Calendar icon December 12, 2023

How to Build a Lead Generation Engine for a Property Management Company

Navigating the world of property management can often feel like a high-wire balancing act, particularly when it comes to property management lead generation. But fear not! 

The path to success becomes clear when you understand your target market, communicate effectively, and employ savvy lead-generation strategies. 

More good news: We know a guy who happens to be an expert in scaling up residential property management companies – Jeremy Pound, CEO of RentScale.

We reached out to Jeremy to talk about the ins and outs of how to approach successful customer acquisition strategies for residential property managers. In this article, he’ll help guide us through key steps, providing actionable insights to help you attract and secure your ideal property management clients

Let's turn those potential leads into lucrative opportunities!

Meet the Expert: Jeremy Pound, CEO of RentScale

Jeremy Pound is the CEO of RentScale, the largest sales consulting and coaching company in the residential property management industry. They’ve trained over 400 companies on how to successfully grow their property management business by becoming “new customer machines.” He is also the publisher of Strategic PM - The Magazine for Property Management Entrepreneurs and Executives.

 

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1. Define your ideal target market 

Not every prospect is a fit. And the key to growth is targeting the right people with your marketing strategies. 

When first starting out, a property manager might focus on pure hustle and price. But eventually, that’s no way to scale for profitability. (On that subject, Pound recommends the excellent management book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” by Marshall Goldsmith.)

“Something I talk about all the time is that the opposite of ideal fit client is a misfit,” says Pound. “You want to work hard to avoid those misfits, which means you need to label the right-fit clients, know who they are, and describe them. That's the best way to grow: not just getting more net clients, but getting better and better quality clients.”

In short, build high-quality leads by defining your ideal customer. Pound outlines the specific types of property management investor clients:

  • Experienced investors: “There are different types of experienced property owners. Are you going after those who value risk aversion and peace of mind? Maybe you're charging a little more and adding more ancillary services, but you're protecting them from all the things that can go wrong. Or are you going after really aggressive risk-takers who are looking to optimize every dollar possible?”
  • Accidental landlords: “Are you built to serve accidental landlords? Oftentimes homeowners move on, they move up, or they downsize, and they look to keep their very valuable properties as rental properties.”
  • Working professionals: “Maybe you’re going after working professionals, such as high earners who are building a portfolio as property investors. They got the real-estate investing bug, they know that maybe they don't want to pull their money into 401K and index funds, and so they're actually using new property to build a portfolio for retirement.”
  • Out-of-town investors: “Are you really built to serve out-of-town real estate investors? There are a lot of people, myself included, trying to build a diversified national portfolio of single-family rentals, and [some PMCs] are really built to serve that person because they need somebody local who's an expert and understands that local market.

Once you define your ideal customer, which is the most important step, everything comes from there, Pound says.

2. Clarify how you are built to serve those clients best

According to Pound, the simplest next step is to build your processes and procedures around that target ideal client.

“Everything we do should be a story around why all of our policies, our pricing, our procedures are all built to best serve that client,” he says. “I like to call this ‘avoiding the commodity tax.’ If you go out and spend money on advertising, or if you're buying new leads, or you're trying to spend money on SEO as if you're just a commodity and you've got nothing exciting to say – no sharp story, no compelling positioning – then you're basically paying the commodity tax.”

“You're going to have to buy all these leads, and most of those people are not going to buy from you,” he continues. “You might be buying 10 leads to close one deal, or you might be spending a bunch of money on advertising that's just going over everybody's head. Nobody's paying attention to it because it's not exciting.”

This brings us to the next strategy…

3. Use dog whistle language 

Pound emphasizes that what catches our attention is the uncommon, the novel, and the specific. 

Our marketing should cultivate that specificity. Here’s how:

“A term that we like to use around here is Dog Whistle Language,” Pound says. “If you know a dog whistle, only a dog can hear it. So when you know who your client is, it allows you to speak Dog Whistle Language – their language.” 

“I always try to enter the conversation that's already happening in their mind. If we have a very specific client, we know the problems that they're trying to solve, we know the frustrations they have and the goals they have. So let's just enter the conversation that's already happening in their mind! That’s going to make your content marketing less expensive and way more effective, and it's going to make your sales process even better.”

“If we can say what our prospects are already thinking, but we can say it better with more clarity, then they're going to key into that.”

Ask yourself:

  • What are they already thinking? 
  • What is the problem they're trying to solve?
  • What are the frustrations they have? 

Then, describe it even better than they can, says Pound: “That has been proven to create trust, to create authority. and to make them remember you.”

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

4. Understand demand generation vs. demand fulfillment

“We want all our clients generating demand for their service,” Pound says. 

Demand fulfillment is “just going out and buying pay-per-click ads because people are already searching for your product.”

This is a commodity-based approach. Let’s say something needs a new roof. They’re just going to type “roofer Boca Raton.” Pounds says that’s demand fulfillment: “You're just fulfilling the demand that's there, right? You're just hoping to get lucky. You're spending as much money as possible and just showing up.”

Instead, Pound says, “Demand generation might be going out and talking to people about how if they've had any storm damage, they might be able to get their roof replaced through their insurance.”

“There's a lot of examples of this in property management,” Pound says, “especially when you're going out, and you're teaching people to invest in real estate – actually going out there and creating the market for your product. It's more sophisticated, but it's way more profitable, and you have way more control over that than just sitting around and playing the demand fulfillment game.”

Pound gives an example of a PMC going after high-net-worth individuals. 

“Let’s say you’re in Florida, where Publix is headquartered, you might be going after all the executives at Publix. You’re basically saying, ‘Look, there are other ways to pay for your kids' education. There are better ways to save for retirement. You can live a better life if you get involved in real estate investing.’”

That’s demand generation.

5. The Buyer’s Pyramid: Have campaigns for each level of the buyer’s journey

Source: "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes

Time to get into the Buyer’s Pyramid. 

The top 3% are in the demand fulfillment mindset. They know what they need, they’re searching for the service or product, and they’re ready to buy.

Then there’s 7% that are loosely open or becoming open to the idea of needing a product or service. As Pound says, “Maybe they're kind of frustrated with their property manager, but they're not so frustrated yet that they're ready to go search on Google.”

That’s the moment to hit them with direct mail, email marketing, cold calling, or messaging that enters the conversation that’s already happening in their mind. Pound says to aim to say what they were thinking better than they can say it. Then they may move up into the 3% who are ready to make a decision. 

Below that is 30% of the potential market that isn’t aware of the existence of your product. They may be renting their homes or about to sell and simply don’t know that property management services exist.

Then there's another 30% of the market that just misunderstands. Pound elaborates: “Maybe they’ve been self-managing forever, and they think that property managers just take a piece of the pie rather than make the pie bigger.”

“Really good property managers explain to their prospects that they don't just take a piece of the pie,” Pound says. “Really good property managers actually expand the pie. They get more money for the property either by being able to charge more through marketing or reduce vacancy and turnover – and therefore, they're able to actually reduce all the losses that you would have from a rental property.”

In the end, you can focus on each of those separate types of prospects and build campaigns that speak directly to them. 

6. Track the numbers and optimize: Unit Acquisition Cost & ACV

To optimize your acquisitions, it’s key to understand your numbers. That’s obvious, but how do you do it, and what are the most important numbers to track? 

Pound points to unit acquisition costs (UAC), customer lifetime value, and annual contract value (ACV).

“We have monthly recurring revenue for months and months, if not years and years,” Pound says. “So you have to understand some of these numbers.”

  • Unit Acquisition Costs (UAC): “How much does it cost you to acquire a door?”
  • Annual Contract Value (ACV): “How much does each customer bring me annually?”
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): “How much does each customer bring me over their entire lifecycle as my client?”

Pound breaks down how CLV affects your judgment on UAC. If a customer stays with you for five years and you're making $200 a month, their lifetime value is going to be $12,000. 

“You start to understand that you're willing to invest a little bit more than you thought to acquire that customer,” Pound says.

This brings us to….

7. Build the list and lower your costs 

You want to be always building your list of potential clients and client referrals. 

“Think about that buyer's pyramid,” Pound says. “Think about attracting and courting those people that are lower in the pyramid before they're ready to buy. We can actually acquire those people for pennies on the dollar versus the really high expense of going after Google pay-per-click or buying leads.” 

“Let’s say one day, a major life or business event will happen that will turn a prospect into a buyer today. Instead of having to go to Google to look for you, where you have to spend $17 per click, they already look to you for advice and help because you’ve courted them over time. When the life or business event happens, they’re ready to buy from us.”

8. Sweat equity or check equity 

It takes investment to create clients. In the end, Pound says, that investment decision comes down to: “sweat equity or check equity.”

  • Sweat equity = time spent
  • Check equity = money spent

“Some entrepreneurs and business owners have more time than money, and they're going to want to spend money on advertising that works,” Pound says. “On the other hand, some entrepreneurs or property management owners have more time than money, and they're going to want to invest their time.”

Sweat equity could look like:

  • Networking with referral partners
  • Direct outreach (outbound) to investors 
  • Calling FSBOs 
  • Partnerships
  • Facebook Groups
  • Forums
  • Hosting events or going where the investors are
  • Social Media (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, FB, Bigger Pockets)
  • Organic online marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Webinars

Check equity could look like:

  • Direct mail
  • Digital marketing (Google ads/PPC, YouTube, LinkedIn, Bigger Pockets, FB)
  • Radio and TV
  • Pay-per-lead
  • Outdoor
  • Hosting premium events with recognized speakers

Final Thoughts

In the end, getting qualified leads and new business is all about targeting and positioning. As Pound says, “The punchline at the end of the day is: If you’re going to spend money and time, you might as well be positioned. You might as well have the right language – the dog whistle – so you can get more out of every ounce of your sweat equity or every penny of your check equity.”

For more insights from leaders like Jeremy, check out our Triple Win Podcast for residential property managers. Or, here are a few places to keep reading about growing your PMC:

Keep learning

How to Optimize Operational Frequency with Processes and Software

Property management software is currently helping property managers establish efficient and reliable processes at a higher rate than ever before in the PM industry. With that development in the proptech industry has come the development of tech for self-managers that has changed the capacity of the accidental landlord. Thus, the demand for efficiency at scale has risen in order to separate the professional from the amateur, and the establishment of processes that allow such a thing has become a critical topic for professional property managers. Optimizing property management processes Carter Fleck of Triton Property Management, a growth-oriented firm out of northern Virginia that is approaching 300 units with larger goals for 2024, joins us to share his expertise on process definition. Fleck is the General Manager responsible for operations and strategic growth, and he has been developing effective processes to ensure efficiency at Scale at Triton, and in the process, he has garnered an understanding of how to do so. “A lot of failing,” says Fleck. “In the early days, we were getting a lot of good and bad feedback, but typically the bad feedback is what you adjust off of.” Fleck believes that assumptions are the enemy when it comes to defining procedures and sourcing software for your PMC. “The image that we use is if you're going to build a sidewalk before people even start walking on a field, it's kind of dumb. You have to see where people will walk first, and then you'll build a gravel path. So number one, you see where they walk, see where their intentions are in the grass, then you build a gravel path. And then eventually, once that walkway is established, that's where you build your processes and procedures.” The analogy is a visualization of the concept that you have to see how people operate before you can establish processes to make how they operate more efficient. Fleck encourages the negative experiences of process breakdown and cites them as the only way to really nail down what your processes should look like. “Over time, between the tenants giving feedback and owners giving feedback, we adjusted our processes. It's a mix between figuring out where the owners walk and where the tenants walk, and then building paths that align.” Fleck details an example of how Triton adjusted its process after an assumption it made got challenged: "We had an assumption that payment plans were helpful for residents," says Fleck. "And so the way we handled delinquency is we would reach out to them and would be like, ‘you need to pay this. Do you have a payment plan option?’ And they would always say yes. Our process was we'll put you on a payment plan, we'll invite you to a payment plan, you'll accept the payment plan, and then we'll monitor the payment plan. That in itself was a lot of work, but we thought it was doing well. But some of the owners that we had managed for mentioned that another property manager doesn't allow any payment plans. And if you're not fully paid up by the end of the month, then the eviction process starts if you’re over $500 due. So we're like 'alright, well, we'll serve you in that we'll change our processes.' And we did, and our delinquency percentage shrunk significantly. So, consistently, by the end of every month, we're around 5% APR. Whereas with payment plans we're like 5 to 10%.” Fleck obviously credits seeing the assumptions in motion as what prompted the need for process iteration, and he firmly believes that making too many of these assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes growing property management companies make. Like any business experiencing growth, process definition is critical to achieve efficiency at larger volumes. What Fleck is essentially advocating for is processes based on what you know, not what you think, and there is a big distinction. Managing property management software Fleck has installed both general and tech-based processes, and cites that understanding of how people interact with processes as the key in both areas. "They don't focus on user experience. That's really important. Number one, how the tenants like the tech, but specifically how the people who are using the tech are gonna adopt it. So when we were choosing a rent inspection software, we had so many people recommend one, software and I, we almost pulled the trigger on it. But then I was like, let's do a trial run on both these two. And we chose the other one because it was way better user experience for property managers. So user experience, both for us and for residents." Tech is a tool that is ultimately as good as its users, and if it's not used correctly or at all, its potential is wasted. An over-reliance on technology can actually go hand-in-hand with an under-reliance, as both often spring up from a lack of understanding of how to choose, implement, and manage it. In this vein, Fleck can't recall many property managers who operate with too much tech. As long as you're not purchasing redundant software and you've done and continue to do your due diligence, tech-based process can make your business more efficient. "I more often find myself having that conversation," says Fleck. "When I'm talking to property managers in my sub-market, who aren't connected with like a NARPM, who aren't connected with like a Crane group, or who aren't connected with a Second Nature, aren't connected to the tune of what the property management industry is doing and the cutting edge of it, I'm just like, 'you could save so much of your time and you could scale this so much more if you only even if you just had tenant Turner, or if you had LeadSimple.'" No matter what your story is a property manager, if growth is in the cards, so is process and technology refinement. Hopefully, Fleck's experience in these areas can help you stay efficient and organized as door counts grow.

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

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Why offer a tenant benefits package?

In the residential real estate sector, like everywhere else, residents and property investors alike are getting younger – and with this generational shift comes expectations for a certain level of convenience and support. To put it bluntly, today’s residents want their needs proactively anticipated. It’s something they're willing to pay (and stay) for. That’s where a tenant benefits package comes in. In this article, we’ll explore what a tenant benefit package is, how it improves the experience for both property managers and tenants, and crucial mistakes to avoid. Before we get into the details, we want to give a shoutout to our very own “Resident Benefits Package” – which is how we refer to the benefits comprised in the “tenant benefits package.” “Tenant” is not yet a legacy term, but we here at Second Nature are trying to evolve it. That’s because, in our experience, property managers work hard to make renters feel like they’re not just parties to a contract – they’re residents. On one hand, this is just humans being humans, but on the other hand, it also encourages them to invest in care for their new home and add value to the property. Ready to get started now? Build your Resident Benefits Package today. What is a tenant benefits package? A tenant benefits package is typically a bundle of services, conveniences, and provisions offered by a property manager on top of the basic lease agreement. They represent a triple-win situation for property managers, residents, and property owners, as they enhance the overall rental experience, generate additional income, and protect the real estate investment. It might include conveniences such as online monthly rent payment options, or portals for submitting maintenance requests and tracking their status. It could also include various financial perks, such as credit rating improvements that are contingent on on-time rental payments, or discounts on nearby services such as fitness centers. It might also include amenities ranging from move-in concierge or utility set-up services, to identity protection services, to HVAC filter delivery. The cost for resident benefits packages is typically included in the lease and added as a monthly fee, with the fee being dependent on the specific benefits. Indeed, the benefits contained in a tenant benefits package will vary depending on the property manager and the type of rental property. The overall goal is to provide tenants with an enhanced quality of life while simplifying the experience of renting. At Second Nature, we pioneered the only fully managed resident benefits package, in response to PMs who wanted to make their business stand out. Our RBP includes an array of services and supports for residents, from filter delivery to credit building to maintenance. Why should property managers offer a tenant benefits package? Beyond the triple-win considerations mentioned just above, there are compelling and concrete reasons why property managers should offer tenant benefit packages. We'll turn to these now. Ancillary revenue Some tenant benefit packages include optional services or add-ons that can generate additional revenue streams for the property manager. This might include things like renter insurance or HVAC filter delivery. Resident experience Tenant benefit packages deliver numerous savings and value to tenants, beyond the value they would get if they were obtaining the same benefits "à la carte." Additionally, by offering additional services and conveniences, benefit packages can make tenants feel valued and more satisfied with their living experience. For instance, maintenance hotline requests, tenant portals, and air filter replacements all make life easier. Add-on services like identity theft protection can offer a sense of security. And discounted renters insurance coverage, utility concierge services, or other perks can save tenants money. Decrease tenant turnover and vacancy rates In a competitive rental market, tenant benefit packages can be a major differentiator toward boosting retention rates and reducing vacancy rates. Properties that offer these packages can also attract a wider pool of qualified tenants, and potentially command higher rents. Note that certain benefits in the package, like online rent payments and maintenance requests, can automate tasks and free up the property manager's time. This allows them to focus on more value-added initiatives. How does the tenant benefits package improve the tenant experience? Tenant benefit packages can significantly improve tenant satisfaction in several ways, by making life easier, more convenient, and potentially more affordable. For instance, if an online portal (a baseline feature for most property management software) is included for rent payments and maintenance issues and requests, this eliminates the hassle of writing checks or waiting on hold to speak with someone about a clogged drain. In other words, tenants have the peace of mind of knowing they can manage their tenancy 24/7 from the comfort of their own devices. Some packages might include features like filter delivery services or regularly scheduled HVAC maintenance. This frees tenants from having to remember these tasks – and ensures their apartment is well-maintained. Certain packages might also offer "verified vendor" services – in other words, a vetted vendor network that can help provide a more secure feeling to residents when service providers are on-site. On the financial side of things, a benefits package might offer discounts with local suppliers for various goods and services, or on a renters insurance policy obtained through the property manager (with applicable waivers for residents who have their own insurance). This can save tenants money on a necessary expense. Some packages also help residents with their credit scores via credit reporting and credit building services, so they can transition from renting to home buying when the time is right. The idea is that the credit reporting program reports on-time rent payments automatically to all credit bureaus, helping residents build their credit simply by paying their rent on time. Some benefit packages include resident rewards programs that represent a powerful and positive incentive for on-time rent payments, including gift cards or cash. As far as living perks go, packages sometimes include added benefits such as access to fitness centers or community events. This provides tenants with additional spaces to relax, socialize, or stay healthy. Packages can include security deposit alternatives that serve to provide a means for residents to be financially liable for damages without having to pay a significant lump sum upfront, such as pure insurance, surety bonds, and ACH authorization programs. Ultimately, tenant benefit packages create a more professional and responsive image for the property management company, which helps tenants feel valued and allows them to experience a smoother, more stress-free rental experience. What are the mistakes to avoid when offering tenant benefits packages? Property management companies should take care to avoid certain pitfalls when implementing tenant benefit packages to ensure they are providing true value to tenants as well as delivering profitability to the PM company itself. For instance, it's important to ensure that the services you're offering are actually relevant to your target renters. For example, young professionals might appreciate discounts on gym memberships, while families might prefer pet-sitting services. You should also take care to clearly communicate what's included and not included in the package to new residents. Don't oversell the benefits – focus on how they genuinely improve the living experience. It's also very important to set realistic expectations for response times on standard maintenance requests, emergency maintenance requests, or virtual concierge services. Likewise, be clear on all available payment methods, as well as rent due dates, late fee structures, and any associated payment processing fees. If your package includes services from third-party vendors, ensure that these vendors are reputable and reliable. Research their customer service record and responsiveness to ensure a smooth partnership and a positive experience for tenants. Above all, regularly monitor the usage of different benefits within your benefits package. This can help you refine your offerings and ensure you're not spending where spending is not required. Looking for a Resident Benefits Package? If you’re looking for a “plug and play” resident benefits package, Second Nature’s RBP is the way to go. Designed to be easy to implement and simple to use, all the services it includes are managed by Second Nature – which means there’s no day-to-day upkeep required from the property manager: Second Nature keeps it running. It’s a simple way to grow your business and create great experiences that residents will pay and stay for. Learn more about our fully-managed Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

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