The podcasts we publish on The Property Management Show usually inspire us to talk about the topics that we cover, long after the guests have left us. On today’s show, we’re sharing some of what we captured when Marie and Brittany were discussing the most common blind spots that property managers miss when it comes to marketing their business and their services.
Two stand out: Positioning and Data.
Most Common Property Management Marketing Blind Spot: Positioning
Positioning can be a big blind spot for business owners and property managers. Here’s a question that we often pose to owners of property management companies:
“What makes you different from your competition?”
There are three common answers that we hear a lot:
- I am an investor myself.
- We care for your property like our own.
- We deliver peace of mind.
These are great reasons for an owner to work with you. But these are not competitive advantages. They’re more like value propositions. They’re selling points, but they don’t necessarily set you apart from other companies.
It’s important to communicate that you invest in your own rental homes and provide peace of mind and treat clients’ homes the same way you treat your own. But, you also need a differentiator, and these qualities are not that.
You might be surprised at how many of your competitors claim those same three sales points. If you’re trying to position yourself as being better than your property management competition, you need something else. What does it feel like to work with you? What do you want your owners to feel like when they know you’re taking care of the leasing, management, and maintenance of their investments?
Think about the experience of buying a used car. No one likes to do it because you know an over-aggressive sales person will approach you almost immediately, try to upsell you, and then keep you there for 12 hours while the financing is figured out.
People hate that.
So, you can position yourself as a used car company that offers 0 percent financing (which all of them do), or you can do what CarMax does, and solve the pain of used car buying. They know the process isn’t the best, so they allow you to do everything online and then arrive to pick up your car curbside without ever talking to a sales person.
That’s a differentiator.
Used car companies aren’t going to double their sales by offering 0 percent APR. But they might by positioning themselves based on their truly unique qualities. Property managers aren’t going to double their doors by offering peace of mind.
These are the little things that make a big difference. Think outside the box when it comes to your market and what you can offer.
Two things will help with this blind spot:
- Observe your competition. What are they doing and what aren’t they doing?
- Know your perfect client.
Elevate Your Positioning Beyond Table Stakes
This is hard. It takes thinking and creativity and brainstorming. We’re in a time of property managers offering guarantees. We did a whole podcast on that recently that will publish soon. When no one was offering guarantees – that was a competitive advantage. But, now that most management companies offer the same guarantees – it’s become table stakes. In other words, it’s so common now that many property managers feel they have to offer guarantees, just to be on level playing field with their competition.
Sometimes it can seem like you’re running out of ways to make yourself stand out.
What’s interesting is that reputation has a huge impact on whether or not those table stake offerings matter. If you’re a company that has a great reputation, it won’t matter as much if you don’t offer guarantees like other management companies do. People are going to want to work with you because of your reputation. But if you’re suffering from poor reputation management, offering guarantees and following through with them may play a bigger role in lifting your reputation and thus, your ability to grow. (Learn more about reputation management).
These shiny new sales pitches – like guarantees – can help you gain some visibility. But, sooner or later you need something else. We recommend looking inward. It can be harmful for your business if you’re always chasing the next shiny object and the next big thing. You can overextend your team or put your business model at risk.
Don’t lose sight of who you are. Guarantees are accessories for your business. But if you don’t know who you are and you bounce back and forth between what you offer, it’s hard for customers to get to know you. When you keep changing your offerings and they have no connection to each other, and they’re not tied to those core values, then it sounds like a gimmick.
Beating the Positioning Blind Spot
When you’re positioning your company, you have to ask yourself some key questions:
- Who are we and why are we here?
- Is this who we want to be?
- What do we already have in place?
- What do we need to stand out?
If you’re positioning yourself in a gimmicky way that includes new and unrelated promotions every month, that’s going to define you. It could hurt your brand. Instead, figure out what makes your company tick.
The way you position your company also influences the type of people you attract to your company. So if you’re positioning as a boutique company, or if you manage luxury estates, the types of clientele who call you will be different from the company that positions itself as property managers who promote affordable housing and Section 8 homes.
Every business is different. Be clear on your strengths.
Get over this blind spot on positioning with branding and messaging. Figure out who you are and figure out what’s important to your perfect client.
Don’t forget to reach out to professional resources when they’re available to you. Collaborating with your team and hiring experts can make things easier as long as you’re willing to do the work to get to the place you want to be.
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Another Property Management Marketing Blind Spot: Data
Another big blind spot is data, and part of the problem may be that data can be polarizing.
Some people love data and others don’t want to be anywhere near it because they don’t know what to do with it.
A lot of property management companies have access to a wealth of data and they don’t even realize it. That’s a huge blind spot.
There are three specific areas where data can help.
Reputation Management for Property Managers
Reputation is a pretty low hanging fruit when it comes to your data. All those online reviews, whether they’re positive, negative, or neutral, are data points.
Data isn’t always a number. It doesn’t have to show up in a chart or graph. It’s any input of information.
Reviews are data, and you need to know how to utilize that data. You can make decisions based on that data that will help your business.
First, make sure you’re asking for reviews so you have access to the data. Lots of software systems will automatically send requests for reviews to owners and tenants. When it’s automated, you’ll always have that data.
Then, use the data to examine your process. If there’s a one or two star review that provides feedback, you can perhaps identify a problem with your process. Don’t assume the negative review is false. Do some research and see if you can use it. You don’t have to blame someone on your team, but take a critical look at the process that led to the bad experience.
We know sometimes those bad reviews can come from difficult tenants or endless complainers. Typically, negative reviews will be maintenance-related or have something to do with the leasing process not meeting an applicant’s expectations. Maybe their application was declined.
Sometimes it’s process and sometimes it’s perception.
If expectations were different from what actually happened, that might tell you that you need to revisit your communication. When multiple people report the same experience, you know you have to look at what’s going on. But look at the single reviews, too. Others could have the same issues but choose not to leave a review.
Book some time in your calendar to read those reviews. They are data points, and your business will be better.
Tenant and Owner Retention
Understanding how long you retain owners and how long you retain tenants is not difficult. Most software systems provide statements that show average relationship lengths.
Tenant retention will depend a lot on your market. If you’re in a college town or a city with a lot of digital nomads, you’ll have different tenant retention rates than an area with families who are nesting. Understand the normal length of tenancy for the types of home you manage. Then, compare those numbers to your own numbers. This data will give you insight; are your tenancy numbers where they should be or is there something you can do to increase retention?
Then, you have to look at your owner retention. When someone terminates a contract or doesn’t renew, do you ask them why? A lot of property managers just move forward, but this is valuable data that you want to access. You need to know how long you’re able to keep an owner. More importantly, you need to know why you lose them.
Quantitative data is numerical. Qualitative data is more nuanced. You need both.
Track this information and look at trends. If, five years ago, the average owner stayed for four or five years but recently they’ve only stayed for two years, what has changed? This tells you something.
Evaluating your Owner Lead Volume
When it comes to leads and how you use data to evaluate your lead volume, a huge blind spot is quantity versus quality. The number of leads you receive can often be a vanity metric. Of course you want more leads, that’s usually good. But, it’s important to look at your close rate as well. If you’re getting a lot of leads but you’re not closing them, either there’s a sales process issue or a problem with the leads themselves.
Make the analysis and draw the connections.
Maybe you think you need more leads. Just remember that more leads does not necessarily mean more contracts. Dive into your numbers and get an idea for which leads deliver new clients. Quality is far more important than quantity when we’re talking about leads. (Want to know more about identifying different kinds of leads? Check out our interview with Jeremy Pound, “Good vs. Bad Property Management Leads.“)
Data is not as complicated as you think. It’s just information.
These blind spots are common and you may have your own when it comes to property management marketing. If you’d like to talk about any of this, please contact us at Fourandhalf.