In one of my first college advertising classes, I was handed a pen and told to list all of the features that might be used to sell it. In looking at the pen, I noted some things like: “gel ink”, “retractable point”, “rubber grip”, etc. A classmate was then asked to take my list and come up with a benefit for each of the specific features. His list had descriptions like, “the ink flows smoothly on paper”, “you’ll never have to worry about losing the lid” and “it’s easy to hold in your hand”. It was easy to see that his list of benefits was much more compelling than my list of features. It was a basic lesson, but it’s a concept that has stuck with me ever since.
Distinguishing between features and benefits seems like a simple task, but it’s often misunderstood or forgotten completely in marketing efforts. The best marketers don’t tell you what their product is, but instead they describe what that product will allow you to do or how it will make you feel. Coca-Cola doesn’t spend time describing the fizziness of their beverages or the construction of their aluminum cans, instead all of their messaging is focused on the refreshment and the happiness that you feel as you take a sip.
Let’s take a quick look at features and benefits in the context of apartment marketing and see how slight shifts in multifamily messaging can make a big difference in consumer perceptions.
How many apartment communities do you see using marketing materials that have a brief community overview and then a long list of property or unit features? It seems like this is the standard approach in the multifamily industry. A common description may read something like this:
Lakeview Corner is a place you can truly call home. You’ll enjoy each day while taking advantage of great amenities like these:
- Swimming pool
- Fitness center
- Reserved parking
- Dog park
We have a great selection of 2 and 3 bedroom floor plans. Each of our spacious apartments includes:
- High-speed internet
- Washer/dryer unit
- Vaulted ceilings
- Jetted tub
The problem with this approach is that a simple list is easy to skim through and does little to actually make a connection with apartment seekers. Think beyond the checklist and help prospects envision how the amenities will make their lives more comfortable.
While listing out amenities on your apartment websites may be effective in drawing initial interest, in order to truly sell a prospect you need to tell the story of what their life could be like at your communities. Here are a few quick tips on how to bring benefits to the forefront of your marketing:
Think audience first – Before you can market any benefits, you have to first understand your audience. Take some time to think about who your ideal renters are and what types of benefits they identify with. An easy way to determine these benefits is to ask some of your residents why they enjoy living in the community or what initially attracted them to their current home.
Show them what you mean – Images can be an especially powerful tool. If you’re highlighting a swimming pool, don’t use a standard photo of just the pool. Choose images that show people at your pool spending time with family, or sunbathing poolside with a book, or having a summer evening cookout with friends. Consider using a professional photographer to help create images that will really capture attention.
Organize features into benefit segments – Instead of just listing out your amenities, break them up into benefit categories or headers. For example, a fitness center and swimming pool could be messaged as a benefit focused on health:
Improve your health – Our state-of-the-art fitness center gives you a wide variety of ways to stay active. Get your blood pumping in the cardio center, stretch out in our yoga studio or get a full workout in the weight room. When you’re done you can relax in one of our two heated pools.
Use guest tours to your advantage – Having prospects on-site is a great opportunity to really sell benefits. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply pointing out features on a tour, but plan out ways to showcase how the features can be utilized in daily life. Instead of saying, “This kitchen has a dishwasher, microwave and double sink.”, you could instead say, “A lot of our residents really enjoy the kitchen area because you have all the appliances close to each other, with plenty of counter space. It makes it easy to put together a nice meal and maybe invite some friends over for dinner.”
By striving to make benefits the main focus of your marketing efforts, your community will become more than just a listing. Prospects will be able to envision themselves enjoying the community, and become even more likely to sign their new lease.