By John Hall - November 15, 2018
Our last entry was about market intelligence, and where you can find it.
[READ PART 1]
Now, we will look at some of the questions that you should be asking.
When you gather information, remember that you have a goal in mind, so the information that you acquire should serve to help you with that goal. In this case, your goal is to identify strategies that will set you apart within your market. So, there are two basic questions you need to ask:
1- What is your market?
2- What is currently being offered to your market?
This is the information you need before you can ask the most important question, which is: What can you offer that will give you an advantage in your market?
Here is the thing: You sort of need to avoid asking that question at this stage. You need to tailor your questions to learning about possible differentiators, but you need to do so without specific differentiators in mind.
Let’s simplify that:
As much as possible, you want to be neutral with your solutions, so that you don’t just automatically turn what you find into support for your idea.
Whoa! What??!! Let’s simplify that one more time:
Don’t put the cart before the horse!
Is that simple enough?
Your goal is to gather data, but you don't want to attach too much meaning to that data. Not yet.
Let’s take a look at some of the information you should be trying to acquire:
-Are there newer communities than yours?
-What are their amenities?
-What are their rents?
-What are they advertising?
-Where are they advertising?
-What is the quality of their advertising? (Web design, photography, etc.)
-What is their social media presence?
-Which ones are you competing directly against? (Similar rent land amenity offerings. Hint: your applicants will typically also look at your most direct competitors. Non-direct competitors will compete at much different reant levels than yours.)
-What are they looking for?
-Do they have pets?
-Where do they work?
-How do they get there?
-Do they have cars?
-Where are people eating? Going out? Hanging out?
-Are there attractions (such as parks and pedestrian areas) near you?
-What are your neighborhood demographics? (Pro tip: In most cities, there are neighborhood organizations. Not only are these a good source of data, but they can also be an ally to you if you show a willingness to help out.)
-Are there changes on the horizon? (Employers moving in? Attractions being built?)
That’s a lot, and this list is just to get you started. The good thing is that this information is always available to you. You just need to be in the habit of seeking it out.
In other words, interactions with any applicant should be approached as an opportunity for you to collect information. Your interactions with your own neighborhood should include observation as to what is going on out there. Looking at what your competitors are doing should be a regular part of your routine. If you approach your days that way, you will soon have a plethora of useful information at your disposal.
And then, you will be able to start using that information!
Next, we will look at how to apply information to create your own unique marketing advantage!
More Multifamily Insights:
ARE PAPER BROCHURES A THING OF THE PAST?
By John Hall - November 6, 2018
By John Hall - October 30, 2018
By John Hall - October 23, 2018
Earlier this year, I started hiking again. It’s a great workout, especially if you live in an area with amazing trails and endless natural beauty.
<<< I mean, just look at that! Pretty nice, huh?
Hiking is better when you have the right gear, and it doesn’t take long to learn that good hiking socks are essential for comfort and performance.
Those white socks that you buy in packs of six? They just won’t cut it when it comes to staying put on your foot, or staying dry. It wasn’t long before I discovered moisture-wicking, designed-for-distance-running, multi-colored socks like these:
Yes, this post is really about socks, but we are going to end up on leasing. At some point.
There were so many choices, and shopping for different colors and styles was so much more fun than looking for plain white gym socks. However, before I could jump in (feet first, of course!), I had to solve one big problem.
One big foot problem.
Socks are designed to fit a broad range of feet. If you go to a sporting goods store, you will find rows and rows of socks, all labelled “Men’s L: Size 10 - 13”. Which means that all of these socks will fit anyone who wears a men’s shoe sized 10 to 13, right?
Not quite. Sock sizes are not the same as shoe sizes. Those socks that are sized at 10 - 13, are designed for shoe sizes of 8 - 12. I happen to wear size 13 shoes, which means I need the XL socks that most places don’t carry.
(If you have ever wondered about why sock and shoe sizes aren’t the same, know that it is shoes that are to blame. Sock sizes are simple - they are how long a foot is in inches. On the other hand, shoe sizes are based upon the size of the foot-shaped molds that are used to make them. Shoe molds (or “lasts”) must be larger than the feet they are designed to fit.)
OK, I might be getting too far off topic, but haven't you ever wondered about that? Time to get back on track! We are almost there.
Now, I could have done what I always did before, and just make due with too-small socks, but when it comes to socks for hiking, fit is (really) important! I had no interest in paying premium prices for socks that didn’t fit perfectly.
So, I took to the internet, and that is where I was reminded of the importance of UX.
You probably know that UX stands for user experience, which simply describes how easy or pleasing a website or application is to use. UX standards are ever-changing, as designers seek to make more complex transactions easier for users to navigate. If you have ever bailed out of a website because you don't have the time or energy to get to where you want to be, you have experienced bad UX.
And when it came to finding hiking socks online, I was surprised by some of the UX problems I encountered. Problems like these:
1) Searches were too broad.
I did not want socks that were designed for other sports, or that were not available in my size. Yet, on many sites, I was unable to narrow my search down to only what I wanted.
2) Searches were too narrow.
Other sites required me to select search criteria that I did not want - limiting my desired results. Sure, I only wanted to see socks in my size, but I did not want to rule out socks with different lengths or thickness.
3) Not enough detail.
When I found socks that interested me, I wanted more information. Some sites were surprisingly vague when it came to offering product specifications.
4) Poor visuals.
Hiking socks should look good, so I was surprised to find sites that had poor photography, or worse, “Image Not Available” instead of any photograph at all!
5) Inadequate saving capability.
I wanted to save socks that I was interested in, so that I could refer back to them for comparison or purchasing. Alas, many sites didn’t allow it, short of adding items to a shopping cart. I could save pages, but the pages I saved were often missing the choices I had made on color and style.
When it came to buying hiking socks, I was a motivated customer. I had money to spend, specific needs in mind, and wanted the information I needed to make the best choices in the least amount of time. Given those conditions, it seemed as if many sock websites were not designed to meet my specific needs. Their UX issues led me to sites with better design, where I ultimately made my purchases.
There are plenty of good hiking socks out there. I probably could have soldiered on, and found socks that I liked even more, and at better prices, than what I ended up with. But, at the end of the day, my purchase decision was driven as much by my user experience than by the actual socks.
In other words, UX matters.
Wait! Here we are at the end of this post, and still nothing about leasing? Go to Part 2, for a lot less about socks, and more about the things that make or break multifamily user experience.
(In the meantime, if you need some good hiking socks, I would be happy to share a little intel. Drop me a line!)
PART 2: APARTMENTS AND UX
By John Hall - October 3, 2018
Let’s take one more look at complaint handling. Previously, we talked about LAST (Listen, Apologize, Solve, Thank), and how each of those steps is essential to effective complaint handling. Steps 1, 2, and 4 are the easy ones. No matter what the complaint, you are not really doing much differently.
It is Step 3: Finding a Solution that really requires you to be on your game - incorporating your experience and your community knowledge to arrive at solutions that keep your residents happy. All of the listening, apologizing, and thanking in the world cannot overcome the lack of a workable solution.
Fortunately, you can ensure that you are offering the best solution every time, while removing much of the stress associated with complaint handling.
Create your community’s complaint solution playbook.
What are some of the characteristics of a useful playbook?
1) It gives you the resources to easily solve most complaints, and allows you to focus on the other parts of good complaint handling.
2) It allows you to quote realistic time frames immediately.
3) It will include the steps to the complaint handling process, so that you don’t forget any in the heat of the moment. It also gives you confidence in the solutions you have to offer, so you can focus on the other (often neglected) steps.
4) It creates a log of the process for every complaint, so that subsequent inquiries can be handled by any leasing agent.
5) It lays out all of the important steps to the follow-up process, and reminders to confirm resolution of every complaint.
6) It is a changing document, allowing you to avoid shortfalls from reoccurring, and ensuring that future complaints have optimal solutions
How do you build your playbook? It’s pretty easy!
1) Make a list! Organize potential complaints by type, and list as many as you can. Most complaints within each type will be handled similarly, so classifying them in advance gives you a jump start on your solutions.
Here are the complaint types you should be ready for: