Lead Management

Multifamily communities move heaven and earth to acquire new-resident leads. However, leads often aren’t thoroughly captured, often falling through the cracks in the lead-management process.

Multifamily communities move heaven and earth to acquire new-resident leads. However, leads often aren’t thoroughly captured, often falling through the cracks in the lead-management process.

How bad is it? Some statistics show that 40 percent of all phone call inquiries coming into the average leasing office aren’t even answered. Even when a prospect is successfully logged in by an agent, it’s often done on a standard electronic spreadsheet or within a minimally capable contact software solution, with little or no reporting or analysis capabilities. Fortunately there are solutions.

“Lead management is a major initiative we have undertaken over the past three years, and it’s really transformed the way we do business,” says Israel Carunungan, vice president of marketing at The Bozzuto Group.

Carunungan uses an online lead management suite from Lead2Lease, which centralizes Internet, e-mail, walk-in and phone leads; creates automated responses to inquiries from Internet leasing services; and integrates with back-office solutions like Yardi Systems and Intuit’s MRI Residential.

“We now can quantify the number of leases our agents get at every single property,” says Carunungan. “With our entire portfolio in the system, we’re showing a dramatic increase in conversions and leases, mainly because we’re just tracking everything correctly.”

Capture the flag

Sales agents capture leads and turn them into guest cards from inbound calls, walk-ins, ads, Websites, Internet listing service referrals and print directories.

The most common channel for capturing leads is still the inbound call; by some estimates between 60 and 70 percent of all people searching for an apartment are still picking up the phone to call, regardless of what channel prompted them to do so.

Several lead-management solutions record calls that come in for analysis, and some are beginning to employ “text analytics,” parsing conversations for meaning and trends. But even with the best technology, there can be a gap between the capabilities of automation and the habits of leasing professionals.

According to the Multifamily Industry Report Card developed by lead-management solutions company CallSource, leasing agents in the first quarter of 2009 asked for callers’ names only 76 percent of the time, and just 26 percent of inbound calls were converted to site visits. How damaging is this? CallSource says the wastage during this three-month period produced 6,049 missed “appointment-setting opportunities,” 1,512 fewer leases and a total lease revenue loss of $17.9 million.

Other lead-management solutions include CrossFire, sold by RealPage, which dovetails with the company’s back-end property management products; and MaxLeases, a Web-based lead tracking and management solution that captures the source of phone and e-mail leads. Some software providers include lead-response training for their clients.

“We work with clients on best practices,” says Dan Hobin, CEO of G5 Search Marketing, whose online marketing platform uses search marketing and social media to drive traffic to client Websites. By “listening to phone call interactions between agents and prospects, people are starting to realize how poor the post-lead performances are.”

Sometimes the challenge is simply not having the resources to monitor phones throughout the day, much less after hours. Here, there are such services as Level One, a call center service for the multifamily industry that not only fields phone queries 24/7, but also provides ad-source reporting, volume, guest-card summaries and visit trends.

Staying on track

In all cases, automation’s greatest benefit is keeping track of all leads and making sure proper follow-up is accomplished.

“When you’re capturing all leads, lead counts will jump up to 300 percent,” notes Don Coppersmith, vice president-business development with eREI Inc., which markets Lead2Lease. “We’ve seen internal surveys that show that, [with automation], the leads actually arriving and being captured increased up to 370 percent.” This is accomplished, he adds, largely because all leads are tracked through to conversion or elimination, with none vanishing from the agent’s view.

For the future, Coppersmith sees text messaging  as a growing trend in how prospective residents will wish to connect with leasing agents. The implication here is that lead-management solutions must
be portable.

Some solutions include analysis and reports that comprise full-featured marketing oversight. Both Lead2Lease and RealPage tout the ability to assess the lead-generation and conversion success of all channels. Here, multifamily communities can become both outstanding “order takers,” as well as marketing resource centers.