RENT ROLL GROWTH is one of the most important topics for both agency principals and property managers, and how you choose to market your business is a significant part of that. Elite Property Manager and Console invited four leading professionals to comment on what has worked in marketing, what are the challenges and what the plan is for 2016. Chaired by Fiona McEachran, this is what they said. Story by Jill Boniface.
1. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EFFECTIVE MARKETING STRATEGY THAT YOU HAVE USED TO GENERATE LEADS OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS?
Joel: We looked at our processes and how we were perceived in the marketplace by asking clients ‘How did you hear about us?’ and found that our online presence was the main attracting factor. Then we looked to the major portals for products that could help us get to the next level to go beyond our competitors.
We’ve also had the launch of the new R&W website, which has been a great success. So with that and having increased our tempo on the portals, within three or four months we’ve completely dominated page one of both those websites in the 2256 and 2257 postcodes. We were able to bring on around 150 new managements in 12 months, which was a fantastic effort from the team.
But you’ve got to be doing a combination of things. It’s like casting a giant net out – you just don’t do two things and hope it works! You’ve got to get your internet exposure correct; your site has to be perfect. More importantly for the database, if you’re not prospecting daily and making immediate calls to prospective landlords, you’re not going to grow your rent roll. So I think that the internet exposure, plus the tempo of our prospecting and our database were the key factors in our success.
Sarah: We’re a fairly new agency; we’ve only been running for just under three years, so the first 12 months we weren’t focusing on marketing so much as getting the business in order. We didn’t do a great deal of marketing; it was very ad hoc, with a few advertisements in the local paper and so on. We tried out social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram.
The most effective thing was a promotion to our existing clients: tenants, landlords and tradespeople. We offered a dining voucher to the value of $200 at Café Sydney for referrals, and that generated the greatest response of any campaign. Our tradies also put in a big effort for us because they often came across clients who were unhappy with their property managers, landlords who had multiple properties that we weren’t aware of, and tenants who had rental properties as well.
Doug: Those who know me and the brand will know we are big advocates of innovation and technology. Having said that, probably our biggest thing for these past twelve months has been about getting back to basics – getting out and meeting landlords and potential landlords. We’ve also been building networks through groups: solicitors, accountants, mortgage brokers and so on, just to build name reputation.
Tamsin: We’ve been focusing not only on our database marketing but also online. Online has always been our passion. We believe in making sure that we’re topof-mind for everybody, whether buying or renting properties, or having them managed.
Social media plays a part in that; we spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter. We focus on putting out great content but understand that people are only ever looking at you from a real estate point of view. It’s trying to be engaging at that point as well. Trying to understand what our clients want to be seeing on our Facebook page is something that we’ve been focusing on over the last 12 months.
We are making sure that we’re getting our database right so we can target the right people. Our tenants are our future owners, so we’re working to make sure they’re seeing value in what we’re offering them. Then we’re database marketing to our current owners. So many people forget they have a goldmine of current owners in their database. We’ve got nearly 18,000 in ours!
We’re looking to be able to market to them and asking, ‘How can we help you more? How can we help you reinvest?’ We’re ensuring that our database and technology offering is there for them. That’s been a big one for 2015: making sure that we’ve got that right.
2. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MARKETING CHALLENGE TO DATE?
Joel: For me, it’s probably social media. A lot of agents I speak to have the same problem; it’s finding relevant and valuedriven content. Those things that the consumer wants to know about, not new listings and open for inspections. I sat back one night and thought, ‘How hard can this be? All you have to do is write down some of the things you’re thinking!’ Then we went through our history eliminated things that didn’t work. And then we noticed a market update that seemed to gain traction, so we just started delivering that sort of thing in a subtle, yet not overpowering approach.
Another challenge was selling our landlord-paid advertising to our clients. We looked at the way we were speaking to people and really made sure that our scripts were on point at all times.
Sarah: I’ve been in property management for about 24 years, but marketing? I had no idea what I was doing, where to start, what do to, how to hit my targeted audience. I was fortunate to have a client who had a very strong background in marketing, and she has been a godsend. But the biggest issue was just working out where to advertise and where to market, how to get our branding out there.
Douglas: I guess the biggest marketing challenge for more or less every property management business is understanding who owns that property. Sales are so much easier because the properties tend to be unoccupied, and you can fill their letterboxes with all manner of paraphernalia, but getting out there and finding out who owns the building and then figuring out how to target them can be quite a challenge!
Tamsin: There are always challenges. Our biggest one at the moment is just getting the right attention, so we become a business of attraction. You get people coming in that want to talk with you as an attraction business, but then you do struggle to make them understand the service offering: what you pay for is what you get. That’s been a massive challenge for us.
You’ve got always to be reinventing yourself, or re-energising, and not be distracted by what doesn’t work. You have to say, ‘You know what, that didn’t work. Let’s try again.’ Challenging, but as long as you keep at it you will get there eventually.
3. WHAT THREE AREAS OF MARKETING WILL YOU BE FOCUSING ON IN 2016?
Joel: I sat down about two months ago and drew up the plan for 2016. We’re going to look at sponsoring some local clubs, surf clubs, and giving back to the community. I think that’s very important, being in a small town such as Umina Beach. And we’re taking a number of courses to make sure that we’re delivering great content to our clients on social media.
Number three will be nurturing our tenant database to make sure that we’re not just appealing to potential landlords, but potential tenants as well. Being a small town, everybody knows each other, and we want to make sure that everybody knows who R&W Property Management are.
Sarah: I soon realised that marketing wasn’t one of my strengths, so I’ve recently employed a BDM to help me with that. The priority was to sit down and work out exactly where we were going to advertise; we had a list of all the different options, just aiming to reach out to all the different types of audiences and have some sort of structure in place. So we’re now focusing on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Actually, LinkedIn has been very good for connecting with people with whom we can have a kind of reciprocal referral arrangement.
We also looked at local advertising, and by advertising in the local paper I’ve had people contacting me about advertising with their publications as well. And networking is another big thing that we need to focus on; networking in the local area, local businesses, sponsorship, community groups, that sort of thing.
Douglas: The first is one that we have at our disposal: targeting tenants. There’s an erroneous view that tenants don’t own property, but I’m a tenant with several properties myself. So we’ll be speaking to tenants but also encouraging them into property ownership as well, educating them where appropriate. That relationship is formed from the very embryonic stage and hopefully becomes quite engraved.
The second thing is social media. As I said, we have now been big in that space for a long time, but it isn’t just about posting meaningless static content. It’s tangible content. Genuine relationships are built on information and education, as opposed to promotion. So making sure you have got the right content that the end user is going to find informative and useful is vital.
And third is technology and innovation. It’s imperative that we communicate with people on the right level and even with the right content. So everything that you see now in the sales environment should follow through to property management, from 3D floor plans onwards.
Tamsin: It’s been mentioned before, but making sure that we build relationships with our tenants. They are going to become our owners, so we want them to have a great experience with our business over that time. When they do become owners, we want them to come back. People are choosing lifestyle at the moment, so if they’re going to buy an investment property, they’re not necessarily buying it to live in. They’re probably going to stay in the areas where they can afford and rent, but still own properties. Understanding that and working with them is a major focus.
Technology is a big thing across the whole industry, but make sure you’re marketing and promoting the technologies you use and what you can offer. 2016 should be a big year for that. Then we’ll be continuing with our social media. Facebook is like a marriage; you can’t ever stop. It’s a commitment for life!