Prometheus Real Estate Group Uses Yelp as Top 10 Lead Gen

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Mention online review sites to some apartment industry executives and you’ll see the hair on their backs begin to rise. Those portals where consumers share blunt and often anonymous opinions of their experiences at apartment communities can generate more heartburn than a three-day-old food truck burrito. While a good review is a marketing bonanza, a bad one will turn stomachs.

It’s a love-hate relationship between the site, reviewer, and reviewee. For a business, darned if you’re reviewed, darned if you’re not.

Yelp Helps Prometheus with Lead Generation

Prometheus Real Estate Group took the high road with one particular online review site, declaring them friend and not foe and discovered a hidden gem in the process – referrals that have turned into leases.

The company had felt both the sting and euphoria of Yelp’s reviews in recent years, but never imagined that the site that claims to average 117 million unique visitors monthly and is home to more than 47 million reviews could be a big asset. Bigger than you may think.

After hiring a reputation management pro, Prometheus’ marketing team took charge of the company’s Yelp accounts and began exploring and tracking how people utilized the site. Rather than go it alone, Prometheus enlisted help from Yelp, and soon determined that when people went to the site to check business reviews they often clicked directly to the site of the property being searched.

That, says Prometheus Director of Marketing Janet Hazen, is pure lead generation.

Prometheus placed a trackable code on their Yelp pages and invested some marketing dollars by signing up for Yelp’s new pay-per-click program to test a handful of properties late last year. A little corporate secret sauce was added, says Hazen, and the results were impressive. Better than many other online sources. Some 7-10 percent of the leads showed up to tour Prometheus properties, and 40 percent leased.

“By placing attention on it, like any other Internet listing service source, we started to see different patterns and activities as far as how people were utilizing that site, high lead volume, average lead to tour, and then high conversion,” Hazen said. “So we now treat each property page like an ILS ad by uploading a gallery of photos and including strong content and calls to action.”

Making Yelp a Go-To Apartment Marketing Resource

It doesn’t hurt to have a “good” Yelp rating, either. Yelp has become one of the company’s go-to marketing resources, and while the lease conversion numbers for the company’s 18,000-unit portfolio lag behind other sources, they are testament that a symbiotic relationship with online review sites is possible.

Hazen says the pay-for-click concept is no different than any other program out there in generating high lead volume. The difference is that Yelpers are more likely to check out Prometheus after searching for a review by scheduling a tour and signing a lease.

“It’s a top 10 lead source for us,” says Hazen.

Investing Time in Yelp Pays off with More Leads

The investment in managing online reviews has been a good one, Hazen said. And she anticipates that Yelp will continue to generate more leads and likely be in the company’s top five marketing resources for driving new business by the end of 2014. Adding other properties to the pay-per-click program is a likely part of the plan.

“It solidifies the fact that we made the right choice to place some attention on it,” Hazen said. “It’s not going to go away for us. It’s allowing us to put focus on the value of reputation. It’s becoming an entrenched position.”

And as the old saying goes, it’s better to make friends than enemies.

“When everybody hears Yelp, they cringe because they don’t like reviews,” Hazen said. “I get it. But Yelp is helping us generate leads, and generating leads from these lower cost sources is like finding diamonds in the rough.”

 

 


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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