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“It's a way for you to help promote, make sure you get more traffic and more visibility, eyeballs on your listings on those sites, which will then, based on data that we've seen in our analysis, it will help to generate more traffic.” — Michael Mottola, VP, Technology & Data at Rentsync
Today, Rentsync is excited to announce a new feature that helps users promote their listings, make sure they get more visibility, and ultimately generate more traffic, resulting in up to 2.5x (sometimes up to 6x), the number of leads! In this episode, we are joined by Suhasini Gadam, Senior Product Manager, and Michael Mottola, VP of Technology and Data at Rentsync, to chat about Promoted Listings, the latest and greatest Rentsync platform update that's going to transform the way rental housing providers market their listings.
Tuning in you’ll hear how Promoted Listings create a more streamlined, self-service process for users, in comparison to Featured Ads, and the many things that have happened behind the scenes to make this possible. You’ll discover how Promoted Listings can assist with leasing up faster, what some of the most popular use cases for this feature are, and how this affects the overall flow of transactions for Rentsync clients.
To find out how you can get started in using promoted listings, some of the different payment tiers and package offerings available, and everything you need to know to make the most of this new feature, tune in today!
Key points from this episode:
SD: “Even lease-ups for example, you may be tracking your leads per month and if you notice that your velocity is decreasing, it might be wise to activate for more listings to catch up so you can still achieve your goals.”
[00:00:34] NS: Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I’m your host Nicolina Savelli. On this podcast, I chat with multifamily and PropTech experts to learn how you can reach more renters, sign more leases and maximize the value of your assets. Today, I have Suhasini Gadam, Senior Product Manager and Michael Mottola, VP of Technology and Data at Rentsync to chat about the latest and greatest Rentsync platform update and how it's going to transform the way rental housing providers market their rental listings. Super exciting, guys. Welcome back to the show. You've both been on with me before, but there's been some title changes since we last spoke. If you don't mind, can you please share with listeners your new titles and what you've been working on at Rentsync? in the last few months or six months since I've last had you on the show? Michael, I'll have you start, if you don't mind.
MM: Absolutely, thanks for having us on again, Nicolina. It's good to be here. I've been working with a lot of different people and teams. It's keeping me busy. It's keeping things fun. I'm now the VP of Technology and Data, as you said. My slightly different focus than my previous position of a product and technology title. The biggest difference is, I'm not solely focused on the Rentsync platform anymore. I'm still focused on software development and engineering, working with product teams and product team members. But I'm spending a lot more time on technology and data strategies across the entire organization, not just the Rentsync platform. I get the joy of working with different business units and different product leaders within Rentsync, so it's great.
[00:02:05] NS: Right. When you say data, does that mean internal data or is that also customer-focused data as well?
[00:02:13] MM: Both. I love data. I love working with –
[00:02:14] NS: Both. You love data.
[00:02:16] MM: I love working with our internal team to create business intelligence and understanding the market data and market trends. But also, that cascades into our customer reporting, so the reporting inside the Rentsync platform, and just aggregation of data across all of our different business units. Helping team members who are using and leveraging BI tools and data to make better decisions about how we run our business, but also how we can help transform our reporting in our platform so that customers can make better decisions as well.
[00:02:42] NS: Perfect. Yeah. Sue, you also had a little bit of a transition, do you mind sharing yours since the last time we spoke?
[00:02:49] SD: Absolutely. Thanks for having us here, Nick. It's always such a pleasure. I transitioned into a more product-focused role. Just because we've wanted to accelerate new product features, a whole bunch of new enhancements that we want to bring to the platform and make that happen in a more streamlined manner than we did before. It's just fun. Every day is a new adventure, a new challenge. It brings us sort of the kind of satisfaction where you are like directly impacting customers workflows and that in itself is a lot of satisfaction.
[00:03:25] NS: Now being said, this isn't on my list of questions. But to add a little bit more excitement to maybe this conversation. We're currently in the middle of a product launch right now. I don't know, Sue, maybe Michael, you can kind of walk me through. What kind of goes into a product launch and what's happening right now behind the scenes as we kind of gear up to get this new feature out for our users, if you don't mind sharing?
[00:03:51] SD: Sure. I'll take the first stab at it. We literally have a launch war room there. All of our developers, our product people, marketing is in there too. Everybody just gets together, we kind of check off our release checklist and make sure that everything's on track. Then we have a number of things that have to happen to actually execute a release. Right now, that is happening behind the scenes as we're recording this episode. So yeah, it's exciting, just to know that it's happening.
[00:04:20] NS: I got them on a high level of stress right now to have them on this episode, but it will happen, it always does. I'm sure it will be fine. I mean, I know that this specific feature, which we're going to talk about has been in the works for quite some time. Do you mind just explaining what may be needed to happen in order to get to where we are today, and kind of why it took so – not so long, but why we needed to integrate certain things and have things prepared for our clients before we just launch this feature. I know that we had originally said, it was going to be like one month kind of prep and now we're like three months in. The feature, like I had mentioned, I didn't mention it earlier, but I will mention it now is promoted listings. It will be a focus of kind of this conversation, but what needed to happen before we were able to get this feature out to our clients within the Rentsync platform?
[00:05:18] SD: Absolutely. Let me first explain a little bit about promoted listings, because I don't think our audience is familiar with that term. We previously used to call promoted listings as featured ads. They're basically rental listings on various rental listing sites, for which you kind of pay for that extra visibility, and basically want to have a lot more traffic coming to those listings. We've rebranded that as promoted listings. Going forward, you'll get to know a lot more about that. What we did want to do is remove the manual communication that happened between the user and the Rentsync account manager, and then have a UI within the Rentsync platform that allows the user to view and manage their promoted listings from within the platform itself. That's what we're talking about today.
[00:06:13] NS: Why was that process manual before? Why was this not able to be a streamline self-serve kind of thing until now?
[00:06:23] SD: Yeah. Just with how we have kind of enabled different kinds of listings. It's a little bit complicated, because our customers have different edge cases, different use cases, different kinds of properties, different kinds of listings. Again, we have a whole bunch of rental listing sites. It's a complicated process to be able to get everything together and standardize it so that we're actually able to accommodate for everything, and also account for edge cases that usually makes the process quite complicated. It did take a little bit of time, but we're finally there. I'm super excited.
[00:06:58] NS: Great. Great. Can you just explain, basically the difference between promoted listings and standard listings in case anyone is confused about what that means when they – if they're new to the industry or maybe just don't know the terminology of the industry fully, what that is, because we've kind of made it our own terminology now. Promoted listings versus standard listings, what is the difference?
[00:07:23] MM: Standard listings are kind of – we've been running that for many years now, ever since we've had a syndication platform as part of Rentsync. They're your typical ads that you'll see your listings that you'll see on our rental listing sites. They generate decent amount of traffic, decent amount of leads for you on a regular basis. Obviously, it's kind of market dependent. The prospect gains that extra visibility to your listing. It's a way for you to help promote, make sure you get more traffic and more visibility on your eyeballs on your listings on those sites, which will then, based on data that we've seen on our analysis, it will help to generate more traffic. You can see up to like 2.5 times the amount of leads that get generated for a promoted listing. We've even seen three or 4x, even 6x on certain markets for certain listing sites, depending on the kind of different packages and different markets other properties land on.
[00:08:13] NS: Right. Now, we did recently do our data analyst, David Aizikov. He's been kind of the resource for a lot of the analysis of our data. He did an article about promoted versus standard listings. What he really found was this idea that they're more successful or at least more used in urban centers, now, like in city centers. Do you think that that's going to change with the amount of kind of supply and demand happening and more secondary markets as we continue to see more rentals being available, more development happening in secondary markets? Do you think there'll be a shift there where there's a little bit more uptick in the use and the traction that promoted listings get in these markets? Any ideas, guys?
[00:09:00] MM: That's a great question. I'm stipulating for the most part here, I guess.
[00:09:04] NS: You can just make a projection without being correct yet. We won't hold it against you.
[00:09:09] MM: Oh, that's good.
[00:09:10] NS: That's just kind of my theory, working theory at the moment, because all we have is previous data. But as you see, the markets are changing. The markets that have more of a commuter kind of base, or even remote workers, long term renters, there may be opportunities here where secondary markets are actually – it's not just going to be like the Torontos and the Vancouvers anymore. It's going to be the Halifax's and the Hamilton's that actually benefit from a promoted listing promotion.
[00:09:42] MM: Yeah, I definitely agree with that point. I think I can definitely see that as a future trend. We're keeping a close eye on how this navigates and we're always constantly looking at data. David Aizikov is always doing some analysis and understanding where lead pools are happening, and producing reports and write ups and helping to analyze the kind of market trends.
I think promoted listings are valuable. Anytime you want to do any more leads, like it ultimately depends on where the individual property is. Even in the given market, I do agree, secondary markets I think could see an uptick in promoted listings usage and also the value that you get from them. Even lease-ups, for example, you may be tracking your leads per month and if you notice that your velocity is decreasing, it might be wise to activate for more listings to catch up so you can still achieve your goals. Our data suggests that promoted listings can help accelerate lease -ups regardless of market. Like I said earlier, we've kind of seen that two to 6x on promoted listings, depending on the market. I think you're right about secondary markets. I think we'll see an uptick in probably in near future.
[00:10:42] NS: Yeah. Now, I did want to get into the more technical concept of our promoted listings feature before we kind of dive a little bit further into use cases and things like that. When we say promoted listings are self-serve now, can you share what that really means for our clients and what it means for the overall flow of the transaction now?
[00:11:02] SD: Yeah, absolutely. For the most part, the concept itself hasn't changed from featured ads, it's the same as brokerage listings. The only difference now is that you can actually view these within the platform, and you can manage them within the platform, instead of having to reach out to your friends and account manager for anytime you want to make a change to it or request new ones. Having the ability to do that within the platform will allow users to save time, as well as have more visibility in general around pricing, around when the subscription started, when they were expired, so on and so forth.
[00:11:42] NS: More opportunities to manage it a little bit closer yourself.
[00:11:45] SD: Exactly. We also have kind of listed out all of the options available to users, in terms of which rental listing sites are offering which kind of packages, and what are some of the volume-based discounts that we're providing to users so that they can make the most out of their listings. They can do that just through the UI in the platform.
[00:12:07] NS: Right. Great. Because I know that every listing site has its own kind of billing fees, and structure and all of that. So we've kind of streamlined that and made it a little bit more simplified so that people know exactly what they're going to be spending, and what they're going to be getting and they can manage those effectively. I think that it's super important and it also helps I think our sales team and our customer support team. That whole thing will just start to be a little bit more simplified and simple for other people to do themselves, rather than having to just ask questions all the time about, "Well, what am I spending hair? Is that still running? Is that campaign – where did the money from that campaign go?" They'll be able to see that kind of in real time or at least as close to real time as possible.
Now, I think the most compelling part of this is really, and Mike kind of touched on it. It's why a client might want to have a promoted listing, what are some of the most popular use cases for promoted listings. Sue, I know that you have a pretty complete answer to this, so if you don't mind sharing it with me, that would be great. I'm sure, really helpful for a lot of our clients who are wondering when, and why and even though it should be anytime you can use it, maybe they have – they only have so much budget. They've got to think about when they really, really need to put that extra money on the table. So yeah, if you don't mind sharing.
[00:13:47] SD: Sure. There are a bunch of use cases. If you look at the market, it can be very seasonal. For example, a lot of people move in the summer, or when it's the start of an academic year, there are a lot of students that are moving in and out of the university campus area. There are a lot of different times during the year where you will definitely see supply and demand going up and down. That's when you want to kind of leverage promoted listings to stand out from the competition, get more eyeballs on your listings, drive more traffic, which will ultimately give you more number of leads. Those are the kinds of trends that you want to watch out for. Like I mentioned, Nick, even after the pandemic, we are seeing that a lot of people are still working with remote jobs, are getting more comfortable with it.
The traditional markets that generated a certain number of leads today will no longer generate those leads, right? To be able to explore these different markets and to leverage them to the fullest possible and like you said, the better ROI that you would get for your marketing budget. That's when you definitely want to use promoted listings, so that you can make sure that you're not only increasing your lead volume, but ultimately, you will also increase the quality of leads that are coming in.
[00:15:11] NS: Right. Now, I do recall someone mentioning something about opportunities with lease-ups, can you speak to that a little bit about how promoted listings can assist with leasing up faster as well?
[00:15:22] SD: Yeah, especially when you're going from like 0% occupancy, do you want to get to that 80% or 90% occupancy? Sometimes it's difficult, you usually have to do a few months out marketing campaign. That definitely takes up a lot of time, a lot of investment. Using promoted listings on different rental listing sites, you already have that advantage over other listings within the kind of target audience that you're looking for. You're able to then, again, get more eyeballs on it and then definitely get more volume of traffic.
I think it's important, even from a general awareness standpoint, even if it's not actually generating leads for lease-up. I think it's important from an awareness standpoint, for people to know that, "Hey! There's a new building here, and that if I'm not ready now, when my lease end, say, a few months from now, then I'm ready to go lease at this new building." It definitely has its advantages.
[00:16:21] NS: For sure. I mean, it's basically, it's almost like a Google ad or an Instagram ad. You see it when you – the right people see it, and then when they're ready to bite, then they go directly to that listing because they already know about it, right?
[00:16:35] SD: Exactly.
[00:16:35] NS: It was the first thing that they saw. I will say, I think that even for year two, when you get those – I saw one of our clients, they had posted that – they had leased up very quickly after they had they had launched. But year two, in some areas, they're not controlled, rent controlled building, so you get high turnover. With having that all of a sudden depreciation in rent coming, all of a sudden, in year two, because a bunch of people have moved out, they can't afford those extra amenities. You want to get those leased as quickly as possible. You don't really want to use the standard listing method to get that room filled again. So, you're probably better off using a promoted listing campaign in order to make sure that that revenue is staying on par to what you're normally – your operating revenues been. So yeah, I saw that and one of our clients posted about, I'm like, "Oh, that would be a good use case for a promoted listing campaign." When suddenly, you've just got a ton of vacancies out of nowhere. So, yeah.
Now, my next question is, if a property is running a promoted listing campaign, and they have successfully filled their vacancies, what happens if they want to stop listing in the middle of a campaign? Can they do this? Can they use that, the rest of their – kind of spend somewhere else?
[00:17:56] SD: Of course, they can. We want to make it as flexible as possible for customers to get the most out of their marketing budget. If for various reasons, it's not just of – your vacancies are filled, there could be other reason for why you don't want to continue that promoted listing. We do offer the capability of transferring your promoted listing to another property, why we recommend doing so is because you're still then able to maintain your volume-based discounts, and you're still able to get that competitive rate on your promoted listings for all of them, no matter what region they're in. You could have a property in BC, you could have a property on Ontario, anywhere across Canada and still be able to leverage the same volume-based discounts. You can request for a cancellation, but we do recommend transferring the property so you can still avail the discounts.
[00:18:47] NS: Got you. All right. Great. Yeah, I think that's super important, because I think there's – as a marketer myself, that's not always available to me. If I put a certain budget, it's locked in, and I have to run it, even though I may have already achieved my goal, or I'm not seeing my goal being hit, and then not being able to transfer it and pivot is kind of frustrating. That's definitely – it's nice to have that kind of flexibility.
Where are promoted listings available? Because this is something that I always struggle with remembering and I would love if we just had one conversation about where you can actually get promoted listings and what listing sites currently accommodate them.
[00:19:24] MM: You can find promoted listings available on a variety of different listing sites, rentals.ca, Rent Faster, Rent Board, Rent Canada, Louer and Zumper. There are varying levels of promoted listings and tiers that we offer or certain rental listing sites offer that have varying levels of visibility or extra things that might help promote your property when it is promoted.
[00:19:46] NS: Speaking of that, and this is more of an industry question. Is there a reason why a listing site may not provide promoted listings or featured listings as an option? To me, I find that it's almost a missed business opportunity. Is there an actual technical reason or is there something deeper that I just don't understand as to why a listing site would not have a promoted listing option?
[00:20:11] MM: Yes, certainly. From a technical point of view, when you're looking at the algorithms that have to be built to separate or segment out visibility, if you're trying to – listing sites have a hard challenge, right? They're trying to almost evenly distribute eyes to properties, especially for the standard listings, but the promoted listings are trying to create ways to promote and create more visibility with it. There's UI constraints, there's data constraints around the APIs and the algorithms that that are called to retrieve data. The map loads, depending on how your interface works, there might be a map as people drag and drop, or drag around the map, listing show and appear.
A lot of tactics right now, their own map gets bigger, or there's different pin if it's featured, or you only get to a certain zoom level. Your property only shows up on a certain zoom level if it's not promoted. There's a bunch of different – a lot of UI constraints that has to be factored into the design. If they're not built with that in mind, they might have to add that function on a later date, which then actually is a little more complicated than if you were building a site with having these tiers in mind. There are definitely technical constraints, and then UI constraints that prohibit some people from being able to just easily activate promoted listings on their website.
[00:21:29] NS: Right. I mean, I honestly didn't think that your answer was going to be that comprehensive. In honestly, I thought you were going to say, "No, there's no reason why anyone is doing this." But that actually makes perfect sense, that those are the reasons why it would be – it would require I'm sure a lot of technical and development add-ons and things, so that does make sense. Because I think as a client, or clients, or maybe me, if I was a client, I would say, "Well, why can't I just do a promoted listing on, I don't know, Kijiji or something like that. Why doesn't it work for me this way?" But it totally makes sense, the map feature would definitely be a huge, a huge reason why you wouldn't be able to fully get that kind of that view for that type of listing.
Now, I do think, Sue, you did cover a little bit about the payment tiers. But if you want to just review some of how the tiers work with promoted listings and the different package offerings, that would be that would be great.
[00:22:25] SD: Yeah. I won't go into it into a lot of detail, just because there are a lot more packages being planned, which customers will definitely hear about soon, but I can give examples. For example, Zumper does have two different options where they provide essentials and essentials plus packages, and they have different things included in them that will add more visibility, and then add some additional features as well, which will greatly increase the traffic numbers. That's just an example of the different package options that would be available to customers.
I also spoke a little bit about just like the volume-based discounts that we are making available to customers, as again, there will be a differentiation in tiers down the line as well. But right now, we have the existing volume-based discounts that we give our customers and the concept is really simple. The more promoted listings you have, the greater the discounts that you get.
[00:23:26] NS: Of course.
[00:23:26] SD: You want to maintain these discounts, because then, every promoted listing comes at a cheaper cost, as you kind of go up the tiers.
[00:23:35] NS: Right. If you're interested in using promoted listings in the Rentsync platform, how can users get started? If they have or haven't currently are using featured ads, how do they start going on promoted listings? Because I assume that there's going to be a bit of a switch over in that user experience?
[00:23:51] SD: Absolutely. We have a brand-new UI, which is basically a new page within the Rentsync platform. This is super easy for customers that already have their ad syndication module turned on. They will be able to just go into syndication. They will see a new page there next to standard listings, which we are now calling promoted listings. They will be able to view all of their listings on there, be able to manage them.
We also have another new page called Connections. Well, it's not a new page. It's an enhancement of the existing page where if you have a standard connection, you can request for promoted listings on that connection as well if you don't – if you're already not syndicating with those. It's super easy for customers that already had their syndication model turned on. For those that haven't yet, please do reach out to your Rentsync account managers and we'll have that set up for you in no time at all. So yeah, easy-peasy.
[00:24:48] NS: Okay. The only manual part of this is if you haven't been using them or you don't have your syndication turned on yet, then you'll need to reach out to do that before you can start getting promoted listings up and running?
[00:24:59] SD: Yes.
[00:25:00] NS: Of course. Now, before we close out this episode, is there anything Rentsync users can look forward to besides promoted listings in the next three to six months that you're willing to share?
[00:25:11] SD: That is a loaded question, but there are plenty of exciting things in the pipeline. We are working on tours. We are working on introducing unit types, which is another optic structure between properties and units. We are working on better reporting, making it more robust and streamlined. As we continue to get customer feedback, we work very hard on enhancing our platform. Yeah, lots to look forward to and I'm sure we'll be doing more podcasts.
[00:25:41] NS: We'll let you keep your ideas close to your chest. Now, speaking of feedback, I think that the most important thing for this new feature is for us to gather as much feedback as we can from customers. Right now, we're obviously launching the beta version of this. Then in the near distant future, we will be having the full general release. What's the best way to get in touch with your team and submit feedback on the new feature? Michael, Sue, whoever is most equipped to answer this, that would be great, so that people can submit their either happiness or concerns.
[00:26:18] MM: I think we've always valued customer feedback. It's been a driving force as we develop a Rentsync platform, and continue to iterate and evolve our products and our platform. We definitely take in consideration customer feedback. We have a small committee of people that review feedback very often, so that we can make sure that feedback goes into our roadmap and goes into our product development initiative. If people have feedback, there's a feedback icon on the top right corner of every page in the platform, including promoted listing. If you have any feedback, good or bad, constructive or good, I should say, please feel free to provide feedback and help us improve that feature. Also, we have a webinar coming up on June 22nd. Myself and Josh Lipton will be delivering the webinar. We'll include a little more stat, we'll include a demo, and a walkthrough of how to best utilize promoted listings and how to get everyone sat up and comfortable using the promoted listings experience. I encourage everyone here to take part and sign up for that, June 22nd.
[00:27:14] NS: Yeah, we just announced it. Well, it'll be about a week after by the time this episode comes out. But the webinar has been announced across every pretty much marketing channel that we can. So yeah, everyone just jump on that because I think you're going to get a better sense of how to properly use it. All of the information that Sue has shared in terms of pricing and tiers and all of that. Also, just that difference between what you could get with promoted listings versus standard listings, if you haven't already experimented with using them. I want to thank you both so much for all of your hard work. Hopefully, things are launching in the background while we've had this conversation, and everything's going smoothly, and thank you for taking time to join me on this episode of Sync or Swim. Have a great day. Until next time, keep swimming.
[00:28:01] SD: Thanks, Nic. Always such a pleasure.
[00:28:03] MM: Thanks, Nicolina.
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