Tackling Trends: How to Get Your Property’s Reputation Trending Up in 2019
Imagine an apartment shopper is narrowing down options for their next home. They’ve focused their search on your community and three of your competitors. Before scheduling a tour, they notice your property’s online ratings are slightly lower than the other properties on their list. Which community won’t make the cut?
Ratings are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your community’s online reputation. Online reviews, specifically on Google, also play a critical role, as do comments about your community on social media channels.
We know online reputation will be a trend that continues to gain traction in 2019, especially in digital marketing. As apartment marketers, we also know how important it is to quickly take action to turn this trend into a win that drives more signed leases.
But, how do you know which marketing strategies are the best ones to improve your online reputation? How do you know which tools are going to result in the significant ROI your boss will ask about?
And most of all, how do we take action to improve our property’s reputation so we can separate our community from its competitors?
Let’s tackle this trend together. We’ll start with why reputation is worthy of the buzz and then review actionable ways you can get your reputation right.
After all, paying attention to how your property is perceived online can pay dividends in the long run, and even reduce your spend on lead generation.
Why Online Reputation Matters for an Apartment Community
First, let’s go back to that apartment shopper who was narrowing down options for their next home. When that prospective renter searches for your apartment community on Google, one of the first things they’ll see is the property’s ratings and reviews.
Here we performed an unbranded Google search – “Downtown Cincinnati Apartments:”
Here we performed a branded Google Search – “Radius at the Banks:”
That’s because Google knows ratings and reviews are important in a person’s decision-making process. Google’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for searchers to get the information they need and provide the best answer to their search inquiry.
Our goal is to make the decision as easy as possible for our prospects, removing any friction or hesitation from their apartment shopping process. If your property’s ratings and reviews aren’t great, the prospect is going to be less likely to convert into a call, tour or rental and most likely won’t choose to transact with your property.
The faster we can get a prospect through the decision-making phase, the faster we can increase our occupancy. The faster we can get the prospect to sign a lease, the faster we can collect rent.
Here at 30 Lines, we see that properties with strong online ratings and reviews, specifically on Google, have higher click-through rates to their property website. People are far less likely to click through to your website if they see that others have had a less-than-stellar experience with you.
In the same study, BrightLocal reports that 77% of consumers think that reviews older than three months aren’t relevant, while 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks.
Those stats show, improving your property’s online reputation is not a one and done process. However, most of us don’t have the time or resources needed to go all-in on a full reputation management overhaul, especially over an extended period of time.
Reputation matters, but we have to focus on what we can do within the confines of our time, energy, and budget to assure we have a positive reputation in the eyes of our customers.
Focus on Building Trust, Throughout the Customer Journey
Customers don’t want to do business with a company they don’t trust. So how do we build trust with our customers?
Participants in a study conducted by Dimensional Research said that customer service was the number one factor impacting their trust in a vendor.
The most successful businesses focus on customer experience – from Amazon and Zappos to Disney and Netflix. These popular and profitable brands were all ranked by Forbes as the most customer-obsessed companies in 2018. Investing in your online reputation will move you one step closer to becoming a customer-obsessed company, too.
Focusing on customer experience not only builds brand loyalty but also establishes trust. When a customer trusts your brand and feels valued by your team, they’re more likely to recommend your product or service to a friend.
That experience can touch every phase of our customer’s journey. Improving online reputation isn’t just asking for positive online reviews (although that certainly plays a role!), but also how we can create easy, remarkable experiences at every stage.
Consider what that customer journey looks like for apartment shoppers:
- First, they’re looking for options for their next apartment home.
- Once they discover your community as a potential option, they’re focused on learning more about your community.
- Then, they take action to indicate they’re interested in leasing, such as scheduling a tour, contacting your leasing team, or filling out an application.
- Finally, it’s time to live life as a resident, which we’re hoping is an experience they’ll love.
At 30 Lines, we refer to this customer journey under the easy to remember moniker of “Look, Learn, Lease, Love.” It serves as the behavior-based framework for everything we do – from the digital strategies we implement to the products we recommend.
When we’re looking at how we build trust with our customers, we have to take into consideration every interaction those customers have with our community throughout their journey.
After all, every interaction is an opportunity to build trust and give them an experience they’ll want to recommend to others.
The Resident Experience, Today
Multifamily pros, how would you describe the typical experience for a renter after they sign a lease today?
- You’re probably doing a move-in gift.
- You’re probably sending a reminder when rent is due.
- You’re probably creating some posts on social media.
- You’re probably hosting some resident events.
- You’re probably sending a notice when it’s time to renew the lease.
If you were a resident, would any of these experiences knock your socks off and drive you to recommend your community to friends, family members, or a stranger online?
Possibly. However, we all know residents are not easy to impress.
We want to leave no doubt that our residents are having easy, remarkable customer experiences. We want to exceed their expectations and drive them to issue a glowing recommendation for our community.
It’s not as hard to create as you might think…
5 Ways to Create Easy, Remarkable Resident Experiences
1. Create a Remarkable Move-In Experience
Start their resident experience off on the right foot. A great time to ask for reviews is during the move-in process when residents are especially excited about their new apartment home.
If you’re already deploying email automation to nurture prospective renters toward a lease, why not extend this concept to residents during the move-in process? You can send a series of automated emails that not only welcome new residents to your community but also guides them through their move-in experience – whether you share a checklist of tasks to remember when they move or direct them to where maintenance requests can be submitted online.
The following review was a result of applying this exact strategy:
Level Up: You can use Email Management Systems, like Mailchimp, to run automated email drip campaigns. However, the process is even easier if you choose to invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that initiates triggered messaging based on the behaviors prospects and residents exhibit throughout their journey. Looking to find the best strategy for your community? Let’s connect.
2. Provide an Easy Outlet for Feedback
It’s hard to fix a problem that you don’t know exists, or find consistencies amongst resident complaints if you aren’t collecting them.
Far too often, residents feel their only outlet to air their grievances is to leave a negative review online. However, we know that negativity can leave an impression on prospects during the look and learn stages of their apartment search.
We need to provide an outlet for residents to share feedback. This outlet can be as simple as creating a resident-only group on Facebook.
You can also upgrade your approach by sending automated surveys via email to facilitate feedback. If their experience has been less than exceptional, those comments can be sent directly to your team. Then, your team has the opportunity to right the wrong before the resident takes it public.
Along with email, chatbots, specifically ones that run through Facebook Messenger, can be used to collect feedback and ask residents to leave reviews.
Level Up: Review the feedback your community is receiving online often and look for consistencies amongst challenges your customers are communicating. Then, take time with your team to right any wrongs and celebrate any customer service wins. This not only helps emphasize the importance of providing exceptional service to your team, but can also lead to improved ratings and reviews.
3. Give Residents an Instagram-Worthy Experience
They may be renting their apartment, but residents want to own their experience.
If you’re lucky enough to have a rooftop deck with killer city views, encourage residents to snap photos of themselves enjoying the experience to post on social media. Make sure they also know to tag your community.
That’s an example of a built-in experience. If your property doesn’t have that type of amenity to show off, that’s okay. Instead, you have to find ways to create remarkable, Instagram-worthy experiences they’ll want to take ownership of and tell their friends about.
It could be as simple as offering residents free coffee before work, or finding ways to tie social media into the events you’re already hosting.
4. Incentivize Their Actions
One way to drive residents to take action and engage with your community online, specifically on social media, is to gamify the experience. Modern Message offers an app called Community Rewards exclusively for apartment residents that encourages them to interact with their community online, then rewards them with points. Each month residents can earn points toward incentives you establish by completing specific actions (such as leaving a review) or posting to their social media network (sharing your community’s content and hashtags). This is a great way to encourage residents to become your brand advocates and create social proof for your community online, all at the same time.
5. Be Timely and Relevant
Throughout their entire experience, we want to make sure our residents feel valued. One of the key ways you can do this is by providing clear, relevant communication that is timed appropriately.
Imagine still receiving sales messages from your apartment community after feeling settled in your home for over six months. Or, if the only communication you’re receiving from your community is to notify you when rent is due. Those aren’t exceptional customer experiences.
We want to nurture residents throughout their time with us. Today, there are a variety of digital tools to help us add ease to this experience and deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time – whether its leveraging automated email campaigns or sending follow-up messages through a chatbot.
The more specific you can get your email list, the more targeted campaigns you can send. For example, by adding a resident’s birth date to your email list, you can send a personalized email to that resident on their birthday. By updating their status to a current resident, you can create and initiate a series of emails to enhance their move-in experience – all without adding work to your leasing team.
Need some help figuring out which digital tools are most relevant for your community? Let’s connect!
And, Don’t Forget Their Experience Before They Sign a Lease
As an apartment marketer, your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for potential renters to do business with you. Your property website plays a primary role in facilitating easy, remarkable experiences for your prospects. Read more about the six expectations your property website should meet.
The Lasting Impact
Looking to run more effective ads, reduce your overall spend, and improve your rankings in organic search? Then, you need to improve your customer service and get people leaving positive reviews on your community’s behalf. Focus first and foremost on Google ratings and reviews – that’s where you’re going to see the greatest impact.
As previously noted – we see that properties with strong online ratings and reviews, specifically on Google, have higher click-through rates to their property website.
Imagine the next apartment shopper narrowing down options for their next home. They’ve focused their search on your community and three of your competitors. Before scheduling a tour, they notice your property’s online ratings are slightly higher than the other properties on their list. Now, your community is quickly going to become their first choice.
Let's tackle the next trend, together!
Subscribe to our 30 Lines blog and follow along as we tackle the hottest apartment marketing trends, together. Next, we’ll dive into one of the easiest and most affordable ways you can automate your marketing.