In Part 1 and Part 2 of our Property Management Marketing series, we discussed various aspects of property management tenant marketing. Today, we’ve invited our own John Bykowski, CEO at Fourandhalf to discuss some of the big changes he’s seen in owner marketing.
We’re talking about how property management companies can keep up with the times and attract more property owner clients.
- Internet marketing has exploded in the last nine years for the property management industry.
- Google Ads, websites and content marketing are crucial for owner marketing these days.
- Changes in consumer behavior are affecting owner marketing strategies.
- There are more things vying for our attention these days – your job is to capture owner’s attention, and provide value to them once you have it.
Catch our full Property Management Marketing series:
Property Management Marketing | Part 1 | The Rise of Zumper & Facebook Marketplace
Property Management Marketing | Part 2 | Building Waitlists & Pre-Marketing
Remembering Property Management Owner Marketing in 2012
John started in internet marketing about nine years ago, when it wasn’t really a thing.
There were websites and homepages, but they were little more than a placeholder or calling card. Think of a glorified Yellow Pages ad for a company, with the addition of a few pages. Most property managers were getting their websites from their software companies. It was still more common to spend marketing dollars on print ads in the Yellow Pages or on billboards or bus seats. Maybe a property manager would purchase a radio ad or a television ad if there was money and ability.
The internet was not the primary marketing platform for property managers when John got started and Fourandhalf was arriving. He remembers his first NARPM National meeting, which was in Washington, D.C. in 2012, and he had to explain to people that you can get business from the internet. Some people understood this but a lot had not thought about it.
Leading an Industry Towards Different Thinking
The world at large began to change and a huge part of life moved online. YouTube was around and that’s where people went to watch videos. Netflix had just started streaming but it wasn’t very popular yet. More information could be found online and eventually, there was no reason to explain to property managers that it was a good idea to advertise on the internet.
The number of ways to advertise had grown more sophisticated. When Fourandhalf started, content marketing and video blogs were very new. The best ways to market your property management services to owners were through content marketing, social media marketing, and reputation management. These were the products Fourandhalf focused on and they looked nothing like they look today. With reputation management for example, John was simply teaching people how to respond to reviews. There were no automated systems in place and Yelp was far more popular than Google. In some markets, Yelp wasn’t even used yet. Now, things have evolved and Google stars are far more important than Yelp reviews.
As marketing moved online, banner ads were available but it didn’t take long for marketers to realize that no one was clicking on banner ads. Pop up ads weren’t working either. It was time to learn how to leverage the data that could be gathered by a person’s online presence.
Valuable Owner Marketing Tools Today
AdWords started slowly and before everyone started using it, you could launch an AdWords campaign for cheap. Now, we’re at the point where so many people are using it that it’s actually an auction site. The price keeps going up and that’s not going to stop. Early in the AdWords days, a Bay Area property management company could spend $2 per click. Now, it’s about $65 per click in the same market.
There was also a huge gap in knowledge about how to use AdWords. We encountered a lot of property managers who hired a generic AdWords company that didn’t understand the difference between owner clicks and tenant clicks. Our industry has gotten smarter and property managers are careful not to waste money. We’ve learned how to track return on the marketing dollars that are spent.
AdWords can still work today, but plan to spend some money.
There aren’t any magic bullets when it comes to owner marketing for property managers. In the past, implementing a marketing strategy would put you ahead of your competitors. Now, everyone is using those strategies so not implementing them will put you well behind other management companies in your market.
Websites are more important than they were even a few years ago.
This has become the base of internet marketing. Your website is a lead source, not just a place to post information about who you are.
Everyone is researching everything online. Before a new owner gets in touch with you, that lead is going to be pretty well-educated thanks to what they’ve found online.
Consumers hardly have to interview people and companies anymore. You don’t have to call and talk to 10 people before you make a buying decision. You can go online and look at reviews. You can see how many times tenants have complained.
Your website is powerful. It’s more than where you are and what you do.
Think about Coca Cola. That brand has created an image for itself based on emotion. Their website says nothing about what it’s like to drink sugary carbonated water. Instead, it’s telling a story about how it feels to enjoy a Coke and it’s inviting visitors to engage with the brand.
This has to happen for smaller companies, too.
People are going to expect to see why you’re a property manager and why they should work with you.
Content marketing is now all about targeting pain points. When a potential owner goes online, they’re not typing ‘property manager Richmond’ into the search box. They’re typing how do I find a good tenant or how do I maintain my rental property.
Instead of looking for a service online, they’re trying to solve a problem using online resources.
Consumer Behavior Changes and What it Means for Marketing
Big changes in consumer behavior are requiring property management companies to catch up. No one is calling or faxing or looking for plumbers in the Yellow Pages. Google My Business has taken the place of the Yellow Pages. It’s where people can go to look up general information about a company. You need to make sure it’s accurate. Make sure your hours reflect your opening and closing times because people are using that and if you’re not open when you say you’re open, you can probably expect a complaint or a negative review.
Social media has changed to reflect the same trends in consumer behavior. Facebook was around in 2012, but people weren’t interfacing with it in the same way they are now. What you can and cannot do with Facebook is different, and that’s largely due to the general backlash against privacy invasions. Cambridge Analytics did some shady things with the data it collected on people, and when Facebook pulled away from that, limits were put into place on the kind of data you could use to target people.
Previously, a real estate agent could create a campaign that targeted people who were six months away from buying a house. There was data gathered based on a person’s online activity that told us they were six months away from that purchasing decision.
Now, there’s a larger push for re-marketing and re-targeting. Think about those banner ads people hated. While no one ever clicked on them, people were still seeing them. The same concept is being used now. Facebook might not know you’re going to buy a house in six months anymore. But, if you visit my real estate sales page on my website, it’s going to trigger Google ads and social media sites to put real estate advertising content in front of you. No one expects you to click on it. But, you’re going to see it. The image and the information is there.
Competitive Owner Marketing
Property managers have to know the competitive alternatives to what they’re currently doing.
Competition now includes doing nothing. Or, it means an owner is managing on their own. So when you advertise your property management services to owners, don’t just compare yourself to the company down the road. You also have to make a case for why property management is needed. This is a problem that not all industries have.
On your website, it’s important to include messages to different audiences who show up for different reasons.
In the past, people would get to the homepage first. Now, there are better search options. You can direct people to subpages, which are more specific to what a person is searching for. With the right website content, you can have an answer for each competitive alternative. You’ll tailor your pages to the problems of particular consumers.
Google is now a verb. I’m going to Google ____. It has shifted the way we live and when you can Google anything, there’s a sense that professional help may not be needed.
- You’re targeting property owners who can Google how to find a tenant.
- You’re targeting property owners who can Google how to fix a toilet.
Self-management has always been a fact. But now, people may find they are more emboldened to manage on their own because of all the information that’s so easy to find.
Your job is to reinforce the fact that property management is more than collecting rent and fixing toilets.
Twenty years ago, property owners didn’t even know property management existed. John owned a home in Las Vegas and when he moved to Silicon Valley, he rented out the property to a friend and had his Dad take care of anything the house needed. If he had known he could hire a property manager to take care of everything, he might still have that investment property today. Eventually he sold it because managing from out of state was just too much.
Industry education now means explaining to rental property owners why professional management is valuable.
Owner Marketing Plans for 2021 and Beyond
When it comes to property management marketing and your plans to attract more owners, things have changed and they will continue changing.
Here’s what you can do to keep up:
You need a systematic reputation management process in place. Good reviews aren’t just nice to have – they’re necessary. Not all of your reviews are going to be good of course, but you need to work on increasing your stars on Google. Be attentive to that. It’s what people are looking at. We have a process for reputation management at Fourandhalf, and you can also do it manually. One way or another, make sure you’re not avoiding your online reputation. You can have 50 five-star reviews, but you still have to stay on top of it.
Make your website more than it was. Once upon a time, you could rank just for being a property management company and having a page dedicated to services. Now, you need content that will attract visitors and keep them on your site. Google is always changing its algorithms. Now, it’s looking at your content.
Be suspicious of SEO companies. No one knows exactly what kind of magic Google is using to rank sites. SEO companies can lead you to bad decisions. People who spammed keyword tags and backlinks are now suffering. Don’t take shady shortcuts. Adding content to your site will increase your ranking. There are no shortcuts.
Look at what you’re doing and make sure it’s working. Marketing changes don’t happen on a monthly basis, so don’t check your numbers month to month. Remember, too, that property management is a seasonal industry. You’re going to have fewer people looking for you in January than you do in the late spring. Don’t make immediate changes because it looks like your marketing plans aren’t delivering any action right now. Look at how much business you’re doing this year compared to last year. Make changes based on that kind of timeline.
Some of the metrics you should use include:
- How many leads do I have?
- What are the quality of those leads?
- How long does it take me to close a lead?
- What am I doing to convert the most leads?
Attention Management is Part of Property Management Owner Marketing
Everyone is familiar with terms like multitasking and time management.
Now, attention management is the thing you need to focus on. There are so many things competing for your attention. Your phones and your tablets and your Apple Watch are trying to steal your attention. Every time you subscribe to something and start getting notifications – you’re giving away your attention.
When you’re marketing your services to owners, your job is to get their attention.
Once you have that attention, you need to know what to do with it. You can’t give them a blurb or a sales pitch. You have to make a connection.
This is what we can boil it all down to. The biggest change in marketing is that there are more forces trying to steal your attention online. Tik Tok videos. Pinterest pictures. So much is happening out there, that you have to show your value once you have someone’s attention. Get them to your website and start interacting.
People are interested in what you will mean to them. Luckily, you can share this message better online now than you could before.
If you have any questions about what John had to say on today’s podcast, please contact us at Fourandhalf, a marketing agency for property management companies.