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Mindy Williams Resident Retention Webinar Recap

We had a great webinar with Mindy Williams yesterday. Her presentation was super entertaining (we learned how often she brushes her teeth and that she only pays her bills online ;)) and full of interesting information. We have a few great follow-up items for you too.

1. A video recording of the complete webinar can be viewed below.
2. Interested in a free copy of the Fall Rent&Retain.com Magazine? Download it here (PDF – 2.7MB). Thanks Mindy!
3. We had so many questions and Mindy was nice enough to write up some answers. See below.


Q: We are looking for new ideas to market student housing. Your thoughts?
1) Use the Campus Newsletters – Alloy Media + Marketing found that 82% of students read their campus newspaper, a rate that more than doubles most major metro dailies. Also, 78% of respondents in the study claimed to have responded to coupons or promotional codes. So make sure you put an ad with a coupon in the campus newspaper (coupon for a free month’s rent, waived application fee, whatever you are offering as a special, etc.).

2) Involve the parents. The parents normally pay for the apartment, so keep them in the loop by sending newsletters, e-updates, etc. Online rent payments are also going to be a great marketing tool to help hook parents.

3) Give things away: It’s important to match your giveaways with your audience. If the giveaway is something your customer wants they’ll be more apt to buy from you. If your customer does not want the giveaway, you are not enticing them to live at your community.

What can you give away? Here are some ideas from an article by Torrie Williams. Her assignment was to find promotional and giveaway items that appeal to teens & college students. Of course, follow Fair Housing guidelines whenever you give anything to your customers.

Her Ideas – Smaller Promotional Items:

  1. iPod Nano, Shuffle, and Classic
  2. Burt’s Bees lip balm kit
  3. Coach wristlets (small purses that hang from your wrist)
  4. Starbucks (or local ice cream store) gift cards
  5. Escada perfume – women’s and men’s fragrances
  6. Local sports teams’ baseball caps
  7. Bobbi Brown brightening lip-gloss
  8. Tarte cosmetics cheek stain (tartecosmetics.com)
  9. Smencils: “Gourmet-scented pencils made from recycled newspapers” (smencils.com)
  10. Gift card to see free movies at the cinema, or a Blockbuster special gift card that includes popcorn, candy, and a Blockbuster video rental
  11. Oakley sunglasses
  12. Travel Mugs
  13. Canvas Tote Bags
  14. Nintendo Wii Systems

Computer Items Are Great Too – Anything for a computer or computer monitor would be helpful, even if it’s the cute plush animals that double as a duster for your computer monitor. Examples can be found here – http://chipchick.com/2006/09/meritline_wippe.html http://store.ergoguys.com/somoclandpe.html.

Facials & Spa Trips work too! Facials are a great way to treat acne, so why not give gift certificates for facials as a leasing promotion for college students? How about inviting a spa technician to your community and giving facials to the first 10 people who sign up?

Q: We’re having challenges filling our upstairs apartments in a senior community without elevators. Currently we’re offering the upstairs at a reduced rental amount to entice prospects…any other suggestions on how to move these apartments?
Yikes! My first thought is, whose idea was it to have a Senior Apartment Community without elevators? Eek. I would find out why the residents who live upstairs like it. Is it quieter? More private? Why did they choose upstairs?

Next, I would get together as many resources as I could to bring the outside TO them. For instance, arrange for grocery delivery, laundry/ dry cleaning pick up/ drop off, computer techs/personal trainers/dog groomers – whatever your residents would need – I’d bring as much to them as possible so they wouldn’t have to leave the apartment. Do they have to be seniors to rent upstairs? Could you open up the leasing niche to include their family members or younger folks?

Gee, that’s a tough one. So if anyone else has ideas, post them below in the comments section and we’ll share them with the group.

Q: How can I increase my occupancy in this economy?
1. Find what is new about your community: In the October IKEA newsletter the word, “New” was used 221 times in the 68-page catalog. So about three times per page. What can you do to make your community seem new, or what can you add that is new? By adding and focusing on new things, it will draw traffic and if you have an older community help the mindset to get past some of the older aspects of your community.

2. Focus on a niche: For example, Pets – the whole pet industry has gone wild (so to speak – LOL – sorry for the bad pun!). Spark up your pet amenities and pet services (Love your pet day is February 20th ). Offer a dog groomer, pet wash area, have a pet psychic come to your community, have pet food delivered on site, find a dog walker, improve pet clean up services, etc.


Q: Any ideas how to promote online rental payments that require a $35 fee?
Ask your current residents why the $35 fee is acceptable. Use that in your sales presentations. Also see what you have that saves the residents MORE than the $35. Do you have a great fitness center so they don’t have to pay for gym memberships? Do you have a free guest suite for relatives to save $X in hotel costs? Are you closer to work than your competitor, so the gas savings equals more than $35?

Can you find credit cards where the points add up quickly so the residents earn more points for free stuff faster with the $35 charge?

I don’t know your situation, but build value elsewhere to make up for the $35. You can also investigate other options to pay rent online without the charge.

Q: How do you feel about the use of “feel good” emails, a blog, or an online forum to maintain ongoing communications with tenants?
Sure! If it works for them (and you), it works for me. Think about any movie referral you’ve received – if a friend says it’s a bad movie, are you going to go see it? Probably not. If a friend says it’s a great movie, you are more apt to see it. So definitely use positive testimonials in your marketing. There is a study out there that says a person is 8 times more likely to believe a review or testimonial over any marketing ad or slogan. Go for it!

P.S. I would check with your attorney first, and get written permission from the residents. I’m not an attorney, so make sure yours like this idea.

Q: Where can I find new ideas for Resident Appreciation Day?
Check the calendars on Rent & Retain Magazine (a free download in this post). There are more than 132 different things you can do. (See how I used a number to “sell” the download? Doesn’t more than 132 things mean more to you than “lots of ideas”? Do that in your marketing too. You are 1.2 miles from Starbucks or you are 1/2 block to the bus stop.”)

Q: I have a 500 unit residential property and can’t seem to get my Residents to follow my social media. Suggestions?
Find out what they will follow or are interested in and do that. Do they want an old-fashioned newsletter? Do they want posters in your lobby or common areas that promote what you want them to know? (Kinko’s can enlarge a letter-sized piece of paper to poster size for a few bucks.)

I’d lay off the social media for a bit, and then regroup in a few months. Also ask your residents why they aren’t following your social media efforts. Make sure you are giving them what they want to read/find out about.

Q: We have trouble getting people to come out to our events. We send out flyers, put out boot legs and even email and don’t have a great turn out. What can we do differently?
Hmmm…at the risk of repeating myself: Find out what your current residents want/like/need and do more of that. That’s a huge mistake many marketers make – they do what THEY think is great vs. what their CUSTOMER thinks is great.

I worked with one manager who held events on Tuesdays, even though her residents said Thursdays would be better. But since SHE wanted Tuesdays, she continued with Tuesday events. (I couldn’t believe it either.) So don’t waste your time and energy on things they do NOT want.

Look at the Rent & Retain Magazine calendars, find some of the goofy holidays, and ask the next 25 people who come into your office if they would be interested in attending an event from several of the choices you made. Then do that event!

Q: What are some tips to help collect the rent in a timely manner?
One manager in Long Beach, CA would send letters to her residents each month reminding them to pay their rents (maybe email would work too)? She said it was a pain – but residents paid their rents more quickly. That saved her more time in the long run.

If you don’t think this idea would work for you – consider doing this only for months where there are holidays around rent-time so people might be traveling (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Christmas/New Year’s.).

Online rent solutions often offer the ability to schedule recurring rent payments too.


Q: How can I give my leasing staff a boost in this difficult market?
Give them more training and more tools to do their jobs better. Many of your peers are doing just that as my book sales and subscriptions have skyrocketed in this market. Management companies are buying Rent & Retain subscriptions for every manager like nothing I’ve seen before.

It makes me a bit sad that my sales are up because the economy is so bad. But smart people find ways to survive and in many instances its finding tools to help you do your jobs better. There are tons of free resources for you – just do a Google search. I get an amazing number of ideas from the Wall Street Journal.

One other thought – my E-newsletter comes out once a month and is free. You can always unsubscribe and/or not read the emails. But if you do sign up, you’ll always have the info there…. When and if you need it.

Q: How can my team members and I maintain a positive attitude when the economy is preventing us from being occupied at our desired occupancy level?
It’s tough, isn’t it? Look for outside sources to motivate you. I listen to Tony Robbins almost every time I’m in my car. My family rolls their eyes and turns it off. But personally I get a lot out of his Cds.

I gave out “My Boss Loves Me” mugs to the folks who work for me. Honestly I was shocked at how well they went over. I mentioned this idea in my E-news and one Regional Manager bought “I am appreciated” mugs for her team members for Christmas. Mugs are great for things like this as your team members are reminder of your message with each sip.

Q: How do you stay on top of your team’s goals?

  • Make sure the goals are established and under stood by everyone.
  • Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. Include your sales team in this process.
  • Follow up with a consistent training/learning plan.
  • Send a motivating email or message once a week.
  • Use the Rent&Retain calendars to choose fun holidays that support the goal.
  • Every time sales goals are reached, reward the person/team. This could be as easy as 15 minutes extra for lunch, or coming in 10 minutes late the next morning.
  • Ask for feedback from salespeople for ways/methods/tools that will help them do their jobs easier/faster/better.
  • Remind them that your internal customers (existing residents) could be their highest source of new leads.

It’s always helpful to have written goals posted where everyone (but prospects and residents) can see. With your motivation and support, your sales team is sure to lead the pack!