The ‘Emergency Marketing’ Dilemma

Yes, we’re doing more much more than put a “for rent” sign on your property.

A house with a For Rent sign.Recently, our Marketing Department had an interesting interaction with an owner whose rental unit just wasn’t moving, for reasons that no one could control. The owner asked us if we could do anything extra in terms of emergency marketing to try to get the place rented soon…as long as it wouldn’t cost them any extra money.

Well…no. We can’t, and here’s why: we already do all of the free stuff. (With a small asterisk – see the Law of Diminishing Returns below for details.)

We utilize a pair of syndication platforms that cover 40+ major rental-listing sites, including all of the big names, from the Zillow Network (including Trulia, Hot Pads, and more) to more specialized and localized sites like the Michigan Affordable Housing Solutions site. Our syndication coverage is so extensive that even posting a listing on the MLS doesn’t add anything meaningful to our coverage. We also advertise manually on Craigslist.

The other options — including taking out paper ads, putting signs in windows and/or yards, or taking out a listing on an app like Facebook Marketplace — all cost money. And here’s the rub: if they were free, we would already be using them. Because if we weren’t already using them, our owners would quite rightfully be demanding to know why not!

We absolutely will engage in those kinds of marketing — but only if the owner understands the costs involved and agrees to pay them.

What ‘Emergency Marketing’ Actually Looks Like 
So what, then, do we do if a property has been on the market for too long? A few things.
First, we take the ad down off the market for five days. That might seem counter-intuitive, but the result is excellent: the “freshness” of the ad resets on many of the big sites. This causes the sites to bump those ads back up to the top of the lists on those sites, which means a new surge of traffic coming in and a better chance at a tenant.

The Asterisk: Advertising’s Law of Diminishing Returns
There are a vast number of sites that we could potentially list advertisements on. But we’ve done studies of traffic volumes, and there’s a powerful law of diminishing returns when it comes to advertising on an expansive list of sites. For example, our research shows that about 35% of all our rental traffic comes from a single source: Zumper. Another 25% comes from Craigslist, and another 20% goes through the Zillow Network. 10% comes from Realtor.com, 5% each from ShowMeTheRent.com and Homes.com – and then after that, you plunge into a very long list of sites that give sub-one-percent numbers each.

What this means is that, unless a big flagship site like Redfin or something starts putting up rental listings, spending more time putting up rental ads on more obscure sites is effectively pointless. We’ve put a lot of energy into finding not just the top of the bell curve, but that point well onto the upper slope where the returns start to get noticeably worse for each further investment.

Posted in: Finding Tenants, Hiring Property Manager, Managing Rentals, Rental Marketing

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