The rise of content marketing—brands creating and publishing useful content in order to attract customers and retain existing ones—is often seen as an outgrowth of technology: it’s easier to publish and distribute what you have to say with social media and web tools. But what about the rationale for companies, especially smaller ones, becoming publishers?
Bainbridge, a luxury apartment landlord, is a case study in content marketing on a smaller scale and it illustrates the rise of corporate content that’s explicitly not advertising or even advertorial in nature. Renters of luxury apartments have it tougher than buyers of luxury goods when it comes to online shopping. The latter group has a wide range of e-commerce choices from comparison engines such as Shopzilla to marketplaces like Amazon to flash sales sites like Gilt Groupe and Groupon. Much of that economy is driven by search. Landlords, on the other hand, typically turn to more old-school options: magazine and newspaper ads and physical signs announcing “For Lease.” That reflects both a desire to preserve some sense of exclusivity, which search ads don’t, and the way renters look for apartments.
Bainbridge Companies is based in Wellington, Florida and owns and manages nearly 40 luxury apartment complexes in the eastern U.S. and launched its content marketing program in late 2009. The group partnered with marketing agency Digital Sherpa, which we profiled a few weeks ago. In general, Sherpa’s clients brief the agency on a weekly basis “about business developments, and they share photos, point out local media links and identify other top bloggers in the local market. In other words, keep their ears peeled,” says President Adam Japko. Digital Sherpa then compiles, expands, and monitors the content so that it attracts web traffic and gets high search rankings.
Bainbridge’s strategy focuses on creating hyper-local content for each of its apartment complexes with the goal of publishing information tenants will use and potential tenants will find online as they search. Today, most of Bainbridge’s apartment complexes have their own community blogs and Facebook and Twitter pages, all of which are updated regularly with community, neighborhood, and regional content.
The blogs are similar to the lifestyle section of a community newspaper: recent posts from the Alexan Metrowest complex in Atlanta help residents find nearby running trails, plan ski trips to North Carolina, and prepare for basketball season. A whole section is devoted to advice on “going green,” including details about local recycling services. The blog is connected to a dedicated Facebook page that boasts more than 630 fans. Content marketing topics such as “neighborhood news, property upgrades and resident appreciation parties,” generate a lot of interest and engagement for Bainbridge, according to Japko.
While Digital Sherpa’s community division handles the majority of the blog content, Bainbridge says that all of its property managers post at least once a month, with some posting several times a week. To help drum up maximum web traffic, Bainbridge configured its community blogs so that they are linked directly to each property website. The websites, in turn, promote the blogs via headlines and links in the text.
Within the content marketing program’s first year, non-paid traffic to its property websites increased an average 67 percent, with a handful of sites more than doubling their traffic, according to Bainbridge. The company also said that visitors to its content sites were more likely to rent than those that went only to the company’s promotional sites. “This highly personalized, real-time communication help residents, which provides a unique competitive advantage for Bainbridge,” says Japko.