Leasing consultants at The Bainbridge Companies spend much of each workday painstakingly typing out original emails to prospects, just as the majority of leasing offices do despite quantum leaps in the quality and cost of email automation technology.
“The only email that’s automated is our ‘out of office’ notifications,” says Heidi Jehlicka, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Employee Development at Bainbridge, which manages apartment communities in 36 markets across the country. “We don’t currently have the capability to have that sort of automated, personalized communication. [Email automation] is what we’re most interested in adding to our arsenal.”
Renters start their search for a new home earlier than they did in the past, thanks to the wealth of consumer information available online. Automated email nurturing keeps prospects engaged as they take their time to search online for the perfect apartment. It also saves property management offices time and resources, so their leasing staff can focus on taking care of customers when they visit for a tour instead of staring at a computer screen and manually sending prospects generic emails.
Email Automation Nurtures Prospects Not Quite Ready to Rent
Leasing specialists at Boyd Homes contact a rental prospect an average of seven times before they lease an apartment with the property management group, says Marketing Manager Stephanie Drake. The leasing staff manually tracks leads in a basic office tasks program, adding notes for each other and setting reminders that span over several months. They also personally email packets of information to leads.
To eliminate this time-consuming and error-prone lead nurturing process, Drake says Boyd Homes is also planning to add marketing email automation this year. “We’d like to get into direct marketing to capture the people who are looking 90 days out,” Drake says. “If they’re not contacted, of course, the likelihood of these leads converting goes down. We need to contact them on a regular basis, and continue to do so until they either tell us to stop or they fall through the funnel.”
Boyd’s data aligns with other industry data, which shows most renters are still a couple of months away from signing a lease when they begin research online. For the PERQ Multifamily Insights Report, we analyzed lead data collected from more than 18,000 consumers who were searching online for an apartment between May and July 2018. Almost half of the prospects (44.6%) indicated they were at least 90 days away from signing a lease and only 10% were ready to rent right then.
Prospects can do most of their own research without ever talking to a human by visiting apartment websites and perusing social media. Until they’re ready to visit in person, our consumer data shows the vast majority of prospects prefer communicating with leasing specialists by email (67%) instead of phone calls (22%) or text messages (11%).
Website Lead Data Guides Automated Email Conversation
By deploying an email automation program that’s tied to an apartment website, property management companies can utilize a renter’s information collected from the website to customize the email campaign content and workflow.
An email nurture solution powered with AI technology responds to a new lead instantly and hyper-personalizes the online sales process, sending prospects relevant and timely emails based on the renter’s online behavior and data they submitted while engaging on the property’s website. The scheduled messages offer incentives and interactive tools, directing them back to the website to re-engage with the property until they’re ready to sign a lease.
“Before, we didn’t know what information to feed [prospects] through email,” Jehlicka says. “With the intelligence we’re now gathering on the website with PERQ, it’s going to be a game changer.”
Bainbridge added PERQ’s Web Engagement Solution to two property sites in late November 2018. By personalizing the website using AI-powered interactive software, the property management company witnessed a notable increase in online leads and lease conversions despite conducting the trial during the slow leasing season. In three months, 27% of leases at the featured properties were influenced by PERQ.
Jehlicka says they’d like to expand on that success through email automation now they know the personalized digital approach works so well. “As marketers, we’re often trying to predict what the customer wants,” she says. “With PERQ, now we know what’s important and where to focus.”
Email automation streamlines a multifamily property’s lead management process to make it more efficient and effective. Personal wording and pertinent calls to action convert far more online leads than generic emails that are likely to get lost in the shuffle of a shopper’s overflowing inbox of retail offers. Email marketing has always proved effective, and it’s how consumers prefer to interact with businesses, but customizing and automating the process by tying it to the website elevates the results to a whole new level of successful consumer engagement.
In addition to those benefits, email automation allows property managers to spend more quality time with prospects who are ready to rent and show up in person, especially when they can look up everything the person searched on the website and which emails they clicked on that inspired them to walk through the leasing office door.
“We can focus on a lot of other things, instead of manually nurturing and chasing leads,” Jehlicka says. “Like taking care of the customer and giving better tours.”