Guest Cards verses Web Site Traffic; Digital Marketing Trumps ILS Advertising

October 26, 2012

Digital Marketing for Apartment Leases and Leads

As Digital Apartment Marketers we have done a poor and unjust job of educating our clients about the amount of web site traffic required to create enough leasing leads, or Guest Cards to sustain occupancy standards for their apartment communities. It has been an arduous task to alter the conversation enough to get the average apartment operator to recognize the importance of web site traffic as a real part of their business metrics. Until web site traffic conversion ratios and web site traffic are as important to the apartment marketer as Traffic to Tours ratios, Tours to Rentals ratios and overall occupancy, apartment operators will continue to sail along doing what they do, which is using outside sources, such as print and ILS listings to deliver leasing leads. Sailing along doing what you do is fine, but expensive. 

We all have varying opinions about the ILS’s (Internet Listing Service) viability and effectiveness of their business model, but they are losing the battle to Google. Apartment prospects type something in a search box first, and that is typically a Google search box. With Google Places and their emphasis on local search, the apartment operator can level the playing field fairly easily over time.

There is another dirty little secret that apartment operators are not acknowledging. Apartment Marketing costs using traditional print and ILS’s is expensive. A properly executed digital marketing strategy can lower your apartment marketing costs by 30% or more. But it is more than that, many of the leasing leads are lost in the shuffle. 

Are You Counting All of Your Leasing Leads

Of course you think you are counting all of your leads, and those hefty over thick marketing reports can’t be wrong, right? Heck, you may even have multiple ILS’s claiming the same lead. But that is not what we are referring to. We are talking about the prospect that was on your web site, spent four of five minutes looking around and filled something out requesting more information. If that information isn’t automatically converted into a Guest Card we can guarantee you are losing valuable leasing leads. Before you all rise and shout how much control you think you have over this process, and how you know that every eLead is counted because you have “checks and balances”, if your system requires any of your staff to “enter” something into the “system” you ARE Losing Leads. IF your system is totally automated, less walk in and phone traffic, you are heads above the rest of the pack. 

How Much Traffic Do You Need?

If you can get your arms around capturing all of the traffic that actually took the time to fill out something online, how much web site traffic does it take to produce one Guest Card? In the example above, which is from our Google Analytics Dashboard for our client Urbane Apartments, we need to drive just under (50) Unique Visitors to produce (1) Guest Card. That is a web traffic conversion rate of 2.13%. Similarly, we need to drive (650) Unique Visitors to produce (1) Rental. 

Web traffic conversions are low, irrespective of what business you are in, so if the number seems low, it is. That isn’t what you should focus on, at least at first. Build a dynamic web site and social outreach program substanial enough to keep your apartment protfolio full.

We use our own apartment portfolio Urbane Apartments as a testing place, and laboratory for experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. The above screen shot are actual numbers for a cross section of (300) of our units at scattered apartment communities. I believe that our conversion rations of Guest Cards to Tours at 26.16% and our closing ratio of Tours to Rentals both fall within similar ratios that I see from our clients. The difference is that at Urbane we do not use any print or any ILS advertising. Our goal is to drive our web site Unique Visitors number high enough to create an acceptable ratio. 

Are you tracking web traffic and conversion ratios? Is your web site producing enough traffic? 

Eric Brown

Eric’s background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established Urbane Media, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested. Eric has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and Business Week Magazine. You can connect with Urbane_Media on Twitter. Eric also writes regular articles for the following publications;  Multi Housing News Social Media Examiner Search Engine Guide

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