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10 Things Teenagers Can Teach You About Marketing, Leasing and Resident Retention

Ask any teenager what’s new, what’s cool and what’s out of style and they will KNOW. They know faster than anyone because they are always watching for the latest and greatest. Sadly, most marketers ignore this group of the population because, by and large, they aren’t decision makers except for smaller ticket items.

Like Julia Roberts said to the snobby salesladies in the movie Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big.”

You may be saying, “Teenagers have no effect on my market.” Think again. These kids have parents who have been influenced by them for years. They have influenced Mom, Dad, older brother and older sister –  all who may be renting right now. And some of them are getting ready to rent their first apartment in just a year or two.

A quick focus group with my 16 and 17 year old daughters teaches me amazing things about sales, marketing and customer retention. Here’s a few of the key takeaways:

  1. Corporate apparel is great. Why? Because it lets the customer know who works at a place of business. And it doesn’t have to be a suit and tie environment either. Color-coding your apparel, ala Target, is fine, too. Nametags are good, too.
  2. Food is always welcome. Teenagers love to eat. For the first time ever, teenagers are spending more of their own money on food than on clothing. So create your own ‘Magic Fridge’ in the clubroom or your model and stock it with all types of convenience foods and beverages. Let every prospective resident take a food and drink item with them before they leave your property. It’s memorable and after all, as my kids say, “Food is good”.
  3. Everything is better with pets.  Ask your prospective resident to bring their dog with them on the tour. Why? According to my kids, “I want to see how they treat my dog. And I want to see if my dog likes it there.” Pet owners make up the majority of our ‘renter nation’ these days, so start off on the right foot. Put pets in your property ads too! Don’t believe how well a cute pet can sell something? Just Google “boo” and the first result will be And don’t forget to like Boo on Facebook. You’ll be one of over 15 MILLION people who ‘like’ Boo. Yes, I said 15 MILLION.
  4. They shop online. Translation: If you haven’t come up with a package solution, you’d better come up with one fast. They already use Mom and Dad’s Amazon Prime account and it’s only going to get worse.
  5. They use social media for research. Who better to ask than your peers for advice? As my youngest daughter said, “All of us are a lot smarter than one of us”. Get your ratings and reviews act together, along with your social media marketing plans.
  6. They use their phones. All the time. Translation: You need a texting platform as well as a responsive web design. Also, their constant ‘textversation’ has left them with short attention spans. Getting (and keeping) their attention is difficult. Oh, and they like Twitter, too.
  7. They are extremely  ‘visual’. Images speak volumes to this generation. Websites need to be heavy on photos, shorter on copy. Bootleg/bandit signs need to follow the same rule.
  8. They are environmentally conscious. You’d better be offering a paperless brochure, move-in documents on a jump drive and have a recycling program. Low VOC paints are good and absolutely no giveaway water bottles that contain BPA.
  9. They like Snapchat. No, it’s not so much ‘that sexting site’ anymore. Teenagers as well as college students have embraced this app like no other. With the addition of chat and video, Snapchat is adapting for this audience in particular. Get on it, learn it and figure out how to use it. With 400 million Snapchats sent PER DAY, this one is the gamechanger. No wonder they wouldn’t sell to Facebook.
  10. They can see through a sales pitch. They want honesty and sincerity. They hate to be schmoozed. Transparency is key with this demographic and will be for years to come.

Teenagers are out there, their numbers are HUGE and they are going to be renting instead of buying. More than 25% of the world’s population belongs to this age group and it’s growing everyday. Be ready before the tsunami hits.

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