By Hernon, Monta Monaco
Journal of Property Management , Vol. 69, No. 4
At one point, simply having a Web site was enough. Now property management companies are realizing that the Internet can be an important part of their overall sales and marketing strategy. An array of Web-based e-marketing tools allow them to promote their services online, improve tenant relations, harvest leads and streamline management processes.
Differentiate and Communicate
There's no better way to impress visitors to your Web site than by responding quickly to their needs. Live chat provides the ability for a site visitor to talk in real-time with a representative. "This gives the company the opportunity to have one-to-one service at the point the customer has an issue," said Kevin Taggart, vice president of sales at LivePerson, Inc. Round-the-clock staffing is an option, but not necessary. It is possible during off hours to divert the person to e-mail. A customer survey at the end of the chat can provide valuable information, Taggart suggested.
SPREAD THE NEWS
Newsletters are seen as retention devices by many property managers, who use them to communicate with tenants and to solicit feedback, said Monica Mayhak, owner of Newsletterfillers.com. Electronic transmission is not widespread in this arena, but she expects it to pick up speed. An e-newsletter makes it easier for tenants to respond to a survey. "[In addition,] it also can be personalized down to 'your lease is up or your rent is late,'" she added.
Layout can be as complicated as one wants it to be and e-newsletters can be sent in plain text or HTML format. Finding content is the challenge, said Tom Karcher, vice president of marketing for John Dellagnese & Associates.
"You can give yourself a headache when you say you are going to start doing a newsletter because you have to do it on a consistent basis," he said, noting that Dellagnese produces most articles in-house. Occasionally a community organization, like the highway department, provides a column. Property managers also can turn to a company like Newsletterfillers.com. For $49.95 annually, they receive access to generic articles, puzzles and recipes.
Another way to communicate with tenants is to place a "concierge" service on a Web site. Dellagnese's version tries to promote tenant-to-tenant business.
"We believe in doing business with our own tenants and thought other tenants should be encouraged to do so as well," Karcher said. For other community vendors, like dry cleaners, Dellagnese looks for those who will offer tenants a higher level of service, like a discount.
Draw and Convert Leads
The initial goal for a successful Web site is making it easy to find. "There is the immediate impression that if a company is ranked high [in a search engine], it must know what it is doing," said Sonja Bogensperger, vice president of marketing for Majestic Properties, who monitors her company's rankings on a daily basis. Majestic uses a search engine optimization firm and also participates in a pay-per-click campaign.
Optimization tips? Geoff Karcher, owner of The Karcher Group, said a "clean" Web site is important. "Programming can be complex for a search engine to read. That is not to say you can't do complex things, but you have to do them in a way that looks simple to Google," he said. …