The Power of Analytics

How well do your metrics track the results of your marketing efforts?

By Keith Loria, Contributing Editor

With the advent of social media, coming up with proper analytics to measure a multifamily management company’s marketing efforts is as challenging as ever. Most marketing should have an immediate as well as a sustaining effect, but all marketing analysis starts with determining where your current residents came from.

Once a company understands how its current good resident initially contacted its community, then it can cast a marketing net over those traffic sources and eliminate other sources that don’t generate traffic or result in minimal move-ins.

“Our current system is based on reviewing regularly scheduled reports and viewing additional detail from our lead management data,” says Lee Reedy, vice president of marketing at Pennrose.

“I’d like to see us move to a system that has a dashboard view of analytics and trending reports, while also facilitating custom queries. I always prefer evaluating data trends versus smaller packets of information, but I think different types of marketing do have varying timeframes for evaluating their effectiveness.”

Rick Ellis, president of ELLIS Consulting Group, Inc., believes that when it comes to marketing multifamily, too many apartment professionals focus on generating traffic.

“Actually, the purpose of marketing is not more traffic or even a positive social media presence or great reviews on the numerous apartment rating websites. Rather, the primary objective is more move-ins, preferably resulting in long-term residents who renew their leases multiple times,” he says. “Analysis starts with identifying all traffic—Internet leads, phone calls, walk-ins, drive-bys—etc., and you want to know as much as possible the initial contact source.”

Note that knowing all traffic sources will also give you an idea of where not to market. For example, in some situations you may find your worse prospect is the pure drive by; people see your sign and banners and just drop in. After tracking actual traffic sources for six months, you find that 80 percent of the residents who either skip or are chronically delinquent found the property as drive-bys. In that case, you might go against all normal marketing wisdom and minimize signage and eliminate banners.

Other times you will find that your best residents who renew and stay longer come from an online realtor and locator referral program.
In this case, you may want to increase the presence of that marketing effort and reach our to realtors and locators in an even more intentional way.

Greystar, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based property management company, considers itself to be a very analytical-minded organization and it uses internal databases and does a lot of tracking to really hone in on the results of
its marketing.

“We made a big investment to focus on making sure we have metrics and systems in place to track and measure our marketing efforts. We want to eliminate guesswork as much as possible and make sure we’re spending our marketing dollars wisely, and we’re investing correctly,” says Israel Carunungan, director of marketing for the company. “Because of the lead management system we have in play, we’re able to see the results of our advertising but also adjust and optimize based on results.”

Social media evaluation

Jennifer Staciokas, vice president of marketing & training for Lincoln Property Company, says her organization analyzes marketing effectiveness through its lead management systems as well as by
reviewing Google Analytics. The company looks at interaction and engagement through its social media dashboard as well.

“We use most of the different social media channels from a corporate perspective and focus on the blog, Facebook and Twitter on the community level,” she says. “It’s not one-size-fits-all, so many of our communities also work on Pinterest, Instagram and Foursquare. We’re finding that Twitter is only effective if a significant amount of focus is put on communicating with the followers instead of selling to them.”

When adding a new service, Staciokas says she typically lets it run three to six months before making any decisions to continue or discontinue.

“For us, we are most focused on conversion to lease with our marketing and what sources provide that at the lowest cost with the most qualified traffic,” she says. “In the social realm, we are looking for engagement and messages that resonate well with our customer base to provide value to their lives.”

Truth be told, measuring the effectiveness of social media can be one of the most challenging aspects of a comprehensive marketing program.

“Everyone seems obsessed with the marketing opportunities in social media, but it should not be an apartment community’s primary marketing source or tool,” Ellis says. “Yet, a good social media marketing strategy will have some measurable indicators such as ‘likes and shares,’ mentions on other sites, positive feedback and comments, and ultimately referrals to your property by happy, satisfied residents.”

For Pennrose, email marketing remains an effective and efficient lead generator and communication tool, but Reedy admits it’s difficult to determine whether other social media channels are fading or just not being utilized to their full potential.

“Short of getting online analytics data, we have to rely on interpretive data. We look for consistent increases in increased traffic and referral sources during social media campaigns,” she says. “I think there are pitfalls in overgeneralizing based on very specific or targeted data. Short spikes don’t always equate to long-term trends. I think a challenge equal to finding good metrics is in letting go of reports that don’t contribute to our business intelligence efforts.”

Obviously the posts and reviews will indicate to some degree the general perception of your community and company, but the idea of using social media to drive traffic generation has not proven successful. In fact, many comments and posts on a typical apartment community’s or management company’s Facebook page would either confuse prospects or drive them away.

“Your audience in most cases is not rental prospects but your actual residents. The strategy might be to influence them to refer to you by creating a sense of community and a ‘good neighbor’ atmosphere,” Ellis says. “The benefit may be primarily resident goodwill and better resident retention. You might say that social media is best used not as a marketing tool but a RE-Marketing tool; selling the apartment community to the residents who already live there. It is the idea of re-leasing to current rent-paying customers.”

You can get valuable information about referrals from your social networks and other cooperating websites using Google Analytics, but the challenge is taking the time to monitor the data, interpret it, and use  analytics to adjust and tweak the online marketing strategy. Carunungan warns that not everything is black and white in the social media realm, so it’s less relevant to Greystar’s marketing than its online reputation management space.

Final thoughts

According to Ellis, the overall key metric of success lies in the number of move-ins and the way to evaluate and manage marketing best should be based on the real source of all traffic.

“Follow the traffic as it becomes a new resident. Then you have the most important information to create your marketing strategy—the actual traffic source of your move-ins,” he says.

“Remember, the objective of marketing is not traffic generation, excellent reviews, or a positive online presence and reputation. The bottom line is more residents who move in and stay and then refer others.”

Don’t ever give up on trying to track the initial click source for Internet leads and drill down to see how and why the consumer clicked here, and then there, and finally clicked through to your site or advertising somewhere on some listing service. It is worth the effort.

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