Property Marketing Strategists survey: how marketing is used in PBSA, BTR, coliving and uni accommodation

Results in from a report which surveyed responses from marketers and their senior leaders in PBSA, Build to Rent, coliving and university accommodation.

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The Property Marketing Strategists – a new venture from Deenie Lee and Sarah Canning – have launched a new report based on research conducted in 2020. The Property Marketing Survey fielded responses from marketers and their senior leaders working in PRS, including PBSA, Build to Rent, coliving and university accommodation. The survey aimed to investigate how marketing is viewed and utilised in the property sector. 

Sarah and Deenie collectively have over 30 years of experience in the property sector – across PBSA, PRS, proptech and more. They both share a passion for strategic marketing and a concern that its value is not consistently recognised within the sector, which could be holding it back.

Insight into the property industry typically focuses on the ‘real estate’ side of the business – such as acquisitions, valuations, deals and developments with little consideration to the support roles that make these assets sell.

With lots of anecdotal information and hunches, in November 2020 Sarah and Deenie set out to run a survey to find the answers – and the results are in – and discussed by Sarah and Deenie:

The role of marketing

A worrying discovery was the disparities found between marketing and non-marketing respondents. Knowing your role and your expectations is a crucial part of succeeding in a job. However, when asked what the most essential function of marketing is, those in the marketing departments and those outside differ. 

Whilst both cohorts agreed that Brand Development and Reputation was the most important function – surprisingly, we saw that 59% of non-marketers placed this top priority, compared to 50% of marketers. As we move down the responses, we start to see differences – with marketers placing growing the B2C (39%) business above B2B (33%) and non-marketers giving equal weight to B2B and B2C (50%).

When it comes to understanding the customer, this appears fourth in the list for non-marketers (36%) but down the bottom at 9th position for our marketers (22%).

“With so many disparities between what marketers expect to be doing and what the rest of the team expect them to be doing, we see a risk that the value of marketing isn’t being optimised in the sector.”

Sarah Canning and Deenie Lee

Marketing influence

When it comes to influence and engagement, the survey found that marketing generally has a role to play across the business.  This is high for involvement in operations (77%) and sales (82%) – which is positive to see and what we should expect. However, looking into further department engagement, marketing appears to have less consultation with finance (54%), acquisitions (49%) and product design (59%).

“If we all agree that to build an effective marketing strategy, we need to understand the customer and the product – engaging and being involved in the product is a vital part of brand development. Separating this sets a difficult precedent inserting unnecessary barriers between your product and brand.”

Deenie Lee, The Property Marketing Strategists

The other striking statistic the survey highlighted was the lack of senior board-level representation of marketing, with 53% of respondents saying that marketing was not a board-level position.

The report argues that this is a worrying position for the value that strategic marketing can have on an organisation. Without respect, engagement, and the ability to drive change across the business, marketing cannot deliver its value. The report also suggests that this is creating a long-standing issue in which marketers do not have senior role models to emulate, and therefore, may look to move out of the sector to progress their careers.

“We found a worryingly high percentage of our respondents didn’t respond or said they have no career aspirations beyond where they were; we can’t help feel that without role models, dedicated industry training and succession planning, the sector could be losing vital talent out of the industry – which not only impacts the individual business but the sector as a whole.

“As The Property Marketing Strategists, we want to help elevate marketing as a discipline which creates sustainable and effective marketing and builds team knowledge.”

Sarah Canning, The Property Marketing Strategists


With property being a long-term product, getting it right is key to delivering on commercial objectives. The report considers that research into product development and what a customer may be looking for in the future should be a vital part of a company’s strategy. The Property Marketing Survey shows that there appears to be an issue, with a stark finding that 82% of their survey respondents believe that not enough research is being done.

“We want to see a world where PRS, PBSA and coliving develop, grow and innovate with its customers. Without research and the sector working together, this will take longer. So through The Property Marketing Strategists, we hope to raise this agenda, build a network that the sector can engage and identify with and give marketers the confidence to ask the important questions and companies to get even more value from its marketing team.”

Deenie Lee, The Property Marketing Strategists

Request the full report from The Property Marketing Strategists.