One of the first things we’re taught when beginning our multifamily careers is how important it is to create meaningful connections with our customers. In fact, this is ingrained into our psyche so much that you can take a peek into any of the numerous multifamily social media groups online and find overwhelming sentiments that resist popular technologies because we’re so adamant that “we the people” need to be the ones building trust, rapport and authentic relationships with prospects and residents.
Human connection can’t be replaced, but it can be complimented. Technology can actually help us scale our relationships, so we can influence more people (because we all know that people “buy” the leasing team before they ever rent the apartment). So how can we get our smiling faces and charming personalities in front of the masses and turn those genuine interactions into a myriad of raving fans and loyal brand advocates? By engaging with our audiences at the right time, on the right platform, with the right message. Which will likely need to be accomplished with some layers of automation, because we just simply can’t be “on” all the time. But why does engagement matter and what kind of difference can it make when you get it right?
Nearly 70% of customers say their standard for ‘good’ experiences is higher than ever, while 88% are less likely to return to a website after a poor experience. Your multifamily website is one of the first things a prospective resident visits during their search for a new home, yet leasing teams don’t get the opportunity to make a personal connection and win the prospect over until after they’ve converted on the website (i.e. submitted a guest card).
Auditing your online leasing office (aka, your website) and implementing more conversion opportunities for your prospects can exponentially increase the number of people you’re engaging with - and, you can get your authentic messaging in front of them sooner and start building rapport before they ever have a chance to visit a competitor’s website.
Improving your website conversion rate leads to more engagement opportunities. In fact, most multifamily websites convert at about 2%. So, an average leasing team only gets an opportunity to talk to and engage with about two out of every one hundred visitors to your website. Can you imagine if you only got to personally chat with two out of every one hundred people who visit your physical leasing office? You’d be pulling out all the stops to try to snag as many of those folks as possible before they walked back out your door. So how can we give your team more ‘at bats’ in their leasing offices?
Add conversion tools to your website.
Layer in automation that doesn’t take over the conversation, but rather converts and gives your team more opportunities to engage and show off their social swagger. A few places to start:
Bots aren’t bad. They’re also not replacing your people. They’re simply getting helpful answers to your prospects faster, so the prospect continues to move forward in the leasing process with you and not a competitor. Prospects will talk to a bot before they’re willing to pick up the phone and call a leasing office or complete your 10 questions online guest card. If they simply want to know what your pet deposit is, because they can’t find the information on your website, they’ll ask your bot. And when your bot serves up an answer that is satisfactory, these prospects stay on your website longer, delving deeper into floor plans and availability, they absorb more of your community culture and are more likely to convert into a lead your team can start engaging with. But the best part? The minute they start chatting with the bot, they become a lead. A step was just eliminated from their leasing journey and there’s no more waiting for them to complete your online guest card. The leasing team and the prospect both save time and have an opportunity to start developing rapport earlier.
Take a peek at multifamily property websites and you’ll likely find that the two main calls to action on a homepage are: “Call” and “Apply Now”. But, most prospects aren’t yet ready for either of those steps. Some just don’t want or have the time to pick up the phone and call or leasing office hours aren’t convenient for when they could call. And someone usually isn’t ready to apply until they’ve seen a unit and reviewed pricing and availability. So how can you convert more website visitors into prospects with creative calls to action?
Try implementing some of these ideas throughout your website to get prospects engaged and, submit their information so your team can start building a solid relationship with them:
Engagement matters because people are busy and more easily distracted than ever. Raise your hand if you’ve got items sitting in an online shopping cart somewhere, right at this very moment. Why are those items just sitting in your cart? Because you browsed around, saw something you liked, or maybe started a grocery order but then had other priorities take over (a meeting, family duties, a doctor’s appointment, etc.) and had to hit ‘pause’ and come back to complete your sale later. Our apartment prospects are no different. Their journey of an apartment search is incredibly disheveled and doesn’t take place all in one specific moment in time, but rather over the course of hours, days, weeks, and even months with a multitude of distractions along the way. So, the earlier we engage, the more we stay top of mind and the better opportunity we have to eventually get that prospect in front of our live leasing teams (which is the ultimate goal) because we know they can close the deal.
Staying engaged with prospects and residents is key, because nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience and yet 32% of those customers would stop doing business with a company they love after just one bad experience. Positive, meaningful engagement can set you apart in a saturated marketplace, pushing prospects to rent with you and it can help remedy resident situations when things don’t necessarily go as planned.
Here are five touchpoints to layer into your leasing lifecycle that will facilitate more conversions, lead to added opportunities for engagement and improve relations with existing customers.
1. Automate your first response
No matter where the lead comes from - an ILS, your website, through a chatbot or social media platforms, automate the message. Automation doesn’t mean it can’t be personalized or customized with a message that is incredibly relevant to the prospect, but confirming you’ve received their request and reassuring them your team is alert and ready to be of service accomplishes three things:
2. Anticipate and Automate FAQ’s
Before a prospect ever personally connects with a leasing team, they’ve got a set of predetermined questions they need to be answered. These questions help them examine if your community is the best fit for them and helps them stay within boundaries they’ve set for their new apartment search (budget, location, pet friendliness, etc.). But, most prospects don’t want to take the time to reach out to a live agent (or wait for a response from the leasing team) in order to satisfy these small, yet important details. And yet, the content within many multifamily websites doesn’t include this very information prospects are looking for.
Utilizing a bot or chat functionality helps you build out some additional intelligence that can help prospects find the important information and answers they’re seeking, faster. Holding information hostage and not providing it is essentially holding your prospect hostage; it keeps them ‘held up’ in the early phase of their apartment search and keeps them from being able to move on to the next important step, which is typically scheduling a tour. The longer they stay in this top-of-the-funnel phase, the least likely they are to convert into a tour and then a rental.
Hint: Review questions being asked in your chatbot or chat tools on a regular basis - then work to build the answers to those questions into your regular, public-facing website content, to remove additional friction and give prospects the exact information they need, when they need it.
3. Let Your Team Do the Talking
Some things can just be conveyed better in person. But we’ve already reviewed that getting a prospect physically in front of a leasing agent is one of the last (and hardest!) steps in the process. One way to bridge this gap? Video. Whether live or pre-recorded, video can fill a void that comes with other traditional leasing tools - like email, texting, and the telephone. Try converting something you’d normally type in an email or text and say it with video, instead. For example, when fielding an email inquiry that just hit your inbox, instead of emailing the prospect back (with a templated email response that is used with every prospect), create a short 10-15 second video that introduces yourself and answers questions the prospect had. It’s hard for people to say “no” to people they like and video instantly makes you more likable, creates an environment of authenticity that can’t be heard or felt via email, and helps you stand out from the other 15-20 multifamily emails in their inbox.
Did you know that customers today are retaining less and less information due to excessive information? They used to pay attention to about 30 seconds of an ad, but now only catch about the first 5-15 seconds. Therefore, micro-moments are proving to be pivotal in maintaining and growing customer relationships. Video is an easy way to scale these micro touch points that we need to be sprinkling throughout our communications channels with our residents. Instead of following up on work orders with emails or phone calls, what if you had a personalized video from your service technician, greeting the prospect, quickly reviewing the work he did or fixes he applied, and thanking them for their residency? This accomplishes personalization, micro-moments, and automation, all rolled into one.
4. Re-Engage on Social
You may be advertising your apartments on paid social media networks, like Facebook or Instagram and maybe your leasing team has even made a fun Tik Tok or two (I actually made one the other day!), but have you considered that most apartment prospects ask friends and family for recommendations when they’re looking to make a major purchase? Crowdsourcing is nothing new and a quick search of Facebook shows numerous groups have been created (in nearly every major city) with the sole purpose of being a resource for those moving to the respective city. This is a great opportunity for teams to do some social listening. Join the groups, browse the conversations and offer insight when appropriate. It’s quite possible prospects who have already had their eyes on your community but haven’t converted yet are asking for information and advice via these very forums. Join the conversation and start engaging!
5. Put a Purpose Behind Your Touch Points
80% of sales are signed with 5-12 follow-ups, yet most salespeople stop after the first follow-up. Some don’t follow up because they prefer a more consultative versus “push” approach and yet others are diligent in follow-up efforts but their follow-up strategy is lacking in creativity and consists more of multiple “just checking in” types of messages that prospects find vanilla and boring.
Creating a prospect journey map can really help you better define when to touch base and more importantly, what for. Consider exactly what your prospect might be doing at each point in the journey and work to not necessarily ask “how is your apartment search going?” but rather, provide valuable information that would truly be beneficial for the prospect based on the buying (renting) stage they’re in. For example:
66% of customers use 3 (or more!) communication channels, yet most companies don’t consistently communicate with them via these platforms. And nearly 6 out of 10 say that tailoring messaging based on previous interactions is the key to winning their business.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Make sure you’re putting purpose behind your touchpoints. Don’t follow up simply because you’re trying to hit X number of touchpoints by X date. Make every engagement with both prospects and residents meaningful and interact across a wide variety of forums and devices. Otherwise, your stale, monotonous content isn’t going to engage, it’s going to make your customers run the other way - right into the arms of your competition. And I guarantee, they’ll be waiting to embrace them with a warm hug and the authenticity they were craving.