LEAD CONVERSION: Internet & Email Marketing Tips for the Multifamily Industry
Note: This publication talks more specifically about the multifamily industry but converting Internet leads into sales is a general “matter of practice” that is common for all industries.
Today the Internet is playing a greater role than ever before in the marketing and leasing process. It has leveled the playing field. When used properly, a small company’s internet and email communication can be every bit as professional and effective as that of a large company. According to research, internet shopping is now more popular than thumbing through the yellow pages. The bottom line is that leads from the internet are here to stay. For those who are prepared for this ever-expanding response, the future is bright. To master lead conversion on the internet, you must be proficient in “driving” this vehicle.
INTERNET TRAINING: Do you formally train your employees on how to handle internet leads?
The majority of management companies offer their employees internet apartment leasing training, ranging from classroom, to web-based training, to WebEx online training. Most companies introduce this training during the sales orientation process, followed by a reintroduction in their standard marketing and apartment leasing classes.
A handful of companies also capitalize on the complimentary training offered by their internet advertising partners. Regardless of what form of training your company is offering, it will increase your employees’ awareness and focus, resulting in a greater leasing success and ultimately better lead conversions.
EMAIL CONTENT: Do you provide a template or allow your Leasing Professionals to create their own response to internet leads?
Internet clients are expecting a quick response, allowing for a shorter sales cycle; therefore, it is especially important that your Leasing Professionals are talking directly to their client’s specific needs in order to achieve better lead conversions. When it comes to responding to internet leads, no client wants to receive a generic answer to their specific question. The concern with allowing a Leasing Professional to create their own response is the risk of grammatical errors and the use of language that is not businesslike. The other argument is that if a template is used, the message can come across as “canned”, leaving the client feeling unimportant.
What is the answer? Is it black and white? Some companies provide leasing professionals a “recommended standard” and/or a list of responses to choose from. Many have an established email policy with guidelines for content, tone, and etiquette. These companies encourage the Leasing Professional to add their ‘personal touch’ to the response. This blended approach reduces the risk of grammatical errors and at the same time includes personal content that speaks directly to the client. Templates are also useful when responding to standard questions such as office hours, directions and basic community information. The Leasing Professional can simply copy the text from the template and paste the information into their message as needed.
According to Nancy and Tom Flynn, co-authors of Email: A Write It Well Guide, “Your written communication tells people a lot about you and your organization.” Email messages that are filled with errors convey an image of someone who is not paying attention and does not value the correspondence.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Do you have a monitoring system in place to confirm that your Leasing Professionals are responding to internet leads?
We hope your answer is yes! It is important to have a process in place to ensure that internet leads are being answered. While some companies take a manual audit approach, others have a more sophisticated process in place that is powered by a lead-tracking software. Since lead progress is visible to all users, it allows more opportunity to monitor and coach. Having a monitoring system in place also helps to tie leads to leases, another challenge faced by many management companies.
Ellis’ Internet Mystery Shops are another tool used by companies to evaluate the timeliness and quality of response sent by the Leasing Professional. This form of accountability has also been useful to verify the technical functionality and accuracy of the community’s online operations.
RESPONSE EXPECTATIONS: How quickly do you expect an internet lead to be responded to by a Leasing Professional in order to produce lead conversions?
Internet leads die a quick death. The first person to contact the client has the opportunity to position and sell their community and product and force their competitors to play “catch-up”. By the time the fourth or fifth community responds to the customer’s email, they already have the information they need and have likely made a decision on where they will visit. Speed is not only good but is really mandatory to a successful internet leasing program. All research pertaining to internet leads shows that response time drives closing ratios. If your competitors are responding within 30 minutes, you need to respond within 20 minutes.
Decreasing your response time will generate an increased closing ratio. Generally a response should be sent within an hour or two! A timely response is critical to internet buyers and should be treated as urgently as a phone call or a client walking into the leasing office.
INTERNET OBSTACLES: Lead Conversion is not easy and the biggest challenge you face with Internet leasing is response time.
Over 90% of management companies acknowledge that a slow response time or no response by the Leasing Professional is their biggest internet leasing challenge. Clearly the awareness and expectation is there, yet many companies still struggle with the reality that emails are not being answered. This has led some companies to search for technology, such as lead management systems and/or lead response centers, to aid their efforts in responding to internet apartment leads.
Challenges will always exist and companies will continue to seek ways to overcome them. In order to improve your conversion of leads to leases, it is important to identify where the problems exist and search for ways to improve.
This leads us to our final topic.
THE MYSTERY OF SPAM
Imagine this scenario…A customer sends an email to your leasing office inquiring about your community. You reply promptly within two hours with a personal email, no grammatical errors, and a number of details in regards to why this client must visit your community. Yet there is no response to your email. Being the industrious Leasing Professional that you are, you make a phone call to the customer only to determine that your email was never received. In spite of confirming that you did indeed enter the client’s correct email address, the bottom line is that the client never received your email.
Was this message lost in cyberspace? Have you ever considered that spam filtering, something of which we can only control to an extent, has likely prevented your email from reaching the end user. According to MailChimp.com, a leading do-it-yourself marketing service, “10-20% of emails get lost in cyberspace, mostly due to spam filters.” Therefore, educating your onsite teams of the problem, the causes, and how to reduce it is a first step in combating this problem.
Why do some of your response emails fall into the “spam” email category?
Spam filters have become increasingly sophisticated guardians against unsolicited emails. These filters are used by most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) as well as private customers. The challenge is that there are many different spam filters, and each one has its own checklist and scorecard to determine what is and what is not considered legitimate mail. While the software is designed to block spam, it can also block your innocent, intentional emails.
Regardless of the ISP, mail typically falls into three different categories: known bad mail, unsure mail, and legitimate mail. Services such as Yahoo® and Gmail™ each have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to messages and content that signal spam. The rules for each ISP vary and change on a regular basis. Consider the variety of ISP’s and the challenge becomes overwhelming. One ISP could classify ‘your’ email as the ‘known bad mail’ category, causing it to go into a ‘black hole’ where neither you nor the recipient may know that it was sent or received.
So, what is the answer? Is there a solution? The answer is obviously not clear cut; however, there are some precautions one can take to minimize their email being tagged as spam.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Consider Your Subject Line and Content: Spam filters look hard at the subject line but also at the content of the email. Phrases such as Free, Discount, Opportunity, Amazing, and One Time Offer, etc. may cause the email to be flagged as spam. In addition, quotation marks, dollar signs and exclamation points in the subject line can trigger spam filters. It is best to avoid using all capital letters and large fonts. These too can trigger spam filters.
2. Avoid Use of Color Text and Background Colors: If your email contains color text or color backgrounds, spam filters will search for other questionable characteristics and reasons to block your mail.
3. Use Text-Based Emails: Although plain text is boring and not eye-catching, they are less likely to be classified as spam mail.
4. Consider a Spam Checker Tool: Spam checker tools allow you to scan your email for “spammy” keywords, plus all of the other ‘behind the scenes’ items that spam filters identify. Upon scanning your email utilizing this type of tool, your email will be given a spam rating which will tell you how it is viewed and alert you of any possible spam issues. Companies that provide Spam Checker Tools can be found through a Google search. Many of these tools are available at no cost.
5. Avoid Attachments When Possible: Viruses are often hidden in attachments. Firewalls and spam filters often block these emails from unknown addresses.
While we cannot control how emails are filtered from one user to the next, implementing some of these simple guidelines will help minimize the problem and increase your lead conversion. Remember, the objective is to ensure your communication is received by the interested apartment renter.
As a safeguard, you cannot rely on email to be your only form of communication. Always follow up with a call!