Apartment Leasing

Long-Tailed Leads and the Opportunity to Say “Yes”

by Todd Katler

With cross-country moves continuing and a sizable portion of the workforce shifting to remote and hybrid work environments, prospective residents are beginning searches for new homes much earlier, allowing time to ensure their chosen community meets their specific needs. This is frequently the case with people transitioning to new states, who prefer to examine all their options to help ease the stress of relocating. How can we make sure we’re not leaving these leads behind?

When your sales cadence is determined by the lead creation date, you are trying to force the consumer to do what you want them to do. But, when your sales cadence is determined by the intended move-in date, you are conforming to desires of the customer and giving them a better opportunity to say “yes!”

A recent examination of the data holistically across multiple properties in a portfolio revealed some interesting insights and shows why owner/operators should examine their data. Looking at the chart below, an examination of lead to lease conversions for five ILS systems shows that leads marked “Closed” in ILS 1 surprisingly produced a higher conversion rate than leads left in “Inquiry” status. In ILS 3, the “Closed” leads produced an equivalent number of conversions as “Inquiry.”

Why does this matter? Typically, the nurturing of leads is dictated by the creation date, as opposed to the intended move-in date, with younger leads garnering the most attention and property engagement. With the average lead to lease converting after about 42.4 days, anything beyond that window would seem fruitless. However in this example, both ILS’ converted noticeably longer with ILS 3 taking 50.7 days, and ILS 1 converting after a whopping 56.2 days.

Software in the multifamily industry can make tracking changes a challenge, especially if a community is relying on a single BI, CRM, or PMS tool. While beneficial to lead generation and nurturing, anomalies in the data might be overlooked and result in missed leasing opportunities, especially if the focus is on lead creation dates and not intended move-in dates.

If a community’s ILS system is still designed to move long-tail leads to a “Closed” status based on historical data of shorter leasing funnels, there’s a strong chance they could be losing out on conversions. Long-tail leads have historically been perceived as “dead” with a much lower chance of a conversion. The shift in leasing habits by the public has necessitated flipping that approach, making the intended move-in date more important than the lead-creation date.

These differences may not be the same for all communities, as habits have not necessarily changed in every market. However, it suggests that owner/operators should examine their data systems and make sure they’re nurturing viable long-tail leads as much as short-tail leads in their portfolio, thus reducing the chances of missed conversions.

If you’re seeing numbers like those in ILS 1, you may want to adjust your systems to meet the changes in resident trends. If an examination in your data shows otherwise, you may not need to make adjustments. Leasing teams in search of more opportunities may consider prioritizing move-in dates in their data.

How else can properties help manage those longer-tailed leads? Automated email or SMS text messages and next step reminders can make sure those looking to lease further into the future are not lost in the leasing cycle and are taking the right action at the right time.

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