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Multifamily Properties Face Challenges as Technology Transforms Industry

Technology is developed to improve our lives or businesses, make tasks quicker and more efficient, facilitate better communication or solve a problem. Ironically, implementing new technology solutions often introduces other challenges or exposes existing issues with a business process.

 

Property management companies can collect more online data than ever before from prospects researching apartments, but is your CRM system set up to log and organize complex data beyond basic contact information? If your properties offer renters the option to receive text messages or schedule a tour online, do leasing specialists get notified immediately so they can facilitate the on-demand response consumers now expect?

 

Providing advertising and marketing services to property management companies for over 25 years, Bob Romine says he’s witnessed massive changes in both the marketing and multifamily industries, from how people communicate to how businesses utilize online data. As founder of R.C. Romine & Associates in Geneva, Illinois, Romine works predominantly with property management clients to ensure they’re addressing those business problems and consistently improving their digital marketing results.

 

He describes the two most common pitfalls companies encounter when trying out a new technology: 1) they don’t put into place the right business processes and supporting technology to handle a new way of doing things, or 2) they hold onto their established attitudes about digital marketing and fail to see the benefits of adapting to technological innovation.

 

“There are a lot of clients who are not set up for it, who aren’t really quite ready for a change,” Romine says. “Or, they aren’t in the right mindset. Mindset changes in this industry are very difficult at times.”

AI Technology Collects More Data To Manage

 

By adding artificial intelligence to a property website, companies can now discover a ton of valuable information from prospects. As renters engage with AI-powered, interactive quizzes and research tools that help estimate monthly living expenses or find an apartment community to best fit their current lifestyle, they give property managers important information like what amenities they’re looking for in a new home and how soon they plan to move. It automatically moves prospects closer to signing a lease, while making lead follow-up more efficient and effective.

 

A basic CRM isn’t capable of managing all of this detailed lead data, but that’s not a good excuse to skip out on collecting valuable information that can help leasing offices convert more online leads at a quicker rate.

 

“Our industry as a whole is five to 10 years behind almost every other luxury purchase,” says Ryan Cox, Digital Marketing Manager at J.C. Hart Company, based in Carmel, Indiana. “You’re already getting enough leads. Create processes to better nurture those leads and significantly reduce time-to-tour. Marketing in the multifamily space doesn’t need to happen more for your company, it just needs to be remarkably more efficient.”

 

Turnkey lead management solutions built specifically for the multifamily property industry can track prospects through their entire online journey, across multiple online platforms. By accounting for multi-touch attribution and tracking individual leads instead of anonymous traffic that’s counted separately every time a visitor returns to the website, a smart CRM delivers more accurate analytics to show ROI for specific online digital marketing channels and online advertising campaigns.

 

A CRM database powered by AI technology delivers another big benefit to properties by automating the lead nurturing process, sending a series of personalized emails and text messages to prospects based on unique data collected. Marketing automation organizes and reduces the workload of on-site leasing specialists, so they can focus on prospects who say they’re ready to sign a lease. It also keeps long-term prospects engaged with the property while they continue their research.

Changes in How Prospects Communicate Compel Chat, Text Trends

 

It’s harder than ever to get a hold of people, despite nearly everyone carrying a smartphone 24/7 and online access available nearly everywhere we go. Not only do consumers lead busier lives than ever, we’re all now bombarded with robo-calls from telemarketers and managing a never-ending stream of emails in multiple inboxes.

 

When consumers do want to communicate with a property to ask a question or schedule a tour, it’s typically during off hours when they manage to find time to do online research on a new apartment or condo.

 

“It’s odd that we have so many ways of communicating, yet communication is starting to get really rough. You have people who aren’t answering their phones anymore,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities Management, headquartered in Atlanta. He admits to hesitating before answering his cell phone if the call comes from an unfamiliar number. “I sit there and look at it going, do I really want to chance it?”

 

Berry still prefers phone calls for lead follow-up and wishes communication would go back to how it was 20 years ago, but understands many people are email-oriented nowadays and more prospects prefer text or online chat than ever before.

 

Text messaging became commonplace in business almost overnight. Property owner clients now text Berry “like a member of the family” and prospects commonly request text communication. “It is a great advantage to have the ability to communicate through multiple avenues,” Berry says.

 

He adds that people’s expectations for instant communication changed with the introduction of more technology. While it used to be customary to respond to emails within a day or two, if you don’t promptly respond within an hour, people will quickly follow up with a text or call. “So I find myself getting emails, texts and phone calls, multiple times from the same person while I’m on a conference call with somebody else,” Berry says.

 

Trent Jones, Regional Marketing and Training Director at The Worthing Companies in Atlanta, added AI automation to the company’s property websites a few years ago, facilitating an online chat feature that alleviates some of the daily demands on the leasing staff. “We are seeing 60-plus percent usage of ‘Rosie the Robot’ taking prospects through the leasing process, sometimes during the day and even more interaction after-hours,” Jones says.

Address Potential Pitfalls by Setting Guidelines for New Technology

 

When deploying a new communication method for properties, it’s imperative that companies detail exactly how leasing specialists will be notified of new messages and log prospect requests in the CRM, along with guidelines for how quickly they should respond.

 

Bob Romine says a client who set up a texting system to respond to customers failed to promptly address a text message asking for more information and it cost the client an opportunity. “By the time they got to that text later in the day, the customer said they’d already moved on,” Romine says. “Both sides were frustrated then. They said they wanted this system, but they weren’t quite ready for it. They’ll learn.”

 

Investing in technology that helps leasing specialists manage and convert more leads, facilitate better communication and automate some of the leasing process is becoming critical as more prospects go through the leasing process primarily online. But for technology to work in a property’s favor and not work against their digital marketing goals, properties need to think through the implementation of any new technology solutions and identify any potential pitfalls.

 

“Leasing offices get very busy,” Romine says. “You have people you’re taking on tours. You have people who are signing leases. You are balancing things on the phone, and so on.”

 

He advises if your property’s website, call center and other communication tools aren’t delivering to prospects the same depth of information at the same rate or faster than the leasing office, then they’re likely to only cause more frustration. “Then you can get caught up in that same web of not getting back to prospects as quickly as they might expect,” Romine says. “Today’s consumer moves on very quickly.”

 

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