With many of your college residents graduating this year, you might be expecting some new vacancies in the next few months. Start strategizing how to market your vacancies towards new college students now. With just a little time, you’ll be able to utilize your graduating resident’s connections through a referral program, building your community’s reputation and filling your units with new residents.
By already catering to college students, you have an “in” in a community of potential applicants. The great thing is, this community is always growing. While seeing long-term college residents leave your community is sad, there are plenty of college applicants out there. Utilize your current graduate’s connections (especially the ones with a history of being good residents) to fill your vacancies through a referral program. To build a successful referral program, or to enhance your current one, you need to do 3 key things.
- Build your community’s reputation.
This might sound simple, but this version of word-of-mouth marketing only works when your residents are happy and feel appreciated. For college students, this might mean providing a space to study during exams, and for others, it might mean handling resident disagreements effectively. All-in-all, before you can build your reputation with college students and families in the area, you have to build it internally.
Be aware that some residents (graduates or not) might not feel comfortable verbally telling their colleges about the referral program. They might be too busy or might have even forgotten! To cover these cases, you should try to have a few different channels where your shy resident can contribute to your reputation. Some good examples of ways these types of residents can contribute are written testimonials, online surveys, and reposting on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Remember, good referrals don’t always have to be in person.
- Provide incentives.
Even if you have a dozen happy residents, they might not have told other people about your community yet. While some will easily give testimonials and referrals for free when prompted, most residents need some sort of incentive. Common referral incentives are: a certain amount off next month’s rent or popular gift cards like Starbucks and Amazon. Depending on how much participation you think you’ll get, you can either design your program so that every referral enters the resident into a giveaway with a big prize, or you can give gift cards to every referral that was successfully accepted into your community. Whichever way you decide to go, make sure the incentives are clear in all your referral marketing.
- Make your residents aware of the program.
Now that you have your referral program set up, it’s time to market it. Utilize whatever channels your community has—social media platforms, emails, newsletters, in-person reminders, fliers in common areas and on mailboxes. As long as your residents see it, the more likely they are to actually do something about it, so keep the pressure on. While millennial renters are typically more inclined towards reminders online, it never hurts to target your other single and family renters as well. An applicant is an applicant.
The best thing about referral programs are that, once you get the ball running, your community’s reputation will significantly grow. Not only will local applicants recognize you, but your competition will as well. As long as you manage your online reputation wisely and retain happy residents, you won’t have to worry about filling vacancies for a long time.
Do you currently have a referral program in place? Do you think it’s had a significant impact on the amount of quality applicants? Share your experiences in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe!
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