The current direction of multifamily marketing was humorously underscored in a webcast by Rich Hughes, head of data science for RealPage, a Texas-based company that specializes in providing software and data analytics solutions to the real estate industry.

In the past marketing such properties was not unlike Homer Simpson opening a carton of Neapolitan ice cream, Hughes said, standing before a rendering of the cartoon character pondering the choices before him — chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.

As it turned out, Homer only wanted the chocolate, and thus only ate one-third of the carton.

The technology is such that property owners no longer have to use a scatter-shot approach — i.e., they don’t have to waste their capital tossing out various cartons of Neapolitan to prospects, in hopes of them liking one of the flavors. Now, Hughes said on the webcast:

“Digital marketing is on the verge of a new frontier where we can buy precisely what we want.”

Potential renters, he added, can be matched with a property best suited to them. And such metrics can give an owner an advantage, incremental though it might be, over the competition. That can be enough.

Others, like Virginia Love, vice president of leasing and marketing for Waterton, a Chicago-based property management company, have reached the same conclusion. It is crucial for a company like hers to coordinate its marketing efforts with other departments, she said, and especially important to track performance.

At the same time, Love emphasized the basics, as did Hughes and RealPage senior vice president Norm Maclean — things like making sure phone calls do not go unanswered, as research has shown it is highly unlikely prospects will leave a voicemail or callback information, much less respond to a return call. A contact center or automated answering service is the antidote to this problem.

Still others believe that such things as sending thank-you notes to those prospects who toured your property make a difference. But in this day and age, tech overshadows all. That means tending to a website that is easily navigable, mobile-friendly, SEO-optimized and constantly refreshed — that is, essentially, a living, breathing organism.

But back to Hughes. In the webcast he displayed one dashboard that honed in on lead conversion — notably those converted by email, walk-in or phone — and another that provided data about availability and move-ins. Particularly notable were the metrics showing the availability of different sizes of apartments, whether one-, two- or three-bedroom, and the means by which prospects reached out (, website, property website, Craigslist, etc.).

It’s a new, data-driven era, no question about it. And the better the tools, the more successful a property owner can be.