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

In Or Out

Are they In or are they Out?

in or out
I wrote a post on my regular blog, RealLifeSTL.com recently about fashion trends for 2013. We used it to create a game for our podcast called In or Out (kind of playing off the old game show Street Smarts). Basically, we drove around to a couple of different places in St. Louis asking people to give us their opinions on whether certain fashion trends are ‘In’ or ‘Out’ in 2013 as compared to what we read on fashion websites.

It got me thinking about marketing trends and how there are differing opinions on what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’. Some trends are split straight down the middle while others are about 99% obsolete but still used (or worn) by some for lack of knowledge, money or just stuck in their ways.

I know my opinions aren’t the same as everyone, not even everyone within my company, so I’d like to play the In or Out game, this time to get opinions from people, and not just other management companies in St. Louis but people in the multi-family and marketing industries across the U.S., on what marketing trends you believe are ‘in’ and ‘out’.

I’ll start:


  • Engagement through Facebook
  • Promoting Ratings & Reviews on your own website
  • Getting involved with local community events/organizations (ex. blood drives, chambers, non-profits)


  • Car/door flyering
  • ILS print advertising
  • Faxing/e-mailing hot sheets or coupons to local businesses

I’d love to hear opinions of others on marketing trends that are In Or Out?

You can check out the RealLifeSTL Podcast here.

Selling – One for All Apartment Professionals

Apartment friends and family, it is no secret that selling starts with the ability to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself then you haven’t the slightest chance of getting anyone to love you back. And, in my head, getting people to fall in love with you first and your content second is the master-key to riches when it comes to selling.

Master Key to Riches in Four StepsMaster Key Apartment Marketing Selling

1. Love your heart [Read: Stay away from those that would bring you down. And, get real close to those who amp you up].

2. Love your mind [Read: Think well enough of yourself to read literature that makes you think deeply. Talk to people who challenge your intellect and blow you away].

3. Love your body [Read: Eat well and exercise regularly].

4. Love your soul [Read: Find purpose. Find meaning. Find mindfulness. Find that deeper meaning that amps you. Find that deeper meaning that gives cause for you to wake without the aid of an alarm despite the early hour. Find that thing that keeps you on task and in motion despite any and all setbacks].

Bonus Step: Get clear on the definition of riches. Hint: It has nothing to do with money.

Your – in constant practice of the four steps – multifamily maniac,



Apartment Marketing: Real or Just Great Storytelling?

In all fairness, I have not taken the time to view an episode of the show Ghost Adventures . In face I just learned about it this past Thursday when Mary Korte of Mills Neighborhood Blog fame wrote it. It immediately got me thinking about the topic of storytelling, the following quote being the real catalyst;

Zak, Nick, and Aaron go to some of the scariest places to try and get answers and information about the people who used to inhabit the spaces.  These guys aren’t your average investigators.  They are not afraid to go places where other paranormal investigators refuse to tread.  From apparitions to demons, these guys find it all!

Real or Just Great Storytelling

First, let’s give Zak, Nick and Aaron props for profitting on one of the most fundamental emotions that makes the world go around – fear. It’s well know that we are motivated by the pursuit of pleasure or the quest to avoid pain and fear plays a major roll in that. Can we profit off the back of fear like these three and all associated with their show have so brilliantly done?

Let’s face it, we humans have been scarying the hell out of each other from the beginning of time. You read about it in every kind of fiction and non-fiction. You hear the folktales and hear the creepy stories while sitting around the campfires we stoke up with every single passing summer. It’s just plain fun. Persoanlly speaking, I get a real charge out of scaring my kids into a frenzy through stories and outright hide and seek styled shockfests. And, they love it too. Ok, after they get over the initial reactions. But, do they belive it? Na – they just think I am a fun dad. And, good chance they will carry on the tradition with their kids.

Lesson for Apartment Marketing? 

Is there a chance we could sell more apartments by scaring the wits out of the people that walk in our front doors? Not likely, but we may be able to calm the fears they have of renting a new home. Espcically, those that have been burned in the past by bad service, bad attitudes and bad storytelling.

Everything is marketing and storytelling is the vehicle that moves people to action.

What is our lesson? Glean what you can from Zak, Nick and Aaron in the way of storytelling. Make their tactics and strategies your own. Add a dose of personality. Entertain the people that choose to live in your apartment communities. Consider your office the theater, your desk, tour route and display apartment the stage and you are the main character. Act accordingly and tell some mind blowing stories.

Game on –

Your – beliving not in ghosts but rather the power of storytelling – multifamily maniac,


Apartment Marketing Brass Tacks

“You need the kind of objectivity that makes you forget everything you’ve heard, clear the table, and do a factual study like a scientist would.” – Steve Wozniak

Short and sweet question(s) post today.

Do you ever feel like using social media to marketing apartments is like trying to smash a square peg into a round hole? Do you get the sense that we are trying so hard to make it work just because we just want it to? As opposed to following the advice of Steve W. and clearing the tables for some hard-core study of the real impact it is or is not making?

Have we been clouded by the hint of success we have seen from any one of the many mediums out there? A lease or two from Facebook, a lead from Twitter or a conversation stimulated by a killer resident function and we are quick to tout the success.

Have you found the effort to be worth the result? Do you think the real successes are down the road and over time?

In the end, content is not king – people are. People move business. And, people in relationship talk about businesses they like to do business with. Believe it or not – they usually do that offline.

Is it time to clear the table?

Your brass tacks multifamily maniac,


photo credit: blog mosaic

Apartment Marketing: glancee vs. highlight

Hi all

Rarely do I do two posts in a day but I could not pass this one up.

I think it goes without saying that the proliferation of platforms that draw us more and more near the people that we want to touch in some way is just crazy. And, that trend is forever taken to new heights this time of year when the famed SXSW technology and music conference in Austin, Texas kicks off. This is the conference where tech and musician startups jockey their way to internet and main stage stardom. Remaining on the tech side of things, it was in ’07 – that Twitter was the darling of the event. And, in ’09 it was Foursquare that stole the show.

Over the weekend, I caught a piece written by Robert Scoble about two companies that, by his early estimations, are the show stoppers for ’12. glancee and highlight are two to watch. The detailed piece on the two companies is over at TNW.

Marketing Apartments with glancee Using highlight to market apartments

Apartment Marketing

A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece on the future of apartment interest graph marketing where I talked about IGs becoming the route to deep and meaningful relationships that lead to more fruitful business.

glancee and highlight speak to right to that vision. Scoble describes the two services like this;

So why will these two apps be so hot at SXSW? Well, when you’re walking down Sixth Street in Austin, new names will pop up on Highlight. You can see their titles. Their hometown. Their interests, er, Facebook likes, and how many they have in common with you. Where they are. Which friends you have in common on Facebook. Then you can message them with something like “I noticed you like the Next Web, I’d like to meet you, can we do that?” I’ve done this dozens of times walking around San Francisco and it hasn’t failed yet to get a meeting.

Apartment Marketing Gone Creepy

I will admit there is a creepy factor at play here. There is something innately weird about these kinds of services. And, in the same respect, maybe not. We do sign up to participate, right? We throw creepy out the door by opting in. That said, it might turn out to be a very cool way to speak to people who have similar interest to you and more important – your community.

It makes finding that community personality that I mention in the interest graph piece even more important.

I mean, can you imagine strolling in front of a downtown apartment community  only to have our team give you a shout out as it relates to your love the Saint Louis Rams? (The community in the link above sits right in front of the Edwards Jones Dome where the Rams play) I know, I know – it’s hard to believe anyone would care about the Rams. But, if you did and we were able to strike up a conversation that ultimately lands you in our office then we both win. If the creation of that bond is crazy compelling – it will be shared.

So much flying through my mind on this one – would love to hear your thoughts if you get a minute today. Hit me up in the comments.

The world of marketing is shifting once again and Interest Graphs are  – well – interesting.

Your always interested in the interesting multifamily maniac,


pic credit to TNW.com

Apartment Budget Time Suck

#2012 questions, Apartment Marketing Questions

Ah! With budget season coming to an end, it will feel good to ease my way back into the blogging world. It’s been way too long. So, if I am rusty with words and concepts bear with me.

To kick it off, I have decided to start and ongoing series dedicated to questions that I ask myself throughout the course of any given year.

The subject matter will be all over the place but central to the ongoing operations of an apartment management business.

I hope to keep the posts brief and to the point [200 words+/-].

With that, let’s see how it goes…

To start: What do you do to streamline your budget process?

Every year from September until the later parts of December we nearly stall our home office operation to write our property operating budgets. To me it is one of those necessary evils of doing business. That is to suggest that the end product is a well thought through playbook for not only the year to come but the ten to twelve years beyond that.  As such, it demands prudence in its preparation. But, what suffers?

Nearly all the fundamentals get the semi-thoughtful but certainly not mindful once over review. Everything is surface and there is little time to dig in to the really important stuff. In all fairness this year was the best one on record. That said, we are always looking to approve.

Would love to hear your feedback on the subject.

Trusting you will have an amazing 2012.





#apartmentmarketing: Clarity

Clarity trumps persuasion. – Dr. Flint McGlaughlin

I have written about the subjects of brevity and clarity on a number of occasions. The concept came to me from a senior leader at Equity Residential some years ago and has stuck with me ever since. At the time I had the propensity to provide reports that were beyond the time necessary to digest them and I had the knack of going on and on in my descriptions of strategies and results. That is despite all the customary body language queues that would have guided me otherwise; had I been paying attention to them.

Principle: Brevity and Clarity

When thinking about apartment marketing, exercise the principle of brevity and clarity in your print ad copy, website copy, brochure offerings [if you still do this sort of thing], Facebook posting, blog posting and the such.

It’s not sage or unique advice but nevertheless a good reminder; we live in an attention economy. As such, we have to be compelling in our remarks and mindful of the clarity in our brevity.


#apartmentmarketing: Twitter

I was very encouraged to see their use of the medium included push marketing.

The biggest mistake we see companies make when they first hit Twitter is to think about it as a channel to push out information. – Tim O’Reilly & Sarah Milstein – The Twitter Book

For those veterans out there in the media space this seems like a no brain-er but in a world steeped in tradition, it seems like the right thing to do. Take a new medium, insert old practices and principles and voila, we experience success. Except that we don’t.

Apartment Twitter Marketing in Saint Louis

We have Amazing Apts...

Just this week, I followed up some new #STL Twitter handles [new apartment deliveries in the city proper]. I will admit, I was very encouraged to see their use of the medium included push marketing. Special after special, floor plan after floor plan, us – us – us & look at me copy – it all makes me smile inside.

It makes me smile because I don’t think it’s what those who use the space expect or even want to see. In other words, it’s a big turn off and at best it’s ignored and left to rot in a digital dump-ground way off over there in the dark ‘Cloud.’

Not that we at Mills Properties have it all figured out and are knocking it out of the park as a result. That being said, we do seem to experience a ton of participation from the people that work with and for us, the people that they serve in our some fifty properties in the Saint Louis Apartment Market and our coaches and mentors in the multifamily industry. All by using just the opposite approach and all for which we are immensely thankful. We keep experimenting, failing, learning, tweaking, experimenting & thanking those who give us feedback along the way.

Push Marketing on Twitter

Back to the point at hand; is there a time and place where this works? Have we reached that point or are we approaching a time where the masses that frequent Twitter, Facebook and the like expect, heck even desire to see some push marketing for goods and services? 

#apartmentmarketing: Vision

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. – Steve Jobs

For the span of my professional life; I have believed in the act of getting your companies vision down on paper. It’s a must in the way of creating a proactive culture as opposed to a culture of reaction. It’s also a way of making sure that you are out ahead of your constituents.

Random thoughts on creating vision

Penned in no particular order and in no exhaustive manner…

– It creates the ‘bigger than self’ that motivates people to get juiced about the work they do. In other words; people in the multifamily space, like people in other industries, want to know they are working on something bigger than anything they could accomplish as an individual. And, they want to know their time is spent in a meaningful way. And, if you are lucky enough, they think it’s cool too

– You spur a proactive approach to all aspects of your business. In the absence of vision people just make it up as they go along. Zig Ziglar sums it up like this; “you can not hit a target you do not have.”

– It sets the stage for future-casting. In other words, you give your team the ability to look out into the future and anticipate, with a good deal of accuracy, what your constituents really want

– You build meaning stuff

– You build tough stuff in an simple and efficient fashion

– It becomes your battle cry

– It is the way in which you imbue an owner’s mentality on the minds of the masses

– It is the way you evaluate talent

– It is the beacon of light when times get tough. And, times will get tough

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below

And, thank you for taking the time to read…it means a great deal to us.