Can you think of a time you tried a product a friend recommended and thought, “I’m so glad they told me about this”? Maybe you never would have tried it on your own – or even heard of it!
While some renters will discover your property organically through social media, Google search, or even walking past your property, it’s safe to say a big portion of them will find out about you through the oldest and most effective marketing strategy in the book: Word of mouth marketing.
Now, word of mouth marketing has evolved beyond the old days of depending solely on your immediate circle for recommendations when making buying decisions. It’s evolved into a digital community of online acquaintances, influencers, and review sites.
Here are four effective word of mouth marketing strategies that are sure to build buzz about your apartment community, get people talking, and make the best first impression.
Build a worthwhile renter referral program
If you aren’t encouraging your renters to refer their friends to your community, you could be missing out on a major marketing opportunity. People want to live around people they like. And when they’re incentivized to refer people to you, they’re even more likely to recommend people to live there.
Of course, the first step in implementing a rental referral program is ensuring your property is worth referring. If your Facebook page is filled with bad reviews, your website is outdated, and your last Instagram post was three months ago, you have some work to do first. (We can help.) Once your online presence is sharp and you’re putting your best foot forward, it’s time to create a program that will have interested leads inquiring about your property in no time.
An effective and popular referral campaign for renters needs to be three things: simple, worthwhile, and measurable. When starting a tenant referral program, you’ll have to decide what type of incentive you’d like to provide. This could be discounted rent, cash, or a gift card to a local service, restaurant, or shop. When you decide what to offer, it’s important to keep it consistent for more than just a few weeks. If you’re constantly fluctuating offers, residents may complain or be less likely to take advantage of the program. But if the reward is worthwhile and consistent, you’ll set yourself up for a steady stream of qualified referrals year round.
You’ll want to track the effectiveness of your referral campaign to see what’s working and how you can improve. Always be aware how many residents have seen your referral program, how many referrals you’ve received as a result, and how many convert into residents. While not every referral will turn into a year-long lease, you might need to adjust your referral program if people are directing you to leads that never pan out.
Most importantly, expressing a genuine thank you to anyone that refers someone to you goes a long way. People love cash rewards and gift cards, of course, but they also love feeling appreciated! A handwritten thank you note sent after a lease is signed will leave a lasting impression.
Find and share powerful renter testimonials
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a powerful renter testimonial might be worth more than a thousand lines of text on your multifamily website. A short, detailed testimonial that hits the highlights of your community is a powerful way of marketing your community.
This can be as simple as a few sentences on the homepage of your apartment’s website, or as detailed as a video interview with happy residents. Testimonials can be used in all stages of your marketing, from featuring them in social media ads to including them in marketing emails during the leasing process.
You’ll want to ask for testimonials at the right time. Some will happen organically on review sites, or during correspondence with your tenants. But don’t hesitate to reach out to happy renters and ask for a testimonial if the timing is right. Don’t request a testimonial from a renter who’s only lived at your property for a week. But if you know someone has recently had a pleasant experience with an employee going above and beyond or has posted about events you’ve thrown, it may be the right time to ask.
Asking for a testimonial can feel disingenuous or, for lack of a better word...icky. But it doesn’t have to be! The best strategy is to be honest, grateful, and mindful of your resident’s time. Here’s an example of how to request a testimonial, while being genuine and mindful of your resident.
Following a pleasant interaction, drop a handwritten note in the mail with something like this:
“Hey Jane! We’re so happy to hear Mike was able to help you hang your TV quickly this week just in time for the Super Bowl! Thank you again for choosing us as your home. It means the world to have wonderful residents like you. If you’d be up for it, we’d love to get a few quick words from you about your experience living here. Please stop by the concierge desk whenever it’s convenient and we’d love to set something up!”
Discover and promote user-generated content
Your residents are your best spokespeople for selling your property. Every time a resident tags your community in an Instagram or Facebook post, you’re getting organic reach into their circle. There are dozens of ways to encourage your residents to share more on social media. Here are two ideas to help you get started.
1. Create a custom hashtag for your residents to use on Instagram and Twitter.
This doesn’t have to just be the name of your apartment complex. It could relate to your residents’ interior decor or even their pets. The Metropolitan apartment complex in Calgary, Alberta uses a custom hashtag for their residents' pets, #MetPet, to find and share adorable pictures that get great engagement from the community.
As always, be sure to ask permission before sharing anyone’s images, and be sure to credit them with an image tag and a mention in the caption.
2. Run a contest using social media posts as entries.
If you have a decent social media following, a contest is a wonderful way to generate content from your residents. Since Instagram is such a highly visual network, it’s the perfect outlet for discovering shareable images from the people who know your community the best. One method for running a contest on Instagram is asking people to share a picture showing a specific activity happening in your building or local community, and tag the picture with a certain hashtag. For these contests, you’ll want to specify the rules clearly and consistently every time you promote it.
Encourage and engage with online reviews
Any potential renter is going to do research online before reaching out to your property. In the research process, online reviews can often make or break a renter’s decision. In fact, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from their close friends! Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Facebook reviews are all popular methods for finding out more about what it’s really like to live in your apartment community.
When positive reviews are left online, be grateful and candid when responding to them. Here are three steps to the perfect positive review response:
1. Thank your resident for their business, and for taking the time to leave a review online. Cite anything specific they called out. “Thank you so much for taking the time to review us, *Reviewer’s Name*! We passed along your review to our maintenance team, too! We’re happy to hear they’ve responded quickly and professionally.”
2. Mention any new or exciting things happening around the property. “Have you heard about our new wine Wednesday events happening in the lounge?”
3. Invite the reviewer to engage with you further. “We’d love to see you at one of these new events! Please come say hi in person if you do. Thank you again!”
Of course, your reaction to negative reviews is just as important. We all know what it looks like when responding to reviews goes wrong. You don’t want to come across as defensive or aggressive when bad reviews happen, and you also don’t want to hide or delete them. Here’s a similar formula for responding to negative reviews.
1. Acknowledge your resident’s concerns and apologize – even if you believe they’re in the wrong. “I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience with your garbage disposal, *Reviewer’s Name*! We strive for the highest level of service, and we’re disappointed we let you down."
2. Assure them the root of the problem is fixed. “We’ve passed along your message to our maintenance supervisor to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
3. Ask for in-person follow-up. “I’m the Community Manager here at *Community Name*. I’ve sent you a private message so we can follow up in person and find out how to make this right.”
If the negative review stems from a complete misunderstanding that is later resolved, you can ask your resident to update their negative review to reflect the current situation. Of course, sometimes maintenance goes wrong or there are noisy neighbors, and you can’t always make every person happy. In this case, it’s best to be apologetic, understanding, and move on.
On top of a consistent social media and content strategy for your apartment community, these word of mouth marketing techniques can keep your inbox full of renter leads year round.
If you want to get started with a new digital marketing strategy for your multifamily community, we can help! A solid social media, SEO, and content plan can improve your reach within your target local market. Click here to get in touch with us!