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Emails are an essential component of apartment-community marketing, but like everything else involved with leasing, it’s an art form — and an often underestimated one at that. Many marketers rely on templates to help send out mass communications. But when it comes to apartment searches by potential renters, it’s the personal email communications that make a huge difference.
“Few things are more personal than helping someone find a place to live, or even providing that place to live,” Pete Zimek, president and founder of iLS network, explains. So why shouldn’t your communications follow suit?
Like search engine optimization (SEO) before it, email deliverability is moving from the web developer’s domain to that of the marketer. Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo are now becoming smarter at filtering communications, based on how people engage with email, Zimek says.
“It used to be they were looking for Nigerian princes. They were looking for Viagra. They were looking for buzzwords and keywords,” Zimek states. “And now they're looking at how people are interacting with emails inside of their inboxes. That's the key difference.”
And the more recipients delete or don’t open your email, the more your spam score goes up, which makes your emails more susceptible to ending up in a junk-mail folder than an inbox.
So how can you make your emails more interesting and engaging to prospects to keep your spam score low and your occupancy rates high? Zimek recommends the following:
• Do send a personal, one-off email. When you receive a notification that a prospect is interested in moving in on a particular date, send a quick note to say hello and introduce yourself. Not only is it more likely to catch the prospective resident’s attention, he or she is more likely to respond — even if it’s to tell the marketer that other arrangements have been made — which will boost engagement marks.
• Don’t address the prospect using his or her first and last names together. Nothing says impersonal template more than using someone’s first and last name together. “You would never say ‘Pete Zimek, comma,’” Zimek observes. “It's very awkward.” Pick something more natural — either the prospect’s first name or, if you prefer something more formal, Mr./Ms. with his or her last name — to create a more personal introduction.
• Don’t get caught up in the sales message. If prospects contact you looking for a one-bedroom apartments, don’t reply to them with every deal under the sun. “Before you know it, it’s a 10-paragraph email that no one in their right mind would ever read,” Zimek cautions. “I call that ‘word vomit.’ You're just talking for no reason. If a prospect asks you a question, be intentional about your response.”
• Don’t forget to offer a tour. Leasing teams are very good at on-site tours, Zimek says, so provide every opportunity to interact face to face with prospects by setting up a tour of the apartment community. Provide suggested dates in your emails to help encourage engagement.
• Do respond promptly. Most sales teams note that responses should be crafted and sent within minutes of receiving an inquiry, but the reality is that teams often take days or even weeks to contact prospects. Even if there are valid reasons for the delays, Zimek notes, make efforts to improve timeliness.
• Don’t let the conversation end. Some questions have simple answers — for example, inquiries about monthly rent prices — but in addition to providing the requested information, ask questions to continue the conversation. Asking if someone would like to schedule a tour is a good option, but any open-ended question that gets the prospect closer to signing a lease can work.
The most important component of good email marketing is letting it happen organically. “People are very responsive to that sort of thing,” Zimek observes.
Zimek will be presenting “Seven Deadly Sins of Email & Why You Should Care” at the NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition, Feb. 16–17, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. The session will also feature a case study by Brianne Kocher, Marketing Director for the Collier Companies, who discovered that some of her less automated leasing teams were responsible for some of her most successful email correspondence programs. Tips on how to incentivize your leasing team through gamification will also be presented.
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