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Setting the Record Straight on Pay Per Lease Advertising

It seems like the debate continues on and on regarding which ILS model is the best.  At the recent NMHC Tech Conference people were tweeting about it.  At a recent Apartment Guide conference people were tweeting about it.  It seems that at every conference people are tweeting and talking about it in recent years, let alone all the blog posts and discussions online about the topic.  So, I’d like to set the record straight by saying:

We’re all a bunch of suckers when it comes to buying leasing traffic.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We’re buying gimmicks, and I’m guilty myself.  It sounds so great on the surface.  ”Pay only for what you get” is the promise.  I have to ask though, what exactly do we get?

1. Some kind of listing.

2. Some kind of marketing that drives people to these sites.

3. A trackable phone number.

4. A form that prospects can fill out to contact us.

5. And if we’re lucky some links to our websites.

From my perspective, none of these things are concrete enough to justify a pay per lease fee.  Why?  Because there are dozens of other sites and resources that offer a slight variation of the same exact information.  What makes a site so unique that it deserves a “Pay Per” model?  I say nothing.  Is it even realistic to think that prospects just used one site and it should be given all the credit?  I say no.

All said, I’m guessing that you’re wondering why “we’re all a bunch of suckers”?  Well, I think we’ve been sold the idea of ROI.  It’s easy for us to sign up for something that’s marketed as FREE until someone actually uses it.  We’ve allowed ourselves to sign up for a pay per model that promises the same exact thing that plenty of other sites promise all because it’s FREE to start.  All under the guise that leases from the pay per sites are different or better.  Different or better compared to what?  Just different in the way you pay for them from my perspective, but definitely not better.

The problem I have is that phone calls, emails, and lease claims can be inaccurate.  There are issues with attributing leases to a specific source, and with giving ALL credit to one source.  This is an issue for flat rate ILSs as well, but at least I know exactly what I’m investing each month and I can establish the ROI that fits my needs.

Here’s what I want.  An online space (listing) to rent under a well optimized URL that helps drive eyeballs to my properties and hopefully lead them to contact us.  I do expect a certain number of click throughs and eyeballs to find my listing, and I expect those prospects to use multiple sources. Unfortunately some of those clicks will be bogus, but that’s why I just want to pay a flat rate that I can justify.  I do expect to study my leads and leases to determine which sources meet ROI standards that I set.  I don’t expect an ILS to set the ROI standard for me at $400/lease (and I’m not certain I like them setting a pay per lead value either but that’s another topic).  I would appreciate a link to my website as well.  While I want to lease this space from you, my main goal is to get them away from all my competitors and have them come over to my space.  Cheers to the ones that currently fit my needs!

And that’s just what I expect of the current ILS model today.  I have yet to see an ILS incorporate social media or reviews in a way that is truly effective, so I won’t even dive into what I’d like to see there.  What do you think?  Are you a Pay Per fan?  Maybe that works really well for you.  If so, congrats.

as seen @ MarkJuleen.com

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Your point on ILS marketing is true and increasingly topical as online advertising and social media platforming grows. Trying to organize a comprehensive strategic marketing plan these days can seem like you're playing with a moving target. As...

Your point on ILS marketing is true and increasingly topical as online advertising and social media platforming grows. Trying to organize a comprehensive strategic marketing plan these days can seem like you're playing with a moving target. As new and "in the pipeline" social media privacy restrictions change the way we advertise and research our target audience. Looking at the marketing and advertising venues available can be overwhelming. Paying per lease on the basis of "that's the way we've always done it" certainly needs to be re-evaluated.

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  Mark Billig
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Thanks Mark. I agree programs need to be re-evaluated. 2003 wasn't long ago, but it's not 2003 anymore.

  Mark Juleen
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Couple of comments/questions. I've heard many times about prospects see our information through a variety of different sources. But the way I see it, the prior sources may have influenced them in some way, but they didn't seal the deal for...

Couple of comments/questions. I've heard many times about prospects see our information through a variety of different sources. But the way I see it, the prior sources may have influenced them in some way, but they didn't seal the deal for whatever reason. And if the prospects consistently ended up coming through the "pay per" ILS, then that ILS must have done something different. And frankly, from my point of view, I don't think I care what that "different" entails, as long as the leads/leases are valid and provide quality renters.

This isn't to say that the other ILS's didn't have a hand to play in the lease, but I would want to focus on the ILS that actually makes the "sale". Thoughts?

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  Brent Williams
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Brent, you're right. The one thing that makes a pay per lease site different is that they offer a $100 carrot for people to come back and claim. However, I don't think that's a benefit to the advertiser in any way, and is just clever marketing...

Brent, you're right. The one thing that makes a pay per lease site different is that they offer a $100 carrot for people to come back and claim. However, I don't think that's a benefit to the advertiser in any way, and is just clever marketing that we all have been suckers for.

We'll never really see an even playing field here unless everyone goes to the same payment model. From what I've studied and gathered, the pay per lease models offer no additional value to the advertiser as the data and costs are inaccurate and over-influenced by the $100 carrot.

For example, our communities haven't been on Voldemort.com for over a year, but we still get people coming in weekly stating they found us on Voldemort.com. If that doesn't shout "flaw in the system" I don't know what does.

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  Mark Juleen
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@Brent

I agree...essentially. In my company we have 65 different communities and as such I have to look at each communities' advertising decisions based on their unique situations. Our entire portfolio is not utilizing a pay per lease ILS, but...

@Brent

I agree...essentially. In my company we have 65 different communities and as such I have to look at each communities' advertising decisions based on their unique situations. Our entire portfolio is not utilizing a pay per lease ILS, but some do.

I tend to utilize the pay per lease at communities who don't experience viable traffic from other sources or who may have a smaller marketing budget and can't afford to pay a flat monthly fee to get 0 leases from other ILS's, who have all of the features you listed above. PLUS pay per lease ILS's can save you from having to offer a special as they will offer an incentive to have the prospect contact the property from that web space.

I suppose our situation is a bit different as we use an electronic lead tracking service and I am able to without a doubt identify leases from a particular source. Sometimes it just make sense to pay an ILS to perform in relation to end game.

Further, I don't feel as though social media should ever be viewed as a lead generator nor should we expect an ILS to use it in this way. I believe RentMineOnline has been the most successful at utilizing social media, as close as I would like to get, as a lead generator. And really, it's not even that, its more about "friendfluence."

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  Genevieve Oxford
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Good point with the $100 carrot. I can see how that would skew things because that may not mean they were the deciding factor. For example, they might actually make the visit/buying/etc decision based upon another site, but they go back to the...

Good point with the $100 carrot. I can see how that would skew things because that may not mean they were the deciding factor. For example, they might actually make the visit/buying/etc decision based upon another site, but they go back to the one that offers an incentive just to claim their prize.

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  Brent Williams
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

@Brent, what is there to skew? It's pay per lease. I know precisely what the cost per rental is. If the pay per lease site isn't working, (I'm not getting leases) where's the loss for listing with the site? I suppose this would be different for...

@Brent, what is there to skew? It's pay per lease. I know precisely what the cost per rental is. If the pay per lease site isn't working, (I'm not getting leases) where's the loss for listing with the site? I suppose this would be different for a community who is paying per lease AND listing their property on other sites, but to that community I would say STOP DOING THAT. Point is, Pay per lease ILS's have their place and when they are needed, it's a pretty valuable one...in my opinion...

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  Genevieve Oxford
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Despite the difference in the payment models, are there some ILS's that do a better overall job than others?

  Cortney Dunmars
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Cortney,

From what I've seen and experienced each market can be different. Apartments.com might be best in one market, while ForRent.com may do better in another. You really need to monitor and track all the different factors (clicks, views,...

Cortney,

From what I've seen and experienced each market can be different. Apartments.com might be best in one market, while ForRent.com may do better in another. You really need to monitor and track all the different factors (clicks, views, leads, and leases) and compare them. Only then can you really determine if you're achieving the ROI you're looking to get from each. I personally prefer the flat cost option sites as the pay per variables are gimmicky to me. Best of luck.

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  Mark Juleen
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

@Genevieve,

You make an interesting point about posting on a pay per lease site "only". If that's your only online marketing then I would agree that the model is fine. I think what many of us feel here is that we don't plan to be on just one...

@Genevieve,

You make an interesting point about posting on a pay per lease site "only". If that's your only online marketing then I would agree that the model is fine. I think what many of us feel here is that we don't plan to be on just one site, so that muddies the waters when it comes time to determine where the customer has come from.

Thanks for the comment!

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  Mark Juleen

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