Why Innovation Will Make You a Multifamily Industry Leader in 2020

Why Innovation Will Make You a Multifamily Industry Leader in 2020

Innovation may carry different meanings to different people, equating it with newness, technology, change or modernization. Regardless of your definition, innovation should bring value to the customer and, ideally, a more efficient path for you and your employees. With access to an almost-infinite amount of information at our fingertips, position your website and digital marketing to maximize profit in 2020.   


Change is the only constant today. Technology keeps connecting customers to products in new and innovative ways. What are you doing to attract and retain more prospects? What do you know about potential renters before they walk in the door? In the words of Jack Welch, former chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” 


Innovate with AI Technology and Multifamily Property Video Tours


Introducing technology may feel overwhelming, yet there is no declaration that you must adapt it all at once. “The industry as a whole is five to ten years behind almost every other luxury purchase item or industry,” says Ryan Cox, Digital Marketing Manager at J.C. Hart Company, a luxury apartment builder, developer and management company. “Be really good at one or two channels and tactics — don’t try to be everything to everyone everywhere.”


Ivan Barratt, Founder and Chief Executive of Barratt Asset Management, welcomes innovative tools and technology that help his company and employees prosper. “I’m always on the hunt to help build this beautiful machine of ours, which in today’s modern times, our business is like a cybernetic organism — part human, part technology,” Barratt says. BAM specializes in the acquisition and management of multifamily apartment communities. “I’m always on the hunt for better tools to empower our people to be better at their jobs.” 


Barratt added he’s currently looking for ways to effectively deploy artificial intelligence (AI) within his business operations and when interacting with renters. “It gives residents or potential residents the ability to communicate in a way they enjoy or prefer, 24/7, year round,” Barratt says of AI’s appeal. “It allows us to provide that level of service.” 


Barratt feels the multifamily industry continues to chase the hospitality industry and those trends usually work their way down to multifamily. Think of how intuitive and helpful hotel and travel booking websites have become in the past decade. “Prospective residents can communicate more and learn about the property in a way where they don’t necessarily realize they are speaking with AI,” he says.


Videos remain the most popular and engaging type of online content going into 2020. For Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Property Manager at Sheehan Property Management, sending prospects actual video footage of a property helps their leasing specialists stand apart from the competition and be more effective salespeople. “Prospects who are out of state or even out of the country are able to make a confident buying decision without physically being at the property,” says Greene. “Consumers also appreciate the convenience of not having to come into the office and fill out forms.” 


To increase online engagement and lead conversions in the multifamily industry, explore utilizing a video tour feature. “There may be people on your website today who prefer to experience your community from afar if possible,” says Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realync, a video-leasing platform company that recently partnered with PERQ so customized property tour videos can be embedded on the AI-powered website platform. 


Using Realync, leasing agents are able to shoot personalized videos and send them to prospects as a first look or when following up. “Prospective residents can gather information online, engage with a video tour, and, for a growing number of consumers, that’s enough to make them convert and sign a lease. Video is the way to do that,” Weirich says.


Collect the Right Prospect Data to Strike Gold in 2020 


Technological innovation is imperative to growth and staying above the competition in 2020. Start with your property website, gathering as much information as possible on each prospect who engages with the site. AI technology can automate and personalize the website experience for prospects, helping them narrow down their choices while also delivering properties with detailed lead data. 


“The amount of data you can gain through our portal about prospects is excellent,” says Nicoletta Ruhl, Brand and Marketing Expert for AG Spanos Companies, a family-owned builder of multifamily housing and planned communities. “The website helps potential renters distill down what their main interests are and match them to what they are looking for in a property.” 


Ruhl said in addition to seeing positive results since implementing the AI-driven marketing cloud software, the resulting analytics help them better understand who visits their site, what they are most interested in and other important demographic information. The customer journey becomes more clear as the technology identifies once-anonymous online leads and tracks them across multiple visits from mobile, desktop and tablet devices. 


“Through the [marketing cloud], we can send the prospect messages or schedule a tour,” says Ruhl. “The prospect automatically goes into our prospect list for nurturing.” 


Ruhl reports that with the new interactive web platform their prospects spend almost triple the amount of time they were spending before on their website. “Once you start gathering prospect data, it will help you if you are doing paid search or social media advertising,” she adds. By collecting granular information about prospects, the data informs the decisions you make on the digital marketing side


“What is still, and will always be, important is having the right people and leadership on-site,” Ruhl says. “Arm them with the right data points and that’s just gold.” 


Additional Multifamily Resources

How to Best Follow-Up With Rental Prospects

How to Best Follow-Up With Rental Prospects

We all have that friend, co-worker or family member you call and email without success. Yet, text them and they answer right away. You’ve most likely figured out the best method and time to reach the important people in your life, and it’s probably not the same scenario for each one. This holds true for very important property rental leads in the multifamily space.

Technology allows us to bank, buy and browse at any hour every day of the week. Your prospects are looking for their next home when and how it is most convenient for them. Meeting your customers on their terms and timeline will build the trust necessary to close the deal. Sounds like you may be working around the clock? Not with the right technology, process and product.


What Technology Tells You About Customer Preferences


With the right technology, your prospect will leave a digital footprint. You know what area they are looking in, what size of living space they are looking for, and what amenities interest them. Most importantly, the way they engage with you indicates their preferred communication style, the time and day their search is top of mind, and it provides insight into how close they are to making a decision. An AI chatbot is an online chatbot that can live on your website and work around the clock so you don’t have to.

“With social media, chatbot software and artificial intelligence, prospects don’t want to wait for office hours or phone calls anymore,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management, headquartered in Indianapolis and specializing in the acquisition and management of multifamily apartment communities. “They can immediately go onto your site and start selecting what they want. What’s important to our leads is that instant gratification and personalization tailored exactly to what they are looking for. Have an apartment home pop up for them that fits their needs and they are immediately engaged. They’re spending more time on your website and you become top of their list very quickly.”

Offering a wide range of communication and viewing options for your prospects keeps those high-priority leads engaged. “We make so many buying decisions using research tools online and consumers appreciate the convenience of not having to come into the office to fill out forms,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management. “Virtual tours or video footage of the unit allow us to be more effective with our prospects who are out of state or even out of the country. They can make a confident buying decision without physically being on-site because they have seen the amenities, neighborhood and the unit via video.”

Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and CEO of Realync, a video-leasing platform company, believes prospects who view videos of the property will be closer to making a leasing decision by the time they come to visit the community. “After they watch the videos and go through the PERQ experience, they’ll be more qualified and more buy-ready,” Weirich says. “The leasing agent is still an important part of the process, because they instill trust in the property where the prospect will live.”

Barratt Asset Management embraces whatever platform the customer prefers. “The new communication channels have vastly impacted lead nurturing,” Azar says. ”We can do FaceTime calls and tours, and it’s really a game-changer. People from out of state can see your face and it provides comfortability and starts building that trust.”

Variety of Follow Up and the Lead Nurturing Process


Did you know that almost half of rental prospects prefer you reach out to them in the morning? PERQ analyzed national, regional and benchmark data from nearly 320 properties across the U.S., along with 93,000 consumer responses with 328,000 data points, and captured the latest renter insights in their Multifamily Field Guide.

“We are definitely seeing the same dynamics as what was found in PERQ’s prospect survey,” says Lisa Harris, Regional Manager for W3 Luxury Living, a property management company based in Colleyville, Texas. “Of course, you have to find out what they are looking for, which locations and what spaces are reflective of who they are and fits their budget.”

Azar finds that Thursdays are a good time to hit prospects who are close to making a decision. “The weekend is coming and they have a little more free time. You want to follow up at a time the prospect won’t be extremely busy.” Azar schedules her communications with prospects during their preferred time, even when it may be after regular hours.

Her lead nurturing process includes implementing a customized system to track their rental prospects. “Being consistent is paramount. It’s where we continue to build a professional relationship,” Azar says. She adds that prospect documentation is key to connecting with customers. “We work with a lot of people and it is important for us to remember everything specific to that prospect.”

Prioritizing your prospects helps when allocating time and deciding who to reach out to first. Prospects who have taken virtual or in-person tours, filled out an online pre-qualification application or utilized an expense calculator feature on the property website provide valuable information about where they are in the customer journey. Take advantage of automated lead nurture emails that include information personalized to the prospect based on their previous engagements on your website. Lead nurture emails will not only drive customers back to your website, but they will also help them connect with your company.

The best AI chatbot and the best chatbot software in general can handle these other tasks for you as well. Instead of just answering prospect questions 24/7, the best chatbot for website are the ones that can handle automated lead nurture and follow-up. PERQ’s AI chatbot handles all of this but also does it through your brand voice. This way prospects have a better experience with your follow-up messaging as it feels less robotic and uses the data it collected about them to know when to send a message and when to pull back. Chatbot software, like the one at PERQ, only hands of qualified leads to the onsite team that are ready to talk, tour, or lease, the AI chatbot handles the rest and manages your pipeline more efficiently.

In addition to technology, Azar stresses the value of emotional intelligence. “You have to be able to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while understanding that each prospect has different moving circumstances — there’s never a one size fits all.”


Additional Multifamily Resources