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“You Want Me To Do WHAT?” Controlling the Narrative With Your Competition

Years ago, I wrote about the idea of being proactive about addressing your competition on your own website.  In other words, actually list out local comps somewhere on your site.  I’ll admit I got a lot of incredulous looks, questioning why I would ever suggest that an apartment community would list a competitor on their own website – Why would we ever give them free publicity?  The prospect is on our website, do we really want them to see our competition? Years later, I still think it’s a great idea. Let me break it down:  Your prospects are already aware of your competition, or they will be within a few clicks.  They are loaded with more information than ever, so the idea that we are giving them free exposure just doesn’t hold water.  What we are doing is controlling the story.  If someone is searching for properties, their view of the market is often dictated by the ILS’s or Google itself, so a property has very little control about how they are positioned relative to its comps.  However, if a community is able to get prospects to its website, now that community controls the story.  They can position themselves in any way they want relative to their competition.  Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating being dishonest in how one portrays the competition, but there are loads of ways to showcase competition honestly and ethically, while still gaining a competitive advantage.  One way is being selective in what to feature.  For example, le......
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Why You Cannot Afford To Run a Property Management Firm Without a Website

Why You Cannot Afford To Run a Property Management Firm Without a Website
$39 billion. That’s the annual revenue of the U.S. property management industry. It sure looks good on paper, but you’d probably be surprised to learn that 30% of this goes to the top 500 firms. So, where do the rest 79,500 firms lie? The bulk of them are stuck at what’s arguably the most critical stage- getting their strategy right.  While property management may not be the simplest business engagement, one thing you’ve got to admit is, it’s not as complicated as manufacturing. Even the smallest firms have fair chances of outdoing large established businesses, thanks to something called the web. According to a report prepared by NAR, 84% of both buyers and renters are heavily using the internet as their first step in their home searching process. If they can’t find your information online, you may be missing out on a huge chunk of potential business. Well, of course there’s the option of riding on a third party website like Facebook, but personal websites have proven to be considerably way more effective. Here’s why: Growing and Managing Your Clients Through CRM and Contact Management Getting tenants is not that simple anymore. With competition persistently growing, property management firms are now leveraging CRM and contact management tools in lead prospecting. And going by recent trends, both prospects and property management firms are happy with the consequent results. According to Nucleus Research, every dollar spent on such tools generates an average return of $8.71- super neat, right? So, here’s the thing- CRM and contact management can only be effec......
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Pros and Cons of Developing a Website In-House vs. Hiring an Outside Ad Agency

In our internet-driven society, having a website is now not only strongly advised, but a necessity for property management firms. A company’s website needs to have visual appeal, be easy for visitors to navigate, be optimized for search engines, and also have that “wow” factor that gives you a competitive edge over your competitors. No pressure! Whether you are a new property management business who needs to develop a website, or you already have one but it needs some serious updating, you’ll have to make the choice between designing the site in-house or outsourcing the project to an advertising or web design agency. There are plus-sides and disadvantageous to both, and a lot of it depends on the current structure of your company.   At my property management firm, Trimark Properties, we’ve used both an outside agency and an in-house developer over the years to design the website for our apartments near UF. We ultimately realized which course of action was best for us, but which one should you choose – an in-house developer, or an outside ad agency? An easy-to-navigate, visually striking webpage is critical for property management companies. Benefits of Designing a Website In-House  You know more about your company culture and what will attract tenants Nobody knows more about your apartments, company culture, typical tenant profile, and marketing vision more than you do. While you can relay this information to an outside agency, it can be difficult for them to develop a website that fits your specific vision. If you desi......
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Going Beyond Content: Creating Quick, Meaningful Connections

Going Beyond Content: Creating Quick, Meaningful Connections
Content has been been a business focus for many years. I’m sure you’ve heard the overused phrase “content is king,” especially when it comes to website and SEO strategies.  But the real power behind that content “throne” is a meaningful connection. Connections and engagement—which may spark from or be influenced by your content—are so much more important than the content itself. It’s the results that matter. Getting the results you want, though, may require a change or two because consumer expectations have evolved faster than many of our websites. Better Connections for Better Website Results A website is no longer a place to advertise your business like a billboard. It’s a place of connecting. And I’m not talking about the old-school ways of connecting like lead forms and phone calls. If shoppers will visit at least four sources during an apartment hunt, why not be the one they actually connect with right then and there so you can influence that decision?  Instant help from real people. That’s the start of a meaningful connection today. Such consumer engagement is the single most important thing you can do online (beyond driving relevant traffic to your site, of course). Offering help, sharing incentives or asking the right question at the right time—they can all change the consumer experience and disrupt the apartment shopping process in a positive way!  Here are a few ways you could make such connections and improve the digital experience: Offer live chat to answer questions in real time. Add behavioral triggers that will prompt......
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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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Best Face Forward: Website Maintenance

Best Face Forward: Website Maintenance
Your website is the face you present to the world at large—vast numbers of apartment searchers will form their first impressions of your property based on what you’ve made available online. And we all know how important first impressions are, don’t we? Now, if you were meeting someone important for the first time, you’d want to look your best. You’d go out of the way to get cleaned up and dress in something nice. Similarly, if you were to have new guests over to your home, you’d probably tidy up a bit first. And you should take the same approach to your website—keep it clean and presentable at all times. Here’s a few tips to make sure that your site is putting your best face forward: Keep your site structure orderly Websites grow and evolve over time—it’s common for a site to gain some new pages after a few years on the internet, whether to answer new customer questions or advertise a temporary deal. It’s a good idea to take a look at your site map every once in a while to see everything that you’ve put online. Look for pages that no longer have a use or redundant pages that give the same information as other pages. If you find them, cut them out. Look for similar pages that you could consolidate into a single page for easier access, or for information-dense pages that could be split apart. For some great tips on cleaning up site structure, check out this article from Yoast1. Have your cont......
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How Important Is Your Community's Mobile Website?

How Important Is Your Community's Mobile Website?
It’s so important that without a mobile-friendly site, your Google search rankings could take a hit. Oh, and if you don’t have a mobile site, be ready to watch about 30 - 40% of your traffic go to a competitor who does. In fact, more than half of the traffic to Zillow’s and Trulia’s networks come from mobile devices! So what makes a mobile site “friendly”? Responsive design - Offer a seamless, custom experience that adapts to the device the consumer is using. The key is to make it easy for them to get the information they want and take the next step (like contacting you)...and having to “pinch and zoom” or fill out lots of forms won’t cut it. Google found that 61% of users who didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site quickly moved on to another site. Click-to-call options - One smart way to make the next step easier to take is adding a click-to-call button on your search results and mobile site. Google says 70% of mobile searchers have used the option. (You can make phone numbers “clickable” on your mobile site by adding code like "[a href="tel:+18005559999"] Call us 1-800-555-9999 [/a]". Just make sure to use angled brackets in place of the brackets I used here.) Tap-to-text buttons - This text contact option may be even more convenient for some prospects (even current residents) who can’t talk at the moment...or don’t want to. Admit it, calling a business is rarely high on your list of favori......
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Can You Disrupt the Apartment-Shopping Process?

Can You Disrupt the Apartment-Shopping Process?
The most relevant shopper you have is the one on your website. But getting that shopper to take action is tricky—they’re as pressed for time as you are, searching off and on as they grab spare moments of time (over the weekend, at night, during work, etc.). Here are four things that may help increase your chances of online conversion with today’s impatient consumers: An online presence (especially one optimized for mobile viewing) - It’s a little obvious, but has to be said. SEO & SEM strategies - Dominate your ideal customer’s search results (like “apartment in [area]” or “apartment near [area]”). Easier ways to ask questions, encouraging actual contact from apartment hunters. The ability to be always-on, ready to respond and help when the consumer reaches out. The third and fourth items are important because even if you come up first in a search and the consumer clicks the link to your site, you don’t necessarily win. Sure, the value of a click is worth something (branding and recognition). If only you were paid by clicks and website visitors!   You know where I’m going with this don’t you?  Your website isn’t the only one those visitors will visit. They have a finite amount of time to spend driving around, and they’re making the first cut online.  Can your website help your property stand out amongst all the others in the area? It can...to some extent. But probably only 3% of your unique visitors will actually pick up the phone or send you an email. What’......
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Maximizing Your Online Presence in 2015

Maximizing Your Online Presence in 2015
The JOMM recently hosted a powerhouse panel on 2015 SEO trends.  If you missed it, don’t worry.  I have you covered!  Here are some of my favorite takeaways (along with my two cents).   Blogs/Content Marketing- Blogging will continue to help drive SEO in 2015 but it’s trickier than ever.  With so many companies using content marketing, it’s critical that you’re strategic about getting noticed amongst the “noise.”       o   Promote someone or something of influence and let them spread the word and promote your post. o   Include outbound links to people of authority.  The search engines will see these as more valuable. o   People skim.  Make sure the keys points are easily recognizable. §  Keep it short and sweet. §  Use bullets. §  Front load info that’ll have them reading for more. §  Get creative with font- alternative fonts, bold, underline or italicize key points to make sure they catch the reader’s eye. §  With so much content, people have short attention spans for it.  Put your call to action mid way down the post instead of saving it for the end.  o   Infographics are still cool!  Think they’re too difficult?  Think again.  Check out Canva to look like a pro.   >>>Stay tuned… I have a blog “brewing” on this topic.<<< o   Meet prospects where they are.  Consider where your target market is in their lifecycle as well as their interests and concerns.  Write content that meets them where they are without them needing to specifically seek you out. SEO (Search Engine Optimiza......
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5 Must-Haves for a Better User Experience on Your Website

5 Must-Haves for a Better User Experience on Your Website
Like it or not, renters will form impressions of your company based on their experience on your website. And they’ll form those impressions quickly! A study from the Missouri University of Science and Technology found that it takes two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first impression of your brand based on your website. Yes, you read that right…two-tenths of a second. What can you do to ensure your website gives visitors a great first impression of your community? Be sure your website incorporates these five must-haves. 1. Simple NavigationPut yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Then, ask yourself these questions: Is the information on my site organized in a way that makes it easy for renters to find what they’re looking for? Do all of the links on my site site work? Are calls to action clear and prominently placed? Want to get others' opinions? Consider conducting a survey. 2. Accurate ContentVisitors expect to find accurate, up to date information on your site. Perhaps your leasing office hours changed. Or maybe your rent prices went up. Make sure you update your website to reflect these changes. 3. Compelling Visual Elements“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Remember that old cliché? Well, it’s true! A compelling visual on your website can capture someone’s attention and make them want to learn more about your community. Be sure to incorporate visual elements into your website to attract (and retain) visitors, such as: Photos Videos Infographics 4. Scannable TextThe majority of renters don’t have the time (or inter......
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