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Portfolio Leasing: 11 Ways to Create Prospect-Centric Apartment Marketing

Portfolio Leasing: 11 Ways to Create Prospect-Centric Apartment Marketing

Are you a Starbucks fan? Do you make frequent Target runs? Do you have other favorite local or national brands you regularly seek out? I’m guessing the answer is yes.

Now, imagine that every Starbucks and Target location had a different name on the door.

Instead of Starbucks, what if your neighborhood location was named Buckhead Java Reserve or Espresso House at The Woodlands, both with tiny “Proudly managed by Starbucks Coffee” decals on the front door?

Instead of Target, what if your local store was called Shoppers Pointe of Arlington, with “A unique shopping experience by Target Brands, Inc.” at the bottom of their emails and weekly circulars?

Do you think you’d trust these brands as much as you trust Starbucks or Target now? If you went to a different location on the other side of town or in a new city, do you think you’d have the same brand association (whatever association that may be)?

My guess is probably not.

You trust these brands because, regardless of where you are, you pretty much already know what kind of experience to expect before you even walk in the door. Sure, you might prefer the local coffeehouse, but you have a go-to Starbucks order in mind if you’re running errands across town or running through an airport.

That consistency in experience helps to build trust. Trust builds confidence. Confidence increases the likelihood that you’ll come back and become a repeat customer.

Yet when we look at how apartment communities are marketed, we often see the exact opposite approach.

Every community is marketed with its own unique name, vibe, and character. Each property gets its own logo, brand identity, and story. There’s often little or no connection to the property owner or management company and the other local apartment buildings/communities that those companies offer.

This serves to make a highly fragmented market only that much more so. It makes shopping for an apartment a painfully difficult experience for the customer, and it increases apartment marketers’ reliance on third-party marketplaces (Craigslist and ILS sites like Apartments.com and Zillow), aggregators, and locators to get in front of new renter prospects.

Let's Market The Way Customers Shop

In short, the way we market apartments often directly opposes how customers are used to shopping. This simultaneously reduces the reach of each apartment community’s “brand value” and increases the amount each community needs to spend on advertising to stand out in the marketplace.

Rather than (or maybe in addition to) trying to build a unique brand for each asset, it’s time that apartment marketers invest in their brands beyond the individual properties. Think about how you can be recognized at the neighborhood or regional level, and look at ways to reach more people well before they ever fully understand which properties are yours.

We call this approach Portfolio Leasing. It's not at all a new idea. But with the digital tools you have available to you today, there are whole new ways to put the customer first in your marketing. Here's why we think it's a perfect fit for multifamily.

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Is Your Apartment Marketing Ignoring Renters?

Is Your Apartment Marketing Ignoring Renters?
Stacy Bouchard from D2 Demand Solutions posed the question “Is your Sales Process Prospect-Centered?” a few weeks ago. While it’s a great question that the apartment industry needs to strongly consider, looking at the sales-cycle is only half the battle. Making the sales cycle prospect-centric can only be so effective if apartment marketing is still delivering sub-par leads.   For example, most multifamily websites provide a feast of choices and assume that the online prospect will take a self-guided tour through the site, consuming whatever content they feel like. Having options like video tours, vibrant site maps, and online leasing is good. But, in some instances, it may be too much of a good thing. You wouldn’t give a prospect a brochure and a sitemap then tell them to go look at whichever parts of the property they felt like. So why are we doing it online? In most cases, the answer is “because we want qualified leads.” And that’s not a bad answer. It’s just not a prospect-oriented answer.   According to some sources, the average prospect looks at more than 20 communities online prior leasing. That’s 20+ self-guided tours of pool photos and amenity lists for every prospect that contacts your community. Crafting a prospect’s experience through the marketing funnel provides opportunities to customize their journey and shorten the path to leasing.   Making the marketing experience prospect-focused doesn’t have to be a forced process and for some, a self-guided experience is just how they like it. Exactly how the customer journey ......
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Ignite Your Apartment Communities SEO with These 9 Action Steps

Ignite Your Apartment Communities SEO with These 9 Action Steps
1) Focus on keywords that are semantically tied to apartments. These words include living, home, life, loft, residents, residences, residential, renovated and many more. This will help you avoid keyword stuffing in Google’s eyes and increase the quality of your content overall. 2) Make your content shareable with others in the Multifamily Industry through a Q and A blog. Find the most influential minds in the multifamily industry and have them share their story. Lots of times they will link back to you because the content mentions them. 3) Find sources of quality links over quantity of links. Great examples of quality links are from Apartment Associations, city specific websites like Austin360.com and always remember to link back to relevant communities in the same city too. 4) Double check your mobile or responsive website on all smart phones and tablets to ensure the user experience is easy to navigate and words or letters aren’t being cut off. 5) One of the most overlooked tactics and easiest to implement is your title tags. Make your title tag as relevant as possible. Don’t just target Apartments in City, ST because you want to make sure to add very specific descriptors. Examples include luxury, urban, eco-friendly, high-rise and other long tail search terms which may set you apart, while you try and rank for more competitive search terms like City Apartments. Also don’t forget about your h1, meta description and alt image tags too. 6) Besides having localized home page content of about 200-300 words, ......
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The End is Near - Preparing Multifamily for 'Mobilegeddon'

The End is Near - Preparing Multifamily for 'Mobilegeddon'
On April 21st, Google will be implementing their latest major algorithm update that is designed to push for a more mobile-friendly internet. All we know for sure is that Google recently made this announcement:   “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”   Even though this announcement doesn’t tell us exactly how to prepare for this change, the consequences are simple and clear: websites that are not optimized for mobile will be suffer significantly in Google rankings. So, implement one of these two strategies to ensure your community website survives when ‘Mobilegeddon’ strikes:   Responsive Web Design – If you have a responsive web design, the size of your website’s pages will automatically adjust to the screen size of the device your website is being viewed on. The benefit to this is that you only have to have one website. It’s highly flexible and happens to be Google’s recommended configuration (hint, hint). Beware of web designs that claim to be responsive but truly aren’t. If you think you have a responsive site but aren’t sure, simply visit your website on a mobile device and see if it is truly responsive to your screen size.   Create a Mobile Site – Mobile sites are separate websites created solely for mobile devices. While this option is typically cheaper to design, they can end up causing more backend work and c......
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"I need a 1-Bedroom near downtown." The Missed Opportunity in Your Marketing Strategy

"I need a 1-Bedroom near downtown." The Missed Opportunity in Your Marketing Strategy
“Hi, I’m looking for a one-bedroom, maybe a studio, near downtown. It looks like you have a few properties with nice options. Who would I call to set something up to see your apartments? Thanks, Kate” This is a real message received through a client's Facebook page. We see messages like this a lot, coming through a social media channel or the client's website. There's a good chance you've seen messages like this, too. It’s great news. "A lead! She wants a studio. We need to rent some studios!" Except there’s a problem. Our organizations aren’t built to serve Kate's question very well. Our marketing strategies don’t address what she needs at this point in her search. The way we manage leads doesn’t enable our leasing teams to give Kate what she wants. And it’s holding us back from providing a better leasing experience for our prospects. I know what you’re thinking. “Business is good. We have more leads than we know what to do with. We need to focus on getting our leasing team to answer the phone more and respond to online leads.” All true. But the more you can do to move "up the funnel,” the sooner you can qualify the prospect, identify your best prospects and ultimately help them find their perfect place. Let me show you what I mean. If you break down how people shop for apartments, we see that very few know the property they want by name when they start their search (top of the funnel). A few ......
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Responsive Design vs. Mobile-Specific for Apartment Websites

Responsive Design vs. Mobile-Specific for Apartment Websites
In recent years debate has unfolded on whether web designers should use responsive web design or build a separate, native mobile site.  Responsive sites automatically resize elements on the page to fit whatever device is being used.  Mobile-specific sites are specifically designed for mobile phones and native touch-screen functions. There are advantages to both, and strong feelings lie on each side of the ideological fight. For multifamily marketers, it's important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each when evaluating mobile options for apartment websites, so you can provide your target audience with the best possible mobile experience, considering the intended mobile behaviors and preferences of current/prospective residents. So here's a quick compare and contrast to help equip you for your team's next mobile/responsive discussion: Mobile-Specific Sites Pros Websites designed specifically for mobile environments are known for catering site content/functions to appeal specifically to mobile users' intended actions when visiting your site. Mobile users generally want information quicker than users on a desktop. Mobile-specific takes this into consideration and is designed to get them what they need without the fuss or frills.  They also provide calls to action (CTAs) that are most opportune for a mobile user's likely stance in the sales cycle, which for apartment seekers would probably be "Call Today", "Map it", or "Submit a Guest Card." You'll also find that mobile sites generally have faster load times. Cons The biggest challenge with a mobile-specific site is that it requires a different code base from your desktop site. You're essentially creating (and maintaining) two different websites, which can get expensive to develop and tedious to update. And while the content and function of the......
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Apartment Marketing: Feature Your Benefits, Not Your Features

Apartment Marketing: Feature Your Benefits, Not Your Features
In one of my first college advertising classes, I was handed a pen and told to list all of the features that might be used to sell it. In looking at the pen, I noted some things like: “gel ink”, “retractable point”, “rubber grip”, etc. A classmate was then asked to take my list and come up with a benefit for each of the specific features. His list had descriptions like, “the ink flows smoothly on paper”, “you’ll never have to worry about losing the lid” and “it’s easy to hold in your hand”. It was easy to see that his list of benefits was much more compelling than my list of features. It was a basic lesson, but it’s a concept that has stuck with me ever since. Distinguishing between features and benefits seems like a simple task, but it’s often misunderstood or forgotten completely in marketing efforts. The best marketers don’t tell you what their product is, but instead they describe what that product will allow you to do or how it will make you feel. Coca-Cola doesn’t spend time describing the fizziness of their beverages or the construction of their aluminum cans, instead all of their messaging is focused on the refreshment and the happiness that you feel as you take a sip. Let’s take a quick look at features and benefits in the context of apartment marketing and see how slight shifts in multifamily messaging can make a big difference in consumer perceptions. Features-Based Approach How many apartment communities do you see using marketing materials ......
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It's More Than Content: Seven Things Your Property Website Needs Now

It's More Than Content: Seven Things Your Property Website Needs Now
If you attended the Multifamily Social Media Summit last week (or followed along online), you probably saw a recurring theme: Having the right content strategy for your website is key to your online success. You may have even seen a chart circulating that outlines the features prospects are looking for on your site. Take a look: Do you have these features on your community website? @judybellack #multifamilysms2014 #nmhc #multifamily pic.twitter.com/lpFcNEnRl2 — On-Site.com (@OnSitedotcom) January 30, 2014 I'll say it right now ... this isn't a "nice to have" list. Almost every one of these are "must have" items for your website. Here's the full list: Floor plans with prices Availability of floor plans Interior photos Ratings and reviews Common area photos Neighborhood map Interior video Pet policies Common area videos Info about the property's "green" features Beyond the Basics: Add These to Your Property Website This is a good starting point, but honestly, these are things prospects expect to find when they get to your site. So while we're at it, here are a few more things you should add to that "must have" list: Contact Info with Office Hours When someone hits your website from a mobile device, they're likely ready to make a buying decision -- they probably want to visit your property to see the place. So it stands to reason that your website displays your address, phone number and office hours. Prominently. Don't make it hard for prospects to find you. Landing Pages If you're running ads o......
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Where has all the Data Gone? | Google Increases Keyword Encryption

Where has all the Data Gone? | Google Increases Keyword Encryption
Google is at it again! Last month they released their brand-new ‘Hummingbird’ algorithm which is set to (again) further improve the accuracy and relevance of search results. Updates to Google’s algorithm are nothing new (remember all the buzz surrounding the Panda and Penguin updates?) but this one is a little different. If panda and penguin can be compared to replacing a ceiling fan or window in a rental unit, Hummingbird is more akin to a full blown remodel. Sure, the supporting walls remain but the paint, carpet, plumbing and electrical systems have been completely removed and replaced with more technologically advanced and effective alternatives. So too is the same with the Hummingbird algorithm. The look of Google search will largely remain the same but many of the nuts and bolts have been replaced allowing for what Google says will be “better [search] results.”   So what’s different about Hummingbird? Google, in typical fashion, hasn’t gone into a lot of detail about the specifics of the new algorithm but they did reveal two main points of interest:   Conversational Search Spoken language queries are becoming increasingly common with the prevalence of technology like Apple’s Siri.   In response to the ever increasing prevalence of smart phones with voice recognition like Apple’s Siri, Google has been focusing on expanding their conversational search technology. This refers to queries like, ‘where is the nearest ATM to my house?’ Here Google looks at each word contained in the query as well as the way they relate to one another. ......
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Lead Attribution: “Property Website” Isn’t Enough


Lead Sources - Conversion Goals in Google AnalyticsWhen you're collecting information from a new prospect, do you ask how they heard about you? Does your contact form have one of those drop-downs with a bunch of pre-populated options? If you're like a lot of companies, you probably get a lot of people who tell you that they found you through your property website. As a marketer, you might be thinking, "Our website is outperforming all of our other online marketing." Yep, heard that one before. Great news, right? Maybe. Many of the prospects contacting you through your website probably didn't go directly to the site by typing your URL into the address bar. (In Google Analytics, these are "Direct" visits to your site.) Instead, it's more likely that the person clicked through to your site from somewhere else first -- maybe from a search engine, a Craigslist ad or a social network, or a blog post about your company's awesome new product. It's great to see those leads coming through your website. But it's also important to know how the best visitors are finding your site. Did they click on an ad? Did they find you through organic search? Did they read something about you through your recent PR efforts? The marketers we work with all agree that being able to effective attribute leads to their sources is a huge help; it enables them to better allocate their budget to the marketing channels that perform the best and deliver better returns. The great news is that, with a......
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