Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Bend-based G5 knows a lot about digital marketing for real estate-driven businesses, and Chief Marketing Officer David Roussain hopes that in 2018, potential clients are much more familiar with the company.

G5, which specializes in digital marketing for self-storage, apartments and senior-living properties, generates click-through rates that are 73 percent higher than the services offered by generic digital advertising firms, Roussain said. Now handling digital marketing for 7,000 client properties across the country, Roussain said, “We’ve built up some secret sauce on how to do this properly.”

Roussain joined the firm about a month ago and is spearheading an effort to grow G5’s presence in the world of senior-living communities and multi-family property management. Over the coming months, he said, the company will be beef up its brand marketing staff. At the same time, G5 is investing in technology, hiring engineers and looking for potential acquisitions that could fill narrow gaps in its technical capabilities.

G5 is the largest tech employer in Central Oregon, according to Economic Development for Central Oregon. The firm’s head count, around 250 people, has grown by nearly 50 percent since landing a $76 million investment by Pennsylvania-based PeakEquity Partners in 2015. (The writer’s spouse performs contract work for G5.) With growth in marketing as well as tech positions, G5 could employ up to 300 people in 2018, Roussain said.

PeakEquity, which now owns a majority of the firm, accelerated the growth that was already under way, Roussain said. “We’re picking up velocity. We’re becoming a little better-known,” he said. “Because we’re better-known we’re getting larger fish in the pond that have more properties. The momentum is building.”

Although G5 counts Chicago-based LivCor LLC, which has a portfolio of more than 50 apartment operators, among its clients, it’s still a small player in the multi-family industry, with only 5 percent of the market share, Roussain said. “It’s a huge, highly fragmented market,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for growth.”

At the most basic level, G5 builds websites for client properties, and its cloud-based software ensures those sites are at or near the top of all search results. Increasingly, however, G5’s services include digital advertising and tracking and enhancing those results, Roussain said. The next step in G5’s evolution will be artificial intelligence that customizes the digital experience for visitors, based on their physical location, or their recent online behavior, he said.

As an example, Roussain cited G5’s ability to create unique phone numbers, which tie online ads to the phone calls from interested renters. “Where it gets interesting, and this is all about the real-time responsiveness of where we’re headed, is that now we can dynamically assign those phone numbers on the fly. So as the ads are going out, the numbers are all changing on them, and all the responses that come back are tagged against the original ad they were going to.”

For all of G5’s “secret sauce,” apartment-building owners like Evergreen Housing Development Group, the Seattle-based company that built Outlook at Pilot Butte in Bend, want to know how digital marketing services contribute to net operating income, said Andrew Brand, executive director of development. Brand isn’t a marketing expert — Evergreen goes only as far as putting up a website before handing management over to a property-management firm — but he knows one thing: Most of Evergreen’s renters are referred by Craigslist, which is early 2000s technology. “Definitely, the overwhelming majority of traffic that ends up renting in our communities was generated initially from Craigslist,” he said.

Depending on the level of service, G5 clients pay $400 to $700 a month per property, and 99.5 percent of clients keep the service long-term, Roussain said. That client satisfaction is another factor fueling G5’s growth, he said. “That allows you to build,” he said. “Then, your sales force is focused on new acquisitions rather than trying to re-sell to the existing customers.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com