PERQ EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, played host to another insightful lunch and learn which explored the challenges multifamily properties faced while trying to market to shifting consumer behavior during the pandemic. Guests Liv Gabrielsen, Director of Marketing for Bainbridge, and Scott Papenfus, Director of Strategic Partnerships for LCP360, chatted about the creative ways they’ve adapted efforts and the true impact of the pandemic with an in-depth conversation on:
When asked about big shifts in general as a result of the pandemic, Liv began by acknowledging what most businesses experienced, consumers embracing the digital experience.
“For multifamily, what it did is forced our industry to embrace all things digital as we saw stay-at-home orders. The COVID pandemic made us shift what we’re doing to ensure we can meet consumer demands in a 100% digital environment.”
She added that the industry knew they would need to embrace consumers’ digital demands eventually. The pandemic just accelerated the process.
“We’ve known this for years; it’s been moving in this direction,” Liv says. “For me, it was still a little bit of a shock of sorts — how fast we had to lean into some of the things or behaviors we were already thinking about, then suddenly over the course of a couple of weeks went from ‘Yeah, we’re going that way’ to ‘Now this is it.’”
Scott shared that, from a technology company’s perspective, they saw a huge increase in the number of virtual tours.
“You can literally look at a graph and just see this huge spike in virtual tours when the pandemic hit,” he says. “One of the key things we’re seeing is more and more people on-site are using our guided virtual tour or mirrored virtual tour.”
He explains consumers are not touring alone, instead doing so virtually with a leasing agent on-site who shares their knowledge and expertise about the property while customizing the tour for the prospect.
“I’ve really seen an uptick in interest is people wanting to perform kind of a hybrid — it’s a virtual tour, but it’s actually led by somebody on-site,” says Scott.
“For multifamily, we want that face-to-face interaction because our communities are more than just four walls,” Liv says. “It’s the community, the environment and the lifestyle. So, how do we communicate that in a digital way when we are removing these on-site visits? That was the challenge — we knew we had to provide a full picture of what it’s like to live in a Bainbridge community.”
Watch the full video to learn more about what Liv and Scott implemented to better serve and market to their customers during the pandemic.
Businesses create personas to place the consumer at the center of decision-making. Customer personas work when designing products and services, yet do they still serve a purpose in marketing and sales?
Marketing, the process of identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customers’ needs and wants, essentially matches what you’re selling to the people looking to buy. On a fundamental level, we all share the same basic needs and wants. Moving beyond the basics of buyer personas opens up a world of possibilities.
With everyone as a potential customer, creating personas may help marketing feel more manageable. Putting a face, age, and fictional name to your customers’ traits, personality characteristics, and pain points kicks off your digital strategy, but then what? Where do you go from there? Customer personas, in theory, work to attract leads, yet treating each customer in a generalized manner may actually move your brand further away from connecting with prospects.
Technology now provides valuable information beyond the type of customer interested in your brand (married with two kids and a mortgage); it delivers details on their online behavior (searching for distressed dining room tables to seat 10).
With the right software and CRM, collecting valuable online data generates insight into the customers’ specific needs and wants. Real information, captured in real-time, directly from the people interested in your products. From there, you can use the data to personalize the follow-up and lead-nurture process for more prospect engagement and brand loyalty.
More than Just a Customer Persona
Technology allows for a deeper understanding of consumers. Not only do you learn more about your customers through their actions, but you can also create a better experience online to stand out from the competition. Give website visitors the opportunity to interact with your brand, while also providing the information they need.
Understand what customers want while shopping. Offer interactive engagement opportunities like quizzes and assessments, live chat or online financing pre-qualification. Even better, with AI-driven software you can ensure your website remembers the customer’s previous visit, suggesting options and incentives based on prior behavior. These personalized, guided interactions will shape how the customer views your brand and build a feeling of welcome and value.
Buyer personas may attract shoppers to your website, but leverage personalization to move them along the customer journey toward a purchase.
Customer Data Helps You to Focus on Personalization
Not only does personalization benefit your customer, but it also translates into customizing your company’s operations. Your customers’ behavior and data should drive your business decisions.
If your target consumers continually search for specific products or services you don’t currently offer or do offer but don’t prominently market, demand exists and justifies expanding your offerings or adjusting your ad and website copy to meet the need. If prospects routinely drop off the website after reviewing pricing on your website, it may be time to run some competitive intelligence.
Analyze and use data from your CRM to help your sales team nurture leads and convert them into sales. Generate automated and personalized emails with AI-driven technology to get shoppers back to your website or in the door. Track the average number of touches necessary to result in a purchase, and adjust your approach based on the analytics.
It may feel counterintuitive to rely on technology to build personal relationships and really get to know your customers, yet with more than 80% of shoppers beginning their shopping journey online, the power of personalization makes it possible — and imperative.
If you’re puzzling over how to increase property tours and leases, your apartment website may be the missing piece. Sure, your multifamily team posts dazzling photos and highlights all of the amazing amenities, but does the website invoke any strong emotions or inspire prospects to take action? Or, is the site simply an online brochure that’s static, boring and just like every other multifamily property website in your market?
Multifamily brands that treat the property website as a top leasing tool, like another leasing specialist on staff, collect and convert more online leads to leases. As an on-site leasing agent works to establish good rapport with rental prospects by being helpful, your property management website should also guide website visitors along the leasing journey and build a connection with leads using a personalized approach.
Figure out how to move prospects emotionally and you’ll move them closer to signing a lease. Create these 7 feelings with an innovative apartment website that leverages artificial intelligence to win over online leads and increase leases.
Acknowledge online visitors the moment they land on your community’s website. Welcome them with a personalized message in a pop-up, banner or chat window. Offer to show them around the website with a quick virtual tour or point out some of the helpful tools you offer on the site to get them started.
Lead management is key. Sending each lead an automated email after their initial visit is another way to show prospects you’re happy they visited the property website and invite them back to continue their research. Use AI technology to personalize the marketing automation process, so the follow-up emails or texts include the lead’s name and information hyper-relevant to what they searched for on your property website.
Prospects do a large portion of their apartment searches online and are far along in the sales funnel by the time they actually reach out to speak or interact with an on-site leasing specialist. Give them access to all the research they seek on your website, such as information about nearby neighborhood businesses and public resources that serve the community, without making them pick up the phone or fill in a generic form to request more information.
Online consumers prefer to self-serve, so let them gather information at their own pace. The more educated a prospect feels, the more ready they’ll be to confidently make an informed decision on where they want to live.
While prospects prefer to gather information on their own, they do appreciate it when a website guides them along in the process. Use AI website conversion software to intuitively lead consumers in their leasing journey as they look for their next home.
Direct them to the products in your portfolio that best suit their search, and set up your apartment website so it guides them to the next best step to take in the leasing process based on the data you’ve already collected on them as they clicked around. Did they already look at or save floor plan options they’re interested in on your site? Now offer them a rent calculator to see what the full cost would be with utilities, website service and optional pet fees or garage/storage fees, for example.
Consumers naturally choose to do business with helpful brands when it comes time to make a decision. Right now, with so much uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to make prospects feel like you’re authentically trying to help and are there to assist their search for an apartment in any way possible — without pressuring them to sign a lease.
Use your apartment website to assist prospects with technology, through a chat tool, interactive experiences and a multi-option tour scheduler that allows them to pick if they want a virtual tour or in-person tour, for example. Show them the best floor plans for their needs based on a few online questions.
Serve up relevant incentives and personalized deals to help them out. Consider waiving the leasing fee or giving a free month’s rent to those who book a virtual tour.
By being helpful and guiding prospects, your website builds trust and a connection with online leads before they ever communicate with a leasing specialist. Quick, personalized responses let prospects know they can count on your leasing office.
Set up personalized automated emails to greet each new lead after they visit your apartment website, and ensure on-site staff immediately addresses any questions or requests that come in by text or email. Prospects who value technology also value an instantaneous response that’s personal and relevant.
A property website should cultivate a belief your multifamily company truly cares and offers support in their apartment search. Nurture leads by personalizing content on the website and delivering free experiences to help them narrow their choices of floor plans, explore the neighborhood and calculate estimated monthly bills for that apartment.
By collecting lead data as they interact with the website, multifamily properties can deliver automated emails tailored to the lead’s online behavior and known preferences. Leasing specialists can also use the logged website data to personalize their lead follow-up approach when reaching out to the prospects who indicate they’re ready to rent right now.
“We use the data and analytics available to us to help tailor our approach, and to ensure we can connect in an authentic way with our customers,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company.
Above all else, prospects who spend time searching your website, handing over personal information in exchange for a more personal concierge experience, deserve to feel special.
Add a personal touch by sending a customized video to introduce your leasing office and invite their questions to spark a conversation. Send them a video highlighting the exact unit they’re most interested in, showing them around the place with a personalized narrative to make them feel comfortable.
“We’ve had a handful of leasing associates really shine and put their personality to good use in the videos that are now so critical,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management.
Give prospects the VIP treatment online by always addressing them by name, welcoming them back every time they return and showing helpful information catered to their individual search for a new apartment. Assist them in making an appointment by offering an online scheduling calendar, and send pertinent follow-up information to help them prepare for the virtual or in-person tour.
Your apartment website should leave prospects thinking, “That was easy!” and inspire them to take the next step toward signing a lease. Get them excited about the idea of moving to your community, and give them the online technology to make the process effortless.
Almost everyone has a social media account, but is it used correctly? With 3.5 billion social media users and counting, the use of social platforms continues to grow. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube are staples in every marketing toolkit. It can be intimidating to start the journey to build your social media brand. However, if used correctly, you can reach potential customers and grow your audience and engagement.
Learn your Social Media Audience
First and foremost, you need to know who you are talking to on social media. Knowing your audience is key, because if you can’t give your audience what they want, they won’t give you what you want: their business.
You should rely on data to determine your target audience. Look at your customers who are already buying from you. What is their age, where are they located, how much money do they have to spend, what are their interests?
Once you understand the characteristics of your audience, you can craft your messaging to fit the mold of your customers. If you’re still having trouble defining your audience, check out this blog by Hootsuite.
Define your Social Media Brand’s Voice and Tone
Once you know your audience, it is important to define your voice and tone. What does that mean? Your voice should stay constant. Define how you communicate with people. Your tone however will change. Your tone could be happy, like you’re out to dinner with friends, or serious, like you’re in a meeting with your boss. Once you know your tone, it is ok to be funny, or have an informal tone, but don’t go out of your way to do so.
Know your reader’s state of mind. If you know why your reader visits your page, or reads your post, you will know what type of tone to use. If educating your audience is your goal, keep your tone more formal and less humorous. Knowing your customers’ emotional state can help you adjust your tone accordingly.
Set Social Media Goals and Have a Strategy to Build Your Brand
You have your target audience, you know your voice, now set goals and have a strategy for posting. Set goals by using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. If your goals meet all of these requirements, then you are good to go.
Then define your strategy. A strategy will help you save time and give you a direction when you start crafting posts. What works on one platform, might not work on another platform. This means you’ll have to prepare specific content for each platform. Instagram is great for sharing images and videos, while Facebook is great for sharing text, links, images and videos.
Lastly, use a calendar to help organize your material. Content schedulers like CoSchedule or Sprout Social will help save you time and organize your content. You can link these resources directly to your social platforms and schedule your posts for the future so you don’t have to do it manually.
Respond Quickly and be Active with your Social Media Audience
Celebrate the happy customers and respond to the negative ones. According to a survey done by Sprout Social, by being responsive you can prompt the consumer to make a decision to buy from you. Listen to your audience and learn from them to help build your social media brand.
With the plethora of online platforms and consumer data now available to businesses, you’re likely seeing more leads stream into your CRM than ever before. It’s a delicate balance between building a relationship with each new potential customer and making them feel immediately welcomed, and overloading your sales staff with an unwieldy list of leads.
To separate the window shoppers from the serious buyers, it’s time to define which qualified leads your sales team should pursue first and put in place an automated lead nurturing process to take care of the rest until they’re closer to making a purchase.
How to Qualify Leads
The ability to qualify leads comes down to collecting quality lead data on your website and other online touchpoints. By adding AI-driven experiences to the website, your company can gather intel on where in the sales funnel each lead falls, when they expect to make a decision, and insightful details on exactly what they’re seeking and why.
“Bring in intelligent lead automation to capture more interested consumers on the website,” says Scott Hill, Co-Founder and CEO of PERQ. “When you dramatically increase the leads, you need to start qualifying the true opportunity of those leads. Are they worth your human capital for follow-up?”
If a lead engages with an online assessment or quiz, they’re likely still in the research phase trying to figure out what’s important to them. These marketing qualified leads need more time and information before making a purchase or signing a lease. They’re also not likely ready to speak to a salesperson just yet, so having an associate reach out too soon, may turn the consumer off.
On the other hand, prospective customers who engage with financing tools or pre-qualifying applications, and those who click on banners and buttons to view Special Offers or Request More Info, all show signs they’re ready to buy now. Make sure the most promising leads quickly receive your sales team’s utmost attention and don’t accidentally get overlooked. Assign these sales qualified leads within your CRM directly to a salesperson, so they can inject a human interaction at a critical moment in the consumer journey.
If you’re not screening website visitors already, find a way to ask them when they plan to move or make a purchase, or employ online experiences that leverage AI to gauge where they’re at in the buying process, while also providing prospects with the digital assistance they desire.
“Fit today’s consumer habits into the processes you have,” Hill says. “Introduce bottom-of-the-funnel engagement opportunities to capture consumers’ information and their attention. Once you have the data, you can qualify the leads.”
Use Customer Data to Personalize Automated Marketing, Lead Follow-Up
Your company can utilize online shopping data and consumer insights to not only prioritize leads, but also personalize the lead nurturing process regardless of how you plan to follow up.
An automated lead nurture solution tied to your CRM personalizes messaging and delivers relevant digital content to the consumer related to their interactions on the website. They receive an immediate acknowledgment of their first visit, then scheduled messages to keep your brand top of mind and help the shopper move closer to signing a lease or making a home furnishings purchase.
Time the drip campaigns based on how far along they are on the buying journey, and give incentives to drive them back to the website to engage further with the AI experiences until they’re ready to make their move.
Your digital sales team can also tap into the consumer data organized in your CRM, focusing first on leads flagged by AI technology as “likely to buy” based on historical and real-time data. With knowledge like the products they searched and personal preferences, an assigned team member can confidently approach a shopper more easily.
“Solve the gap from where the consumer is doing online research to where there’s actually in-person engagement that requires a team,” Hill says.
Building any kind of relationship, personal or professional, takes time and effort. With the vast majority of consumers starting their research online before investing in a big-ticket purchase, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to start building that trust and commitment to your brand from the moment they click on the company website.
Upping your website game as well as upgrading the internal tools your team uses to analyze and organize online consumer data will help you stand out from the crowd and close more sales. An AI-driven website paired with personalized lead follow-up gives your online customers a shopping experience that’s comparable to the dedicated service they’ll receive when they finally visit in person.
To unlock a top-notch consumer journey for your online leads, keep in mind these 4 keys to forming a successful relationship from the get-go.
1. Prioritize Leads and Important Information
Improving the lead follow-up process starts with collecting better data on each online consumer who visits the website or clicks on a digital ad. Add interactive web experiences to increase engagement with your brand and also gain opportunities to learn more about each consumer who engages with the quizzes, incentives and digital tools you add to the site.
By tying an AI-driven interactive website to a marketing cloud and aggregating all online consumer data in a CRM system, companies can store all consumer data in a centralized spot for better analysis and lead organization. A quality CRM can help your sales team sort leads and prioritize consumers ready to take action right away, and track every touchpoint along the way.
“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential, headquartered in Denver. “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.”
Julia Critelli, General Manager at Critelli’s Fine Furniture, uses the website information stored in a cloud-based, connected CRM to sort and prioritize “hot leads” the sales associates should pursue first.
“We can also see how many deals are open and the value of those deals, along with probability of sale,” Critelli says. “I’m able to export certain lists or organize it in different ways, which I think is a good tool for myself and the sales staff.”
2. Personalize Lead Follow-Up
Knowing exactly which experiences a lead interacted with online and seeing what they’re searching for on the website gives your team a leg up on the lead follow-up process. The sales team can personalize their responses and tailor the information they provide the consumer to prioritize what features they indicated online they’re most interested in. Feeling like you already know them and their preferences helps establish a relationship with the consumer before you ever meet in person.
“It helps be more personable in our responses,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities based in Atlanta. “We’re able to tailor our response, whether it be in an email or a phone call. I encourage my team to use that information gathered on the website, and don’t just send a cookie cutter response telling them something they already know.”
To eliminate the extra work for your sales team, consider automating email or text nurturing through a marketing cloud and CRM database. When connected to an AI-driven CRM, automated emails and text messages are personalized based on each consumer’s information and timeframe for purchasing.
3. Communicate with Consumers on Their Terms
Do you know what time of day your customers prefer to be contacted and their preferred method of communication? That’s valuable lead information that’s unique to your industry and market, so be sure to collect that data whenever possible.
For the multifamily industry, PERQ online data shows 48% of prospects prefer to be contacted in the morning hours and 54% like emails from properties over other forms of communication. Emails tops the list for the majority of home furnishing customers PERQ surveyed as well, although the data shows text is quickly becoming a favored form of communication for consumers across all industries.
However, every person is different. You know that friend who always responds to texts with an unwarranted phone call and leaves voicemails you never check? Don’t cross that miscommunication line as a company trying to connect on a personal level with a consumer.
To increase your chance of successfully building a lasting relationship, offer a variety of communication avenues for consumers who wish to reach out to your company with questions or to gather additional details, such as an online chat-to-text tool in addition to email and phone options.
Big Sandy Home Furnishings Superstore recently introduced text-to-chat on the store website and are finding consumers who use the feature are highly engaged and more likely to convert than the average online visitor.
“They’re further along in the buying cycle,” President Bryan Scott says. “The interesting thing though is it seems like it’s all ages of demographics who engage. Everybody wants to text now.”
4. Manage Leads Through Entire Consumer Journey
Consumers who divulge personal information and devote significant time when researching on a company’s website expect you’ll reciprocate in the relationship, giving them something in return. Reward their commitment with relevant incentives to entice them to take the next step, and offer them your team’s industry knowledge and personalized advice to make them feel like they have a friend in the business.
Even if you don’t manage the newest property on the block or run the biggest retail furniture superstore this side of the Mississippi, you can win the battle for a consumer’s heart by delivering outstanding, personalized service.
“That’s where customer service and a more tailored leasing experience — and resident experience — becomes crucial,” Eppsteiner says. “That’s the only way you can compete with a new build or a bigger company with a bigger budget.”
Utilize technology to follow leads throughout the consumer journey, touching base every step of the way to offer helpful guidance. Continue that commitment to concierge-type customer service beyond the lease or sale and build long-term loyalty that only comes with time and consistent work.
Scott says being able to track the entire buying journey online makes all the difference when trying to connect with a customer. “It helps us build that relationship with the consumer before they actually come through the door,” he says. “We know all about them and we’re able to build trust.”