Do you have a new multi-family community opening soon or an existing community that you’ve recently acquired or renovated that needs help? No matter what the situation, if your answer is “yes,” then you’ll want to make sure your community’s media plan contains these 10 ingredients for success:

1. Strategy

This includes a gradual ramp-up, starting out with Internet listing service (ILS) sources when the leasing office opens, and increasing supplemental media (non-ILS) when apartments are ready for move-ins. Also, try not to make any long-term commitments when purchasing supplemental media (non-ILS) from media sources you are trying out for the first time.

Sure, you may pay more per month per insertion, but it will save you money over the long term if you’re not locked into a contract with a source that might underperform. Finally, renting and buying housing is seasonal, and your marketing efforts should be, too.

Scale back supplemental media and try more cost-effective targeted media during holidays and the colder months, when people are more apt to be with family and friends than looking for a place to live.

2. A Budget that Makes Sense

Your advertising spend should be proportional with how many units the apartment community has to lease. You’ll also want to take a look at the market in which the community is opening, as well as average pricing in the area to determine the advertising spend on a per unit basis. For example, since New York, N.Y. is a more competitive housing marketing than say Hartford, Conn., the cost-per-unit advertising spend will be higher.

3. Internet Listing Services (ILS)

The multi-family industry’s leading national ILS are among almost every multi-family media plan’s must-haves. In each individual market in which you plan, you’ll also want to research local news and event publishers to see if they offer listing sections for housing.

Often times, the leading national ILS syndicate to these local publishers (for example, the real estate sections of SeattleTimes.com or WashingtonPost.com, etc.), which eliminates the need to list on both the national and local ILS.

4. Online Display Advertising

In each individual market, you’ll want to research the local news and event publishers and determine which make sense for online display advertising. The publishers that deliver the greatest results have housing sections to which online banner display ads can be targeted.

Network buys, such as websites across the Google and Yahoo networks, offer different levels of targeting (geotargeting, contextual targeting, behavioral targeting, retargeting, etc.) and often deliver. In addition to local publishers and network buys, consider certain national sites that allow geotargeting, such as Trulia.com or Pandora.com.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing can start as soon as you have the beginnings of a prospect list, and it can continue throughout the campaign for anything you want to promote – open houses, specials, reduced rent, move-in incentives, etc.

Email lists targeting new prospects can also be purchased and sent out with the same messaging as the items mentioned above. Generally, though, email marketing is used to convert prospects to residents, not to acquire new prospects.

6. Pay Per Click (PPC)

PPC advertising is important to capture active housing seekers who may not be searching through traditional ILS sources. Google, Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn are big players in PPC advertising. Google and Bing PPC ads help capture prospects that are searching for housing in ads associated with organic search results.

By contrast, PPC advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn is displayed to users based on such criteria as gender, zip code, mile radius, place of employment and relationship status from data that each of these social networks already knows about its users from their profiles. In all cases, there are no wasted impressions because advertisers only pay when someone clicks on their ad.

7. Local Community Outreach

Local races, charity events, fairs or parades are great ways to get your community’s staff or salespeople face-to-face with future customers. They’re also a great way to build community involvement and boost public relations within the community.

8. Out of Home (OOH)

If your community has limited building signage opportunities, as often there are signage restrictions or no opportunity for building signage, a billboard is a great way to generate awareness.

When choosing a billboard, you’ll want to know the longitude and latitude coordinates and map them to the apartment community to see if the billboard is facing traffic that is headed toward your community, as well as if it makes sense to be used to direct prospects to the community.

Transit (subway, bus or train) advertising is typically more effective if the community is close to a stop or station or is in the middle of a city, rather than in suburban areas. However, you may find that you are trying to target suburban commuters who take the train to work in the city, in which case transit advertising in the suburbs makes sense.

Mobile billboards are also a great way to promote awareness when a traditional billboard is not available in the location you want.

9. Strong Tier 2 List

When we say “tier 2,” we’re referring to items that we’ve researched and feel could or should be used if the community needs an additional push when traffic falls. Typically, the items that would have been good choices for tier 1 if the budget and timing had allowed are items that make it to tier 2. Tier 2 is necessary because those slow traffic times do come, and it’s important to have a backup plan.

10. Only Really Relevant Print

In some markets and in some cases, it makes sense to run a print ad. If a popular local magazine has a “best places to live” section, or a popular commuter paper has a robust real estate section [most common in the New York City designated market area (DMA) and other select East Coast markets], then it might make sense to run a print ad if your community needs an extra push.

Creating media plans is one part art and another part science. Media plans are fluid and require constant care and analysis. But, if you include these 10 must-haves in your multi-family media plan then getting traffic in the door won’t be a problem – it’ll now be up to your onsite staff to convert the leads.

We love creating multi-family media plans. Let us help you with your next community’s media plan.