Remember when prospects battled like shoppers on Black Friday - scratching and clawing for a handful of underpriced, supersized vacant apartments? If you answered yes, chances are those days are long gone. Marketing is essential to leasing and retention; without it communities become ghost towns and owners disappointed in the teams hired to manage their assets.
Beyond the banners, balloons, and latest gimmick of the moment, marketing is most effective when the message is conveyed by those who believe in the product itself. So, if the goal is to market a lifestyle, as opposed to an empty box, who better to spread the word than residents at your community? Here are 5 truths that point to why residents can be a powerful marketing ally.
1. They have an extensive network – the wider the net, the better. Family, friends, co-workers, friends of family members, friends of co-workers, the cashier in the checkout line, their children’s teachers …you get where I’m going with this. As discovered in our “Today’s Online Renter Study”, 74.4% of apartment hunters trust the opinions of people they know. You never know where the next lead will come from and residents could be a powerful and FREE marketing channel.
2. They love to brag – and will do so to a worldwide audience. In the same study, 61.0% of residents said they would be willing to post a positive review if asked by their management company. Talk about low hanging fruit! Especially considering that 67.7% of apartment hunters trust online reviews – even if they don’t know the person who wrote it. Without a doubt, online reviews are driven by the onsite experience, so give your residents something good to talk about. One click…one positive review, can open the door to many more future residents for years to come. And don’t waste the opportunity to respond to every online review. Only 11.1% of prospects don’t care if management responds to an online review. Benefit from the 88.9% who do care!
3. They want neighbors who are just like them – let them be your filter. Residents aren’t going to vouch for someone who may not be able to pass your application process. They definitely won’t attach their name to a deadbeat unable to pay rent on time, or someone who is a nuisance in general. For those communities offering referral incentives, consider rewards aside from free rent. Dropbox increased its users from 100,000 to 4,000,000 (yes, million) in 15 months while bypassing the traditional pay-per-referral program. Dropbox decided to offer extra storage to both the referrer and the referee; the dual reward cultivated loyalty to the product while enhancing the customer experience. Rewards such as a 1-year fitness membership, cell phone/utility bill reimbursement (“we’ll put a $200 credit on any bill of your choice”) or even 2 free oil changes have staying power as opposed to a one-and-done rent credit.
4. They remember EVERYTHING – so make the most of every resident interaction. Residents want individualized service, familiar faces in the office, ready answers to their questions and swift resolutions to their concerns. The traditional practice of responding to calls and emails within 1 business day no longer works for today’s residents. They want, no expect, a response within 2 hours! Be sure your residents have a compelling story to tell when promoting the community.
5. They want to help – show them how they can. Most residents have access to a mobile device – the go-to marketing gadget. Create a “Show Us Your Space” campaign and ask residents to make a video describing why a certain room in their apartment home is their favorite. Another idea is a “Why I Chose (Community Name)” campaign. Upload the videos to your social network pages, tag the resident (they will inevitably share it), and compile them all on a DVD. Keep the video playing throughout the day in your clubhouse for prospects. Remember, residents love to brag!
Generating traffic, securing leases and retaining residents are no easy tasks. Layer in the numerous housing options for prospects, an economy that’s constantly in flux and the amount of new product hitting the market and it’s not surprising management teams feel overwhelmed. Residents, as a marketing resource, can free up some much needed time and money.