The Evolution of Lead Generation

Ways to capture the attention of prospective renters and the evolution of generating leads continue to change. Beth Tuttle of LMC offers some ideas on the current state of lead generation in the multifamily industry.
Beth Tuttle

Beth Tuttle

Many of today’s multifamily marketing professionals entered the industry in a time when pay-per-click advertising didn’t even exist. Nor did most current forms of social media. Community websites didn’t include pricing and you had to go into each Internet Listing Service individually to update your pricing.

A lifetime ago, right? No, we’re talking early 2000s, which is about 100 years ago in tech terms.

Since then, ways to capture the attention of a prospective renter have completely transformed. The evolution of generating leads continues to change on a month-to-month basis. And today’s marketing makes the processes of the early 2000s feel as distant and antiquated as the 1970s.

It’s an entirely different landscape, as technology has made lead generation more efficient and has allowed us to cast a much wider net of potential prospects. It has given marketers a way to attract potential residents on a vast array of mediums to suit their lifestyles and user preferences. Technology has also provided 24/7 access to reliable information and consistent branding across nearly all digital platforms. 

Today, it’s impossible to be a marketer in the apartment industry – or any industry – without having advanced technical skills and extensive knowledge of social media, marketing theory, Google analytics and digital marketing strategy. The most significant part of the job in 2017 is the ability to leverage new information technologies to generate demand for your apartment homes. With that in mind, here are some ideas on the current state of lead generation in the industry.

Marketers must get tech-savvy

Lead generation and technology are now inherently interconnected, which means IT, systems and pricing teams should be heavily integrated with marketing. While marketing teams are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, it’s not often to the extent that they can effectively manage sophisticated pricing software or develop software integrations to feed real-time availability into ILS systems. 

At minimum, it’s important for marketing teams to understand how Google analytics works, how to track their sources and how social media and review management can serve as lead generators. Tracking resident behavior is perhaps the most important component, as crediting a conversion to a first or last touch point is too simplistic to measure the effectiveness of marketing channels. Prospects almost always engage with several sources throughout the search process, and they all play a role. Marketers need to be able to properly weight the impact of every marketing channel through a multi-touch attribution model.

That being said, marketing teams need to be aware of changing resident behavior while also taking care of the marketing basics. The shifting behavior is rooted in the idea that prospects like to find information on demand whenever they want it. That means the days of not posting your pricing online so you can upsell at the door are long gone. Prospective residents want real-time information and they’ll scour review and social media sites to get a sense for what it’s like living at the community.

On the flip side, you don’t want to abandon some of the founding principles of apartment marketing. At LMC, we continue to utilize grassroots concepts in an effort to build our reputation organically. We continue to do outreach marketing so we’re building relationships with our local businesses, because those businesses refer people our way. Yes, the technology component is increasingly important, but you also want to make sure you’re doing your basic blocking and tackling.

Email marketing remains valuable

As technology progresses, email marketing can seem archaic. But make no mistake, a solidly constructed email campaign still offers significant value and can yield strong conversion ratios. At LMC, we’ve ramped up our e-blasts by including virtual tours of our apartment communities from a Matterport camera. When prospective renters receive the email campaign, it’s more than just a note to visit and lease at one of our communities. It’s an opportunity to tour the apartment community virtually from their couch. These emails can be particularly effective to a prospect that works during the week and isn’t free until Saturday.

The key to maximizing an email campaign: make it relevant. If your email is not relevant, it gets deleted (or worse – unsubscribed) because of the sheer volume of emails the average person receives.

Avoid complacency

Like many technological advancements, new development in lead generation could be obsolete within months. That’s why it’s important to understand that lead generation is a fluid, ever-evolving concept and you cannot get complacent. Attending conferences and continuing education is vital. We have been introduced to some groundbreaking products and programs at these events. And several of those have become trusted and important components in our marketing toolbox.

Constantly reviewing automated reports helps prevent getting too comfortable. It’s important to keep learning all the time. One campaign might be working for your communities now, but you have to remain acutely aware of what else is out there. Don’t be shy to modify the campaign if it is struggling at a particular community. With technology advancing and changing so quickly, sometimes it’s worth it to take a chance. Sure, it won’t pan out every time, but sometimes an unconventional idea ends up becoming a solid lead source or management tool that can save your team money in the long run.

Future of lead generation

Looking forward, I believe lead-nurturing campaigns will continue to become more robust. Bots and automation will become increasingly prevalent in managing leads, but in a more natural and humanlike way, to where prospects won’t even realize they’re talking to a bot. These advancements will give our prospective residents an even better customer experience. And they will be able to find the deep, detailed information they want at 3 a.m. rather than having to wait for office hours.

I believe PPC will continue to constitute a significant portion of the marketing spend, but we will continue to be more specific and advanced. Targeting is going to become more efficient and effective. As technology continues to provide concepts such as marketing automation and multi-touch attribution, lead generation continues to evolve. And it is progressing at such a rate that the ideas we’re utilizing in 2017 might also start to feel like they’re from the distant past – like the early 2000s – within a few years.

Beth Tuttle is the vice president of marketing for LMC. She is responsible for the recent LMC rebranding efforts as well as collaborating with the LMC marketing team to support pre-development, marketing and promotion, and reputation management for a national portfolio of new construction projects.