Gone are the days of ledger cards, guest cards and answering services. Today, our industry is driven by the technology and focused on selling features, as opposed to driving from the point of view of the customer. Smart companies in and out of the student housing space are institutionalizing a more customer-oriented perspective that drives technology design and development from the outside in. This innovation around the customer goes beyond the traditional software function of just getting the job done, but takes it to the next level by creating software for the leasing experience that is simple and pleasurable to use. But, transforming your website may not be enough. We must also realign the efforts of the people who lease, market and manage apartment communities.
Let’s look at practices for orchestrating transformation that will blend high tech and high touch:
Invest Where the Customer Lands: Revamping your website to bring real signs of innovation starts with an investment in what you offer the customer in their living experience. Through technology and user interface with what makes your community unique and special. Websites are effective today when they are engineered for speed, and with an innovative user experience design that is simple, transparent and elegant.
Deliver Speed to Value: Keeping the attention of today’s student renter is especially hard. Will they watch a 7-minute video showcasing all of your amenities? Probably not because they are too busy shooting their own videos for Vine and Instagram. When you think of speed, think of how quickly the customer will click from one thing to another. Build your site for this type of mindset so that what you have positioned as your value offer, continues to reoccur as an option for clicking. Once the customer has reached various “destinations” on your site, create a quick video that discusses the single feature. Make sure you have a people leading this video and not music that sounds like it was produced for a Hollywood blockbuster. Being high touch means being real.
Be Unconventional: Focus on creating user experiences. Create a more interesting environment to host customers that gives the feeling of walking into the daily activities of what it is like to live at your community. This enable the customer to come in touch with the vibe and will be drawn into resident life. If you are trying to create something more interesting compared to your competitors, you probably do not want to look at your competitors for ideas and inspiration. In fact, don’t even look at an apartment community website for it will only taint your opportunity to be unique.
Align Brand Attributes with Product Attributes: Customer are drawn into a brand offering in marketing but are often left wondering if that was simply a slogan that has nothing to do with the real apartment community. For real authenticity you want to display in pictures, videos and all interactive substance, that you are your brand.
Rethink Marketing: Today it is estimated that the prospect is already 57 percent of the way through the buying cycle before they ever engage with a human being - proving the concept of the power of digital influence. With much of a prospects investigation being done online, companies need to get better about how to create an online environment to help customers think of things in a different way. Today, marketing is no longer about your customer finding you but rather you finding your customer. It is up to your brand to cross their path and your people are a big part of making this happen. Your onsite team will provide a wealth of knowledge as to where your customers spend their free time, where their favorite spot is to hang out, along with insight into the customers general lifestyle. Use this invaluable information to be all the right places. Encourage your team to interact with residents as much as possible so that these important questions can be answered.
Make Use of Digital Interactions, But Don't Lose Face: While customer engagement can be accomplished with forms of marketing that involve back and forth interactions, I firmly believe that there is no replacement for being face-to-face with customers and striking that balance between the high-tech and the high-touch. Blends the face-to-face experience with real-time digital concepts like digital polling, tweets and videos, and leveraging the website for pre-and-post sales momentum. Host field events and make an effort to be visible in the places where your customers congregate.
Measure Results: The real challenge is to understand how to deliver integrated campaigns in a multi-touch, multi-device world and also have the ability to track and measure the collective impact of all of those touches to then drive the how to create more opportunities to create more high touch experiences and opportunities for our sales team.
Try to avoid getting caught up solely in the marketing hype of the moment. It's not all high-tech these days, don't forget the high-touch and the importance of face-to-face interactions. At the end of the day it's our job to figure out how to balance the high-tech and the high-touch to while remembering that these are not units, they are homes. And, we want people to choose our community to call their home.
Kate Good has worked in the apartment industry her entire life. She has grown from a Leasing Consultant to a developer and owner and is currently building over 1,000 apartments in her home state of Texas. She is also one of the most in demand speakers in the our industry presenting to more than 15,000 industry professionals each year while 11,500 people actively follow her blog and social media interactions. To find out more about Kate visit www.KateGood.com and catch her while she is on tour with www.ApartmentAllStars.com. You can hear her speak at the 2015 NAA Student Housing Conference and Exposition on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 3 p.m.– 4 p.m. where she will expand on this blog and present “The Evolution of Leasing: Have We Lost the Human Touch?”