The Demand Solutions Blog

Utilizing Email Marketing To Drive Leasing Sales

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Dec 11, 2014 5:00:00 PM


A few months ago, we released a white paper on the state of email re-marketing in our multi-family housing industry. We sampled 31 different companies, and tracked their responses. The results, to be kind, weren’t very good.

We kept the white paper very journalistic by strictly reporting the results and shying away from any editorializing. But blogs are for opinions, so let’s talk a bit about these results. It’s 2104, so there really isn’t a good excuse for not having an email re-marketing campaign. We invest significant money to generate the lead to begin with, so let’s spend the pennies needed to stay in touch.

At a minimum, I believe that multi-family marketers should have an automated drip campaign of at least 4-6 emails. My experience has been that there is relatively little drop off in open and click-through rates from the first through the sixth as well as surprisingly low unsubscribe and spam compliant rates. Remember that the vast majority of leads are going to rent somewhere, so you’re sending them highly relevant content that many of them want to see; if they don’t want to see it, it’s easy enough to unsubscribe.

These emails should emphasize different elements of what makes your community (and your services) unique. Include graphics customized to the community, and to the messaging. The automated emails can be supplemented by personal content from site associates, but I strongly advocate against relying on site associates to do sufficient follow-up. That approach doesn’t scale well, and discipline is highly varied across a portfolio. I’m a fan of letting computers do what they do best, so humans can focus on what they do best. I recommend a drip campaigns that are automated, and having associates do more on the phone. When associates email, it’s to respond to specific questions or requests from prospects. Then it’s more of a conversation—which humans are definitely better at than computers.

If you want to add some sophistication to your drip email campaign, consider the following ways to make it more “1:1marketing”:

  • Instead of using the same schedule for everyone, tie the send dates (and even quantity) to the desired move-in date each prospect provided
  • Connect the messaging to the expected move-in date, i.e. starting more general and then getting more specific to the decisions prospects need to make as they get closer to their move-in date
  • Customize the messaging based on what prospects tell you about themselves. If they have a pet, include a message about being pet friendly; if they don’t, then skip that message. Better yet, find out if they have a dog or cat, and craft your photo choices accordingly. Even better—capture the breed of their pet and use that breed in your imagery.

Setting up email campaigns isn’t particularly difficult. There are relatively simple web-based solutions like Constant Contact and MailChimp. When I managed marketing for Archstone, we used a very sophisticated solution, ExactTarget. We sent in excess of 3 million emails a year (including service and surveys along with marketing emails) for well under $100K. Additional email were less than a penny at the margin. An operation of that size required some oversight, so we dedicated about half the time of an eCommerce manager, to oversee the program, plus a few hours of IT support and the one-time expense of our Creative Service team to design the templates we used.

Email remarketing isn’t free—but it’s one of the lowest cost “lead consideration” tools in our arsenal. I’ve found it’s really about energy and discipline more than dollars. So if you’re not maximizing the value of the leads you spend dollars (or tens of dollars or more) to get in the first place, then it’s time to look in the mirror and commit to fixing that oversight.

WHITE PAPER: Are MFH Companies Using Email Re-Marketing Effectively?