Monday, May 31, 2010

Successful Online Marketing has Only Three Possible Outcomes: The Three Musketeers.

Successful marketing means one thing and one thing only, the consumer was compelled to take action. That will happen in one of three ways, in person, via phone or via the Internet.

What happens after an anonymous web shopper has found information compelling enough to justify connecting or simply a great call to action. Let’s look at the 3 different possible paths and explore how this could play out… The possible outcomes are exactly the same as with any other marketing strategy; in person, via phone or via the internet. (Athos, Porthos and Aramis… Uhm… Where is d’Artagnan?)

1/ (Athos) In person: Getting a prospect to visit you is always best. Once you welcome a visitor nothing else should take precedent, make sure they know how important they are but be strategic. Ask for a few minutes to verify that you have everything ready (refreshments, paperwork, keys to visit units), place your cell on vibrate. Notify others that you are busy and handle any possible conflict in advance. First impressions are everything, if your first contact is in person; make sure they see that you are in control.

2/ (Porthos) Via phone: Knowing how to handle a phone call is a skill set that is often overlooked or downplayed. I received a great advice about how to handle a call-in. Once a call is identified as being a prospect place them on hold. Do it very well by simply saying this; “Your call is very important and I want to give you my full attention, could hold for one minute, I just have a quick task to complete.” Use that minute (no more than one minute, 30s is best) to pull out your prepared lead form and focus. Remember that you cannot sign a lease over the phone, so what you are selling is the value of a visit or a follow up conversation. The best outcome is to set a face to face conversation or getting the prospect to complete an application.

3/ (Aramis) Via the Internet: Reaching out online (email or registration screen) is often perceived as a low level of commitment but it is as high as any other. Note that when I say this I exclude leads with inaccurate information because these are not leads. Here is why an online prospect is a high level of commitment; a consumer shares his/her personal contact information with you without having met or spoken with you. It is certainly one of the most convenient ways to reach out and it needs to be treated with the same level of importance than any other lead source. Make the communication very personal. You should try to call if the information permits. With the internet speed is everything, so make sure you can be as real time as possible. The biggest challenge of the internet is that leads are often handled via e-mail and you are now working with one of the slowest communication tool out there. Yes the e-mails travel fast but you are dependent upon mailboxes being opened. Whenever you can, try to shift the exchange from e-mail to a phone conversation or a visit in person.

I speak in this title about The Three Musketeers without the main character thus far; d’Artagnan. Here is how d’Artagnan enters our storyline. While the internet has grown incredibly in its ability to reach more people and do it faster it is still lacking the human factor. Remember this: websites don’t sell anything, people do. Making the most compelling argument to connect in person with anonymous web shoppers has to be a center point of your marketing efforts. Here is a though, explore how you could introduce people inside your site. Enable real-time conversations and open a fourth dimension in ways for consumers to connect. Offer a simple invitation to assist an anonymous web browser. Take them out of the internet dimension and move them into conversation. This way you will be able to gain more control over the outcome by managing a live exchange rather than letting the consumer draw its own conclusions in a matter of seconds. Live chat technology enables you to do all this very well and will help you take your website to next level. Are you prepared? Why do I ask? Because your consumers are, here are some stats about Facebook chat from February 2009 (that is 15 months ago or over 225M Facebook users ago!)

  • 300+ million chat messages are sent per day
  • 4+ million active channels at peak
  • 67% of users have chatted at least once (so about 117 million people)

Your Internet marketing strategies are designed around creating more opportunities to gain clients, one of the most logical ways to that is to offer web shoppers as many ways as possible to connect with you and get into a conversation.

This post was written by Frédéric Guitton of activSalesAgent. Frédéric moved from France in 1996 and joined activSalesAgent in 2009 to introduce a live chat solution for the real estate industries. Frédéric's expertise is in Internet engagement processes, Web analytics and customer follow-ups.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There is Nothing Virtual About Your Web Presence

Decisions are being made by your Web shoppers.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia about what virtual means; “The term has been defined in philosophy as "that which is not real" but may display the salient qualities of the real.” When I think virtual I think no consequence, just an experience. When I hear someone describe the internet as a virtual space I can’t help but cringe. Do you actually believe this has not consequence?

Your web presence is very real and has real consequences, good and bad. The Internet is often compared by many as a brochure-like space. I look at websites everyday that are nice looking and have neat graphics. The questions I ask myself when looking at a site are simply these; “Is what we think the consumer wants, or is that what the consumer wants and the site answers a need”, and “What’s the call to action?” These questions require digging into data, looking at the web shoppers’ behavior. Explore click paths and see where to they go inside the site you have designed. Understanding your web traffic will help you make your site more relevant.

Anonymous web shoppers will decide whether you make their “list” by their online experience. It is important to take a step back and look at your site through the consumer’s eyes. Too many sites have way too much information and no logical way for a consumer to only get the information relevant to them. If a web shopper cannot get to what they want to know quickly they will go somewhere else to find it.

Too many customers go online to start their search for you to not take these matters very seriously. Whether it is what your blog says or says about you, how convenient your web-site is or how good the video/ pictures displayed in ILS platforms are. All these factors will drive a choice, the consumer’s choice to take action and reach out to you or not. That choice is made in a matter of seconds and because web shoppers can remain anonymous you will probably never find out you missed an opportunity.

A website has to be about the consumer and their expectations versus what we think they should know. It is a matter of weaving a site in such a way that their visit provides them with what they want and insert information that we feel is important for them to know. Acquiring knowledge about what consumers do once they are inside your site is a key factor in learning enough about what they go to look at.

Leveraging that knowledge to make that information readily available will enhance your web shoppers’ experience and help yield more out of your web traffic. Your website is an extension of your sales centers; you have a great opportunity to connect with more prospective residents online by simply making it easy for them. There is nothing virtual about that opportunity, yes it will mean investing into strong analytics, spending time reviewing them and making changes to your site. Try different things then find the optimal solution. Once you get that done then get ready to start all over again, consumers change and your web presence has to follow suit. Internet years are like dog years, they go 7 to 10 times faster .If you are serious about leveraging the internet to increase your marketing reach then the first step is to become aware about how real that space is and then know that you will have to continuously make changes.

It is worth making the effort to make you Internet presence effective because it works! Your next clients have probably seen something about your community online before they decide to make their first visit. Do you want to increase the odd in your favor? Then keep these three simple facts in mind:

  1. 1. Your website is not about you, it is about your consumers’ needs.
  2. 2. Track your web traffic in depth and modify your site according to the goals you have defined.
  3. 3. Be ready to change parts of your site on an ongoing basis, create long term partnerships with your service providers and question the efficiency of your Web marketing strategy regularly.
This is a guest post by Frédéric Guitton of activSalesAgent. Frédéric moved from France in 1996 and joined activSalesAgent in 2009 to introduce a live chat solution for the real estate industries. Frédéric's expertise is in Internet engagement processes, Web analytics and customer follow-ups.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Value Engineering: A Bit of a Rant

By Tom Stender -- VP & CTO of InfiniSys Electronic Architects

This post is a bit of a rant, but I feel there is a valuable lesson to be learned here for all multifamily property owners, builders and developers.

Typical communications closetMy company was recently asked by a customer to look at adding a new telecommunications system in his building. Since we (InfiniSys) provided the original low voltage design for the building when it opened, I felt confident that the existing design of the communications rooms and the spare fiber strands we had designed for the backbone would make the new system simpler and less expensive to install -- there would be very little new cabling required.

Until we walked the site.

An actual site walk-through discovered that the low voltage contractor had installed less than half of the fiber strands we had specified, most of which were already in use by the satellite company (a PCO) providing TV and Internet service to the residents. Needless to say, if the original specifications had been followed, the owner would now not have to pay for more fiber to be installed, no doubt at a greater cost than it would have been if were done when the building was being roughed in.

Many times this is the result of owner’s value engineering (VE) to cut cost. The need to cut costs is completely understandable. However, if you are paying a professional design firm to recommend and design the most appropriate networks for your building, you might want to ask about any potential ramifications before you decide not to install something to save money. That way you know why it was designed that way and can make an informed decision about making changes.

Here's another scenario: I’ve seen the low voltage contractor will often value engineer his bid to get it at the cost level the general contractor wants. Invariably, this never makes it to the proper people to discuss when the bid is submitted, unless the telecommunications providers and/or low voltage designer are part of that loop to point out the deficiencies.

With construction costs where they are, value engineering a design is quite common to get costs to fit the budget. However, any VE should be done in a way that causes the least impact on the functionality available to the property owner and residents, not to mention leaving room for future growth as technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace. There are many ways to bring costs down with minimal repercussions ... this conversation should always include the designer. Isn't that why you hired them in the first place?

Have you run into challenges because of a design that was value engineered? What have you done to address construction costs while still maintaining services that meet your residents expectations?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

2010 Broadband Properties Summit Recap

This is a guest post by Tom Stender -- VP & CTO of InfiniSys Electronic Architects -- that was originally posted on the InfiniSys site.

The 2010 Broadband Properties Summit was held April 26th through the 28th in Addison, Texas. While I am not sure if the actual numbers are in, attendance appeared to be up over last year.

As in previous years, the sessions were divided into different tracks so an attendee could get the most out of what really interested them. There was the FTTH Track, the Multifamily Track, the Editors Choice Track, and a special one day Broadband for Rural Prosperity forum that was sponsored by the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

My main interest was the Multifamily Track; however, the tracks were laid out in such a way as to allow several sessions and keynotes covering FTTH and Rural Broadband to be attended as well. All of which provided a wealth of information.

The Multifamily Track contained a good cross section of representatives from various telecom service providers, property owners, low voltage contractors and other industry consultants. Each provided their own insight and expertise on the wide array of panels which ranged in topic from the Future of Multifamily Design to Resident Choice, Due Diligence, Bulk Services, and others. The subject of resident choice and multiple providers came up frequently, even on panels where it wasn’t the main subject. It is obvious that this is a very important subject to owners and providers at this point. In my opinion, this track was a great educational resource for those that were new to the Summit as well as for the folks that attend regularly, as the magazine staff planned well in their selection of subjects for the track sessions.

The Exhibit Hall held a wide array of folks ranging from the major service providers to equipment manufacturers and was open multiple times each day for attendees to peruse. There were many products and services being displayed, but a few things that caught my eye were the release of the new SWM32 module for DirecTV MFH-2 delivery (supports up to 32 apartments in a single wall mountable package) and the Foxcom repackaged BsmarTV equipment (a simple kit utilizing a single fiber and compact, easy-to-mount electronics).

As always, Broadband Properties, with the help of their major event sponsors provided for plenty of great networking opportunities.

All in all, I found it to be a great educational event, and my hat goes off to Scott Degarmo, Steve Ross and the rest of the organizers and volunteers for their efforts to help put this together. The only thing that would make it better would be to have more property owners and managers to receive the education that is available at an event like this.

What are your biggest technology questions? What topics would you most like to see covered at events like this? Let us know!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Demo: VaultWare's Leasing Tablet

I just returned from the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference, where there were many extremely informative sessions about the latest trends in digital marketing for apartment companies. (This year's trends to watch: social, mobile and local.) I'd definitely encourage you to watch for the slides or go back through the Twitter stream (search #AIMConf).

To kick off the event, one of the founding sponsors, VaultWare, showed off their new mobile websites that incorporate their real-time availability service.

They also demoed a full leasing application for the iPad, which includes everything from current availability and a prospect guestcard to the latest YouTube videos and Yelp reviews of the community. Realty DataTrust's CEO, Mike Mueller took the time to walk me through all the features of the product. Here's my full interview with Mike:

Link to the full video on YouTube: VaultWare's Leasing Tablet.

What do think? Is this something you'd like to use at your property?