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"If you can boost your traffic in a strategic way, you're going to solve the problem of getting more conversions." — Allie Langohr
First comes land, then comes development plans...and then comes an effective lease-up marketing strategy. Of all the factors to consider when leasing up a property in today's market, creating a digital brand identity that engages prospects throughout each stage of your project, is among the most crucial.
Why? Because when prospects cannot see the final product yet, it's important for your online brand – including your website, ad copy, email marketing, social media, and more – to fill in those gaps and tell the story for you. In turn, this will help you to generate high-quality prospects, and reach your occupancy goals.
Here's what we talked about:
Why it's important to build a brand and market your new developments
Key elements to positioning your brand effectively
The benefits of a splash page and developing your online presence
Nicolina Savelli [0:00:07.2]:
Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I'm your host, Nicolina Savelli, a valley, and you're listening to Get Synced where I take a tactical approach to helping those in multifamily improve their marketing and advertising efforts, and today I have Rentsync's Director of Client Services Allie Langohr here to chat all about branding and marketing your multifamily properties. Welcome to the show, Allie.
Allie Langohr [0:00:53.3]:
Thank you so much. It's good to be here.
Nicolina Savelli [0:00:55.6]:
Now, before we get into the discussion, do you mind expanding on that introduction for me and share your experience working at Rentsync and working with clients in the multifamily industry?
Allie Langohr [0:01:06.0]:
Of course, so I've been working with Rentsync for four years now, and I've been really fortunate to work with our clients in a lot of the different services they use everything from design to building out tailored marketing strategies, to helping them with the platform, their general experience with Rentsync, so I'm really fortunate to get to work very closely with clients every day.
Nicolina Savelli [0:01:30.4]:
Great, thank you. So, this conversation is really gonna tie together a lot of the conversations I've been having around branding and lead acquisition, and really focus in on effective ways to lease up properties and set yourself up for success. As the Director of Client Services at Rentsync, obviously, like you said, you handle a wide range of client requests through multiple stages of a property's life span, from lease-ups to ongoing marketing and advertising strategies, so I kind of want to focus in on ways of marketing a new development and building from there. So can you provide some context around the importance of branding and marketing and new development, because I think that that's something a lot of people wonder about and why it's so important to do this?
Allie Langohr [0:02:22.5]:
Of course, yeah. I think that starting with branding is absolutely crucial. There is a lot of competition out there. Your prospects are going to look at a lot of different buildings before they end up making that very important decision of where do I want to live, and building a strong, recognizable, memorable brand and making sure that that's effectively being represented on every marketing channel that you're using, is what's gonna help you get a leg up on that competition and make sure that you're not only standing out but being a building that the prospect comes back to as they move through the decision-making process. And I think the other piece of that is being strategic in what that marketing plan is, there is some thought and a lot of planning that goes into that right at the beginning of the project, and I think it's important to kind of know what your entire lease-up process looks like before you move into it, to make sure that you're effectively hitting milestones, reaching your goals, communicating those goals, and adjusting as the lease-up process goes on.
Nicolina Savelli [0:03:28.6]:
Perfect, so I know you kind of touched on some things there, but I'd like to dive a little bit deeper, what are some of the key working pieces or elements and ensuring your new build is positioned correctly. I feel like this is a loaded question, and there's probably a lot that goes into that, but if you can provide some things that you provide clients and helping them position their new builds correctly. That would be great.
Allie Langohr [0:03:58.3]:
Yeah, I actually like the way this question is worded because Rentsync jumps in at the point where the client needs to have already done some of this work. So part of choosing to build a development somewhere is understanding what is already in that area, who is living and working and moving through that area every day, what kind of apartment building can stand here and will be successful here? And a lot of that work is done before you ever come to Rentsync and say, Okay, now I need help marketing and making sure that we fill these units, so when you start working with Rentsync, those are the types of questions that we're asking you what is that work that you've already done and how can we effectively represent what you've learned and what you want to communicate to prospects and even to your residents as time goes on, how do we effectively convey that within your branding and within your marketing strategy as we move through this process and then beyond the process as well.
Nicolina Savelli [0:04:55.5]:
Now, have you ever, maybe without naming names, but worked with a client that really came in prepared with the positioning and the plan for launching a lease-up marketing strategy. What do they come in with? When you had that initial conversation. Do you have any examples of that that you could share?
Allie Langohr [0:05:13.3]:
Definitely, we have worked with clients who once you start digging into an area, you might realize that there's a very rich history there, a very strong community there that is very, maybe defensive or protective of that place already, and they're highly cognizant of that when they start building out that brand, they don't wanna be an imposing new building, they want to be something that's engaging with the community and is going to fit into it and be a welcome part of it. So often we start working with clients, you have a lot of that community engagement that you know the notes, the details, the feedback that they've received, and we get to work from that spot, which is always really exciting because you kinda get to dig into the history yourself and create a brand that's going to, again, just feel very welcomed in that area and not imposing or out of place there, the other side of that is maybe people have just done some research at a kind of higher level about demographics, there's maybe more of a community that is fluid, people kinda coming out of the area, so same approach, where we would work with that, that demographic structure and data that you've collected, and just build a brand and a strategy around that, and then of course, we do have clients who are kind of, they don't have as much information, and a lot of it is just built or their communication is based around what they want to convey, it's not necessarily rooted in what is already there or what people are expecting, it's kind of like maybe it's a new... A new subdivision or a newly developing region of a city, and they kinda get to shape that out themselves, which is also really exciting because you're kind of... You're building history, you're starting history rather than speaking to something that already exists.
Nicolina Savelli [0:06:51.9]:
Yeah, absolutely, that makes a lot of sense. And that is an exciting, exciting kind of transition there, and I'm sure it applies to a lot of new builds today, as a lot of major metros don't have a lot of real estate, so they're building in other areas and creating their own communities, right? So obviously, covid has impacted how we are effectively advertising to renters and going digital has become the holy grail for reaching renters today. Have you seen clients double down in any particular area of their marketing, whether it be social, Google Ads, virtual tours, during this time, and can you share any examples that you feel were really successful in doing so.
Allie Langohr [0:07:36.8]:
Yeah, so this is an interesting answer because the first answer is probably a year and a half old now, but it is relevant because I think with covid, initially, people try to pull back from marketing, their kind of knee-jerk reaction was let's just stop marketing until this blows over and then it was, Okay, this isn't blowing over, this isn't going away. We need to adapt, and a lot of the strategies that were built out of that realization have evolved but have stayed relevant today as well, so certainly people realize anybody who was advertising on Google and social, like Facebook Ads previously, they did notice an influx in competition people they had lost drive-by walk-by traffic for the most part, they lost the maybe word of mouth or people coming to visit a property and then saying, I like it here, they lost a lot of those avenues that people were finding properties through previously. So we did see competition increase, we saw the cost per click on a lot of these ads increased, and suddenly you had to, again, just be really strategic and effective in allowing your brand to stand out against the increased competition there.
So I think that's kind of the original answer, but the newest answer is, okay, great, we've all acknowledge that we're all putting our best face forward on these advertising networks, but now what happened when people get to our website, and that's where virtual tours became not only almost a necessary thing to have, but also a really innovative tool to have, and people have done really interesting things with how they incorporate virtual tours into the leasing process, and we're seeing a lot more people lease sign leases without ever having step foot in the building because these virtual tours and the personalization when the leasing agent takes people through these virtual tours has become so effective and so thorough that people are feeling comfortable signing leases without having to enter the building, so it's really helped just you know navigate the covid situation and the fluctuating lockdowns and restrictions while also broadening the area that you can reach people with, because you can have people moving you know cross-provinces even, and they're not worried when they get here that What am I walking into? They know exactly what they're walking into because of the innovative media solutions that people have incorporated into their websites.
Nicolina Savelli [0:10:02.4]:
Right, we have a podcast episode that just came out basically touching on everything that you just said when it comes to virtual leasing and video leasing, and I think that's really helpful right now, given that you know, immigration is kind of at a halt and people... Any newcomers trying to come in are trying to find a place to rent, and without those really strong pieces of virtual content that they can see, they really wouldn't know what they'd be walking into, so those are really hugely important pieces of content that they need access to. Now, you just mentioned the preregistration page, so I'd like to talk about that too. What are some of the benefits of having a splash page for your leaseup and what do the best preregistration pages include?
Allie Langohr [0:10:48.1]:
Yeah, so I think this actually goes back to the question on positioning, I think that will define what needs to be on your splash page, there are kind of minimum criteria, which is, you wanna talk about the neighborhood a little bit, the location, if you have any renderings you wanna make sure those are up. You want to probably more even than your final website, just really push the brand because you're offering something that doesn't exactly exist yet, so you need to be very memorable when people come to that pre-registration page, enough that they're going to kind of follow you through the process, they're going to register for updates, and of course, having that ability to register is really important, with these pre-registration pages, but you have to make sure that you're leaving a lasting impression without having that much information or pictures available. You don't have the virtual tours yet, you don't have that media, so you have to be really effective in conveying what it's going to be like to live there in different ways, and then of course... Making sure that you're following up with those prospects. So if you put up this amazing splash page, you collect emails, you build you know audience lists based on the people who have visited the website, you have to make sure you're utilizing those effectively remarketing those audiences using email marketing to let them know, Hey, we're now signing leases or we're now booking tours or whatever it might be, as the lease-up goes on, that's really the best benefit of having that splash page is that ability to follow up.
Nicolina Savelli [0:12:16.2]:
Right, which leads into my next question too around timelines and expectations around marketing for a lease-up, I feel, we see this often where marketing comes in last minute on a project and is expected to have high-quality prospects ready to go in a very short period of time. Do you have any recommendations around how this strategy should roll out from a timeline perspective in terms of leasing up and creating those assets for your lease-up?
Allie Langohr [0:12:56.6]:
Yeah, so because brand is so important on the splash page, I think it is effective if you start marketing even six months out to say from the point that you're actually engaged, re-engaging people and asking them to take action outside of sign up for updates. A lot of people we do see, as you said, they might come in last minute or they might just want to launch that splash page within the regular renter search cycle, so no more than maybe two months out, or they're collecting those registrations because they're not necessarily expecting people to follow for a longer period, so it really does depend on the type of project, it depends on the goals, it depends on the number of units, there's a lot that goes into deciding that timeline, it is best to start earlier so that we can plan to have that time though, so if you know you only want to have a splash page up for a few months before you begin leasing it's still good to start that process you know six months before that, so everything is ready to go, quality assured you tested everything we're gonna launch and just have all of our boxes checked off and how the process be really easy and seamless from that point.
Nicolina Savelli [0:14:09.0]:
Great, yeah. Now, I want to take a little bit of a different direction in the conversation and talk about metrics, and what are some of the key metrics leasing agents and marketers should be paying attention to during the lease-up process to know that they are doing things effectively and marketing effectively and ways to measure these metrics to whether it's benchmarking against projects in the area or previous builds that they've done or, let's talk a little bit about that too.
Allie Langohr [0:14:41.3]:
For sure. So there's definitely a lot of answers to this question, again, it does depend on the type of project where you're at in the lease-up on what your goals are right now, so the ability to effectively communicate those goals and to keep in touch with your marketing strategist on where your team is in the lease-up process is absolutely crucial here because that's going to impact the metrics that your marketing strategist will pay attention to and make sure they're optimizing for. So sometimes it's brand awareness, for example, when you do launch that splash page, it's important to just get as many eyes as possible on that brand, and then you can find ways to reengage them later, so at that point, having a wide reach, having a lot of impressions and seeing a lot of traffic is really important, eventually, you kind of pull back, and the most important thing is going to be conversions, just making sure that you have quality, qualified, and strong volume of conversions is going to be the most important thing once you move into really starting that lease-up process, and then following that, you're going to wanna pay attention to your conversion rates on those initial leads, so what percentage of people are actually signing up to take a tour and then showing up whether, again, that's a virtual tour or an in-person tour, and then following that, which percentage of those people are going on to sign a lease, it's really important to track that right to the end of the process, and also to track it by source, so that you take that data that you're analyzing and spending time with and put it back into fine tuning your marketing strategy and figuring out what is working for you and for your team, redefining your goals and capitalizing on whatever is working best for you.
Nicolina Savelli [0:16:32.3]:
Awesome, yeah, and I guess to lead up with that question, what happens though when you're seeing poor quality leads or low lead conversion, what are some strategies or tactics you can take in the process for property seeing this and to kind of realign their marketing and advertising so they're not hitting the end of their lease-up process and they've really haven't filled units yet.
Allie Langohr [0:16:57.5]:
Yeah, so this is where Google Ads can be extremely effective and important for your marketing strategy because you have a lot of control over what people are searching for before they find you, so if you know that a lot of the times you're not receiving quality leads because the people that are inquiring are looking for units at a lower price point, maybe less amenities than what you're offering, and the same goes for the opposite, perhaps they're looking for something that's a little bit more luxurious and offers more amenities than what you're offering and Google ads is really the most effective way to make sure that you're only speaking to the audiences that are looking for exactly what you're offering, so often, that's the first place we'll look to making sure that those search terms that people are using to find you are exactly in line with the product that you're offering, it's really effective because with ILS marketing... Even with social media marketing. You're not able to get down to that granular level of, I know exactly what you're looking for. And here it is, whereas, with keyword strategies, you are able to do that. So typically, if you're struggling with poor quality leads or you need a higher volume of better quality leads, Google Ads should be the first thing that you're looking at.
Nicolina Savelli [0:18:15.1]:
Awesome, so say you've leased up your new build, what happens next, how does a lease-up campaign change once the initial lease-up period is over and you start to deal with potential turnover.
Allie Langohr [0:18:29.0]:
A lot of people treat the end of a lease-up, when you hit that 100% mark or close to it as kind of we're done advertising, and then as soon as by that point, you might be a year into the lease-up anyway, and you're starting to get move-out notices, so it's really important to actually not stop your marketing once you're comfortably out of that lease-up period Instead, it's important to shift strategies and say, Okay, we acknowledge that we've reached the goal or the percentage of units filled that we set out to reach, now we're just changing our strategy to make sure that we have a steady flow of leads coming in, a waitlist built up, you're prequalifying those people, so as soon as you receive that move out notice, you're not kind of scrambling to say, Okay, we have to find somebody to fill that unit, you already have a backlog of people who are waiting to hear from you that unit has become available. So often what happens is you can go to a lower spend, the messaging that you're portraying is a lot different, you know with Rentsync we do a lot of lease-up marketing, but we also do a lot of just dealing with regular turnover marketing, so we can really effectively help you bring your strategy from one that is geared towards leasing up a new build to one that is geared towards just, again, maintaining that steady inflow of leads and building up that waitlist.
Nicolina Savelli [0:19:52.2]:
Great. Now, I always like to chat a little bit about trends, and I know we spoke about this a little bit earlier, about things that people started doing during covid and what industry experts are seeing. Can you share some of the trends that you've seen that are either related to or not related to covid when it comes to leasing up a property, and any trends you feel are going to stick around for the foreseeable future? I know virtual tours, I feel like this conversation is happening constantly that now that we've implemented those, they're just gonna... They're gonna remain and if not, improve, so maybe we can talk a little bit about those trends and where you're seeing the trajectory of those trends.
Allie Langohr [0:20:32.]:
Yeah, so when we first talk about this, we kind of talked about moving because of whether it's immigration or you're moving to a different province, and kind of that purposeful moving reason. But I think another interesting thing that has come out of covid is people are working from home and they have the ability to work from home, so people who may have moved before covid into major cities are now able to potentially move out of them. Like we're seeing people who are kind of going home to be closer to their families, like the cities that they grew up in, they're moving to more rural areas because they'd like to spend time outdoors and they don't need to commute into the city or be there in an office environment, they're looking for a one bedroom plus den or a two bedroom where they can set up a nice office and then leave their home and go and not be in the downtown cores that we saw people migrate to previously. So I think that that's going to be a very interesting thing, kind of post-covid where we're still seeing people who are going to go through the leasing process virtually and still see a lot of movement, not necessarily toward cities, but more so out of cities because of that new ability and the trend that's been set where working from home is, it works. You also brought up virtual tours, again, which I think that's not going to go away, it might not be a necessity, it might not be a situation where somebody is moving to somewhere where they can't easily go and see the property itself, but people have been so innovative and have engrained that virtual touring experience into the leasing process so much, that I see it just remaining and being a bonus to the process rather than a necessity or workaround, it'll kinda be like a cool part of the experience when you're trying to encourage a prospect to seriously consider your building over competitors.
Nicolina Savelli [0:22:27.5]:
Right, perfect. Well, I've reached the end of my personal tough questions, and I'm going to move into a listener question that we've received, which is touching on a lot of things that we've already spoken to, but I think that... This is probably something that a lot of people struggle with, and that's optimizing for splash pages. So the question is, we recently launched a splash page for a lease-up, but traffic to the website is slow and our conversion rate is low, what do you recommend to help us boost incoming traffic and website conversions? So I think there's two sides to that question, but how to help boost incoming traffic would be where we start.
Allie Langohr [0:23:09.2]:
Yeah, the good news is if you could boost your traffic in a strategic way, you're going to solve the problem of getting more conversions to, so the first step is with splash pages, they're usually a brand new domain, if it's a lease-up, there's probably some decent competition and there's often the expectation that you know if you Google the address or the neighborhood or the city name plus apartments, that you're going to be on that first page, well you're not, you're dealing with years of people building up that domain authority working on their SEO to make it to that first page for all of those keywords that are going to matter most to you, and it's just not something that you should reasonably expect to achieve when you first launch a new website, so the most effective thing that you can do is use paid traffic to bring people to the website, to improve your visitor count, focus on your SEO, but don't rely entirely on SEO to bring you to the point that you want to be... You're going to need to use some kind of paid advertising like Google ads or Facebook ads to get traffic to your website, and then the key with those, again, once you've kind of built up that traffic, you're comfortable with the amount of traffic you've seen. You've really gotten the brand name out there, then as I said, it's kind of a matter of saying, Okay, you know, we spoke to a lot of people, here's what we learned, we can combine that with the research that we did before we launch the project. Now we know that we only need to talk to this group of people to get those qualified leads and to sign those leases, so there's a lot of learning that goes into chasing traffic and trying to build up your traffic, but the important thing is that you use that to later narrow down your audience and really just start speaking to key people at key points in the lease-up to bring in those conversions.
Nicolina Savelli [0:25:00.9]:
Great. Perfect. Well, Allie, that's the end of my questions. It's been a pleasure chatting with you today. I know that I've learned a lot during this conversation, and I'm sure many multifamily marketers and leasing agents have as well, but before you go, can you please let listeners know where they can connect with you.
Allie Langohr [0:25:19.8]:
Of course, you can find me on LinkedIn or you can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicolina Savelli [0:25:27.0]:
Awesome, well, thanks for joining me today and taking time out of your extremely busy client services schedule.
Allie Langohr [0:25:34.7]:
No problem, thank you so much for having me.
Nicolina Savelli [0:25:37.9]:
And until next time, keep swimming.
E78:The Housing Pulse: Toronto Star's Business Reporter on Canada's Rental Landscape
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