In multifamily marketing, as in nearly every other area of our economy, the Internet has changed everything. But one of the most significant transformations is already so ingrained that few realize what a difference it’s made: the importance of customer reviews.
Long before the Internet, in fact most likely back to early civilizations, consumers were surely asking around to learn who had the freshest bread, the healthiest horses and the best-made weapons before making a trade or purchase. So customer reviews are nothing new.
What’s new is the unimaginably efficient platform the Internet provides for sharing hundreds, even thousands of reviews about a particular product or service. Where not that long ago word of mouth was the chief conduit for reviews, today it’s unusual for anyone looking to buy something to skip the step of Googling to see what others are saying about it.
This is almost completely a good thing for consumers. There’s no hiding bad products and services anymore, no pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes. You can compete on quality, features, price, or customer service, so there’s a variety of ways to win, but the “review economy” is merciless about pushing companies to constantly improve what they’re offering. Let people start saying bad things about you online and you’re toast.
Isn’t multifamily marketing different, though?
You might think that reviews play a far less important role when someone is searching for an apartment than when they’re, say, buying a set of headphones. Isn’t multifamily marketing just a whole different ballgame? After all, the prospect will likely take an on-site or virtual tour, check out the unit, amenities, and neighborhood, and make a decision strongly driven by their personal impressions rather than what other residents have said.
But don’t kid yourself:
In a survey by NMHC of what renters expect to see on a property website, 87% picked resident feedback, ratings, and reviews. Nearly nine out of ten.
Putting a great product in front of the renter and marketing it expertly remain paramount. But today, prospects want to know what it’s really like to live at the property. And they want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, not just from naturally-biased leasing agents.
Is the property a pretty package covering up hidden flaws – such as slow response to maintenance requests, late-night noise, or a rash of area crime?
On the other extreme, are people saying great things about the property? Is there a wonderful sense of community, a lively neighborhood night life, a full schedule of entertaining on-site activities?
The bottom line is that if you aren’t leveraging good reviews, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. True, when buying those headphones, the consumer might be depending completely on reviews to make a purchase decision, where reviews are only one criterion in a rental decision. But they’re a bigger and bigger component of multifamily marketing that you cannot ignore.
So how can you affect and leverage reviews?
Some reviews just happen. A resident loves their community, goes to social media or a website and posts about it. Or hates it and does the same thing. This is unusual, however.
Naturally, getting good reviews starts with running a good property, priced right, and taking care of your residents.
But you don’t have to be a passive bystander in the review economy. Here are some ways to take the bull by the horns and make reviews work for you, as one of your most powerful marketing tools.
Actively ask for reviews. Again, most multifamily renters have a lot more on their minds than writing reviews about their apartment communities. You must ask for the reviews. Leverage the good ones, and instead of simply ignoring any bad ones, respond to the unsatisfied residents in a way that satisfies them. This way even negative reviews can be helpful to running a better business.
A robust resident portal such as ActiveBuilding™ lets you easily connect to CommunityRewards to circulate polls, surveys, and review requests. Don’t count on your site staff to send out emails requesting reviews, then hassle with reviewing, saving and organizing them. It probably will never happen. A formalized system facilitated by your portal makes it fast and easy.
Every time a happy renter moves on to another home without leaving a review, you’ve lost a valuable opportunity. Don’t let it happen!
Reward engagement at your properties. It’s a fact: the more engaged residents are in the life of their communities, the more likely they are to renew and to leave good reviews. And the tools are at your fingertips to dramatically boost engagement. Community Rewards,™ for example, is a comprehensive program for getting residents actively involved in their communities, encouraging content creation, and providing you tools to manage this content.
Manage your online reputation. “Reputation management” is an already huge and still burgeoning part of marketing. How are you responding to and mitigating bad reviews, and making the most of good ones? Many multifamily companies still have no formal program for responding to reviews on websites and social media. Someone leaving a good review might never be thanked, and someone leaving a bad one might not receive an apology or solution. And the trouble is, all those thousands perusing the reviews can instantly see that the company concerned is cold and unresponsive. Would you rent at a community where online complaints never receive a response from management?
The advent of the “review economy” can be a good thing or a bad thing for your properties, depending on how you adjust to it. You can be assured that many of your competitors are doing everything they can to profit from good reviews and mitigate the bad ones. Shouldn’t you be doing the same? Watch a video here to learn more.