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Couponing Can Increase Your Leases, But You Have to Do It Right

We all know couponing has increased during this recessionary economy.  I've directed you in the past to such sites as Coupon Cabin, Retail Me Not and others. But this time, I need to give you some direction on just HOW to use coupons for your particular apartment community or building. We're doing it as an industry, but unfortunately, we are not doing it well.

According to a poll by Harris Interactive, 54% of Americans reduce their discretionary spending during a recession. We've seen up to 60% of individuals polled in an AdAge survey say they are giving up their designer coffee (remember what I told you; DON'T discontinue the free coffee service at your properties...keep promoting it! And give those residents logo'ed travel mugs to take your coffee to go! ) It's no surprise that Netflix and Campbell's Soup are doing well; they offer inexpensive alternatives for budget conscious people. That same Harris poll said that 63% of Americans would hesitate to purchase something if there wasn't a coupon attached. And they are less likely to search for coupons via traditional sources, such as direct mail. Where do they search for the majority of coupons? Online.

So here's how to make your coupons as effective as possible:

1. Give the coupons a dollar value. Don't simply say, "Present this coupon and we will waive your application fee." Add the dollar amount of the application fee. If you're waiving the administrative fees (which many properties are now doing) make sure the VALUE of the coupon is clearly stated on the coupon.

2. Give the coupons an expiration date.In reviewing property coupons on ILS sites, property sites, etc., I've been sadly surprised by the number of coupons without expiration dates. Where is the urgency? You must have an expiration date on the coupon.

3. Put coupons in your emails to prospective residents. I hope you're getting email addresses from your prospects on the phone or at least when they visit the site. And you (of course) always have them when they contact your property via email. So send them a follow up coupon.

4. Regularly check your coupons for expiration dates and timeliness.  Time and time again in my review of online coupons, I've seen vastly outdated coupons. The worst? "Present this for our Fall Special!" - on a coupon in February! Yikes! Yes, this will take time, but who bothers to print out a coupon that's clearly past its prime?

5. Consider an ‘alternative coupon', one that isn't printed, isn't online and is just plain fun! Properties in Michigan have found a way to really have a great time and create interest by putting sandwich board signs outside their property that change with their ‘daily special'. Seen on one sign: "Free Application Fee for All People Named Deb!" My local, non Starbuck's coffee shop gives a discount to anyone who can answer the daily trivia question. Consider a discount to anyone who drives a hybrid vehicle. Or just give anyone a discount if they are wearing blue jeans that day. The possibilities are endless, creative and fun.

6. Don't require emailed coupons to be printed out to be used. I recently used a coupon I'd received via email and simply kept it on my Blackberry. I showed it to the cashier when making my purchase and received the discount. I was also congratulated by the store manager and some others in line for my ‘green thinking'. Note on the coupon itself that you will accept it when presented on a mobile device. This puts you yet another step ahead of the competition!

7. Make sure your property name, address, phone and web site are clearly indicated on the coupon.In reviewing property coupons, this was a common mistake. No identity listed whatsoever on the coupons.

8. Take competitor's coupons. If a prospective resident walks through your door with a competitor's coupon, honor it if you can. Make sure you have approval (if you need to get it), and take the coupon.

9. Turn your Craigslist ad into a coupon. How easy is that?

Okay, that's it for today. I need to get out and get some shopping done for the week ahead. And of course, I need to get my coupons ready to go!

Make it an amazing day and lease lots of apartments!

If you like what you read here, please feel free to visit my other two sites, www.ApartmentExpert.com and www.ApartmentMarketingBlog.com

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I love the "present on mobile device" coupon idea - so many times I've been out shopping and forgot to print it from my email so I skipped that particular store. Great ideas Lisa - thanks for always being so creative, fun, and helpful! I'm going to have our properties try this on Craiglist. Also, you are so right about having expiration dates on offers...without expressing urgency, it's a useless exercise.

  Tammy Elam
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hey Tammy! Thanks for the note and the kind words. Let us know how your Craigslist coupons work, okay? And don't forget to use them in your ILS ads and in follow up emails as well.

  Lisa Trosien
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks LISA! Great info. I like these ideas if a community does decide to coupon, especially the idea of offering waived fees instead of free rent. I am of the mindset that best available rate is always going to be the best long term strategy, I also understand we are in "concessionary times". If a property DOES offer a free rent discount coupon, do it only on a limited list of targeted units for a limited time only and NOT on any unit available. You might also consider a coupon worth a value at a local popular hangout, free starbucks for a month with a lease, or something else of perceived value that the types of residents you have would really like.

  Bob Keator
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thank you for the feedback, Bob. I am a firm believer in 'menu based pricing' and agree with you wholeheartedly. And I love the concept of partnerning on the coupon. Charles E. Smith, before they became part of the Archstone family, ran a great Starbucks coupon campaign in DC. Always look for partners in your marketing efforts, especially now in the state of the current economy!

  Lisa Trosien
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Great post Lisa! I'm a coupon shopper, personally and professionally, so this really hit home with me! In this economy, I think we'll see more prospects AND properties using them.

My #10. addition would be that prospects not be required to have the coupon to receive the offer; just state where they saw the offer. Many people still don't have smartphones, and people forget to print the coupon thinking they don't need it. Besides, knowing where the traffic came from is more important than a printed coupon.

Side Note: The mobile coupon is becoming big. (I use cellfire for my coupon shopping at Kroger.)

I always enjoy your posts Lisa!

  Charity Zierten
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hey Charity!
Cellfire is BIG with college students and could easily be a coupon program for student housing providers. Tear cards in apartment print publications also work well. I was mainly focusing on the online versions with this post, but that's one that shouldn't be overlooked as an opportunity either.

Thanks for your contribution, Charity! Keep commenting and blogging!

  Lisa Trosien
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I always love your ideas. Thanks for the great post!

  Angela Sio

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