For small-balance portfolio owners and managers, generating leads is largely a relationship game. “It’s difficult for small owners to justify using Internet Listing Services (ILSs) because of their cost,” Mike Whaling, founder of 30 Lines, a digital marketing company, said. “It’s important for owners and managers to think, ‘Where will I get the most traction?’, and a lot can be made simply by word of mouth.” Owners and managers can build their brand’s reputation by delivering exceptional service, generating referrals and encouraging good reviews online.
Leads can also come from the internet. Retargeting is a useful method, which works by keeping track of who visits your website, and then displaying your ads on other sites they visit after they leave your site. However, according to Whaling, email marketing is the most effective tool. “It’s important that once you get a lead, you follow up with an email and stay in front of that prospective tenant.”
“Follow-up is key, yet it is the most underused technique in this industry,” he said. “A lot of small-portfolio owners and managers are too interested in getting enough traffic, and not focusing enough on nurturing the existing traffic they already have.”
Small owners and managers can also give themselves more opportunities with future residents by incorporating feedback. “Ask existing tenants what they were looking for in their apartment search, and why they decided to live there, and then use this information to target new prospective tenants.”
One big mistake small portfolio owners and managers often make is focusing too much on brand development at the property level. “There isn’t enough effort to make a connection to the management company. If you don’t have a lot of units, you won’t have a name that is well-known,” Whaling said. “It’s especially important for small property management companies to build their brand, because that way they can market a number of units across multiple properties more efficiently, simply with their reputation.”
When asked his advice on how to handle bad reviews, Whaling indicated it’s much more important to concentrate on the good reviews first. “People focus too much on how to handle bad reviews, but what they really need to do is get a lot better at asking for good reviews. Have a process for asking for feedback after move-in, after a maintenance request, and so on, and then ask your tenants to write about their experience and generate a good review that way, and these will instantly balance out any bad reviews.”
Social media can also be a great marketing tool, and if you are creative with it, you can see a lot of success. “Virtual tours are very popular, and with these, your goal is to convince potential tenants they want to come and see the place,” Whaling said. “You can get your existing tenants involved by doing things like ‘life through the eyes of a tenant,’ or ‘share what you love about your community’ on any number of social media platforms. Live videos on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. are an excellent way to get people talking, and that’s exactly what you want.”
Ultimately, there are many different marketing strategies for small portfolio owners and managers that work well and even the playing field with the bigger companies. The key is to build a good reputation for your brand, and creatively narrow your marketing efforts on a specific demographic and focus on how to be the best answer for both existing and future residents.