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The Multifamily Industry Doesn’t Have a Lead Problem, It Has a Customer Experience Challenge

The Multifamily Industry Doesn’t Have a Lead Problem, It Has a Customer Experience Challenge

In today’s climate, many apartment communities have more leads than they know what to do with, and multifamily teams are struggling to service those leads, according to Bobbi Steward, Vice President, Marketing, at BH Management Services.  From phone call answer rates to email response times, communities have more on their plate, often with less resources than before.  

I had the joy of speaking with Bobbi about how her company implemented the Marketing Focus 5, which identifies the five biggest growth levers for very specific tactical areas in their marketing.  She also touched on the impact of their website and the partnerships she has with different ILS’s who have a similar strategic vision, such as Zumper’s approach with organic, mobile-first lead generation.     

She also delved into reputation management and review response’s impact on SEO, and then did a deep dive into the always controversial discussion of lead attribution!  I highly recommend watching all the way through, as there is lot of fantastic nuggets throughout, and if you like this type of content, make sure to subscribe below, or on our Youtube channel!

How do we pick companies to talk to?

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Accurate Source Tracking: What Every Marketer Should Know

True Source Tracking is Level 2 in our Attribution Maturity Model. Level 1(attributing ILS sources) is easy, almost every property management company has that down pat. Tracking all your sources is the next level of attribution maturity. How can you achieve Level 2? That’s what we have been discussing in the past few weeks!

This week, we consolidate all the material into a little cheat sheet. As you see in the cheat sheet, Level 2 is not rocket science, but it does require discipline and consistency across all your sources. We start with the OAPS problem, then identify the four issues it creates and, finally, give solutions for each of those issues. Once you implement the four-part solution, you will be True Source Tracking like a pro!

Check it out!





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How to Optimize Your Source Spending

We’ve spent the last six weeks resolving the lead attribution issues in the multifamily industry. No, we didn’t put all of this time and energy into this topic so you can look at it and proud of your numbers (even though you should be proud). We were preparing to take the final step: Budget Optimization. We want to enable you to make data-backed, cost-effective budgets, like this one!       How can you optimize your source spending? Glad you asked.     Step 1: Stop looking at vanity metrics Earlier in this series, we established cost per lease as the metric to use when determining the value of each source. What we love about this metric, is that is breaks down the real cost of each source. This metric removes unqualified leads from the equation and accounts for budgeting differences. Once you eliminate the tracking errors, spending bias, and vanity metrics, deciding which sources to invest in is easy!     If you want more information about how we decided cost per lease is the most important metric in source cost analysis, check out the full article.   Step 2: Match Tracking Taxonomy to Budget Taxonomy If Tom Cruise wants a truly impossible mission, he should try to create a cost per lease report when you haven’t classified your sources. A lot of ILS packages include several different brands. For example, spending with Apartments.com gets you access to ForRent.com, ApartmentFinder, Apartamentos.com and a bunch more. All of these are purchased as a ......
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My Depressing Look Into Apartment Community Listings

Marketing can hit you in all sorts of different ways, from making you fearful, anxious, excited, or even empowered.  Great marketing fills the audience with a powerful emotion that leads to ultimately craving that product or service.  Today I would like to take you on a journey, starting with some unbelievable marketing and leading to a graveyard of uninspiring apartment listings. My journey started off by seeing an absolutely wonderful example of marketing.  (There is debate on whether this is actual marketing or just a neat picture, but for now, we are going to assume this was actually marketing.)  First of all, let me state what this pictures is not.  It isn’t a picture of a bag on a table.  It isn’t a picture that shows off all the pockets, or somehow showcases how durable the material is.  There is nothing wrong with marketing that showcases features, but this picture is vastly more powerful, as it shows an aspirational vision of what it is like to live an outdoor, active, hiking lifestyle with your best friend.  It speaks to its audience in a way that doesn’t just pique interest, but actually makes the audience yearn for the experience.  It’s a glimpse of their best self, with the bag being a prominent part of that vision.  A bag sitting on a table can’t provide that type of emotional response.   Similarly, one of the key things we teach in leasing is to help the prospect imagine living at the property.  For example, we start ......
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The most bang for your buck—ILS or Website?

I’m sure those three letters—I-L-S (or Internet Listing Service)—have creeped their way into every leasing office discussion at one time or another. Forrent.com, Apartmentguide.com and Mynewplace.com are just a few who have made their marks in the apartment industry—but the list is growing daily. Many Property Managers, especially those managing smaller communities, are left torn between investing their marketing dollars into an ILS or a website. While both of these mediums offer their own set of unique benefits, you should know the advantages and disadvantages associated with each.

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Is the Picture of Your Pool Really Attracting Prospects?

b2ap3_thumbnail_community-pools.JPGI happen to love apartment community pools, and with newer properties, they often do a great job at "wowing" any person who comes to take a look.  At least, that is what would happen if their pool was the only one in that market.  But as we all know, many of our comps have beautiful pools too!  So if everybody has an attractive pool, how does that change the impact on the prospect? The pool, as it turns out, has a direct link to our online marketing.  People are visual creatures, as Instagram and Pinterest can attest, so the first thing they will often look at is the picture of the community.  So now we have a choice - what picture do we use for our communities?  Well, an extremely large percentage choose the picture of their "sparkling pool".  This means that individually, a community can look attractive showcasing one of their most attractive elements, but when lumped together with several other properties, you get the effect seen on the right.  They are all attractive pools, and even though they are not exactly the same, they haven't differentiated themselves at all! Considering how many people start their search for an apartment online, it is probably the most important element to your marketing.  And yet, the solution for many communities is to do the same exact thing as all their competitors.  Maybe I'm crazy, but that seems absolutely insane to me. I recently came across this post, "My friend took a photo......
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Legal Buzz over Craigslist Posting Tools

Legal Buzz over Craigslist Posting Tools
In case recent changes to Craigslist’s posting policy weren’t enough, a sudden tweak to it’s terms of use has put the industry on high-alert over the legality of posting tools. Craigslist added breakdown of monetary penalties against violators escalating to as much as $25k, which would be a serious problem for operators if this applied to all Craigslist posting tools. But it doesn’t. These Usage Restrictions Aren’t New This right here isn’t new: USE. You agree not to use or provide software (except for general purpose web browsers and email clients, or software expressly licensed by us) or services that interact or interoperate with CL, e.g. for downloading, uploading, posting, flagging, emailing, search, or mobile use.That’s been in Craigslist’s terms of use for years now. The only change is that they’ve included a “reasonable estimate of damages” for violators of their existing usage restrictions that were already in place. Not All Craigslist Tools are Forbidden Posting tools that have always been in compliance are still in compliance. Craigslist bars the use of tools which download, upload, email, and post automatically to their site. The bulk posting tools in our industry don’t do that. They simply provide a content library for companies to then manually place listings. It’s when your software is automatically posting Craigslist ads in your name that you should probably be concerned. What Do Allowed Craigslist Tools Provide? With html, hyperlinks, and view-tracking thrown out, we’ve got some serious “make or break” questions on the value of posting tools. They don’t have the same html t......
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Five Places Apartment Seekers Find the Zero Moment of Truth

Five Places Apartment Seekers Find the Zero Moment of Truth
Believe it or not, a lot of the marketing happening within the multifamily industry isn’t completely connected with what’s happening in the leasing office.  “We are in an industry where customers self-identify as prospects and spend a considerable amount of time finding us through search,” explains D2 Demand Solutions president Donald Davidoff. “The flipside is that those prospects are coming to us at a point where they know as much or more about our product and our competitor’s product—including pricing and reviews—as we do,” As a result, the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) concept popularized by Google and trending across the multifamily marketing landscape is having a much more indelible impact, Davidoff says. ZMOT holds that consumer purchasing patterns and use of technology has empowered a new era of online leasing, targeted marketing and demand creation, and the ability to begin creating brand ambassadors at first (or zero) point of contact. According to data from a multifamily ZMOT survey conducted this fall, only 64% of apartment searchers claimed to have used an online search engine to find their apartment, while 84% indicated they primarily sought out the opinions, advice, and recommendations from friends and family. The survey, which included 288 renter responses from 124 cities in 25 states, also found a strong connection between so-called “web appeal” and community curb appeal among the top five ZMOT influencers cited by respondents: 62% of prospects use their mobile phone during an onsite visit to compare apartments and prices elsewhere. 64% of apartment searchers claimed to use an onl......
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Searching Online For A Place To Live Sucks

Before I get on my soapbox, I want to mention why I had to find a new place to live in the first place, which is a much more positive experience. I recently accepted a new position at one of the best and largest student housing companies in the country, Peak Campus. As a long time fan of their work, the experience thus far has been surreal. I'm truly a lucky man.  So, a new job in a new city meant I had to find a new place to live - something I haven't had to do since before Google was the top search engine in the world. As a prospective resident, I've learned how much i loath online apartment hunting. As a marketer in student housing, I couldn't resist jotting down such a valuable experience data, even if it is a rant after all. So, here it goes...   Website Design and Usability - Sites I used the most - Trulia and Craigslist. - There was a tendency for me to spend more time on sites that were "design neutral", evoking no particular feeling (good or bad) about the design's aesthetic. - Unless it felt sketchy, the aesthetic design of a website had zero effect on my perception of the rental itself. - It was easy for me to forgive an ugly looking site if it was easy to navigate through. **cough** Craigslist.  - Slideshows are annoying. When I'm ready to see the next photo, I'll click on it.  -......
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What does the Satisfacts Research survey on “All That Apply: Residents’ Leading Marketing Sources” really mean?

NAA’s UNITS magazine published a Satisfacts Research survey in their April issue titled “All That Apply:  Residents’ Leading Marketing Sources.”  The web-based survey queried 34,000 apartment residents who had moved within the last year, asking what sources they used from a prepared list of 36 possibilities, giving the option to check up to 20 of these sources. 

A survey question like this can tell us a great deal . . . notably that shoppers are utilizing an abundance of information resources, not surprising for most of us.

But does it really tell us that “Drive-by/signage” is the “leading” source, or that social media is “rarely used”?

Doug Miller, President of Satisfacts, was quite gracious in spending time with me over the phone recently to discuss the methodology behind the survey.  Here’s what I learned, and what you should also know:

·      Survey question:  “When you rented at your community, what sources of information did you use to find out about the community?  Check all that apply, up to 20.” 

·      The list of sources was a simple list, no clarification or further explanation provided

·      There were 15 Internet sources listed under the heading “Internet”, as in “Internet – Apartments.com”, “Internet – Property Website/Portal” and so on.  But many sources were omitted, like RentMineOnline.com, Oodle.com, ApartmentList.com, RentSocial.com and many others that carry apartment content. 

·      Similarly, all print publication sources were listed with an “Apt Guide” heading . . . “Apt Guide – For Rent”, “Apt Guide – Apartment Guide”, “Apt Guide – Apartment Finder” and “Apt Guide – Other”.  While those of us in the industry can muddle through that one, would the typical apartment resident be confused?  As one of the provider names is the same as the heading (Apartment Guide), it is easy to imagine that there was some respondent error here.

·      Facebook was included as one of the “Internet” choices, as well as Twitter and MySpace (really?), but other social media sites were not listed – like Pinterest, community or management company blogs and other sources where the industry has seen a great deal of activity.   

·      ApartmentRatings.com was included as an “Internet” source, but not Yelp.com or the many other ratings & reviews options we see the consumer utilizing.

·      There’s nothing at all in the survey about Mobile as a source – and that means none of the many apps and mobile sites were taken into consideration.  As mobile is the fastest-growing digital resource, this is a big missing component.

So, back to my original question:  Does the survey really tell us that drive-by/signage is the “leading” source?  Just my opinion, but don’t most of us drive a neighborhood we’re thinking about living in?  And while that helps us to know if the geography is right, does it really help a consumer narrow down the specific apartment community they want to take a look at? 

Also, with over 80% of Americans now using the Internet (via their desktops, laptops, smart phones and every other digital device with internet connectivity), and over half of Americans purchasing on line, does it really follow that the highest percentage any Internet provider garnered in the survey (Rent.com) was only 14.1%?  It just doesn’t add up.

Speaking of “adding up,” I saw a recent communiqué where one marketing provider was totaling their print and Internet percentages from this survey to come up with their “share” of usage.  Not so fast – since the survey asked respondents to “check all that apply,” there is overlap in the percentages; totaling is completely erroneous, as the same respondents checked multiple sources. 

As a long-time industry supplier with many years in the marketing arena, it troubles me that some readers might misunderstand these survey results, and that other marketing experts in the field are using the information inappropriately.  Shouldn’t we really be asking (in addition to a more precise usage survey) what sources are meaningful or most helpful?  What type of information is critical in making a decision on where to rent?  How important are ratings/reviews and friend’s recommendations in making your decision?  It seems to me that those questions would give us much more insightful, actionable answers.

I'd love to know your thoughts!

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