[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]While it’s a common belief in the multifamily industry that property websites don’t directly drive leads, many property management companies have transformed their websites into their No. 1 leasing tool by adding AI technology and marketing automation to the online mix.
“We consider the property website as a primary leasing tool,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, which manages multifamily rental communities in 13 states.
“We know prospective renters are completing their apartment research online and making decisions about where they want to live well in advance of speaking to anyone on the leasing team,” Richard says. “That means we must provide the best online experience and ensure we are offering the most up-to-date information regarding pricing and availability, as well as what’s in and around our community.”
Add AI on Multifamily Website to Capture Online Leads
AI and marketing automation allows your website to guide the prospect automatically through the leasing process, collecting their data as they interact with engaging online tools, quizzes and calculators to help them figure out the best rental community for them. That puts properties that utilize AI light years ahead of their competitors who present cumbersome, boring websites that look more like a static brochure and oddly similar to one another.
Nolan Real Estate implemented AI technology on several of its multifamily property websites because the company considers the website its No. 1 leasing tool. “No question about it,” says Caleb Bartlett, Nolan’s Digital Sales & Media Manager. “We have structured our entire digital strategy for our leads to touch our website as the first point of contact. In short, it is becoming 100% prospect engagement.”
Digital Marketing Cloud Unites Data for Automatic Lead Nurture
Easy to implement on an existing website, AI-driven technology can also be used to power an integrated digital marketing cloud to better leverage the website data and convert more online leads by helping the prospect along and providing leasing offices with in-depth insights into each person’s leasing journey.
Through the cloud, companies can tap into the centralized consumer data to automatically nurture online leads in email and text campaigns, personalized with content and incentives related to their current search.
The content drives the consumer back to the website to schedule a tour or engage with more of the interactive website research tools, such as a quiz to match them with nearby activities they indicate as important, a pre-qualify loan assessment to give them a head start on the leasing process, or a calendar where they can instantly schedule a tour of the property.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Cloud Computing Helps Leasing Consultants Connect with Renters
A marketing cloud gives companies a way to track a prospect throughout the entire renter journey, taking into account all of the various digital and offline touchpoints to deliver detailed consumer information to leasing consultants. That information allows them to make an immediate connection to a prospect when meeting in person for a tour or following up with an email, call or text.
“Finding the connectivity between what they want in a home and the desired lifestyle they are looking for is essential to making a connection and converting to an appointment,” Richard says. “Our website is key in capturing this experience, and providing those experiences in a way that lets our leasing team members receive information about what’s important to each prospective renter, which allows them to build relationships.”
Target Your Ideal Renter Online with AI-Driven Insights
Companies also gain insight into the exact ROI of each digital channel, broken down into cost per lease and per lead. With AI-driven technology on a website, those numbers show a significant improvement over traditional lead generation solutions commonly used in the multifamily industry.
The business data can be analyzed in conjunction with big sets of data stored in the cloud that come from similar stores. Using machine learning, cloud software can use those millions of data points to compute a property’s “ideal prospect” and configure details on the type of person most likely to rent at that property based on the processed data as well as the best ways to target those particular prospects.
Convert Prospects with Convenient Online Experience
Since The Worthing Companies added interactive AI software to a dozen of its property websites, the average time a visitor spends researching on those websites has jumped from 2-3 minutes up to 7-8 minutes. “It’s crazy the traffic that we’re getting off this, and it’s driving people to stay on the website longer,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at The Worthing Companies.
Jones says the engaging website leads them through the process, making it such an enjoyable and helpful experience that prospects don’t feel the need to branch out and look elsewhere for a place to live.
“We’re getting tons of leasing off of it,” Jones says. “By the time they talk to a leasing agent, the website has answered all of their questions. When they get here, it’s usually just a tour and then a done deal. Some of them even lease online without coming to tour.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Consumers’ insatiable appetite for instant information and on-demand access to expert advice requires companies to constantly evaluate how well each of their digital marketing channels serve those needs and at what cost.
“There are a lot of ways to waste money,” says Justin Bowen at The Great American Home Store, a furniture and mattress retailer with several stores in Tennessee and Mississippi. As their Web Content Manager for the past five years, he says the store has pretty much tried all of the main marketing and advertising avenues, learning valuable lessons along the way.
The digital marketing domain continues to rapidly change as technology improves, giving companies a plethora of online marketing options to consider and data to manage all at once. Digital marketing strategies that don’t keep pace with these changes tend to go stale fast.
As Bowen puts it, what worked in the past won’t work now. Your audience changed, the way they consume information and communicate changed, and how they decide what to buy changed.
I asked Bowen and a host of other PERQ clients, partners and digital marketing experts what do’s and don’ts they’ve learned through their online experience and put together this three-part blog series full of digital marketing tips. See firsthand what’s worked well for them, what advice they give other business leaders, and how they’ve improved the way they manage digital marketing. Let’s start this series with marketing management.
Follow the Sales Data & ROI
Tying a marketing campaign to an actual sale used to be a pipe dream for most industries. Marketing agencies and PPC vendors can tell you how much organic traffic visited the website and time spent on site, or how many people clicked your digital ad, shared your social post or saw it on their newsfeed, but they can’t connect revenue with online leads. Many don’t even deliver specific leads and only track anonymous traffic, leaving you to simply hope the consumer reaches out or comes to visit in person after encountering your brand online.
“There are more and more ways to track down a lead to a real sale becoming available,” Bowen says. “You have to do your due diligence. Make sure you have a way to measure any digital marketing you try. Hold your advertising accountable, set up metrics, and ask vendors point-blank what they can do to get you as close to tracking actual leads to sales as possible.”
Once you know exactly what digital advertising efforts end in a lease or sale, your marketing department can use that data to start targeting customers with messaging and platforms most likely to convert, as well as use the analytics reports to better manage your digital marketing channels based on what’s working and what’s not giving you a good return on your investment.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Marketing Automation to Improve Customer Experience
Today’s consumer desires an easy shopping experience, starting online and seamlessly flowing into an in-person interaction. They prefer personalized emails and texts, and love websites that seem to know exactly what they’re looking for before they know.
Sound like way too much for your sales team to handle, at least effectively? Marketing automation can make managing all of your digital marketing channels much easier, and works around the clock to move leads closer to a conversion before they ever reach out to a real person at your retail store or leasing office.
“The multifamily industry is continuing to evolve and improve the approach, as well as giving more focus to the customers’ digital experience,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, which manages rental communities in 13 states. She says that while other industries have long provided consumers with a “tailored online experience” that offers real-time availability, pricing and specials, property management companies are only beginning to play this highly personalized digital game.
You can easily add AI technology to your website to automatically guide prospects along the consumer journey with interactive, engaging tools and content that’s tailored to their search. Not only does it make it easier for consumers to do their own research and take immediate action, it also gathers quality lead data from those visitors.
“We have found the appointment setting-feature is excellent and provides the customer the best opportunity to immediately schedule a tour of the community while finishing up their research on our property website,” Richard says. “Our website now allows us to offer an enhanced experience for the customer, and provides us with the data on those interactions to help our teams ensure a better experience.”
Richard says Glick’s leasing consultants use consumer profile data to connect with individual prospects in a conversational way, versus collecting information in a checklist approach that’s impersonal.
Bowen agrees that current marketing trends call for a personalized approach. “It’s all about individualized service — all sales are going toward conversational,” he says. “You have to have the tools in place to know where the customer is at in the sales process though. You really need as much data as possible to know where they’re at and what they want, or you can’t really talk one-on-one otherwise.”
Digital Marketing Cloud Centralizes Data, Automates Lead Nurture
A marketing cloud offers one of the most powerful technology tools for companies looking to better manage digital marketing, as well as automate much of the lead nurture process through email and text messaging. By centralizing data across all digital platforms and integrating it with revenue reports, a cloud solution gives companies a holistic view of their online advertising and marketing ROI, in-depth consumer profile information and detailed analytics that factor in every touchpoint.
On the flip side, customers receive customized information to move them along the sales funnel until they’re ready to commit to your company in a digital format they prefer, leaving your sales teams with more time to better engage those leads who are ready to buy or lease.
“The time to start is now,” Bowen says of text messaging and other innovative marketing technologies now available to smaller retailers and privately held companies. “People already prefer [communicating in a digital format] but most of your competition isn’t doing it, so it’s a prime opportunity.
“The technology is already there. It takes getting people in the organization out of their comfort zone, getting real buy-in from the sales team, and forging new processes for communication,” Bowen says. “Automation is helpful to fill in the gaps around a very knowledgeable staff, which is what makes us different than the bigger companies or some of our local competitors.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Two weeks after Sarah Fickel moved to Austin for a new job in communications and client experience for a startup company, her car broke down, so imagine her excitement when she found out she won $25,000 from PERQ for the annual FATWIN Sweepstakes.
“The trip from Indiana to Texas didn’t do me any favors. In fact, I just had gotten a scary quote from the mechanic when PERQ sent me the greatest email I’ve ever received,” Sarah says about being notified that she had won. Her initial reaction she admits, however, was skepticism.
Sarah says she was on the phone with her brother when she received the email: “He said not to open it. My brother assumed the out-of-the-blue email from PERQ was some sort of spam and I was being totally gullible.”
Winner Enters FATWIN Sweepstakes Through The Marlowe Lake Boone Apartment Website
On 10/18/2018, however, Sarah had engaged with the PERQ software on The Marlowe Lake Boone apartment website, a property in Raleigh, North Carolina. She had shared her name and email when she engaged with PERQ’s New Customer Welcome experience, checked a box to enter into the FATWIN $25K Sweepstakes, and continued to look at floor plans. Today, Sarah admits she remembers searching for an apartment but not entering the sweepstakes.
After a few more attempts, I reached Sarah by phone. I had let Sarah know she had five days to contact us before we selected another winner. The final email:
I just wanted to make another attempt to reach out to you in regards to this email below since the deadline is tomorrow. … This is a legit contest and I’ve attached the Official Rules and Redemption paperwork to redeem your prize. Please call me…
I followed up with a call to Sarah, and just a few moments later, she picked up. I explained to her how to claim her prize and I could tell she was starting to believe that she was indeed a winner.
I found out she had been apartment hunting in Raleigh when she was interviewing for a job there, but got an offer in Austin, Texas, and moved shortly thereafter.
FATWIN Winner Beyond Excited, Grateful
It wasn’t until Sarah got her redemption paperwork notarized that it really hit her, she says. “I was at the bank and the person talking to me was beyond excited for me. I realized this was real life. It is unbelievable, but super exciting. My emotions have transitioned from disbelief to shock and excitement.”
Lauren Varnhold, Senior Community Manager at The Marlowe Lake Boone apartment, says they were thrilled to learn the FATWIN winner came from their property website. “Our team is happy that Sarah will be spending the winnings on purchasing a new vehicle,” she says. “If Sarah ever needs a place to live in the Raleigh area, we’d love to have her at The Marlowe Lake Boone!”
Varnhold says while it’s optional for properties to include the sweepstakes on their website, she recommends it to other PERQ clients: “The ability for prospects to enter the PERQ drawing definitely increases website engagement.”
A few weeks after being notified, Sarah received her check and has been looking at different vehicles, but hasn’t made a decision on what to purchase just yet. She’s also hoping to take a trip to Poland and says she’d like to donate some of the money she has won.
Sarah adds that she and her brother are both glad she ignored him and finally picked up the call from PERQ. Although she’s never won a contest or sweepstakes before, she says she now considers herself lucky. “I just feel so grateful,” she says.
*Additional reporting by Ieshia Hill[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]You save your photos and computer data to a cloud, but do you know how a marketing cloud works? More importantly, do you truly understand the value a marketing cloud can add to a local retail business? Most likely not. It’s technology not commonly utilized in the home furnishings industry for a variety of reasons.
A quality marketing cloud solution delivers actionable data, predictions and tracks ROI for every lead and marketing source, which is why most Fortune 500 companies rely on a cloud to build comprehensive, targeted digital advertising strategies.
Until recently, there’s never been a cloud solution built specifically for home furnishing retailers, and corporate cloud services remain prohibitive to local brick-and-mortar stores. Generalized marketing clouds require considerable technology resources and marketing staff to manage, and often cost too much to purchase and maintain for independent home furnishing stores.
Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning make an economical and more effective cloud solution possible for retail stores. While it may sound complicated, a marketing cloud can streamline your business processes and increase profits. Let us break it down.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29385″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
What is a Marketing Cloud?
A marketing cloud connects various digital tools and resources as a way to centralize data storage and automatically process the information. When aligned with a retailer’s objectives, a marketing cloud stores and analyzes data points collected from various touch points throughout a shopper’s journey to purchase, from the store website and showroom to digital advertising and social media.
That consumer data, when processed through the power of the cloud’s integrated technologies, allows stores to track leads and conversions across channels, evaluate sales and advertising performance down to the dollar, as well as deliver a personalized, connected experience for customers. The cloud gives retailers the technological tools to automatically nurture digital leads, and gives a salesperson detailed information to better assist the customer using a personal touch.
“The amount of data we’re capturing, that’s the real strength of the PERQ technology,” says Ed Massood, owner of Home Inspirations Thomasville in New Jersey. “Then, we’re using that data to follow up and retarget leads through things like email nurturing.”
Tying research, data and lead nurture tools together allows retailers to leverage their store’s best assets, the physical showroom and their staff, to start building digital relationships before customers visit in person.
“The marketing cloud is designed to power the consumer experience from digital to in-person, which enables stores to bring their strongest fist into the fight against Amazon and Wayfair,” says PERQ co-founder Scott Hill. “It’s your salespeople, your stores, your physical inventory. By bridging this digital to in-person experience, you’ll make it a more convenient, easier shopping experience for customers.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Leasing consultants face busy days full of contacting interested prospects, scheduling and giving property tours, answering questions from potential renters, as well as assisting current residents. Their diverse job roles often include marketing, customer service and sales.
Property managers who oversee local leasing offices for a multifamily property group spend their workdays calculating costs of each lead and lease, analyzing digital marketing performance and the performance of individual leasing agents, while also evaluating occupancy and tenant turnover.
Marketing automation increases efficiencies for a multifamily property at every level of business operations, reducing the amount of manual work required to nurture leads and convert leases, while also providing property managers with data reporting that delivers smarter, actionable insights to save money and improve results. The technology works 24/7 so leasing agents and their managers don’t need to, using AI technology to automatically collect and nurture leads at a lower cost than manually marketing the property.
Like the old business axiom says: work smarter, not harder. Here’s a glimpse at how automated marketing improves efficiencies for multifamily property management companies.
Automated Marketing on Multifamily Websites
The Bainbridge Companies added AI-driven software to two of its apartment websites, which averaged 6 and 26 monthly website leads. Before implementing automated marketing, the property websites acted more like online brochures and gathered very little insights from visitors. Heidi Jehlicka, Sr. VP of Marketing and Employee Development at Bainbridge, says the company wanted to gather more data on what customers were specifically seeking and find a way to automatically influence more leases.
Within two months, the two websites successfully converted 732 unique website visitors to email leads by automatically capturing information on each prospect who engaged with the interactive website experiences. The monthly lead average for the Bainbridge properties jumped from 6 to 269 on one property website and 26 to 96 on the other.
With those leads came high-quality data on exactly what each person wanted in an apartment community and where those prospects came from before visiting the website, allowing management to see precisely which digital marketing efforts paid off.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The intuitive websites guide prospects along the leasing journey, and nurture leads with automated but personalized calls to action and online assessments geared toward their specific search. In the first 60 days of implementation, PERQ’s Web Conversion software influenced an average 27% of all leases signed at the two Bainbridge properties. It also significantly lowered the company’s costs per lead and per lease when compared to its other lead generation sources, Jehlicka says.
The leasing agents at those Bainbridge communities now spend more time giving personal attention to in-person inquiries and the customer service aspect of their job duties, instead of dividing their day with a multitude of manual tasks with varying objectives.
“We can use that time to focus on a lot of other things instead of manually nurturing and chasing leads, like taking care of the customer and giving better tours,” Jehlicka says. Because website visitors receive so much helpful information online, Jehlicka says they often arrive at the leasing office knowing exactly what they want and are more likely to sign a lease.
Marketing Automation for Email Nurture, Lead Management & Digital Advertising
Beyond using marketing automation to make multifamily websites more effective, property management companies can use AI and machine learning technology to automate many other aspects of the business and improve efficiencies.
By automatically storing and organizing lead information into a CRM lead management system that follows a multi-touch attribution model, leasing agents get in-depth information on each lead to use when following up. Leasing management learns exactly which digital and in-person interactions resulted in a lease and at what cost. That includes digital advertising campaigns, which can be automatically adjusted in real time and targeted toward ideal consumer profiles configured from big sets of data when used as part of a marketing cloud.
A multifamily marketing cloud unifies all of the lead information and various integrated systems to give multifamily companies the power to automate the email nurture process in a way that still feels conversational, using the stored prospect data to personalize each message and time the delivery of each message, driving the leads back to the website to further engage. It also delivers property management with data reporting and analytics detailing each consumer’s journey as well as marketing intelligence insights to help make better marketing decisions.
“We’ve got a lot more intelligence on these two properties,” Jehlicka says. In addition to the significant increase in online leads generated from the automated marketing solution, the company gains valuable insights into what prospects desire most in each market. “That’s critical information.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]