yellow apartment building

Marketing for a struggling apartment complex can be tough if you don’t know where to start. When your retention rate is declining, and empty rooms are increasing, you need to take action. It’s tempting to pour money into more paid advertising, but there are better apartment marketing ideas you need to consider.

Most complexes and property managers make the mistake of thinking that they need to fill their empty units. While that may be the ultimate goal, it shouldn’t be the first step.

The first thing you should do as a property manager is to take care of your current tenants. Increasing retention rate should be more important than brand awareness. Why? Because brand awareness comes with an increased retention rate.

3d apartment layout

When a tenant extends a lease, that’s one less unit that needs to be filled. Extended contracts result in less occupancy and higher reputation. To achieve this type of pipe dream, management needs to create a place that residents don’t want to leave. Rather than working tirelessly to find new tenants, focus on improving the lives of your current ones.

If you want to keep residents, you want them to be happy. Here’s a list of ways you can create a more comfortable environment for your tenants:

1) Property Maintenance

One of the main reasons a person decides to rent is because they don’t want to be responsible for the upkeep of a property. It’s nice to have someone else take care of the day-to-day maintenance tasks of a property. The property should always be well-kept; and that means landscaping, garbage, and more.

2) Be Responsive

If a resident has a hard time getting ahold of the property manager, you can bet that person will have one foot out the door when their lease ends. Timely responses to email, phone calls, and requests should be a top priority for a complex staff. Residents will have issues with their apartment at some point so availability will go a long way.

man repairing drywall

3) Organization

Property maintenance and customer service combine into a beautiful mess that property managers have been dealing with for decades. When a resident makes a maintenance request, it can sometimes get lost in the jumble of other requests. A resident’s biggest frustration with their management usually centers around maintenance requests. The property managers and maintenance crew have to work together to evaluate, schedule, and perform maintenance tasks. Thankfully, there are emerging technologies to help properties manage the endless stream of maintenance requests. Implementing an online or app-based technology (like Lula) can have two benefits:

(1) it gives the resident a sense of control; and (2) it organizes maintenance requests in a way that makes it more manageable (thus decreasing response time).

4) Resident Resources

Providing your residents with relevant resources is an excellent way to establish a relationship. There are many ways you can do this:

Resource page

Consider creating a page on your website for local resources. This might include nearby restaurants, coffee shops, activities, parks, gas stations, grocery stores, etc. This type of resource page can help new residents get settled in their new community.

Welcome Packet

Most complexes already have a welcome packet in place, but it is starting to become standard practice. Including resources (like the ones on the resource page) and other helpful links. A welcome packet might contain expert tips for packing, moving, cleaning, decorating, and more for renters. An excellent resource for suggestions would be this comprehensive guide for renters. It brings together industry experts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding apartments and rentals.

Move-out packet

Even though it’s bittersweet when a resident is moving out, you need to see the customer journey through to the end. When they are moving out, provide them with a move-out packet. Similar to the welcome packet, provide them with helpful information for their upcoming move.

movie projector in a dark room

5) Community events

Establishing a welcoming community goes a long way for retaining residents. Among the reasons a person might choose to move, a lack of community might be near the top of the list. People settle into a home a lot faster when they have friends. Planning events can help residents cultivate friendships.

Here are a few examples of events that you might consider hosting:

  • Movie night
  • Wine tasting
  • Board game night
  • Grill-outs
  • Book club
  • Fantasy football league
  • Brunch
  • Hikes and runs
  • Pickup sports (basketball, volleyball)

6) Going above and beyond

This is a personal story, but it was a time when my property manager impressed me. I was on vacation with my wife when my boss reached out to me about a document that he needed. This document just so happened to be on my computer which was back home. Thousands of miles away, I knew I needed to get this document. I emailed one of the lead associates at my apartment complex and asked her to do me a huge favor. She went to my apartment and grabbed my laptop and held onto it until my boss could pick it up. It saved me from missing a deadline. Those are the type of things that bring good reviews. We all know that good reviews go a long way in our connected world.

7) Hold a “community hall” meeting

You should always be looking for ways to improve. Holding a “town hall” type of meeting allows your residents the opportunity to come and speak their opinions. It’s a convenient way to field multiple questions at one time, all while gathering valuable information about what your residents want.

If your residents never want to move, you’ll never need to fill empty apartments. Despite an increased retention rate, there will always be people moving in and out. So how can you market your apartment to make sure you are efficiently filling up your vacant units?

granite countertops with subway tile backsplash

8) Upgrades

a. Who doesn’t love apartment upgrades? If you’re still living in the past, it might be time to update those older units. New carpet, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances are hot commodities in the industry. If you already have those additions, maybe you need to be considering smart amenities. The world is connecting, and it starts in the home. Smart locks, lights, outlets, doorbells, and security systems are a huge perk for potential residents.

Marketing Channels

You need to be taking advantage of all of the usual marketing channels. Most marketing avenues are budget-dependent but making money might be tough if you don’t spend money. Here’s a list of the most common marketing tactics:

  • Google Ads: With Google, you can target specific keywords. So, people searching for apartments will see yours at the top of the search results.
  • Facebook Ads: Facebook gives you the freedom to market to specific types of people. Try and create a “target customer” based on your current residents. If your community consists of a younger audience, you can turn around and market towards a younger audience of Facebook users.
  • Social Media Presence: Everybody is on social media. You need to be active and utilize social media. It can be an excellent way to display your units for the world to see.
  • Print Materials: Fliers, business cards, and more can be posted around town. Staple some fliers to poles and leave cards in coffee shops. Try and cover as much ground as you can with your logo and print materials.
  • Email Marketing: Use any email lists you have to start sending out information. Make sure you are following the CAN-SPAM Act, though.
  • Local Directories: Make sure you claim and control all of your online directory profiles. Monitor reviews and implement a respond and resolve plan.
  • Blog: Starting a blog can be a fantastic way to drive up your search engine rankings. Local SEO can be the difference-maker in your marketing efforts.
  • Drive-by marketing: If you don’t have any marketing around your property pointing people to your available apartments, then you need to get some immediately. Depending on local laws, you can use your property to promote your own property. Neat!

Unique Apartment Marketing Strategies

Outside of those common channels, there are other ways to funnel people to your apartment complex. Here are five unique apartment marketing tactics:

influencer photographer

Photographer influencing

By now, everyone has heard of influencer marketing. Ever since the Fyre Festival, everyone knows what it is (if they didn’t already). Rather than paying influencers to talk about your property, you need to get in contact with the people who are behind the camera. If you have an empty unit that is staged for showing, invite local photographers to come to take their “influencer” pictures in there for free. It gives the photographer a neutral, decorated space to take their pictures. In exchange, you can ask for a shout out in their social media posts.

Offer a resident referral program

Just about every industry can utilize referral marketing, and apartment complexes are no different. You can offer your current residents some type of incentive for referring people they know. Rather than hiding it on some deep page on your website, make sure your new and existing residents know about the offer.

modern coffee shop with an industrial design

Partner up with local hot spots

If you are putting together a resource page, consider some partnerships. Restaurants have been listed on resource pages for years, so you should request that they do the same in return. Sell them on the idea of a partnership that drives awareness for each other. Even if the restaurant refuses, you need to include them on your resource list. If a tenant realizes your resource list is incomplete, they might feel like you are selling them short.


If you have a clubhouse or a community area, try planning some events. Rather than being exclusive to residents, these events should be open to the public. Try promoting it on websites like Meetup and Eventbrite. Perhaps start by throwing a super bowl party and providing drinks and snacks in your clubhouse. It might bring new people to your complex. Use this opportunity to post some promotional materials discreetly. Business cards, floor plans, and more can be useful for awareness. Have a person dedicated to walking around and “selling” your apartments.

animated town map

Create a map

If you live in a larger city, you should consider designing a map. I’m not saying you need to become a cartographer and outline the infrastructure of your city. Choose a niche and create a guide map. For example, here’s a map of all the places you can get a slice of pizza by subway in Manhattan. It shows people where all of the bike trails are in and around Kansas City. You don’t have to use pizza. Maybe try biking/hiking trails, movie theaters, barbecue joints, gyms, event spaces, or another activity. When you are creating a map, work and create something people actually want to see. Quickly piecing together something that nobody will ever use is a waste of time. Put some effort into designing this thing and plaster your branding all over it. If all it does is garner brand recognition, then it should be considered a success.

mailbox with the outgoing mail marker up

Direct mail marketing

Postal marketing is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Most people just throw out those advertisements anyway, right? On top of that, it doesn’t make much sense for an apartment to be marketing in the mail, because the recipients already have a home. What if you could find an apartment complex with bad online reviews? You could work with the postal service to directly market to the residents of those complexes with information about your apartments. There are no statistics to back this up, but I think this would be an excellent way to get in front of residents with high intent.

Give new residents free (branded) gifts

You can buy branded t-shirts in bulk somewhat inexpensively. If your apartment has some decent branding, slap it on a t-shirt and give it to a new resident when they move in. Maybe (just maybe) they’ll wear it around town.

There’s still time to fill your apartments with new tenants. Establish your marketing budget and create a plan to implement. Allocate percentages of your budget to each of the approaches you want to try. You won’t be able to utilize all of them, but test some of them out and see how they work. Some of these are long-term marketing strategies while some of them are short-term. Long-term is usually sustainable and less expensive, but it can take a while to see results. Short-term plans (like Google Ads) will be more costly but (might) yield more immediate results.

Many of the same strategies that work for other marketers will work for apartment marketing also. Don’t give up. Be patient with your strategy and wait for your results. Apart from luck, there’s no formula for immediate sustainable success. Apartment marketing takes hard work and consistency. Good luck!