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Resident Appreciation Week: What's Your Take?

Dear Abby:I have a question that I hope you can answer. I live at an apartment community and my place is celebrating something they call "Resident Appreciation Week". It's got me kind of confused.When I left my apartment last Wednesday morning, all of the staff was outside passing out breakfast as I went to work. Now, I had already eaten and I wasn't interested in getting anything, but I took it anyway so I didn't hurt their feelings. I threw it away when I got to the office. I don't drink coffee and a packaged sweet roll wasn't anything that appealed to me. I got home from work on Thursday and there was a bag of Junior Mints hanging on my doorknob with a note that said, "You're worth a mint to us." Yes, I suppose I am based upon the rent that I pay to them. I still didn't get what was going on but it appeared all of my neighbors had the same thing on their door. Even the guy across the hall who's always noisy and whose balcony looks like a garage sale year 'round.Friday I had a reminder about Saturday's "Pool Splash" or something like that. I don't know what it was and I don't care. I have no interest in going to events like that so I threw that note away, too.Today, there was that breakfast thing again and then when I got home there was a small plant outside my door with a note that said......
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Make Your Ads More Effective Today

woodsideapts5bo.jpgEach year, apartment publications and internet listing services (ILS) publish hundreds of thousands of property ads. Sadly, many of these ads feature the property sign as their main photo. Why is this? Have you ever found an apartment resident who leased at your  property due to the amazing photo of your signage? Properties also tend to run ads that are laden with amenity photos, clubroom/clubhouse photos and pool pictures. Maybe there will be one or two interior photos placed in with the montage of pictures, but mostly our industry's ads are dominated by items that don't encourage the prospect to pick up the phone. Lifestyle photography is getting some great results these days, however, especially photos that evoke emotion.  There are some other issues, too:1. Copy: It seems that everyone's landscaping is 'lush', their fitness centers 'state of the art', their pools 'sparkling' and their kitchens 'gourmet'. Let's shake things up here and get creative, okay? How about 'amazing kitchens with loads of cabinet space and a great microwave for reheating those leftovers', outdoor pools 'open from April to October with ample sundeck space for tanning'; 'expansive grounds for picnics, get togethers, dog walking, softball and more' and 'fitness centers with weight training equipment and Lifecore aerobic machines'.2. Amenity Bullets: When you're listing your amenity bullets (if you use that style in your ads), don't forget that the appeal of certain amenities  Many have specific seasonal appeal. For example, I received some copy to review this past Friday for an ad to run at the end of July and all......
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"Apartment" or "Apartment Home": You Tell Me

How much impact does word choice have in your ability to lease your apartments to prospective residents? Or should I say, "How much impact does word choice have in your abililty to lease your apartment homes to your prospective tenants?Now, if you're like me, the word "tenants" was like fingernails on a chalkboard to you just now. But there seems to be a real controversy in our industry on whether or not you should call an 'apartment' an 'apartment home'. Here's my take (yes, I'm giving an opinion this time and not just stirring the pot). I think the term 'apartment home' is a little too over the top. Now don't get me wrong. I definitely think that 'apartments' are 'homes' but I believe to call them that is redundant. Here's an example. Follow along and maybe you'll understand what I mean:"I'm heading to the grocery store retail establishment with my daughter child to get potatoes vegetables. I'm taking the truck automobile and will get some gasoline fuel on the way there. When I get back to the house home, I'll call you at your office work.'Do I agree that semantics play an important part in sales? Yes. Do I think we go overboard sometimes? Yes. Case in point: "Clothes care center " as opposed to "laundry room". That's like calling the mailbox area the 'communication center'.  I don't like tenant, complex or unit. Those grate on me, big time. But 'apartment home'? I just don't see where that makes a difference.I......
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Just Because You Think It's Right Doesn't Mean That It Is

You've seen them; those annoying Facebook quizzes and surveys. "Deb is 100% a girly girl" or "Dave wold be an oak tree if he were to come back as a tree in another life." I don't take the quizzes. But I learned something from one of them the other day. It was the, "Should toilet paper go over or under?" Talk about passion! People were definitely opinionated on this one. And come on people...we're talking toilet paper here! But then I realized: old habits die hard.This is why I often have a hard time getting clients and audience members to change their ways and throw away the rule book on some of their 'tried and true' habits. So here's a quick sampling of old multifamily ideology that needs to go away:1. All leases have to end on the last day of a month.2. You must always hire someone with property management experience.3. All apartments need to be painted in neutral colors.4. Leasing Offices should open at 9 and close at 5 or 6.5. Clubrooms should be highly decorated pretty places that we don't rent out to our residents.6. Leasing Professionals should wear uniforms.7. Leasing Professionals should NOT wear uniforms.8. Print is dead.9. You only need social media to rent apartments these days.10. Current residents should never be given the current concession.I could go on and on and on with this list. But here's my point: Broad generalizations RARELY, if EVER, work. Each and every property is as unique as the people......
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Maybe It Should Really Be Called "Social NOTWorking"?

If you had the opportunity to attend the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) Conference this spring in Denver, one of the several outstanding sessions presented was "Measuring Market Effectiveness" presented by Todd Katler of Level One and Rick Blair of Equity Residential.

 A few points from Katler's portion of the presentation:

1. Print sources are probably underweighted due to the search nature of their customers.

2. Phone call leads have a higher conversion rate than email leads.

3. Longer leasing calls convert to leases 92% more often.

4. Social Media sources (YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook) accounted for .05% of all leads for their test properties used in the presentation.

So....should it really be called Social NOTworking as opposed to Social Networking when it comes to multifamily? You tell me.

BTW, if you like what you read here, head over to www.ApartmentMarketingBlog, where I write just about every day.

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Our Pricing is Confusing Our Prospects

I'd like to ask you to do something for yourself today. Pick up the phone and call some of the properties in your immediate market. Chances are, they might be offering concessions of some sort. "Shop" them, as if you were a real live prospect. And let them explain their concession to you. I did. And here are some examples of what I got:"We amortize your three months free over the life of the lease and that reduces your rent, so you're not really paying market rent. You're getting free rent. Does that make sense?""We give you your first month free and spread it across the first six months. After six months, you go to market rate. And if you break  your lease, you have to pay back the free month that you got.""We only charge net effective rents." (I played devil's advocate here and asked what ‘net effective rents' were. The answer-->)"Er...um...I'm not really sure what they are, exactly. But they are what we are charging now. It's better than regular rent though. I do know that..."Now, as if that isn't confusing enough, we get into menu based pricing (of which I am a fan, but not necessarily right now). Try to explain to a prospect that he will pay $45 more per month because he's on a higher floor with a 'better view', southern exposure that's close to the amenity area. Generally, he doesn't really ‘get it' because to most of our prospective residents, our apartments all pretty much look......
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Making Sure Your Leasing, Marketing and Resident Retention Programs Actually Work!

If you want to know the best way to craft a marketing, retention or leasing message that will resonate with your prospective and current residents, you need to do a little research. When working with clients, I always do a tremendous amount of research to make sure our messages 'hit the target' based upon what the current trends are.  I use magazines, websites, newspapers and personal observations when consulting and speaking. Here are some of the latest trends and statistics for you, also paired with 'how to use it':Statistic: 30% of Americans are now late on some bills for the first time ever. What can you do with that information?  Offer ‘late rent relief' to some of your renters. I'm recommending all sites offer 'one free late' per year to their residents. This doesn't mean you hold off on pressing forward if they don't pay before filing dates; it simply means you'll waive one set of late fees one time per lease period.Statistic: 32% of us are having trouble sleeping. What can you do with that information? Look at the 'sleep program' put together by the Radisson hotel chain and offer it as a marketing program. Radisson provides a sleep mask, lavender pillow spray, a cd of lullabye music and more. Let your prospects 'sleep on the idea' of selecting your property. After all, the average renter is now having 4.5 contacts with you (defined as phone, visit, email) before they rent. "Sleep on it" makes perfect sense in our overstressed economy!Statistic: Sales of......
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Stop Yelling at Your Leasing Professionals to CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE!

Yes, I know this is a market unlike anything we've ever seen before. And I know many of our markets are suffering from occupancy issues. But please , do me a favor and stop harassing your leasing professionals to push hard for the close right now.Don't get me wrong; I believe that everyone should always be asked for the sale. But I do think that pressuring people in our current environment is wrong. And I think it can send them in the opposite direction - in a hurry.According to data from my friends at Lead Tracking Solutions, the average rental prospect is making 4.5 'connections' with a property before leasing from them. ('Connection' here is viewed as a visit, an email or a phone call). So let's say that Joe Prospect sees an advertisement online and calls the property first (over 80% of all first contacts from an internet sourced renter are via phone). Then, he visits the property. He's still got 2.5 contacts to make before he decides to rent based upon the national average. I know this statistic may not fit the scenario at your property. Yours might be the exception to the rule and you may be able to close on the first or second contact. But let's cut our leasing teams a little slack here and instead of pushing them so hard to close, let's offer them assistance to get the visitors closed by that fourth contact.What are some of the things YOU can be doing to help your teams lease......
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Stop with the "Generic Marketing" and Start Selling Your Brand!

When I mention the word "generic" what images come into your mind? Probably black and white logos, very similar to the photo above. Generic might mean a lot of different things to people but what it really boils down to is ‘brandless'. And ‘brandless' is bad.I've heard talk over the years that branding doesn't work in multifamily. And maybe it doesn't work in the sense of say, a McDonald's. I would be hard pressed to find someone who was so enamored of a company like Avalon Bay (a very good management company) that they would only rent from Avalon Bay. Unless they move to a city where Avalon Bay has a building or community, they are out of luck. Our industry is not ubiquitous, like the aforementioned McDonald's, Target or Best Buy.But we CAN brand our advertisements, our amenities, our buildings/communities, our service and more. Most times, we don't. Here's some examples:Our advertisements: We use generic language. All of our pools are 'sparkling', all of our kitchens are ‘gourmet', all of our fitness centers are 'state of the art' (a big "Thank You" to soon to be Mom of Twins, Mindy Williams of Rent and Retain for her study on generic language in advertising a few years ago!). It's time to get creative and make your advertising language stand out from your competitors!Our amenities:The brilliant Jamie Gorski, now with Bozzuto Management,  'branded' some of her amenities when she was with Archstone-Smith. Her business centers became "Click Cafes". How smart is that? What can you call......
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Negative Amenity Pricing: It's Time to Embrace the Practice, Don't You Think?

It appears that our industry has, at long last, *almost* fully embraced menu based pricing in all markets.  Even without revenue management software such as Yieldstar and LRO, we're finally managing to realize that 'one price does not fit all' and have seen increased revenue as a result. (Note here: When I worked for industry legend Joel Altman approximately 20 years ago, he had us using menu based pricing even then). And that's a good thing. But we still need to make one more adjustment and I find that many property management types kick and scream when I suggest this to them. I really don't understand why.We all have that ‘list' that we use for pricing: $10 for a better view, $15 for a preferred floor, and so on and so forth. But it seems that we use the WORST apartment in the entire building/property as our starting point. And I think that's wrong.Our starting rent for a floor plan type should be a ‘basic apartment'. One with an average location, an average view, an average square footage (we all know about those units that have the quirks to them, like smaller closets, square footage, etc. Those are NOT our average.) The base price should be set from our most standard types. Then, when we should look at our inventory and find the ones with detrimental items, such as horrible views, smaller spaces, undesirable locations, etc., and accordingly, we should subtract rent from those unit types.Let's face it - those particular apartments always have the......
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