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November, 2009:

Call for stories!!!

The response to my blog has been overwhelming! Thank you so much for the support AND, the most rewarding surprise: I have received tons of emails and comments (sometimes a call too!) about YOUR stories! Reading and listening to your stories has made me laugh, cry, sometimes even gag a little – the full gamet of emotions. As more and more of you contacted me about YOUR funny, heart-warming, odd stories, I realized that for an industry that has some of the smartest, funniest, most caring people I have ever known, YOUR voices and YOUR stories are seldom heard or shared. (Except maybe behind closed doors.)

Why is this? Usually fear. Fear of our bosses, fear that somehow, we are the ONLY ones that have ever experienced something this crazy, fear of violating fair housing regulations, fear of our competition, fear of the unknown. Well, fear no more.

It was obvious to me that even though you FEARED telling someone, you didn’t have  a fear telling me. Perhaps it was because you saw my post about me, and realized I wasn’t some scary, crazy, one-eyed blogger? Perhaps you identified with my stories? Perhaps you heard something in my blog that rang true? Perhaps you knew I would read, laugh, cry and listen with you? Well, ALL of the above!

So, this brings me to some very exciting news. I have registered the URL RENTERTAINING.com. RENTERTAINING.com will be a sister company/website/blog to RENT SODA. RENTERTAINING.com  showcases YOUR stories. You can be anonymous, or you can identify yourself. Whatever your comfort zone is. Any incriminating details will be removed to protect the identities of the innocent. (GRIN!) But the content -  YOUR story will shine through so that others, real people in this very real indsutry of ours, can laugh and cry with you. Just as I did.

So, with that, I am putting out a call for YOUR stories. Email me at daisy {at} rentertaining(.)com. Over the next few weeks, I will be working on RENTERTAINING.com (don’t check it yet, there’s nothing up yet), and hope to launch it for New Year’s. Just in time to start off 2010 right.

Your partner in pursuit of laughter,

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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Thankful for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is around the corner. I’m going to take a break from my 3-part series on facebook, and be thankful. I’m  thankful for some of the hardest working yet most underappreciated people in our industry – the vendors of the multi-family industry.

I should also point out, that as an industry, WE, ourselves, are vendors. We are vendors to every person who rents an apartment from us. Knowing how bad it feels when a renter takes out their frustrations on us, why do we do that to our vendors? We know that it takes time to learn about someone in order to sell our value proposition (remember all those questions from the guest card?), and how frustrating it is when our prospects say,  “just tell me how much it is,” and yet we’re always asking this of our vendors all the time. (Remember when you asked your sales person to *JUST* give you a number, without taking the time to explain what you want?) How hard is it to sell on value when you prospect says, “Well, ABC Apartments down the road is giving away 2 months free rent,” and we turn right around and tell XYZ contractors their bid is 2 cents too high. Our renters don’t buy IT, as we aren’t buying IT ourselves. Kinda sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, huh?

Don’t get me wrong – smart business is still smart business. We definitely need to know where the market is and demand competitive pricing from our vendors. Whether the service is software, advertising, carpeting, screening, information, bulk purchasing, etc., beyond asking that vendors be competitively priced for the market, the secret to my success has been carefully choosing the right business partner for my needs. THIS is the exact intersection point where smart business becomes GOOD business. The “smart” business person in me would have squeezed that extra 2-3% savings out of a vendor. The “good” business person in me realizes a 2-3% savings will be repaid back ten-fold through a healthy business partnering relationship. The right business relationship can mean the extra competitive edge it takes to succeed in today’s economy.

Back to being thankful…

November 23rd, 2009

Dear Business Partner, (you know who you are!)

Thank you for all the things you have done to make me successful including:

  • giving me competitive pricing so that I can in turn be competitive
  • service with a smile (even when I have been less than helpful!)
  • answering my calls – even after hours
  • providing me with several options to choose from
  • pointing me to the best options for my situation
  • getting me the bid asap (i.e. yesterday)
  • bidding it 4 different ways with 2 different options = 8x’s more work for you, just so I can make a decision
  • wanting me to succeed
  • servicing my needs so that I can spend more time servicing my residents
  • providing free information in your field of expertise
  • delivering what you promised, and then some!

Thank you for partnering with me on our road to success.

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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Facebook-itis: Addressing the fear of facebook head on!

Part II: Facebook-itis: Addressing the fear of facebook head on! AKA Should my site(s)/apartment community(s) ”do” facebook? - This is usually asked by someone who realizes that they NEED to be on Facebook – because everyone ELSE is thinking about it or already “DOING IT.” Heard the buzz, now wondering…

This is PART II of a 3-part series. You can read the intro here:

3 facebook questions everyone asks when starting out… 

OR Part I: The ROI of Facebook – the Value of Creating Community

This is a great question. And the answer is as simple as YES.

KNOW THIS: In the Multi-family residential industry, we know who our typical renter demographic is - the biggest group of renters is ages 18-30. (Demographic information from NMHC - to see more demographic information, click here.) Our second biggest group, ages 30 – 44, and then 3rd largest demographic age group is 45-64, and then 4th is 65+.

KNOW THIS: Facebook demographics, as reported by istrategylabs.com as of 07/04/09, reported that the largest demographic of facebook users, ages 18 – 34 years old, totalled over 36MILLION users. The 2nd biggest demographic age group reported was 35-54 years old - totalled over 20MILLION users. The 55+years old user group totaled over 6MILLION users. The 55+ group was growing at a rate of 513% from the first half of 2009. (For complete istrategylabs.com statistics on facebook-click here. To see facebook’s statistics click here.) If your renter or prospect isn’t already on facebook, they WILL be. Will you be there to welcome them?

Technology continues to change, and with change comes new technology. Stay current with the new technologies – that’s how today’s business is done. (And for the most part, they can make life easier!)

If you think facebook maybe a fad – so what? A fad that has the attention of over 62MILLION U.S. users. WOW. GET IT while the gettin’s good. And if something else comes along, you can get GET THAT too.

And what about fear? Let’s address those fears quickly: Fear that you maybe exposing yourselves to liability? Fear that you may project the wrong image? Or fear that you may say the wrong things? Or fear that this might be too much work?

Well, to quote one of John Mayer’s recent tweets, ” …life may continue to be hard for you.” (For John Mayer’s full tweet/quote in its original context, click here and look at November 7th, 2009′s tweet.)

-Hey, I’m just being real. Agree? Disagree? LOVE IT? HATE IT? Still undecided? Want to chat? Leave me a comment!

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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The ROI of facebook – the value of creating community

OK, so the million dollar question is:

What is the ROI (Return on Investment) of facebook for my site? Usually followed up by – how many leases can I get from facebook? Serious questions, and just like an owner/investor/upper management to get to the point – eh?

Well, short answer is your ROI is either 0% (yes you read it right, ZERO) or 100% depending on how you look at it. Intrigued? Read on…

This is PART I of a 3-part series. You can read the intro here:

3 facebook questions everyone asks when starting out… 

Facebook is all about creating community.  It’s all about people connecting with other people because they have at least one thing in common. There is a group for just about anything and everything, from politics, to sports, to music. Some as broad as “I Love Music” fan page which has over 2.4million fans, to the more specific, like “Sting” fan page that has over 300,000 fans, to your local band, who may have 100 fans.

Your apartment/site IS a community – whether you are 30 units or 300 units or 968 units, your apartment IS a community. Your #1 person on site – their title is “COMMUNITY MANAGER.” hmmmm….

Before facebook, and it wasn’t so long ago, most sites had a bulletin board of some sort. The community manager &  staff would decorate this board, organize it, and make sure it fit within the guidelines of your community in appearance and postings. You allowed residents to post random things on there, like “looking for roommate,” or “need a pet sitter from Jan 1 – Jan 8th, willing to trade services,” to “Lost Camera – gray, please contact Jon,” to “Superbowl Party - come join us in Apt#101!” Does anyone know what the ROI of this bulletin board was?

Before facebook, the savvy community manager created that sense of community with their interactions, their presence, their personality. What is the ROI on creating a sense of community?

Today, FACEBOOK. And its not just a little bulletin board. It’s BIG, in a BIG BIG way. Instead of that physical board, or the need to be physically AT a site or physically interacting with a community manager to get that sense of community, facebook helps you streamline that process. With a few clicks, your site has a central communication tool for your residents. Who better to control that tool than YOU? As before, you control what it looks like, what is said, and what is allowed. YOU get to set that example of community, nourish it, encourage it. You create that sense of community, you ARE that personality. Unlike that bulletin board, this online community can reach more than just your current residents. It’s out there in cyberspace – and guess what? Your prospects are going to check out what kind of community you allow, encourage and nourish. Sure, your prospects will visit your website. AND, they’ll also visit apartmentratings.com. But more importantly, they WILL look for your facebook page. What will they see?

So now, all the sudden the online community that you’ve been nourishing, encouraging, allowing, is not just a communications tool for your current residents. It is a marketing tool that you can use to reinforce your community image. People want to see who you (ABC Apartments) are and how you interact. They’ve already seen your website, they’ve already read the reviews on apartmentratings.com (and still interested!) and now they are serious. They want to know you, your apartment community. They are ready, eager, and willing to learn. This is your prospect who is ready to make a decision. And this is the best time to capture them. Are you ready?

So then the questions become: Why facebook? If I’m not really getting hard leasing numbers from using facebook, why do it at all? Why can’t I just direct people to my website? Its better designed, it looks great, it has a lot of information, THAT’s the image we want to project!

Because your residents/prospects are ALREADY on facebook. YOU want to connect with THEM, in a way that they prefer, are already used to, and feel safest. If you’re not already doing it, who’s to say, they won’t go ahead and create their own group? What if someone created a group called “The residents of ABC Apartments,” and you weren’t a part of that? Worse than not a part being a part of that – you would have no control over the group if someone else sets it up.

GET THIS: Today, you may not be able to measure exactly how may leases you will get from facebook. How do you measure all the leases you are missing out on? How many times did you miss an opportunity when your prospect was, ready, eager & willing?

GET THIS: You should already be using facebook as a communications tool for your current residents. If it also serves a marketing purpose … well then the ROI just doubled. (This is truly killing 2 birds with 1 stone…)

The ROI of facebook is all about the value of creating community. Emphasize the “community” in “apartment community.” Emphasize the “community” in “community manager.” Create that community. That community suddenly doubles as a marketing tool.

So, what’s the ROI on facebook for your community?

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Web: RentSoda.com

Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Blog: RentSoda.Wordpress.com

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3 Facebook questions everyone asks when starting out…

People ask me all the time about facebook. Some people are just confused, some are scared, some are excited, some are clueless, still others hesitant, and then there are those who FAKE it! (You know who I’m talking about!) Why all the confusion? Why all the ruckus? I just don’t get it, and if you have been reading my posts and know my tagline, well, I GET IT. But all this confusion is…confusing!

So, let’s talk it out, or should I say, blog it out. I’ve narrowed down the top three questions I get asked most often:

1.) What is my ROI when using facebook as a marketing tool? – This is usually asked by various levels of upper management – your CEO’s/COO’s/VP’s/Director’s. Occasionally a very business-minded manager also ponders this out loud.

2.) Should my site(s) “do” facebook? – This is usually asked by someone who realizes that they NEED to be on Facebook – because everyone ELSE is thinking about it or already “DOING IT.”

3.) What should we (as sites) be “doing” on facebook? – This is usually asked by someone who has just opened up a facebook account and realizes they don’t know what to say or “do.” Their friend list consists of 22 people - 10 of whom are vendors, 8 are competitors, 1 is their mother, and the last 3, they *hope* are residents or prospects of their apartment community. OUCH.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a TON of other questions, but these are the ones I get asked most often. AND, very relevant questions for beginning users, intermediate users, and advanced users. As an industry, we need to understand these 3 questions – and GET IT – right.

HEAVY questions – this week, I will be writing a series of 3 posts to address each of these questions in a little more depth, but keeping each post at a reasonably short length. Hopefully I can make light of the  questions and have some fun while I’m at it! The good news: by asking these questions, you are on the right track to GET IT!

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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There's a MARKET for THAT!

More often than we’d like to admit, we don’t like who we are, we try to be more than what we are, and in the end, no one is happy. This is the way it is both personally & professionally. To top it off, in the professional circuits, they call THAT “marketing.” I call it “bait and switch,” and as a consumer, I hate it. So why do companies do it? And more importantly, why do WE, as multi-family housing providers market this way?

Don’t think you do this?

Take for example a recent advertisement I saw in a typical apartment advertising magazine, imagine: a beautiful, tranquil pool, nice pool furniture arranged perfectly and a tagline along the lines of “live at ABC Apartments and you could be relaxing at your pool!) Then imagine making an appointment and driving up to a property that looks nothing like the picture, EXCEPT you DO recognize the pool. You thought this was a classy mid-range apartment complex, but it ends up being in a questionable part of town. You are disappointed, and the whole time during your tour, the leasing agent looks apologetic, avoids looking you in the eye and tries to sell the pool, as if you are going to be LIVING at the pool 24/7! You realize that this is not for you, and politely decline their offers of 2 months free rent if you sign TODAY! The big mistake with this scenario is that the people who placed the ad (whether it was a marketing company or a marketing department) assumed that the best thing about this particular property was the pool. Sure, it was a nice pool, and it was obvious they spent time to make sure the pool looked nice. HOWEVER this is not the reason why people lived at ABC apartments. (At least not the #1 – #5 reason)

When I visited this property, talked to a few residents, the leasing agents/staff, these were the reasons why they stated they lived at ABC Apartments:

  1. The rent is affordable. It is at the lower end of the rental spectrum, but its what I can afford.
  2. They do not let criminals live here. It is safe, and even though it is an “affordable” property, it is safe. I feel safe.
  3. Even though it is an affordable property, it is clean.
  4. Even though it is an affordable property, it is well maintained, and the staff respond to maintenance requests timely.
  5. It is in my price range and very centrally located so that my girlfriend and I can both commute to our jobs without a long drive.

Notice how many people mentioned the affordability factor and not a single one mentioned the pool! (Please note, this particular property is not a subsidized property, just a property that had low rents.)

KNOW your property, and KNOW why people REALLY rent from you. START THERE – and advertise the HECK out of THAT! For this particular property, I would have recommended advertising the affordability factor, advertising the “WE DO NOT ACCEPT CRIMINALS” factor (sure as a professional management company you might think this is standard, but don’t assume your residents know this or that your competition is doing this), and advertise the cleanliness! There is a market for affordable housing that is clean and criminal free. The people who ARE going to rent from you CARE about these things, and they could care less about that outdated pool. AND, if you surprise them with a fantastic pool – well then, that WOULD be impressive! No switch and bait. Instead of trying to be something you’re clearly not, why not try to be EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE? There’s a MARKET for THAT.

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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Time to SHAKE IT UP!

I am a problem solver, so when people call me, it’s because they have a problem or in some instances, several problems. So, for me, problems are good for business. I love other people’s problems, as that means I can help. (at least in most cases!)

Lately, I have been getting calls regarding the market. We all know, the market has changed, and so many companies and people are having trouble changing to respond to this new economic environment. My conversations usually go something like this:

Caller: The market has changed, and my vacancy at XYZ Apartments is creeping up. We recently took a huge hit in August, and occupancy rates have never been this low before, and we have NO traffic. We’ve been trying everything – all the things we’ve done in the past that has worked for us, but this time, nothing is working. Do you have any ideas where else we can get traffic and help me with my vacancy?

WAIT a minute, let me get this right. You’re trying all the things that you’ve always done, and they aren’t working. Have you considered trying something different? A different market/economy calls for a new/revised marketing approach. If all your advertising sources aren’t working, it could be your advertising and approach.

Many people THINK they want to try something new, but they are still stuck on the “we’ve never done THAT before.” In talking with new or prospective clients, much of my initial conversations are centered around just getting everyone comfortable with trying something different. What is it about change that people are afraid of? If you haven’t already noticed, the times have changed without your permission. If all the old things aren’t working, if the market conditions have changed, doesn’t it make sense to:

Revisit … Revamp … Renew … Re-invent!

Folks, its time to SHAKE IT UP. The worse that could happen is that you might continue to be right where you’re at – as that is what the market demands. However, if you change to accomodate your market, you just COULD capture the attention, hearts, minds, needs of this new market. Imagine THAT! What would that mean for your property?

My next several blog posts will be centered around some small changes that can have a HUGE affect on your bottom line.

SHAKE IT UP!

Don’t Get it? GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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Happy Endings & New Beginnings

Happy Endings & New Beginnings!

 First for the Happy Endings – my last day as Chief Operating Officer at Greco was Friday, October 30th, 2009. What a great couple of years it has been, cumulating in establishing a new Property Management Company as well as the successful launch of a new Greco developed/managed/owned luxury property – Blue in Uptown Minneapolis. Blue, a 242 unit apartment project, recently won 5 MADACS awards from MHA in September of 2009 for excellence in the Property Management Industry.

 Next – New Beginnings – starting Monday, November 2nd, 2009, I am launching my own consulting firm – RENT SODA. RENT SODA consults to the Property Management and Real Estate Development industries, striving to help its clients achieve excellence and success in the evolving marketplace. Greco will be my first client.

 Please take a moment to update my new contact information:

 Cell: 612-889-3733

Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Web: http://rentsoda.com – the website will launch early this week.

For those of you who know me, please take a moment to update to my new contact information.

Watch for exciting new updates and announcements over the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about RENT SODA, please feel free to contact me.

-Cheers!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

Cell. 612.889.3733

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