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AIM 2020 Webinar Recap - CRM Playbook

The Many Benefits of CRM Playbooks


A strong customer relationship management system (CRM) and a well-designed playbook for using that system can provide powerful benefits to an apartment community’s leasing efforts and boost net operating income (NOI).


That was one of the major takeaways from AIM’s recent “CRM Playbook to Maximize Conversions” webinar.


A CRM is a tool that allows multifamily operators to organize and manage interactions with prospects and current residents across communication channels.  The playbook is a comprehensive plan devised by the operator to guide a leasing team’s use of the CRM.


“Like a playbook in sports, a CRM playbook is designed to give you the best opportunity to win,” said moderator Justin Choi, director of marketing at Sequoia Equities, who also noted his company’s playbook is the result of a thorough planning process involving team members from across the firm. “In this case, winning the game is the conversion from lead to tour and lead to lease.”


One of the real assets of a quality CRM is the array of data it can provide showing how well leasing associates are managing leads. The metrics allow operators to identify highly specific ways in which associates can improve their performance.


“Instead of just telling your team, ‘Hey, conversion rates are low, so go get more leases,’ the data in a CRM helps you paint a clearer picture,” Choi said. “Maybe your team is having issues with timely follow-up. Maybe they’re managing their leads poorly and sending out the wrong communication at the wrong time. Maybe one team member is taking all the leads and is unable to handle them all. Or maybe one of your advertising sources is sending a ton of leads, but they’re just not converting.”


A common problem that operators experience after implementing a CRM is that executives and leasing teams initially don’t prioritize the same data to measure performance, said Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home.


“Let’s say you’re a Yardi user, and you’re addicted to your box score that you get every week – box scores don’t actually represent CRM data well,” Katler said. “If you’re an executive looking at the box score but your leasing agents are looking at managed leads, you have a really big disconnect, and you’re going to be playing police officer all the time.”


A strong CRM and a detailed playbook position a leasing associate to communicate with a prospect in a way that reflects where the lead is in the sales funnel as well as the prospect’s communication preferences, according to Katler.


To illustrate the value of these highly specific communications, Katler showed there was little correlation between one of his client’s managed lead percentage and its lead-to-lease conversion rate.


“There is no correlation between the effort and the result,” Katler said. “That would probably confuse a lot of people. The reason why is it’s not just about effort – it’s about taking the right action with the right customer at the right time.”


The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic recession could serve as a spur for more operators to invest in CRMs, said Lisa Tufano Bourie, vice president of sales at Knock.


“In a bull economy when occupancy and rents continue to rise year over year, it can be very tempting for us to underinvest in data and CRM,” she said. “But as we saw in 2008 and as we may experience again here in 2020, if you don’t have a nimble CRM and reliable data when things go sideways, it can really leave your business significantly exposed. Our onsite teams are literally risking their lives to maintain business continuity in a pandemic. So we really owe it to them now to invest in their success in meaningful ways.”


Looking ahead, Stephanie Brown, senior vice president of business development at Funnel, predicted CRMs will continue to evolve to accommodate a more mobile device-friendly application process. 


“The ability to send a link to your prospect’s phone, have them fill in a little bit of information and get a lease within 20 minutes – I think that’s where this is going,” she said. “Right now, it’s at least a two-hour process and usually more to get a lease signed.”

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