This is a guest post by Melanie Ling, Director of Digital Marketing at Contemporary Management Concepts. Melanie leads CMC’s digital branding & social customer care for both conventional and student communities throughout the state of Florida. You’ll find her on Instagram and at the crossroads of digital marketing and design.
How often do we digital marketers MacGuyver something together for a management takeover?
In fact, over the last 11 months my firm acquired five properties — each with different owners — and with it, different experiences in terms of how the marketing content was treated.
If you’re like me, you may not be physically involved in the takeover experience — things like: the property inspection, walking the units or meeting the current site staff.
Things trickle back into your office … if you’re lucky, on a jumpdrive. The not-so-lucky get black and white photocopies of a once-color floor plan or site map (of which I’ve received many). I’ve even been presented with blueprints. On a scroll. To make digital floor plans.
Admittedly, this is the job.
We’re here to educate our teams on why having the digital content upfront is important.
Nay, the real job begins at making our teams, our C-suite or owners understand why it’s important. Because the truth is, sometimes those items go amiss at the property level, files were simply never made, admin privileges to sites or social profiles are a soup of past staff members.
Well … fear not, multifamily comrades. This checklist should help you get a leg up on what you need for a digital takeover and arm your teams with a basic understanding of the reasons WHY you need it.
Property Management Digital Assets
Where is it? Who has it? Did they even have a logo?
The typical questions I pester my team with. In my experience the logo is usually hiding on the property manager’s desktop … or maybe on a jumpdrive lost in a drawer, or it simply doesn’t exist.
Find out where you stand on this so you can budget to have one digitized or created.
Brand Identity Guidelines
If you’re lucky, you’ll get an owner that has a creative team or agency that provides a brand identity and style guide of approved fonts, color palette, copy, logos/images and their approved usage and requirements for print and web.
Guess what? Half your work is over! But a different round of work begins.
Some questions to ask:
- Who is producing the creative?
- Should we expect designs from your team or do we need to give this brand manual to a designer and have them follow?
- Who handles the print? Will you send us printed materials or provide print-ready artwork that we have to produce locally?
- Where can I access all these files?
High quality photos and videos – you’ll need ‘em. Be sure to do a really hard audit on where the current photos are beyond the obvious like the website or Facebook page. Look in places like Flickr, Google+, ApartmentRatings.com or Yelp.
I’ve been known to laugh people out of my office for handing me photocopied floor plans — the image 3×5 inches on an 8.5 x 11 inch of paper. I was crying on the inside, OK.
I’m not going to bash print here, in fact this is where it comes in handy. Gather up all the floor plan images you can find and a graphic designer can make these into 2D drawings. I prefer 3D floor plans myself and highly recommend 3DPlans.com — the folks there are kind, efficient and have the best selection of graphic finishes to match your units. Tell them Melanie sent you!
Site Maps or actual maps (showing your property location in proximity to areas of interest) may already exist. If they are prints, you can use these as a jumping off point to get them reproduced.
Once all these design files are produced, save it somewhere handy and accessible.
In a pinch your print items might give away clues when you have zero digital files to work with.
If you need a property color palette:
The Adobe Color app, formerly known as Kuler, will let you hover over any image or take a photo to give you the RGB, CMYK (print) and HEX (digital) color values. Be sure to take the photo in indirect, natural light. Alternately you can upload images via browser and select your color values there.
Colorrrs is the sexiest display I’ve seen in a long time. It’s an easy-to-use RGB to HEX converter. Want to know the exact color of your brochure to use on a website? Use this tool.
I have really strong feelings about using certain “cheap design” services; but I understand not every property has a budget for a new logo or brochure redesign. I will let you be the judge of that. Here are a few tools that I use myself that are easy to handle:
This is a cloud-based, quick-lay graphic design tool. You can start from scratch or select from a list of templates for social media graphics, content graphics for your blog, email header graphics, basic business stationery, real estate flyers and more.
They offer icons and a free library of stock images from Unsplash. You can use most resources for free however some items do cost $1, so be mindful of your layers when putting things together. Remember following a color palette or brand style guide will give your designs some panache. (Check out some designs 30 Lines has made here.)
What the Font
Font-finding frustration? Try What the Font on MyFonts to source the typefaces. This site is hit or miss — it really depends how clear your photo is and the number of letters recognized. Sometimes worth a try and especially helpful if you’re trying to recreate typeface in a logo.
You’ll need a list of all domains the property owns along with similar-sounding domains, for backup e.g. www.propertynameapts.com and www.propertynameapartments.com.
You might want to get “fun” domains like liveatpropertyname.com or propertynamelife.com, or domains with the city name included.
Your SEO consultant can explain why this is a good idea, better than I ever can, and can also help set up other useful items you’ll need like Google Analytics for your website or local listing management. Get in touch with one.
A few things to think about:
- You should have ownership of all your domain names. Period. Do not allow any third-party to own your domains. Usually these are held with a domain registrar like GoDaddy.
- If you don’t own the domain, you need to transfer it to your ownership. Most registrars provide detailed directions or your IT team can handle this.
- If you are purchasing a new domain, buy it for multiple years (5 years is good) and you can set it to auto-renew. The last thing you need is for your online leasing office to go down because someone forgot to renew your name.
You’ll want to know what was working previously, and a great place to start with this is the Google Analytics data for the property website. Have the previous owner add you to the Google Analytics account (with full rights to edit, collaborate and manage users on the domain).
If there are any other tracking tools installed on the site, try to get your arms around that data. There could be some useful insights there as far as targeted audiences for remarketing or social media campaigns.
You might have a transition period in the handoff when it comes to web. A website may need replacing, you could be in the middle of a domain transfer, your CMS or hosting service might change or maybe you’re starting a website from scratch?
A good practice, also good for new development, is a landing page. A single page website that can provide essential information and a guest card at a glance. Don’t forget to make it mobile friendly!
I personally like using Unbounce for these needs. It has a simple building platform with the backend technology you’ll need for lead gathering purposes – but if you’re not as DIY Tech, here’s a great place to get some help.
You’ll need the current email address on the property to start forwarding over to the new email addresses that you create so there is no lag in lead retrieval or resident response. Have your IT person set this up.
You should create new emails for the property once under your portfolio. Especially if there is a domain change for the email (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
Do a quick audit of your print pieces (business stationery or ads), ILS listings and profiles (on social or website) to makes sure the email get updated here.
Is there a list of resident emails? If they have it, then get it! And use to introduce your company and let the residents know of any changes in terms of how or where to make payments or submit maintenance requests or emergency contact information. Now is also a great time to invite them to connect with you on social and remind them of referral programs or any events.
Figure out beforehand how you plan to move these email contacts from one leasing CMS platform to another. Some platforms export an Excel or .csv files of resident contact information — others do not. And you’ll have to enter these singly and manually. Boo. Hiss.
I’d love to hear your take on this. Let’s say for example, the property you’re acquiring has a developed list of prospect emails (ones they’ve collected from guest cards, or online contests/giveaways, off-campus housing fairs, etc.). And that property is sold to another owner and taken on by a new management firm.
Are these emails even “for sale” and thus handed over to the new owner? Or are the emails, part of parcel of the property package, as integral as the guest card data, since the prospect knowingly opted in?
From where I sit, the current prospect list can be a valuable asset to the incoming team. Not having access to them means that you’re starting from zero, and just puts you behind the eight ball from day one. What are your thoughts?
You’ll want full admin rights to all your social profiles including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ — at the very least. Also look for access to any supporting services that may have been used (Buffer, contest apps, Bitly, Hootsuite, etc.).
Conduct a full audit with the current staff to see what all they have and where they stand. You could also revert to good, old fashioned Internet-snooping (my preferred method).
A few things to think about for social networks:
- Update the contact information: new domain, email, phone number
- Are the photos current and ones I want to use?
- Are there any opportunities to brand the property with my property management company?
- Send a “hello” message to the followers introducing your new management firm; open yourself to questions and share your contact information.
Once you have access to everything, you’ll want to prune down the admin list. Are there employees from the previous company or a third-party agency who should no longer manage the page? Revoke their access to avoid any potential mishaps.
You’ll also want to get a handle on any social ad campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest). You may end up creating your own to match your new messaging, but there’s potentially a lot of valuable data to be gained from these campaigns.
Make sure you have a list of all numbers out there associated with the property, current and future. While you’re at it, do a quick audit to confirm if these numbers are working and listed in the right spot on the interwebs — your ILS partners, social profiles, website etc.
I also recommend getting a handle on managing your local listings: Google+ information, Yahoo! Local, Bing, etc. This includes review sites like Apartment Ratings and Yelp, too. If the properties have email addresses with any of these networks that should allow you access, but if you need help setting up business or local accounts, I know some great people.
Find out what services you’re committed to and make sure to ask the status of your contract as well. Some things to think about:
- Did it expire years ago and you’re currently on a month-to-month renewal?
- Is your vendor rep the same person you’ve always worked with? Most times if you like a certain rep and request them, they can make a switch in accounts on their end.
- Don’t forget update the contact information on current contract’s to your firm, especially where the emails leads are being sent to and your new Payables department.
So there you have it. You should now be in a good place for a digital property takeover. Here’s a helpful checklist of digital marketing assets that anyone can use!