7 New Year’s Resolutions for Marketing
By Donald Davidoff
If apartment marketers are looking for improvement in 2019, artificial intelligence and email re-marketing are two good places to start. Find out what the others are.
It has been a while since I ran a marketing team for an apartment operator. However, during the past six years of consulting, I’ve been exposed to many marketing teams and have conducted various studies about the marketing value chain. If I was still running a marketing team, here are seven things I would commit to doing in 2019:
1. Go all-in on email re-marketing.
It may not be sexy, but it works! We’ve spent all the money generating leads. Now we need to make sure we nurture them. Tests we have run show that less than 50 percent of apartment operators reply to email (even fewer reply in a timely manner), and less than 20 percent have any kind of automated email drip campaign. This is a clear opportunity to help prospects and beat your competition.
2. Implement/enhance contemporary CRM.
I wish today’s CRMs existed when I was running a marketing team. Used properly, they help leasing associates be more relevant to their prospects and ensure proper follow up. If I didn’t have a new CRM, I’d get one in 2019; if I had one already, I would ask myself how we could use it better and get more data from it.
3. Implement/enhance our call center.
During the late 2000s, I ran a formal test where we compared 20 communities on a call center to 20 “control” properties pre-selected from the same sub-market. The result: the test communities earned 150 basis points more rent growth than their sister controls. Why such a big difference? The test communities recorded 32 percent more guest cards than the control properties. That is not surprising since studies have shown about 14 percent of calls come after hours and typically 30 percent to 40 percent of calls during off hours go unanswered. If I didn’t have a call center, I’d choose one in 2019; if I did, I’d challenge myself to review the setup, listen in on calls and help my partner get even better.
4. Build my “marketing pyramid.”
One of the most effective planning activities I ever did was to ask my team, “If you were only able to choose one marketing tactic, what would it be?” After getting an answer, I then said, “Good news. You can have two. So, what would the second one be?” We worked through that exercise until we had built out a metaphorical pyramid for marketing—the most important and impactful activities making up the base of the pyramid and successively less impactful activities building up the edifice. We then used the realities of our budget and staffing to decide where we cut efforts. If you’ve never built a marketing pyramid, do so now and communicate it throughout your company. It focuses teams and activities like nothing else I’ve ever done.
5. Calculate (review) my cost per lease and have the courage to push vendors.
Making marketing decisions without knowing your cost per lead (CPL) is like driving a car blindfolded. You’ll get somewhere… just not sure exactly where and in what condition. While still not easy, tools and partners like CRM and call centers can help. Even if I can’t get a precise CPL, understanding the relative CPLs of different channels would give me most of the information I need. Then the trick is to have the courage to push under-performing vendors to either modify their pricing or face cancellation.
6. Build a better partnership with my company’s pricing team.
Too often, marketing and pricing operate in silos. This is particularly amusing (as in not amusing) given that “pricing” is one of the “4 Ps” of marketing—they should always be close together. In our world, it means making purposeful trade-offs between pulling the pricing lever or pulling marketing levers. I would use 2019 as the year to build a close relationship with my marketing team and have regular reviews to coordinate pricing and marketing actions.
7. Experiment with AI.
You can learn about it now or get overrun by it later. AI has the unique combination of both being overhyped and very real. The only question about AI is when will it directly changes your marketing, not whether it will. With marketing continuing to be more complex and more analytical, it’s a natural place for AI to improve performance. Even if I didn’t implement something in 2019, I would resolve to learn as much as I can about it to prepare for 2020 and beyond.