Marketers inherently work smarter today. They have to, thanks to the information age. But they’re also working harder than ever to keep up with a vast array of marketing channels and highly demanding prospects and residents.
Today’s multifamily marketers can adequately measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, reach millions of prospective residents with the tap of a finger, and target their advertising to exactly the right audience. For all the benefits these digital marketing tools have created for the marketing discipline, there is one challenge that’s becoming a never-ending battle — there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage every marketing channel and meet resident and prospect needs.
To avoid working non-stop 24/7 or managing massive teams that can cover the tasks 24/7, today’s multifamily marketers are turning to technology and outsourced services to help them work smarter, not harder. Call centers, chatbots, marketing automation and lead management tools are empowering marketers to be more effective and more efficient.
“Through our research, we found that our residents are kind of needy,” said Maureen Lannon, SVP of Marketing for Pierce, at the 2018 Entrata Summit. “They want a live, breathing, heart-beating person on the other side of the line.”
The ultimate goal, however, is to free up time not only for the marketing team, but also the on-site teams, who can spend more time with prospects and residents.
“The question is how can we free up some of our time and make our technologies work for us,” said Meghan Bruce, Director of Marketing Technology for Greystar. “When we look at our customers, we’re not just looking at prospects and residents, we’re looking at on-site teams as well.”
While some marketers are turning to 24/7 call centers to answer not only prospect questions, but also resident questions, others are turning to artificial intelligence technology. Chatbots, which are used frequently in other industries, are making some headway in multifamily because they’re able to answer most questions and customers are becoming more comfortable with them.
“We’re in the exploratory phase right now,” Bruce said. “There are a few different ways you can use a chatbot. You can use questions and answers already premade. You can have a chatbot that will use a learned response. The third, which is truly groundbreaking, is to let the chatbot learn and, when it gets stuck, allow real-time people to fill in the blanks.”
But chatbots and call centers can’t handle all of the marketing tasks that need to be completed, such as managing online reviews, sending marketing emails to prospects or communicating to large groups of residents. That’s where marketing automation, review management software and outside response teams, and mass communication software come in handy for marketers.
These tools and services allow custom messages to be sent to residents or prospects and groups of them as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it takes associates to prepare communications for distribution. Many times it’s a matter of drafting one template, managing distribution lists and pressing the send button or scheduling the communication to go out based on certain triggers, like submitting an application or filling out a guest card.
Sometimes the tools, such as reputation management software, can also help leverage residents themselves to market the communities. But it requires a strong commitment to transparency and feeding all reviews – good, bad and ugly – to the community website.
“It’s the zero moment of truth,” said Lauren Gummelt, National Marketing Manager for Lincoln Properties. “We are giving everyone the information they want for better or for worse. If we only allow positive reviews, our believability goes down. The crazy ones are entertaining for sure, but I don’t think they have value for prospects. My philosophy is to let it all out there.”
With all of this automation comes some fear of losing control of the brand or marketing. But much of that fear is unfounded, considering marketing is responsible for creating the content and information to distribute, and operations is empowered to improve the services that result in positive reviews.
In the end, it’s about using the technology available to make marketing more efficient and effective, even if you have to employ a bot.
“If Terminator taught us anything, it’s to be kind to the robots,” Gummelt joked.