Building the right team for multifamily marketing

By Chris Arnold
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The Right People in the Right Seats

Truly successful and aligned teams need the right people in the right seats. This is a turn of phrase (and mindset) I've been hearing repeatedly lately, and one I find to be true.

For leadership teams.

For marketing teams.

For onsite teams.

(For all teams.)

The truth is, having the right brains and brawn on a squad makes all the difference, and we all know that from the times we've experienced a balanced team.

Over the last six years, our team has focused singularly on the multifamily marketing space, with a dash of ancillary marketing work in industrial, commercial, condo sales, and corporate real estate work.

With that in mind, I'd like to share what I believe to be an excellent recipe for a supportive marketing team in the industry and, ideally, their complementary skills.

As an easier way to frame my thoughts below, I want to present these ideas in a "pods" framework. That is to say, each pod would be very similar and focus on a certain number of communities at a time.

The smaller the community count, the fewer the pods.

Your team might get by just fine with one pod. Or, you might need a handful of pods to cover the bases.

Let's jump in with the core pod structure:

Creative Director

Brand Designer

Web Designer

Web Developer

Copywriter

Onsite Liaison*

Creative Director

At the highest level, we find that a Creative Director is best utilized as a player/coach.

Someone with a knack for strategic oversight and direction, yes, but also someone who is able to get their hands dirty on a project or two at a time.

This role is paramount to your team. They bring the most experience second only to your leadership team(s), and strike a balance between high-quality work output and team management.

Depending on your org structure, they drive forward and maintain the ethos of your company through each creative project and help build pods that do the same.

They may or may not oversee multiple pods, too, depending on the size of an organization.

Brand Designer

Many teams today rely on hybrid designers - someone who can do a little bit of everything - which is a great move for many marketing needs.

But one word of caution: don't expect a hybrid designer to be as polished as a true brand designer.

Over the years, we've found that brand designers bring a special knack for rapidly generating and exploring concepts that other designers can't produce as quickly.

A brand designer's secret sauce is, in part, that they can take a lot of complicated notes and lists of adjectives, not to mention unique personalities, and pull together a set of brand identity directions in a way that most hybrid designers cannot.

Furthermore, a Creative Director that sets the tone and a Brand Designer dialed in is a beautiful thing to see.

Web Designer

Today, "web designer" can mean many things. It could be a template designer, a custom website designer, a Wordpress-specific designer, and so forth.

Knowing your platform(s) and knowing your marketing playbook is critical when hiring for this role.

For the best web design hires, hidden in the skillsets of literal web design is experience in the industry.

Websites are uniquely resident-specific in more ways than one, so if you can find a designer with experience designing for the renter, you'll be that much further ahead.

At a minimum, being able to land a teachable web designer who can get up to speed quickly is important.

Web Developer

I note the web developer role with a caveat only because, in some organizations, the developer is simply updating template websites.

Sometimes, the web designer does it all, too.

A great web developer can take designs and translate them to the web in an almost 1:1 fashion, save for browser or device-specific quirks that need adjustment.

Look for a web developer that can "speak design" even if their expertise is in development. Having both languages goes a very long way with the greater designer team.

Copywriter

The content side of a marketing team cannot be overstated enough.

When we consider how many touch points a resident may see - ads, websites, brochures, banners, activations, etc. - it becomes clear that outsourcing the role is a tall order.

(Trust me, we've done it!)

A writer who understands the nuances of the industry and who can pull big ideas down to earth through tangible (but not tired) twists and turns of phrase is priceless.

A great writer pulls a resident into the brand experience and, when done well, creates separation from your competition.

Onsite Liaison*

I noted an asterisk with this "role" because when the marketing team is humming along, I've noticed they have someone onsite to check in with.

Depending on the project type, it may be a property manager, a leasing agent, or even a marketing coordinator on the owner/operator side.

Being able to speak to ground-level topics, both challenges and opportunities is really a leg up.

How is construction coming along? What are prospective renters saying? What questions keep coming up? What are people excited, nervous, and anticipatory about?

I think of the onsite liaison as the final card in the flush.

If everyone is working towards the same goal, and we have a reliable contact that touches the property regularly, it's a win for everyone.

Are pods for every team?

I'm sure some of you are wondering, is this for us? And to be sure, no one setup is right for every situation. And let's be honest: I've laid out a perfect situation here.

Marketing work at the community level is not perfect!

But as we continually push towards the best results in the industry, we always aim to adjust how our team works together.

Each project informs the next, and each team member informs how to best build the next generation of our team(s) as they evolve.

As you think about our approach, I would ask, what's been the creative team structure for your group?

And why?

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