The 4 secrets to kicking your ILS habit

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Technology is designed to make our lives easier. No one is designing that cool tech gadget to give you more work to do. So when ILS’s came out they promised a whole new approach to Marketing. “Prospects will come to us because we’ll spend tons of dough on SEO and Ad Words and then we’ll send them to you to rent an apartment. Sometimes we’ll pay those prospects an incentive to rent and we’ll charge you a hefty fee as a thank you for giving them to you.” In theory it doesn’t sound too bad. You get leads with little effort or energy and the burden of all that Marketing is done for you.

Having ILS’s as your main Marketing mix is just lazy Marketing.

I mean seriously… technology is so useful and gosh darn helpful why do we need to Market at all? Just slap our properties on these ILS’s, throw up some decent copy and let er go. So what if this stuff costs us a boat load of money? We’re able to focus on way more important things. I mean seriously why bother with these minor details like lead generation? Bah.

ILS’s are everywhere.

“It’s impossible to compete. You ever see those Google organic search results?” Don’t give up. Here’s what I think about it. Our biggest demographic is 20-30 year olds. This generation isn’t really keen on grabbing a magazine to find an apartment. Their apartment search begins one of two ways. Google or Craigslist. Why? It’s what they know. So what does this mean? You must be there otherwise someone else will. That someone already has. The ILS’s have done their homework and own this space. It’s time to take it back. Sure it will take time and effort but with a good strategy and approach, over the next 6 months, you can kick the “habit”.

1) Have a killer website.

What I love about the business website is that the only thing preventing you from being creative is YOU. ILS’s have beautiful websites but it’s on their terms. You can’t move pictures around because you’re feeling those creative juices flowing. You’re limited by THEIR creativity; not yours. Business websites should be engaging with their visitors. Here are some ways you can engage:

  • Showing Facebook streams and recent Twitter posts
  • These are great ways of demonstrating how great your service is and what type of company you are. Plus it gives your prospects a way to get a hold of someone much quicker by providing links to your Twitter stream and Business Facebook pages.

  • Online Chats
  • Have a prospect who has a question? Besides the phone there’s no better way to engage with someone than by chatting online.

  • Contact Pages
  • Sure it’s the snail mail version of engagement but you must have a working contact Us page. It’s still relevant today. Kind of like “leaving a message after the tone.”

  • Blogging
  • Blogging can help us later (SEO) but it’s also a great way to engage with your prospects and get them to come back to read more.

How else can you engage?

2) Claim your Apartments on Google Places for Business

Here’s an experiment for those non-believers. Go to Google and search the following terms: “apartments rental baltimore”. Do you notice the Places listings that show? What’s great about this “organic” search result is that you didn’t have to pay to be there. Sure you’re creatively bound because it’s Google’s rules but you’re not paying for leads so who cares? Still haven’t claimed your listings yet? Stop reading and do it… NOW. There’s a caveat though … Google uses ApartmentRatings for their ratings. Let’s not go into why we dislike that here…

3) Craigslist

Sure I’ve talked about Craigslist in many posts. The fact is I still hear of people not using it. I don’t understand why this is so. Remember what I said about lazy Marketing? Sure Craigslist takes effort and creativity. Isn’t that one of the things that makes Marketing so much fun? Creativity? You have lots of flexibility here… interesting titles, in your face descriptions, pictures to WOW you. What’s not to like? Alright maybe a few things:

  • Craigslist takes time.
  • It’s worth it. It drives the highest percentage of our leads hands down. Bottom line is it works. I don’t want to hear “It doesn’t work in our market.” Bah. It means your ads aren’t working. Try something else.

  • There are no metrics.
  • There are a lot of software packages that can do this. RentSentinel is the best but there are lots of other ones. These software packages are cheap and offer metrics you could only dream of before. Want to find out which templates work, which titles are effective and when the best time to post is … it’s possible and it’s amazing.

4) Learn SEO and crush it.

Search Engine Optimization gets your website seen by the search engines. When someone is typing in “Apartments Baltimore” it’s getting your website to show up in the organic listings. Pull Marketing is great because it’s putting your apartment in a prospects face at the time they are looking for it. Here’s another experiment for you. Type in “Apartments Baltimore” (or your town) in Google. What comes up? What type of effort do you think it will take to get you there? You’ll need to maximize the keywords you use, create great backlinks and integrate with social media. (See Killer Website). Here’s a good website to get you started and there are lots of vendor sharks out there swarming around that would love to help as well. Hopefully we can get some comments below to point people in the right direction.

Can’t expect miracles quickly

I’m not suggesting you should adopt a strategy to get rid of all of your ILS’s. They provide a great service. By using these not so secrets you can eliminate your reliance on them. Driving people to your website by good SEO or capturing leads from Craigslist can be an extremely effective lead generator. The best part is it can be much more inexpensive to do so, more trackable, and the creative possibilities are endless.

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