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.

Apartment Marketing Idea – Can you remember…

Apartment memories…being amazed by particles of dust floating in the sunlight

…putting your brand new clothes out the night before the first day of school

…the first time you drove a car

…the first six bars of Stairway to Heaven

What makes you care?

Memories of apartmentsThink about that question from the perspective of the base you are trying to serve. Not the base you are trying to reach but rather the one you serve. Serve them well [Care] and the reach will happen by default.

Think about that the next time you set down to frame some apartment marketing ideas.

And, be compelling…

What Jerry Garcia could teach us about Apartment Marketing

You understand that the consumer is in control of your brand – now what?

Do something about it –

It’s time to shine! It’s time to take that understanding of not being in control and do something exceptional with it. And, knowing that innate in every single potential apartment prospect or long term super loyal resident is a little thing called emotion – focus there. Get it on it! Crush it! – as Gary Van-ner-chuk (is it me or does he look like a hit man in the “It’s 2010…grab it” video) would say.

How do you do something about it in the apartment space

It all starts with giving your prospects or residents something to discover. How do you do that? Be it a blog – a Facebook Fan Page – a Ning site or Twitter – you have a chance to add value through a little word called discovery. It has to move beyond the typical recommendation or link pointing to this or that or the other. Or god forbid, your floor plans, amenities, current specials and the such. Chances are they have discovered most of the stuff you are pointing to – especially if you use curated content hosed from another source. People want surprise – they want intrigue – they want variation. Think Greatful Dead here.

JerryGarciaBand1What the Grateful Dead can teach us about apartment marketing

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.” – Jerry Garcia

There was nothing normal about a Dead show. Every single gig was 100% unique and full of mystery. Every tangent that Jerry went off on was unique from the former and or the next. It added an element that gave cause for one of the most radical followings of our life time. One thing their shows were not – static. They were spicy. They were ever evolving and full of flavor. As a result their repeat business was off the charts and the buzz (pun intended) marketing persists to this day – even beyond the death of Jerry.

What kind of spice are you ready to deliver in 2010?

Dare I say – get your Jerry on!!

Give Customers What They Want

Seth posted a great story today title Everyone is Clueless – the video is especially compelling and is laced with a ton of powerful business lessons.

My biggest take away – we should be marketing reusable positions in lieu of recycling positions – it was a duh! moment for me. Now – how do we translate that to the apartment space.

I was also hit with the reinforcing message of: Give the customer what they want.

Check out the video

Peter is a Patriots Fan – Could he be a Mills Properties Fan?

I stopped Pete mid speech and said, “you’re not a Pariots fan, are you?” He said, “You’re damn right I am, let me tell you a funny story.”

My week was more than eventful – transitioned 1100 new units [what an amazing team we have – so many talented people made this happen], walked a fire unit with an insurance adjuster, experienced two alarms that called for an ambulance and fire truck, handed off a property and talked to a guy named Peter.

Peter was less than happy that the lighting in our parking lot was not as bright as he thought it should be. It rocked that I could tell him that we approved some lighting improvement proposals the day before but he was not satisfied. He really wanted to discuss the fact that the new parking policy was not accommodating for he and his daughter. You see they are taking a trip to Boston next week and past management allowed him to park in the open reserved parking spots for a mere $5 a day. I said, “no worries” – let’s go get you a spot now. “Okay, but did you know the reason that I moved into this apartment was that my employer is right across the street but….at that moment he raised his hand to the sky and exposed an New England Patriots watch. I stopped Pete mid speech and said, “you’re not a Pariots fan, are you?” He said, “You’re damn right I am, let me tell you a funny story.”

Pete went on for the next fifteen minutes [fifteen minutes I really didn’t have but I knew would yield huge dividends] telling me a story about Saint Louis sports teams losing every sporting event they were involved in to a Boston area team during a certain week back in 1994 – he knew it was 94′ as it bared some significance to a major family event. Pete ended his story by telling me that Mills was the best thing that ever happened to the property and that he sees the things we are doing to make the place better. I have to believe it was the fifteen minutes of listening that matter most to Pete.

Is Pete a fan? I venture to say he is still in the wait and see stage but I guarantee you he will be over the next year. And, if the Patriots ever come to town – Pete will have a pair of tickets – on me.

Apartment Marketing Idea: You are not Your Apartment Prospect

How about we call this Creating Experience by Walking Around [CEWA]. The real key to remember here is that you are not your customer and in order to understand your customer you must engage and participate with them.

1124847_person_questionI think one of the easiest traps to fall into when marketing to apartment prospects or residents is to think that they want what you want and they will like what you like. It is really easy when you don’t take the time to understand who your customer is and what they value. In order to that you have to be willing to spend time asking questions, trying new things, testing new theories, crushing sacred cows and refining your successes. All in the name of your client’s changing tastes.

Always done it that way

We have all heard the statement that if you keep doing what you have always done expecting a different result – you get the definition of insanity. It’s as true in our space as it is in different industries across America. We keep at it year after year because it’s easy. It’s really hard to go against the grain. It’s really hard to convince the powers that be that giving up tried and true processes is a good thing. Problem with this is that change, if not embraced, will free up your future sooner or later.

The ABC’s of change

In selling ABC stands for Always Be Closing, in understanding that you are not your apartment customer it stands for Always Be Changing. With the advent of the internet came the rapid acceleration of change. In one fell swoop we had every piece of information we could every want at our finger tips. That is not to suggest that it has not taken time to morph our imbued information gathering habits but it is to say it’s not your older brothers world anymore. If you don’t like change you will like irrelevance even less and that is your prize for standing still today.

How do you keep up with your customer

Tom Peter’s popularized  the phrase Management by Walking Around [MBWA], defined by BusinessDictionary.com this way;

Unstructured approach to hands-on, direct participation by the managers in the work-related affairs of their subordinates, in contrast to rigid and distant management. In MBWA practice, managers spend a significant amount of their time making informal visits to work area and listening to the employees. The purpose of this exercise is to collect qualitative information, listen to suggestions and complaints, and keep a finger on the pulse of the organization. Also called management by wandering around.

I think it is a fair way think about how to keep up with your customer. We should be interacting with them both on and offline. Here are just a couple of ideas on how to do that;

  • Ask for their opinion any time you see them
  • Hang out where they hang out
  • Eat where they eat
  • Read the magazines, blogs and tweets they read
  • Read the books, ebooks and ezines they read
  • Ask permission to enlist them on your Facebook, MySpace and Tweet pages
  • Participate on their Facebook, MySpace and Tweet pages
  • Shop where they shop
  • Read what they review
  • Ride the buses they ride
  • Frequent the places they work
  • Experience the products and services they like
  • Work out where they work out
  • Ask what keywords they used to find you

How about we call this Creating Experience by Walking Around [CEWA]. The real key to remember here is that you are not your customer and in order to understand your customer you must engage and participate with them. And, make it easy for them to do the same with you.

Apartment Reviews – Reimagined

The more important point here is: how do we increase participation to an Amazonish or iTuneish type level?


Looking back

 Back in October of 2007 we wrote about participating in the conversation via rating sites and even suggested incorporating a mechanism into your property management website to make it easier. Here is a bit of a revised excerpt from that post;

 “If you are still of the mind that dismisses the value of sites like apartmentratings.com, listen up. The feedback outlined in the brief above [Deloitte] should move you to action as soon as possible. I truly think we should all open up our company websites to include a consumer and resident feedback mechanism. Instead of internal score keeping, make it completely transparent. My only suggesting is that you have an editor just for the sake of carving out names and character attacks as we know they will come despite our best efforts. Even with that in mind you have to be courageous enough to leave the meat and more importantly act on it.”

 Two years later

 Here we are nearly two years later in the midst of the conversation marketing buzz and while a good many of us are participating there is still a hesitancy to move that conversation to our websites. Even those that have don’t really have a great deal of participation in terms of consumers reviewing them.

 Two years from now

 Not only is the writing on the wall but the ink is dry and the conversation is going on with or without you. And, the benefits are immense when you bring the conversation to you;

  •  You have the ability to increase your credibility
  • You have the ability to participate
  • You have the ability to influence
  • You have the ability to increase your Google Juice
  • You have the ability to innovate with your consumer
  • You have the ability to create evangelist
  • You have the ability to generate further participation
  • You have the ability to create loyalty
  • You have the ability to create an environment where people feel they are part of something larger than themselves
  • You have that ability to respond in lieu of react [there is a big difference]

The more important point here is: how do we increase participation to an Amazonish or iTuneish type level? Do we ask former potential, existing or former residents to review their experience relative to their specific unit such that every unit takes on its very own unique rating? Would that allow us to price higher rated homes differently than lower rated homes. I see it as a great mechanism to allow us the opportunity to really maximize our rents. Maybe the lease rent optimizers out there employee a unit rating lever into their pricing algorithms. The ideas are endless – acting is the key.



Offline WOM Rules the Day…

Below are the results of a recent Nielsen survey of 25,000 consumers from 50 countries.

Is it interesting that off-line trust leads the pack? And, by a fairly comfortable margin?

I thought about it in my own life and while I do occasionally [when buying books] read a review or two before making a purchase – I many times turn to my friends. Just last week I asked a couple friends for names of a good Family Doctor and a really good place to eat lunch. And, as funny as it may seem, when I moved in Feb. I asked a couple of friends what neighborhoods they would recommend living in or around. I ignored the ILSs, Craigslists and even my own companies offerings. Reason: I – personally – find them to be time consuming relative to a friend saying, “Yeah – check this place or that place out.” I found my dentist, attorney, local bank, and cleaners the same way – ironically from the same person. I even consulted two friends to help me find the perfect Jeep dealership. Never even thought about Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc…

Interesting or not really? What does it really mean – if anything?

Related story:

Nielsen: Consumers Trust Online Opinions

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Purchasing feedback: I will pay you vs. I will give you something free

question-markRead the following tweet this morning [RT @[xyz] @[abc] Suggest that you give away a free Flip to every prospect/resident that creates a [management company] Experience Video, Beats  free rent] – it really got me thinking.

I have read both sides of this issue and have taken the position that if you disclose that you are paying for and or giving something away in exchange for an endorsement then frankly it’s okay. It really comes down to what is in the eye of the beholder.  And, I think, at the end of the day, if a person really wants a product/experience they will go and get it/have it despite the persons of influence in their lives. They may read and listen but if they want it – they want it, period.

My real point here is that the above tweet implies that it’s okay to give away a  Flip in exchange for an endorsement. Moreover it specifically states that it’s better than giving away free rent. On that point I ask: What’s the difference? – give away free rent or buy 20 Flips to give away – either way you hit the bottom line. Sure buying the Flip is cheaper and brings along a novelty that escaped the free rent give away long ago but it’s still an expense. It’s just a different form of currency. Marry it with a “you get the Flip free “if” you give me an endorsement and you have really marred the picture but I will leave that for future conversation.

For now – I really wonder what the community thinks – Is the Flip, used in this sense, a form of currency that could be construed as purchasing feedback? If so, is that okay? Would it pass a Yelp sniff test? Do you think the masses really care? Would you give equal stage to people who would speak conversely about your brand experience? Is it better than free rent? If so, why?

Using Social Media to Market Apartments – J.C. Hart

J.C. Hart Live the Life Video Contest 2009

“Last November at the Indiana Apartment Association “Industry Outlook” presentation, the speaker said a dirty word when sharing his thoughts about 2009. It was much longer than four letters, beginning with a “C” and ending in “onsessions”. After that night we began brainstorming about overcoming this obstacle. What we came up with was “The Year of the Resident.”- Mark Juleen

“Turn the focus inward” became the mantra for Mark and his team. They re-imagined the way they would allocate their marketing resources spending money on such things as; resident functions, upgrades to social meeting spaces and special promotions. One of those special promotions made use of the social medium YouTube and the catchy tune, Live Your Life by T.I. [featuring Rihanna] It really caught our eye and we wanted to feature it here.

“Some may have already had a chance to see what’s been going on with our first “Special Promotion” called the “J.C. Hart Live the Life Video Contest.” This contest asks for J.C. Hart Apartment Community residents to create a two minute video or less on why they love living in their J.C. Hart Apartment Community and Apartment. The videos were posted to YouTube.com to enter, and since, were narrowed down to the top 5 finalists in our 6 winning categories. We posted these finalists to a custom blog (livethelife.homeisjchart.com), and have just recently selected our winners. You can read the winners announcement on the blog, and view all the 44 entries on the J.C. Hart YouTube page.” – Mark Juleen

We asked Mark to share the numbers with us and this is what he had to say –
All data and information as of March 31, 2009:

  • YouTube.com/homeisjchart Channel Hits – 11,045
  • YouTube Video Entry Views (44 total video entries) – 34,420
    • Total views in-full (YouTube does not count partial views or facebook sharing views)
  • Live the Life Finalist Blog Hits – 13,483
    • Absolute Unique Visitors – 10,048
    • Page views – 27,248
    • Only 360 users on Dial-up
    • Facebook referral hits – 819, 2nd highest next to direct URL
    • Hits from 37 countries (astonishing # from Guam)
    • 146 comments (88 alone on Overall)
  • Votes Cast Using Poll Daddy Polls – 15,554 (6,964 for Best Overall Video)

We’d also like to share some of the comments we’ve had from the contest as well.

“Just wanted to let you know that this contest was a great idea.”

“I thought all the videos were great! Everybody did a really good job. It’s great to see so much participation!”

“Way to go J.C. Hart! Great to see your pro-active involvement in assisting those with disabilities.”

“This contest has been a lot of fun….we really had fun making the video.”

When asking a prospect how they heard about us: “I saw you on the J.C. Hart website. It sounded like a fun place to live. You are listed on my notes under the “funny video” apartments.”

“Thanks J.C. Hart for running such a great contest. It’s nice to see a company do something so unique and cool. I don’t work for J.C. Hart, I just live here. :)”

It has been fun and exciting to open up new communication lines with our residents. A huge proponent for our online social media efforts has been our local marketing partner Firebelly Marketing. With their expertise and our talented leasing teams we have been able to implement a number of new online tools and enhance our web presence. We feel by utilizing social media tools we are now reaching our residents more frequently than we ever could with resident events or more amenities. Most importantly, we’ve found a group of our residents that love to share their stories and love their apartment/community. Beyond the online data, these testimonials help confirm we are doing things right as well. It’s our goal to “Make your home an enjoyable living experience,” and many of our residents have helped demonstrate that for us.

I think this is a great testament to the use of social media to market apartments and in the same respect, I have to imagine that Mark and his team were mindful of the fact that someone could have used this platform/stage to speak adversely of the J.C. Hart brand. I applaud that this did not detour them in their efforts. Thank you for demonstrating some real courage on this one Mark.

The story gets better. Or, at least in my opinion it does. On two different occasions I emailed Mark, at the request of people I told about the J.C. Hart contest, to ask if he would field some questions – questions about how these individuals could create their own respective contests. Mark, being the class act that he is, said absolutely. To me – that is what is all about – sharing for the betterment of the industry as a whole. Hats off to you Mark and thank you for taking the time to share with us.

You can learn more about Mark and what he is up to at the following sites:

LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/mjuleen
Twitter Account: www.twitter.com/mbj
Other Profiles: www.theapartmentnerd.com