Owning and managing an investment property isn’t all about bricks and mortar and collecting rent cheques from tenants. It’s about enhancing the resident experience, building a harmonious community and ensuring the longevity of that community via good benchmarking strategies and efforts.
With so many different players in the rental market today, being successful means paying close attention to what the competition is up to—particularly when it comes to how owners and property managers are marketing themselves publicly.
The advent of social media has made it easy to tap into what other rental companies are doing, which in turn, is making it easier for the industry as a whole to identify new trends and ideas. Having an eye on change, keeping up with industry leaders and benchmarking against those leaders could have enormous impact on a company’s reputation and ability to deliver top notch service.
“Most market surveys have the same goal, which is to uncover information about the competition and adjust communications accordingly,” explains Chaim Rivlin, president of Rentseeker.ca. “But, while keeping an eye on the marketing activities of other companies can provide a broad range of insight into of-the-moment trends, I find that the most effective campaigns are the ones that pave their own course.”
Over the past decade, digital communications have exploded in popularity with advances in technology making outreach efforts fast and convenient for both the marketer and the audience. But even though online marketing may seem ‘like a breeze,’ Rivlin warns that it is actually an incredibly sophisticated area that requires careful planning, tailoring and implementation—particularly when social media is in the mix.
“A unique, brand-specific strategy will beat the competition any day,” he stresses. “You can certainly take your cues from other companies, but I truly believe that the best ideas are homegrown.”
To begin your benchmarking efforts, Rivlin suggests taking a good look at the competition’s apartment listings. What deals or promotions are they offering? What property features are being emphasized? Are they identifying themselves as green leaders? What style of language are they using to sell themselves? Again, Rivlin says the idea isn’t to copy the competition but to use their initiatives to help refine your own messaging and carve out your own brand identity.
And apartment listings are just the beginning—websites and social media offer a wealth of insight into what the competition has to offer. What tone of voice are they using to describe themselves? What is their value proposition? What kind of testimonials and supporting data are they using to promote their services? When looking at social media, how often are they reaching out to followers, and what kind of information are they sharing—is it mostly self-serving or is it beneficial to residents?
Darren Hunter (of darrenhunter.com) is an international property management trainer, speaker, consultant and authority on property management fees and income maximization strategies.Though he echoes Rivlin’s sentiments, he adds that keeping on the cusp of new trends and ideas is just one benefit of benchmarking.
“If you know your competition and you really understand them,” he says, “then you will also know their weaknesses. And once you know their weaknesses, then it will be easy for you to shine in the marketplace.”
Hunter adds that companies that give poor results typically have poor values and these competitors will show themselves quickly through your benchmarking efforts. “You can know your competitors’ weaknesses at the top,” he says, “simply by examining their results at the bottom.”
And a weak competitor is really no competitor at all.
Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine