Digital channels occupy a central part in our lives. One-by-one industries — such as Technology, Professional Services, Telecommunications — have discovered that their prospects were researching and shopping online more than any other channel. These industries had to transform and streamline their Sales & Marketing efforts to capture this group of prospects. Marketing Automation was the key technology that these industries used to attract, nurture and convert these digital prospects.
91% of the most successful marketers agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing across channels. — Marketo & Ascend2
The Multifamily industry is going through a similar transformation. The good news is that we have new sources of leads — Apartments.com, Apartment Guide, Zillow to name a few — that are sending us many more leads. The bad news is that our manual lead-to-lease processes are not built to handle such an increase in leads. To make matters worse, the quality of these leads has dropped.
To overcome these challenges, it is now Multifamily’s turn to adopt, exploit and excel in Marketing Automation. In this post, we briefly introduce Marketing Automation ideas and explain why it is an exciting technology waiting to be exploited by Multifamily marketers.
What is Marketing Automation?
There are as many definitions of marketing automation as companies in this business. Like the 6 blind men and their descriptions of an elephant, each business defines marketing automation to match their perspective. That does not make those definitions wrong, just that the reality is a mix of all those perspectives.
Here is our definition of Marketing Automation that takes a rather expansive view:
Marketing Automation uses a 1-2-3 punch of digital automation, data intelligence and workflow management to save agent’s time, deliver more sales-ready leads, and improve the prospect’s experience of the sales cycle.
How about a few other perspectives?
Content-Marketing Centric Definition
Source: MystiqueThe first part of the above definition emphasizes the content marketing aspect of marketing automation. While that is true for industries such as Technology and Professional Services, it may not be as relevant for the apartments industry. (It does not hurt that Mystique is a marketing communication company!)What is relevant for the multifamily industry is the second part of the definition: improve efficiency, speed, tracking, and ROI of the lead-to-lease process.
These goals are universal across all industries.
Artificial Intelligence Centric Definition
Source: Boston Logic
This definition emphasizes the key role played by data and analytics. This intelligence is used to segment and score your leads, pick the right action at the right time for each prospect, and focus on the most promising leads and campaigns with the best ROI.
Software Centric Definition
It is now Multifamily’s turn to adopt, exploit and excel in Marketing Automation.
This definition makes it clear that software is an essential element of marketing automation. While marketers need to define the content, processes and channels for their marketing effort, marketing automation software is essential to bringing those strategies and tactics to life.
Said another way, there is no marketing automation without automation software!
Why do marketers like Marketing Automation?
Studies have shown that marketers have found marketing automation to be successful not just for their marketing campaigns but also for overall business strategy and success. Here are some reasons why marketers are inclined towards marketing automation.
“The #1 benefit of marketing automation according to B2B marketers is the ability to generate more and better quality leads.” – Pepper
A lead is essentially a prospective customer for your business. For multifamily businesses this means anyone who is looking to rent and who has contacted you through your website, made a phone call or visited your office in person. A quality lead would then be a prospective renter who has understood the details of your property and is aware of current offers. A prospective renter starts off as a raw lead.
As a marketer, you can turn such a lead into a quality lead by engaging with them trough various media: email, website videos, blogs, live chat and in-person phone calls and property visits. A renter is typically unlikely to take the time to visit a property or even make phone calls in today’s busy world, more so when he/she would rely on your website to get all the information they need to decide if they like what they see. A better quality lead would then be a prospective renter who stays continuously interested in the property after being aware of its details and who is decisively progressing towards closing a lease.
With marketing automation, the number of such raw leads who become increasingly inclined to closing the lease increases.
Most Compelling Reason
“79% of CMOs indicate that increasing revenue as the most compelling reason for adopting marking automation.” – Gleanster
Any investment in a technology or process will be assessed for how it impacts the revenue for the company. Automating marketing processes enables marketers to become more attentive to renter needs.
Through constant communication, marketers are able to understand and relate better to what renters are seeking. Through continuous monitoring of customer behaviour, they are able to convey to sales the nature of the rental market. Sales then is able to configure and personalise offers to each customer segment. This increases the likelihood of renters closing deals, which makes them high-quality leads. More high-quality leads implies more revenue.
Marketers find this reason alone to be compelling enough to make a decision to implement marketing automation.
Biggest Benefits According to Marketers
“Marketers say that the biggest benefits of Automation are Saving time (74%), Increased customer engagement (68%), More timely communications (58%) and Increased opportunities including up-selling (58%)” — Adestra
Biggest Benefits According to Marketers Who Have Adopted Marketing Automation
- [36%] Taking repetitive tasks out of marketers hands, so they can work on other projects
- [30%] Better target their prospects and existing customers
- [10%] Improve customer experience
- [9%] Better email marketing
- [8%] Reduction of human error
The numbers above indicate responses from marketers who have adopted marketing automation technology. The survey, however, included non-adopters as well, i.e those who are yet to use automation as part of their marketing plans and strategy. Comparing the two sets of responses, an encouraging outcome was that a higher percentage of marketers are seeing the benefits of marketing automation after adopting the technology.
Measure Performance of Marketing Automation
“The most useful measure of marketing automation performance is conversion rate say 70% of very successful Marketing Automation users.” – Marketo & Ascend2
One of the main reasons marketing automation has been a huge success with those who have adopted the technology is the ability to make measurements, analyse these metrics and report them. Technology gives you the luxury of identifying these metrics and continuously monitoring them. While all of the metrics in the graph above are important, conversion rate is a popular one as it directly relates to quantifiable revenue. The number of high-quality leads that converted to customers is the ultimate indication that your marketing campaigns and strategy are working.
The number of high-quality leads that converted to customers is the ultimate indication that your marketing campaigns and strategy are working. As a multifamily business, you should be measuring conversion rates in terms of how many prospective renters closed leases in a particular period of time. Marketing automation will enable you to identify such a metric and keep close watch on your sales and revenue targets.
What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?
We now have a lot of evidence to show the benefits and ROI of Marketing Automation. We list some of this evidence here.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Realizing ROI is important for any company to justify an investment into technology. Time to a positive ROI is a factor that companies look into before committing capital on a technology project. The survey reports for marketing automation show that 100% of responders realized ROI within a year of implementing marketing automation.
The multifamily industry is yet to adopt technology to support their marketing efforts like other industries have. These numbers should now encourage multifamily businesses to streamline their marketing campaigns through automation.
Increase in Sales Revenues
Total increase in sales revenue itself is a measure of a successfully run business strategy or tactic. Its more welcome when the average sales revenue also increases. A higher on-average increase signifies an overall increase in the quality of a marketing campaign. Results of increased revenue are reported from almost all industries and sectors. The multifamily industry can feel encouraged by these results and is also in a better position to leap-frog into adopting the later innovations in marketing automation.
Increase in Leads and Conversions
Many a times revenue suffers due to lack of leads and at other times its because leads are not closing deals. A strategy that exhibits both, an increase in the number of leads and the number of conversions is a successful one.
A big challenge for you as a multifamily owner is to differentiate your property well enough so that there is interest within the community to live in it. Marketing automation gives your business a strong online presence. Your target community in the virtual space expands beyond the local area. Anyone with an access to the Internet and who is looking to move into the area or city where your property is located is a potential lead. Through marketing automation, you can advertise in surrounding areas in a manner which is non-intrusive and educational.
Marketing automation allows you to make your online presence count through personalised email marketing and better targeting of customer segments. Brand building, improved customer engagement and segmented targeting of leads is possible at scale. All of these factors contribute to the dramatic increase reported in number of leads and conversions.
Lower Cost per Lead
Source: Forrester Research
Cost of any activity directly impacts the profit of a company. For multifamily businesses, the cost of renting a unit includes the cost of marketing and sales effort to generate a lead. With marketing automation, much of this effort is absorbed by online lead nurturing through email marketing, website promotions and other online campaigns. Human resources to generate 10 sales-ready leads is the same as to generate 1000 sales-ready leads if your automated marketing campaigns are designed well. As a marketer, you are empowered to generate a much higher number of sales-ready leads at a much lower cost per lead.
Faster Sales Cycles
Source: Bulldog Solutions
Quota achievement is the ultimate goal for any sales team. Sales teams function under constant pressure to achieve their annual targets. Having both the cycle times to achieve this quota and the quota itself showing huge improvement is a winning statement for the sales team. For multifamily businesses, this means more number of apartments are leased in a shorter span of time. Another way to report this is shorter lead-to-lease cycles and lesser vacant units at any point of time.
Increase in Sales Opportunities
Marketing automation has shown to increase revenue by increasing the number of high-quality leads. We also saw that by continuos lead nurturing, the chances of converting a lead increases dramatically. Each lead is a sales opportunity and each avenue to progress a lead through the funnel is a sales opportunity.Marketing without automation has limited capability to scale. Through automation, each lead can be nurtured to its highest potential, and this attentive nurturing can be carried out with the same consistency for 10, 100 and 1000 customers. If you are a large multifamily business with multiple properties across the country, a centralised marketing automation system can streamline much of your marketing campaigns.Irrespective of the size of your business, automation drives efficiency and consistency of your processes. These two factors in itself generate and open up more avenues to close the lease.
What Are The Channels of Marketing Automation?
Most marketing is done across multiple channels, which include a combination of online, print and TV mediums. As more people spend more time online and transact online, more of the marketing is being done online. The following are some of the main marketing channels. Depending on the scenario, different companies will use different combinations of channels.
Email is the main channel for marketing automation. Most of lead generation and lead nurturing occurs over email. Email is the most popular medium since one can deliver personalised messages that are customised to the scenario based on where the lead or prospective renter is within the conversion funnel.
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc)
Social media is another favourite with marketers. Targeting demographic groups through this medium is both cost effective and highly efficient, consuming minimal time.
Landing pages on your website are a great way to guide visitors to forms where they can leave information by filling out guest cards. As the visitor progresses onto viewing property details, more incentives can be given to motivate the prospect into scheduling a tour. Prospects that have already toured your property and revisit the website can be provided specific offers when they register on your property website.
“Marketing automation is about guiding and sometimes handholding the user through the conversion funnel.”- quicksprout
Print media is traditional and expensive. If you’re choosing to market on print, ensure that the message is consistent with those on various social media and other online channels. Be also aware that due to the expensive nature of print media, it is not a continuous medium.
YouTube, Vimeo are great channels to take your prospects through video tours of your property. They also make a great medium to share testimonial from other customers who have rented your property before. Other uses could be sending a personalised message from the president of your company or the property manager to the community of prospective renters.
Mobile (SMS, whatsapp, FaceTime)
Mobile communication is short, crisp and super effective to convey and blast special offers without having to qualify leads. It works very well with the student population since for this demographic, a key criterion to close a lease is cost. A sharp crisp note can inform both raw and qualified leads of the amenities of the property as well as the special offer.
Slideshare is a website for open sharing of powerpoint slides. The presentation slide medium has more recently grown explosively as an efficient way to disburse information to large audiences. For marketers, this is another valuable channel at their disposal. So, if you choose to share details of property amenities with prospects through presentation slides instead of videos on your website or on youtube, post them on Slideshare.
What Are The Tools for Marketing Automation?
From the definitions above, it must now be obvious that marketing automation is possible to achieve only through software. There are many providers of marketing automation software products and services. Some are web-based and others are a combination of client applications and web-based tools. Irrespective, the following are features and functions that are key to any marketing automation initiative.
Batch Email Tools
As a marketer, you will need tools to build your email list. The tool should be a repository of email ids with useful profile information for each email stored. Emails should be grouped according to select pre-defined criteria. It should also enable you to compose rich text emails and send emails in bulk to different groups. Make sure your email tool allows you to create different email templates and message signatures.
The email tool should be integrated with your analytics engine to ensure that key metrics such as sent emails, opened emails and click-throughs are collected. Heavy-duty email systems such as Outlook and GoogleApps come ready-made with all these features.
Infographics have now become an almost mandatory feature of content marketers toolkit. As the old adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, an Infographic is a visual illustration of your idea combined with text to provide further explanation and add to the visual.
As a multifamily marketer, you may not have found much use for this tool until now. However, by adopting marketing automation the frequency of communication with prospective renters will increase. Its important to capture your leads attention and imagination through every email that you send and through the offers that you make on your website. Pure text messages are almost always lost on the reader.
Infographics can be a clever way to illustrate your message and make it more interesting to the reader. There are many Infographics tools available to help with creating striking and useful content. Most importantly, tools provide you with preloaded content, some of which is free and some of which are available for a small fee.
Content Editing and Sharing Tools
Almost all businesses today have a website. To create, edit and maintain your website, you will need access to a good HTML editor. Many tools including Word are HTML sensitive. Otherwise, there are HTML conversion tools that allow you to create your website text using a regular text editor and then convert it into HTML. You can then simply copy the generated HTML text into your website editor.
WordPress is a good example of a visual HTML editor, where it adds the HTML code for you as you’re editing the text. A control toolbar allows you to select different attributes to the text and the editor adds the HTML code for you automatically.
If you have content that you would like to share with your prospects and customers, both WordPress and Buffer allow you to do this. If you are sharing URLs with your audience, a tool like Bitly allows you to create short URL aliases that are easier and more appealing to share.
Web analytics tools
Analytics tools to measure different metrics are the most crucial component of your marketing automation system that will directly impact the success of your marketing campaigns. Google Analytics provides features for email metrics, SEO and more. Key metrics to capture and analyse are:
- Number of website visitors
- Average number of pages per visit
- User demographics (geography, language)
- Keyword searches that led to your webpage
- Ratio of email sends vs email opens vs email click-throughs.
- Click-throughs from website CTAs
- Devices used to access the website (desktop, mobile)
- How many visitors converted to leads
- How many leads progressed through the webpages and converted to marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- How many prospects scheduled tours (if you have an online scheduler)
- How many leads closed leases in the last month
Further integration with CRM software will provide ROI analytics such as revenue for each campaign. This data is crucial for deciding which of your marketing campaigns are successful and need continued investment.
Database to store prospect and customer data
If your company has a centralised database system or a CRM system, its best to create your lead database in the same system. This provides better integration between your sales lead management system and your marketing automation software. Smaller companies that do not invest in large databases may be able to use the email database itself or even Excel spreadsheets to store prospect and customer data.
How Long Will It Take You To Implement Marketing Automation?
“75% of the companies using Marketing Automation implemented their platform in less than six months.” – Pepper
Multifamily businesses are late in adopting technology for their marketing efforts. Much of the reluctance comes from lack of knowledge about how it would impact revenue and profits and how long it would take to implement marketing automation. Many of the statistics discussed in the earlier section should put any doubts about the benefits of marketing automation to rest. Even more encouraging now is that most companies (75%) have taken less than six months to implement an automation solution.
Marketing automation implementations scale according to your needs. Larger multifamily businesses with multiple properties across multiple cities may take longer to build and configure a platform. They might need to centralise some of their processes. However, going by these statistics here, smaller multifamily businesses can be confident of implementing their marketing automation platform in less than six months.
Multifamily businesses until now have been agent-driven. Leads are obtained either manually or through the website when a prospect visits the property website and chooses to leave their contact information. Thereafter, the agent drives the marketing and promotion campaign. The lead-to-lease cycle is entirely dependent on how efficient the agent is. This means one cannot expect consistency in how the sale progresses since it differs from agent to agent. The marketing funnel in this case is filled with uncertainties and inconsistencies.
Implementing Marketing Automation will alter the funnel in a fundamental way. There will be more traceable stages in the funnel. More points of contact with the customer and more points and opportunities along the funnel to nurture leads. The automated funnel is also more efficient in engaging customers, capturing customer responses and analysing customer behaviour. Also, the entire engagement process from website visitor to renter is transparent and consistent for all customers.
As a multifamily business, have you automated parts of your lead to lead process? What benefits do you see?