Sales work is always a process. No matter your industry, product, or customer, the only way to succeed at sales is through systematic execution of a thoughtful process that walks the customer through every buying stage on the road to the sale.
Apartment leasing is no different. Apartment shoppers also operate according to a buying cycle as they select their next apartment home.
The Buying Stages for Apartment Shoppers
For apartment marketing purposes, the buying stages are:
Let's talk a bit more about each of these stages.
In the awareness stage, apartment shoppers not only become aware that they need an apartment (for whatever reason), but they also begin to become aware of the various apartment communities available to them. During this phase the prospect is probably doing things like the following:
- They are likely doing some initial, extremely general searching on Google—things like "apartments in (city, state)" or maybe a search that reflects some specific concern they have, such as "pet-friendly apartments in (city, state)" or "affordable apartments in (city, state)."
- They may start noticing apartment communities as they are out running errands, driving to and from work, etc.
- They may also be occasionally browsing Craigslist listings, just to get a sense of the market, what they should expect to pay, and so on.
In the research stage, apartment shoppers begin to compare factors relevant to them to narrow down their choices. They research factors such as location, price, space, convenience, look/feel, security, and more. Here things are beginning to get more serious:
- They are searching for specific communities on Google and clicking on paid search or organic search results that take them to the community website.
- They are using local data supplied via Google or possibly Yelp to find directions to a community and the leasing office hours.
- They are reading online reviews of various communities.
- They are scheduling times to tour different apartments they are especially interested in.
In the selection stage, apartment shoppers narrow down all the available choices to a few preferred options, and then make a decision to find the best combination of all the relevant factors. These are the things they're doing at this stage:
- They are taking tours of apartment communities.
- They are reviewing online reviews of the communities they tour.
- They are asking very specific buyer-intent questions about things like leasing terms, deposits, and so on.
A lot of apartment marketing focuses only on the awareness stage.
For example, a print guide or internet listing service only provides a limited amount of information. All they are trying to do is introduce renters to the various apartment communities through a few highlights. In other words, they are building awareness. Once apartment shoppers have gathered their initial list of available apartments, these advertising sources become largely irrelevant.
Of course, getting onto the prospect's radar during the initial awareness stage is crucial, as they will limit their research (and ultimately their selection) to the list of communities they can find. But, if all of your marketing dollars and efforts are spent on awareness (leaving nothing to help market your community during research or selection), you might have difficulties getting leases signed, even if you have no problem generating leads.
Here are a few questions to help you evaluate your apartment marketing viability during each of the buying stages:
- Does your apartment marketing presence reach as many apartment shoppers as possible, or are you relying on one or two sources that will limit your reach?
- Does your apartment marketing presence make it easy for prospective renters to learn the selling points of your community, or do you blend in and get passed over while people build their initial lists of apartment communities for further research?
- Is your website full of content that is relevant to people at the point where they are trying to find an apartment?
- Is that relevant content easily accessible, or is it buried beneath distracting features that do not help prospects to decide in your favor?
- Do the calls to action on your website clearly encourage people to continue their research by talking with your leasing staff or scheduling a showing?
- Are you using remarketing ads on Google, Facebook, or both to get in front of people who have already been on your website?
- After you have done all you can to help prospects with their research, does your apartment marketing practice include following up through friendly, thoughtful, and effective emails or phone calls?
- What materials or resources do you give apartment shoppers after you have given them a showing?
- Does your website have any content that a prospect might actually want to return to after they have toured your property?
- Does your website have content that other parties involved in the lease who weren't at the showing would find helpful? If you need to win over other roommates or a parent who is going to be helping cover the rent, video tours and photos of the actual apartment are excellent.
The big idea in this post is that marketing success comes not only from getting someone's attention, but from keeping it throughout the entire leasing process. If someone is vaguely aware of your community but doesn't lease from you, then all you've done is burned money raising awareness. What you need your marketing dollar to do is not simply create awareness, but shepherd people through the entire process of leasing an apartment.