Student Housing Marketing in 2021: Empowering Strategies for PBSA Providers

With countries supercharging the vaccine roll-out, it is expected that 2021 will be a ‘normal’ year in comparison to the previous one gone by. Many universities all across the globe are starting to declare on-campus programs for students this year, and student housing operators need to prepare themselves for new admissions expected this year. In this article, we cover some student housing marketing strategies for hostel operators, student housing managers, and management companies, that would be relevant in 2021.

1. Creating digital twins for your properties (Try MatterPort)

During times when physical movement into a property becomes increasingly difficult, student housing marketing is not as simple as reaching students on social channels. Student housing operators need to invest to create digital twins of their properties.

What does this achieve?

Get digital with your property and show tenants what to expect_ Student Housing
student housing marketing - matterport floor housing
  1. Without physically stepping into your property, your tenants can truly understand what it would feel like to live in your premise
  2. This knowledge gets them to build conviction, and make a booking without doing a site visit or even speaking to a sales representative
  3. Once they are at the property during check-in, they don’t have any surprises. What they saw is what they got. The relationship between the student housing operator and the tenant is started on a positive footing

Property managers and brokers all over the world are reporting up to 20% more bookings after inducting a digital twin on their website, and student housing operators need to follow suit in this regard.

2. Student Housing Marketing moves to New age social media (Tik-Tok and Instagram Reels!)

There are 2 common mistakes we notice with student housing marketing on social media. Here are some ways for brands to think about it –

Choosing the right channel: 

Newsflash: Gen Z is not on LinkedIn or Facebook – They are addicted to Tik-Tok and Insta reels! Is your social media strategy aligned to it? It is super important to choose your channel correctly. Scheduling weekly Facebook posts won’t land your leads these days!

Choosing the right content for the channel:

If you are already using Tik-Tok and Instagram for marketing, congrats – You are on the right track. Now evaluate – Is your strategy for marketing on these channels correct? Many student housing operators end up posting boring and unrelatable content on these channels. Your followers don’t want to see boring pictures of your property or read about your company’s history.

student housing marketing is now on new age media such as tiktok and instagram reels

In today’s world content has to be either educational or entertaining – Get some young blood into your team, and have them whip up Tik-Toks and Reels that are funny, and watch your social media ROI rise through the roof! Getting your messaging right

It is no surprise that the expectations of both tenants and their parents have drastically changed in 2021, compared to 2019 but brands have failed to update their messaging accordingly.

What’s the highest priority for everyone right now? Safety.

Your brand’s website and social media pages should talk about how you have made the facility safe and hygienic for tenants, and reassure them that you have their best interests at heart. In many cases, especially with international students, the decision on which space to rent is governed by the parents and not the students, so it’s imperative you focus on winning their trust and confidence.

earn the trust of clients by highlighting safety

Some top points you can talk about to win tenant confidence 

  1. Thermal screening upon entry – Mention if you have a mechanism to check the temperature of everyone who enters the building
  2. Sanitization – Talk about your efforts to keep the space hygienic
  3. Housekeeping – Highlight how your team keeps the space clear
  4. Rules for usage of common amenities – Specify any house-rules which enable people to adhere to social distancing guidelines, especially in common areas of the property
  5. Private rooms – For those who are willing to pay a premium, talk about the fact that you have private rooms/studios if they are not comfortable sharing their room
  6. Technology – Enunciate the benefits the tenants would enjoy out of your student housing software systems – Online rent payments, maintenance requests, opportunity to engage with the community via the Community mobile app.

3. Leveraging partnerships with online marketplaces

Real estate is no longer an industry where ‘people start searching online, but conclude the transaction offline’. The industry is moving to a place where people are willing to sign leases for properties they have never physically set foot in. In such a scenario, the role of online rental marketplaces is vital, and your brand needs to ensure you have a great strategy aligned with it.

get local student housing listings to reach more people

Here’s an important tip – Students, especially international students, start searching for properties online even before they leave their country of origin. The challenge and opportunity here is that the online marketplace of choice varies widely with geography! It is important for student housing operators to list in as wide a variety of online marketplaces as possible, so ensure visibility amongst the right audience., HousingAnywhere, University Living, UniLodgers are some specialists in the student housing industry, while Airbnb is an interesting place to market your spaces as well. Horizontal rental marketplaces like Zillow, Magicbricks, Zoopla, PropertyFinder, PropertyGuru and others can help as well

4. Investing in tenant experiences and banking on referral leads

Tenant experience has been a buzzword in the rental industry for the past few years and the chatter is not without merit. In today’s world, every company is in the business of customer experience, and it makes sense for student housing managers to focus on this too.

Are you offering value-added services to your tenants? Are you organizing events for students to meet each other and build a community? Can your tenants reach you and your services through a mobile app, which serves as the SPOC for every requirement they have (pay rent, raise complaints, chat with neighbours, etc.?).

bank on referrals and highlight experiences

If your answer is yes, then you are definitely on the right track! 

A critical reason to invest in tenant experience is the referral leads you get from existing tenants. Students are very social, and housing is an important focus of discussion amongst them. Especially amongst international students, and even senior students who are moving out are very well networked amongst junior students.

If your company has provided a great experience to your existing tenants – You should put in place clear incentives and mechanisms to get them to refer more tenants to your company. ‘Refer and Earn’ is a necessary structure to ensure your existing tenants get a financial benefit from referring new tenants to you.

Some of our clients who have perfected the tenant referral system get up to 25% of new bookings directly through a referral from old tenants, so we would advise all operators in the industry to look at this closely for their student housing marketing techniques and strategy.

Bonus tip: As we discussed above, student housing marketing is moving closer to other industries now. Check out co-housing marketing tips from expert Christine McDannell who also talks about the power of highlighting tenant experience, and get your ideas flowing!

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