Keeping Tabs

Managing and tracking multiple marketing channels.

By Philip Shea, Associate Editor

While many industries adopt a variety of methods for tracking the effectiveness of certain marketing channels, multifamily is moving toward an all-in-one approach that could become a standard bearer for the acquisition and maintenance of prospective leads, or “lead management.”

Whether it’s online advertising, print advertising, signage, social media or event sponsorship, having a way to both manage and track all such channels represents a huge advantage in terms of
budgeting and maintaining revenue.

“It’s very important to have a single platform so that your lead management as well as your marketing management flows,” says Eric Broughton, president and COO of RentSentinel, a lead management service that assists and tracks multiple marketing channels. “When a person calls in to the property and they’re asking about availability for a unit, they’re able to see availability and it’s the same as they’ve seen in the marketing message they just looked at. So you have that single source of truth for your marketing information, and we’ve become that context syndication tool.”

Israel Carunungan, director of property marketing at Greystar, agrees. “We have a lead management system in place, and via [this], we’re able to have a very strong lead attribution system—meaning we can, with 100 percent accuracy, see where our leads are coming from,” explains Carunungan. “We want to make sure we’re advertising in our best-performing ad sources, and having a lead management program allows us to be more scientific.”

The best channels

In terms of which channels are most fit for a single-platform solution, Broughton states that his service strives for an all-inclusive approach, with a special emphasis on those that are Internet-based.

“I believe we’re looking at supporting all marketing channels… that are relevant, that are efficient and effective for the property management organization—everything from Craigslist to [Apple] iOS to, now, social media channels as well,” he adds.

Broughton goes on to describe the levels of focus RentSentinel ascribes to certain channels, giving an indication of the effectiveness of each one. “So you have your primary marketing channels, which would be Craigslist and ILS. Then you’ll have your secondary, which I would say would be social media. You also have your tertiary, and that would be tracking items such as banners [or] even tracking walk-ins. So we look at three levels of focus.”

Kim Atkinson, director of marketing and public relations at Mark-Taylor Residential, indicates why such a high premium is being placed on Internet-based marketing channels at her company.

“Far and away, our number one lead source is our company website,” says Atkinson. “It is responsible for half of all emails, walk-ins and phone calls to our communities in all markets. Search engines, ILS, promotional signage and resident referrals split the remaining half.”

Carunungan agrees that the Internet and technology-based marketing channels are taking the lead and states that his company’s lead management system is primarily what alerted them to this.

“We’ve seen a clear migration of people going from primarily print-driven ad sources to online ad sources, and we’ve seen that shift very clearly,” says Carunungan. “I’ve seen that paradigm shift from print-driven ad sources to online sources through that [lead management single-platform] method, because when you chart it you can see the decline of how many leads and leases we’re getting from print sources as opposed to online.”

However, Carunungan emphasizes that many of the traditional marketing channels are still valuable and that some channels might serve certain purposes better than others, stressing that property managers should not simply rely on lead generation as the sole metric.

“At the end of the day, our marketing channels or advertising sources, where we spend money to advertise, is going to get judged by leads and leases,” says Carunungan. “However, you will have other channels with sort of a different function than a purely lead-generating purpose. Once we determine the purpose of that channel, then we’re able to quantify the success or failure of that channel.”

A new wave

Of course, one of the newer and most talked about marketing channels—one that is just beginning to reveal its true potential—is social media, and it’s safe to say that property management companies are jumping on board and integrating this channel with other online resources.

Atkinson of Mark-Taylor notes that, while her company’s website remains the top marketing channel, social media is playing a big role in bringing prospects to this resource, serving as an indispensable conduit that can be heavily integrated with other channels.

“Facebook is driving more traffic to our website than Bing, Yahoo and other search and lead sources,” says Atkinson. “Mark-TaylorTV, our social media channel, is poised well to deliver lead activity from Facebook as we are closing in on 8,500 ‘likes.’”

Broughton at RentSentinel says that while social media is a new and essential focus, there are other online sources that outshine it and other, more traditional marketing channels.

“Just with an effective Craigslist strategy, you’ll end up finding that Craigslist becomes your number-one source of lead generation of just people going to your website,” says Broughton. “There’s definitely a focus on social media. I would say that’s a new focus, though.”

While sites like Craigslist might not necessarily qualify as true social media, the amount of traffic and user interaction that takes place on them is something that certainly rivals the impact of social media. Yet while the intrigue is there, one thing that often makes property managers and renters weary is the level of spam and potential for scams on such an
open source.

Notes Broughton: “We have a very industrial-sized spam filter—we capture more than a million spam messages a day.” Yet he goes on to state that this particular step his company took “adds more trust at the property management level that the leads they’re receiving are legitimate.”

Hence, while potential for problems on sites like Craigslist always exist, this should not deter property managers from making use of what could be a primary marketing channel—one that can easily be integrated with social networking and single-platform solutions.

“You present professional-looking pictures, professional description and a very clear and concise title describing your Craigslist information,” says Broughton. “Something else that we’ve added on over the last year to make ads more trustworthy—if you have a Facebook page, if you have our new RentSocial tool, if you have a YouTube account—we’ll add those links to those sites as well.”

At the end of the day, whether it’s new marketing channels like Craigslist or more traditional ones like events and billboards, the value of having a good lead management strategy and system in place is beyond imperative from both a revenue and reputation standpoint.

“Lead management, to me, is really putting science into your marketing efforts,” says Carunungan. “You’re eliminating guesswork as much as possible. You’re eliminating bias, in a lot of cases, because you’re putting everybody under the same metrics, for the most part. You are being smart about where you put your advertising dollars.”

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