Fill Your Marketing Balloons With More Than Air

marketingI was recently given the privelege to co-moderate a brainstorming session on the topic of marketing. The session was held for members of the apartment management industry at various stages in their careers, from leasing agents who have been in the industry for 2 months to  property managers with 10 years of experience. My topic was old school marketing. Old school referring to anything not social media. More specifically, tools such as resident retention, outreach marketing, Craigslist, etc. The idea was to get creative juices flowing, discuss what’s working, what’s not working and maybe learn a few things to take back to the rest of the team.

I was surprised by the lack of marketing knowledge…and for that matter, the lack of creativity. I heard the same 3 “best practices” from a majority of the groups: Generic signs and balloons for drive by traffic, generic Craiglist ads and monetary resident referral incentives. I heard questions like: “What do you say when you’re marketing to a business?” and “It’s ok to send thank you cards and gift baskets to businesses who refer someone to you?” Leasing agents and PMs who had no knowledge of free additional ILS marketing template tools like VFlyer and Postlets, who had never thought past posting a flyer with a resident referral rent credit in terms of using residents as a marketing tool, and those are just building blocks. It’s as if they were told that marketing is something only a rocket scientist can figure out.

First let me say I’m not exactly saying the 3 best practice items listed above are crap, I’m simply saying that they shouldn’t be IT.  Also, I’m in love with social media and believe it’s an insanely valuable tool, however 1. It was not my topic to discuss and 2. I also think that personal touch and those face to face human interactions through outreach marketing and resident appreciation events are valuable, and combining the 2 forms is fabulous! (Read Urbane Media’s QR Codes blog). But I’m not sure I believe you can be effective with social media if you don’t even know the basics of effective old school marketing tools. And if no one is teaching or motivating their team on the basics of marketing, then I doubt that there is any social media marketing in place anyway.

So I guess what I’d like to learn from this eye opening experience is: Am I way off base in believing that some old school marketing techniques are still a valuable tool in the industry? Is someone teaching your staff about marketing? Do you believe that one can effectively use social media tools without ever having learned/practiced old school marketing strategies?

Title courtesy of Melissa DeCicco

Photo credit bloggingoutloud

#apartmentmarketing: Focus on the Needs

Sometimes a little simple is a lot better.

Remarkable social media content and great sales copy are pretty much the same – plain spoken words designed to focus on the needs of the reader, listener, or viewer. – Brian Clark

We have all been there – staring at a blank page waiting, wondering, wanting something brilliant to pop into our mind so we can dazzle the socks off of our constituents. And, it doesn’t come. Or, it comes in faster than you can get your fingers to move so once complete it seems all over the board and useful to no one. Worst of all we are not patient for things that come anon as it’s a yesterday economy…

Simple is better

Sometimes a little simple is a lot better. Robert Fulghum summed it up best in his book; All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK

Apartment Marketing: Rooftop Advertising with a Twist

A couple weeks ago I had an owner bring up the idea of roof top advertising in exchange for a much need roof repair. The property in question is a vintage sixties with many of the original mechanical systems still in place. That is to include a roof that has more than maxed out it’s useful life. It’s a capital intensive site given it’s age and lack of any major rehab over the years.

We squeezed one roof into the 2011 budget but now that it has come time to consider doing it; we have to get creative. Enter the idea. The property sits right in the path of outbound flights from the Saint Louis airport. That being the case;  the owner suggested approaching big box retailers and or anyone else that would have an interest in sponsoring, in a sense, the roof replacement.

I’m certain it’s not a novel idea but it was novel to me in the sense of the trade exchange element. It goes beyond the traditional banner on rooftops that front busy arteries all over america. The type we purchase to push our lifestyle, specials and or availability. If done well, it could take a huge chunk of capital expense right out of our budget.

Cool or Cheesy?

Photo credit to: Advertising is Good for You

TYE – Mr. Apartment Resident; That’s Goes Against Our Policy

Image from:

TYE is is short for The Thank You Economy by Gary Vay-ne-chuk; I started reading it right after it’s early morning release today. I have made it through the preface and the first chapter and would highly recommend picking it up or downloading it.

No – That’s Our Policy

Gary starts the book by telling a story about a guy who comes into his father’s wine store to redeem a coupon after the fact. The manager in the story quotes a strict interpretation of the coupon policy and sends the guy away empty handed. Gary recalls feeling, in his gut, that the guy was never going to come back to the store and let’s the manager know as much. He goes on to suggest that his gut was wrong about the guy returning but right about another thing.

Apartment Company Policy

The topic has been written about over and over, many times in our business we push our prospects and residents away over policy and procedure. I don’t have enough fingers and toes [even if I count my Facebook acquaintances] to count the number of times I have witnessed it over the past fifteen or so years I have been in the business. I can’t honor that, I can’t waive this, I can’t waive that. I know it’s your first month being late after twenty-three years of living here but late is late is late [Read with a good cheer in your voice]. The really good ones displace it on corporate; it’s a corporate thing! I wish I could help but corporate won’t let us do that.

Apartment Company Policy of tomorrow [Read: Today]

Understanding that Fair Housing plays a necessary and important role in our industry; the world of business has changed. Getting back to Gary’s Gut; the guy returned to the store to let them know he would never buy another thing from them – ever! We know the rest of the story [pre-social media and smart phones]; the man likely told ten of his best friends about his experience. And, so on and so forth.

Business has changed and we not only have to adapt but rather stay ahead of the competition and the human beings we do business with. One of the ways I try and stay ahead is reading books of all kinds and participating in our industries social spaces. And, believe me; I learn something everyday. The preface of Gary’s book reminded me of how being rigid and using strict interpretation turns customers away and unlike the guy in the story, many never return. And, today they pull out the social media bullets to get you back. Trust me, many of us, sad to say, deserve it…

I can’t wait to read the rest of the book and share some more thoughts. In the mean time; what have you learned in the short year of 11′ that speaks to the point of rigid policy and or procedure that turn customers away?

Property Management: Money Orders are a Necessary Evil

…I think there an equal amount of people out there that make all the right decisions and still get hit with the downside of adversity.

I am turning to our readers today for some feedback on process.

A lot of renter’s in our communities are one life circumstance away from total financial ruin up to and including losing their apartment. It has given cause for desperate behaviors such as sacrificing their electricity, gas, phone, cable etc. in order to make the rent. In other cases they use creative means such as robbing electricity via extension cords run to your common area outlets in hallways and laundry rooms. It’s amazing what you see out there anymore.

Now one could argue that life choices predicated on fulfilling wants over needs or necessities has contributed to a lot of this and in the same respect I think there an equal amount of people out there that make all the right decisions and still get hit with the downside of adversity.

Our residents are not the only ones faced with making the rent. Many of our employees are waging the same battle month after month. And, sometimes it leads to desperate actions.

That leads me to the premise for my question – money orders left blank by the prospective resident and or current residents paying rent are so very tempting in a desperate time of need. Can you share some of your processes with me as it relates to keeping good people honest. What do you do to keep integrity in the system on your bigger sites where you have six, eight or even ten people working an office and handling money. Specifically, what do you do to make sure these blank money order gems are not used as float to get by to the next pay period? How do you make sure that once an application is taken that it is processed in your property management software asap?

While they are a necessary evil – I have to believe there is a system of handling that keeps theft to a minimum.

Thank you in advance for your considerations and feedback.

Your ready for some economic prosperity friend,

Apartment Leadership – Your Answer May Not be the Only Answer

I read a story today that held a lesson too important not to share. The overarching premise related to creative solutions for business problems. The key lesson being that just because you [leaders] don’t get the answer you are looking for does not mean the answer is not an acceptable solution for the problem.

Allow me to take you back to my childhood for a second to bring this point home. I grew up on a farm just South of a small town on the Eastern Plains of New Mexico. The summers, outside of crazy boring chores, were packed with a ton of down time.  My only mode of transportation were two wheels straddled by a frame, two peddles and a seat. It was four miles along the highway to the edge of town and another four to my nearest friend. Needless to say, I was not jumping at the chance to make the trip very often.

Both of my parents worked so my sister and I were left to make the best of each day. Days that included a long list of chores to complete before they made it home. On one occasion that list included a request for me to pull an acre of weeds no less than four feet tall [exaggerated for emphasis]. A project that wold have taken the better part of two days to accomplish [no exaggeration on this point].

Now I don’t claim to be any more resourceful than the next guy or gal but I can say that if there is a more efficient way to do something, trust that I am going to find it. In this instance, I went next door and asked by neighbor if I could borrow a few of his healthiest farm animals to assist in my assignment. He agreed and it took them the better part of a half-day to complete the project. They mowed the weeds right down to the dirt and in many cases pulled them out by the root. Needless to say, I was very proud of my accomplishment and could not wait to share it with my step-father.

“What were you thinking? I asked you to PULL the weeds,” he thundered upon my sharing. I was shocked. Devastated. And, angry. Why was my solution any less effective than his alternative? The reason according to the story I read this morning was because it was not his desired solution.

Getting to the point, how many times in our property management careers have we been put off or put back by resourceful thinkers that get things done in a different or better fashion than you. Do you coach them as it relates to your desired solution? Did you coach out of an underlying premise of frustration or anger? Here are some things to think about if you are in this crowd of thinkers:

1. Are you stalling creativity?

2. Are you screening out innovation?

3. Are you killing a free thinking environment?

4. Are you killing moral?

5. Are you losing good people?

Photo Credit:

Using Facebook to Rent More Apartments

A ton has been written on the topic of Facebook as it relates to renting apartments and I don’t intend to belabor the point.

Rather, I am curious to hear from our readers; What is/are your biggest struggle with it? What are your biggest successes? What would you tell someone who is thinking about starting a like page?

I appreciate any discussion we get going here – even the brief ones.

Property Management Company: Cause

I see a cause as being something bigger than self or team. To me – it’s audacious in nature. And, it has nothing to do with selling more stuff but everything to do with building individual and organizational character as a way of changing the world.

It seems to me that Property Management Companies are in essence Professional Service Firms. The chief objectives are to maximize the physical and fiscal performance of a real estate asset for institutional and or private owners. But are they really called to be and do more?

Property Management Company: Cause

I received an email not long ago asking a question along the lines of finding a cause for a firm – in an email exchange I penned the following:

I see a cause as being something bigger than self or team. To me – it’s audacious in nature. And, it has nothing to do with selling more stuff but everything to do with building individual and organizational character as a way of changing the world. I don’t use – changing the world – in jest. It is the only premise with which to build an organization. In my head organizations are built to serve the people that serve it – period. That is first and foremost. If built right all else will fall into place. An organization that focuses on building character will see that character exercised in the way of success on every level with every metric.

I think Emerson said it best when he penned the following:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Capture that in the way of a cause that lays over your companies mission, vision, strategy and goals that help to execute as much and you have something people can believe in. You will have found something that people can get out of bed in the morning for – you can change the lives of hundreds if not thousands and as a default – you will create wealth beyond your imagination and more important – the imaginations of those that are served by the organization. They will have lived what Emerson had in mind – all because you made a decision to offer up a worthy cause.

Do you have a cause? What is it? Why do you think it is important?

Apartment Marketers: Afraid to Blog?

Blogging: This is something you make time for at the expense of other things.

Below is a link to a story that resonated with me relative to a conversation that was broached on Mike Whaling’s: Apartment Marketing Gone Digital’s last episode. I believe it was Eric Brown that made the point about the lack of conversation about blogs as it relates to apartment marketing at NAAs 2010 convention.

Apartment Blogging: Fear

I agree to some extent with Eric that there is a dearth of examples with apartment blogging in the Apartment Space as I think the offerings are growing everyday. For example – Mills Properties – is on the verge of launching seven regional blogs in addition to revamping the Mills employee-centric blog. In addition, JC Hart, Trillium, Paragon, Village Green and PCMG have ventured down the path of blogging and from my perspective are doing a good job of it. I applaud the fact that these firms have taken the endeavor on as an in-house marketing function.

With that, I feel it necessary to make the point that I am not an advocate of ILSs that offer blogging as a part of their advertising package. And, time should be of no excuse. I would rather hear the fear stuff like; I am afraid of what others might think of my choice of topic, my grammar, my spelling or what if I can’t think of anything to write about. Not that those things are not important but – time as an excuse – save it. This is something you make time for at the expense of other things.

Apartment Non-Blogging

To the topic at hand – the following post was offered up on the Conversation Agent Blog a couple weeks ago. In it Valeria Moltoni suggests alternatives to blogging that could and are effective in building your digital footprint. If you are not into creating original and or mashed up blog content – this read is for you. The premise is that participation is an equally compelling form of content creation. She offers some real practical applications using LinkedIn, Twitter and others. So – if you just can’t bring yourself to do it and you elect not to farm it out to a third party, try this method.

Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments below –

Conversation Agent: Blogging at Work if You Don’t Have a Blog

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Participation is content because it is what will activate your content in the context of the conversation. Remember when you worried about nobody coming to your blog? It’s the same with content in other places – you’ve got to interact to activate it.

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?