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Setting Yourself Up for Failure: It's Easier Than You Think

Everyday, I get a phone call or an email from a company that has a problem that needs fixing. Now, as a consultant and educator in multifamily, this really shouldn't surprise me. But what IS surprising  is how many of the problems are 'self inflicted'.  Here's a quick overview of the three I hear on a regular basis.FAILURE #1: Trying to beat the system on Craigslist. You know what I'm talking about here. The constant refreshing of ads by making 'small tweaks' so the ads are not exactly the same.  (But who are we kidding? The ads essentially ARE the same). The we've got the properties who are trying to use a variety of ISP addresses to 'fool' the system, etc. The list goes on and on. And then what happens? Craigslist busts them and blacklists them. And then my phone rings and everyone says the same thing: "We got blacklisted on Craigslist! What do we do?" And I ask the same question, "What were you doing that got you blacklisted?" And we go on from there, discussing how they were trying to get around the Terms of Service (TOS) and basically got caught. (Charity, I think this is a great opportunity for you to weigh in here on this particular failure.)FAILURE #2: Running your property page as a profile page on Facebook instead of a "Fan Page".  This is a violation of the TOS on Facebook. There's no way around it; it's wrong. And you run the risk of losing your entire page - all of......
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The Original "Social Media"

Don't get me wrong; I'm a big believer in Social Media and what it can do for apartment community marketing, resident retention, recruiting and more. But sometimes when we're in such a rush to update our Facebook status, Tweet our latest adventures/ideas/inane things (yes, I'm guilty of that), video our thoughts and upload them to YouTube, blog about our opinions, or IM with our coworkers, clients and friends, I worry that we're forgetting the original 'social media'. We LIVE with our customers. No other industry can really say that. We become interconnected with their lives, like it or not. We know about their out-of-control kids, their loud romantic activities, where they shop (because we sign for the packages and allow the delivery people into their apartment), where they work, how much they make and what their credit rating is. We know their pets, their pet peeves, where they work, where they work out, and we often know when they are out and about. In short, we know much more about our customers than the typical Starbuck's barista or Target cashier. We are the original Social Media-building community both online and so importantly, in person. . We created connections, created content, provided social gathering places and made the peer recommendations. And we still do.Don't forget that when you're Facebooking, Tweeting, YouTubing and more. Pick up the phone, chat with your residents, wave to them when they drive by and stop and speak with them when you see them in the building or on the property.You......
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Improve Your Resident Retention by Changing the Way You Speak and Think

As a property manager, I had some 'rules' that I made everyone follow. Perhaps some of my staff thought they were silly; hopefully, they realized the value in them. Here's a sampling:1. Never use the word 'problem'. Substitute the word  'opportunity' in its place. Let's face it. If you view every potential 'problem' as an 'opportunity', you've placed a much more optimistic spin on whatever issue you have, right? I found that it helped my team tackle the problems from a different point of view. I'd ask myself and my teammate what kind of opportunity we had been presented with- whether it was an occasion to promote our brand, deliver outstanding customer service, or create a new advocate of our community (or all the aforementioned and more), it really gave us a chance to think things through on a  much more positive note. 2. Turn your least favorite resident/customer into your favorite.  Here's how this one worked. Almost everyone of us who works or has worked on site has had a resident who just seems to rub us the wrong way. And our tendency is to head in the opposite direction when that person comes in, or to hand off the phone call or email to someone else when we receive it. It's human nature. This 'foe into friend' technique required each person on staff to welcome opportunities to work with their least favorite resident. Our job was to work with the resident on every possible occasion and in so doing, find their really good qualities. Yes,......
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"Residents, Don't Bother Us! We're Busy Trying to Lease"

I'm 'friends' with a lot of apartment properties on Facebook. (No, I'm not going to get into the whole page -Vs- fan page issue here). As a result of being their friend, I get their newsfeed on my home page. A few weeks ago, I saw this:
Don't forget Saturday, September 12th is our Open House! Residents, please remember we will not be available for package pick up, work orders, renewals or common questions. We will be available during our regular hours on Sunday so please come... see us then for any of these things! You will also be able to leave messages on the voicemail and get ahold of maintenance if you have a maintenance emergency. 
    (The bolding is mine; I want to make sure you read the really important part.)
Now, is this just me, or is it simply wrong to basically 'cut off' your residents on a Saturday for virtually ANY needs they may have (other than emergency maintenance)? I kept thinking, "If I were a resident and wanted to get a package on a Saturday -my only day to do that sort of thing - and I was told I couldn't because the property was too busy leasing - I think I might want to move out.
Am I nuts? Am I missing something? I'm looking at this simply from 'facebook value' as a resident. How would a post like this make you feel?


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Renewal Letters? Seriously?

Dear Abby:I've lived at Happy Hills Apartments for almost one year now. I like it here. It's clean, the rents are a little pricey but I believe that you get what you pay for so I'm not complaining about that. When I looked here a year ago, everyone couldn't have been nicer. They gave me a little 'thanks for looking' gift when I first came out, and they stayed in touch with me through my whole apartment search. They were so attentive that I felt I'd be well taken care of here. But that's changed. Actually, it changed right after I moved in.It seemed like once I filled out the lease, they sort of forgot about me. I'd go in the office to drop off my check or give them a service request and they either didn't remember who I was or had to ask me my apartment number. I didn't like that. They also would interrupt talking with me to take phone calls for people who wanted information on the apartments. I think that's just rude. A couple of times, I had a package notice and I asked them if they could put it in my apartment because I wasn't going to be home in time to pick it up. They said they would do it if they weren't too busy. Once, I got the package. Another time, I didn't. It's been like this for a while now, but today was really the last straw. I got this letter from......
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Why Your Ad Just Might Not Be Working For You

You create the ad. You select the photo. You write the copy. The ad hits the ILS, the print publication - whatever vehicle you've selected for running your advertisement. You wait for the results. And they never come.You think perhaps it's the distribution of the media source, or maybe the demograhic; you typically blame it on everything but the content and the photography. But many times it's not the messenger, but the message that's the problem.While visiting the great team at the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando last week, I surveyed the audience of approximately 150 attendees with the question, "How many of you DON'T have a pool at your community or building?" Perhaps six people raised their hands. Yet almost every property prominently featured a photo of their pool as their main 'statement' in their ads. Why? If pools are common and an expected amenity, does that do anything to set the community apart in their ads? The answer, obviously is ‘no'.Second only to a photograph of an outdoor swimming pool was a photo of the property signage.Now, I have to say that in all my years in the industry, I've never found a resident who moved to a community due to the signage. Or a prospect who was compelled to visit a property because of the signage as illustrated in the advertisement. Yet, consistently, signage is prominently featured in our industries' advertisements. That's something that needs to be changed, now.When having your property photographed, do a few very basic things to......
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Magazine Day, Muffin Morning, Long Lunch Friday and Other Employee Perks

One of the questons that comes up a lot from members of my audience is, "How do you motivate staff?" And we've all read the survey results that say money doesn't motivate. Well, maybe it doesn't, but lack of money definitely de-motivates people. So, what can you do to keep people excited about their job without spending a lot of money? Here's a few I've experienced over the years and I can guaratee you, they work.1. Magazine Day: For your overworked, tired and dedicated leasing teams, show up one morning (when it's typically going to be a slow day) with a stack of magazines, and an assortment of nail polishes and 'nail tools'. Declare it "Magazine Day" and give your team two hours to read magazines and do their nails while you take all the phone calls, show all the prospects and work with all the residents. Your team will love it and you'll feel good offering it to them.2. Long Lunch Friday: Twice a month, let your maintenance team take a longer than average lunch together. My teams used to do this a lot on payday, but figure out what works for them and let them go. They'll really appreciate the extra time, and the extra minutes where they bond as a team over burgers or pizza is definitely time well spent. 3. Muffin Morning: Every month, offer muffins and other baked breakfast goods on the first. You'll be amazed at how many more rent checks you get when there's food available and you'll get even......
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Ten Things You Need to Know About Working On Site

1. If the resident moving in says they have a cat, they generally have two. Or more.2. Some of the residents who are behind on their rent will actually LIE to you to gain more time. Imagine that!3. Dating a resident really isn't a good idea. 4. Failing to inspect a leased apartment home the morning of the resident move in can be disastrous.5. Regionals who come to your property and spend all day on the phone with other people are not there to help you. They are there because they are supposed to be there.  (Most of the time this holds true. Occasionally, they really have to be on the phone.)6. No one is above cleaning an apartment, plunging a toilet or doing vacation services for a resident. We're all in this together, you know?7. Some people call in numerous service requests because they are lonely and want someone to talk to that day. Humor them. Clearly, they need you.8. Your leasing office has an energy all its own. Whether or not it's positive or negative is up to you. But who wants to live or renew at a property that's got bad energy going through it? No one I know.9. Your maintenance teams have much more contact with your residents than you probably do. Make sure you've given them the tools to communicate effectively.10. You have one of the best jobs in the entire world. You can make a difference in a persons' day and if you're really good, you......
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Stop Running All of Your Ads Now!

In preparation for some meetings, as well as for some ongoing client work, I've been eshopping properties for the last two weeks.

The results are in a word: horrendous.

Some companies took a full week to get back to me. Others relied on their auto responders that said, "Contact us if you have any additional questions."

Sadly, the majority of the ones I DID receive back were littered with poor grammar, misspelled words,  information on the wrong bedroom configuration and more. So here's my question:

If you're not going to train your people on how to answer the emails, why bother advertising?

After all, why spend the money if you're not going to utilize the results? So just stop running all of your ads now.

Ignoring your emails is like letting the phone ring and ring with no one to answer it. Or letting a prospect come into your office and simply stand there while you pretend they don't exist. Would you ever do either one of those things?

Training is ESSENTIAL. If you don't arm your teams with the proper instruction and procedure on how to answer their emails, you're bound to fail.

I will now step off of my soapbox and you can return to your day.

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Lose the Amenity: Tanning Beds Need to Go

A compelling story that may have been lost this week in the furor over the Horizon Realty mess was the WHO's study on the dangers of tanning beds. As an industry, we need to be aware of this and address it at our apartment buildings and communities.

The dangers of tanning have been known for several years. Sadly, my generation not only tanned religiously, we even added iodine to baby oil to 'darken' ourselves even more! (Yes, we really did that.) But finally, even more information on how dangerous it is to 'fake bake' has been made public.

The World Health Organization's analysis found that the use of tanning beds can raise the risk of skin cancer by up to 75%. This new classification makes tanning beds as dangerous as arsenic and mustard gas.

Get rid of the tanning beds. Do something healthy for your residents. Make a statement. Or not. The choice is up to you.

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