New York—On Tuesday, June 5, multifamily marketing expert Kate Good participated in a live chat on the MHN Facebook page to answer readers’ questions about lease-up strategies.
Below is the transcript of the chat session.
Good: Hi, everyone. This is a first for me—taking over another’s Facebook wall. But, here goes…let’s talk about marketing and leasing strategies. I have been working full-time on new construction and so happy it is back! It’s about time we start building again.
Question: Kate, what would be the three most critical things you would advise me to look for when reviewing the sales and marketing activities of a large apartment portfolio today?
Good: We live in good times and the access to data can be overwhelming. I pour over it constantly. One of the biggest worries that I have right now is that we are not looking at all of our traffic, just what the reports tell us. There is so much more coming in the door.
At the AIM conference this year I discussed the importance of counting everything that walks in the door because no matter who it is, your own site team must respond in the same way. This could pull them away from leasing and renewing. You need to know these numbers.
A company called Counting Technologies has a door monitor that counts and gives your reports down to the hour. It helped me staff a lease-up when others thought we did not need the people.
I also look at what source of traffic is closing, not just visiting. And then over the course of the years I like to see what source brought me the most qualified leases, and people who paid, did not skip out or get evicted. I am also comparing the number of people visiting our website and our Facebook page and comparing them.
Question: Terrific advice all around, Kate! Thanks for sharing!
Good: This is fun! I am glad we can do this!
Question: What has been your biggest challenge for the lease-up you are working on now?
Good: Honestly it has been staffing. We have a lot of traffic and can’t spend enough time with them.
Question: What trends are you seeing in Internet/phone/cable offerings in new developments?
Good: More and more we are seeing flexibility.
Question: Thank you. We are trying to get as many choices as possible.
Good: As you know, landlines are not important to renters much. But they do care about the system they can get. AT&T is making a lot of residents happy these days.
Question: I heard that. I am very glad to hear that from you. We are trying to make sure we build for the future—not just what we can get today!
Good: This is a quality-of-life issue, so study it and make a good decision.
Question: What are your top three lease-up strategies?
Good: Buzz—early on, start the buzz. Cross promotion with other businesses to get people talking. This is the only time you get to own your buzz. Make it powerful and get attention.
Next, build a database of lookers and influencers. You will need them for pre-leasing.
Get your website and Facebook pages up and rolling quickly. When people want information about this site they are seeing being built, you want to control what they know.
Once you start leasing, control what your team is leasing. Jennifer Nevitt taught me not to let the leasing team cherry pick the best apartments at the top of the lease up. This strategy will help you push prices the entire way through the lease up. Isn’t Jen smart!
Good: How is this for attention-grabbing marketing?
Good: It got my attention! Way to turn the tables.
Question: I am in the Tacoma market. We are struggling with getting traffic in the door the past couple of weeks. I have checked our online and print ads and I have done a recent market survey, and everything appears to look good. I have been able to post to Craigslist a few times a day. What else can we do to help generate traffic?
Good: I think this is a time when you need to shake it up. Don’t drop what you are doing, but add to it with a themed campaign. Get people talking about you again. Try something new, fun, funny, smart, cool. I am going to post a picture of a banner I saw in New York City that is cool! The theme is great and it will get people looking at them again. Remember, when traffic is down, work those renewals!
Good: This is so effective!
Question: There is nothing like an “out of the box” message like this. I feel like people do not utilize banners or outdoor lighting as creatively as they should.
Good: I agree! There is such a thing as drive-by traffic. Make it happen.
Question: Hi Kate, what do you typically budget per unit for marketing a new lease up?
Good: It depends on the market and how long I think the campaign will take. Normally it is anywhere from $300-$700 a unit. There are plenty of people that spend more, but I never get to work for those owners!
Question: How can I compete in a super-tight market without matching price? I have a good staff, great product. Any ideas for standing out?
Good: I hear ya! There is a reason why you are charging more. Work that reason and push hard. Your team will have to be a little sharper and a whole lot better at selling value vs. your comps.
You can always add things that residents love like Valet Waste, Resident Places (coupons for residents) and other items of value.
Question: We’ve been thinking of adding trash pick up as a concierge service but have concerns about leaking, smells, pets getting in the garbage, etc. We have a top-notch maintenance team, but we still think there will be issues. Any tips or other trends you are seeing in these types of services?
Good: That will not be a problem if you work with an outside source such as Valet Waste. They pick up trash over 20 days a months.
Question: Hi Kate, we have a property that we just broke ground on. I won’t be managing it personally, but I thought I would ask anyway. What are some of the most important tools needed to begin marketing/getting the word out there?
Good: Wow! That is a good question. Start your signage early such as dust curtains and banners. I think it is important to not wait to build your website. As soon as you have your name, logo and permits, build that baby—at least a landing page—and start to collect email addresses.
Question: Hello. I am going to be managing a new construction product about nine miles from a major banking city. Would like to know what new trends in marketing are there to attract the right clients. There is a housing community opposite the community and a major thoroughfare very close to the project.
Good: Do something to push people to your website and/or Facebook page. This is where you can control the message and capture their information. You are also in a great area for market outreach.
Question: What is your opinion on “pre-leasing,” and if you are in favor, when is the right time to start the “pre-leasing” effort?
Good: Yes! Pre-lease. There was a time where people “had to see it first,” but I am not noticing that as much now. We will do an agreement whereby the new customer can change their mind once they see it, but otherwise they are obligated to move in within 15 days of the apartment to finish getting it.
Question: Thanks for your response. Does the agreement with 15 days provision stand in all states, more specifically speaking, I would like to know if that is allowed in California and Washington.
Good: I can’t answer that but if I was working in your market I could. Always check with the legal people! They want to bill you a few hours anyway.
Question: What is the best way to handle any negative posts on social media? Do you hide it, acknowledge it, etc.?
Good: Answer them honestly and as a pro! Show the customer that you care and want to make it right. This is a very good time to take in the feedback and make changes if you need to or just communicate with the people who are influencing leasing decisions.
Question: What do you recommend in the way of outreach marketing?
Good: Very important! I like to arm my leasing and marketing team with a Leasing Tablet from Vaultware that is loaded with everything they need to tour no matter where they are. They take them to lunch! Also, reach out to area businesses with the ability to market back to your residents. This is a win/win situation.
Good: This is a cool new idea! An auction for a marketing campaign. Soup to nuts: www.liveapartmentstyle.com.
Question: Birmingham, Ala., has around 900 new units being delivered over the next six months, with an additional 1,500 over the next 18 months. What are some of the best YouTube strategies you have used/seen on lease up? (Besides the stock smiling people slideshow.) We are marketing 29Seven Apartments and are producing videos for the lease up.
Good: I worked on the marketing for the lease up at Parc at Grandview. I know your market well. I will check out your video!
For a fun business launch video, check out www.dollarshaveclub.com. It’s the direction I think we should go and have some fun. It certainly gets attention.
Question: Yes. Love that video.
Question: Love the Dollar Shave video!
Question: Yes, Parc at Grandview is doing very well with the social media presence.
Good: The best part about their social position is that we did not give the onsite team a bunch of rules. The property is managed by RAM and they do a great job teaching people to be pros. Our team has always come up with cool ideas but stayed professional. Even I like to see what they are going to do next!
Question: I have two new mid-rise communities opening up in Atlanta this fall. Any new and creative ideas that are working on lease-up properties that you can share?
Good: Love the Atlanta market. It can be very competitive so you need something special. For lease-ups I like to reach out to a creative team at an agency. You have a great one in Atlanta named Koncepts. They can get really creative if you push them. Ask for a campaign that will rock the peaches out of the trees. Be bold, fun and very creative.
Question: Have you ever heard of an agency named Fred.Agency (www.fredagency.com)?
Good: That is new for me! Tell me more. Are you working with them?
Question: They are pitching a campaign next week. They did the campaign for Eleven North in Nashville—take a look at www.elevennorth.com. Rumor has it they were 50 percent leased before they opened the clubhouse doors.
Good: Woo hoo! They look cool. I am going to check them out.
Question: What role has social media played in your latest lease-up and what latest technology trends have you found to be the most successful.
Good: We used Facebook to show our progress. It kept people hooked and interested in what we were doing. It was also a way to show each amenity and finish as it was being built. I think it made people feel like they were watching their home being built. Also, when we posted videos we got a lot of attention. For other technology, I am super excited about Leasing Tablet and Touch Screen.
Question: Are you finding that staffing a new lease-up requires more leasing associates, and how do you sell that need to the owners? Do you see leasing kiosks being used more?
Good: Yes, we need more people to handle the traffic. In an earlier post I dicussed Counting Technologies’ door counter. It gives you a realistic view of everyone that walks in the door. And let’s be honest, it matters not who is walking in the door because the leasing team always has to stand and greet.
The price of touch-screen kiosks has really dropped down. I was really impressed with some work that Engrain did for a property in San Antonio.
Question: Do you have any research/case studies on the need for more people, etc. for marketing purposes?
Good: We usually staff one per 100, but what we learned from Counting Technologies’ report was that we needed more than that. I also needed more staff on Mondays and Fridays. We had almost double the people walking in these days.
Question: You certainly need to increase your staff/units ratio during lease-up, but the extent of which depends on the property and asset class. For instance, a student property certainly needs some additional attention during the spring lease-up, while LIHTC properties need more admin help for compliance. What type of property do you have in mind?
Good: I agree! For 300 units we learned that we needed six people. That gave me the staff for outreach that translates to leases.
Question: Nielsen just released “The Hispanic Market Imperative,” their 2012 study on marketing and building a sustainable brand for the Hispanic audience. What are three ideas you think that can help apartment communities and property management companies effectively reach this audience? Example, onsite/offsite, traditional/digital media and technology.
Good: I need to read this report. We are living in a very diverse world. And, although Fair Housing Laws have required us to stay “fair,” I think there is so much more to do to really understand the opportunity to markets such as the Hispanic market.
I live in Arizona and am working on two lease-ups, so this will be a very important demographic to understand. I can probably better answer your question in about six months when I have read the report and gained some additional exposure. I plan to have focus groups and ask a lot of questions. I am always learning.
Question: It’s a great read! Here is the link to download the report as well as for other MHN audience members to do the same if interested: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports-downloads/2012/state-of-the-hispanic-consumer-the-hispanic-market-imperative.html.
Question: We are going to have some construction going on at the property with people’s patios and decks. What have you found that will keep people happy while all of this is going on?
Good: Wow, in the summer? Maybe you could do an event where your pool or some common area becomes the community deck. Things are always more fun in bigger numbers. Have a deck party and celebrate the improvements at your property.
Question: Excited to hear Kate Good’s advice!
Good: This is a lot of fun!
Question: No question from me, but I am loving the format. I am keeping up with the Q&A on my phone!
Question: Thanks for sharing, Kate, you’re awesome! I hope MHN asks you to do this again.
Good: Me too! [Note from the editor: Kate is welcome back any time!]
Question: Are there any marketing websites you have found helpful with ideas for lease-ups/new construction?
Good: Recently I have been getting a lot of great ideas and inspiration outside of our industry. I loved the Mini Cooper Peep Show. I saw it in Los Angeles and was totally blown away. Nothing to do with apartments, but so cool. Google it. Follow your favorite brands that do cool stuff and learn the lesson. Copy it and adapt for our business. Other companies pay a lot of money for it, and you can learn on their dime.
This was great fun! Thanks, everyone.
Note from the editor: Please note that information, such as names and locations, were omitted from the transcript to protect our readers’ privacy. Additionally, the questions and answers have been edited for spelling and grammar.