Most of us probably know the feeling of walking into a meeting with a supervisor convinced that the meeting will go badly.
Maybe you didn't have time to prepare.
Maybe something came up at home that has you distracted.
Maybe you need to have an uncomfortable conversation.
The point is we've all been there—the pit in your stomach, licking your dry lips before you start to speak, imagining all the worst-case scenarios that could spin out of the meeting... it's terrible.
For marketers, one of the classic causes for this sort of unease is having to report bad results to a supervisor. If you've spent extra money and the results are still bad, it's even worse.
Of course, worst of all is if you have to use these three words when asked to explain the results: "I don't know."
If you have to use those words, then you aren't just telling your boss about bad results, you might also be implicitly telling him about your own ability to change those results going forward. And that's really bad news.
But there is another possibility as well: Maybe the results have been bad but you've combed through the data and you have some ideas about why they are bad, you have specific data points to back up your ideas, and you have a plan, also backed up by data, for how to improve.
If you can do that, then the tone of the meeting can shift as the relationship moves away from supervisor having a hard conversation with an employee he or she thinks is under-performing and it moves toward a conversation between peers about how to achieve a shared goal.
I know which conversation I want to have.
Of course, getting to that point requires that you have data to use. And that means we need to have a source for the data. At this point we've spent ample time discussing Google Analytics and call tracking, both of which are powerful tools that can help explain what is happening with your marketing.
Today we are going to talk about five metrics that you can access in another location: Google My Business Insights.
What are "Google My Business Insights"?
Google My Business Insights are the metrics made available in your Google My Business dashboard. To access them, you'll need to log in to the dashboard. Once you have done that, you can click the "Insights" link on the left-hand menu:
Once you have clicked the link, you'll be taken to the report which allows you to view a number of different data points.
Where Customers View Your Business
One of Donald Davidoff's big takeaways from this year's AIM conference is that Google Maps is emerging as a major search engine in our industry. We would agree with that. If you want to know how much people are using Maps to find you, then you need the Insights report inside Google My Business.
What the metric is: The first metric we would advise using is "Where Customers View Your Business on Google." You can see a sample of what the report looks like below:
As you can see, there are actually more people finding the community on Maps (shown in red) than Search (shown in orange). This underscores an important point: Increasingly, people are going directly to Maps when looking for a local business rather than starting in Search. But in Maps the only thing that matters is your Google My Business listing.
This means that you need to make sure your house is in order on this increasingly essential platform. If you aren't familiar with it, read our explainer that covers all the high points. The big idea is your listing information needs to be accurate—community name, physical address, phone number. If you can also have a website linked to the profile, that is even better.
How the metric helps you: If you are wanting to dedicate time to Google My Business but aren't sure how to make the case for it, this is all you need. Maps is big and it runs on Google My Business. This data helps you make the case for why Google My Business is a big deal.
One other point to note: All of these reports can be displayed for one week, one month, or one quarter time increments. You can change the window of time being studied by using the dropdown menu in the top left corner of the report.
What the metric is: You can now see how customers are interacting with your local listing. Google analyzes three behavior types and provides you with firm numbers for each one. Note that the three numbers below are only website visits via the local business listing. That is not a total traffic number, but simply how many visits Google My Business has driven to the site.
As you can see, the local business listing drives traffic to the website but it also helps people physically navigate to the community, and it drives no small amount of phone calls to the leasing office.
How the metric helps you: One thing you can do over time is use this metric to get a handle on the typical breakdown of website visitors to direction requests to calls. A second benefit is you can compare inbound calls from your local business listing with calls from other marketing channels. If you see that a number of listing services are not matching the calls generated by the local listing, that may suggest that you can drop the listing services.
What the metric is: This is a really cool report. You can see where people are located when they look up driving directions to your property.
Also don't miss this: If you zoom in more on the map, you can see the data broken down by ZIP code:
Meanwhile, if you zoom out, you can see it data based on cities or suburbs:
How the metric helps you: AdWords allows you to do geo-targeting, which is to say it lets you set up ads that target people based on location. So based on this data, you could set up campaigns specifically intended to reach ZIP codes in areas that you already draw a lot of traffic from. Or, conversely, you could also use it to target areas where you want to have a stronger presence but so far have not been able to become established.
What the metric is: It's exactly what it sounds like: A record of the phone calls you receive from the local listing. But there are two things about it that are cool: First, it can show you phone calls broken down by day of the week:
You can also sort by time of day:
How the metric helps you: One of the frequent challenges that communities have is missing phone calls or not handling phone calls effectively. These numbers can tell you what times of day are likely to be the busiest in the leasing office and what days of week will be busiest. It can help inform your decisions about staffing levels and also help you prepare leasing staff for busy times.
What the metric is: This one is simple. It shows you how many times people view the photos that are associated with your Google My Business account:
This is what the report looks like:
How the metric helps you: The report shows you a comparison of how often your photos are viewed versus the photos from similar businesses. (As you can see above, this particular community, whose photos were done by RentVision professionals, is significantly ahead of the average numbers.) So, first off, it tells you whether or not people find your photos interesting enough to click on them and take the time to look at them.
You can also compare this number to the actions numbers from one of the other reports—if you are seeing an average or better number of photo views but few actions, then it is likely that your photos are scaring people off. If that is the case, you should consider getting a professional to shoot photos for you.
Good marketing is about being able to use data to help you tell compelling stories. When you are actually talking to prospects, much of that data is backgrounded and the specific appeal to the specific prospect is pushed to the center. But if you're doing it right, everything about that appeal is being made based on reliable data.
Similarly, when you are trying to understand what is going on in your community—why occupancy is down or why no one is renting at a certain price point—it's all about compiling and interpreting data in order to tell a coherent story.
Of course, in both cases, you actually need to have data if you are going to use data to tell a story. There are many different sources you can turn to when looking for data to help better understand what is happening in your community or to market to potential residents.
As we said earlier, Google Analytics and call tracking are two great places to go for compelling data for communities. But particularly today, when everyone has a mobile phone and local search is growing in importance, you really cannot afford to ignore your Google My Business listing.
What this new data allows you to do is get an even fuller picture of what is happening with your community's online presence and particularly on Google Maps. This is a big deal because local search is growing and is just as much a part of an integrated apartment marketing strategy as organic and paid search.
Moreover, the data in Insights can help you use AdWords more effectively and guide your decisions about staffing decisions in the leasing office. It can even give you a sense of how your community photos compare to those of your competitors.
For all these reasons, you should be checking the Google My Business Insights report regularly to see what you can learn about your current marketing efforts and how you can improve what you're doing there.
In the big picture, of course, we're ultimately talking about how you can tell better stories with data. If you understand exactly what is going on in your marketing, you can explain that more accurately to a supervisor when you're asked. And if you know who your best prospects are and how they are reaching you, then you can also create marketing messages that are perfect for those people at that time. When you're doing that, then you're creating the sort of marketing machine that not only drives traffic and phone calls and leads, but that also translates into real leases, which is ultimately what you're after.