Kathleen Richards recently interviewed Marie for her PM Tribe coaching group. They talked about the importance of marketing for property management companies, when it makes sense to seek professional help, and the current trends in the property management industry.
There was lots of good information during that interview, and we want to share it with property managers today on The Property Management Show.
Kathleen Richards and Fourandhalf
Kathleen began working with Fourandhalf in the early days, when the company was the first and only marketing agency that focused specifically on property managers. She began with creating video blogs, which was a new idea. Even the idea of property management marketing was new.
According to Kathleen, the content marketing help she received from Fourandhalf over six years helped her grow her business. Not only did she grow her business, she established herself as an expert in the property management industry. Kathleen had been teaching at the local college and doing workshops on property management, so the video marketing added to her credibility.
In her coaching group, Kathleen introduced Marie and Fourandhalf as a great team to work with. They took her local business, a “little company in Santa Cruz” to the next level and helped her attract new clients.
The Purpose of a Marketing Strategy
The first question to tackle is a pretty simple one: What is the purpose of marketing?
And, why should property managers invest in marketing strategies for their local businesses?
General Purpose of Marketing
The general purpose of marketing is to inform, educate, and convince people about a product, service, or idea. Even nonprofit organizations can use marketing to convince people to join their causes. Politicians use marketing to get people behind them. Local businesses want to share who they are and what they do.
Marketing Property Management Services
For a property management company, the purpose of a marketing strategy is to attract prospective renters who may want to rent your properties. Or, to attract self-managing owners who may need a professional property manager. You invest in marketing strategies to attract investors, to retain current resident and owner clients, and to educate potential clients on the value of professional property management.
Education is marketing at its core. You’re explaining why a professional property manager is better for property owners than managing a property on their own. You want to share benefits and highlight the problems you help property owners solve.
How Can a Property Management Company Benefit from a Marketing Plan?
Let’s say you need to go somewhere you’ve never been, and instead of using a GPS or glancing at a map, you get in your car and start driving.
You might get there eventually, if you stop and ask for directions or try several different routes. But, you will get lost, and you will waste a lot of time and money.
In this metaphor, a formal marketing plan serves as your GPS or your map. It shows you the most efficient way to get to your destination. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get there without it. It’s just a smarter way to do things.
Competing with Other Property Managers and Local Businesses
The theme for Kathleen’s PM Tribe this month is competition. Competition can be a good thing, keeping you sharp and focused and relevant.
How does a sound marketing strategy help you not only find new clients, but also compete in the marketplace?
Sometimes, it feels like you’re doing the same things as other property managers. Marketing is the best way to differentiate yourself. It starts with identifying your ideal client and understanding how to talk to those ideal new clients. You have the opportunity to position yourself as a no-brainer choice.
Too many property management companies don’t spend time thinking about their ideal client. Or, they’re not working to decide which market segment they’re best designed to serve. The market thinks property management is a commodity, but it’s not. Every company is a bit different.
The ideal client is important as you put together marketing strategies to attract prospective customers.
Then, you have to think about what makes you unique in attracting those new ideal clients. A marketing strategy will help you communicate your message. It’s a trap to accept all the new clients who come your way. Not everyone will be a good fit. There’s more churn and turnover and conflict when you open your doors to everyone. Be clear about your ideal clients. Where do they want and need specific services? What kind of properties do they rent out? You’re more successful when you’re more focused.
Property Management Marketing Sets You Apart
It can seem like a challenge to set yourself apart from your competition in a local area. How can a company set itself apart from all the others in Santa Cruz?
Marie says with authenticity.
As a professional property manager, you find yourself roped into the lives of your owners and renters. Whether you like it or not, this is the nature of the industry. If you’re authentic and human, you’re establishing yourself and your property management business as something that’s different from others.
Technology is fantastic, but property management is still a relationship business. Use technology to increase efficiency. Don’t utilize it to the point that you’ve removed authenticity from your brand. It doesn’t work. Relationships are between people, not interfaces.
Kathleen likes to say technology is there to support you, not replace you.
Digital Marketing Industry Trends
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is perhaps the biggest trend in digital marketing right now. Everyone is talking about the influence of A.I. There’s been a panic about A.I. taking all the creative jobs. Schools are worried ChatGPT is facilitating plagiarism. Tools are coming out that promise to do everything a marketer can do. A.I. is an effective method for generating immediate content, but there’s actually nothing to worry about.
This is not the value that digital marketing agencies and creative content creators provide.
The trend is to use A.I., and that’s a good idea. But, if you believe that marketing is just about putting text in a document and publishing it online, you don’t understand the true value of a marketing strategy.
A.I. makes things more efficient, but there is so much money coming into the creation of content online, it’s clear that content marketing plans still work. Why would they invest so much money if content was not still king?
When Kathleen first started working with Fourandhalf, very few property management companies were making videos. Now, everyone is doing it. Anyone can put words on the internet. If you’re not already creating content, you’re behind. If you’re still running print ads only, you’re behind.
The trend for using relevant content to generate leads is taking off. But – you need well written copy. You need content marketing within a full property management marketing strategy.
Like competition, A.I. does not make marketing property management services irrelevant. It does make your marketing team focus on sharing the value that you bring.
Kathleen could have made her own videos 10 years ago. It might have even helped her save money. But, she wanted them to look good. She wanted them the right size and length, and she wanted them ready to share on social media channels and social media pages and other websites.
A.I. provides the same benefit in that it frees up your time. Instead of writing a listing, you can focus on a higher level of customer service.
Online Reputation in the Property Management Industry
If you don’t have the budget for a formal marketing strategy, where should you start?
Keeping a close eye on your online reputation can be done without a budget. Stay on top of this, because you don’t want to ignore it long enough to suddenly discover you’re in a hole that you need to dig yourself out of.
If you want to attract new clients but you can’t afford paid marketing, focus on attracting prospective owners with a stellar reputation. People use online reviews and star ratings to make purchasing decisions. They do this even for a simple purchase on Amazon, so when it comes to a major investment like choosing a property management partner, of course they’ll pay attention to online reputation.
Not focusing on reputation does a disservice to your property management company.
People have a love/hate relationship with Yelp.
But, if you try to step back a bit, you’ll see how it can benefit you and your marketing strategies. In the corporate world, marketing departments spend thousands of dollars a year on focus groups. With online reviews, you have ready-made focus groups. Read company information, absorb positive reviews, and don’t be afraid to look at negative reviews. They can be a goldmine.
Kathleen remembered an incident where tenants left a bad review about her company because they didn’t get their security deposit back. After some research, she realized the tenant who posted was never a tenant of hers. So, she responded with this information and then shared information on how her company handles deposit returns. It was an opportunity for her to showcase how she did business differently.
No paid marketing required. You don’t even need a content marketing plan when you’re focused on reputation.
Be open to those negative reviews, especially if they’re true and indicate a change you need to make to your business. Always ask your clients for reviews. You can share those reviews on social media accounts and on your own web pages.
Kathleen would sometimes ask her friends to test her company. Like mystery shoppers, they would call and be pleasant and then they would call and be awful. This told her how her staff would react to different types of potential new clients.
Marie spearheaded a property management marketing industry survey a few years ago, and one interesting thing out of that is this statistic:
- Property management business owners who prioritized reputation as one of their top three business priorities were 16 percent more likely to have their property owner clients stay longer.
When you care about reputation and invest in it, there’s a better chance you’ll retain your owner clients and your tenants.
Higher retention rates depend on:
- How you’re treating people.
- Whether metrics are in place to evaluate your staff.
- Policies and procedures that are consistently followed
When you’re intentional and you prioritize your online reputation and your service to owners and tenants, of course you’ll retain them.
This is a cost effective way to ensure you’re providing the best services to your clients.
Investing in Marketing Efforts
Marie has seen property management companies attract new clients and knock their business growth out of the park and others who fizzled out very fast. What’s the difference, Kathleen asked.
The most successful management companies view marketing not just as an expense, but as an investment. They look at marketing as something that you sow and then later reap.
A marketing strategy takes time. You may wait six months or even over a year to see real results. The companies that grow frustrated when they don’t have 100 new doors in a month are the ones who move on and don’t find themselves able to grow with any success. They tend to want unrealistic things given their budget.
Successful companies also understand the importance of identifying an ideal client within larger customer markets.
Long term thinking drives success more than simply thinking about this month versus last month. There is no instant gratification when it comes to content marketing plans or generating leads. No business will shift overnight. It’s a process, and you need to work through that process.
It’s easy to misunderstand the purpose of marketing efforts.
Marketing is educating your clients. You might spend a year talking to prospective clients before you finally close the deal and take on their rental property.
When is it Time for Professional Property Management Marketing?
Every company moves and grows differently, but by the time you’re at 100 or 150 doors, you know you’re suddenly running a different business than you once were.
You might feel like you’re outgrowing things operationally, or maybe your property management website isn’t as impressive as other websites and you want to use it to attract new leads in a more aggressive way. Maybe you’re not getting the reviews you want or you have your eye on certain goals and you’re not quite getting there.
This is a good time to work with a marketing agency. You can expect a property management marketing strategy to get you where you want to go, especially when it comes to attracting new clients.
Once you’re making a profit, you can begin to think bigger. Invest in your property management website. Start hiring staff. Make investments in your business. You’re ready to position yourself as an expert in the property management industry. You’re thinking about paid ads and digital marketing and reaching a target audience.
It’s time to put together a marketing plan.
After years of building your business, you begin to see where your strengths are and how your way of doing business will work for an ideal client. Instead of attracting all the business, start attracting that specific business with good marketing strategies.
There’s understanding property management and there’s understanding how to put a business together. After that, you can think about property management marketing and communicating with new clients.
Figure out your market, and figure out your ideal client fits your company. Then, you’re not throwing money at a marketing plan that isn’t getting results.
Marie’s final words on effective strategies for property management marketing are simple: Rome was not built in a day.
If you’re trying to build a solid, sustainable property management business, please understand that you need to be patient. Resist the urge to cut too many corners.
Thanks to Kathleen for having Marie talk to her PM Tribe. If you have any questions about property management marketing strategies and attracting more clients, please contact us at Fourandhalf.