Armed with an array of digital apartment rental leads generation sources, multifamily properties can find themselves inundated in an unmanageable tangle of online leads coming in from all digital directions. Intelligent lead automation simplifies the lead nurture process for a multifamily property management company and frees up the leasing specialists so they can focus on contacting the highest priority prospects first.
“In the current state of online lead management, you have more online leads than ever before,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “How do we know they are really ready to move or make a decision? Currently, our industry follows up with a broad-stroke approach and we really need a laser-focused approach.”
AI-powered technology sharpens a property’s entire lead nurturing process, starting with website software that delivers interactive, personalized content to visitors and collects detailed lead data. You can prioritize leads based on the data analytics, such as when a prospect indicates they plan to move, and the resulting machine learning insights predict the most likely path to lease conversion at that property. AI Leasing Assistants also give the most up to date rental listings and tour availability so the prospect can look at the most accurate listings.
An intelligent automated lead nurture system separates prospects into two distinct groups: hot renter leads ready to rent right now and leads higher up in the sales funnel who are still researching options. To streamline lead volume, onsite leasing specialists only receive qualified leads deemed by the data to be the most likely leads to convert, so they can focus on following up with the highest-priority prospects.
“Let the heavy human capital handle the important follow-up,” says Scott Hill, Co-Founder and CEO at PERQ. “Condense opportunities down to those leads most likely to tour and that most fit the profile.”
A smart lead automation approach helps properties solve the challenge of attracting too many low-quality leads and effectively reduces the lead volume the leasing staff needs to focus on at one time. Use the following tips for adding automation to improve your multifamily property’s lead management process and increase the percentage of online leads that convert to tours and leases.
“You’ll see a higher lead-to-tour and tour-to-lease rate, because you’re following up with the right people,” Hill says.
Collect More Data on Rental Prospects Who Engage on Your Website
Engage your website visitors to help them educate themselves and do research on your multifamily properties, while you get valuable lead data about each prospect who engages with the personalized hub of AI-driven leasing tools, such as a chatbot that can answer questions 24/7, Explore the Area or Find Your Floor Plan assessments.
“Get more data from your website and look for ways to get the consumer to give you more information, because it is valuable,” Hill says.
Collecting detailed lead data allows your property to identify which leads are ready to rent now, and which prospects should be nurtured using intelligent lead automation until they’re closer to signing a lease. Your marketing department can adjust the digital marketing strategy and messaging to specifically target the different segments of leads.
Prioritize Your Online Leads
By capturing lead data from all of the website visitors who engage with the site’s content and dynamic incentives, you’re building a pipeline of potential leads not quite ready to rent. Treat these as your property’s “Waiting List.”
“Capturing more consumers earlier in the process enables you to have a tremendous amount of data. There are ways to do it where the consumer wants to share information because they get information in return,” Hill says. “Once you have the data, you can qualify the leads. Send the most important leads to your leasing team while you nurture other leads until they are worth your team’s time.”
You can score potential leads based on their answers to your interactive content, individual website behavior and their willingness to talk to a leasing agent or schedule a property tour. Leverage your CRM if it comes with this advanced functionality, or create best practices for your leasing teams so they know how to prioritize online leads.
“Any sales staff is going to be strapped for time to some extent, and there’s only going to be so much manual follow-up they can do. So, it’s important to take some of that load off their shoulders and automate where you can,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service marketing and advertising agency that recently partnered with PERQ to assist clients using the AI technology or are interested in trying the cloud-based marketing software. “There are just certain things that machines can do better than humans.”
Train Your Onsite Leasing Team
Leasing specialists should be the forefront of your brand, and possess the experience and strong sales skills to close the deal when a prospect is ready to sign a lease on the spot. Invest in sales training for your onsite leasing team, and make sure they know which conversations you want them to have with potential renters.
For leads ready to rent now, leasing specialists should contact those right away to avoid losing them to a competing property. Prospects expect prompt responses to digital requests and require a personalized response that shows your leasing team wants to help.
“The leasing agent becomes a concierge to help prospects along and make an easier facilitation of the leasing process when they are ready to engage,” Hill says.
Norris agrees it’s of the utmost importance to respond to inquiries quickly and in a personalized way since consumers are accustomed to the world catering to them “with social media algorithms and dopamine hits.”
“It’s important to follow up in a personalized manner, too, and this is something I think PERQ does well,” Norris says. “Not only is it automated to an extent, but it’s also personalized to the individual.”
Use Lead Automation to Keep Rental Prospects Engaged
Automated email nurture campaigns can tie into how you score leads and follow a pre-set schedule based on where they’re at in the leasing journey. The timely messages keep your multifamily brand top of mind while they continue researching, no matter how long their apartment search takes.
“With automated prospect emails, our lead management system generates an introduction to engage the prospect prior to involving the onsite team,” says Meagan Struve, Marketing Manager at Mission Rock. “This automated engagement essentially gauges the prospect’s interest before a person steps in to further the conversation towards leasing the apartment.”
With AI technology, automated emails are personalized and curated to only include content relevant to their search on the property website. Say a prospect plans to move from another state, your leasing team could email a video highlighting their favorite floor plan, according to their responses on the website.
Entice them to take the next step like schedule a tour through an automated scheduling tool online, driving them back to the website to re-engage, or encourage the prospect with a personalized incentive. If they own pets, send them an email showing off your pet-friendly amenities and fun “yappy hour” events or include “welcome” offers from neighborhood dog groomers, dog walkers or vets.
Since implementing PERQ’s AI-driven technology to automate lead nurturing and engage online prospects on the Mission Rock property websites, Eppsteiner says the company sees a 50% tour-to-lease conversion rate compared to the average industry closing ratio of 35%.
“Our sales teams are rockstars, and it’s also because the people coming in are ready to lease,” she says. “Where I anticipate automation going, we’ll actually convert more and should anticipate the conversion ratio going up to 60%. The people your team are reaching out to have already been nurtured. These leads are ready, true prospective residents.”
Trust the Automated Lead Nurture Process
Despite your instinct to try and follow up with every lead that comes in the digital door, it’s more efficient and effective to trust the automation process and listen to what the data tells your team about a lead’s readiness to commit to a lease.
“With automation, we have ways to sort and use data which has given me time back to focus on the bigger picture,” Struve says. “I’m not in the day-to-day manual management of data. Yet, I am leveraging the data more usefully while gathering pertinent information for a smoother process.”
Follow up first with prospects the lead management system identifies as a top priority, flagged for being more likely to rent based on gathered data. Trust that it’s better to use automated lead nurture to target lower-priority leads instead of taking away from a leasing agent’s precious time.
Follow the Data to See Results in Lead Automation
By implementing all of the above, you’ll capture better data to help improve operational efficiencies and give better insights into property performance to make better decisions. Richer lead data makes personalized lead follow-up possible.
Your property can tap into online data to track multi-touch attribution for every tour, lead and lease. Easy-to-digest Google Analytics reports show how visitors interact on the website and which platforms convert the most leads into leases, along with ROI of all lead generation sources and digital ad campaigns that target keywords like “apartments for lease near me” for higher visibility.
“We have properties that compete against each other, so we are constantly using automation data and watching to ensure that we have a smart spend in those markets,” says Desiree White, Marketing Manager with NE Property Management. “My team does a lot behind the scenes, getting reports and analytics to make sure we’re staying at the top of our market and our onsite teams are seeing success.”
Continuously study the results to spot ways to adjust and improve, and be sure to share reports across all teams in your property management company to keep the big picture in focus.
“This takes collaboration. Marketers are basically data analysts. That analysis is shared with your operations team, your leasing team, and your training team,” Eppsteiner advises. “With these engagement pieces, we are able to get insights into properties. We can share this with our training team to incorporate that information. Data has to be shared with your leasing team.”
Most PMCs have an established process for how they handle their leads. Just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way today. The pandemic changed a lot for consumers. The need for isolation meant more needed to happen online, and consumers became more digital; embracing technology in new ways to research and purchase everything from groceries to cars. With so many people spending more time at home, a great many of them decided to relocate to a more suitable home, leading to a surge in leasing activity unlike anything we’ve seen before. With more young renters and those that are new digital buyers all looking for apartments at the same time, leasing activity began to shift to be more online.
As the volume of renters in the market rose, supply and demand changes forced those renters to begin exploring their options earlier. In fact, a recent PERQ study indicated nearly half of renters begin looking online 3 or more months in advance, a change over prior years’ result.
To compete today, you need to be very good at generating leads digitally and very good at nurturing those leads the way today’s modern renters wish to be engaged.
In our experience, it’s best to approach apartment rental lead generation and nurturing through experimentation and observation. But know that not every customer will react the same to the same marketing touch. Lead follow-up and conversions depend on where the customer is at in their buying journey and their personal communication preferences (more on that later.)
It’s time to remove the guesswork and apply these 20 creative techniques for rental leads.
1. TREAT YOUR WEBSITE LIKE YOUR TOP MARKETING CHANNEL
Recognize that your website is your greatest asset. When a website converts leads to leases, you get new lease revenue at a low cost, so having this perform well for you is paramount.
To get the most out of your website, you need to be able to engage in the ways that consumers now expect. Since today’s apartment shopper is looking months in advance and doing considerable research on their own before they are ready to tour, we need to be able to engage with them the way they want. They want to explore multiple properties, understand neighborhoods, compare floor plans and rental rates to develop a short list. And they want to do it 24/7/365. But multifamily teams are not equipped with the staff to engage with these shoppers in this way. It’s simply more than lean teams can handle.
Platforms like PERQ are designed to engage today’s digital renters. It’s natural language chatbot gathers info from the prospect and uses it to personalize the automated nurture messaging. PERQ can help guide the prospect in their shopping journey by showing them floor plans in their budget, units with amenities they are looking for, and answering their questions 24/7.
2. CREATE COMPELLING NEXT STEPS FOR THE PROSPECT
With AI technology, you’re able to create personalized interactions for the prospect based on their online behavior. Do they respond better to touches in SMS vs. email? AI software can proactively determine the next best touch.
By making the consumer journey more personalized and easier to follow for the prospect, they will become endeared to your brand.
3. INTERACTIVE TOOLS THAT INFORM
Signing a lease is a big financial and emotional commitment. Committing to paying a fixed rate every month and moving to a new location makes the decision to sign a lease with a property one that takes a lot of thought. Multifamily properties can help prospects in their decision-making process by having interactive online tools such as a rent calculator to give them an idea of total costs, including utilities, and a community-fit assessment so they can see upfront if the area has what they’re looking for without having to visit.
These sorts of interactive tools also help weed out low-intent leads from those that are serious and qualified to apply.
4. ENGAGE LEADS WITH VIDEO
Draw the customer in with a customized video on your website or in follow-up emails. From a tour of the community to a tour of the specific floor plans they were looking at, video increases traffic and interest.
“Prospective residents or shoppers can gather information online, engage with a video tour, and, for a growing number of consumers, that’s enough to make them convert or sign a lease. Video is the way to do that,” says Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realync, a video-leasing platform company that partners with PERQ to embed tour videos on our AI-powered website platform on multifamily property websites. Weirich goes more into the importance of video below:
5. SPECIAL PROMOTIONS
Build in special offers on your company’s website or in follow-up emails, but be sure those promotions are geared towards the floor plans and specific amenities the person is looking for in their next lease.
The goal is to entice a prospect and make them walk through your doors and say, ‘Hey, I have this offer I received on your website.”
6. AI CHATBOTS
Chatbots have become popular in the multifamily industry these past few years. Not only does an AI chatbot make your website more interactive, it can offer support and answer questions 24/7. Prospects don’t need to wait for the leasing office to open and can get what they are looking for much faster. The conversations a prospect has with the chatbot are also typically available in their guest card in the CRM, so leasing teams know what not to ask and can enter the initial conversation more prepared. With so many chatbots geared towards multifamily websites to choose from, knowing the main differences in how they “chat” is important.
There’s natural language chatbots and rule-based chatbots. Natural language chatbots are also called AI chatbots and they talk to prospects in a more natural way. For the prospect, they are having a real conversation, similar to that with a human, and can get their questions answered faster. With rules-based chatbots, prospects go through prompts that are set as “rules” and may or may not get their initial questions answered. Have you ever called customer service and got a robot menu telling you to “Press 1 for x, press 2 for…”? That’s the same logic as a rule-based chatbot except instead of a phone, the prospect is typing the answers on your website. This can be more frustrating. When looking between the two, a natural language chatbot gives a better user experience and therefore better customer service.
7. QUALIFIED LEADS ONLY
Not all people who visit your property website are ready to tour or even sign a lease. How they interact with your website provides insight into where they are in the leasing journey. Your messages to them need to appropriately match where they are in the leasing process.
PERQ’s lead generation and nurture platform uses AI technology to automate the management of your leads. It understands where a prospect is in the funnel and handles all the follow up, until your leads are ready to speak to a member of the team. Using this kind of technology helps to save time for your team. No more sifting through leads and hoping that the ones you’ve picked are serious and qualified to rent.
8. INTERACTIVE FLOOR PLANS
Prospects love a 3D interactive floor plan. It allows for them to fully picture the unit without having to visit in person. Whether it’s health or being located out of state, there are lots of reasons a serious prospect might not be able to come in and tour in person.
Above, we mentioned engaging through video in follow-up. The interactive floor plan models take this a step further to keep them engaged on your property website longer.
Prospects look at multiple property websites before deciding which ones to continue to engage with. The longer a prospect is on your website, the more data you can collect on them, and the more memorable your property will be. Having 3D floor plan models will help you stand out in a crowded market.
9. QUICK RESPONSE TIMES
Respond quickly to renter leads who are in the market rent now to increase your chances of catching the consumer while they’re still engaged. Immediately connecting with a qualified customer who is already on your site and engaged, decreases the chances they’ll go to a competitor’s website. One way to do this is with an AI leasing assistant solution, like the one in the PERQ platform. It keeps apartment rental leads engaged and answers their questions 24/7, so they don’t have to wait for business hours.
10. RESIDENT TESTIMONIALS & BLOGS
Having a blog for any kind of business is a good move. Sending outbound communications with resident testimonials and/or links to your blog posts about what it’s like to live in your community is a great way to personalize your multifamily outreach and give it a more human touch. While consumers expect automation now, it’s important to remember that there is an emotional aspect to renting.
These blogs and testimonials don’t need to be sent out with every touch; they can be added in when the prospect is closer to talking to a leasing specialist to help solidify their decision.
11. CONVENIENT SCHEDULING
Include scheduling tools on your website so serious prospects can easily arrange a tour of your apartment community.
Getting them to visit in person is more than half the battle to convert online leads. Let them make the first move, and conveniently do so on their own time. Talk about instant gratification!
12. A CLEAN CRM
A crowded and cluttered CRM is bad for any business. In multifamily, it leads to leads being lost or overlooked. A messy CRM takes up a lot of the leasing team’s time and gives them more work than they need. Having lead generation and nurture tools allows for only the high-intent apartment rental leads to be stored in your CRM.
A less crowded CRM that only has good leads in it means that leasing teams can do their jobs more efficiently and properly.
13. EMAIL, TEXT, OR PHONE?
Each customer prefers a specific way to communicate — phone, email, text, chat or in-person. To build trust, follow up with your customers via their preferred method of contact.
With the preferred method also comes a preferred time of day. Contacting serious leads during a time they have stated they are most likely to respond is equally important. According to PERQ data, nationally, renters prefer email follow-up in the morning. Read our article to learn other tips for effective text communication.
14. AUTOMATE LEAD FOLLOW-UP CAMPAIGNS
Use automated nurture campaigns tailored to the various stages of the leasing journey, so your team can dedicate their time where it counts – in person relationship building.
The best nurture approaches use more than one channel, like SMS and text and adjust the scheduled emails or text messages to automatically arrive at a cadence appropriate for each prospect.
15. INSIGHTFUL DATA TO BACK FOLLOW-UP
When the team is crafting a unique email to a prospect, be sure to include some personalized customer information. Leveraging in-depth customer data garnered from your website platform or CRM creates an instant connection with prospects and helps your salespeople start the conversation from a position of insight.
16. PAY ATTENTION TO INDUSTRY TRENDS
Smart website technology gives your company valuable consumer behavior insights. By regularly analyzing that data, you can spot trends and anticipate the evolving wants and needs in your market. Proactively sharing valuable content that highlights the latest trends in your industry or helpful advice can reignite their interest in your property by giving them a reason to think about you and helping them with research. Content such as “5 tips for hiring a moving company” or “What you should ask on a property tour” are great examples.
17. THE RIGHT CRM
The right CRM is of utmost importance when trying to collect, track and analyze large sets of consumer lead data. A lot happens in the digital space and it continues to evolve. Look for a data management system that provides valuable information you can sort and prioritize and works as an extension of your team.
“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”
18. LEVERAGE DATA TO INCREASE HIGHER QUALITY LEADS TO YOUR WEBSITE
As we discussed, you can capture a lot of data about a consumer, when they’re in the market to rent, for example, what amenities they want the most in an apartment; what they want in the community; and the activities they enjoy most. Leverage the most common answers in your digital engagement efforts to help you make decisions on site improvements and rental rates and use these to attract higher quality website visitors and retarget leads who already visited your site.
19. IMPROVE THE CONVERSATION
Your sales teams can learn a lot about leads on your website. Have them leverage the data in the CRM so they are more likely to close the sale, either by phone, chat, text, or email. Again, if a visitor told you they prefer a text, don’t make your first outreach a call. A text might start: “I saw you were looking at the two-bedroom floor plan with two-baths on our site, (Insert first name). Did you have any questions I can help you with? Being personable and helpful can go a long way.
20. DON’T FORGET TO SAY THANK YOU
In these times of advanced technology and digital messaging, people still appreciate when a company takes the time to send a handwritten thank-you note or follow up with a phone call after an initial in-person interaction. Connecting on a personal level is the touchstone of any creative lead follow-up strategy.
“Use emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while factoring in and understanding different circumstances impact lead follow-up,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management for Barratt Asset Management. “Good salespeople are really important.”
PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how PERQ it works or request a demo.
Every market varies slightly when it comes to the type of renter seeking an apartment, how much they’re willing to pay, and what amenities mean the most to them. How well do you know the prospective renters for each multifamily property you manage or oversee at a regional level?
Properties in your portfolio can leverage these market variables to edge out the local competition by analyzing all of the online data prospects provide during their search for an apartment community to call home.
More than 80% of rental prospects start their apartment search online, according to the newly published PERQ Multifamily Field Guide, which analyzes 193,000 consumer responses from nearly 320 multifamily property websites.
With so many renters starting their research of apartment communities online, staying a step ahead of the local competition means constantly improving the property’s website experience, and successfully using the lead information you gather online to nurture prospects until they’re ready to sign a lease.
“We use both the individual data and aggregate data to help us make sound decisions during the leasing process, but also to be sure we’re catering to our current resident base as well,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management, which utilizes PERQ’s leasing AI software to collect leads and their personal preferences, while guiding prospects in the rental process.
Add AI Technology to Property Website to Gather More, Detailed Leads
It’s a challenge to capture the attention of prospective renters with so many other property websites vying for it. Busy consumers want websites to be responsive, intuitive, informative and helpful — or they move on to the next site in a quick click.
By adding AI-driven technology to a property website, visitors enjoy an interactive and personalized shopping experience similar to what giant e-commerce retailers like Amazon deliver, and what savvy consumers say they’ve come to expect from brands competing for their money and attention. Provide that experience on a local level to make your property stand out in a crowded multifamily market.
“At one property, we know as many as 40% of our current residents engaged in a PERQ experience,” Greene says of how well the interactive software converts online leads. The information gathered on those now-residents comes in handy when planning new community perks that appeal to current renters, and when it’s time to encourage those residents to renew their leases.
Engaging visitors with a hub of useful planning tools and assessments designed to help renters find their ideal apartment boosts the time spent on the site, which in turn increases brand awareness and how much information the property managers receive in real-time from interested renters.
Highlight In-Demand Apartment Amenities: Online & During Property Tour
With the assistance of AI technology, leasing teams receive lead information on everything from a prospect’s preferred floor plan and move-in timeframe to how many kids or pets they have, what they like to do in their free time, and types of businesses they want in their new neighborhood. It gives properties both a granular view of a specific renter’s journey and a holistic look at what renters in that market value most.
Renters rank in-unit laundry as the most-desired feature in an apartment, followed by modern appliances and walk-in closets, according to the Multifamily Field Guide. It also showed 81% of prospects are a month to 90 days out from wanting to move in — a 13% increase in the number of renters looking at apartments while at least three months away from signing a lease since PERQ’s previous insights report in 2018.
Property management can use that online intel to personalize their lead follow-up approach through automated lead nurture email and text messages sent to website leads, keeping the property top of mind as they finalize their decision.
During tours, leasing specialists should strive to highlight that particular property’s most popular amenities as well as any must-haves the prospect revealed while researching online. Properties can also prominently feature a property’s top-ranked assets on the website, in digital advertisements and on social media, based on the new data streaming in from the website’s interactive experiences.
Target Prospects: Use Insightful Data to Meet Local Demand
By tracking leads from all of those various online platforms and linking them to individual website visitors in a cloud-based CRM database, properties can finally account for multi-touch attribution and easily view a prospect’s entire online journey.
That comprehensive profile data, when stored and analyzed within an AI-driven lead generation and automation software, delivers in-depth insights into which featured amenities drive the most traffic, what online platforms convert the best, and the ROI of all of a property’s digital marketing campaign, including the cost per lead and for each lease converted.
When powered by AI technology, this software offers machine learning capabilities to identify the ideal prospect and continuously tweak a property’s connected digital marketing accounts automatically. Based on the property’s own data and millions of other data points stored in the cloud, the centralized analytics predict the type of renters most likely to lease there, along with the common attributes and actions taken by those prospects and where to successfully target them.
Pouring over the online consumer data helps property managers identify what nearby activities and amenities attract local renters, so they can focus on building relationships with those types of businesses in the area and plan events that best cater to renters’ interests.
“The ‘Explore the Area’ assessment provides data regarding their preferences on favorite activities,” Greene says. “Our reporting may show that a prospect, for example, is interested in sporting activities and shopping. We are sure to highlight proximity to these preferred places, and with residents, it helps us to determine what social functions will appeal most to them.
“We may organize a viewing party for a big football game at our clubhouse, or post coupons for the outlet mall on social media as a result of the data.”
Across the nation, 20% of renters picked “social activities” as their top priority, according to the PERQ multifamily data. Shopping and outdoor activities tied for second place at 17%, and family activities (12%) and pets (11%) rounded out the list of favorite activities prospects enjoy most, giving property managers at those surveyed properties a good idea of their residents’ main priorities and lifestyle.
“We have found the questions we ask online helps us tremendously on centering in on the prospects’ likes in reference to social activities,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at The Worthing Companies based in Atlanta. “This gives us a great opportunity to cross-market with restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities, etc.”
Coupons Convert Leads: Pricing Ranks Top Priority Among Renters
Incentives drive impressive lead-to-lease conversion results because two-thirds of renters put pricing above all else when picking an apartment. The PERQ data discovered multifamily properties that presented online prospects with a coupon or offer, such as free month’s rent for signing a 12-month lease, increased lead conversions by 73%.
Of the prospective renters surveyed, 67% said pricing was the biggest factor in their decision on where to sign a lease. Play up the community benefits and utilities included in the rent price, and offer creative budget incentives like discounted dog walking services for residents arranged through a local provider.
At one apartment community managed by The Worthing Companies, Jones says 60% of the prospects clicked restaurants as a favorite place to visit in the neighborhood. “This gives us the knowledge to do a perks program for discounts with restaurants nearby, and even host events at different restaurants for the residents,” Jones says.
The PERQ Multifamily Field Guide contains multifamily insights, regional trends, renter profiles, and self-proclaimed pain points others in the industry face and how to solve those common challenges using AI-driven technology. Click below to request your copy of the full Multifamily Field Guide.
In the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs away from her Kansas home and promptly encounters Professor Marvel, a seedy, itinerant con artist whose tacky traveling wagon advertises him as “Acclaimed by The Crown Heads of Europe,” and offers his services to “Read Your Past, Present, and Future in His Crystal Ball.”
Professor Marvel, played marvelously by Frank Morgan, takes one look at the naive girl, glances down at her suitcase and says, “You’re running away!”
Having missed his glance, Dorothy asks wondrously, “How did you guess?”
The Professor replies, “Now, why are you running away? No, no, don’t tell me!” He looks off pensively, as if conjuring some magical power and then, as if having divined a vision, says conclusively, “They don’t understand you at home!”
The wide-eyed girl smiles and says, “Why it’s just like you could read what was inside me!”
The Professor then offers Dorothy a crystal ball reading and asks her to close her eyes and concentrate. As she does, the Professor quickly rummages around in her basket. He then proceeds to describe what he pretends to see in the crystal ball, referencing the items in the basket.
Clearly, Professor Marvel is a charlatan, but there is a positive lesson to be learned from his trickery. He was able to connect with Dorothy and establish her trust by referencing relevant facts about her.
The lesson: apartment property managers can connect with their market by observing their prospects and residents’ behavior.
With no sleight of hand or trickery involved, prospect data collected on a multifamily property website can reveal personal insights on what lifestyle factors drive that renter’s decisions and what’s most important to them when choosing an apartment. Leveraging this kind of in-depth online data also helps management teams forecast future market changes and predict which types of renters are most likely to sign a lease at that property.
“If companies were to really dig into the online data and use it to the fullest extent—which, from our experience at this point, most properties don’t do or just rely on us to do it for them—the data is actually quite helpful,” says Bob Romine, owner of R.C. Romine & Associates in Chicago, who primarily provides marketing and advertising services to multifamily properties.
“If you track the consumer journey, each little piece gives you more information about the customer and where they’re at in their thinking,” Romine says. “Because you have gathered those clues, you’re able to say, ‘OK, here’s when they might move; here’s the kind of apartment they are looking for; here are some of the things in the area they would like to experience as part of their home neighborhood.’”
Gaze into your own crystal ball when a prospect comes in for a tour or when you follow up on a promising lead by collecting this kind of detailed information from website visitors as they research apartments online. More lead data grants your leasing team the superhuman power to conjure up the perfect place for the renter to call home and create an instant connection with them.
Which apartment amenities matter most to your renters?
If a property website acts like a glorified online catalog, only collecting a prospect’s name and contact information from those who fill out the guest card, a property management company misses out on a wealth of lead data opportunities. Consider it the kryptonite to your website’s potential to be your no. 1 leasing tool and to capture more quality online leads.
Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and AI-driven marketing clouds make it possible for multifamily property companies to add interactive experiences on an existing property website. The AI technology collects a consumer’s personal information as they engage with the online tools and shopping resources customized to showcase that property, while also helping to guide consumers along in the leasing process.
“Our website analytics and online experiences provide us with that data to help us understand trends of what’s important to our renters,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, a multifamily rental property company in 13 states. “We believe our customers choose their home based on their lifestyle desires. Capturing this information allows our leasing team to receive information about what’s important to each prospective renter, which allows them to build relationships.”
Glick property managers can easily see what lifestyle factors a renter prioritizes when finding an apartment, whether it’s a convenient work commute or social interactions with neighbors, by looking at the answers the prospect provides online. When they engage with the “Explore the Area” experience and various other tools available on the property websites, like the floorplan assessment or pre-qualify application, renters divulge important information about themselves.
“The data we receive through the PERQ online experiences allows us to make better decisions about the future,” Richard says. “Collecting what amenities are important from one property to another, where they like to spend time outside the community, understanding our customer’s journey and how far in advance of their move date they are looking at apartments are some examples of what we focus on.”
Atlanta-based The Worthing Companies, which manages apartment communities throughout Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, also uses PERQ’s AI-powered Website Conversion Software to capture more online leads and prospect data. Online leads increased by 813 percent in the first six months of adding the interactive AI experiences to their property websites, delivering their leasing teams with infinitely more information about each prospect than a static guest card form.
“We have found that the questions asked during the process helps us tremendously in centering on the prospects’ likes in reference to social activities,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at TWC. “This gives us a great opportunity to cross-market with restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities, etc.
“We have one property where 60 percent of the prospects clicked restaurants as a top priority, so this gives us the knowledge to do a perks program for discounts with nearby restaurants and even host events at different restaurants for the residents.”
What’s driving a renter’s decisions?
To inspire a person to do something, you must first know what motivates that individual. Figuring out what factors are motivating a prospect’s decision to move into a new apartment helps leasing specialists find the best fit for their current situation, speeding along lead conversion and resulting in satisfied renters in the long run. That data also gives property management a way to spot rental trends in the market and target specific types of renters with the right incentives.
“It’s helping us learn more about our customers without them even being there,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities Management, also based in Atlanta. Four properties in his regional portfolio utilize PERQ’s website technology. Since adding the AI software, prospects spend on average 200 percent more time on their websites, giving the property a plethora of personal information while engaging with the property’s brand.
The consumer journey profiles properties receive for each website lead details every visit a prospect makes to the website, including which computer device they used to log on, where they came from before landing on the website, how long they searched the site, which experiences they engaged with and their responses.
“It’s prompting those same questions we would’ve asked on the tour,” Berry says. “Now we’ve got those things ahead of time, so that when they do show up for the tour, we have the opportunity to dig a little deeper. You see what’s important to them.”
Richard says the online data helps the Glick management team better understand how prospective renters are making decisions in regard to floor plans and number of bedrooms. Lately, they’ve noticed a shift in the type of people renting two-bedroom apartments as well as an increased demand for smaller spaces.
“As rental rates continue going up and the need for apartments continues to grow, the demand for two bedrooms remain on the rise. We know this is occurring because prospective renters continue to ‘double-up’ and find a roommate to afford the rent,” Richard says. “Studios and micro-units continue to rise in popularity, especially amongst the Gen. Z and Millennial generations, as a result of keeping monthly rent costs down while ensuring convenience to their job.”
Get to know your renter demographic better
Berry points out the high degree of turnover experienced at most on-site leasing offices. By receiving prospect profile data in real time, newer leasing team members can quickly learn about the type of renters most commonly interested in that property and eliminate any misconceptions about the target demographic.
“As far as that prospect data, I really like looking at it to confirm who we think our demographic is and it’s very useful for training,” Berry says. “You want to be able to show your team that back-end data that you’re gathering on what your residents or prospects are interested in. A lot of times, you walk onto a new property with a lot of three-bedroom apartments and you think it’s families. You find out, no it’s not, they’re roommates.”
If a prospect researching a predominantly family-oriented property lists nightlife and breweries as top attractions they like to regularly visit, the leasing team can reach out and let them know about the other apartment community your company manages across the street that better caters to their demographic. The same goes for prospects looking at places close to daycares and children activities who show interest in a property more targeted to young professionals with roommates.
“The leasing team needs to know who their prospects are primarily, because it’s only going to help them when giving tours and responding to people,” says Berry, who shares the same frustrating experience as Bob Romine when it comes to properties not using the valuable lead data to its fullest extent. “It’s all about finding a good fit for the renter and getting that edge over the competition. But the data has to be shared with your team and they have to actually use it.”
Point prospects down the right path on the metaphorical yellow brick road and show them a property that matches exactly what they’re seeking on their personal quest to find the ideal apartment. As Dorothy says while tapping her ruby red slippers together, “There’s no place like home.”
“You have all of these property websites that are fantastic,” says Bartlett, digital sales and media manager at Nolan Real Estate, which operates apartment communities in Texas, Kansas, Illinois and North Carolina.
“Once you get to the website, there’s all of this information, but not really a piece that engages. I think we do an awesome job once they walk in the door, but before that I think there are just so many options. It’s tough to narrow your search down.”
To drive engagement and increase leads, Nolan Real Estate recently launched website conversion software on four of its property websites. According to Bartlett, Nolan plans to implement the AI-powered software on the company’s remaining multifamily property websites in the near future.
“I think there’s a similarity between renting a home and leasing a car,” he says. “When you go to an auto dealership’s website, it’s all about engagement, right? There are different tools to help you, and to show you what you think you need before you even know what you need.”
Many multifamily properties remain stuck in the past when it comes to digital marketing. It’s a comment we hear time and time again when talking to the marketing experts in the industry who are working to convince upper management to test new marketing strategies.
Cindy Scanlan, director of operations at Thalhimer, a property management company with apartment communities across Virginia and North Carolina, agrees that the industry lags behind when it comes to digital marketing technology.
“There are so many new products in the marketplace now; I don’t believe we have the time necessary to really look at what is out there,” she says.
The evolution of digital marketing technology using artificial intelligence and automation spawns a whole new realm of possibilities for property management companies looking to reanimate their marketing approach. Here are the top three reasons property management companies give for not upgrading their digital marketing approach, and why those excuses are ancient history.
Tried-and-true marketing strategy
Many companies keep doing what they’ve always done because they believe it works. We’re not saying ditch all non-digital advertising or abandon digital marketing efforts already in place, but perhaps it’s time to diversify to bring in new business and better results. Advanced digital marketing technologies can improve what you’re already doing to attract leads, and also help you better track and convert those leads into signed leases.
“Traditional marketing would suggest you don’t want your consumer spending ‘high amounts’ of time on your website with the fear that we may miss out on the opportunity to engage with them in person or over the phone,” Bartlett says. “I believe if we can give them every piece of information and engage with them in a unique fashion, we are 20-25 percent more likely to capture that lease once they step foot into our community. All of our visit-to-lease numbers have really skyrocketed since strategically putting the conversion software in place.”
How do you measure the success of your current marketing to know what’s working? Use digital marketing solutions that deliver detailed data on each prospect who engages. That way you can track which leads convert to leases and figure out the property’s return on investment for each specific marketing campaign. With more data in-hand, companies can easily adapt and experiment with new marketing channels, target audiences, keywords and messaging—tweaking as needed based on real-time information.
Boyd Homes in Virginia Beach leverages its website data to spot market trends and to create the company’s marketing plan, says Digital Director Stephanie Drake. She says the company increased online lead to lease conversions and decreased bounce rates after adding an engagement experience on the property websites.
“I like the analytics portion of it, where you can see what people are interested in,” Drake says. “We use the information from the data to form our marketing plan and what to highlight for people.”
Digital marketing learning curve
The concepts of AI, marketing automation, machine learning and marketing clouds can seem complicated and overwhelming to multifamily property managers with little tech experience. They don’t know enough about the technology or how to implement new systems, and can’t afford to devote additional resources to manage the technology, let alone perform data analysis on a regular basis.
With the right approach, technology actually streamlines business processes by providing a more efficient and effective way to capture and nurture leads. Leasing specialists spend less time manually handling leads and answering questions if the website uses AI to engage prospects and automatically guide them along the renter’s journey. When connected to an automated database and email nurturing solution, prospects continually receive personalized information and suggested interactive tools to assist in their research until they’re ready to rent.
New digital marketing technologies require very little effort and time to get started, and less manpower to maintain than manually tracking leads. It’s even less labor-intensive when you partner with a knowledgeable tech provider that can crunch the data for you, guide your efforts using industry knowledge, and provide proof of ROI.
Scanlan says Thalhimer, which used to focus primarily on commercial real estate, is behind the times when it comes to utilizing the full capabilities of AI to improve efficiencies on the residential side of its business. To catch up with competitors and gather more leads, Scanlan says Thalhimer decided last year to give new technology a try and implemented PERQ’s website conversion software.
“It captures more information about the customer than most products do,” Scanlan says. “Adding it to our website tripled our contacts on the property and we achieved at least a 25 percent lease return. It also lets us mine the information to get good demographics on our prospects and where they came from.”
Fear of more leads to manage
Some multifamily property companies worry that if technology does as promised, the sudden increase in leads may be too much to manage for their time-strapped employees and could hurt the brand if not handled properly. Maybe it’s time to try a new approach if your leasing offices are already struggling to balance the demands of helping new prospects, giving tours, closing leases and assisting residents.
Technology can improve overall workflow and make it easier to convert leads to leases. Consider adding an online scheduler, a pre-qualify tool or perhaps a virtual tour so prospects can help themselves. Connecting automated email nurturing to your prospect database can automate the nurture process and help your company better track leads and conversions.
It’s important to consider digital marketing solutions that not only increase lead count but also improve the quality of lead information that’s gathered and simplify processes for your leasing team. By collecting details like when the prospect plans to move and what amenities and floor plans they prefer, leasing specialists can use that information when following up with leads and move them along quicker, while also establishing an instant connection with prospects.
This article was originally posted on Multihousing Pro. You can see the article here.