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A Landmark Decision to Embrace Data-Driven Marketing

Data-Driven Marketing

Lauren Curley, Marketing Director for Landmark Property Services, Inc. has a message for people in her line of work. "We must begin to think like technologists!" she urged. 

Thinking has been Curley's specialty for some time now, having come to the multifamily housing industry a decade ago not with a Marketing degree or a Computer Science degree.  "I actually majored in Philosophy!" she proudly stated, with not a hint of sheepishness in her voice. "One of the things I will say about my Philosophy background is that it taught me how to think and how to analyze situations. That has been a great strength for me in the world of multifamily housing, especially multifamily marketing, which has become a much more data-driven field since I first began my career."

At Landmark, Curley's focus has indeed been on using data-driven strategies that increase accuracy and efficiency without sacrificing the personal component of property management.  “At Landmark, we believe that investing in our teams means giving them the best and most innovative tools to be successful in their jobs,” she said. “Most of these tools are grounded in technology and built around capturing analytics. We want our teams and our communities to have access to the same tools and technologies that the larger metro areas have been using for some time.”

According to Curley, although smaller metro areas and smaller companies have been slower to embrace many of these technologies, they are the ones that can see the most benefit.  “At Landmark, we have used technology and analytics to streamline our management practices.  This has allowed our regional and executive teams to spend more time in the field and better optimize our property marketing budgets.  In fact, just a year after launching call tracking software, marketing spend was down but occupancy was up.”

"In the last five years," she continued, "marketing has become a lot more technology-driven. It is a much more data-oriented career path than it ever has been before. I think the rise of technologies, especially those focused on creating, disseminating, and tracking marketing campaigns has created this sort of cross-functional job description. Marketers have to become technologists. Technology has driven consumers to a real-time, social mobile world.  So, people and companies who are not comfortable with technology are falling behind the pace of that consumer-driven technology. There's no doubt about it. We are now marketing technologists. We really have to combine those two roles into one."

Curley says she feels lucky working for a company like Landmark that has been so open to the pace of technology. Four years ago, Landmark's principals decided to centralize the company's marketing strategy so that the firm really could stay ahead of the big trends. "From day one," she stated, "our marketing philosophy has been focused on acquiring data and utilizing that data to create a more customized, targeted marketing plan for each of our individual communities."

She added, "One of the other things that makes Landmark unique is that our CFO who is also one of our founders, actually comes from the IT world for property management. So when Landmark was founded 12 years ago, they already had a fantastic asset who was comfortable both in the multifamily world and in the tech world. I think that foundation has allowed us to build a corporate culture that accepts the pace of technology.  As property managers, we get frustrated at the pace of technological change because we still have a strict reliance on hard and fast plans.  Technologists and programmers, meanwhile, have moved away from the expensive, slow and often over-engineered planning stages toward agile and behavior driven development.  While property managers try to force a linear sequence of activities that lead up to a big launch and a semi-permanent workflow, the technologies we use, and more importantly, the technologies we will use in the future, are delivered over multiple iterations.  Described this way, we can easily understand why the technologies we use change so often, yet, property managers have not yet developed agile marketing strategies that match our agile technologies."

Back in November, Craigslist rolled out a set of changes that garnered headlines. Craigslist has long been Landmark's No. 2 marketing source. "When Craigslist made those changes," she recalled, "I think Landmark was better able to adapt than our competitors. We immediately changed our posting procedures. We adapted. We were agile, and November really wasn't a bad traffic month for us at all because Landmark's team was able to adapt to the changing tools and environments very quickly. That comes from the top down, of having principals who truly understand the world of consumer technology."

In pushing forward data-driven marketing strategies, Curley and her team make use of everything from call-tracking software to lead management software to email tracking programs. "We're especially diligent in tracking the entire lead life cycle," she added. "We've been able to utilize all of the data that we're getting from those resources to enhance our creativity and to work within the right paradigms. For the multifamily housing industry, I think it's great to say, 'We want to be creative as marketers.' Certainly, we should be creative. But using the data to inform our creativity and to inform our strategy, copy and content marketing has made us so much more successful." 

Curley further noted, “When occupancy drops, it isn’t always a matter of generating new traffic; sometimes it’s about how we use the existing traffic. It’s more like thinking inside new boxes instead of thinking outside of the box. When occupancy drops at a community, the first thing we ask is “Why?” Between historical comp data and rent analysis through our revenue management system, call and email trends through our tracking systems and telephone performance analysis reports, we can come up with a better marketing strategy, a better box, if you will. Most of the time, we’ll launch lead management software, which streamlines the contact and follow-up process for our prospects, instead of launching a new advertising campaign.  This has typically produced a 2-3 percent occupancy lift much more quickly than additional advertising. 

When Landmark decided to create the position for a Marketing Director four years ago, Curley said “one of the goals was to centralize their marketing strategy, and it's just been a phenomenal experience for me. In property management, we are in the business of people. We're in the business of customers. As multifamily marketers, we're in charge of the customer experience. This means we are responsible for all customer-facing technologies. We really have to marry that understanding of basic technology, programming, and database principles with an understanding of financials, communications, customer behavior, market analysis, and marketing best practices in order to produce the sort of amazing customer experience that we all want to produce."

Looking ahead, she sees data-driven marketing continuing to evolve and the apartment industry getting more and more technology-reliant. "We have really seen multifamily move towards mobile, and it should. Mobile drives local searches, and apartment communities are hyper-local. Being able to understand how consumers are using mobile technology to find apartments, I think, will be the next big trend."

If you’re interested in learning more about how to think like a technologist, Lauren Curley will be presenting “Think Like A Technologist” at this year’s Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif.