Are you an established property in a lease-up market? Don’t despair, welcome the competition! Competition can keep us on our toes and reach for higher performance by moving us off the comfort of complacency. In order to compete effectively, you must fight back effectively against the newer properties entering the market by pushing your community to step up its game.
I often experience on-site teams who are managing established communities become distracted by the looming lease-up’s brand new amenities, services and specials. This, in turn, causes them to lose focus on their own marketing and leasing efforts, squandering precious time and energy, and derailing any possible strategies at their own communities. Many on-site teams tell me that they believe they are losing leases because they don’t have specific amenities or features, or that if they had a certain service, they would see higher demand.
What I suggest to get back on track and fight back against brand new properties is to bring the focus back to your own communities, zeroing in on what you DO have. Then, embrace the uniqueness and advantages of your offering, and learn how to maximize it in leasing and marketing.
The following strategies, techniques and tips are smart, actionable steps so you won’t have to “act” the age of your property, whether your community is 10, 20 or 50 years old. In the world where 40 is the new 20, who “acts” their own age anyway? I challenge you to get to work and push back by creating a strong plan and striving to be your absolute best. Going forward, your new motto to succeed will be Think, Act & Respond like a Lease-Up!
STEP ONE: THINK
In order to “think” like a lease-up, begin by strategizing just like a newer property.
Put on your lease-up hats and ask yourself: “What do you have, or could have, going?”
Develop and execute a strategic & targeted marketing plan that includes consistent outreach to generate quality leads and buzz. A major benefit for established properties is that they already know who is in the niche or target market by analyzing those who are drawn to their community. On the other hand, a lease-up may execute a blanket or mass marketing plan based on an educated guess of who their customer will be.
Train and focus your leasing team so that they are persistent and passionate with clear sales goals and a strong sense of urgency. Ensure that all hands are on deck to maximize every lead, from welcoming calls and e-leads to tour follow-ups. Inspire your team so that everyone is committed to gaining the lease.
Offer hot amenities and services that matter most to your residents. An advantage for established properties is that you know your residents, and therefore can easily align your amenity and service package.
Additional bonuses for mature communities are that you have a proven track record, a responsive team and loyal residents that can refer to you. Value those brand ambassadors and encourage them to spread the word to others about your community.
STEP TWO: ACT
Once you are in the ideal mindset to compete, it is time to take action! The two main focus areas are to, first, step up the the leasing game and, secondly, enhance your community so it competes equally with lease-ups.
In the competitive leasing world, the successful team is the one that “wants” the lease more. Successful teams are driven to connect with the customer, ask for the business and are persistent in follow-up. Remember, the lease-up mentality is to do whatever it takes to get the lease. Whether that requires staying open later every day to serve customers or closing harder-- they are doing it! And so should established properties!
To ensure that you will gain the most traction with upgrades and enhancements, focus on what matter most to your target and current residents.
When updating your asset, zero in on resident feedback, renter behaviors and their lifestyle demands. A recent J Turner Resident Lifestyle Preferences survey showed that 44% of residents workout at least three times a week with the top activities being running, swimming and yoga. How do your community’s offerings appeal to those preferences? Residents often state that they want larger gyms with lots of windows, 24-hour access and a variety of equipment and fitness classes. Therefore, don’t have a mediocre gym just to have a gym. Simply add to the current offering by dedicating morning hours at the pool to lap swimming, creating a yoga space in a corner of the fitness center or coordinating a weekly running club.
Also, the same survey showed that 38% of our renters entertain at least three times a month on-site, 42% residents cook daily and 25% grill out on-site 3 times a week. Maximize this trend by enhancing kitchens to be a better gathering spaces by extending current counter space to be ideal for entertaining or offering a lower-price, free-standing island as a renewal incentive.
Consider only the enhancements that make sense for your community’s target market. Just because the lease-up has a fancy amenity, do not react hastily to add it because it may not add value to your current or future customers. Do your homework on what matters the most to your residents, and then create a plan of upgrades. This is where you will see the biggest return on your investment in updating your offering.
STEP THREE: RESPOND
Now that you are thinking and acting like a lease-up, it’s time to create a fresh and effective leasing and marketing messaging response strategy. Your strategy should maximize your community’s competitive advantages by highlighting your unique attributes and “distinct” story.
Start by determining what is valuable to your residents and your target market, so you can speak the language of your customer during tours and telephone calls, and respond with appropriate messages in all marketing efforts. By adapting your sales and marketing strategy to your niche market, you will increase your appeal and generate quality leads.
Brainstorm to determine what makes your property so special. What are your competitive advantages and what do you want to be known for in the market? Good out-of-the-industry examples are Wal-Mart, who is known for lower prices, and Target, who has a reputation for great selection and modern style. To determine your community’s story, free flow as a team and create a list describing the attributes, advantages, benefits or characteristics that may make residents lease, renew or even refer others. Then, trim that list back to your community’s experience story told in 1-3 sentences.
You may find that the common thread of the story is your team’s high level of passion for stellar customer service. If so, your marketing messages can boast: “We are serious about stellar ‘same-day’ service. 80% of service requests are completed on the same day!” Or your draw may be your welcoming and warm team spirit. Toot your horn with: “Big hearts with the biggest apartments!” and highlight that you have, on average, 20% larger apartment homes by square footage than competitors.
Established communities: I challenge you to compete against the new guys on the block with clever strategies, urgent response and targeted marketing. Bring alive “Think, Act and Respond” like a Lease-Up. Remember, age is relative! When your community fights back, you will see your property pride grow, leasing performances soar and occupancy rise. Now get out there and get to work! Best of luck!