The Resident Journey: Advertising to Students in 2020

Jul 9, 2020 | 0 comments

If you’re in a relationship or you desire to be, I want you to imagine this scenario for a moment:

You are at one of your favorite restaurants in town enjoying a nice juicy burger. You’re all by yourself so you don’t have to worry about being fancy. You’ve got a full glass of your favorite drink right next to your plate on the table. It’s about to go down!

As you pick up your burger to take another delicious bite. An attractive young man walks up to you and asks if anyone is sitting here. Before you have the chance to say no, he sits across from you.

As you nearly choke in shock of what you thought to just be an awkward situation, he proceeds to get on one knee and ask you to marry him…

How would you respond?

If you’re like me, your response would be some variation of asking your waiter for a to go box and enjoying your burger at home – probably assuming you were on an episode of punk’d with Ashton Kutcher.

Well, this my friend is how most student housing properties approach their advertising. They are the creepy guy who intrudes on a student’s hilarious newsfeed with a proposal saying “Hi, nice to meet you. Will you live with us?”

Even if the property is attractive and has all the best amenities it will still be negatively portrayed simply because they were not aligned with the Resident Journey.

Although the student was in the Aware stage of the journey the property is already pushing them to Apply when they don’t have nearly enough information or interactions with the brand to be ready to do so.

Introducing the Resident Journey

The Resident Journey (based on the Customer Value Journey) is the framework for helping you turn students from strangers into residents who not only love your property but recommend your property to their friends. We know, based on recent studies, that students do not respond to traditional disruptive advertising. 

This takes you from using the “spray and pray” method of advertising to analyzing which stages of the Resident Journey need the most attention and allocating resources accordingly.

There are 8 stages to the Resident Journey:

Step 1: Make Them Aware

This is where a prospect becomes aware that your property exists. Either through an ad or a referral.

A key element to remember at this stage is reaching students before your competitors do. Google is great, but if a student is searching for apartments they will see you right next to your comps.

You want to have established a relationship before they search for housing. Some suggestions are YouTube Ads, Instagram Ads, Snapchat Ads and TikTok Ads.

(NOTE: Google Ads work great at this stage when targeting keywords that will reach students searching for things outside of apartments)

Step 2: Get Them to Engage

This is where a prospect watches a video from your property, engages on social media, etc.

The focus of this stage is providing value. You don’t have to go for the sell here. You don’t have to show a virtual tour. It can be something as simple as Secret Study Spots on Campus, 7 Decorating Hacks, etc.

Remember: we are building a relationship that will pay off in the long run.

Step 3: Provide a Reason to Subscribe

Prospect opts in for a promo code, guide or other gated content.

Think about providing something for free that they would usually have to pay for or it would be inconvenient to find. Examples are a pricing guid or a promo code for your current leasing incentive. This is where you have generated a lead because they’ve provided their information in exchange.

Step 4: Take Them on a Tour

Prospect takes an in person or virtual tour.

The only tip I have here is to be sure your team is asking questions! Don’t just talk the whole time lol. Most people leave an interaction saying “wow I had such a great time” when they’ve done most of the talking. Ask questions that allow you to guide them to the right floor plan.

Step 5: Get Them Excited About Your Property

Prospect is pumped up about your property.

Go the extra mile to ensure the student has a great experience after leaving your tour. Ideas include free swag, post cards, personal videos, etc.

Step 6: Make Them a Resident that re-signs

Prospect becomes a resident at your property for multiple years

After experiencing your property and being excited about the idea of living there, your prospect signs a lease and lives at your property and even re-signs for future years.

Step 7: Ask Them to Leave a Review

Prospect leaves a positive google review

Google reviews in student housing can be horrific simply because of one students experiences that was an anomaly. That’s why it’s important to build a great relationship from day one to

Step 8: Make Them a Promoter

Prospect tells their friends to live at your property

Last of all, the prospect has become a resident that not only lives at your property but also tells their friends to live at your property!

That is the overview of every step of The Resident Journey.

Making The Most of The Resident Journey

My challenge for you is to grab our Resident Journey Worksheet and fill in what you are currently doing at each stage of the journey to help students become promoters of your brand and have a great experience.

Once you’ve done that, you are well on your way toward standing our from the competition because you will be one of few properties to intentionally build a true relationship with students rather than proposing when you first meet 🙂

Happy Advertising <3

(NOTE: If you want to learn more about how to stand out in your market, feel free to schedule a free strategy session with me. I will audit your Resident Journey and point you in the right direction!)

Increase leasing in as little as 2 weeks.

Click below to see how it could work for you. 


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