Consumers started the transition to online shopping long before lockdown made it a necessity. With the influx of online leads, it can be challenging to manage all of the opportunities from the website while maintaining good relationships with customers shopping on-site. Lease automation, however, simplifies the process.
In this episode of The Bridge podcast, Andy Medley and former co-host Fabian Rodriguez talk with Robert Lee, Director of Operations Programming from Hy.ly as he shares his perspective on how to reduce the burden on the sales team through the power of lead nurture and automation.
Prioritization of leads can be difficult and sales teams can’t be on the computer all day while prospects are coming in to tour. Lee explains how using data and lead scoring in automation allows properties to let the prospect “self-service” their research journey while also being able to tend to the customers who are visiting the property in-person. Both options allow the leasing teams to build the personal relationship with the lead and ultimately turn them into a lease.
Check out this episode of The Bridge podcast now if you want to learn how to personalize the renting journey by using lead nurture and lease automation.
The Bridge is available wherever you get your podcasts including, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Spotify. You can see all of the episodes, on your podcast app of choice by visiting this link.
Keeping occupancy up at your multifamily communities means getting in front of potential renters where they’re searching for available apartments and spending the majority of their time: online.
Carefully studying the consumer journey and gathering prospect data along the way gives your property several advantages when it comes to attracting and retaining renters.
“The internet is still the No. 1 tool for properties, and it’s just a matter of where they find it or how they’re finding it,” says Corey Egan, LeasingKC Co-Founder and Director of Client Success. “They have to make sure their own property websites are up to pace with the competition. Make sure all of the information is there and up to date … you have video content, and a really solid SEO strategy.
“We’re forever trying to figure out where everybody’s spending their time every day,” he says. “It turns out a lot of people are spending most of their time on their phones and they’re on all of these social media platforms, so those are just other ways to get in front of a potential lead.”
Collecting data at those various touchpoints as prospects shop around helps you optimize your digital marketing to better target the right renters, tailor the leasing experience for prospects, and improve the lead nurturing process. All three lead to increased occupancy over time.
“Evaluate the data to drive your decision-making,” Egan says. “It’s very valuable for apartment communities to use that data to see who their renter is and where they fit, and then create a more focused marketing strategy to reach those people.”
1. Make Data-Driven Decisions to Improve Occupancy
For Caroline Gould, V.P. of Marketing & Branding at Fore Property, one of the country’s top 20 largest multifamily developers, the property website and data analytics rank as the most valuable tools to target and convert the perfect renters for a particular property.
Gould runs daily Google Analytics reports to keep tabs on each property’s performance and look for ways to improve digital marketing results. She checks which referral sites send the most traffic to the property websites, views bounce rates for digital ad campaigns and tracks how Fore Property ranks for certain keywords in each market to evaluate her team’s SEO efforts in increasing search engine rankings.
“The website, the digital presence just has such an enormous importance,” Gould says. “Historically in property management, a lot of things were assessed anecdotally. While I agree there’s no replacement for on-site observations via a property manager and leasing team — those insights are really valuable — but the data is available for us to get away from the anecdotal.”
2. Improve Lead Nurture to Increase Leases
Set up your property website and lead nurturing process to give prospective renters everything they seek during their apartment search. With AI technology, you can transform your website into a digital leasing agent that leads prospects along the leasing journey with helpful guidance and personalizes the information they receive by collecting their data.
Live video tours offered on your website help to bring awareness to what your community offers without ever having the rental prospect step foot on your property, saving them valuable time. You can drive real-time conversations through FaceTime, Skype or your virtual tour partner, like Realync.
“The internet changed the leasing experience because people can go online and learn everything they pretty much need to know about the property before they even see it in person,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service digital marketing and advertising agency. “And, they’re going to be researching your competitors in the meantime and comparing pricing, walkability, amenities and features — all of that.”
Give prospects valuable information on the property website by offering interactive experiences, such as a neighborhood tour that highlights places most important to them and a floorplan assessment to help them pick the best apartment layout for them. As they engage with your website, collect valuable lead data to make converting the lease a little easier for your on-site leasing team when following up.
“It’s just good to know what they’re looking for,” Egan says. “It potentially saves everyone a lot of time. The technology drives the information to those people, and that’s important because everybody feels more comfortable when they have an idea of the other person rather than just a complete cold call. It’s more of a meaningful conversation and builds a relationship.”
3. Focus Leasing Agents with Marketing Automation
Funnel all of that online consumer behavior data and digital profiles into a CRM system that can sort leads by how soon prospects plan to sign a lease and how good a fit they are for that property. Let your leasing agents focus on the highest-priority leads, and employ automated marketing to nurture the remaining prospects until they indicate they’re closer to making a decision on where to live.
Automated emails and texts backed by AI technology draw in important details from the CRM database to personalize and time the messages, giving prospects the VIP feeling and building brand trust, while also delivering incentives to return to the website to continue their research or schedule a tour using an automated scheduling tool.
“Getting all of that information into your CRM and then into an automation system is important because it’ll allow you to follow up in both a time-efficient way for you and an effective, personalized way for your potential customers,” Norris says.
Ultimately, in whatever form of technology it takes, your hope of increasing occupancy rests on your ability to collect data and turn it into actionable insights. Those consumer insights serve as the foundation of your digital marketing, precipitating positive growth in both new leases and resident retention rates.
“Whether you’re managing a stock or you’re managing a property, it’s essentially the same goal. You want to increase the value of that asset,” Egan says. “Ensuring you have a solid foundation and a solid message in your marketing is a good place to start. Marketing is what drives everything else.
“It’s going to drive the leasing process, and that is going to drive the prospects you’re attracting and the residents you’re renting to, and then the residents equal basically everything to the property,” he says. “Once they’re in there, you want to encourage them to stay, you want them to be pleased, and that’s up to you. If you have a mixed marketing message or you’re attracting the wrong people, they might not be a good fit for your community and that’s when all of the headaches start.”
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Consumers’ insatiable appetite for instant information and on-demand access to expert advice requires companies to constantly evaluate how well each of their digital marketing channels serve those needs and at what cost.
“There are a lot of ways to waste money,” says Justin Bowen at The Great American Home Store, a furniture and mattress retailer with several stores in Tennessee and Mississippi. As their Web Content Manager for the past five years, he says the store has pretty much tried all of the main marketing and advertising avenues, learning valuable lessons along the way.
The digital marketing domain continues to rapidly change as technology improves, giving companies a plethora of online marketing options to consider and data to manage all at once. Digital marketing strategies that don’t keep pace with these changes tend to go stale fast.
As Bowen puts it, what worked in the past won’t work now. Your audience changed, the way they consume information and communicate changed, and how they decide what to buy changed.
I asked Bowen and a host of other PERQ clients, partners and digital marketing experts what do’s and don’ts they’ve learned through their online experience and put together this three-part blog series full of digital marketing tips. See firsthand what’s worked well for them, what advice they give other business leaders, and how they’ve improved the way they manage digital marketing. Let’s start this series with marketing management.
Follow the Sales Data & ROI
Tying a marketing campaign to an actual sale used to be a pipe dream for most industries. Marketing agencies and PPC vendors can tell you how much organic traffic visited the website and time spent on site, or how many people clicked your digital ad, shared your social post or saw it on their newsfeed, but they can’t connect revenue with online leads. Many don’t even deliver specific leads and only track anonymous traffic, leaving you to simply hope the consumer reaches out or comes to visit in person after encountering your brand online.
“There are more and more ways to track down a lead to a real sale becoming available,” Bowen says. “You have to do your due diligence. Make sure you have a way to measure any digital marketing you try. Hold your advertising accountable, set up metrics, and ask vendors point-blank what they can do to get you as close to tracking actual leads to sales as possible.”
Once you know exactly what digital advertising efforts end in a lease or sale, your marketing department can use that data to start targeting customers with messaging and platforms most likely to convert, as well as use the analytics reports to better manage your digital marketing channels based on what’s working and what’s not giving you a good return on your investment.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Marketing Automation to Improve Customer Experience
Today’s consumer desires an easy shopping experience, starting online and seamlessly flowing into an in-person interaction. They prefer personalized emails and texts, and love websites that seem to know exactly what they’re looking for before they know.
Sound like way too much for your sales team to handle, at least effectively? Marketing automation can make managing all of your digital marketing channels much easier, and works around the clock to move leads closer to a conversion before they ever reach out to a real person at your retail store or leasing office.
“The multifamily industry is continuing to evolve and improve the approach, as well as giving more focus to the customers’ digital experience,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, which manages rental communities in 13 states. She says that while other industries have long provided consumers with a “tailored online experience” that offers real-time availability, pricing and specials, property management companies are only beginning to play this highly personalized digital game.
You can easily add AI technology to your website to automatically guide prospects along the consumer journey with interactive, engaging tools and content that’s tailored to their search. Not only does it make it easier for consumers to do their own research and take immediate action, it also gathers quality lead data from those visitors.
“We have found the appointment setting-feature is excellent and provides the customer the best opportunity to immediately schedule a tour of the community while finishing up their research on our property website,” Richard says. “Our website now allows us to offer an enhanced experience for the customer, and provides us with the data on those interactions to help our teams ensure a better experience.”
Richard says Glick’s leasing consultants use consumer profile data to connect with individual prospects in a conversational way, versus collecting information in a checklist approach that’s impersonal.
Bowen agrees that current marketing trends call for a personalized approach. “It’s all about individualized service — all sales are going toward conversational,” he says. “You have to have the tools in place to know where the customer is at in the sales process though. You really need as much data as possible to know where they’re at and what they want, or you can’t really talk one-on-one otherwise.”
Digital Marketing Cloud Centralizes Data, Automates Lead Nurture
A marketing cloud offers one of the most powerful technology tools for companies looking to better manage digital marketing, as well as automate much of the lead nurture process through email and text messaging. By centralizing data across all digital platforms and integrating it with revenue reports, a cloud solution gives companies a holistic view of their online advertising and marketing ROI, in-depth consumer profile information and detailed analytics that factor in every touchpoint.
On the flip side, customers receive customized information to move them along the sales funnel until they’re ready to commit to your company in a digital format they prefer, leaving your sales teams with more time to better engage those leads who are ready to buy or lease.
“The time to start is now,” Bowen says of text messaging and other innovative marketing technologies now available to smaller retailers and privately held companies. “People already prefer [communicating in a digital format] but most of your competition isn’t doing it, so it’s a prime opportunity.
“The technology is already there. It takes getting people in the organization out of their comfort zone, getting real buy-in from the sales team, and forging new processes for communication,” Bowen says. “Automation is helpful to fill in the gaps around a very knowledgeable staff, which is what makes us different than the bigger companies or some of our local competitors.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Leasing consultants face busy days full of contacting interested prospects, scheduling and giving property tours, answering questions from potential renters, as well as assisting current residents. Their diverse job roles often include marketing, customer service and sales.
Property managers who oversee local leasing offices for a multifamily property group spend their workdays calculating costs of each lead and lease, analyzing digital marketing performance and the performance of individual leasing agents, while also evaluating occupancy and tenant turnover.
Marketing automation increases efficiencies for a multifamily property at every level of business operations, reducing the amount of manual work required to nurture leads and convert leases, while also providing property managers with data reporting that delivers smarter, actionable insights to save money and improve results. Lease automation works 24/7 so leasing agents and their managers don’t need to, using AI technology to automatically collect and nurture leads at a lower cost than manually marketing the property.
Like the old business axiom says: work smarter, not harder. Here’s a glimpse at how automated marketing improves efficiencies for multifamily property management companies.
Automated Marketing on Multifamily Websites
The Bainbridge Companies added AI-driven property lease management software to two of its apartment websites, which averaged 6 and 26 monthly website leads. Before implementing automated marketing, the property websites acted more like online brochures and gathered very little insights from visitors. Heidi Jehlicka, Sr. VP of Marketing and Employee Development at Bainbridge, says the company wanted to gather more data on what customers were specifically seeking and find a way to automatically influence more leases with an apartment leasing software solution.
Within two months, the two websites successfully converted 732 unique website visitors to email leads by automatically capturing information on each prospect who engaged with the interactive website experiences. The monthly lead average for the Bainbridge properties jumped from 6 to 269 on one property website and 26 to 96 on the other. With an increase in online leads, a proper lease management system is needed so leasing agents can only focus on the qualified leads that are ready to talk, tour, or lease. With PERQ’s AI Leasing Assistant, an innovative property management software that helps improve operational efficiency, onsite teams save hours of work and are able to increase their lead to lease conversion numbers.
With those leads came high-quality data on exactly what each person wanted in an apartment community and where those prospects came from before visiting the website, allowing management to see precisely which digital marketing efforts paid off. The intuitive websites guide prospects along the leasing journey, and nurture leads with automated but personalized calls to action and online assessments geared toward their specific search. In the first 60 days of implementation, PERQ’s Web Conversion software influenced an average 27% of all leases signed at the two Bainbridge properties. It also significantly lowered the company’s costs per lead and per lease when compared to its other lead generation sources, Jehlicka says.
The leasing agents at those Bainbridge communities now spend more time giving personal attention to in-person inquiries and the customer service aspect of their job duties, instead of dividing their day with a multitude of manual tasks with varying objectives as they have a lease management software that they can trust to handle all of the other tasks.
“We can use that time to focus on a lot of other things instead of manually nurturing and chasing leads, like taking care of the customer and giving better tours,” Jehlicka says. Because website visitors receive so much helpful information online, Jehlicka says they often arrive at the leasing office knowing exactly what they want and are more likely to sign a lease.
Marketing Automation for Email Nurture, Lead Management & Digital Advertising
Beyond using marketing automation to make multifamily websites more effective, property management companies can use AI and machine learning technology to automate many other aspects of the business and improve efficiencies.
By automatically storing and organizing lead information into a CRM lead management system that follows a multi-touch attribution model, leasing agents get in-depth information on each lead to use when following up. Leasing management learns exactly which digital and in-person interactions resulted in a lease and at what cost. That includes digital advertising campaigns, which can be automatically adjusted in real time and targeted toward ideal consumer profiles configured from big sets of data when used as part of a marketing cloud.
A multifamily marketing cloud unifies all of the lead information and various integrated systems to give multifamily companies the power to automate the email nurture process in a way that still feels conversational, using the stored prospect data to personalize each message and time the delivery of each message, driving the leads back to the website to further engage. It also delivers property management with data reporting and analytics detailing each consumer’s journey as well as marketing intelligence insights to help make better marketing decisions.
“We’ve got a lot more intelligence on these two properties,” Jehlicka says. In addition to the significant increase in online leads generated from the automated marketing solution, the company gains valuable insights into what prospects desire most in each market. “That’s critical information.”
Technology today helps us reach more customers with fewer people, fewer resources and less effort.
Salespeople use marketing automation to nurture leads. Email has replaced faxes and mail. And your website can make customer interactions more productive, which lets you focus on bigger projects.
These improvements will not only let you serve more customers with less energy and fewer people, you can save time and money. Here are four ways to increase workplace efficiencies with your website.
1. Assist online visitors without them ever talking to a salesperson
Consumers like doing their own research, so your website needs to be more than a brochure. It needs to guide visitors down the research path, so do things like offering quizzes and questionnaires to help them narrow their options. You can help them find the best mattress, identify the apartment floor plan that suits them, or to understand whether they should lease or buy a vehicle.
Chatbots, quizzes, and assessments are all ways to guide consumers to their best choice. Hotels use chatbots to book tickets, reserve rooms, and answer basic queries that are just entry-level busy work for a human being. Assessments can help multi-family dwellings steer customers toward a particular floor plan and apartment size; car dealers can use questionnaires to help consumers pick out the car that best suits their lifestyle and budget.
Calculators can help renters determine their rent payment (including utilities and pet fees), or actual car payments including incentives and trade-in values. You can pre-qualify customers and pre-approve their applications just based on their interactive experiences on your website. This way, you can find customers who have the ability to buy or rent before you ever set a face-to-face appointment with them.
Also, consumers know when they’re ready to talk to a salesperson, and won’t reach out to someone until they’re close to buying. They’re even more likely to book appointments online rather than calling you, so make it easier for them to get in touch. Remove as many hurdles as possible and make the whole experience easier for them (and you).
2. Offer tours/consultations/test drives without your physical team
You can give basic demonstrations of your products, facilities, or services through guided tours and explainer videos. Post a demonstration of your product in action, a webinar that can be watched on demand, or even a video tour of your facilities for people to watch before they visit. You can even use virtual reality (VR) tours of a property or home furnishings showroom.
“We post video tours where a leasing agent will walk through an apartment as another agent films them,” says Marian Colman, Regional Marketing and Leasing Specialist for Monarch Investment & Management Group. “The first agent will talk about the apartment, its size and the features. We get a good number of views and comments this way, and people will message the property on Facebook to get a personal appointment.”
3. Review your data to improve processes
Your website can tell you how to make it work better for you. A basic Google Analytics review will show you which pages bring in visitors, how long they stay on each page, and how they got there.
The data can also tell you more about what prospective customers want and help you devise new ways to reach them in new locations or with new ideas for reaching them.
“We take the data that PERQ has provided to us to do more targeted outreach marketing and advertising,” said Colman. “For example, we found that a large number of residents at one community were interested in pet-friendly apartments. So we’re trying to market to other pet-friendly locations, and using that information for possible future resident events, advertising things like Yappy Hour.”
4. Educate your team about how to read and use the data
Of course, data doesn’t do you any good if no one knows how to read it or understand what you’re trying to accomplish. So it’s important that you teach your team members about data analysis, tracking improvements, and how to use data to their advantage.
Sales teams can learn what interactive experiences a consumer engaged with, the products or floor plan they’re most interested in, how they prefer to be contacted and when they’re in the market to buy or rent. The data can help a salesperson close a deal much more easily while saving the consumer time.
You may even find someone on your team who excels at reading and managing your data. Let them manage your data for you and get them more involved in your website improvements.