We are Still in the Apartment Business

sheridan keynoteToday’s piece comes from our over-the-top amazing Marketing Director at Mills Properties – Melissa DeCicco She rocks! 

Lately we have been told we are in the media business or is it the relationship business? Both from wonderful, brilliant people who know a lot more about the apartment business than I. While they are both correct, I think it is just unnecessarily muddying the water. Make no mistake about it, we are still in the apartment business. Think about it. We, as consumers, are all doing our best to avoid all types of media (at least of the marketing variety) these days.  And, when was the last time you wanted an actual relationship with a service provider? Really? The apartment piece makes us different. It is something that we can be proud of and something that we can become experts in. We are in the apartment business. Our goal is to help people find apartments.

So what should we be doing in the apartment business to continually earn and retain customers?

Do you remember the last time you thought that your salesperson actually had your well-being in mind instead of the commission you represented? I can’t think of a single instance. How refreshing would it be if people looked back at this point in marketing history as the age of ‘doing the right thing.’ When marketers/salespeople really just focused on helping the consumer to find the best possible fit for them, knowing that their product might not be the answer. It’s what good customer service is all about but it is never executed the right way or for the right reasons.

I recently attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference put on by Social Media Examiner. It was incredible. One thing hit me particularly hard. The closing keynote was from Marcus Sheridan who owns an in-ground pool company and happens to be an incredible marketer. His business was literally drowning and he brought it back to life. How? He made it about people and being useful.

The headline in the New York Times magazine article about his efforts was “A Revolutionary Marketing Strategy: Answer Customers’ Questions.”

Revolutionary, huh?

We are all people and desire real interactions that are not drowning in sale-speak. The answer? Write about your business online to teach and get the word out but never directly sell. Then become helpful/useful to the point of exhaustion. Customers ask a question, we answer. Sheridan aka “The Sales Lion,” suggests that we break down our marketing/sales tasks to this small list.

1. Listening

2. Communicating

3. Teaching

4. Helping

All day, every day. This is the future of business. Not media. Not fake relationships. People helping people in a genuine way.

Your tirelessly working on being helpful marketing maniac,

Melissa DeCicco


Photo courtesy of The Sales Lion Closing keynote – SMMW2014

The Making of an Apartment Company Mascot

We are always looking for new and creative ways to start conversation at Mills and we think our latest adventure is sure to be a hit. While we understand this will not resonate with everyone; we are certain there is a niche that will appreciate it and be moved by it. Some people just love to have fun!

Millsy Becomes a Real Boy

Our newly appointed Marketing Director & Communication Strategist, Melissa Preusser (we have an interview lined up – stay tuned to learn more about her) borrowed from the world of athletic mascots to come up with Millsy! Millsy is our Apartment Company Mascot. Millsy will accompany our media teams to any and all company and community functions, festivals, sporting events, partnership gathering and networking events. His chief aim? Give people a reason to talk about Mills. And, what better event could there be for his coming to life party than the annual St. Louis Mardi Gras Parade. Millsy becomes a real boy on Saturday March 5th 2011. We will be sharing a lot of the highlights and pics in future posts.

For now, I thought it would be fun to share some pics of Millsy in the early stages of coming to life…

Apartment Marketing: PSE

Rule number one: People. Spread. Emotion. Rule number two: If there is no spread, see rule number one!

You likely know from your own experiences both on and off line that Emotion Sells! Excitement Sells! Cool Sells! Gossip Sells! Optimism Sells! Humor Sells! Anger Sells! iPhone 4 Sells! Well – more appropriate to this post concerning the iPhone 4 – Being Part of the Cool Kid Tribe Sells! Wit Sells! Deep thoughts by Jack Handy Sells! Heart Felt Sells! To Big to Fail Sells! And B.S. Sells – in spades! Point? It’s the stuff that hits the hardest and softest parts of that thing called heart – soul – spirit and mind! So get out your Kleenex or pick up that axe in need of a good grind – as we have absolutely nothing to tell you that you don’t already know –

Scott Stratten from the very popular UnMarketing Blog cut the idea of sharing down to its core recently –

UnMarketing » Blog Archive » Word of Mouth Has Changed, Sort Of

Look at what gets shared on Facebook, or retweeted on Twitter. Funny stuff, brilliant knowledge-filled posts, sad things, stuff that angers you.

Repeat after me: People. Spread. Emotion.

Apartment Facebook Like Page: Rules for Share

It’s kind of like Steve Leonard’s rule for customer service : Rule number one: The customer is always right. Rule number two: If the customer is wrong, see rule number one! I am adopting Scott’s mantra as it relates to sharing content on your Apartment Facebook Like Page or your Apartment Twitter Status updates: And, to distill it into a set of rules [I hate rules but for the sake of keeping] Rule number one: People. Spread. Emotion. Rule number two: If there is no spread, see rule number one!

Apartment Marketing: @earlybird a New Way to Use Twitter

Have you ever wondered what the most appropriate way to use Twitter to market your companies Apartment Living Experience is?

Have you ever wondered what the most appropriate way to use Twitter to market your companies Apartment Living Experience is? Now I’m not to suggesting that any one way is better than another but I do think there are some ways that garnish more attention. My only piece of advice is avoid using old school push marketing tactics.

It looks like @earlybird is positioning itself as a socially acceptable way to broadcast your current promotion. Brian Solis puts it this way in On Twitter, The Early Bird Gets the Worm

If you can imaging the possibilities for @EarlyBird, it goes beyond just one-off deals and specials through a generic account [push marketing], it can be themed into opt-in channels for almost any area of interest, food, music, entertainment, events, etc. [relevancy] emphasis mine.

As it relates to apartment marketing, I can see the value in an opt-in channel for apartments as a good thing –

What do you think?

Apartment Marketing: Gather the Group

Over the next month or so, I will be reaching out to some of our apartment Facebook friends asking if I can  enlist them in a virtual ongoing open feedback Tell Dell like mechanism. The intent is to prompt the forum in the coming weeks, months and years as we move forward in building out Mills Properties improved web strategy. The friends are coming from a mix of our like pages that span across our 43 communities [Note: not all are published as of this writing] in Saint Louis. The only catalyst to their selection is  – on balance – they participate more than others. Our real hope – as part of a much larger strategy – is to build on the success of others in and out of our industry by including consumers in the process.  That said, it never ceases to amaze me just how easy it really is to get acquainted anymore. This quote below is part of a response I got to reaching out just this past week –

…..been here just over 5 years and really like it. My main interests include Conservative talk shows and Trance/Techno music. Odd combination……

I can’t wait to get some discussion going with this resident. 5 years – can you imagine the change she/he has seen in five years? Can you imagine the potential value he/she might add on the premise of that 5 years of history?

What are you doing to leverage the power of your networks?

Apartment Talent: The Price of Waiting

Hey there! Nice to meet YOU! This post is for those of you that serve on the stages of our industry. That is to suggest the leasing, assistant managers and property managers out there. I like what Seth had to say on his blog a couple of days ago about waiting for validation – here is an excerpt:

If you’re waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you’re handing over too much power to someone who doesn’t care nearly as much as you do.

Keep Cool Keep Control

Some time back, I attended a group counseling session  that described it this way, when you lose control, it’s like you have a string attached to your heart and you give the prompter the string and you allow him or her to pull that string at will. In other words you give up the very control that was given to you on the day you loudly pronounced your place on earth. It’s frankly a travesty of monumental proportions. It’s not unlike that in business – be it sales, marketing, finance, transaction, operations or the such. You cede control under the guise of waiting for validation and you cede control of your future.

Relating it back to Seth’s post and also to caring about what you do in the apartment space – beat your own best self everyday of the week. Remind yourself daily that no one will challenge you more than you will challenge yourself. No one person or thing has control over you unless you cede it to them. There are so many opportunities to build Your Personal Brand today – so many ways to take control of Your Future –

Using Social Media to Market Apartments – Ripe with Opportunities

For all intents and purposes – new media in it’s concerns with marketing apartment homes is in its infancy. It’s the perfect space to join in the conversation. Blogs not unlike this one are the perfect place to; come and observe – start to participate – use for a catalyst to start your own blog and reference back to now and again once you are up and running. Rest on this notion – not even the best of the best in this space know where the platforms and mechanisms will be two to four years from now. It’s any one’s best guess at this point. In spite of that they keep innovating – they keep plugging away –  steady trying, refining and trying again. You can too. It’s the way Brand You is made. The alternative – the price of waiting? – Your Future.

What are you going to do today?

Apartment Marketing: Where is your money going?

While 2010 has been the year of dipping more than just your toe in the SM waters – it looks like 2011 will be a year where mass adoption might be a more appropriate description as it relates to small business taking the plunge.
As it pertains to Apartment Marketing – I would say the trend is in concert.

Apartment Blogging

When I started blogging in 2003 there were very few Multifamily types in the space – today, it seems like everyone has a blog and Twitter is a near household name. We were also early adopters of MySpace as a way to market apartments [back then we were still in post your floor plans, features and benefits mode].

Apartment Facebook Marketing

At the time, I recall seeing very few people participating in that space  – today Facebook rules and the masses are adopting the platform as a way to market. [As an industry we still have to work on setting it up via FBs TOS]. Nonetheless adoption is happening and now the dollars are flowing that way as demonstrated by the stats below. All that being said, I still think it is interesting to see newspaper with such a high mark -That is not to mention that five out of the seven spends are print media related…

Enjoy the stats – would love to hear your thoughts and I hope the balance of your week is compelling!

Survey Says: Businesses Spending More on Marketing, Tech – AOL Small Business

Forty-two percent of small-business owners are likely to spend more on marketing and advertising this year, according to the latest FedEx Office Signs of the Times national small-business survey. So where will most of their money go?

* Improving online presence (46 percent)
* Print materials/newsletters/direct mail (44 percent)
* Brochures (43 percent)
* Yellow Pages listings (39 percent)
* Fliers and signs/banners/posters (37 percent each)
* Social networking sites (36 percent)
* Newspaper advertisements (32 percent)

Apartment Community Amenities: Promote Mystery

In lieu of printing, posted and plastering the thing all over our social media streams

About two months ago we decided to install a dog park at Brookside Apartments – one of our student properties in Carbondale, Ill. In lieu of printing, posted and plastering the thing all over our social media streams – we just let the process play out.

Power in Mystery

After working through the logistics and contract negotiations we settled on a spot and let the construction begin. What happened next was pure entertainment – are you building a pool? Are you building a new building? Volleyball courts? – Wait, it’s too big to be a pool! Arg, what is it? All the common questions begin to filter through the wifi lounge, the community and into our leasing center. That is until we could not take it any more and we disclosed.That said, we learned a real time lesson as it relates to WOM.

Apartment Marketing Stimulants

Tell them but don’t tell them. We have a number of other amenities and improvements that we are doing to this property over the next one to three years with each one major in scope. Taking the lesson from the dog park mystery – we will leave the community to – guess it out – if you will. I can see some cool social media apartment amenity mysteries playing out over Facebook and other social platforms. In the spirit of – give them something to talk about – mystery takes a front seat. And, besides who doesn’t like a great guessing game or mystery? Who can resist talking about it with their friends, family and otherwise? Which is part of the point, right?

Apartment Internet Marketing – Entertainment

Consumers in the age of new media have grown accustom to a very high set of standards that sites like; Facebook, Google and Twitter have imbued on their minds. At the core of these standards there are three apparent consumer behaviors.

This is the third installment of a five part series based on a recent emarketer survey. In part one we discussed the concept of Exclusivity. Part two spoke to the idea of Education. Today we discuss: Entertainment as it relates to Apartment Internet Marketing.

Here is the chart for reference:

Reasons for Friending or Following Companies Through Social Media According to US Consumers, December 2009 (% of respondents)

What is Entertainment?

Princeton defines entertainment as; an activity that is diverting and that holds the attention. There is no doubt that we are living in an attention economy today. And, the key point to this economy is that  the consumer has choice. Consumers have near holistic control over the spend side of the attention equation when it comes to on-line activities. As such, goods and service providers are left to tailor their offerings to meet a new set of standards and expectations. Attention is the currency of today’s consumer and they will only agree to give it up if it is in exchange for they perceive as having value.

Value Exchange

While it is a race to attract a consumers’ attention, it is in the same respect just as, if not more, important to keep it once you have it. One way to do that is to entertain your audience. Two great examples of this from the blogging world are Perez Hilton and TMZ. TMZ ranked number one in the most popular blogs of 2009 – I contend for the absolute entertainment value it exudes. For their massive audience there is a willingness to give up time and attention because of the exchange they receive in the way of value [entertainment].

Consumer Expectation

Consumers in the age of new media have grown accustom to a very high set of standards that sites like; Facebook, Google and Twitter have imbued on their minds. At the core of these standards there are three apparent consumer behaviors. First and foremost, I think it fair to say that we as a population have grown much more impatient in that we want our information now and we want it delivered our way. Second, I think it fair to say that we have grown very intolerant in that if a good or a service does not meet our expectation – we vote by not returning and moreover we tell our friends about it. And, finally we expect and demand trust. Our ability to sniff out the BS has gone hyper and as such we return to the things we can trust most. Now I’m going to step out on a limb here and look at these things in aggregate and contend that their essence is entertainment.

Offer it and they will come

I contend that if apartment internet marketers get these things right – we will have created an activity that diverts and holds attention. I write that presupposing an understanding that content is king here – the content has to be compelling. But, I am considering that a given. The point I am attempting to get across is that entertainment is a key concept in working up to that thing we are all after. That thing we will discuss in the final post of the series. But, not before we pen our thoughts on one last concept. We will have that out in a few days.

Until then – make this a compelling and entertaining week.

Apartment Internet Marketing – Education

Educate your consumer and they will come back over and over – We see examples of this all over the place. My favorite however is Wine Library TV – dial into the 3:50 min section of this video – it is the point. You get people to this and you are on your way to what I will end this series with.

This is the second part of a five part series based on a recent emarketer survey. In part one we discussed the concept of Exclusivity. Today we discuss: Education as it relates to Apartment Internet Marketing.

I have included the chart here again for reference:

Reasons for Friending or Following Companies Through Social Media According to US Consumers, December 2009 (% of respondents)

What is Education?

Education, according to Princeton.edu is defined as; a gradual process of acquiring knowledge. From the time of birth we are taking in information, processing it, making decisions and acting. All the while we are layering information on top of information, taking in the new and purging the old to make new assumptions about the future to come. In any case, we are subject to the people and the environment we choose to hang around and participate in. There is a Dave Matthew’s song called: The Space Between. In that song Dave belts: “the space between – the tears we cry – is the laughter keeps us coming back for more – the space between – the wicked lies we tell – and hope to keep safe from the pain” I would contend that space between is called – choice. And, that choice is the byproduct of a catalyst and the result is action – all couched in education or better said, knowledge.

Value Exchange

Education would lead us to understand that the single most important catalyst in today’s business environment is garnishing a individuals attention. With no equivocation – it is the most important determinant of business success. When asking someone to give you their attention, you are asking them to give you their most precious possession – time. Ask for that attention in the way of a negative event caused by you and or your organization and expect a less than positive consequence. Ask for that attention in the way of a positive event and expect – nothing. In the Internet age this is the price of admission. In the context of apartment marketing ideas, ask for that attention in the way of educating apartment patrons and you plant the seeds necessary for true engagement.

Consumer Expectation

There is yet another thing that human beings have in common – the need for insight. Insight is often a vibrant, happy and emotionally loaded space in any person’s life. At some level we are all after it – we all want to be in-the-know. The emotion and desire is hard-wired into our system. That is to suggest that consumer’s want – innately. It’s imbued on their hearts and minds. When we apply that fact we can quickly see the overarching need to embed listening, understanding, interaction and feedback into our concept. It all adds up to meaning for the apartment patron. It all adds up to the willingness to give us their attention. As an example – people spend an average of 25 minutes per session on Facebook – why? The need for insight is being met.

Offer it and They Will Come

We see examples of this all over the internet today but my favorite is Wine Library TV – dial into the 3:50 min section of this video – it is the point. You get people to this and you are on your way to what I will end this series with.

Have a over the top and compelling end to your week – we will be back in a couple days with another installment to this series.