Out to Put a Dent in the Multifamily Universe

Three Generations in the Multifamily Workplace

A Piece on Perspective

I shared an idea with a human resource professional about a two weeks ago.

The idea would have an impact not only on our organization but  a number of other organizations as well; namely the local apartment association.

The Response

You should not share that idea with anyone outside of your organization.

My Response

(Internally) What world do you live in? (Externally) I see.

Your seeing the full effect of three generations in the workforce today Multifamily Maniac,

M

Surprise instead of free rent

We are all accustomed to giving away discounts or concessions at time of move in or lease renewal. As an industry we have taught our customer to expect it. It’s time to change that.

Surprise

Starting tomorrow take the money you would otherwise give away in concessions or rent discounts and create an equal number of surprise dollars. Deploy those surprise dollars through random acts of generosity:

Every 10th person that walks in the door to pay the rent gets to pay $50 less

Every 22nd resident gets tickets to a local professional sports event

Every 7th resident gets a gift card to a local restaurant. Partner with that restaurant in ordered to subsidize the surprise

Every 33rd resident gets a free fitbit

Every 25th resident gets a free gym membership. Partner with the local gym to subsidize the surprise

Every 54th resident gets to do their laundry free for an entire year

Every 100th resident gets their cable bill comped for one year

Every 4th person that turns in a service request for leaky faucet gets a gift card to a water park

Every 17th person that turns in a service request for a noisy refrigerator gets a freezer full of meat

If you run a business in Colorado every 420th person to call in a service request for a smoke alarm battery gets a fat one. Okay – maybe don’t do this one…

You get the point.

You’re looking to surprise the hell out of our residents this year Multifamily Maniac,

M

Using Social Media to Market Apartments Redux

Back in 2009 I penned a post about using social media to market apartments. Back then the groundswell was happening and everyone had an opinion about it. And, over the past three years, I think we have all learned a lot. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Some have taken the lessons and left the conversation. Others have bet the farm. While others dipped their toe in, listened, learned, participated, grew and are now providing real value. And, while we were all quietly churning away in our social media bull pens another more than mentionable groundswell was taking place. Fewer multifamily starts and a generation ripe with numbers that we have not seen since the baby boomers hit the scene.

Fast-forward to the second half of 2012, the coastal markets are booming again while the somewhat insulated Midwest lays in wait. In St. Louis specifically, most sub-markets that have hit bottom and are now bouncing along. Some city central, mid-city and west county properties are sporting occupancy gains and rent growth they have not seen in three years plus.

Get these two things (marketing apartments using social media and the near perfect storm of fundamental metrics) in a room together and you have the makings of a home run. At least in my opinion.

Not Using Social Media to Market Apartments?

Now might be a good time to rethink that position. Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at this recent post over at Business Grow (a great blog by the way – subscribe and read every word). I pulled out a quote that I think speaks to my real point.

If you think about, using social media at the university level is the perfect test case for what all our organizations may be seeing just a few years from now:

  • Its primary audience uses the social web as its primary tool for communication.
  • It is an essential strategy for connecting with, and nurturing, its “customers.”
  • The relatively low-cost effectiveness of social media fits with programs under constant budget pressures.

Assiduity and The Why Behind the What

How many of you knew what that word meant? Me either. But, I fell in love when I looked it up. Assiduity – constant or close attention to what one is doing. As I read the word then the definition and then the word again it made me think – get off your ass-n-do-it.

To the point: your near now, now and future residents are growing up digital. Miss the point and miss some real opportunity.

Your big believer in using social media to market apartments,

M

 

The Renter’s Voice

Update: TRV responded to my questions via email and agreed to let me post them here. 

Checking out The Renter’s Voice this morning.

Bullet point thoughts thus far:

1. Listings powered by an ILS – does that mean you have to do business with the ILS, Ellis or Renter’s Voice? If so, bunk.

TRV: No you don’t, many of the listings will begin with the robust content from a large content source – AF.com – so helps jump start a positive review platform.   

2. I see zero activity thus far so hard to form an opinion about it. Even the listings in the side bar on the left seem plugged. When you click on them and go to the actual review page, it is void of the aforementioned review.

TRV: It will take time to build the reviews as with any web presence.

3. Not sure how managers can/will respond or participate (see point number 1)

TRV: Joanna Ellis is working with the PMC companies on building this review site for our industry.   It is an open forum for renters to share experiences about apartment living.  Over time, there will be other opportunities to use reviews for marketing in the apartment space! 

Build Your Own Mouse Trap

I am still a firm believer that apartment management companies can build and equal if not better mouse trap right on there own website.

Ratings and reviews are a driver of business – no doubt. But, not if you have to pay to participate.

Your always wondering about the definition of advertising partner multifamily maniac,

M

Some Feedback from Twitter –

Apartment Social Platform – I Ask Myself Why

Apartment Audience Fragmentation

I received a tweet last night asking for my thoughts on a new apartment social platform called 5Neighbors and I found myself wondering. Don’t get me wrong, I love people who go for it. People who put their heads down, design, build and deliver. And, who have the wherewithal to put it out there by asking for feedback. The people who just do it, care what others think and use it (good and bad) as motivation for making their offering even better. Those people – rock. I applaud the 5Neighbors team in that respect.

Their platform is clean, it’s well designed, it’s inviting and it’s user-friendly. And, for all intents and purposes, it’s fairly priced with zero contractual obligations. But, I wonder…

Why?

My chief question is – why? As a group – we have gone to war with each other over who is going to get the top spots on page one of Google. And, trust me, it is an all out, take no prisoners, war. It’s the middle man competing with 30 other want-to-be middle men vs. the little guy who now has an equal footing. It’s war. And, where has it taken us?

Prize? 

It’s lent to a ton of confusion for the end-user. Fragmentation – at it’s best. The people who want to do business with us can’t even tell us where they heard about us half the time. And, the other half that can remember mis-quote their source.

In my head, the further we fragment this audience the less likely they are to participate. Even in the niches like 5Neighbors. Why? Because they are – capital f – letters in between ending with that ing suffix – tired. They are just tired. 

You see it with less conversation on Twitter. I recall a day when ten or so multifamily rockers talked every single waking hour of every single day – it was crazy cool. I can’t tell you the last time I participated in that way. I recall a day when the same thing happened on FB, MF Insiders and other platforms. Today – not as much. I remember commenting on ten to fifteen blog posts every week. And, responding to just as many comments on my own blog. Today – not as much. People are distracted by too many channels and too much noise. And, I don’t think fragmenting the audience into a less noisy channel is the answer. Maybe to a select few but not to the masses. Not in a way that will be meaningful to the user. But hey, that is just this guys opinion.

I’ll Stop Now

5Neighbors – I do applaud you. I really do. And, I wish you the best of the best kind of luck. You’ve built a cool thing on a cool premise. Do keep us posted as we love to be wrong about things and will gladly do a future article on your successes.

I am curious what others think – if you have a quick second in between your fragmentation efforts – give us some feedback.

Your – wondering why I’m feeling further fragmented – multifamily maniac,

M

Apartment Interest Graph Marketing

Interest Graph

To preface, this post is likely several years off in terms of being really germane to apartment marketing.

I have been reading a ton about Interest Graphs as of late. An interest graph is akin to a digital map that captures and demonstrates everything you like or frankly don’t like. Be it coffee, tea or me – it takes everything you like about your personal adventure through this world and packages it up into one nice comprehensive picture of you. Think Pinterest – the red-hot picture pinning site. In my estimation IG’s are a marketers wildest dream come true.

Apartment Marketing a Few Years Hence

Imagine with me for a moment – if you will. Tomorrow morning you walk into your office, pop open your email and you read:

Hi all,

Today we are embarking on a new marketing initiative. As such, we are completely revamping the information you commingle to make up your demographic set. But, unlike many of our other initiatives, for this one you don’t need to do a thing.  In fact, this thing is so brilliant you are going to have a tough time keeping up with the new-found demand we intend to create.

You see, we have crafted a quasi-quant algorithm that constructs your apartment communities Interest Graph. That is to suggest that your community has a personality (and, a friend making ability) and we have found a way to define it based on the premise of how moving it is. Then – get this – once we have defined that personality, we are going to align it with people with like kind personalities or Interest Graphs.

Confused? That’s okay, it will all make sense at some point –

Stay tuned,

Your Marketing Team

Fish Where the Fish Are 2.0 

As the internet becomes more and more fragmented with special interest groups (not to be mistaken with those who lobby politically), the more specific we can get with where we have our conversations. And, we can be more precise about what we say and don’t say. Today, we know we have to have a website, a blog and we have to get connected on Facebook. Tomorrow, we will still need those things but now we will be able to find and converse with exactly who we are looking for in the exact place where they don’t mind sharing and talking. Because the conversation will center around the very things they love and cherish as represented by their interests. So long as we are patient and exercise all the simple lessons Dale Carnegie taught us – we will open the flood gates. That is don’t be a stalker.

I see a day when we know exactly who it is that we want to rent our apartments, who will actually rent them, when they will actually rent, and how much rent they are willing to pay. All by simply defining and promoting our communities Interest Graph and coupling them up with people who have like kind interests. In my head, it’s akin to creating personas of the people who you want your marketing messages to speak to but much more amplified and much deeper, richer and more compelling. Much more intimate. It will bring together a like hearted and like-minded apartment community that will attract like kind people. And, that my friends will likely be the lead into the beginning of singularity.

Your Apartment Interest Graph Marketing Junkie (at least this week),

M

Pic Credit: Robert Scoble

Apartment Marketing: Paying Rent is a Social Act

Apartment Electronic Check

Apartment Electronic Check

Update: 4.30.12 – Social gifting, the new buzzword in e-commerce

I wrote about an idea along these lines sometime ago and Wrapp just might be the early way to get it done.

Original Article

Ran across Pepsi’s Social Vending Machine Story while I was in the process of purging some old files and it got me thinking about ways that we could make paying rent an even more social experience.

Is it reasonable to think that Facebook, Twitter, G+ or even resident portals could be robust enough to allow payments by third parties unassociated with lease contracts and the such?

Following the concept of Pepsi  creating a the experience of sending free sodas to friends; could you see the same thing apply to rent payments? If my buddy knows that I have fallen on hard times and wants to help; could he go to our website, log in without disclosing his identity [at least to me] and pay my rent? Or, a portion?

It already happens in the analog world. Or not, if leases are written such that you can not take third party payments [not smart in my opinion]. In the former case, parent’s pay their student’s rent via various payment methods. A process, at least at Mills Properties, that is usually administered by our onsite teams. Can we make it DIY for third parties with technology? Do you employ such a service today? Tell us about it.

Your looking to make paying the rent a more social experience multifamily maniac,

M

 

Social Media Flash Mob

Ria 3

I have decided.  If I am not passionate about doing something, I am simply not going to do it.   For a recent experience, Lovin’ the Lou, I was able to let my passion flag fly and find others flying theirs proudly as well…it was magical!

First things first, we have a fabulous new development/rehab called The Laurel Apartments located in Downtown St. Louis in the Mercantile Exchange District.  This is an up and coming neighborhood with incredible potential to really help rejuvenate Downtown – and we are right in the middle of it.  So we needed to get the word out.  In comes Lovin’ the Lou!  In order to enter, we asked Lovin’ the Louers to create a 2 minute video capturing their love for St. Louis.

This is not just a contest with a fabulous prize (Free Rent for a Year at The Laurel), it is much bigger.  It is about reminding an entire region how alive and exciting downtown St. Louis really is.  We originally wanted to use all the traditional media outlets like television and newspapers but as it turned out, that is not where you find people for passion projects. So you ask yourself…how can we find this targeted audience of people passionate about St. Louis?  The internet of course!  This project was run completely through social media – twitter, facebook, website, and blog posts.  And maybe we sacrificed some volume (maybe) by avoiding traditional media, but I think we gained a ton more in passion.

We received 18 passionate, creative, and fun videos showcasing St. Louis for this project!  Every entry had a great story to tell and it was clear that this was not really about winning free rent.  BAM!  Exactly what we were looking for…our prize was secondary to real passion for the city!  Not only were people loving the videos, they were also commenting and sharing the information with their friends.  Our broader goal of helping revitalize downtown was really coming to fruition.  We have 18 mini-commercials from real St. Louisans that are much more intriguing than any ad I have ever seen.  This is only the beginning.  It’s funny (and maybe this is a precaution), when you start a passion project you find it will never be complete – you will feel internally compelled to do more.  So I guess we will see what the next chapters bring! 

But for this chapter, we are in the final stages of judging to announce the winner later this month – check out all the entries at Lovinthelou.com.

Broader reminder to marketers: Don’t push your content (especially with passion projects).  Passionate people who really buy-in are much more inspiring than fancy ad campaigns with fake passion.  Passionate people truly believe in what you are trying to accomplish and they will find you.  It’s like a social media flash mob for your project!  Ok-ok.  Here are some stats… (over 5 month period).

5,058 Visits
3,231 Unique visitors
16,951 Pageviews
280 Comments
166 Lovin the Lou fan page likers
554 Facebook individual webpage likes
63 Tweets
11 +1’s
 

We are nearing the first chapter finale for this passion project and I can’t wait to continue!  What will your next passion project be?

#apartmentmarketing – 2012 Short List Prediction Post

Apartment Predictions

Apartment PredictionsDon’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing. – Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Office – Hubspot

Not another social prediction post! No, there are many really good ones already out there such as the one  Mark Juleen posted with the help of Mike Whaling and Duncan Alney. Another fav is the one Brian Solis penned on the subject of social and how it relates to business in 2012.

I’m not heading for the broad angles or general predictions that seem to affront us all this time of the year. No, I would like to get a little more intimate and little more bold. To me 2012 will be the true year of pain for many of the tried and true resources that many of us have leaned on over the years to market our apartments and communities. The simple premise being that the proliferation of DIY platforms and DIY tools along with a growing level of comfort in using them have made it easier to compete.

The barriers to entry have crumbled and it’s time to ROCK!

My prediction comes in the way of a question –

Who will be your biggest apartment marketing competitor in 2012?

Print and Internet Listing Services

If you are anything like me you pay attention to everything the traditional ILS’s and print media outlets are doing in the social space and otherwise. In 2011 some of them made shrewd moves like employing our very own leasing consultant and management forces across the country to build Google Juice on their behalf. Brilliant but very un-partner like in my opinion. And, still others have stumbled; for example absolutely refusing to unbundle print from internet offerings until it was just frankly to late. Certainly soured my opinion of that specific group.

You just can’t see them as partners anymore [remember - they have to pay the light bill too] and to the extent that you can embrace that, use them where you need to [print and ILS are not broken and are still effective] and build a plan that brands you and your company first you will be better off. It’s frankly as important as sending out renewal letters and collecting the rent at this point.

Just know, anymore it’s not the building next door or across the street from you that is your biggest competitor. It’s more and more so the print media and ILS providers.

The Re-imagination of Locators in Secondary, Tertiary and Hyper Local Apartment Markets 

Back in late 2004 or 2005 I met a guy named Eddie Passadore. Brilliant guy and passionate about the multifamily space. He came to work for Equity Residential and quickly went about producing some off the wall results. How? Craigslist. And, Rentwitheddie.com. That’s right he built out his own website, put his personal cell number on it, made himself available 24/7 and syndicated it via the emerging social platforms of the time. Namely Craigslist and MySpace. Result? He now runs his own property management firm in Portland, Oregon.

I recall spending countless hours brainstorming with Eddie about marketing oneself in lieu of physical buildings. It’s what inspired my personal blog [at the time called mike brewer on stuff and things] and the Portland Rocks Newsletter blog we ran back then that promoted Equity Residential’s Portland employees and properties. We talked about everything from using print to advertise our agents in lieu of our communities to building out personal websites for every single one of our agents. An idea I still think has some crazy potential [time and date stamped for future development]. And, he went and did it.

All that to suggest that the locator will have a major play in our space and many of our current day leasing consultants will be the people doing it.

Me. Us.

If we are to contend with the fire hose of data and change that will come our way in 2012, we have to invest in ourselves. I think this is the year that those who have sat on the sidelines as observers and passive participants are going to come alive. They will finally get that if they don’t they will be cooked and standing in the unemployment lines across this great nation. This is the year that organizations raise the bar for talent. No longer will mediocrity be tolerated. And, no longer will it be just okay to muddle along.

You are your biggest competitor in 2012. You are your own benchmark. The you that you look at in the mirror today should be a distant memory by the time you make it out of bed tomorrow. And, in a more beautiful way!

Here is to us in 2012!

Go – and make it relentlessly compelling!

M

#Apartmentmarketing: Attention Economy

Where's the disconnect?

Instead of one-way interruption, Web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it. – David

Where's the disconnect?

Meerman Scott

Seth Godin quipped that engagement is hitting people with the right message at the right time so as to have them take action [engage]. I think we have to take that word engage and thus precise moment further. To truly engage, at least in my head, you have to be enchanted, you have to be moved, you have to yearn for more so much so that you have no choice but to act on your desires. It the deepest throes of emotion. Words like love, anger and the many nuances of each come to mind. It’s not just a like, unlike, +1 or the such. It’s deeper.

Mr. Apartment Manager Man; “I am done.”

It’s not unlike the gentleman I met with last Friday evening. He, unfortunately, was moving out of our Central West End Community. Reason? In his words, “I am done.”

You see about three weeks ago, the entire roof of his five story building blew off and landed in the parking lot beside and the street in front. Thank the one that governs it all that no one was hurt as it could have been really bad.

In response to the situation; our team entered every apartment in the building and place plastic over beds, electronics and the such. Most were thankful. Not the gentleman I met on Friday. His beef? We did not leave him a note to let him know we had been in his apartment.

Engage

Somewhere in the wake of the roof being pulled off the building by straight lined winds; his attention got engaged. The premise aside; he was moved by an aggressive deep seated emotion. He engaged with some ill language and barbed personal remarks for the onsite team and the rest of our Mills management team. He got so engaged that he ended up leaving the property.

The Point

I think we are headed toward true engagement – we are not there yet. We use the word but in it’s loosest of senses. We are in the early innings of a very long ball game that is frankly destined for infinite extra innings. Think in terms of singularity. Think in terms of love, hate and other extremes. That’s engagement. For now we are just courting. Or, at best out on a blind date and liking our mate because our friends suggested we should. Now it’s up to us and the million other people out there participating with brands to fall in love or fall in hate.

What do you think?

 

 

Photo tip to: Online Ninja Blog