Search, Sort, Schedule: Automating Lead Generation for Multifamily Property Management Companies
Quick word association test: what is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “automation”?
If it’s anything to do with robots, there’s a chance that you may have seen one too many science fiction movies. But, you’re certainly not alone. With the proliferation of AI technology and machine learning, people tend to associate automation with androids when the reality is much simpler, albeit slightly more mundane (if the idea of a robot takeover is your definition of fun).
The Role of Automation in Multifamily Property Management
Automation is defined as “the creation and application of technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention.” Applying this technology improves the efficiency, reliability, and, in many cases, speed of tasks that were previously performed by human beings. Think of the washing machine, the plow, and the blender — all of these devices are examples of automation in every day life and are used to accomplish tasks that humans used to have to expend significant time and energy on.
In a business setting, automation is more than just a buzzword; it’s become a legitimate business driver and a significant source of revenue. In fact, a recent report by PwC found that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Catalyzed by the pandemic, the past two years have brought about a digital transformation in virtually every industry, and multifamily property management is no exception. Suddenly faced with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, the industry was forced to adapt. Technology became the weapon of choice for forward-thinking organizations, with many adopting innovative solutions like virtual tours, drone shots, and process automation to face these new challenges head-on and stay ahead of the competition.
As the multifamily property management industry continues to evolve and become more complex, automation represents the key to streamlining processes, boosting lead generation, and maximizing overall ROI.
Why Is Lead Generation Critical for Multifamily Property Management Companies?
Lead generation is challenging — it's time-consuming and takes up a significant amount of any multifamily property management company’s marketing budget. And, of course, it's a critical business activity where a leasing agent's work is seemingly never done.
According to Statista, 97% of people use the internet to search for their potential new homes. The way people look for housing has fundamentally changed, so it stands to reason that lead generation strategies must evolve accordingly. While traditional advertising and word-of-mouth referrals may have been all the rage in the past, these tactics aren’t sustainable and do not guarantee a steady stream of customers.
With the digitization of the real estate rental and buying process, property management companies stand to gain significantly by investing in automated lead generation to attract the right prospects and provide them with timely, relevant information, without devoting costly resources to ill-suited tenants — all while saving organizations time and money.
The Top 5 Tasks Multifamily Property Management Companies Can Automate To Boost Lead Generation Efforts
1. Answering Frequently Asked Questions
Potential renters searching for housing typically have many questions that they want to ask about a variety of topics, including the property in general, the community, a specific unit they are interested in, or about the renting process. These questions and their answers often inform whether the renter will continue through the process or look for an alternative.
So, how do you convey this critical information about your units and renting process? Providing too little information can come off as untrustworthy and turn potential renters away. On the flip side, it would be equally ineffective to overwhelm potential renters with too much information and scare them off.
To solve this dilemma, most multifamily property management companies centralize critical information on an FAQ website page. In addition, more and more organizations are opting for a conversational AI solution on their websites. Virtual assistants can be easily equipped with the data needed to provide instantaneous answers while prospects get exactly what they are looking for in a matter of seconds, without the need to hunt for information. Plus, a chatbot can be on at all hours, any day of the week — a win-win for everyone.
By addressing frequently asked questions with a virtual assistant, multifamily property management companies can streamline the lead generation process and provide potential renters with the tools they need to make a decision.
2. Data Analysis and Insights
Integrated communication platforms like advanced chatbots and conversational AI solutions offer multifamily property management companies deeper insight into what really makes their prospects tick. Suppose a potential customer (let’s call her Lisa) lands on your website after a Google search for housing options in her area. At the most basic level, Lisa has a defined monthly budget and is looking for an apartment in a multifamily housing complex on the outskirts of the city. Beyond the basics, she also has some more specific wants, including amenities like a gym and a dog park, as well as in-unit features like a dishwasher, laundry, and air conditioning.
After her initial search, Lisa enters a property management company’s homepage and is immediately greeted by a virtual assistant. Here, she has a choice: she can either browse the website to search for the answers to her questions about amenities on her own, or she can ask the assistant directly and receive accurate information on the spot.
Beyond the ease and convenience it offers prospects, the questions that potential customers ask a virtual assistant offer invaluable insights. For example, if an organization notices multiple instances of the same question being asked early on in the interaction with the chatbot, they can infer that it is likely a high-priority topic and something that potential renters will consider to make their decisions moving forward. Armed with that information, companies can ensure that they display that information front and center on their homepages and create content that addresses key concerns.
This type of data can also help organizations create more in-depth renter personas that allow marketing teams to create hyper-targeted campaigns that zero in on the challenges and concerns of each distinct profile, resulting in higher ROI.
3. Lead Capture, Nurture, and Follow Up
The first (and crucial) step to entering the sales funnel is to obtain basic information about the prospect. Without a name, email address, and phone number, leasing agents can’t follow up and close the deal, no matter how motivated the prospective renter may be.
While an extended contact form or survey might provide troves of valuable information, it's of no use if prospects don’t take the time to complete it. A more effective approach is to only ask for a few pieces of crucial information and make it as easy as possible for prospects to provide it. In line with this best practice, most multifamily property management companies choose to do this with pop-ups and contact forms, with a select few leveraging a virtual assistant to collect the data in a more conversational setting.
But, just because a prospect has provided their contact information, it doesn’t mean they are ready to sign a lease and move in. If only it were that simple (sigh). That’s where yet another advantage of automating lead generation processes comes in. Instead of leasing agents spending valuable time speaking with every lead, organizations can take advantage of drip email campaigns to send personalized, relevant information to prospects and keep them engaged until they are ready to start the process.
4. Appointment Scheduling and Reminders
When a potential renter is seriously considering a unit in a multifamily housing complex, one of the most significant steps they'll take is to schedule an appointment with a leasing agent. However, when appointments are scheduled manually, problems tend to ensue. Many leasing agents can attest to missing calls, going back and forth over email, or struggling to find a suitable time for both parties. These drawbacks aren’t just a nuisance; they have real consequences. Potential renters may become frustrated and stop engaging, and when that happens it can be difficult to draw them back in.
However, with automated appointment scheduling, leasing agents can sync their calendars with the system and share their availability with prospective tenants. Calendar links can be shared via email or through a conversational AI interface and, once a time has been selected, the appointment can be automatically added to both calendars.
Automated solutions can also offer critical reminders for calls, appointments, or follow-up emails, for both the leasing agent and prospective renter as they might need a reminder to submit a form, sign a contract, or complete other necessary post-appointment activities.
5. Managing Referrals
Referrals are gold in real estate. Despite the emergence of new channels and lead sources, referrals remain a top lead source for many real estate companies. In fact, a recent survey by The Close revealed that 83% of agents found new clients through real estate referrals — far surpassing social media and online advertising in the second and third spots, respectively.
With tons of responsibilities and only so many hours in the workday, many leasing agents don’t have the time to peruse their personal networks and ask their contacts for referrals. That’s where automation comes in. A sophisticated system will include drip emailing capabilities that can be customized with multiple calls to action that generate new business behind the scenes, while the leasing agent focuses on closing deals.
When executed properly, automated referral management can also enhance the customer experience. For example, when gathering the potential renter's details, organizations can ask if they were referred by a current or previous tenant and then assign the prospect the same agent as their friend or relative for a personal touch.
The Benefits of Automated Lead Generation for Multifamily Property Management Companies
According to a survey by McKinsey of 800 executives, 85% of companies globally have accelerated their digital transformation and 67% have directed their focus on automation and artificial intelligence.
The bottom line? If your multifamily property management organization isn’t taking advantage of AI technology for automation, chances are high that your competitors are.
While there are a number of advantages, the main benefit of automated lead generation is clear: more leads means more renters in units. Additionally, automating mundane tasks that don’t demand expertise frees up leasing agents to focus on projects that require their unique skill set.
New technology can feel like uncharted territory and multifamily real estate professionals may be reluctant to embrace these tools as a result of reluctance to learn a new system, anxiety about changing their current way of working, or budget concerns. However, with the right education and training surrounding automated systems, teams can feel at ease and recognize that automating menial and repetitive tasks makes their lives easier, with a proven track record of high return on investment.