In an era where it has become increasingly important to meet customers where they are at in their buying journey, it becomes even more important to lean on technology and data to guide the decisions that can help you understand your customers, and impact your multifamily business.
We sat down with Brandon Hornibook, Digital Marketing Director at Berkshire Communities, to discuss the evolution of digital marketing and its impact on multifamily. With 10 years of experience in digital marketing in multifamily, and 15 years working for IT startups in the dotcom era under his belt, he is a true subject matter expert on this topic. We wanted to share some of the insights from our conversation with him to illustrate how digital transformation in multifamily can help you and your teams better understand your business efficiencies and your customers.
Insight #1: Importance of Data in Multifamily Marketing
Data is the glue that holds every piece of the multifamily marketing puzzle together. Knowing if your marketing, sales, and operations efforts are working (and performing well), hinges on an understanding of the data.
With so much hinging on data, It comes as no surprise that marketing in 2021 has adapted to becoming a culture of measurement. The good news is that we have more control over digital marketing levers than ever before, and can look to the data to test, and make adjustments as we go. Gone are the days of mailing out postcards in a direct mail campaign that you had to wait for snail mail in return to collect and measure your leads.
In an ideal scenario, multifamily marketers should be able to report on all of the marketing tactics that are in place to identify patterns that result in the greatest amount of leads and leases. It’s relatively simple, in theory: once you identify what’s working, you can start to double down on those efforts to see an impact.
Insight #2: How Technology Can Help With Intersection of Sales and Marketing
On the sales side, it can be hard to find leads, and even more challenging to close them. The key is ensuring that what your leads are looking for aligns with the product you are selling. Thanks to advancements in MarTech, marketing teams can now give sales teams data to be able to make informed decisions and better understand their prospective renters. Single teams that handle both sales and marketing can also lean on data and smarter technology to make more informed decisions.
One metric in multifamily marketing that is often the focus is the cost per lead. It’s equally important to pay attention to data that will help you identify best practices across your portfolio and across your different business segments (sales/marketing/operations). Pay attention to data that points to patterns in the success/conversion rates of different properties.
Insight #3: Turning data into action with best practices
Once you have insight into the leads that ARE converting and when, you can start to double down on those efforts, and create best practices across your portfolio.
Brandon tells us this “best practices” approach has worked well at Berkshire. For example, if an identical volume of marketing-qualified leads is being followed up upon by two different leasing teams at “competitor” sister properties, and one of the properties ends up having a significantly lower conversion rate, it’s a helpful way to identify training opportunities to see what worked well for the team that was able to close more leads.
In addition to training opportunities across similar teams, data insights can also offer a holistic view of what’s working within the business across different business segments: marketing strategy/sales strategy/revenue strategy.
This can be especially useful when trying to get to the root of underperformance.
For example, take properties with occupancy issues. Data can help you assess a number of factors that impact leasing: pricing, lack of marketing leads, operational issues, or challenges specific to the local market. Once you course-correct (or at least understand) the areas that are not working, you can get back to focusing on what is converting.
Insight #4: Progress, not perfection!
You might be thinking, “okay I get it, we need to measure everything!”… the truth is, you will never truly be able to measure everything. There will always be areas that you just can’t measure, and know that that’s okay. It’s better to start somewhere than not starting at all.
You should, however, start to put together a picture together with the data that you do have.
Across your different marketing channels – Internet Listing Services, organic/SEO, paid advertising, social, CRM reporting – measure the traffic that you can, and place an emphasis on spotting the patterns. Again, sometimes your own properties can act as comps to see what’s working/what’s not.
The bottom line is: don’t let perfection hold up forward progress — you have to start somewhere.
Insight #5: Demystifying AI/Machine Learning
Though it can be intimidating, machine learning/AI technology can truly aid your business.
There is certainly cross-over between machine learning and AI, with machine learning gaining more adoption in recent years to solve critical business problems. You can learn more on this topic here.
One cool example of machine learning in multifamily includes voice recognition in call centers. They get more accurate over time, because customers have trained them over time (that’s how machine learning works!) Our Rent Dynamics Product team is also hard at work to develop a call transcription technology to better fuel the leasing process that will leverage machine learning (think Gong, but for Multifamily.) Imagine call recording, transcriptions, lead scoring, and even sales tips based on prior conversations… all feeding into your CRM and back to your corporate and onsite teams to understand optimize the sales process!
Another interesting AI tactic that can be used in multifamily is leveraging technology to interpret photographs. AI interprets the content of a photo by looking at individual pixels, where the machine learning technology over time learns to associate that as a specific object. This can also be used to Identify patterns and objects that users look at to better understand consumer behavior.
Keep in mind that data (even the most advanced AI technology) will never replace the individuals analyzing the data… you need real people to look at the data to make informed decisions.
Insight #6: Summary steps (low-hanging fruit that can have the biggest impact)
Step 1: Walk before you run.
Don’t overlook the importance of putting marketing fundamentals in place. A solid website strategy, SEO strategy, paid advertising strategy, and an easy-to-use CRM to manage all inbound leads and current residents are all vital to the success of your marketing efforts. (And of course, maintaining trusted relationships with your vendor partners!)
Step 2: Get the reporting in place.
Know this will always be a work in progress, so don’t worry about getting it 100% right. It will naturally evolve as technologies and business needs evolve.
Step 3: Look at technology that you’ve adopted in YOUR life when thinking about your customers’ perspective.
Think about how your own purchasing behaviors have evolved. As marketers, we need to constantly be aware of this evolution and reset the expectations we have for our customers.
Digital transformation in multifamily has helped marketing and operations teams increase their effectiveness and efficiencies, and also better understand their customers. Take advantage of new technologies that can aid your business, and never be afraid to start somewhere.
There’s a popular proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If you want to see success, the best time to act is today!
Check out the full podcast to learn more about digital transformation in multifamily.
Interested in learning more about Rent Dynamics and how we are helping to transform multifamily lead management? We’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org