If you are an apartment marketer in 2019 you are probably not lacking in data.
In fact, you’re probably swimming in it.
You likely get monthly reports from various vendors, have tracking phone numbers on your different marketing sources, provide guest cards to new prospects, review reports on website visits, time on site, and so much more.
So, how do you move from “having lots of data” to “optimizing your performance from this data”?
Let’s get more concrete: How do you use your data in particular situations to understand what is happening and make corrections? Suppose you’re generating a large number of email leads, but your leasing performance is bad. What’s going on? How can you tell?
In this post, we want to talk about how to make sense of your data and make intelligent decisions about how to adjust your marketing based on the month-to-month changes in your community.
The RentVision Platform
A lot of what we discuss in this post will depend upon the data made available in the RentVision Platform—the proprietary marketing and revenue management software created by RentVision and made available to clients.
That being said, if you are not a RentVision client, you can still generate reports that provide key data. You will just need to combine lead tracking reports, web traffic reports, advertising reports, and vendor reports in order to do so.
How do you judge marketing channels?
When you have a large amount of data to review, one of the most helpful first steps is focusing on a very small subset of your data. You may need to circle back and consider the rest of your data in the future, but when dealing with more immediate problems it helps to narrow the field a bit.
To begin, identify the top-level metrics that drive revenue for your community, which is any metric that is directly related to leasing activity for a prospective resident. Signed leases, after all, are the main revenue generator for your community.
Impressions on an ILS aren’t necessarily relevant. The same goes for website visits or impressions on Google Ads. You can have really impressive numbers on all of those metrics and still have very little happening in terms of leasing. So don’t focus too much on those numbers—you need to get more specific and especially more purchase-focused.
The two main pre-leasing metrics you should be looking at are phone leads and email leads. If you imagine your marketing process as a funnel, the way a prospect enters the funnel is by taking some kind of action to identify themselves as being interested in your community. Typically, that will be calling or emailing your onsite team to ask about a unit they’re interested in and schedule a tour.
Marketing reports should include both of these numbers—how many email and phone leads the marketing source generated.
What kind of leads are better, email or phone?
This is an important question to answer because it will shape your strategy in foundational ways. If email and phone leads are basically equivalent, then you probably don’t need to factor in what type of lead a channel is generating. On the other hand, if phone leads are better, then you might favor a source that produces a smaller number of phone leads over a source that produces a large number of email leads.
At RentVision we are big believers in phone leads. Why? There are several reasons:
If you have a lead on the phone with a leasing agent, the leasing agent can start to build a rapport with the lead and can frame the interaction in a way to make a lease more likely. This video offers some helpful tips on how to handle phone leads.
The phone conversation is a human point of contact with your property. That interaction will linger more in the prospect’s mind than a quick email they shot off and forgot about within five minutes.
Emails can be forgotten or lost. Inboxes fill up, which can cause leads to fall between the cracks. Phone calls are more immediate—the phone rings and someone in your office should answer it.
What all of these various points draw together is one big idea: Phone leads are preferable to email leads because they invite a higher level of commitment, are more personal, and offer more ways to move the leasing process forward. It is not unusual for us, when working with communities, to see that communities generate an impressive number of email leads but very few leases. This is to be expected if email leads are of lower quality.
Your marketing strategy should be designed to primarily generate phone leads, not email leads.
My lead numbers are OK, but we’re still having vacancy issues. Can marketing data help me figure out the problem?
Maybe you’ve started reviewing your data, and your lead numbers look fine, but you still have problems with vacancy.
This is where we need to pull back and take a more comprehensive look at your marketing and leasing performance.
Tell a Story with Data
To understand the process, you might think of your marketing data as different characters, settings, and plot points in a story. By themselves, these things don’t tell you a lot. But if you have the expertise, you can put those things together into a coherent story.
At first, you just have an enormous amount of data. But as you work with it, you’ll start to make connections between data points. You’ll start to be able to tell a story with your data.
For example, if you are generating leads and the leasing staff is converting them at a decent rate but you are still dealing with high vacancy, that would suggest that you are simply not generating enough leads.
From there, you’ll want to start looking at various data points--sessions on your website, page views on floorplan and contact pages, Google and Facebook ad impressions, ILS impressions, etc. Ideally, you’ll also have tracking phone numbers set up so you will know what marketing sources are generally producing the best leads, which tells you what marketing sources you should focus on in order to grow your lead count.
In another situation, you may see solid traffic numbers and good lead numbers, but your lead-to-lease conversion rate is terrible. (You can determine this by taking “leads in a time period” / “signed leases during the same time period”.) In that case, you can likely conclude that you have a leasing staff problem. That could mean several things:
Your leasing team is having a hard time talking to leads on the phone and are losing people when they call in.
Your leasing team needs more training with how to properly give showings.
Your community isn't fully prepped for a showing, which could include gardening, clean amenities, a furnished model unit, etc
These are the most common problems, but sometimes it is even something as simple as “the leasing team isn’t answering the phone.”
There’s an awkward tension in marketing today. On the one hand, large amounts of data can equip us to do our jobs better than ever before. On the other, sifting through that data and using it to come to reliable, accurate conclusions is incredibly challenging and time-consuming. We hope this post has been helpful. That being said, if you have a specific situation you need help figuring out, consider filling out the form below to sign up for a short conversation with one of our Business Advisers—they’ll help you understand your marketing data and identify problem areas that are affecting your community.