By Keat Foong, Executive Editor
It used to be that lead management consisted of manually filling up the prospect card, and maybe making a few follow-up phone calls to the prospect. No longer.
Apartment marketing has largely migrated to the Internet. That means lead management can be conducted electronically. As a result, a variety of powerful tools are now available to help the apartment manager not only follow up on leads, but also to track and analyze the lead sources. In short, new technological capabilities are giving apartment owners market intelligence they did not have access to before.
Lead tracking systems today empower the property manager, at the most basic level, to consistently determine whether the lead originated from a community website, an Internet Listing Site (ILS), a search engine, a drive by or a referral. “There are reports you can run to help you analyze the numbers. There are changing technologies to make sure you can see all the different layers [of lead sources],” says Spencer Harman, product manager of LeasingSuite, Property Solutions.
Harman notes that the apartment industry has become much more focused on data analysis. “It seems property owners today want data, and they want data on a very granular basis. For example, when did the tenant convert? Did they renew? What is the conversion data for this lead source?”
Information regarding the origins of leads will help apartment companies make better decisions in a variety of ways. For example, if the tracking intelligence reveals that about 40 percent of the traffic came from mobile devices, and the prospects were driving through the neighborhood, the apartment company will pay attention to making sure it keeps the grounds well-maintained. “As you learn of the tendencies, you can adjust marketing behavior,” says Harman.
“There are more and more Internet Listing Sites created every day,” adds Harman. Software companies need to integrate with these sites so that their software systems can track which ILS website the lead originated from.
The use of a lead management system enables apartment managers to “understand where their marketing dollars are the most effective,” says Eric Broughton, president of LeaseStar at RealPage, Inc. “That knowledge and insight empowers apartment companies to apply marketing spend more intelligently.”
Apart from providing information as to which media outlets bring more leads, new technology also enables apartment companies to find out which are the marketing channels that exhibit the highest lead-to-lease conversion rates—a crucial piece of information in lead management.
Market intelligence reveals that community websites exhibit the highest lead-to-lease conversion rates, says Broughton. Another source of traffic with robust conversion rates is found in leads that originate from referrals. “Apartment companies need to engage referral traffic. For example, the use of social media channels to allow residents to alert friends and family about your community. We find that socially influenced leads experience two times the conversion of non-socially influenced leads,” advises Broughton.
“More and more multifamily managers today are using lead management systems specifically to track the sources of leads,” agrees Esther Bonardi, industry principal at Yardi Marketing Solutions. “Apartment managers have realized that trusting leasing agents to correctly keep track of lead sources is risky and does not necessarily provide accurate data on where the leads come from,” says Bonardi.
Most apartment owners have adopted lead management systems, says Bonardi. “What is driving this trend is they want to make sure they do not spend on marketing channels unnecessarily.”
According to Bonardi, the technology is revealing that an increasingly higher proportion of leads are originating from property marketing websites, free advertising sites such as Craigslist, as well as pay-per-click advertising on Google and other search engines, rather than Internet Listing Services. Although ILS are still used, “marketing directors are relying more and more on property websites, free advertising and pay-per-click advertising rather than ILS to drive traffic,” says Bonardi.
The only way to obtain market intelligence regarding the lead-to-lease conversion rates for the various websites is through the use of a lead management tracking system, notes Bonardi. It has become important for clients to find out which sites convert at a higher rate, she says.
Bonardi adds that if a particular source of leads, whether an ILS, website or pay-per-click platform, is producing a large amount of traffic, but the traffic exhibits a low level of lead conversion, lead management technology allows the apartment manager to “dig deeper” to obtain more information.
Using the lead-management system, the manager can explore possible reasons for the low conversion rate of that particular lead source. Apartment managers would be able to drill down to the leasing-agent’s level to see if appointments were scheduled, and when and how frequent were the follow ups with the prospects.
According to Property Solutions’ Harman, lead tracking technology that can capture even finer distinctions in data is currently under development. For example, the systems should automatically avoid duplications. If a prospect filled a guest card on the Internet, and at another time walked into the office, the prospect is sometimes counted as two leads, when in fact he or she should be counted as one lead. Noting such distinctions are important, says Harman, to avoid distorting the statistics. “If you see four different leads, but one person signed up, the conversion rate would not look very high.”
It would also be desirable for lead management systems to be able to rank leads according to which ones should take priority in follow ups. Such functionalities will provide even more market intelligence to help apartment managers to, ultimately, turn that lead into a lease.