Last modified on October 8th, 2020
By Brittany Benz
Branding for property management companies has traditionally been centered around personal relationships — building trust directly with customers has always been key to success. However, now more and more interactions with leads, residents, associates, and owners are being conducted virtually.
Our team at AppFolio recently had a chance to learn from technology futurist and social media expert, Crystal Washington to find out how property management businesses can successfully combine online and offline customer interactions to make their brand stronger.
Here are a few of the most important takeaways from our conversation:
Make the Most Out of Leasing Demand
Renter timelines appear to be shrinking and there is a greater sense of urgency to move before a potential second wave of COVID-19. Of those who are looking to move, leasing demand for studio and one-bedroom apartments is increasing in most major markets.
To make the most out of this new leasing demand, Crystal said the best thing you can do is to prioritize virtual tours, since now the majority of prospects, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, expect to be able to tour units online. Why? Because it is safer and more convenient. In addition, some are looking from out-of-state, and may not want to commit to traveling to see a unit until they know it’s a good fit for them.
When it comes to virtual tours there are two kinds you should be offering your customers: self-guided, on-demand tours and virtual, one-on-one showings. Self-guided, on-demand tours generally consist of a 360 degree, pre-recorded video of the unit that prospects can view at their own leisure, while virtual, one-on-one showings are live video walkthroughs that require an appointment and are generally conducted by a leasing agent. With an innovative system like AppFolio, you can have both of these options completely built into your property management software.
On-demand or self-guided tours also help cut down on one-on-one, virtual showings with prospects who are not likely to convert, based on a 2020 NAR report. In other words, by giving prospects a way to self-serve you can weed out less serious leads and save your team time.
Tips For Mastering Virtual Showings
To ensure your virtual showings are effective Crystal recommends following these simple tips:
- Prioritize features important to the prospect and lead with those features when you start the virtual showing.
- Use words that appeal to the senses. Since they aren’t there physically, you’ll have to paint a picture with words.
- Share your personality! In a virtual setting it’s even more important to express your enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, as prospects won’t be able to feel your energy in-person.
- Make sure to advertise that you offer virtual tours on your social media accounts and website — the more you mention it, the more prospects you will attract.
For more tips and ways to master virtual showings check out this article: How to Make Virtual Showings a Win-Win for You and Your Prospects.
Time is the Essence with Online Leads
As prospects are reaching out to your team about listings, Crystal noted its vital that you respond to them in a timely manner. According to recent research by AppFolio, a 1-2 minute response converts leads to showings about 80% better than a 30 minute response. If you take too much time, prospects could become frustrated and lose interest, and as a result, you could lose out on leads.
When interacting with prospects, Crystal believes it’s important to see them as people first and then customers. Here are a few tips she shared to help capture more online leads:
- Utilize lead management technology to respond to leads faster, such as AppFolio’s AI Leasing Assistant Lisa, which can instantly follow up with inquiries, collect guest cards, and even schedule showings 24/7.
- Be sure to take five minutes to research your prospect via Google. You can learn a lot about them just from their LinkedIn profile and social media account.
- When following up with leads be sure you give a customized, personable response either via phone or email.
- Ask good questions and listen for your competitive advantage.
- Determine their decision making timeline — how soon are they looking to move? When can they sign a lease?
Build Deeper Connections With In-Person Leads
While in-person interactions with prospects are more familiar to leasing agents, many still miss the mark when it comes to creating a memorable human connection. To help strengthen your relationship with leads in-person, Crystal recommends you follow these key steps:
- Keep it Conversational: In the first 10 to 15 minutes of the showing, don’t try to sell anything. Instead ask questions in a conversational manner to show you are genuinely interested in their needs.
- Lead with What They Want: While it may seem tempting to lead the tour with all of the features you think are the most important, it’s not the best move. If you lead with what is interesting to the customer first, you’ll be able to capture their attention from the very beginning.
- Personalize Your Follow Up: Sure, you could send out a generic email thanking prospects for their time, but it probably won’t be all that memorable. Think about ways you can personalize your follow up, such as sending an email with a video tour of the unit, a handwritten thank you card, or even a small gift that reflects them.
How to Navigate Negative Reviews
Every property management business has a negative review every now and then. However, in Crystal’s experience, she’s seen many don’t effectively handle these types of reviews, which sometimes ends up only making the problem worse.
To help mitigate any issues, she says it’s important to always be aware of your review and ratings sites, and to make a point to publicly acknowledge any negative reviews. Rather than going back and forth with a disgruntled customer online, she said it’s best to offer your phone number or email address to take the conversation offline. After you’ve resolved the issue, it’s equally important to circle back and post your solution to the review thread, so others can see you handled the issue professionally.
Keep Your Community Engaged
When you have great residents living in your community, it’s important to keep them engaged, excited, and happy. While this can be difficult during times of social distancing, Crystal said there are still plenty of ways you can connect and engage virtually.
Zoom game nights, virtual cooking demonstrations, online musical performances, social media scavenger hunts — these are just a few of the activities you could host on a monthly basis for your community. As residents participate in these activities, be sure to encourage them to share their photos and experience on social media, using your company hashtag. The more your residents share, the more your brand shines online, and the more prospects you’ll attract.
By taking the right steps and putting technology to work, you can build your property management brand and strengthen your customer interactions to stay competitive in a virtual world.