Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

As the manager drove me to the property, I questioned her about things like competition and office hours. When I asked about weekend traffic, she glared at me and said "Don't mention weekends to my boss. We don't work weekends and we're not going to." Here I was consulting with the owner about a 25% vacancy factor, and they were closed on the weekends! Why? They were closed on weekends at 100% occupancy and didn't reposition when the market changed.

There's a great story in baseball about a player running out in the field to catch a fly ball. Just then his cap blew off, he leaned down to retrieve it and missed the ball.

Stop today and brainstorm, look at the way things are being done (or not being done) and take action to properly position yourself in today's challenging market. Start with the following ten areas;

  1. Check the community policies for revision. For example, if your policy is "no pets" consider choosing a few buildings for residents with pets. Have good written policies, pet leases with photos of the animal and strong pet deposits. As our society continues to mature, many of us have furry, feathered or finn ed companions and are willing to pay extra to have them share our home. While reviewing policies ask yourself "could this policy be costing us leases? If so, should we consider a change?"
  2. Stop the bleeding. Focus on resident retention by remembering that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Today's resident expects service, fair treatment, good communication and to be rewarded at renewal time. If you treat the resident like they're stuck with you, they will be sure to prove you wrong.
  3. Get off the "giveaway" track! We have conditioned prospective renters to walk in or telephone and ask "What's your special?" If your spec ial isn't bigger and better than the one across the street, you lose. And if you make sure your special is the biggest one in town, you still lose because you probably can't make the mortgage payment.
  4. Shop your people regularly. Relationship selling is the strategy of the 90's. Do you really know how your staff is treating your customers? In a market where every lease counts, shopping should be a standard practice, it should also be a positive learning experience for your team.
  5. Drive your property through a prospective renter's eyes during the day and again at night. Is it well lit, can you see the signs, how's the curb appeal? Do you have guest parking, balloons, banners, flags, flowers and signs? If they can't find you, they can't lease an apartment!
  6. Fair Housing "ain't gonna go away!" Be absolutely positive that you and/or your staff aren't going to get you sued. Know the laws, be sure personal prejudices aren't coming to the office, and best advice, treat everyone exactly the same way!
  7. Telephone calls are traffic. Our telephone skills are still the weakest link in our sales process. Think, train, practice and role play until you have doubled the number of arrivals that you're getting now.
  8. Compare the total move in cost at your property with those of your competition. Up front costs are steep and often cost you leases. For example, if you require first and last month's rent plus deposits your cost could be $2 ,000 and the property across the street may be only $500.
  9. Train your leasing staff, OVER and OVER and OVER! We spend thousands of dollars to create traffic, only to have our client turned off by the way they are handled at the front desk. National capture rate is 30% wh en it should be 75% or more. We learn by repetition, so never stop repeating the way it should be done.
  10. Stop blaming your problems on the economy, the market, the weather, the competition, the season and the government. Dig in today, develop a strong marketing plan, train your people and stay focused.

Some properties will excel in the 90's. They will be run by apartment professionals who keep their eye on the ball!

by Anne Sadovsky
one of Multi-housing's foremost marketing and motivational speakers.

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