Under the Big Top

My younger brother and I were always trying to make a buck. Well, wanting to make a buck. The trying, not as much.

Our more ambitious entrepreneurial peers were manning lemonade stands, cutting grass and selling baked goods, but Chris and I wanted to do something a bit more creative.

Naturally, we settled on a carnival.

Our yard wasn’t humongous, but we were confident we had just enough space for the staples: a ring toss, tug-of-war, basketball free-throw competition, throw-a-football-through-a-tire. You know, games you find at any carnival.

It was a brilliant idea—an untapped need in our suburban enclave—but now we had to get the word out.

Chris and I decided we would just tell a few friends about our carnival. From there, the buzz and excitement would be so palpable that word-of-mouth would surely take care of the rest. We’re talking a ring toss, people!

Unfortunately, our marketing plan wasn’t as robust as one would have hoped. My brother’s friend, Ben, agreed to pay the $4 admission charge—a steal, if you ask me—but no one else was jumping at the chance to see Barnum & Boston.

Alas, our vision was defunct. Donald Trump wouldn’t be calling us anytime soon.

Marketing, as we all know, can make or break your business. During September 18th’s Webinar Wednesday, “Beyond Craigslist: Leveraging Cost Effective Marketing Channels Without Breaking the Bank,” Webinar moderator Eric Broughton shared several marketing lessons.

1. Content is critical. According to Broughton, consumer research clearly shows that photographs are the single most important element of an apartment listing. On rental site Airbnb, for example, listings with high-definition photography achieve twice as many leads and those that don’t.

Listings with owners who list “herbal remedies” among their interests achieve zero leads.

2. Claim location-based listings. Few communities are taking advantage of sites such as Google Places and Yelp, where properties can upload their photography and include their phone number. 

3. To improve your Web presence, hire an SEO expert, update your content, author a blog, link to your social Web presence, ensure that all listings point to your website, measure Web success and act on measurements.

Had my family owned a computer in 1996, Chris and I would have been all over this.

4. Don’t overlook lead management. Considerable time and money are spent on generating leads, and it’s incumbent on the recipient to follow-up. Three or more follow-ups generate a 15.5 percent conversion rate.

5. Make sure there is someone in position to answer the phone during off hours. From midnight to 8 a.m., and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., there is the potential to miss 45 percent to 60 percent of leads.

Chris and I had to be in bed by 9:30. That damn carnival never stood a chance.

For more, check out Social Media Insider in the October issue of units Magazine, which mails Oct. 10.

Learn more about Webinar Wednesdays (hosted by NAAEI, Apartment All Stars and Multifamily Insiders), and register for October 2nd’s “Tricks of the Trade: Maintenance” today.