with big brands like Google, Facebook, Yext, and others. Your internal team is unlikely to have the same support, knowledge, and access to beta features.
  • Oversight: As a marketing decision-maker, you are always key to your brand’s success. Working with an agency expands your team, allowing you to focus on higher value analysis, rather than day-to-day adjustments.

The disadvantages of the agency

  • Fees: Most agencies charge fees per property and/or per service. For large portfolios, this may add to the cost of an in-house marketer. Ask yourself if a single in-house person could achieve the same results? In many cases, it would be difficult to grow and grow.
  • Delayed access: Meetings may need to be scheduled for a few days before you can immediately reach your team member. Nevertheless, you should have a contact who is available to consult with you and answer your questions during business hours.

Additional Considerations

One of the often overlooked benefits of an agency is that team members have the opportunity to work in a collaborative, marketing-focused environment. The agency’s creatives have peers to exchange ideas and learn from. This collaboration gives access to a variety of voices, with different levels of experience and ideas.

In addition to this, or perhaps mainly because of this, it is important to have confidence in the people you work with. If you’re already working with an agency but don’t have a dedicated contact or visibility into your actual return, it’s time to reconsider that relationship.

There are a handful of agencies that focus exclusively on digital marketing for multifamily and senior portfolios. By working together, you can leverage their expertise and bandwidth to realize your marketing vision.

Of course, the most critical element of any marketing program is the results. Whether you choose to keep your marketing efforts in-house or leverage an agency approach, make sure you can easily track marketing metrics and measure the return on your investment. When you can prove your success in terms of brand awareness, leads, and leases, stakeholders will be more likely to champion your team, whether in-house or outsourced.

Catriona Orosco is a search marketing expert with over a decade of real estate related marketing experience. She is currently the director of REACH by RentCafea full-service digital marketing agency serving the multi-family property management industry.

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