It’s my privilege to be here in Huntington Beach, CA with the cream of multifamily marketing for this year’s Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) Conference. The event's offering its usual blend of new insights and technology and the opportunity to reconnect with those professionals who spend their careers finding ways to attract residents to their companies’ communities. As always, the smorgasbord of content and imaginative delivery are stimulating a fascinating discussion.
One session in particular caught my attention.
“Performance - the 5th P in Marketing” was a panel that covered a subject that is close to our hearts - marketing and leasing performance. Judy Bellack moderated the panel that included Rainmaker clients: Lindsay Love of Davlyn Investments, Samantha Jameson of Barrett & Stokely and Rachel Davidson of Alliance Residential. The session focused on the convergence of often disparate functions - marketing, pricing and operations - and how they combine to drive marketing effectiveness and conversions.
Unsurprisingly, data took center stage in the discussion - in particular the metrics that operators can use to diagnose performance opportunities. Lindsay explained how Davlyn has been able to move past the emotion and gut-feel that often characterize leasing performance by consistently applying a core set of metrics. Davlyn has achieved greater objectivity and visibility by using data to establish and report key data points like:
- Was the call answered?
- Did the agent ask the prospect’s name
- Did they introduce themselves
- Did they get the floor plan?
- Did they get the desired move-in?
- Did they set the appointment?
As Lindsay pointed out, lead scoring is more than whether or not a call is answered. By recording all contacts between the community and the renter and measuring the above points objectively we can understand current community and agent performance.
This raised an interesting discussion about the involvement of onsite teams in the process.
Understanding and acting upon leasing performance data requires close collaboration with operations. The panelists stressed the importance of bringing regionals into the process from the start. When done well, the same metrics that drive marketing performance appear in operational scorecards, which provides greater transparency and harnesses the natural competitiveness of teams.
Samantha quoted a couple of important statistics from Barrett & Stokely’s experience. About 70% of residents call the property during the leasing process. And it is estimated that it takes eight phone calls for a leasing office to make up for a single missed inbound call. That is striking: leaving aside the obvious customer experience implications of failing to answer a question in real time, failing to pick up the phone is costly in terms of agents’ time.
Here, Rachel contributed and interesting thought - that the 70% number could be brought down significantly if operators could improve their use of chat. Done well, chat can be a great customer experience - however, done sporadically or unreliably it can be extremely frustrating for the customer. With this in mind, communities frequently disable chat, causing more prospects to call the property.
Through her description of the Barrett & Stokely program, Samantha focused on the role of education and metrics in driving improvement. In particular, organizations need to be educated so that all parties fully understand the metrics. In the critical area of answering the phone, agents normally say “I pick up the phone all the time”. This may well be true, but what if nobody is in the office when the phone rings? Having objective ways to measure the rate at which all calls answered leads Barrett & Stokely to a better outcome.
Rachel gave an interesting account of why pricing should not be the first lever that gets pulled when addressing performance. Readers of this blog will be familiar with this theme, and also Alliance’s forward-thinking approach to marketing and revenue management integration. Rachel explained how RM software mitigates the emotional reaction to - for example - a shortfall in sales. The reliable, automated decision-making stops people from panicking and also allows onsite teams to focus on selling.
Rachel went on to talk about how pricing analysts need to educate themselves to be more than just software analysts - they need to understand the “touchy-feely” stuff - understanding the buyer’s journey, for example. Revenue, marketing and performance are then able to collaborate effectively, dealing with decisions in a collaborative environment.
The panel ended with the following five takeaways:
- Define performance within your organization
- Be driven by effectiveness, not just volume
- Leverage data that look holistically at operations, marketing and pricing
- Track and analyze that data constantly
- All else fails if there isn’t true collaboration amongst all disciplines
For me, perhaps the most important quote from this panel was “The data is diagnostic - what we need is a plan”. It is, of course, true that the benefits being experienced by each of these operators would be largely unattainable without the supporting data. But the value lies in using that data to measure things that can be actioned to drive performance.
It was a great panel, lending yet more weight to the growing industry dialogue about our industry’s new power couple: revenue management and marketing. We thank the organizers for an excellent and enjoyable event and look forward to reconvening in Huntington Beach this time next year.
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