In today’s reality, social distancing has become a part of normal business. Brick and mortar stores have closed storefronts or have limited business hours, forcing customers to shop online. How do you make the consumer feel important when you can only interact through a screen?
Providing a personalized, top-class shopping experience should not only happen when the consumer enters through your front door. Building any kind of relationship takes time and effort. Start building that relationship online the moment the consumer visits your website. Utilizing an AI-focused website and personalized lead follow-up approach gives the online consumer an experience similar to what they would receive during an in-store visit. Here’s how your business can create a VIP customer experience.
Personalize your lead follow-up while selling remotely
Utilize data when it comes to personalized lead follow-up. Retailers should be relying on tools on their website, such as assessments and quizzes to collect as much information as possible from their customers. You can learn what style of furniture they like, what room they are looking to furnish, or how soon they are going to buy. You are also able to collect basic information such as name, phone number and email address.
With that information, your sales team is equipped to personalize the outreach. If your customers are looking for a new bedroom set, leverage targeted content through email with a catalog of this year’s hottest bedroom trends. If you’ve already been in contact with them, send a picture through text message of the new set you just got in. This is also an easy way to send incentives or discounts of products to encourage them to buy.
Personalizing the marketing experience for your shoppers is an easy way to make them feel valued and continue to shop your products.
Communicate with the consumer through text messaging
Allowing the consumer an option to ask a question via a chat tool online, which gives your sales team the opportunity to follow-up with that customer immediately by text. From there, they are able to send pictures and videos of products in the showroom that the shopper isn’t able to see. This is an effective tool because unlike a chat box, the message is delivered directly to the customers phone as opposed to a chat bot online.
Text messaging helps build the relationship with the customer before they enter the store. By being intentional and personalizing the message, shoppers will be more inclined to respond and be engaged later when they are ready to buy.
Prioritize video calls over phone calls for the VIP customer experience
When shoppers were able to go in the store, video follow-up and video appointments were nice to have. Now, video appointments are essential and will likely be a preference for shoppers to save time in the future.
Instead of just a simple phone call, video calls bring an extra level of personalization to the conversation. Shoppers are able to see the face of the person they are speaking to much like they would in an in-store visit. Through video calls, you are also able to give tours of the showroom and let the consumer see the product for themselves as you are speaking about it. Tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and Zoom are all platforms you can use to host video appointments. Follow these tips to ensure you host a successful video appointment.
Using these tips to treat the shopper like a VIP will ensure they choose you over another brand. Making someone feel important goes a long way in building consumer trust. Good luck!
Let’s face it. Most of us walk around with our phones in our hands or at arms-reach the majority of the time. Don’t overlook the easiest way to connect with your customers, text messaging. But, easy doesn’t mean you should do it without forethought and planning.
Make Texting Personal
This is your chance to really connect with the person. Plan your first message out in advance and make it memorable.
Just because you are using technology where you can’t see or hear the customer, don’t forget you are still talking with a person. Make it personal. Use their name, suggest information based on previous conversations. Don’t be a robot!
You aren’t texting your friends. While it’s important to sound friendly and connect with the customer, you need to be sure all texts are professional.
Try not to use texting abbreviations when communicating. Spell out your words and phrases. Write complete sentences and punctuate. All it takes to turn off some customers is a misspelled word or an incorrect phrase. Not sure you have everything right? Run it by a colleague or spell check it on a computer.
A tasteful emoji here or there is fine, but don’t overuse them. Limit them to a thumbs up or smiley face. Your texts shouldn’t look like an 8-year-old got hold of your phone.
Offer VIP Deals through Text
Texting is a great way to offer VIP deals.
Special discounts or deals make your consumers feel special during this time and like you’re taking care of them. The pleasant feeling VIP deals give customers may just be enough to close your own deal.
In the season opener of The Bridge, co-hosts Andy Medley and Muhammad Yasin sit down (a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic) with Matt Weirich, CEO and co-founder of Realync, and Jordan Easley, their Director of Operations. The pair at Realync, a multifamily video leasing and engagement solution that enables leasing teams, talk about a topic that is now top of mind for many businesses: “How do I connect with rental prospects when they can’t visit in-person?”
Video touring, whether it be pre-recorded or live, gives a human interaction that static images can’t compete with. “A video can be used to establish that first connection between a rental property and a consumer who’s looking for a new place to live,” says Weirich. “Video tours allow these consumers to experience a space on their own time and to see the exact unit they could be living.”
If you want to learn more about how Realync is bridging the gap by using video touring, check out Season 2, Episode 1 of The Bridge podcast now. The Bridge season 2 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.
For more consumers, texting has become the preferred method of communication. In today’s world of immediate satisfaction, texting often provides an instant response. Multifamily properties are starting to favor texting because of its effectiveness in reaching out to consumers quickly to answer their questions. Marketing research shows companies that text customers get 7.5 times more responses than with emails.
Clients we spoke to believe leveraging an online tool that drives prospects to text with the community is most effective because they can answer a rental prospect’s question while they are on their phone. It’s much easier to use than just an online chat option that requires users to stay logged onto an internet browser to get a response or continue a conversation. Once a prospect leaves a live chat platform, the property often lacks a way to follow up with that consumer, who must start the process all over when they initiate another online chat session.
Ask a Question Multifamily Tool Easy for Rental Prospects and Leasing Teams
With PERQ’s new Ask a Question tool for multifamily properties, our conversational “smart” form helps prospects quickly ask questions right from your website, which can feed right to your leasing team.
Your leasing team can quickly qualify and contact your most engaged leads, answer prospect questions using text messaging, and help prospects choose their dream home with photo or video message.
Ask a Question integrates into the PERQ Marketing Cloud, giving you continued access to helpful prospect data such as desired move-in timeframe, favorite floor plans, interests and more.
One client who recently introduced the chat to text feature on their website is finding consumers are highly engaged and more likely to convert than the average online visitor. “They’re further along in the cycle,” he says. “The interesting thing though is it seems like it’s all ages of demographics who engage. Everybody wants to text now.”
Leverage your Multifamily Website to Engage Visitors through Chat/Text
The Ask a Question tool collects prospect questions right from your website, helps you to quickly qualify and contact your most engaged leads through text, and helps you progress toward your occupancy goal, even in these trying times where COVID-19 limits our face-to-face interaction with rental prospects.
“As a whole, text message conversations used for follow-ups and initial conversations have been received by our customers and sales staff as a benefit, if not a preferred method,” says one PERQ client. “Conversations, pictures, quotes, reviews, emojis, etc. can be sent directly to the device that the customer uses all day and lives in their pocket! Why wouldn’t that be the way businesses talk to their customers?”
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.
We all have that friend, co-worker or family member you call and email without success. Yet, text them and they answer right away. You’ve most likely figured out the best method and time to reach the important people in your life, and it’s probably not the same scenario for each one. This holds true for very important property rental leads in the multifamily space.
Technology allows us to bank, buy and browse at any hour every day of the week. Your prospects are looking for their next home when and how it is most convenient for them. Meeting your customers on their terms and timeline will build the trust necessary to close the deal. Sounds like you may be working around the clock? Not with the right technology, process and product.
What Technology Tells You About Customer Preferences
With the right technology, your prospect will leave a digital footprint. You know what area they are looking in, what size of living space they are looking for, and what amenities interest them. Most importantly, the way they engage with you indicates their preferred communication style, the time and day their search is top of mind, and it provides insight into how close they are to making a decision. An AI chatbot is an online chatbot that can live on your website and work around the clock so you don’t have to.
“With social media, chatbot software and artificial intelligence, prospects don’t want to wait for office hours or phone calls anymore,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management, headquartered in Indianapolis and specializing in the acquisition and management of multifamily apartment communities. “They can immediately go onto your site and start selecting what they want. What’s important to our leads is that instant gratification and personalization tailored exactly to what they are looking for. Have an apartment home pop up for them that fits their needs and they are immediately engaged. They’re spending more time on your website and you become top of their list very quickly.”
Offering a wide range of communication and viewing options for your prospects keeps those high-priority leads engaged. “We make so many buying decisions using research tools online and consumers appreciate the convenience of not having to come into the office to fill out forms,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management. “Virtual tours or video footage of the unit allow us to be more effective with our prospects who are out of state or even out of the country. They can make a confident buying decision without physically being on-site because they have seen the amenities, neighborhood and the unit via video.”
Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and CEO of Realync, a video-leasing platform company, believes prospects who view videos of the property will be closer to making a leasing decision by the time they come to visit the community. “After they watch the videos and go through the PERQ experience, they’ll be more qualified and more buy-ready,” Weirich says. “The leasing agent is still an important part of the process, because they instill trust in the property where the prospect will live.”
Barratt Asset Management embraces whatever platform the customer prefers. “The new communication channels have vastly impacted lead nurturing,” Azar says. ”We can do FaceTime calls and tours, and it’s really a game-changer. People from out of state can see your face and it provides comfortability and starts building that trust.”
Variety of Follow Up and the Lead Nurturing Process
Did you know that almost half of rental prospects prefer you reach out to them in the morning? PERQ analyzed national, regional and benchmark data from nearly 320 properties across the U.S., along with 93,000 consumer responses with 328,000 data points, and captured the latest renter insights in their Multifamily Field Guide.
“We are definitely seeing the same dynamics as what was found in PERQ’s prospect survey,” says Lisa Harris, Regional Manager for W3 Luxury Living, a property management company based in Colleyville, Texas. “Of course, you have to find out what they are looking for, which locations and what spaces are reflective of who they are and fits their budget.”
Azar finds that Thursdays are a good time to hit prospects who are close to making a decision. “The weekend is coming and they have a little more free time. You want to follow up at a time the prospect won’t be extremely busy.” Azar schedules her communications with prospects during their preferred time, even when it may be after regular hours.
Her lead nurturing process includes implementing a customized system to track their rental prospects. “Being consistent is paramount. It’s where we continue to build a professional relationship,” Azar says. She adds that prospect documentation is key to connecting with customers. “We work with a lot of people and it is important for us to remember everything specific to that prospect.”
Prioritizing your prospects helps when allocating time and deciding who to reach out to first. Prospects who have taken virtual or in-person tours, filled out an online pre-qualification application or utilized an expense calculator feature on the property website provide valuable information about where they are in the customer journey. Take advantage of automated lead nurture emails that include information personalized to the prospect based on their previous engagements on your website. Lead nurture emails will not only drive customers back to your website, but they will also help them connect with your company.
The best AI chatbot and the best chatbot software in general can handle these other tasks for you as well. Instead of just answering prospect questions 24/7, the best chatbot for website are the ones that can handle automated lead nurture and follow-up. PERQ’s AI chatbot handles all of this but also does it through your brand voice. This way prospects have a better experience with your follow-up messaging as it feels less robotic and uses the data it collected about them to know when to send a message and when to pull back. Chatbot software, like the one at PERQ, only hands of qualified leads to the onsite team that are ready to talk, tour, or lease, the AI chatbot handles the rest and manages your pipeline more efficiently.
In addition to technology, Azar stresses the value of emotional intelligence. “You have to be able to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while understanding that each prospect has different moving circumstances — there’s never a one size fits all.”