In the last post (Apartment Marketing in 2023: Part 1) we talked about marketing’s role and how a deeper blending with operations makes a ton of sense. We talked about how sharing data of future needs and occupancy trends allows marketing to get ahead of pipeline demand and ensure that they are being as efficient as possible with marketing spend.
In this post I want to dive into what the next steps are once those leads are generated. What now and through what channel.
You Have the Lead, Now What…?
There are a hundred different ways that a new guest card might appear in your CRM. But no matter how a lead enters your CRM, the question of “now what” remains.
Speed to first touchpoint is critical.
This has always been a priority. There are tons of stats out there showing again and again how important it is to be the first apartment your prospect hears back from. What has changed is how fast it is recommended that they hear back from your property.
Once upon a time we would have said 24 hours. If you asked me last year, I would have said within 2 hours. Ask me today… and I will say they need to hear from you right away.
2023 is breaking records for the biggest supply increase in the United States market in the last 4 decades. Roughly 590,000 units are being delivered in 2023 according to RealPage.
There is more competition than ever and being first to reply to your new leads is critical. Being the first community to respond is essential if you are going to win.
Being the first to reply means you will be the first to get the prospect in for a tour. While prospects used to tour 5-6 properties before making a decision, we now know that number has decreased to 2-3. This means being one of those properties your prospects tours is tougher than it was 3 years ago.
So if we agree that responding to a new lead quickly is crucial, the next question is, how should you respond?
Choosing the Right Channel for Apartment Marketing in 2023
Getting back to the new prospect fast is great, but how you get back is just as important. Email remains, and probably will for some time, a great channel for communicating with your customers. But it is not the best.
Text messaging remains the preferred method of communication. In fact, 89% of consumers say they prefer texting with businesses over any other mode of communication. So the question becomes, how do I effectively leverage this channel?
There are 2 main options here. You can use people or AI. Below we begin to tackle some of the pros and cons of each. These lists could all be increased drastically so below we are making an attempt to hit some of the top items for each list.
Using People (Onsite Team) For Text Messaging
- One of the most effective or impactful methods you can leverage.
- Higher accuracy rate when answering prospect questions.
- Continuity of contact, the person they text is the same person they will tour with.
- Increased ability to answer “soft questions”. For example:
- Is the closest grocery store a nice one to shop at?
- How many residents hang out at the pool on the weekend?
- Does a setting sun shine directly into the westward facing units?
- Onsite team members are too busy to monitor inbound text communications all day.
- Not 24/7. Texting will only occur during office hours.
- Infrequent and unpredictable response times. Not offering the ability to text is probably better than offering text that is never responded to.
Using People (Call Center) For Text Messaging
- Dynamically scalable. The number of people assigned to a property can scale according to demand.
- 24/7 availability (in some cases).
- Cheaper than higher more onsite team members.
- More expensive than AI.
- Inability to answer “soft questions” shown above.
- Lack of continuity, the person the prospect was texting is never met in real life (e.g. during a tour).
- Lack of detailed knowledge of the property.
Using AI For Text Message
- Available 24/7. AI doesn’t sleep. No matter when your prospects want to engage, AI will be there ready to answer questions.
- AI texting also scales financially. Regardless of how many leads you have, AI can be waiting and ready to respond to every single text that comes in, and can scale automatically no matter how much traffic you have.
- Ability to learn and get better at a rapid rate
- Ability to handoff to a team member when a question cannot be answered.
- Prone to mistakes a human wouldn’t make. This is AI’s biggest trade off. It is worth mentioning that with the improvement in technology (e.g. ChatGPT) and ongoing training AI get better at this everyday and can quickly get better at each specific site as it is trained per property. However you will inevitably find that AI transcript where technology just misses an obvious answer or prompt.
- Lack of continuity. Like call centers, this can be an issue. However the best way to solve this is to make it clear when prospects are speaking to AI and not individuals
Regardless of how you choose to implement text message communication at your properties, we know that this is the most effective method out there. Leveraging text messaging as your means to follow up with prospects through the lead to lease lifecycle will increase engagement and conversion rates across the board.
Check out a summary below of Parts 1 and 2 of this series and stay tuned for part 3! 🚀
Apartment Marketing in 2023: Parts 1, 2 Summary:
- Marketing role in apartment marketing does not stop when a lead is generated
- Marketing and Operations should share data so marketing understands how to stay ahead of demand
- Speed to first touch point is critical and should be almost instant
- Choosing the right channel for your ongoing lead nurture is critical and we recommend texting (SMS)