Apartment Marketers; You are Choosing Boring

April 16, 2013
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When was the last time that someone pumped your gas. For some readers, maybe never, for a few of us, we still remember that era gone by. The Gas Station Attendent pumped your gas, checked your oil and washed your windows! Working at a Sohio Station in rural Ohio was my first job as a teenager. 

I remember my Archie Bunker father rambling about how that would never work, and that women would never pump their own gas. Well Pop’s, they do, and they and everyone else did pretty quickly. 

 It is fascinating that in a snap, what was tried and true all changed. “Service Stations” also know as “Gas Stations” become Connivence Stores, and Self Serve, Pump Your Own Gas became common place for all of us, including girls. What were the triggers, price as I recall. It sure wasn’t about Enhancing the Customer Experience

Being BORING is a Choice

We are nearing five years now into our Go Solo Leasing Program, and it may be the singularly most profitable change we have ever implemented  as well as the most adored by our prospects looking for an apartment. So many things have spawned from that which help us further differentiate and Break From the Pack of Apartment Commodity.  

WHAT! NOT TOURING WITH THE PROSPECT, YOU CAN’T DO THAT!
We are sending prospects out on their own to tour our apartments. In our trek to enhance the concept of a Centralized Leasing Center at Urbane, we are testing a new way to tour apartments and we have coined it “GO SOLO”. It works like this; The prospect meets at Urbane Underground first to go over their living space needs. For folks who have never experienced the Urbane Underground it is pretty “Interesting and Entertaining” and sets the tone for a fun encounter.

Opinions GONE Wild

And criticized we were, the industry pun dents came out in full force to tell us how wrong the idea was, and all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. It just isn’t good service was the main theme. I am fine with opinions, I have plenty, but I find it interesting that folks were against the idea even after we could prove the result, and no one said why it might work. To that I reply, most businesses, including property managers haven’t a true clue what the customer really wants anyway, so whatever YOU think customer service IS, likely doesn’t align with the prospects expectations, yet folks abound act like experts at knowing what the rental prospect wants. News Flash, They Don’t. 

Research Shows 90% of Businesses Have NO CLUE What the Customer Wants 

Smith’s company analyzed more than 150 customer surveys to learn why customers buy particular products or services from particular companies. It’s an essential practice for any business owner during any economic cycle, Smith says, but most don’t do it. Her analysis of 10 years of double-blind customer market research for more than 100 businesses revealed that, 90 percent of the time, most businesses do not know their customers’ top values. They are often shocked to learn what is at the top of the customers’ value list.

The feedback we received from our leasing prospects OVERWHELMING confirmed we had landed a Golden Nugget with the Go Solo Leasing Program! Everyone LOVED It This isn’t a new idea. The car dealers stopped riding around with you for a test drive years ago. Then, the test drive turned into; Take the car for the afternoon! Why is that?

Salespeople get in the way and it is uncomfortable.

Going Alone allows the prospect to sit on the floor. Come back later in the day, or the next day. Bring over a friend, their mom or dad, boyfriend or girlfriend. They can measure for furniture, and just plain “test” the new space they will be calling home soon. ZERO Pressure! Multifamily Consultants seem to have a unanimous opinion that properly trained leasing professionals need to lead the prospect around. That makes sense, as it supports their leasing better programs that they sell. I would guess that Brick and Mortar Shoe Stores had a similar opinion Pre ZAPPO’s. Just another example of disconnect between what we think the prospect wants verses what they see as value. To be clear, we aren’t saying the leasing profesional doesn’t add value, we are saying, get them out of the way.

Unintended Consequences  

What we learned from the Go Solo Experiment is that we reduced our Cost per Lease by (1) Leasing Person annualized salary. To put that into perspective for a (300) unit apartment community that needs to rent (150) units per year, and an average leasing labor at $35,000 per year, is a cost savings of $230 per lease/$35,000 annualized. The other thing that happened is that Follow-Up, INCREASED because our leasing team had a  significant increase in TIME. The third thing that happened is, we no longer ever have more than one leasing person in the leasing center at one given time. From that we took the same amount of leasing hours per week, and stretched them. Eliminating overlap allowed us to extend the hours we are open to 8:00 AM to 8:00PM, which our prospects find great value in. 

So our Go Solo Leasing Program has given us an edge our competitors do not have, and we have Enhanced the Prospects Experience on multiple touch points, and we have lowered our costs. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new, leasing apartments doesn’t need to be BORING, you are making it that way.

    

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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