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Good Read! Resident Attitude Towards Renewals and Online Reputation

It’s no secret that having a good online reputation means you’re doing something right at your community. And what comes along with that is renewals! I mean if they love living there and are posting about it online, why wouldn’t they renew? 

But have you ever really thought about what their attitude actually may be when it comes to us asking them for reviews and if they want to renew? Probably not. JTurner recently released a study giving us all that info and more! 

The entire study is linked if you would like to read further in depth, but I summarized some key takeaways and answers to some important questions below!

Renewals: 

We all know renewal season can be a stressful time. But we also know that resident satisfaction is the core driving force behind renewals. Therefore, you want to take the best approach when it comes to contacting residents to renew and making sure they are satisfied in their current lease term. Through JTurner’s research, they have given us some tips on when the best time to renew is, what form of communication residents prefer, and the correlations between resident satisfaction and the desire to renew. 

When is the best time to ask residents to renew?

The majority of residents look for management to contact them 3-5 months prior to their lease expiration. JTurner also stated that the good majority of residents, 57%, start to consider renewing their lease 1-3 months before expiration. 

What is the best form of communication when it comes to renewals?

Email hands down. I think it is pretty common for most of our communities to lean more towards phone calls. While that is a good approach, and definitely something we don’t want to eliminate entirely, let’s start to focus on emails because that’s what they want!

Online Reputation: Our Responses, Facebook, and Getting Reviews

Online reputation is so incredibly important in today’s housing industry. It has even become a deal breaker for prospects when searching for apartments online. Say you have one of the most gorgeous properties with the best amenity offerings in your market but have a bad online reputation. This can definitely deter your prospects before you’ve even said one word to them. 

How are our responses to reviews influencing resident perceptions?

They are influencing them a lot! While we have templates in Ratings Tracker as guidance, I always encourage personalizing each response and staying away from cookie-cutter responses! Residents and prospects are paying attention to our responses. That is why it is important to show that we value what they have said, and have taken the time to address or respond appropriately. According to JTurner, our responses can significantly improve residents perception on the community. So much so that this influence rated a high 8.12 on a 10 point scale. 

Facebook: Is it really that important in the housing industry?

Yes! Facebook is a platform that provides a lot of services and information. Not only can people write reviews, but they can get a first-hand look at the community through pictures, events, etc. JTurner found that Facebook is increasing in popularity as a search medium. However, it is mainly for students. They are looking at your reviews and also your pictures. It is a good idea for all of us to take a look at our community’s page and make sure our pictures are in tip-top shape. 

Getting Reviews: What’s the Best Way to go About It?

Taking a proactive approach is best! Cardinal Group has always encouraged this and why we have our monthly review goals for each community. J Turner found that most residents are more likely to write a review upon being asked. Almost half of residents who posted a review indicated that they were asked. 

Incentivizing reviews is not something we discourage at Cardinal. However, we do not ALWAYS want to rely on this method. Why? (And I think all you know the answer)… It’s because the trust level of reviews that appear to be incentivized is very very low. So next time we offer an incentive, let’s just make sure that’s not the only method we are relying on. We want to be strategic when it comes to asking for reviews because we want the most authentic and also the best reviews!

READ ENTIRE STUDY HERE

Move In Day-Make It Memorable

It’s that time of year again where we are working around the clock to make sure our upcoming residents and transfers new homes are ready to go for their big day! If only our residents knew what our teams go through in a short 15 day period to turn their units from looking like a frat house, to a never lived in apartment….but they don’t, so keep this in mind when move-in day rolls around. Your new residents are very unaware of all the hard work it took and the lack of sleep you have experienced, but try looking at things from their perspective.

How would you like it if you were a student who looked forward to this day and you get to the community and someone hands you a key packet with a number on it, a folder with some FAQ’s and sent you on your way with no smile and nothing to make your experience special? You are basically letting all the hard work you did from leasing through the year to turning units go down the drain if you don’t deliver a positive experience on move-in day.

**First Impressions Matter People!

So how do we achieve a memorable move in experience that our residents will share with their friends? The easiest way to do this is to offer something exciting the day of that gets people talking and more importantly “posting.” If we can capture our residents on social platforms the day they move in then we won’t have to work as hard during the year to build our audience, which will help make our marketing and retention efforts much easier.

Move in day should be looked at as a fresh start, not a daunting task that you dread year after year. I’ve rounded up some easy ways to provide an experience that will get your new residents following and posting their move-in day experience on social media.

Rent A Photo Booth

This is a great way to get people excited to pick up their keys! Contact a local company and have them set up in your move in center for the day. While people are standing around waiting they can play around in the photo booth with their new roommates or maybe even their parents? Make sure to get one that requires little staff involvement and one that also allows the photo’s to be shared digitally to social media outlets.  Come up with a creative hashtag and encourage residents to tag your community in these photos. These booths can range anywhere from $350-$800 in most markets. (Call and schedule them, before your comps do!)

Fun Food Display 

Having something “instaworthy” on the day of your move in will definitely get your new residents buzzing about your community. Think of something unique that pertains to your community, market, university, or state and go with it! People love food, so think outside of the box (literally, do not lay out pizza boxes, this isn’t memorable) GET CREATIVE!

(These cookies can be customized with your logo and ordered on etsyMake sure to place your orders to get these in time for move-in day!)

(Have a creative team member or maintenance lead? Buy a peg board and create a custom designed donut wall!)

Ice Cream Or Popscicle Delivery

Continue the customer service experience after you’ve handed out keys by offering your new residents a tasty treat or drink while they are moving in. Typically August is a hot month and moving can be stressful so try to make this experience more enjoyable by assigning a few of your team members (temp help or hire a company) to go around and deliver popsicles, ice cream, or smoothies while people are moving in. This is just another level of customer service that’s cheap and easy to do. Your new residents and their parents are more likely to remember the amazing move in experience that you created which makes them less likely to find things to complain about within their unit. (Everyone Wins!)

Always remember to keep first impressions in mind when you are prepping for move-in day! If you create a memorable move in experience, you are setting yourself up for a successful year!

Feel free to reach out to your PSM’s or GMM to brainstorm ways to make sure you are prepared to make your move-in day unforgettable!

-Tiff

 

 

Event Idea: Post Move-In Day Festival

Alright, everyone has moved in and most things are beginning to settle down. It’s now time to make a great first impression on all your new residents by putting on a day full of resident events soon after move-in. This is the perfect opportunity to bring your community together as a whole and get everyone out to meet their new neighbors.

One of our communities here in Denver recently did an all day festival with informational and fitness classes during the day leading up to a silent disco with food trucks and yard games at night. It was an excellent turnout and really brought the whole community together.

So how do you put on an all day festival and what are some ideas on activities to put on? See below!

Morning

Start off the day by giving your new residents some fun and healthy events. Utilize the gym or yoga room at your community to host this. Events could include;

-Yoga Class

-Zumba Class

-Meditation Class

Maybe a resident is an instructor who would be interested in hosting one of these classes, otherwise reach out to local instructors who can host these classes!

Afternoon

Group Painting Class– It’s time to bring out the creativity in everyone. Utilize a community room, clubhouse, or study room to host this event. Hire a local artist to host a painting class. Provide canvases, paint supplies, and wine/snacks for the 21+ crowd. The artist can take residents, step-by-step, through the process of creating an amazing work of art, perfect for some new decor in their apartment!

Cooking Class– Maybe this is some of your residents first apartment. And most college students probably only know how to make some Ramen and pizza rolls. So why not bring in professional chef to teach a cooking class. They’ll share some great and simple recipes and some kitchen basics. You’ve got a recipe for resident event success!

Evening/Night

The night events are going to be the biggest and where you’re really going to want to put in the most time/money. Pick a couple activities to host during the night. Ideas for the night could include;

Food Truck Extravaganza– Food trucks are an awesome way for your community to throw a party without stressing about catering. It’s also a great way to introduce new residents to the culture, sights, sounds, and tastes of their new home. Invite the best local food trucks to park in your community. You can provide residents with tickets to try a variety of different foods.

DJ or Live Band– Rent big speakers, hire a local DJ, and throw the dance party of the year. From a conga line to breakdancing, let your residents lead the way!

Yard Games– Have a variety of different lawn games set up for residents to play such as corn hole, bucket-ball, human sized foosball, soap hockey, and sand volleyball.

Bonfire S’Mores Under the Stars– Have a fire-pit at your community? That’s going to be perfect for having s’mores around the fire!

Movie on the Lawn– Rent an inflatable screen and project a popular movie on the lawn! Residents can bring blankets and relax getting to know each other.

Remember, you don’t have to put on all the events above. Just pick and few here and there that you think will fit your community festival the best! A little inspiration goes a long way so let’s kick off the year to a great start and set the bar high for resident retention at events!

Instagram Highlights

Instagram highlights are an awesome tool that all communities need to be utilizing. As we know students are steadily heading home for the Summer but one thing that isn’t changing is the fact that they are always on their phones. Making sure our social media outlets are up to date and engaging is a great way to continue to connect with prospects and residents even when they aren’t in town. If you are an avid Instagram user then you are aware that Instagram Stories are one of the most popular social media tools right now, slowly edging out Snapchat.

People enjoy watching live short video content and this is a great way to reach people that wouldn’t typically see your posts. Instagram works on an algorithm that shows your content to those who are engaging in your feed. So your community may have 1000 followers, but only a small percentage (less than 100 people) will actually see what you are posting based on how many users are liking and commenting on your posts. This is where it’s important to keep your stories active to expand this reach. The perks in using stories is that they play continuously. While users may skip posted content in the feed, your content will absolutely pop up in their stories stream. They can click past it if they want, but since it’s taking up the full screen, they’ll at least get a quick glance before they click away.

Now let’s talk about Instagram Highlights and how this all ties together. Like snapchat your stories will delete after 24 hrs, but now with the Highlight tool you are able to save videos and categorize them for users to see anytime they want. We can tie this feature into our industry by posting and saving things like Specials, Tours of the Community, Resident Events, and Photos and Videos of our Amenities.

So how do you get started? Check out the two communities below to get some ideas on how they are utilizing this tool.

 

Step 1.

Decide on what you want to highlight for your community. After you have decided, you can put in an RFC for custom Instagram highlight icons based on  your communities branding.

Step 2. 

When your icons are ready email them to yourself and save them to your phone or ipads camera roll. (whatever device your community posts from)

Step 3.

In order to add covers to your Instagram Stories Highlights, you first have to post them as part of your Instagram Stories. Your new covers must be active in your Instagram Stories for a full 24 hours (you can’t post and delete them!) and then remain in your Instagram Stories Archive. See instructions below.

instagram stories highlights

Next up, after you’ve added your cover into your Instagram Stories, select the ‘Highlights’ heart icon on the bottom right.

instagram stories highlights

After clicking the highlight icon you will then be prompted to add a title (ex: Tour, Specials, Amenities, Events, etc)

instagram stories highlights

Step 4.

Once these highlights are created start posting photos and videos of your community and add them to the specific highlight. Check out Coronado’s Tour icon where we filmed a leasing team member giving us a tour of the community. After filming then save each individual video to your highlights and point these out to prospects. This is a great tool they can take back to their parents and show them a look inside the community. Using an energetic leasing agent and adding some fun to these videos makes them much more engaging and creates a realness aspect that some professional community videos can lack.

If you guys have any questions about getting started or how this process works please reach out to your GMM (myself or Ryan) and we are happy to walk you through the process.

I can’t wait to see all of your highlights!

Totally Festive 4th of July Drinks

There’s no better way to celebrate America than with some red, white, and blue drinks! And as always, we’ve got you covered! From boozy to non-boozy, here are a few of the best drinks to enjoy at your 4th of July party!

Red, White, and Blue Vodka Lemonade Slushies

Your everyday slushie gets a patriotic makeover. Enjoy this refreshing drink at the pool. Get the recipe HERE.

Red, White and Blue Pina Colada

Beat the heat and let this 4th of July Piña Colada take you away to Mexico! Get the recipe HERE.

Captain America Mocktail

Be the superhero at your poolside party by creating these red, white, and blue swirly drinks! Get the recipe HERE.

Firecracker Jell-O Cups

Kick off your BBQ with JELL-O SHOTS! Red, white and blue Jell-O shots with a cherry on top. Tasty and festive all in one. Get the recipe HERE.

Frozen Triple Berry Smoothie

This good-looking fruit smoothie will keep your guests cool and satisfied out there in the summer heat. Get the recipe HERE.

Red, White and Blue(berry) Margaritas

These margaritas will sure get you in the 4th of July spirit! Get recipe HERE.

Cheers!

Some other fun activities to have at your community’s 4th of July party could include:

  • BBQ
  • Tie-Dye Shirts red, white, and blue
  • Yard games set up such as corn-hole, bocce ball, water balloon toss, tug of war
  • Hot dog eating contest
  • Provide information for residents on the closets fire work shows in your city

How to Master the Creation of a Custom Snapchat Story

Putting on an awesome event and want residents to be able to share their moments on one story? Snapchat has introduced custom stories, designed to make the sharing of big events easier! This is a great feature to utilize during your next big event. You’ll be able to invite your friends, friends invite their friends, or even have it set to show to anyone who is in a designated area known as the “Geofence”.

Creating this custom story is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4! See below on how to!

Take a Snap– You will need to start this off by taking the first snap! If you’re doing this for an event, take a quick snap of event set up, residents arriving, or anything else you’d like.

Tap “Custom”– this will be in the top-right corner of your story.

From here you can choose the privacy settings. Choose either Private Story, Custom Story, or Geo Story. We suggest using the Geo Story option as that allows you and anyone else in that area to have the option of adding to this story.

Name Your Story, Select Geofence Area, and Choose Who Can Add To and View– Select a name for your story. Be creative and make sure the name reflects the content you and others will be adding to the story. Next, utilize the geofence toggle. Simply enter in the address of where the event is taking place and that will make the story appear for anyone inside the designated area. Finally, choose who can view and add to the story. Friends of friends is suggested because this will not only allow that user to view and edit but their friends as well.

Click “Create Story”– Once clicked the story is published for use! The story will appear under your “stories” section. You and others can add as many snaps as you want to the story. Just like any other story, it will only last for 24-hours and you will be able to see who has viewed and manage other settings.

This is a great way to encourage user generated content amongst residents and market your brand!

Tips and Tricks to Bring in Reviews

It’s no secret that prospects are turning to online reviews when shopping for a new apartment. These reviews have a huge impact on whether a prospect decides to rent at that community or not. According to JTurner Research, the effect of online reviews on students’ decision to visit a property is rated at 6.26, while in conventional housing it is rated relatively higher at 7.33.

At Cardinal, we take reputation management very seriously as we have set monthly review goals for each community. The goal is to obtain a monthly goal of 2% of residents leaving new reviews. But some of you may wonder what is the best practice in terms of asking for reviews? And what is the best way to generate positive reviews?

Obviously, they key to generating positive reviews is by providing the best customer service to residents. The next best way is to ask for them! However, we know asking for reviews can sometimes feel like a daunting task. So we’ve put together some ideas and practices for bringing in those reviews and helping you hit your monthly goals!

  1. Asking a resident for a review in person is definitely the preferred method. Personal connections matter. Therefore, is so important to build rapport with residents before asking for a review. The best way to build rapport with residents is at events, when they pick up packages, etc. Asking happy residents for reviews always gets us the best reviews! But it is also important to get feedback from residents who may not be happy, learn why, and address those concerns.
  2. Have an internal competition with your teams. While this is not the most encouraged method, due to review sites strictly prohibiting against this, this is an option to use every now and then to bring in reviews. Use a cash prize or gift card for the winner as an extra incentive to get participation.
  3. Send out Jturner collateral! Not only does JTurner send out monthly surveys to residents they also send out to prospects upon completion of a tour. Use JTurner to you advantage, they are here to help! Remind TMs to ask for those reviews AND let residents/prospects know that surveys are in their inbox. Also utilize the simple survey links (​your PSM has these). It is also important to review trends (keywords) in Ratings Tracker and JTurner Dashboard and if possible make the changes reviewers are referring to. Once the change is made, email residents letting them know we listened and ma​de the changes they asked for.
  4. Leave maintenance cards in unit after service request is completed to satisfaction. Utilize FIFTY3 to get these made. Maintenance does a lot for the community! There is nothing better than to bring in some reviews for the maintenance team members and all the hard work they put into the community.
  5. Find ​which reputation sites are lacking in reviews and focus on asking for reviews for that site. This is an important one! The review sites with the least amount of reviews will have the most impact on your ORA score. Bring in a lot of 5 star reviews to a review site with very few reviews and see your ORA score boost!
  6. Have a monitor or screen set up just for reviews. Setup in leasing office so happy residents, prospects or event “goers” can leave a reviews while in the office.

Get Digital With Your Outreach Marketing

At our student housing assets, classes are ending and students are beginning to filter out of the market. This leaves many areas looking like ghost towns; making outreach marketing much harder and less effective. During the summer months, we should begin to shift our outreach efforts online. “But Ryan, how can I use my Tshirt Cannon 3000 on the internet machines?”

You might not be able to use your swag bazooka, but thinking strategically and using channels our target demographic frequent you can drum up some valuable leads. Check out these digital outreach ideas below.

Reddit University Pages
Most, if not all, Universities have subReddit pages. Students discuss everything from course recommendations to housing suggestions on these pages. By filtering posts with certain keywords such as “apartment” or “housing” you’ll be able to dig up instant prospects. Simply google “___Insert Name____ University Reddit” (make sure to put your target University’s name) and you should be able to find the subReddit you’re looking for. Once you’re in the subReddit click the “search” bar in the right-hand side and type in your desired keyword (such as apartment) and search. You can then sort posts by “new” to bring up the most recent posts to the top. You just struck gold. Reach out to prospects on any relevant posts and give them information about your community and any current specials!

Facebook Groups
Many students are active on University-related Facebook groups. These groups offer a forum for students to sell items, ask questions, and interact with each other. One particular set of groups that sees a lot of activity are incoming freshman groups. These groups are often names XYZ University Class of 1234 (i.e. Florida State University Class of 2022). Freshmen generally know less about university-related topics and are often more curious about these topics. If your community can house freshmen this could be a fantastic source for mining leads.

Simply search for a group on Facebook, click “join group”, wait for approval of your access request, and then look for opportunities in posts that you can offer up your community as a housing resource!

Hashtag Mining 
Hashtags can be a marketer’s best friend. When users use hashtags in their social media posts it gives marketers a backdoor into finding prospects. Many students will use hashtags that relate to their university which gives you an opportunity to engage in their conversation. For example, incoming freshmen at Florida State University are using #NowANole to declare that they are headed to FSU! There are many different hashtags that students might use that relate to the university. Do a little research about the top hashtags you should target and then get to mining!

Social Media Location Mining
What if I told you there was a way to interact with residents that live at your comps? Would you send me a million bucks? Great, you can make the check out to Ryan Sundling. Residents at your comps are likely taking photos at their apartment community and tagging their photos at that location. Simply look up the location on Instagram and have instant access to residents at your comps.

Micro Influencers
Influencers are people that use their large social media presences to subtly advertise products. For example, you may follow someone on Instagram that is a fitness guru. They may partner with a running shoe company and post a photo of them lacing up their new shoes. Those shoes happen to be from the company the influencer partnered with in exchange for money and/or free product. We can do the same thing but on a smaller level. Look for micro influencers at your target universities. This might be a popular frat president, fashion blogger, or other minor “celebrity”. Offer them a gift card if they post a story about them touring your apartment community.

User-Generated Content
Calling user-generated content (UGC) outreach marketing may be a stretch but it can be a great digital marketing weapon. UGC is when a social media user posts content on their profile about your brand. This could be a user attending one of your events, touring the community, a resident showing off their apartment, etc. Our goal is to encourage this content by offering contests and other incentives. One strong example is holding a contest with current residents where you ask them to create an Instagram  story giving a Cribs-style tour of their apartment. In their story they need to include a certain hashtag and tag your community. At the end of the contest choose a winner and give them a prize like a smart home package. Additionally, ask the resident to download the story and email it to you in exchange for a $20 gift card and rights to use it for marketing purposes. Now you’ve had residents evangelize your community to their friends, many of whom are prospects, and you have tours of different unit types you can use to show future prospects each unit type!

Email Student Groups, Orgs, and Athletic Teams
If you can capture big groups of residents you’ll increase your chances of hitting 100% greatly. Student groups, organizations (i.e. greek life), and athletic teams all offer the opportunity to capture groups of leases. Reach our via email to these groups and offer your community as a living option. Personalize each email and offer something unique to that group. For example, if you’re reaching out to the swim team tell them about your great lap pool and that you’d reserve the pool for practice during a certain day and time just for them. Another approach is to offer tiered incentives based on the number of people that sign from that group. For example, if 4 people from the same Greek organization sign you give $200 to their philanthropy. If 8 people sign you’ll donate $800. If 12 or more sign you’ll donate $150 for each lease.

Outreach marketing can’t stop just because your market has fewer people physically in it.  Hopefully, this post gives you a few more arrows in your quiver when marketing your community this summer.

How to Have a Successful Resident Event

Let’s face it, we’ve all been here. We plan for a big event that we think will be a huge success. We invest a lot of time, money, and effort into an event where well no one shows up. It stinks right? We get discouraged and start avoiding putting on resident events altogether or just sticking to the basic Taco Tuesday and Free Food Friday’s where you know residents will come.

But have you ever really thought about why that event may not have been successful? In today’s student housing market, it’s going to be hard to please everyone. But through understanding YOUR market you can begin to host events that fit into your community’s interest.

I have put together 5 keys to pulling off a successful resident event.

1.Know Your Community

While a concert on the lake sounds like an amazing event, that’s not going to work for every community geographically or demographically. Find out what your residents have in common. Do they like sports-centered or fitness geared events? Are they more into adventurous outdoor activities? Surveys or polls can help you identify their interests. Create a private Facebook Page only for residents of the community and really get to know one another and each individual’s interests. This is a simple way to give you a great understanding of how to provide the best possible customer service to your residents.

2.Advertise Wisely and Get the Word Out

Yes, it’s important to create flyers to post around the community, but it’s also important to interact with your residents to promote the event. Throughout the week or weeks leading up to the event give sneak peaks into the setup and planning to get residents excited. This could be through Instagram live stories or Snapchat stories.

3.Involve Residents in Planning

It has been said people place a higher value on things they help create. This goes for resident events as well. Seek out residents who may be interested in helping plan the event. Maybe they have insight into what they want to see in a successful event.

4.Take Lots of Photos and Video

We want every event to be Instagram worthy for residents! Use these photos and videos on your community’s social media channels. Remember, the higher quality the photos and videos the more likely the residents are to share them on their own channels.

5. Learn from Each Event

Maybe this event wasn’t the biggest or best. BUT, you can take the results from this event and learn for the next one. Take a post-survey to find out what residents liked or disliked and apply this feedback to your next event.

We hope this helps when it comes to planning your next big resident event! It is important that through every resident event we are attracting new residents, retaining old ones, and developing a positive reputation in the area. And remember, the more you put into the event, the more you will get out of it.

Talk Derby To Me

The Kentucky Derby is May 4th & 5th and even if you don’t know a thing about horse races, you can still throw a killer party in honor of this historic sporting event. Your residents will love this spring themed party, I mean who doesn’t want to break out their best hat, bow tie, and sip on mint juleps while watching horses run in a circle? Sound like something you want to try out at your community?

Here are some tips and a list of essentials to get started below!

The first step is to think about where you would host this event and how it fits into your community. Do you have a space that offers tv’s to watch the derby, but also enough space to entertain guests with food, drinks, and games.

A few spots come to mind:

  • Rooftop Deck-This would be my first choice especially if this space has TVs.
  • Clubhouse-Almost every community has a clubhouse where they host resident events. If you go this route, use greenery and roses to make this feel like an outdoor party.
  • Pool Deck-You could turn this into a pool party inspired event featuring your own Unicorn Float Races!

Here is a list of things you will need to pull off your very own derby party!

Shopping List:

Decor

Food & Drinks

*Most of the food can be catered, but get creative with it based on what your residents like. We do not expect you to make this food from scratch but do keep in mind a classic southern style menu when hosting this event and steer clear of the pizza party vibe. 

Keep in mind the aesthetics when putting together this and future events. The more you put into it the better return you will receive from your residents. We want every event to be an “Instagrammable” moment that your residents are proud to share!

Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

Xo-Tiff