Accelerate leasing through smart lead nurture

By Chris Arnold
Nurture renters

One of the most common questions I get has to do with pre-leasing. Something like:

"How can you manage pre-leasing for (X) months if you don't have a full leasing team staffed? How can you justify payroll costs?"

It's a great question, and of course, one layered with many nuances depending on any particular project.

As marketers, we tend to bend to what our clients, partners, and building owners say in hopes that we'll make them happy.

If your boss says, "we start pre-leasing two months out," in many cases – most cases – that's that. I've seen this hammer come down on many calls over the years.

But it's not the right move because it's not only an old way of thinking about this topic, but it also places you in a precarious position.

Will that slow lease-up fall on your boss's shoulders... or your shoulders?

So today, I'm sharing my top tips on updating your pre-leasing roadmap and how to begin implementation on the next project.

1. Set a Min and Max Time Domain

First, I recommend determining the lower and upper limits that would be ideal for your group. A starting point would be to consider the perfect situation for your company's operations.

That could be 12 months all-in for nurturing during a pre-leasing phase. (Recently said to me as a pre-pre-leasing phase. Multifamily and their terms, amiright?)

In other words, you're committing to 10 "extra" months of effort to nurture interested renters.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, let's call it 4 months for nurturing. Meaning, 2 extra months of nurture time.

Just keep in mind that the smaller the window, the opportunity for growing an engaged audience falls exponentially.

2. Decide on boilerplate activation opportunities.

This mix makes or breaks how well a nurture campaign can function. It's the fuel for the engine. If it's bad from the start, the engine will never run smoothly.

For many marketers, this step is lost on them. What do we do? My advice is to keep it simple. Pick a package that's easy to replicate.

  • Construction fence wraps (clean, clear, bold, expressive)
  • Onsite signage (for large footprints, along thoroughfares, etc.)
  • Website landing page (brand-forward and clear)
  • CTAs for the newsletter

Every lease-up should have a set of X-deliverables you plan on, execute, and deploy when timing aligns.

Make it easy for people, too.

Consider a QR code, so renters aren't pecking website URLs in their phones while passing by.

Experiment with language that goes beyond "Join the list" or something similarly vague. "Join for VIP Benefits" sounds more interesting to me.

Nurturing 1

3. Create a nurture campaign framework.

As your list grows, you'll need a way to nurture your people.

In my experience, this is where most groups fall apart. I see ambivalence and disinterest creep in at this point, often because things are happening and a website is up.

But remember, renters are used to never hearing back.

Imagine how well-received you will be to prospective eyes if you are the only property feeding a steady stream of updates!

Keep your campaign framework simple, too. Use the freemium ConvertKit or Mailchimp account to get something going. Once the machine starts turning, upgrade to unlock more perks.

Send updates every two weeks or, at a minimum, monthly.

  • Show construction updates.
  • Share unique insights about the build.
  • Give renters a sense of choice. ("Which color would you like more?!")
  • Impress with interiors going in.
  • Be imaginative with how they may experience the space.
  • Sprinkle in perks of the neighborhood.

If you find yourself struggling with what to write or how to advise your leasing partner, just put yourself in the renter's shoes.

What would I want to know about this place?

4. Think beyond concessions.

To me, one of the fatal flaws of stereotypical leasing is the concession. They aren't bad, but it's all the same when so many lead with them.

I challenge you and your teams to think about creating a VIP experience for those you're nurturing.

Imagine following along for six months only to get an email about leasing starting, and the big reveal is...

One month of free rent! Wow! (Eye roll)

Some of the best, most insightful conversations I've had in the industry have been with marketers who took the nurturing to a VIP level.

Again, this can be simple. It doesn't need to gut anyone's budget. A few ideas for VIP members:

  • Free bike tune-ups next spring and summer.
  • A bag of coffee is delivered 1x a month.
  • Private access to an amenity area to host a gathering.
  • A punch card with the food truck down the street.
  • Local transportation paid in full for a year.
  • Uber or Lyft dollars.

I can feel your eyes getting wide! This costs money!

Yes, but consider how different this feels compared to the standard concession upsell.

"For you, a member of our early access VIP family, you'll enjoy a neighbors-only coffee subscription, a local transit pass, and free bike tune-ups for a year. Join us by the last Friday of the month, and we'll give you $1000 off your lease, too. We like a cherry on top!"

If the value of the concession was to be $1500, put that $500 to work and make it feel special.

You'll build a community and encourage experience before you have any "community" in place.

What about payroll costs?

As you can see, nurturing won't necessitate an entire staff on payroll dedicated to one property.

Nurturing is a great way to loop in a trusted marketing partner or even an intern that can cut their teeth on a few inner workings of a lease-up strategy.

Yes, it takes some time to set up.

Yes, it certainly takes communication across your team.

But don't overthink it!

This stuff is possible without endless requirements.

Final Thoughts

"Nurturing" can mean many things. This is the tip of the iceberg.

What I love about this approach is that you can slowly develop an entire company-wide list each time you deploy something like this.

One property becomes four, and that becomes eight. Suddenly you have thousands of renters that could be interested in the next launch depending on their preferences and phase in life.

It's a beautiful thing.

But only if you're willing to think about nurturing differently.

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