Today’s episode is counting cars and rental property marketing. Measuring traffic goes way beyond counting cars anymore, of course. There’s been a paradigm shift.
[00:00:16] There’s a different way of thinking today as opposed to even two or five years ago. Anymore we don’t talk about cars as much as we talk about marketing or branding. From measuring car counts, we now talk about social media impressions or interactions. But let’s not discount car counts just yet because most people arrive at your door from a vehicle.
In ultra-urban areas like San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York that number is smaller because of pedestrian traffic with the accessibility of public transportation. In most of the country people who arrive at properties are in a car with four wheels and a steering wheel.
[00:01:03] As much as I’d like to think that in the future people will be showing up at your rental property with an autonomous vehicle we’re not quite there yet. Following are some questions I have for your consideration with respect to counting cars because that is a part of what presents our property to the world and how people find us.
[00:01:26] I want to ask you if you know the car counts that are passing your asset every day? On top of that that what about their average speed as they pass by your property? And with that the question is: is your marketing message capturing these potential customers? It’s a presumption that cars are passing your property. It’s a presumption that they recognize that your properties are there. But like everything else, every asset can kind of blend into the scenery after a period of time.
[00:01:56] I can tell you about a grand hotel that’s at the St. Louis airport. It’s been there forever and a day. And I’ve stayed there many times. There’s no way you cannot see this hotel when you’re going into the St. Louis airport. It’s maybe been five years now that there is a paradigm shift with this asset and that shift was a video billboard placed on the part of the building that faces the airport as you arrive. I can tell you as much as I know that hotel has been there forever now when I go in and out of that airport there’s never a time when I don’t raise my eyes and look at that video billboard.
[00:02:42] My interaction with that property has changed dramatically just based on signage. Too many non-institutional owners treat their marketing as a necessary evil and not a continuous part of their business. But there are opportunities to change what you’re doing which don’t necessarily require video signage but a change in the way that your property is acting and interacting with the environment around it.
[00:03:11] Having a market presence requires a consistency in message delivery, right? We know this from social media marketing. One of the ways to do this on property is having appropriate signage and the right message. We talked earlier about do you know your car accounts and what the speed is? The speed of cars passing your property must match with the size of the signage that they can see given the speed that they’re going.
[00:03:42] Are we getting into the weeds of marketing when we’re talking about car counts. Absolutely. But there’s a reason for this. We’re always looking for incremental ways to increase our marketing coverage our marketing map and our marketing penetration and gain incremental increases, in not only rents, but in leases and leases captured. So how do we do that? We do that by using everything at our disposal.
[00:04:10] Car counts as one of those tools. What we want to know what the car counts are and one of the ways of identifying that is just a simple call sometimes the planning and zoning. You may have to go to their offices but planning and zoning is responsible for knowing the load on each street within their municipality. They need to know the load or the traffic count so that they can schedule maintenance appropriately. That’s the first place to start.
[00:04:36] The old-fashioned ways of gaining car counts is just to get out a lawn chair in a small cooler find a shady spot and start counting cars at peak times which is usually morning and afternoon commute times. I know that sounds silly but the information that you’re gaining is invaluable to your marketing efforts because for properties with good street visibility and high vehicle traffic counts designing appropriate signage strategy requires knowing not only traffic counts but the speeds of the vehicles going by. At 60 miles-an-hour they’re not very likely to capture a name and phone number. But of a web address appropriately placed, in the right size, could be enough to gain additional potential leases for your property. You want to remove the three W’s anymore that’s pretty much unnecessary.
[00:05:35] Let’s talk about properties with zero traffic counts for a minute. When there’s zero traffic counts, or no cars going by your property, you’ll want to count pedestrians if that’s if that’s possible. Where signage is important is that people know how to arrive. Your marketing message requires getting people to your site by the most direct route. Every marketing piece should have easy to find directions even if the directions are still somewhat involved. Still state that they’re easy to find directions and the objective is to reduce the barrier to entry, or in this case, to gain showings so that people are not getting lost just trying to get to your properties.
[00:06:19] Your objective as a marketer of a hard to find property is to make it as easy as possible for your potential resident to find your front door. We know that every multi-family property is unique, every rental property is unique and everyone has a different car account. But knowing the car count is imperative to gaining knowledge and implementing marketing best practices that’s appropriate for that asset.
[00:06:45] And that’s the objective of this short talk- to get you thinking about car counts, pedestrian counts; how you can gain additional showings so that your rental income can increase based on higher visibility from just this one small data point.
[00:07:03] As we shared earlier the paradigm has shifted. Marketing has changed but car counts, as simplistic as they are, in pedestrian counts as simplistic, as they are can still have a dramatic impact on your leasing activity and in turn on your rental income from capturing additional leases just from knowing car counts and applying that information so that it has a positive impact on your outcomes.
[00:07:32] Are we getting into the weeds of marketing when we’re talking about car counts. Absolutely. But there’s a reason for this. Let’s expand our conversation past car accounts for a moment and talk about apartment marketing or multifamily marketing. When potential residents come to your property, one of the first things are looking for is ready product.
[00:07:53] You must have units available and ready to rent- not going to be one day or potentially when they (the prospect) comes back. Your product must be ready when they show up. If you don’t have ready product, then you’re not in business. You’re about to be in business but you’re not in business on the day that potential resident shows up.
[00:08:13] Let me present to you a few things that potential or prospective residents are asking themselves when they come to your property. When they did come to the property they’re looking to see if they like the architecture, the landscaping the availability of parking and if it has a sense of place. Is there personal safety? These are the things that people look at consciously and subconsciously when they’re deciding not a place to rent.
[00:08:38] They’re also looking at the neighborhood. Where will I shop? Is my church close by? Are there parks and public spaces? Now it doesn’t matter if a potential resident uses any of these things. They want to know if they’re available to them. What’s my commute time to work? Do I have to drive to get coffee? Is it on my route? And they also want to know a little bit about their neighbors.
[00:09:00] They may not ask these questions, but these are the questions that potential residents are asking themselves. Are there people there that speak the same language they do, drive the same type of cars have the same types of pets? What does the age etc.?
[00:09:17] And on property management who is managing and do they have any prior experience with that same management company? These are things that the resident is asking themselves while they’re at your property. They may also have a little interest in knowing who ownership is, sometimes yes sometimes no.
[00:09:35] From a resident’s perspective, leasing choices affected by one or more of the above. Any of these things can negatively impact their decision on whether to proceed with an application. The property, the neighborhood, who is living there now or their prior relationship with property management (if any) and to a small degree potentially ownership?
[00:09:57] These are the questions that you can ask those that visit your property with an exit survey. The exit survey can be done on site before they leave work can also be done via email. But collecting this information will provide you with further insight as to how potential residents view the property that you are representing. This is another point of marketing that doesn’t necessarily have to do with car counts but it does have to do with the persona of your potential resident and the persona of your property. And we’re looking for a match in those two, right? And we also want a match that has a long-standing potential relationship there.
[00:10:40] Don’t discount these (resident questions) about your marketing message and how you present your property to the world. I know we’re talking about car accounts, specifically, but this is more on marketing your asset to potential residents and those that have a fit with your property. Those that can make it a home for the long term. When I say long term, I’m staying longer than the initial 12-month lease. We want to have people that come and reside at our properties, that stay for an extended period. Because every time we can extend the 12-month lease longer we are reducing our turnover costs and directly affecting our expenditures, on not only marketing, but also on turnover. It’s a positive every time you can get those renewals to be extended and extended out past that initial lease term. It’s a win-win for not only the resident but also for the property owner.
[00:11:40] In this episode I wanted to take you down a road less traveled because in modern day marketing stopping to count cars seems so antiquated. And looking at your customer from your customer’s perspective, we often just overlook that because we have all these other tools to attract and attack our customer (from a marketing perspective) without hardly ever stopping to think about how they look at us and our property through their eyes.
[00:12:10] These are two old school methodologies (car counts and creating a customer persona) that kind of bring you back to center and gets you away from everything electronic or everything media, everything internet and bring it back down to center where looking at car counts, looking at your property from your customers perspective really creates that baseline or that and cornerstone of thinking opportunity so that you can attract the type of person that you’re looking to attract and attract the right resident for your property.
[00:12:45] This has been John Wilhoit on Real Estate.
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John Wilhoit is a real estate professional specializing in residential asset management and property management. John has an undergraduate Degree in Business and a Master’s Degree in Urban Studies. Learn more about John here.