Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It Is Always About the Customer!

I was a terrified, eager, skinny little first grader who learned quickly in life to shut up, observe everything that is going on around her and be ready with the right answer when the teacher asks a question. Unfortunately, this can leave you excited to learn but anxious, too. It isn’t easy to be barely five-years old and burdened with the pressure of being right all the time. I mean, who could possibly have the answers at such a tender age? I was often left focusing on how to find the answer and oftentimes resorted to prayer. (Who had Google to rely on then? Not us.)

In any event, when you grow up like this, I believe you develop either good self-esteem or low self-esteem, depending upon the feedback you receive from those around you. Your peers can accept you but most likely they come to resent you. To counteract this, you must employ your keen powers of observation and learn to adapt to their patterns. For me, this meant simply being strong and deciding that if God thought I was “good enough” then why on earth wouldn’t everyone else? I made friends with others one at a time when I was little. What was the point of having too many? Friends deserve your time and undivided attention. If you spread yourself too thin, then there isn’t enough to give to make the other person feel special and appreciated, and I didn’t mind having a small group of tried and true friends – those who would stick up for you when you inevitably did make a mistake or didn’t have the right answer.

Maybe this is why in today’s world I enjoy exploring stores and shops that exude those personal touches that make going there fun. During this holiday season, as promoted a couple of years ago, I love “Shopping Local” on #SmallBusinessSaturday. Shopping in these stores is usually a much more friendly experience and it seems to mean more to the shop owners and employees who don’t ignore you when you walk into the door.

A couple of weeks ago, when my best friend was with me from Kentucky, we stopped at a store called Backyards around 4:00 PM. The shop was closed and dark and as we turned to walk back to our car, the Owner opened up the door and ushered us inside. I tried to protest – I know what that is like when you are closing your Leasing Office and someone comes to tour at the last second. It can be annoying if you’re tired and cross but it can also be an opportunity for a lease too, if you have the forethought to rally once more time.

Anyway, it was such a pleasant experience! Although this store carries beautiful outdoor furnishings, all the things you need to create a real life Fairy Garden, I did discover it also carries a line of paper goods with a killer sense of humor and a lot of inexpensive wine accessories, too, that I was not expecting to find among the otherwise high price merchandise. My best friend discovered a jewelry line she loved, so we had a great time, bought a few inexpensive items and left. I returned the next Saturday to purchase a piece from the jewelry line for my friend, and wow! Those Owners made me feel very special – they remembered tidbits of the conversation with my friend, they showed me a couple of fun wine corks (only $1.99!!!!) and had cookies and hot chocolate waiting to boot. No questions asked about how many cookies one took (because there were some hubbies nibbling more than one, haha). I realized how relaxed I felt, how nice it was to be acknowledged, and if I ever return to house ownership, I will definitely purchase the Adirondack chairs they carry!!! They put the customer experience first and for someone who frequently reverts back to that little girl who feels anxious and scared and is afraid of feeling inferior, I truly enjoyed shopping there. This is the kind of experience we need to create for our Prospects who come from all kinds of backgrounds and who may feel a bit anxious and overwhelmed themselves when looking for a new place to call home. How do your Leasing Teams create this experience for your properties and communities?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is Twitter Real?

I happen to manage a few social media accounts for our properties and of course, for myself. What is so ironic about this is that I knew nothing of this a few years ago. So, what did I do? I started my own personal Twitter account and started following some highly respected and very knowledgeable industry professionals. I found myself participating in a 4:00 pm Friday afternoon apartment Chat with these multifamily marketing professionals and I started taking notes and paying attention to how they post content, etc. Their support was and still is invaluable to me.

Then I started reading their posts and following their links to articles on improving SEO, getting creative in content marketing, and learning how to use some of the great tools available to everyone to manage account posts. Now, I am not an expert. I am not a guru on this stuff and likely never will be. I find Twitter to be insanely informative and supportive of spreading the good news in our multifamily world (which it kind of turns out is a small world, after all.)

What really rocked my world was discovering another section of real estate professionals: Realtors, investors, marketers, media experts, bloggers and developers who formed a morning Chat group. There are others who also join in and it has become a fun time. Occasionally, the group has informal conversations at other times of the day as well, and people tweet as they can. Sometimes, the discussions may turn serious depending on someone mentioning personal circumstances. All in all, it is a relaxed, no pressure thing designed to bolster people who may have lost a deal or just need a word of encouragement.

Recently, I began to notice that some people being “introduced” to our group were really vaguely familiar so I investigated a bit. These “newbies” were really extensions of current Tweeters who were singling me out in a “conversation” and attaching all their other personae to their tweets.  Huh? Then I began getting “followed” by all these people who wanted me to buy followers from them. Double HUH?

“Why would anyone buy followers? Vanity? To make themselves look bigger and more engaged than the competition? To look like they have greater marketing reach than they actually do?” Chris Jones asked in an online article back in 2013.

I don’t know about you, but this is not how I intended to use Twitter. I do not want to connect to people who are not sincere and who are in fact not even real people. For the accounts I manage, they are not linked as followers to my personal account. I can't think of a reason to do this. I also have to question the sanity of someone who hosts “conversations” between their personal account and all their fake accounts – isn’t that the very definition of associative identity disorder? If blocking and unfollowing these insane people is the only answer, then at least there is that.I wonder, is this the intention of Twitter?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Leasing Isn't About Romance; It's About Sex

Leasing is not about romance. Leasing is straight up about sex. You can’t get to the romance stage, the stage of wondering if this person is The One, the complement to you, your better half, unless you have the innate, insanely physical, wonderfully blissful chemical attraction. That’s sex, baby, an unadulterated, raw, feral passion.

Leasing has been compared to dating lately, but I am wondering when the last time most of you have been on the dating scene. That’s all changed since some of you married, even five years ago. Once you are married, your priorities change; they evolve.  When’s the last time you went on a date?

Gone are the days where the guy sees a girl and asks her for her phone number, waits politely until Monday and then calls and asks her to a Friday night dinner and a movie. Gone are the days where he arrives on time, rings the doorbell, perhaps brings flowers, and helps her on with her coat, opens the car door, and demonstrates impeccable manners at all times. Nowadays, people meet in groups and travel in packs. People see someone in the group they are interested in and casually start conversations. This may lead to a hook-up long before it leads to dinner. This may happen many times, or may happen only once. He may go to her place and end up sneaking out at some point leaving her to wonder if he will call, or thanking her lucky stars he had a condom. Dating may be frequent and there may be plenty of online chats, texts and Skype chats which may lead to online intimate moments that would never have happened in the fifties! And guess what? Ladies often pay their own way. Girls still confide in their friends and guys still share info, too – info gotten from Google. Yeah, expect that your “facebook friend” will have googled you at some point. Dating is typically very casual these days. This is not to say it can’t or won’t lead to a long term relationship. That may be the end game; but the short term goal seems to be most likely: finding someone to have fun with without a commitment.

Translate that to our Leasing Consultants and their jobs. Compare that to a few of the Top 40 songs out there and redirect your Leasing Teams to lease like it is 2014. You can take any song playing on the radio, on your ipod, through your Beats headphones and apply it to leasing (property management.) Often when we work with new hires or send our veterans to training seminars, we are looking for new ideas for touring, tools to speed up our application processes, and new ideas for resident retention. All great things! But, I truly believe it goes back to the basics.

Maps by Maroon 5: “I’m following the map that leads to you.” Leasing consultants must be able to give correct and accurate directions. You don’t want your Prospect whom you’ve been chatting online with for the last two days to not know how to get to you or how to find the Apply Online button on your website.

All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor: First, the most important thing is for leasing consultants to be real and dress for their body type. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” Second, quit using photos from when your property and models were brand new. Quit “working that Photoshop!” People feel cheated when the current product is not shown.

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell & T.I.: Not suggesting sleeping with the Prospect; however, there is every reason to let the Prospect know that you know he “wants it” (the apartment) and that you certainly do “want it” (the lease) and flaunt that instant happy connection you felt when he walked through the door. Just for the record, wearing cut offs that leave nothing to the imagination is a No-No. Wearing a super smile, displaying interest in his needs and wants and meaning what you say can be intoxicating to a Prospect.

Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off: Even Superstars can have off days. “Players gonna play, play, play. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off!” You can’t win everyone who walks through your door or sends you an online lead, but with the right amount of charm and sincerity, you can capture the bulk of them!

Once that lease has been signed, sealed and filed, the next phase happens. In dating, this is known as a Booty Call. In property management, it is known as the after-hours call to emergency maintenance. And, this my friends, is where the love begins. There is nothing more wonderful for a resident than to want someone RIGHT THAT MINUTE and have her every desire fulfilled when SHE NEEDS it. Think about it. The phone rings in the middle of the night. The on-call technician picks up his phone. It’s her! He dresses and speeds over to her apartment. She opens the door, so relieved he’s here! That allows the love to ignite and grow from a professional one to a more personal one. That happens first with Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and cemented with his Latch. Ahhhh, the perfect song for resident retention!

Am I Wrong (Nico & Vinz)?