Creating Demand When What You Offer Is Not Enough

No pool?

Wish you had a workout room?

Kitchens with old appliances?

In my career there is one thing I love more than leasing apartments and that is to
get on stage and talk about great leasing techniques. But to be a believable
speaker, I have to do what I speak about with my audiences. This is why I
love to pick up the model keys and leasing kit whenever I am visiting one of
my consulting clients. Leasing is always a challenge for me because I am
rarely working on a property that has it all and is leading the market. Why
would that owner need me?!? My consulting projects are typically turning
around a leasing and marketing situation to improve economic occupancy.

My job would be easy if each apartment had granite countertops and a rocking
amenity plan to add to the value of the apartment community. Most times, I
am working on properties where there is a gap between what the customer
wants and what we offer. This is when an emotional connection can win the
leasing game. Here are 10 things you can do to create that connection:

1. Before you ever show an apartment, make certain you ask questions to find
out what is important to this customer. Using this key information on the
leasing tour will help your customer see that this apartment meets their

2. I don’t have to tell you to use the customer’s name, you learned that
years ago in leasing class. But, here is a thought to take that idea one step
further: Create a connection by putting their name on the water bottle you
present to the customer. (Another reason to set an appointment and know when
the customer is visiting!) Their name on the water bottle not only says “we
are expecting you” but also says we want you to be our next new resident. A
clever leasing team at Woodbury Park in Minnesota shared this idea with me. They found
bottled water at Walmart which are perfect for writing the customer’s name
with your trusty Sharpie Marker (see example).

3. Remove any hassle that exists in the leasing process. Make it easy to
lease an apartment with you. This is an indication of your ability to manage
their home and provide great service. Services like real time availability
and on-line leasing with Vaultware could be the winning factor when your
community can’t compete with the property with 6 swimming pools and valet
trash removal!

4. Speaking of valet trash removal, have you considered this? My friend,
Scott Stamilio who represents Valet Waste, informed me that this is an
excellent service to add because the resident sees tremendous value in
having their trash bags removed from their door step 5 days a week. They
even take care of recycling too. Adding this service can justify your
competitive rents even when you don’t stack up with interior and exterior
amenities. You may not be able to build an outdoor kitchen like the new
property down the street, but you can certainly add this service and every
resident will enjoy not having to walk to a stinky dumpster.

5. Show the customer everything. One thing we heard over and over again
when Apple Founder, Steve Jobs, passed away was that he had a gift for
imagining what we did not know we needed. Many times you may offer
something that the customer did not consider for their list of apartment
needs and wants. However by demonstrating all features and amenities, you
may just strike a chord and the customer’s interest peaks.

6. Slow down. Don’t be in a hurry to rush through your model. This is
your number one sales tool. Invite the customer to take a seat on the couch
and continue your conversation with them. Making themselves at home could
be what they need to see this as their new home. Here is a tip from the
awesome leasing teams at Pacific Living Properties in Sacramento, CA, if you
open the refrigerator in their model apartment you will see festive
streamers, drinks and delicious snacks.

7. Invite the customer to pull out their trusty smart phone and shoot a
video of the apartment so they remember it.

8. Take what you have and make it a little better. Customers notice when
things are broken so fix them. Fix everything. The goal of your apartment
community is to have zero defects. The customer may be able to live without
a tennis court but they are not interested in living where the gates don’t
work. Just ask anyone who works for Avalon Bay Communities and they will
tell you their motto is “neat, clean and working”.

9. You are better than any amenity your property owner could build. We like to
buy from people we like. Be likable by going out of your way to show this
customer they are important to us. Be friendly and personable.

10. Testimonials are the new marketing. You could have the best leasing
presentation created by years of experience but your customer reads
testimonials and can be seriously influenced. Make certain everyone on the
team understands that we are working hard to make sure our customers always
have something great to say about your community. Then when asked the testimonial
is always a good one.

You can compete with apartment communities that have more amenities and or
newer apartments. Put these 10 steps into action and you will mind the gap
and create customers.