For the fifth year in a row, I’ve had the privilege of attending the National Apartment Association Conference. This year the venue was New Orleans and I must say besides one of the best cities for meals in the US, it was also one of the best conferences I’ve attended.
The emphasis this year was definitely on social networking and Internet advertising. There are companies out there now that do nothing but load you up on free rental websites on a regular basis for a small monthly fee. Given the prices they were offering, I’m not sure how they could even do it effectively. Do you realize that there are now over 40 free rental websites that you could be using to list your Toronto properties? Yes, that’s right – the whole realm of advertising in changing. In the future, I can see companies spending advertising dollars just having in-house administrators loading up ads on all of these free websites on a daily basis. Yes, for some companies it could already be a full-time job.
Is it worth it you say to follow the American marketing philosophy to rent apartments? Well, it’s true that there are some profound differences between Canadian and American rentals and one eloquent speaker put it into perspective in thirty seconds. She told a room of 500 people that Americans are very self absorbed as consumers, having a tendency to only know what’s going on in their own little world. Of course, she was challenged right away, but she asked a simple question. Her question was whether or not any American in the room could tell her the name of the current Prime Minister of Canada. I was shocked. Not one person responded. She asked if one Canadian could tell her the name of the President of the United States. Of course, a dozen hands went up and it represented every Canadian in the room.
In turn, Americans have learned to market to their own masses and given that some of these landlords can reach an audience of over 230 million people indicates that they’re doing something right. I would even go so far as to say that some companies have become a household word when it comes to branding, which is more then we can say for almost every landlord in Canada. Is the use of Internet a way to brand your company? I would say if we look to the South we can say a resounding YES. But they’re looking at angles we haven’t even thought of yet.
I would be hard pressed to find a company that doesn’t have a video presentation of their rental community. It becomes a given. Every company mystery shops their staff on some level and on a regular basis. Every community is now focusing on creating cell-phone-friendly websites where their information is formatted to be user-friendly on a cell phone. Companies from coast-to-coast are now conducting resident satisfaction surveys on an annual basis under the premise that the customer is king, and they want those kings living at their properties. This year alone, we’ve sent out over 20,000 resident satisfaction surveys for clients ourselves so this is an area where I think we’re also making progress. And finally, it seems a lot of companies are finding that a way to a person’s heart is to feed them. Rental offices everywhere are being stocked with snack foods, coffee corners, and juice bars. Prospective residents are staying longer during the visit and it’s resulting in better sales.
All in all, you can see when you attend any one of these conferences that it’s war out there. Getting good residents is tough; getting the best residents is all-out warfare. From what I’m seeing, the Internet is drawing them in but it’s the food, the gadgets, and the takeaways that are attracting residents to their new homes. May the best man, or should i say landlord, win!