Leveraging the Renter Lifecycle
At every stage, from prospect through move-out, the renter lifecycle is rife with opportunities for better business practices.
Managing multifamily properties involves so many moving parts that it’s easy to lose perspective. We sometimes forget that ultimately our business is not about market conditions, vacancy rates or asset value but about people.
That’s why one very effective way to model the multifamily business is in terms of the lifecycle of a renter – from when they first run across your property as a prospect to the day they move out. Examining and fine-tuning each stage of the lifecycle will help you determine where to allocate resources in pursuit of maximum net operating income.
Looking at our business in terms of the renter lifecycle can help prevent you from putting too much focus on one business area at the expense of another. For example, spending lots of time and money attracting new renters and not enough time on initiatives to retain the ones you already have.
So let’s break down the renter lifecycle into stages, starting before a renter has even heard of your property. Even at the best communities, there are plenty of opportunities for improvement. You can use the bullet points below as a checklist to consider where you could be doing better:
As you’re acutely aware, the Internet has changed everything about marketing apartments. Google research says that more than 70% of renters begin their search for an apartment online, and increasingly they’re searching on mobile devices.
Unless you’re still in the Dark Ages, you’ve already started using online apartment listing services, social media, and other cost-effective means to appeal to prospects. But increasingly, just covering the basics isn’t enough to keep up with hungry competitors in your markets. They’re hiring experts to gain an edge with the following tools and more:
- Cutting-edge websites optimized for engagement, brand enhancement, and lead generation
- Real-time pricing and availability on websites and in listings
- Mobile device optimization of websites
- Search engine optimization (SEO) of websites to rank highly in search results
- Paid search engine marketing (SEM)
- Strong social media presence and social referrals
- Reputation management (dealing with bad reviews and leveraging good ones)
- Automated listing and updating with listing services
Once you’ve got a prospect’s attention, there’s a long way to go before they sign on the bottom line, and that’s where a robust lead management system comes in. Today’s solutions not only use CRM innovations to help you keep up with each prospect, but also provide insights into where your efforts are paying off. The following tools help property managers nurture multifamily leads:
- Contact center, for 24-hr leasing information and visit scheduling
- Lead tracking/CRM, with every prospect responded to immediately and followed up on all the way through to a signed lease
- Lead cost analysis, so you know where you’re getting the most bang for your marketing buck
- Lead quality assessment: better leads = more leases and better residents (quality leads over quantity)
- Lead scoring, so the best prospects get the most attention
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to lease from you. These days, it’s important to enable the entire process online, at the renter’s convenience, without requiring a trip to the office. And the more renters can do themselves, the less time is required of your busy front office staff.
Revenue management technology ensures you’re always charging the optimal rent prices to drive maximum returns, based on factors such as competition, upcoming vacancies, market conditions and more. Cutting-edge screening systems weigh risk against pricing so leasing agents can say “yes, at a price” rather than simply “we’re sorry.”
- Front-to-back online leasing
- Smart screening that balances risk against occupancy and demand
- Smart pricing technology to help determine the right price for every unit, every day
Once prospects become residents, the focus shifts to keeping them happy – not only because you want to hold on to them, but also because the best leads are word-of-mouth referrals. Traditional sources of customer satisfaction such as timely maintenance still matter, but new conveniences based on technology are increasingly what can give you an edge. Are you covered on all of these?
- Online portal to build a sense of community
- Easy online renewals
- Hassle-free online rent, fee and utility payment by multiple means (credit card, check, money order, ACH, etc.)
- Easy-to-enroll, competitively priced renters insurance program
- 24-hr contact center for reporting maintenance needs
- Simplified utility sign-up
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of areas of focus, all of these offer opportunities to improve performance. This article provides you a guide to the customer touch points where fine-tuning delivers a competitive advantage that goes straight to your bottom line.