Episode 17 Blog Property Management Marketing During the Pandemic

Property Management Marketing During the Pandemic

Episode 17 – JuvoHub Podcast

Host(s): Jonathan Saar from Market Me Social and Mark Howell from Howl Creative Concepts

Our Special Guest: Erica Levy, Director of Marketing at TriBridge Residential

Erica Levy utilizes her creative mindset and previous experience to promote TriBridge Residential’s constantly growing brand. As an integral part of TriBridge’s marketing department, Erica develops and executes marketing plans for TriBridge’s lease-up communities, helps to devise, develop and deliver a comprehensive strategic and tactical plan for new business development and brand awareness for TriBridge Management, and also assists with public relations by raising the organization’s media profile. Her favorite part of her current role is being able to be a part of the process of bringing new developments to life.

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Show Highlights

Notes from Host:

Erica Levy showcases her incredible pivot skills in an unprecedented era. With COVID-19 there was no time for focus groups. She provides us with some actionable tips and best practices on property management marketing in a pandemic environment.

Some questions we consider:

  • What is something positive that has come out of marketing during COVID?
  • What are some of the best marketing tactics Tribridge has been using?
  • What are some challenges that you have faced in marketing during covid?
  • What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

I think, we’ve definitely had to pivot, but I think that we’ve still found a way to make our residents feel special and that we really appreciate them.

Erica Levy, Director of Marketing at TriBridge Residential

Just being able to pivot and being able to be flexible in these trying times.

Erica Levy, Director of Marketing at TriBridge Residential

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Jonathan Saar: Hello everyone. And welcome to episode 17 of JuvoHub podcast. Your helping hand in the property management, a help education tool for all of our wonderful people in the industry, whether you are in college or you are a senior in the industry, we bring to you some fantastic guests from all genres to help us all out, to make our industry the best that it always has been and what we can look forward to in the future. My name is Jonathan Saar, I'm from Market Me Social and I have with me, my wonderful, esteemed and awesome, fantastic, co-host, Mark Howell, from Howl Creative Concepts. Mark, how are you doing today?

Mark Howell: I'm good, buddy. That was quite the intro. Thank you, I'm glad to be here.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. And, and, on top of that, we have a wonderful, awesome, fantastic, smart, enthusiastic guest with us today, Erica Levy, from TriBridge Residential. She's the marketing director. Her portfolio covers the whole Southeast and she is a one-person show at our team. Erica, welcome.

Erica Levy: Thank you, Jonathan. How are you doing today?

Jonathan Saar: Doing great. Doing great. That always gets my adrenaline going when we have these shows and we're getting together to talk about some super fantastic and appropriate topics. So I love the subject that we're going to get into today, talking about COVID and dealing with marketing during the pandemic. And still, even though we're many months into this and by the time this show is aired, it will still be a big topic of what can we do? And how can we do it? So we're looking forward to hearing your insights and I'm going to turn the show over to my masterful, wonderful, fantastic friend, Mark. And I will hope to have some thoughts to share to the conversation. So Mark, take it away brother.

Mark Howell: All right. Perfect. Well, thank you. And Erica, so listen, you and I have had this conversation a lot this last year, the challenges with COVID this whole year, has been spent with us kind of learning how to do things differently. What I love about our conversations and what we do as educators, and you as a marketing educator, it's about finding, what works? What's new? What's changed.? How can we still do effective marketing in this pandemic, this last year? So, I've got a couple of questions for you to kind of get your mind going in the right direction. So here's what I'd love to pick your brain about, what is something positive that has come out of marketing during COVID? Also, what are some of the best marketing tactics that you guys at TriBridge have been using this past year during the pandemic? What's working? What is the best thing that you can tell our viewers that you guys have been up to over there?

Erica Levy: Absolutely. So, I think something positive that has come out of marketing during COVID is, I've gotten to work with some of the onsite teams in a different way. So we've kind of shifted our in-person training and marketing to virtual training. So hat has been kind of a way to pivot, but it's been super interesting. And then I've gotten to dig into some of the marketing systems and analytics. So, the onsite teams have really gotten to know their websites and how to walk prospects through the leasing process from start to finish, without prospects even coming into the office. So it's just been really nice to see the leasing agents and the managers figure out marketing and how to use their systems.

Mark Howell: So I'm glad you say that. I have a question for you. I don't want to put you on the spot with trying to come up with the answer to analytics, but it seems to me that with most of our prospects going online, that's really the only way... back in my day, we could always say it was a drive-by. Somebody just was on the street and decided to come on in. They didn't even know what our product looked like, what our prices were. But in today's world, I assume that your online presence, like you even said, with training and marketing, everything's gone virtual. So, most consumers are so savvy about going online, finding out what they need to very quickly. Would you say that most of the prospects that actually get to your sites at that point are more qualified than they were before the pandemic started?

Erica Levy: Yes, I would say so. I think that everyone's doing their research online and they know what our photos look like, they know what our apartments look like. They're very, very intelligent in regards to what type of product we have, there onsite.

Mark Howell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I would assume. I mean, that must mean that you have to stay on top of how your websites look, making sure that the prices are all correct. Is there anything that helps you guys sort of do a checks and balances? I used to always say that it was the telephone. If somebody is calling you, that's your one shot to make that impression. But now, your one shot is, what does your online presence look like? How do you manage all of these properties and all of these sites? Are there tools that help you do that? What's the challenge in that?

Erica Levy: Yeah. So I think the onsite teams are definitely the eyes and ears. So they kind of will send me an email if they need anything changed on their website. But other than that, I'm kind of scraping them every single day to make sure that the photography is showing the best product out there, making sure that their specials are correct, making sure their pricing is correct and then, making sure their features and amenities are up-to-date. So, the eyes and ears onsite are definitely helpful, and then we have a monthly marketing audit. So, the properties will fill out a form that make sure that all of the specials and pricing, and photos are up-to-date, and then I kind of go in the backend and update everything that way.

Mark Howell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What are some of the challenges that you face with marketing. Tell me what has been one of the biggest obstacles during this last year for you guys?

Erica Levy: The biggest challenge has been trying to reach those residents and making them feel special. So I think, we've kind of had to pivot in regards to resident functions. So we've had to think outside the box. So, we've been doing a lot of virtual resident functions and I know a lot of residents like that kind of in-person, touch and feel experience. But we've kind of had to survey our residents to see what type of functions they wanted to experience during COVID and what they were comfortable with. So I think that was a big challenge. Also, outreach marketing to local businesses. So usually we would have a program where our onsite teams would go out. They would make connections in the community, kind of the outreach marketing type things and give businesses collateral. And we haven't really been able to do that. So, we've had to kind of pivot there and call people and see what we could offer our residents. So I think those were some of the biggest challenges.

Mark Howell: Yeah, for sure. And I love that you bring up the outside marketing. We used to call it outside marketing, and I call it more merchant marketing because it has to be very difficult to do any type of outside marketing right now. Most people are too leery or worried about going into businesses. Although, many businesses are needing that connection. So, I hope that most people are seeing this as maybe an advantage if you. If you only think about it like this, "Look, I get it. We're a little nervous about going into some establishments, but these establishments are begging for the business," right? And so you've got all these residents that also want some thing, some type of, like you say, connection, or for you to offer them some type of resident function.

Mark Howell: So, that done right, that merchant marketing program done right, could mean that you are offering a virtual type of offering from that merchant to your resident. What's the discount? What's in it for them? What's in it for my resident? But, I have noticed that a lot of people have slowed off of wanting to create those connections. But, I don't know, for me, I think that it's a great opportunity to reach out to some of those businesses that are still willing to say, "Look, if we can't get your residents in our building, then let's find a way to bring our product to them, whether it be virtually or something." Maybe do like an online fashion show, like if it's a boutique, I don't know, makeup tips or cooking shows and things like that. Jonathan, what do you think about that?

Jonathan Saar: Yeah, no, I love it. And I like the words that you used a few times there, Erica, pivot. Sometimes we get blinders on, this is the way that we do things. And traditionally, it's in our industry, we know. And I love Mark how you said, "Back in my day." Boy you really aged yourself dude, when you said that. But we all know it's like sometimes it takes a while to make those pivots. And it sounds like for your company that was like, "We have to do this. We don't necessarily have time to go through a six-month focus group," so to speak. It sounds like you're a little bit more like, "We just need to do this, let's test it, let's analyze it and make some adjustments." Does that sound about right, Erica?

Erica Levy: Yeah. I think so. I think that the onsite teams in each market have been extremely flexible. And they've been able to kind of see what their residents will like and they kind of tailor it to their communities. So, I know a lot of our properties do food trucks. That was kind of a nice way to make our residents feel special and still do it in a safe way, with COVID and everything. I think, we've definitely had to pivot, but I think that we've still found a way to make our residents feel special and that we really appreciate them.

Mark Howell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). [inaudible 00:11:28] like a cooking channel. If somebody told me that they were going to host some type of cooking show and show me how to make certain dishes, I would totally log into that every day. Maybe a resident would do it or somEbody like a merchant in the area that would be willing to do something like that, oh my God, I would totally tune into that. Well, I love it. That's great advice. I think you spoke us about, with marketing and touring, you guys are using a product that does virtual tours. I can only assume that, that helped a lot in the sort of touring prospect, the sales cycle. What was the company that you guys use? And will you tell me a little bit about that process? Those virtual tours, how they were filmed and done.

Erica Levy: Yeah. So, we have done multiple things to kind of bring marketing into 2020 for our websites and our onsite team. So we've Matterport Tours. So that is kind of the 360 view of all of the rooms and you can kind of click through, and see what everything looks like. So we've used Matterport Tours. All of our onsite teams have created a YouTube channel, where they video all of their vacant apartments, so that we can put those videos on the website. So it's kind of easy for prospects to log on and see what their actual apartment is going to look like. And then we made sure that our photography was up-to-date across the board. So, we got photos of vacant apartments, and I used a system to virtually stage our vacant apartments. Which is very interesting, I had never done that before. So basically, you contact a company and you tell them what you want the aesthetic to look like, and they fill your vacant apartments with furniture. So, that has been really helpful for prospects to kind of see what their apartment would look like without actually going into the apartment.

Mark Howell: Wow, times have changed. I'm going to date myself again here, Jonathan. So, you're telling me that you can do a mini model virtually. We don't even have to go make a target run and buy lamps and plates and chairs, and things. So you guys can do a virtual mini model and just put in furniture in a vacant. That's brilliant.

Erica Levy: Yep. Yep. So basically, you get photos of the vacant and then you upload the photos onto the system, and tell them what you want it to look like, and it comes out in this beautiful apartment photo.

Mark Howell: You know what's so funny about listening to this and just knowing how times have changed? One thing I have definitely learned from 2020 is that, this has made all of us, or it should have made all of us, pay more attention to technology and how the consumer will find us in the future. Look, hopefully this pandemic will go away and we will all be immune to this virus and we can get back to life in a normal sense. But what I think will be fascinating is how many of our consumers now will still want to do business virtually. It kind of scares me and I think it's great because I worry that if our consumers become so technically advanced that they won't need our human interaction anymore to even do this.

Mark Howell: I always think of the banking industry. If you walk into a bank there's like one teller sitting there, because everybody does banking online, right? And so I think for me, and for what you do, the marketing aspect, it's keeping your eye on that technology. I mean, this year has certainly taught us that technology is going to be how our consumers now reach our products, moreso, ever now today than before. But especially because these younger generations, you guys are just more technically advanced than we ever were. So, I don't know. I'd tell you what, we just keep giving birth to smarter and smarter people, I guess.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. I just wonder what you think, Erica, when you get your feedback from your different communities. It sounds like you've created a nice atmosphere just to make it easier. To Mark's point, you can't come in to actually look at that model, since it is such a big decision to sign a lease for an apartment home, a less stress environment. I've looked at some of that technology, it sounds like a lot of augmented reality and we can't even begin to imagine where that's going to go for the apartment industry as the years progress. But is that how you feel? It's like, "Okay, we want to make this easy for everyone who's looking for an apartment home. What can we do to make it the least stressful as possible?" Is that kind of the right idea?

Erica Levy: Yes. Absolutely. We are trying to make it a seamless transition from looking for your home, to looking at your home, to leasing the apartment. I will say that, I have noticed that a lot of prospects still want the human interaction. So, our agents are definitely still needed onsite and they definitely still love the human connection there. Yeah, I would say that every we're just trying to make it a seamless transition.

Jonathan Saar: Excellent.

Mark Howell: Yeah, I agree. I don't think we're ever going to lose that human interaction with what we do. I would say that's 50% of why people buy from us or rent from us, it's that human interaction, it's that customer service. I've spent time with some of your folks out onsite and they certainly do have that customer service enthusiasm. So, I love it. I agree. I think that won't ever go away, let's hope, because I love the human interaction. If I had to only do business with people virtually, I don't know what I would do. I love being with people. I love to feel stuff, see stuff. I can't shop for clothes online. I don't know why, I hate it. I don't like the online shopping experience, because I need to see how they're going to fit and how it's going to feel and how I look in the space, and all that kind of stuff. So, I will be that guy that will come out to your properties and want to have that interaction for sure.

Erica Levy: Yes, we know Mark.

Mark Howell: Yep. I will be there. Well, thank you so much. I love all of your insight and everything that is going on in the marketing world. It actually fascinates me. Technology and what you do fascinates me, because I am not one of those technically advanced human beings, but I am learning. Like you say, I'm pivoting, right? I understand, especially through this last year, that I had to tell myself, "Mark, you really need to get on the program. Pay attention to what's changing. Pay attention to the technology and how you can make the experience a smoother one."

Mark Howell: And so I think it's very important that we do understand that your online applications for your residents need to be smooth, the application process or the portals that they go on to. And making sure that those things are seamless. Seems like that would be really important today because I'll tell you the truth, for me, when technology seems to get complicated, I get very frustrated. There are many generations over mine that I'm sure we all feel the same way, that we have to make sure that the technology is still seamless. Yeah, I appreciate everything that you've had to share with us today, Erica.

Erica Levy: Well, thank you. And thank you so much for having me. I think this is a really exciting topic for me because I love the technology. So I am kind of a tech nerd and I love to see what's coming next, and how we can implement it at our properties. So, it's been a really interesting time. I think that it's definitely had its challenges, but it's also been really exciting.

Mark Howell: That's good. Jonathan, this is the girl for you. She says she's a tech nerd. She loves all of the technology.

Jonathan Saar: That's what I was about to say. It's like, "Man, I have another kindred spirit in my world. Nerds rule." That's [inaudible 00:20:23].

Erica Levy: Yeah. [inaudible 00:20:24] finding like-minded people.

Jonathan Saar: Man, we could go on for another whole show. We'll have to get you on the marketing side of Market Me Social show. We'll get you on that for another one and we can do a tech talk. That would be totally awesome. Yeah, amazing insights. Like you use that word, I'm going to use it now, it's so pivotal for our industry to continue to think forward. So we appreciate, Mark and I, so much, that you've been here today to share your insights and how you're educating your staff and making sure that they're prepared through these challenges. So, one more question for you, to kind of sum up the show and share with us kind of words that you live by. So do you have a tip or a quote, or anything that you'd like to share that has always served you well as an educator for our industry?

Erica Levy: Sure. I mean, we've said it multiple times today, but just being able to be flexible and to pivot. I know that was the Apartment Associations word, I kind of live by that day-to-day. If something isn't working, you kind of have to be on your toes and think of a solution quickly. So, that is kind of what I have been living by. Just being able to pivot and being able to be flexible in these trying times.

Mark Howell: I like that.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah.

Mark Howell: What I love about that too is that we used to always say, "There's only one way, one right answer," but there's not. Today, it's definitely shown us. Be willing to have an open mind. Pivot, make decisions on the fly. Some things might work today that won't work tomorrow. But I love that advice.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. And it sounds so much more fun. I don't want to be labeled... I'm sure you guys don't. I don't want to be labeled as the COVID generation. We're the pivot generation. Not so much more enthusiastic. Always going to be challenges and we work our way through them. Yeah. So, beautiful. I love that. We'll definitely highlight that in the show notes for everyone. So thank you everyone for being here. Be sure to subscribe to our podcasts. You can subscribe on all the major channels that are out there, iTunes and iHeart, and so on. Check it out and you'll see it on the website where you can subscribe. So thank you again so much, Erica. Look forward to having you on a future episode. We'd love to have you back and just see, maybe after the COVID is over, see what you guys are doing next. Love to get your insights on that if that's okay.

Erica Levy: Absolutely. I would love it. And thank you so much for having me.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Thank you for being here. Again everyone, thank you for being here. This has been episode 17, Marketing During The Pandemic. Before we close out, let's just make sure, how can people connect with you, Erica?

Erica Levy: Sure. Well, you can connect with me via Instagram. My Instagram handle is ericalevy1 and I also have a Twitter with the same account. So, connect with me there and I'll be sure to respond.

Jonathan Saar: Right. And that's levy, L-E-V-Y, right?

Erica Levy: Got it.

Jonathan Saar: Got it. Perfect. Perfect. And Mark, my wonderful, fantastic, awesome, fantastic, wonderful, co-host, I say that for emphasis, from Howl Creative Concepts. How can people get in with you brother?

Mark Howell: Just like that. Howl is spelled, H-O-W-Lcreativeconcepts.com. I'm on LinkedIn and that's my website. So if you ever want to reach out to me, feel free to. I know, a lot of people in this industry could probably even give you my cell phone number. But you know what? Let's not put that on air just yet.

Jonathan Saar: No. We'll keep that confidential. Please everyone who's listening check out this show, check out Mark's website. He's one of our leading industry trainers for the apartment industry. I've worked with him for many years and he's just fantastic. I love listening to him teach classes. Again, my name is Jonathan Saar. You can learn more about our company at marketmesocial.co. Again, thank you everybody. Look forward to seeing you on our next show. Take care, everyone.

Mark Howell: Bye guys.

Erica Levy: Bye.

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