At Lincoln Property Company, vice president Jennifer Staciokas takes a holistic approach to marketing the 140,000+ apartment units her company currently manages. By creating independent community websites focused on the local areas that Lincoln Property serves, along with aggressive PPC, retargeting and SEO campaigns managed by ReachLocal, the management firm has been able to increase conversion rates and boost the number of signed leases at properties across the country.
What initially led to Lincoln Property’s partnership with ReachLocal?
We were trying to manage our AdWords campaigns in-house, and it became pretty cumbersome. We currently have 70 to 80 campaigns running, and to have the personnel to do that just doesn’t make sense.
Besides having trouble managing your AdWords campaigns, were there any other challenges you were hoping to resolve by partnering with ReachLocal?
Definitely getting more eyeballs to our website. Getting that conversion where we’re not only gaining more traffic, but actually closing leases. So, actually being able to attribute those visits to our website, following them through the funnel, and having them lease an apartment.
Another thing that attracted us to ReachLocal was that they’re a Google Premier Partner. There are a lot of creative firms in our industry that build websites and say they’re a one-stop-shop. But really, their core competency is not PPC, or retargeting, or SEO. It’s just a service they offer in addition to creating websites. We really wanted to partner [with a company] with that as their core competency.
ReachLocal offers so many tools for businesses. Which tools in particular have become the most useful when it comes to marketing at Lincoln Property?
We originally thought we would do a lot of PPC campaigns, and they would burn off over time; that we just needed to boost occupancy or get more leases, especially when we have a new construction property. But, we’ve found that we’ve seen great results — closing ratios — on those leads that have come through those campaigns. [They] stay with the site even after they are stabilized, so we’re able to reduce expenses in other marketing areas. We’re pretty much out of print altogether, and even some of the Internet listing services within our industry.
What avenues, specifically, have been most useful in terms of generating leads?
We’re really looking at a holistic online presence. PPC and retargeting play a very important role in that, but we’re also focusing on SEO, not only through our corporate site, but also the individual community websites. [We’re] definitely looking at social media engagements, directory listings, and reputation management as the way to dominate page one of Google. And then, we work with different Internet listing services such as Apartments.com or Rent.com, which are industry-specific, as well as Craig’s List.
Why is it important to maintain individual community websites, in addition to your corporate site?
It’s good to have a couple different avenues for people to find you. On our corporate site, we have a heavy SEO campaign that we’re running. So instead of doing PPC for Lincoln as a whole, because we’re so spread out nationwide, we focus more on dynamic changing content. That is working. When we Google our businesses or our local communities, they’re showing up on those searches. On the individual community websites, we’re also focusing on SEO in addition to those pay-per-click campaigns, to draw more attention to those websites, as well as retargeting.
What metrics do you look at to determine the success of your individual campaigns or your partnership with ReachLocal as a whole?
Their dashboard reporting is excellent. We’re able to log in and look at an individual campaign that’s running, and we’re able to see how many visits we’ve had. The other thing we like is we’re able to listen to the phone calls. So, if I have somebody who comes back to me and says, “This ReachLocal campaign isn’t working,” I can actually log in to the dashboard, listen to the phone calls, and say, “Well, I know why it’s not working. We’re not giving detailed information when the phone rings.”
We’ve converted that traffic to make the phone call, but we’re not converting it on our end to get them to come into the building. It’s only as good as we are on the receiving end. It definitely holds us accountable. We like, too, that these campaigns [are] not just for the typical desktop. It’s a mobile campaign, because people are searching more and more on their mobile devices, especially for local businesses.
What specific tactics do you use to convert website visitors into actual tenants, or to encourage them to actually come by and look at apartments in person?
The website we’re [using] to run campaigns has to be well built. With ReachLocal, what they’re actually doing is taking a mirror image of our website. So, they’re not necessarily helping us [create our site], they’re just drawing the traffic. If we’re drawing traffic to a website, we need to make sure people aren’t bouncing off within a few seconds. We need to make sure the descriptions on the campaign really tie into the keywords that people are typing in, and that it’s relevant to their search. And in our websites, we need to have vibrant photography, videos, floor plans, accurate pricing, and allow people to actually lease sight unseen.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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