[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]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 web technology 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.[/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]
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 Marketing Cloud Insights 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 Marketing Cloud, 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, a marketing cloud 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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][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_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Multifamily Resources
[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]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.[/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]
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.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”31089″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
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.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]This article was originally published on MultiHousing Pro.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[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]“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.”[/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]
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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][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_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Multifamily Resources