Barbara Gretsch: Developing Digital Marketing Goals to Build a Successful Advertising Campaign

by Katie Sloan

While advertising student housing properties was not a requirement in years past, in today’s market, advertising your property is the only option. For student housing professionals, the competitive landscape in recent years has become more and more crowded. Student housing competition is based on many factors, which include convenience, amenities, privacy, pricing, space, fewer distractions and the opportunity to gain real-life experience. How do student housing properties compete when they all espouse the same benefits? To us, the answer seems obvious — advertising. However, we suggest advertising only if you have crystal-clear marketing goals. 

Student housing properties cater to millennial and Generation Z audiences. Millennials and Gen Z are the digitally native demographics shaped by the consumption of experiences evaluated in the virtual world. They relate in a highly logical and practical way. To advertise and connect with these demographics, you must include a digital advertising strategy into your plans. 

As with all advertising mediums, effectiveness is critical. But how do student housing properties effectively establish marketing goals to run a successful digital advertising campaign? 

To establish winning marketing goals for a student housing property, let’s begin by creating crystal-clear objectives with a systematic process called S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T. principles are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time-Bound.

Let us walk you through S.M.A.R.T. goal refinement:  

S —Specific

Drill down into your goals. What are you looking to accomplish with your marketing? Be exacting with a specific purpose. Your purpose could be as simple as, “within six months, we want 25 lease applications completed.”

M — Measurable

How will you measure the results? What tools do you have in place to measure the results? Tools are essential because, as the old cliché  says, “what gets measured gets done.” By being specific and using measuring tools, you know what success will look like.

A — Attainable

Now, this part is essential. As you are establishing your marketing goals, you must be realistic. For example, if you have an average of 100 monthly website visitors, do not expect to multiply that by 100-times overnight. Set realistic goals and benchmarks so that you can attain the goals you are establishing.

R Relevant

Relevancy is another key factor that cannot be overlooked. Make sure your goals are in line with what you can measure. For example, if you are looking for leasing application completions, make sure you allow for the lease application form completions to be tracked through the conversion tracking methods you have set up on your site. 

T Time-Bound 

Establishing a deadline to accomplish your goals is necessary. A timeline will help you and your team have a clear vision of the destination and when you need to arrive. Real results take time. Make sure you invest in the process, choose the right partners to help get you there and commit to your goals. 

Now that you have established S.M.A.R.T. goals, we have one more exercise to get you closer to setting a crystal-clear marketing strategy: the use of ‘Journey to Change’ principles. The ‘Journey to Change’ process will drill deeper into your marketing strategy and the steps you need to take to reach your goals. 

The first step in the ‘Journey to Change’ is defining the problem:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working? 
  • Strengths? Weakness? 
  • How do you measure up to your competitors in the market?

The second step is to define the desired outcome:

  • What are your goals? 
    • Awareness: Are you looking to amplify your property awareness in the market?
    • Considerations: Are you looking to win over (features and benefits) lease applicants who know what they want? 
    • Conversions: Are you looking for engagements (lease applications)?
  • How much is your outcome worth? (For example, one completed lease application equals a value of $24,000 gross profit for the property.)

Next, you must outline actions to attain your goals:

  • What steps are you taking to reach your goals? Do you have a paid digital campaign? a print campaign? Or something else?
  • How much are you investing to attain these goals?
  • What is your time commitment?

Finally, you need to define your criteria for success:

  • What specific results are you looking to attain? Is this a number of website visitors, lease application form fill-outs, social media followers? Put an amount to your success criteria based on the data you currently have on hand. Every successful marketing plan needs a North Star. Define your North Star so that your marketing team can surround that goal and make it happen.

These tools will get you started on developing digital marketing goals and creating successful campaigns.

— Barbara Gretsch, CEO and managing partner of MSSmedia, has been a leading media and marketing expert for the student housing industry for more than 15 years. She has successfully executed and managed outdoor, digital and PR campaigns for the top housing properties across the U.S.

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