Is Your Multifamily Property a Digital Marketing Dinosaur?

Posted on Apr 3 2019 - 8:00am by Lance Edwards
Before moving to the world of multifamily property marketing, Caleb Bartlett managed digital marketing for companies in the solar energy and automobile industries, two technologically advanced consumer sectors. He says while property management companies do a good job of showcasing their attractive websites, they fail to engage with prospects and stand out from the competition the same way car dealers do.

 

By Kristy Esch (MultiHousingProMagazine.com Article —  “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.”

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.