Yardi/G5 Webinar Reveals Strategies for “Wowing” Online Prospects and Residents

In an hour-long webinar on September 27, industry insiders pinpoint the most effective ways to impress prospects with innovative online marketing strategies.

By Philip Shea, Associate Editor

In an hour-long webinar on September 27, Yardi and G5 Digital Experience Management spoke with industry insiders to pinpoint the most effective ways to “wow” prospects with innovative online marketing strategies. Advice ranged from efficient SEO configuration to “responsive design” websites and mobile apps, while emphasizing the continued need for quality in-person service.

The presentation kicked off with the premise that customers must continue to be impressed at every phase in the customer life cycle, a process that really begins before a prospect even views a property’s website.  This particular moment, dubbed the “Zero Moment of Truth,” takes place when the prospect is searching for an apartment online and comes across the link for the site.

“Consider that 53 percent of apartment seekers cite websites as their primary apartment search tool, and 73 percent of renters rank search engines as one of their primary apartment sources,” says Dan Roehl, vice president of strategic initiatives at G5. “With that in mind, you have to focus on how you build high-quality web trafficking [and] capture prospects at that ‘Zero Moment of Truth.’”

Roehl suggests that management companies first “claim and optimize” their Google+ page and other ratings and review sites. Subsequently, managers need to monitor these sites and take control of their online reputation by responding to and following up with comments. Attention should also be paid to which keywords are linked to your website through search engines, and Roehl recommends emphasis on location-based keywords.

Pacific Urban Director of Marketing, Rene Bilodeau, says that her company sees SEO as so important that they recently exported SEO management to specialists as opposed to placing this task with the apartment staff. As such, Pacific Urban’s marketing platform has now become primarily SEO-driven.

“This has been our biggest game changer because our management companies are really apartment experts and understandably are not able to keep up with the changing SEO trends,” says Bilodeau. “After the sixth month, we’ve seen an increase in traffic [by] as much as 54 percent, leads have increased about 30 percent, and in one case, costs per lead have decreased from about $14 to just under $2, which is pretty amazing.”

When prospects get to the site, the next step of the customer life cycle essentially begins. At this point, the prospect has come to the property website and can essentially be considered a lead. Obviously, a sleek and easily navigable website can go a long way toward impressing the new lead, but in recent years, an even more important aspect has arisen in this universe.

Considering that so many professionals today access the web not only through their computers, but also through smartphones and tablets, a new web design philosophy called “responsive design” will be of tremendous benefit to any management company. With this unique type of design, a property website becomes instantly compatible with all types of devices.

“Simply put, responsive design is a single website that automatically adapts to any screen size,” says Roehl. “You get one website that functions flawlessly on any device. It also means you’re not going to dilute your SEO across desktop- and mobile-specific sites.”

Roehl adds, “When it comes to SEO, responsive design adheres to the best practices that are specifically recommended by the search engines themselves.”

Once leads are secured and they become residents, keeping on the best terms possible with them will further build upon one’s marketing reputation and perhaps lead them to the last and most coveted phase of the customer life cycle: that of advocate. Esther Bonardi, industry principal at Yardi Systems/RentCafe Solutions, highlights the usefulness of a convenient leasing workflow and pertinent online resident services.

“Winning the lease is not the end—you’ve got to keep ‘wowing’ your residents with online services in order to win their business year after year,” says Bonardi. “That means providing things like online payments, online leasing requests, online lease renewals, and so much more. And it means delivering it to them wherever they are, so you need to make sure that these services are available through mobile sites and through a great mobile app.”

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