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How Do You Reward Resident Loyalty?

Late last year, Starbucks rolled out a fancy new card, it's Gold Card, for $25 dollars. Not only can you whip this fancy little card out and impress all of your friends, but you also get 10% off most purchases, along with a few other small benefits. This Gold Card was also supposed to be an upgrade above the standard registered card, which is free and gives you free refills and a free syrup for drip coffee. So since it costs $25 and is supposed to be an upgrade over the FREE card, it's supposed to actually be better, right? Wait, not so fast. It turns out that people who shell out the cash for the fancy Gold Card don't get the standard benefits of the FREE card, which means that for drip coffee lovers, you get a WORSE deal with the Gold Card than you do for the free registered card! And they had to pay $25 to get that horrible deal!  Now granted, all of this was in the fine print of the card, but would the average person even consider they wouldn't get the original discount? I sure didn't (even though technically, I got it as a gift). So when they pull out the card for the first time, buyer's remorse smacks them across the face as they realize this sad little fact.  And who are the people most likely to get the Gold Card? Their most loyal customers, of course. Maybe Starbucks didn't do it intentionally, but......
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No We Don't...Yes We Do

Last week, before speaking at the International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas, I strolled through the casino at The Wynn Hotel, looking for a bite to eat.  The Wynn is a first rate hotel that I became a guest at through a fantastic Hotwire offer.  The rate I received indicated the hotel definitely was not seeing the volume of traffic they are used to. Anyway, I found a café, sauntered to the counter, and stood squinting to see the wall menu printed in the most visually daunting font imaginable.  I was not alone.  Three other people squinted alongside me.  The counter worker appeared and informed us they did not open until 11:30 (ten minutes away), then proceeded to stand at the cash register and stare glassy eyed out onto the casino floor.  I looked around at the people standing behind me and thought, “How difficult can it be to take an order, provide a beverage and get my cold sandwich started now?  You have business in front of you.  Take advantage of it before we turn and leave.”   Then I turned and left. Through the years I have waited numerous times for businesses to open.  Once, at Sam’s Club on a Saturday morning, I waited with 22 other people.  I had nothing else to do (like buy something) so I counted them.  Another time, I waited with a group at Marshall’s for 20 minutes before the doors were unlocked at precisely 12pm.  I certainly understand the need for staffing and organization,......
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Resident Retention: Low Cost / No Cost Strategies

Numbers? We Ain't Got No Stinking Numbers! So, you need to obtain permission to enter, track down a late rent payment, return a phone call, or place a pre-renewal phone call.  But wait! Their phone number isn't in the system. Surprised? You shouldn't be. The sad truth is that the average apartment community has contact information for only 50% of their residents, and much of that information is outdated.  Perhaps, as an industry, we have the mindset of, "Well, at least I know where they live!" The problem is that when issues come up and we need to contact them, we can't.  Calling information, searching through their paper rental application, searching the White Pages online... It's a waste of the staff's time - and time is money!  There's a simple, yet EXTREMELY effective solution. We ask the resident for their contact information.  Sounds crazy, I know. But snark aside, by setting an organizational standard, property managers can train the team to ask for or confirm the resident's contact information at every interaction.  The impact of this basic cultural change will astound you."Well hello Mrs. Jones. Yes, I can help you with that. Oh, I see that we do not have a current phone number for you. What's the best number to reach you? What's the best email address to reach you?"  "Thanks for calling Mr. Lee. Is this still the best number to reach you: 555-1234? I see we don't have an email address for you. What is your email address?"  For whatever reason, our leasing teams......
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A Quick Mention on Retention - Jan 2009

Well, we've made it into the post holiday slump.  You know, that time of year when the excitement of Christmas & New Year's have passed & we have to just survive until Spring Break & Memorial Day?  Because of our constant gray skies out here, this can be one of the most difficult times of the year to keep our residents engaged with us & to keep our team spirits up.   To quell your apprehension, we offer timely ideas for retention!   Let's start with next week's festivities involving the Superbowl.  If you have a property with a media or theatre room, this one is a no-brainer!  Break out the chips & chili cheese dip, or, if you're limited for funding after your winter gathering, make it a potluck event!  Even better would be to hold a "Kick-off Cook-off," having your residents enter the best thing that they make to fill a "Soup-er Bowl."  Someone on your site team must have a secret recipe for chili or chicken & noodles that they've been holding back.  What a great opportunity to find hidden talents in your team members & residents!  If you wanted to kick this idea up one more notch, why not open up the competition for the surrounding community?  It's a great way to increase some traffic numbers &  make more outside connections, both professional & personal.  Everyone loves a chance to be a shining star! Secondly,we are about three weeks out from one of the greatest resident recognition opportunity days......
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Pot luck anyone?

Whether it is gas prices, unemployment, or other general economic concerns, we are all chosing to spend our money differently.  Americans are rethinking their spending habits and most people are cutting out all unnecessary spending.  Dining out has been a luxury in many households.  Has it for your residents?In an effort to continue to build resident satisfaction and a sense of community, why not host a pot luck function at your property?  How nice to provide a "night out" for your residents without the high cost to the resident or the property?  The property can provide an entree and have the residents bring the side dishes, drinks, and dessert.Another idea might be to host a movie night - either for adults or for kids.  The property can provide a movie appropriate for the audience and the popcorn.  The residents will enjoy a night out and get to know their neighbors.  Instead of hosting a breakfast on the go, why not do a networking breakfast for the community?  With unemployment increasing, it would be great to be able to help people within your community meet other professionals who might be able to assist them in their search for new employment.  If budget constraints are present, you might want to reach out to your community for event sponsors.  Businesses are struggling in all sectors and are looking for ways to increase their customer base.  Improving your resident's sense of community and letting them know that you understand their circumstances and challenges will help your property reduce their turnover rates.  Plus, what is the best form of advertising out there?  A......
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Low Cost Resident Retention Ideas

Following Marcy's lead, I've decided to add a list of resident retention ideas, many of which will help with leasing new apartments, as well!  OVERALL NOTES: Some of these community event ideas won't work for every apartment community, so find the ones that fit your community best. Some of events need to be started up, but then name one of the residents as the leader going forward. For example, you wouldn't want to have to administer Bridge games every week, so once you have initiated the process a few times, put a resident in charge, which helps them to take "emotional ownership" of the community! Some of these events are stand-alone events while others are mini-activities and should be incorporated into a larger event. Some events need more care than others. For example, kid-friendly events need an adult's watchful eye. Paintball and similar events may need a waiver signed. Plan accordingly! If you have a diverse demographic at your community, then offer diverse events!  Even if a weekly quilting group is the most uninteresting idea to you personally, it might fit your elderly residents perfectly! Lastly, some of these events are meant to be open to the public to help with apartment marketing! If they don't require a large cash outlay, then encourage your residents to invite friends! Free (Or Minimal Cost) For Both The Community and ResidentsBilliards Tournament - If you have a pool table in your community, this works perfectly. Otherwise, work with a local bar to promote the event, which......
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Resident Retention: Low Cost / No Cost Strategies

Watching the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States today, I was struck with the message of hope now-President Obama shared with us.  It wasn’t just philosophy and feel-good jargon. It was a reminder that we’ve been through tough times before, and we have worked through those times with a sense of hope, with hard work, and tenacity. With that in mind, the purpose of this blog is to provide our hard-working property management professionals with practical tools and strategies that will enable you to hold on to those residents you do have, and even increase your net operating income despite these rough economic times.   So let’s begin.  It’s a different world than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. Technology continues to evolve by the day, hour, and minute.  The question is not, “What technology do we need?” The question is, “What technology do we have?” EMAIL.  I would venture to say it’s nearly impossible to find a leasing office that does not have at least one email address. But, do you use it to its full potential? I was speaking at an apartment association lunch club last week, and a leasing professional approached me afterward to give me her card and request a copy of the presentation I had given. She was laughing because she had to write her company email address on her card. That information was not standard issue for her property management company’s business cards.  What?????? In 2006, SatisFacts research was com......
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What to Cut and What to Keep? A Property Manager's Dilemma

The headlines are bleak. And it appears that they are going to get 'bleaker' (is that even a word?). And everyone, it seems, is cutting back. According to Chicago based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, 20% of companies are actively cutting perks and another 10% are considering doing so. You're probably getting pressured to make cuts at your property or company. So just where DO you cut? Well, I can tell you a couple of places that you shouldn't.As companies trim expenses, they're 'de-perking' perks. And one of the first perks to go seems to be the fitness center. Whether it's an in-house center, or a subsidized membership, those are going by the wayside. So now is the time to emphasize your fitness centers more than ever. And if possible, upgrade a  machine or two (if it's in the budget). I predict fitness centers will be busier than ever over the next 18-24 months. Keep the equipment in great working order and keep the fitness center immaculately clean. This could be the breaking point for a renter's decision if they've lost their work-perk fitness center.Another area you shouldn't cut: the free coffee. Customers are leaving Starbuck's in droves as this survey, commissioned by Advertising Age magazine found:60% of Americans have scaled back on fancy or expensive coffee in the past six months; 56% report cutting back just since the beginning of the year. The culprit was overwhelmingly the economy, with 90% of survey respondents saying they are doing so to......
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Benefits of Setting Up An Apartment Community Blog

I had written this blog post a while back and was about to post it on Multifamily Insiders, but then Mike Whaling posted this great blog listing 30 Topics To Write About In Your Community's Blog and I wasn't sure if mine was relevant anymore.  But the more I thought about it, I think it helps with the "why" aspect of apartment community blogging.  But you can decide for yourself:More and more companies are beginning to understand the value of blogging, such as improving search engine ranking, establishing a dialogue with customers and associates, and creating a more personality-driven approach to reaching prospects. Since a blog is a less formal means of communication relative to traditional marketing, it allows communities to connect to prospects and residents in a more direct way, appealing to the emotional drivers of renting a home. For example, prospects generally have several standard questions about their new home that revolve around safety and comfort, such as:Is this a safe community to live in?Is the office staff friendly and will they take care of my needs?Is the community in a nice area of town?What are my neighbors like?With a blog, you can address each one of these and showcase a fun and dynamic place to live! It takes a little creativity, but there are countless types of content you can blog about that will positively impact both a prospect's view of your community as well as your residents. Here are a few examples:   1. Video Testimonials - Through......
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It's All Right In Front Of You

Keeping residents and attracting new traffic is no easy feat these days.  Everyone tells you to “add value”, but there is no money to add much of anything right now.  It’s time to get creative.  Take a look around your environment.  Look at what is right in front of you – how can you add value using what you’ve got?Step into that big empty room nobody ever uses.  According to Entrepreneur, Do It Yourself weddings are back.  Between food prices and the recession, if you’re getting married, or planning a reunion or even a baby shower, renting a venue is a big expense you might not have money for.   If you have a clubhouse, you have room for a party.  Think about adding value by making an area available for parties.  If you already do this, reinforce the offer in your newsletter.  If you don’t have the ability, or don’t have a clubhouse, what do you have?  My homeowner’s association picked eight Saturday nights during the summer and offered the pool area up for private parties (for a small fee) after 8pm.  The response was fabulous.  How can you take your common areas and add value to them?If you have a guest suite offer a free night’s stay as part of a renewal or leasing incentive.  Make sure residents understand the value offered by attaching “a $$$ value” to your presentation or collateral piece.  Invite your coworkers to a challenge to answer the phone each and every time it rings.  Value......
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