7 Deadly Sins of Student Housing Property Marketing

Topics: Marketing Toolkit, Millennials + Gen Z, Digital Media, Media + Advertising, Property Marketing, Campus Media

Posted by: Marketing

Are your student housing property marketing efforts failing? Do you need more leads, increased numbers of qualified applicants, and better occupancy rates? Are you looking for a better bang for your advertising buck? Avoid the seven deadly sins of property marketing, employ truly effective advertising strategies, and you will achieve the student housing rental results you require.

MSSmedia 7 Deadly Sins




#1 Not Establishing & Tracking Marketing Goals

What are your company revenue goals? Do you know your closing rates? What’s your conversion rate? What are your attrition rates? Well-defined marketing goals are essential for effective advertising and real estate marketing success. 


+ See our proven three stage process for establishing effective marketing goals.


Marketing Worksheets



#2 Not Knowing Your Target Audience 

As a student housing property manager, your target audience seems pretty straightforward. You’re marketing your property to college students, end of story. Or is it? 

The best way to successfully engage with any audience is to understand precisely who they are and what they want. When you take the time to identify detailed target market personas for your intended audience, you’ll have a more complete picture of who they are and how to reach them efficiently and effectively.

+ Learn how to create effective buyer personas for student housing.


MSSmedia Buyer Persona Worksheet-1



#3 Not Establishing a Budget for Marketing Efforts

Certainly there are no-cost ways to market your rental properties, and we encourage you to include them in your marketing mix. However, they often aren’t particularly effective on their own, and still require an often significant investment of time.

We find a full-funnel digital and campus marketing strategy focused on paid advertising to be the most effective method for increasing the numbers of heads in beds. Together paid online and traditional advertising of all types propel winning property marketing campaigns.

Ideally, you will maintain separate budget line items for digital advertising, traditional marketing efforts, and in-person events (like open houses).

By combining tactics from multiple marketing arenas, you will extend your reach while each part of your property marketing campaign amplifies the efforts of the others. To ensure adequate funding and keep costs in line, you should budget separate amounts for digital marketing efforts, traditional advertising, etc.


+ Learn more about how and why to create an integrated marketing campaign.


Digital Property Marketing

The world of digital marketing can be overwhelming. Leasing managers may be tempted to focus the majority of their time, efforts and budget elsewhere. However, this ever-expanding sector is key to attracting students in today’s crowded real estate market. Student rentals cater almost exclusively to Millennial and Generation Z audiences, both digitally native demographics. To advertise to and connect with these demographics, you must include a digital advertising strategy in your marketing plans. 

It’s important to choose the channels that best fit your needs and are proven to deliver real results. For property managers looking to increase occupancy in today’s market, paid ad campaigns are an excellent way to optimize your ROI. Using location specific geo-targeted advertisements (local Pay Per Click) ensures that the impressions you’re paying for reach the candidates you’re pursuing.


Traditional Campus Advertising

Regardless of time frame or budget, there are traditional campus advertising options that will suit your needs and help you meet your goals. Posting prominent signage in front of your rental property is another essential real estate marketing best practice. Including a plastic box with informational fliers on your rental property is also an excellent property marketing tactic. In addition, these fliers can be posted on bulletin boards and other public locations around campus.

Believe it or not, 72-80% of college students regularly read their student newspaper. Therefore, print ads in campus newspapers are a critical medium for attracting student renters. Because student newspapers are a very localized advertising medium, ads can be tailored specifically to each target audience for maximum effect. Additionally, since newspaper ads are well retained after a single reading, you can save money on running the same advertisement repeatedly.

+ Learn how to create a successful modern property marketing campaign.  


Budget based on your overall marketing goals. 

Clear-cut objectives enable you to make the most efficient use of your time, energy, and budget. When you base your budget on your specific marketing goals, you will eliminate wasted spending on efforts that are unlikely to produce your desired results.


MSSmedia 10 Steps to Reach Marketing Goals



#4 Not Having a Timeline

It’s important to establish starting points for your marketing efforts, reasonable and detailed milestones along the way, and deadlines for accomplishing your goals. A timeline will help you and your team visualize your route and destination clearly and ensure that you know when you need to arrive. 

By keeping predictable seasonal market fluctuations in mind, you eliminate rushing and overwhelm while guaranteeing maximum effect for your marketing efforts. Schedule preparatory work for seasonal lulls rather than high demand leasing times and set advertising campaigns and in-person events to occur when they will have the most impact.


#5 Not Knowing Your Competition

One of the most efficient ways to understand your target market is to study your competition. Knowing who and what performs well and why will inevitably influence your marketing strategy (and can help you organize and prioritize related tasks). Who are your direct competitors? Analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Who are they selling to? How does your market position compare to theirs? What do they offer that you don’t?



“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” 



Analyze your competition’s marketing efforts. Try to understand what they’re doing right and what they may be doing wrong. In addition to checking out their traditional advertising, remember to look at their digital marketing efforts including their website and social media presence. What are they doing on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat? What are their engagement rates? How can you do better?

+ Learn how to engage younger generations with emerging media.


#6 Providing a Poor Online User Experience 

The advent of the internet was a huge boon for property marketing managers who now have a central place to market multiple properties and a way to showcase property details, amenities, pictures, and virtual tours. If you utilize your website properly, you will also be able to collect information about prospective tenants, like what type of property they’re looking for, when they would like to move in, and their monthly rental budget.

Since student rentals cater almost exclusively to Millennial and Gen Z audiences, a digital presence is vital for property marketing success.  Furthermore, your digital advertising strategy should be largely focused on your target audience’s mobile experience with your website, emails, and online ads. Are they mobile friendly, quick to load, and easy to navigate? Do they contain clear and compelling Calls To Action (CTA’s)?

+ See 4 innovative ways to execute a successful student housing campaign.


Data from Statista shows that:

  • In 2020, mobile internet users accounted for 91% of total internet users, making mobile the most important channel for internet access worldwide.
  • 80.6 million users in the United States accessed the internet exclusively via mobile devices in 2020.

And according to a recent IBM Survey:

  • 75% of surveyed Gen Z members choose a smartphone as their electronic device of choice.
  • 60% of surveyed Gen Z members will not use an app or website that is too slow to load.

Tech giant Adobe points out that whether you’re focused on email, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, or social media marketing, to earn and maintain an audience’s attention your mobile content must be strategic, highly personalized, and mobile friendly. All mobile content should load quickly and without error and require no zooming or sideways scrolling.


MSSmedia Mobile Activities




#7 Content & Creative is Lackluster

It doesn’t matter how mobile friendly your emails are, how quickly your website loads, or how well placed your campus ads are if the content isn’t informative and engaging. Your website, advertising, and social media presence need to grab your target audience’s attention and drive them to take the desired actions. All digital marketing and traditional advertising must contain the information viewers need to learn more about your rental properties. Share size, price, location, and contact information.

Your marketing efforts should also illustrate what makes your properties or management company special. How do you stand out from the competition? Do you have new or unique amenities or move-in specials? Are you pet friendly? Do you have a reputation for excellent tenant relations? Are your properties located near public transportation, recreational facilities, or bars and restaurants? 




With proper planning, effective written content and graphic design, detailed competitive analysis, and a thorough understanding of your customer base, you will create truly powerful property marketing campaigns.

Would you like to learn more about how to create a successful property marketing campaign for student housing? See our complete guide to property marketing in the student housing sector.




Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSSmedia a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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