SEO & Apartment Marketing: The Next Step

A very long time ago (circa 2008) the leasing world was a simpler place. Place an ad on Craigslist or in a newspaper, and sit back and watch the renter leads flow in. The most complicated it ever got was when you wanted to add a template to Craigslist. Those were what I would call "the good old days." 

Flash forward ten years and the leasing world could not be more complicated. From ILS sites, listing syndication systems, Social Media, Blogs, Google Adwords, Remarketing and more, there are numerous marketing channels to choose from.

However, there is one area that could be the most important, but seldom gets the attention it deserves, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Curiously most apartment communities either don't think SEO can have a significant impact, or are dissuaded by trying to compete with the "big boys." Whatever the reason, SEO needs to be the next step in your apartment communities marketing efforts. 

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? 

Search Engine Optimization is the process of building a strong search engine presence to ensure visitors can more easily find your website amongst all your competitors online. The primary aim is to improve your websites page ranking so that renters will see your website when they type specific keywords or phrases into search engines like Google. 

In simplest terms, it's getting your website to the top of search engine results for searches that your renters conduct (i.e., apartments in Charlotte, rentals in San Antonio, etc.)

Why is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Important?

Based on research, 72% of renters turn to the Internet first when starting a search for an apartment. Of that, 30% of those renters begin their search with a search engine. That means 30% of all renter's searching online for apartments, start with a Google or Yahoo search. 

With that being the case, if your community is ranked higher then your competitors, it gives your website greater visibility and in return, more leads.

With more and more competition in the multifamily industry, setting yourself apart from your competitors is crucial.

How Do I Compete With The "Big Boys" (i.e., Apartments.com)?

Obviously, ILS sites tend to rank higher for a lot of keyword searches. However, based on testing, it is possible for a local community to rank higher high enough for certain keywords to compete with even the national sites.

For example, if you search for something like "Manayunk Apartments," you'll see the search results show the majority of national sites on the 1st page. But if you scroll to the bottom of the first page, you'll see a Link for "Station at Manayunk," which is a locally owned apartment community. You might not be able to beat them, but you can compete! 

Just ranking on the first page, gives you a HUGE advantage over your competitors!

3 Steps to Increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rankings

Keyword Research - Research keywords that match what renters are searching for. Start by choosing keywords that aren't high volume. Instead of "Philadelphia Apartments" Choose the neighborhood you're in and add amenities, such as "Rittenhouse Square 1 bedroom apartments."

Content Development - Next step involves developing content (articles, blog posts) about each of the keywords you want to target. Articles should be natural sounding (not the word repeated over and over). Your goal should be to develop content for each of those keywords and post them on your site. 

Backlinking - The last step involves "backlinking,"i.e., getting another source to post your article or blog post and link back to your site.  They are extremely useful to search engines because they give a good indication that a website is popular. You can start by contacting local "bloggers" and see if they would be interested in putting your content on their site. Or you can post your articles to national sites. Be warned...do not trust cheap "backlink" building sites, as the majority are scams and can actually hurt you more than help you. 

In conclusion, there is a lot more involved in this process, but these are some simple steps will get you on the right track. Remember, the process of SEO can be labor-intensive and time-consuming but done correctly, can pay HUGE dividends in not only increasing your lead generation but decreasing your overall lead acquisition costs!

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)

What is Your Community's "Potential Resident Experience"?

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A lot of property and asset managers like to talk about the "Resident Experience," but few dedicate the time to making sure the Potential Resident Experience is the best it can be. In some ways, the Potential Resident Experience is as significant as the resident experience, if not more so.

What is the Potential Resident Experience?

The Potential Resident Experience is the total experience a renter has from first seeing your community online to signing their lease. In essence, the sum of all their interactions with your community. The underlying logic is that the better overall experience your prospective resident has, the more inclined they are to remember your community, recommend your community to others and ultimately become a resident.

What affects the Potential Resident's Experience?

Numerous things can have a positive or negative effect on the Potential Resident's Experience. They can range from the obvious things such as the ease of use of your website, the cleanliness of your community and how friendly your staff is, to the subtle things like your signage and ease of your application process. Here is a list of the Top 10 things that can have a POSITIVE impact on a potential resident's experience (in no particular order):

  • Easy to Use Website
  • Prompt and Timely Communications
  • Professional Marketing
  • Accurate Pricing Information
  • Friendly Staff Interaction
  • Community Cleanliness
  • Proper Signage
  • Professionally Staged Unit(s)
  • Easy Application / Lease Process
  • Cleanliness of Vacant Units

Samples of Negative Potential Resident Experiences

There are many things that can give a potential resident a bad experience, but here are just a couple of areas that are often overlooked that can have a big impact on your potential resident's experience.

Unusable Mobile Website
One of the more frustrating things we see are the mobile websites of some communities. Many are outdated, are very hard to navigate and bury the most important parts of their sites behind lousy navigation. Not having an easy-to-use mobile site can be highly frustrating to a potential tenant and therefore, ultimately have a real impact on your lead generation efforts. 

Cheap Looking Staged Units
A critical part of the sales process is showing potential tenants what their apartment could look like. Nothing can have more impact than a unit that is supposed to be "staged" but looks like someone just moved out and left all their bad IKEA furniture behind.

Lousy Front Desk Attendant
We have all come across a situation where a front desk attendant has been dismissive or rude. While most of the time we shrug this off, this can have a substantial effect on how a resident views the community and staff.

Frustrating Leasing Office Signage
We can't tell you how many times we have visited communities that have either no signs or confusing ones on where the leasing office is and how to get there. Nothing is more frustrating than spending 5-10 minutes driving around looking for the leasing office. Merely putting a sign that says leasing office and an arrow does not cut it for specific communities.

In conclusion, we highly advise that every property manager or owner to take the time to "walk a mile" in their prospective resident's shoes to see how the experience is. It's paramount to make sure your prospective residents are having a great experience when interacting with your community.

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)

Apartment Staffing 101: Don’t Hire Nice People

Apartment staffing can be tricky business. Over the years, I have managed and hired hundreds of Leasing Agents. It can be tough trying to find the right candidate. Early in my career, I made many mistakes when it came to hiring. Some candidates I thought would be great turned out to be all talk and no action, while others who I thought would be just “ok,” turned out to be excellent employees. 

But one of the biggest mistakes I made was presuming that because a candidate was “nice,” that they would be a great Leasing Agent. However, what I found is that while “nice” individuals are perfectly acceptable, all of the “great” leasing agents I ever hired were very “kind” people.  

What's The Difference Between "Kind" and Being "Nice"?

It's a common misconception that being "nice" and being "kind" are the same thing. People tend to confuse the two. They are in fact two separate traits that can make a big difference in an employee's performance. 

Individuals that are "nice," tend to be very polite, are well-liked, show common courtesy and are very personable. Most of the agents I come across fall into this category. 

On the other hand, "kind" individuals are the ones that always show empathy for others, try to help wherever they can and always seem to put other people's interest above their well being. This shows in their sales techniques (i.e., connecting with renters), their role within the organization, their willingness to help fellow employees and most importantly, their closing ratios.
 
3 Interview Questions for Hiring "Kind" Individuals

A lot of clients ask me "how do I tell if someone is 'kind' and not just being "nice."? Well, there are a couple of specific questions I always ask that seem to do the trick:

1. Tell me about the last time you helped someone? 

This is somewhat of a trick question. A lot of candidates will quickly answer with something about helping a family member or a friend. But the ones that respond by saying they helped someone they didn't know, tend to be very "kind" individuals. 

2. Who is your role model (besides a family member), and why?

This tends to be a fun question to ask. However, the answer can sometimes be very telling. Most of the answers tend to be famous figures (Abe Lincoln, Washington, Beyonce), but with kind people, you will get great responses like Mother Theresa, Dali Lama, etc. But the best answer I ever got was Bill Gates. Not because of the money he made but because he is giving it all away to charity. 

3. What does “empathy” mean to you?

This is a very open-ended question that you will get a variety of responses. Some individuals may not know the meaning of the word at all, which in itself will tell you something. But this question can tell you a lot about the candidate and how they will treat your potential renters and current tenants. 

I see many people in this industry who are trained to be nice but fail to act kindly. You can't train kindness. However, you can hire it. Hiring a "kind" candidate will help your bottom line as well as your organization's overall success.

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)

ReMarketing - The Secret Weapon of Apartment Leasing

So you're browsing the internet. Let's say you're on Amazon.com. You view some items then decide to check the news over at CNN.com. Magically, you start to see ads for products you just saw on Amazon on the CNN site. How did they know? Is it magic? Some kind of sorcery?

No, it's Remarketing.

Remarketing is a relatively new way of showing targeted ads to individuals that have previously visited your website - as they browse elsewhere on the internet. It has been primarily used by big retailers over the last couple of years with great success and now, could be a game changer for the multifamily industry.

Remarketing & Apartment Marketing

One of the most significant deficiencies in the apartment marketing world has been brand awareness and website conversion.

Let's say Jane Renter is browsing your website. She likes your building but isn't ready to pull the trigger. She leaves and keeps browsing the internet. You've now lost her as a lead. You've spent considerable dollars and time to get Jane Renter to your site, only to see her leave without contacting you.

However, with Remarketing, Jane Renter will now start seeing eye-catching ads for your building on other sites she visits. This will increase your brand awareness as well as the overall conversion of your leads.

Benefits

There are a variety of different benefits to utilizing a remarketing campaign as part of your communities overall marketing plan.

Inexpensive - Instead of paying for ads to a broad audience, you can show ads to JUST visitors of your site.

Increase Brand Awareness - By increasing your brand awareness, you can keep your community at the forefront of renters minds throughout the "decision making" period.

Higher Conversion - Instead of having leads leave your site without any contact, remarketing entices renters to contact your community, which leads to substantial increases in percentage conversion.

If you're looking for a way to convert more of your website traffic, raise your brand awareness and acquire more tenants, remarketing is an inexpensive and highly effective option.

 

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (www.breadbox.consulting)

 

Apartment Marketing 2.0 - Top 5 "Must Have" Marketing Strategies

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“What do you mean I can’t just post an ad on Craigslist and lease my entire building?” In this day and age, I never expect to hear that, but to my surprise, I still hear those words from developers and managers.

The problem is, long gone are those days of posting free Craigslist ads and watching the leads roll in. These days, it takes a lot more than simple ads to get a building leased and stay competitive.

Even communities or portfolios who have moved beyond that, have resigned themselves to the status quo of marketing. You know the ones, they throw an ad on Apartments.com and post "how to spruce up your kitchen" posts on Facebook and still wonder why they have vacancy issues.

You have to be creative, involved and spend the time and money to ensure your property is at the forefront when renters are searching for an apartment. Here is what should be the most vital parts of any communities marketing plan:

SEO | SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
This might be the most important of all the recommendations. Having a comprehensive SEO strategy is paramount to your community being found online. It also can provide a HUGE boost to reduced cost lead generation as well as a competitive edge in your market.

PPC | ADWORDS
A fundamental of leasing these days, AdWords advertising can produce excellent results if you know how to optimize it. The keys to a successful AdWords campaign is testing, good copyrighting and keyword selection. Remember, you not the only one doing this, so be creative in your ads!

REMARKETING
Relatively new to the multifamily world, Remarketing, is the ability to show ads of your properties to visitors of your website while they browse other sites. This is a GREAT way to keep your community front and center in renters minds!

SOCIAL ADVERTISING
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram Advertising are now a fundamental source of leads and branding for the multifamily industry. Like AdWords, Social Advertising allows communities to promote their brand within the networks. Onc huge advantage is the ability to target renters based on social, demographic and income data, becoming a very cost-effective way to reach potential tenants.

REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
How your property or community looks online directly impacts your leasing. Negative items showing up online can damage your brand, whereas having a positive online reputation leads to increased leads and retention rates. Every community needs a plan to deal with reputation management.

Our team here at BreadBox are experts in multifamily Apartment Marketing and would love to show you how we can help you lease more apartments! For more information on our marketing services, please click the link below or contact us at info@breadbox.consulting. 

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)

IDEAS FOR RENT - Developing a Reputation Management Plan

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Let's be honest. Very few in our industry like online review websites. They are a constant struggle. Very rarely do they provide a sound mechanism to generate leads and more often than not, they lead to bad reputations, decreased lead generation, and fewer renewals.

However, we still need to deal with them. Online review sites are here to stay and should not be ignored. Hoping they go away won't solve the problem. However, if you have the right plan, you can make sure you are setup for success.

Reputation Management Plan

It's essential, if not vital that every community today develops a plan on how to deal with online reviews. The goal of any good Reputation Management plan is to minimize the impact of adverse reviews while improving the number of positive reviews left by renters and tenants.

STEP #1 - Respond to Negative Reviews

A Reputation Management plan starts with responding to reviews in a timely, understanding and mature manner.  

  1. React Quickly and Politely - Not responding to negative reviews can be the worst thing a community can do. Ignoring it doesn't make it better. Respond to every review quickly and politely.
  2. Address Criticism - When responding to a review, acknowledge the criticism if it is valid. You must address the issue "head-on." Making excuses or passing-the-buck can only lead to more criticism and worse reviews.
  3. Empathize with Complaints - What would you write if you had the same experience? Empathizing with a renter or tenant about their issues shows you understand them and can sympathize with their problems.

STEP #2 - Ask for Positive Reviews

One way to use review sites to your advantage is to ASK for reviews from residents. There are several software systems available to do this such as BirdEye (birdeye.com) , Reputation Loop (www.reputationloop.com), Podium (www.podium.com) etc. You can also use online resident surveys to ask for positive feedback as well as direct solicitation of your residents through flyers and snail mail.

Always remember to direct residents (or potential tenants) to leave positive reviews for you on sites like Yelp and Google Local Search!

STEP #3 - Negative Review Minimization

To mitigate negative reviews, you can use something called Negative Review Minimization. This process centers around the creation and optimization of strategic content across all web and social media channels to increase rankings of "positive review pages" thereby minimizing the impact of sites with negative reviews.

This is accomplished by building and maintaining SEO friendly web pages and content that will (over time) rank higher than sites with negative reviews posted to them.

While the Negative Review Minimization process of building and maintaining a positive online presence is time-consuming, it a necessary component of any long-term Reputation Management program.

Whether you decide to handle your Reputation Management in-house or use a 3rd party firm like BreadBox (shameless plug), it is an essential step in the long-term success of your communities leasing efforts!

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)

IDEAS FOR RENT - Expand Your Apartment Community's Leasing Hours

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I sit at a coffee shop watching half a dozen people plugging away on their laptops, making phone calls and texting away. However, as lunch approaches, a wave of business people swarm the cafe looking for a quick bite. There are scores of them, frantically trying to get lunch and get back to their offices before their lunch break is over.

These days we love to talk about the "on demand" economy, but the data suggests that a significant percentage of the population still works a very standard 9-5pm schedule. However, those same "9-5" people still use Uber, Amazon, etc. and expect “on demand” service. That is why it is so perplexing that most multifamily communities have not changed their standard leasing hours in the past 30 or 40 years.

Most communities have a pretty standard schedule. Weekday's from 9-5 or 6, Saturdays for a couple of hours and some Sundays. However, the problem is, that more and more people want to view apartments and homes when it's convenient for them, not for the management company or leasing agent.

Let's say you have two buildings in the same neighborhood, with similar amenities and price points. One has "extended leasing hours, " and one does not. If It's going to be easier for a potential tenant to see the property with extended leasing hours, it's a safe bet to say that may play a role in the final decision of that renter.

I've seen this both professionally and personally. During my time running a large apartment brokerage in Philadelphia, I would see 100's of requests a month from individuals wanting to tour apartments "after hours." This number has increased tenfold since I started that company and seemed to grow each year. People would always be disappointed if a tour wasn't available after hours and I had a feeling, that this led to those same people leasing from a different community strictly out of convenience.

On a personal note, a good friend of mine was recently looking for an apartment. This individual is a busy professional that didn't have time to see apartments on a "standard" schedule.  He called several communities who all told him he would have to come in between 9-5pm, except for one. That community toured my friend at 7 pm on a weeknight. Guess what community he rented from? While obviously, this was not the only reason he rented from that community, it did make a huge difference regarding his perception of how accommodating that community would be.

THINGS TO CONSIDER:

What Hours to Extend? - One thing to consider is when you want to extend your hours. Obviously, a community leasing department cannot stay open 24 hours a day, so it's best to consider when you want to extend your hours. Some communities are opening early, opting to extend their hours in the early morning, while others have chosen to extend their evening hours. Surveying potential tenants that come to tour your building is a great way to gauge this.

Staff Scheduling - A Lot of firms I have spoken to about this, point to the challenge of scheduling expanded hours.  However, it's clear most tours occur around lunch, with "dead spots" from 9am-10 and 2-4pm. With that in mind, try staggering your staff from 2 people on at the same time to maybe one in the morning and one in the evening. Incentify your Leasing Agents by offering a small bonus for any tours they might do outside or their "normal" schedule.

Marketing - Obviously having these extended hours is great. But without getting the word out, it's not much good. Think about doing a whole marketing campaign just dedicated to this new schedule. Include this on promotional material. Some have gone as far to use this opportunity to hold events during that time.

In conclusion, by extending the hours in which your property is available to be shown, you will have a better chance of leasing a unit then a building that does not. As the multifamily market in many areas becomes saturated, standing out from your competition is becoming more and more important. And this is an excellent way to stand out from your competition.

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox Consulting (www.breadbox.consulting)

Why Property Managers Should Not Lease Apartments

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I have to start by saying, I love property managers. For what they put up with, they should all get gold stars and a trip to the islands. From Resident complaints, maintenance issues, unruly vendors, and a litany of other issues, they have their hands full on a daily basis and I tip my hat to them.

That is why I have always found it odd that a lot of buildings and portfolios choose to have their Property Managers to do their leasing. I understand this decision from a monetary standpoint, but from business standpoint, it seems counterproductive.

My dear old dad always said "you can do 1 thing great, and 2 things not so good". In all honesty, that could have been another historical figure, but let's say for arguments sake, my father said it. This has never been more true when it comes to property management and leasing apartments.

In having property managers handle the duties of leasing apartments directly, it puts a huge strain on the manager and as such, leasing suffers. I have seen it time and time again where property managers get overwhelmed and guess what is the first thing to fall by the wayside: renting apartments. Emails don't get returned, calls go unanswered and when there are tours, they are rushed and not very impressive.

The other side of the coin are Property Mangers who oversee leasing agents and the marketing, for a property. This is most common in larger buildings, but once again, is a sin of cost cutting.

A property manager (a good one) is very well versed in how to handle people, maintenance, work with vendors, knows construction, accounting etc. What most don't know are the intricacies of leasing apartments in this day and age. How many property managers know how to setup re-marketing for a properties website? How many are familiar with graphic design? How many know how to run a successful social media campaign? How many are familiar with branding and it's impact on leasing?

One of the major benefits of using a firm like BreadBox, is that our only job is to market your apartments. From Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click Campaigns to Re-marketing and Reputation Management, we are able to provide a complete marketing platform for your community. We are always at the forefront of the latest technology and trends. All this in a tidy package that let's your property management team concentrate on your building and residents.

And the best part? Now your Property Manager has the time and energy to keep your residents happy. Which at the end of the day, will increase your profits. And isn't that the reason you own a Property to begin with?

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)