This article was posted on Sunday, May 01, 2016

All apartment communities use various means to attract new renters.  Many forms of advertising have minimal costs in dollars (i.e. online ads, signs, banners, word of mouth referrals, etc.).  Yet the time and money it takes to create and design some of these ads and make sure they are well placed to capture attention is worth tracking the results!

Having a reliable method of documenting all online, phone, and walk-in traffic is critical to determining the effectiveness of each form of advertising.  Here is a valid owner concern: 

Question:  Our communities used to get a ton of drive by traffic and resident referrals.  However, over the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more traffic is being logged as “internet” or “online ad” with no further explanation.  When I question the on-site staffs, they tell me they are just noting the ad source from the emails or calls they get when prospective residents say they found them “on the internet” or “online.”  They aren’t directly asking people how they found out about their building any more.  This makes me wonder if prospective renters really learned about the community “on the internet,” or if they just used an online resource to obtain more information after they saw the building when driving by or heard about it from a friend.

Answer:  You have some very valid concerns about what has happened to your other forms of advertising.  Did these other sources just stop producing traffic or are these sources not being “uncovered” by your leasing staffs?  It will take more effort and some careful qualifying to determine the “primary” advertising source, which is the way each prospect initially learns about your community (i.e. resident/merchant referral, signs/banners, flyer, etc.). 

The only way to find out is to directly ask them!  For example – “I noticed you referred to our website in your email.  Is that how you first heard about us?”  Or, “I see you checked the box “drive by” as the way you found us, but I couldn’t help but notice you pulled up our monthly special on your phone from our craigslist ad.  Did you learn about us first from driving by and then look for us online?” 

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Use Multiple Sources

Using multiple sources of advertising in today’s competitive market isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity.  Prospective renters must be given the opportunity to see your community advertised in print, on the internet and through the use of signs and banners.  However, it’s important to note which marketing source initially sparked their interest and motivated them to make contact.   You will need all of the facts in order to make informed decisions about our future advertising needs. 

Of course, some of the money you save from budgeting advertising dollars wisely could be spent on an incentive to reward those employees who are committed to carefully qualifying ALL of their prospective renters. 

Curb Appeal

Question:  What can I do to make my community stand out from all the others in the area?

Answer:  The first thing to do is take a close look at the signage you are using.  This may seem very basic, but are the signs you are using clearly visible?  Can they be seen from a distance in all directions and are your signs CLEAN?  Are your signs placed in such a way that it’s clear they are identifying YOUR building and not the one next door?  Is your signage creative and colorful? 

If advertising a promotion, are you using clever, eye-catching signs, banners and/or balloons?  Once a visitor drives into your community, will they be able to find the rental office?  What about managers and assistants who work out of their apartment homes?  If this is you, are there well placed directional arrows and appropriate signs so prospective renters can easily find your apartment?

The second thing to carefully assess is the cleanliness of your community. It can be accomplished if all staff members are willing to take on responsibility for the outward appearance of the community.  For maintenance staff, that would be washing down gutters, downspouts and siding and power washing to keep sidewalks and other areas from taking on the dreaded “green hue” that is so unattractive.  For office staff and visiting property managers, that would mean picking up litter when you see it as well as pulling an occasional weed and keeping flowers cleaned up.

Speaking of flowers – do you have any?  If you don’t have colorful plants or flowers, how are you brightening up your community to enhance its curb appeal?  Is there a freshly painted fence or curbing that differs from your neighbors?  What about the use of flags or balloons to highlight the entrance to your community?  If you use balloons, do you keep them properly inflated?  Nothing communicates apathy and a lack of attention to detail like deflated (dead) balloons!

No matter what you have going for you on the “inside” of your community, no one will ever find out if you can’t draw them in from the “outside.”  If the basics aren’t handled at the curb, your prospective renters won’t make it to the front door. 

Joyce (Kirby) Bica is the former owner of Shoptalk Service Evaluations. For more information, email [email protected]  Reprinted with permission.