Time For Action: Listen and Learn

November 2, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Management Ideas, Apartment Marketing Ideas


Time Multifamilypro's Brainstorming SessionsBy Tami Siewruk

When a New Year rolls around, it generally brings with it an amazing seasonal opportunity to nose around in other people’s business.  We go around asking each other what our resolutions are, like it’s a simple question that anyone should be able to answer freely at the drop of a hat.  Think about it — what you’re really asking is “In what areas do you find yourself to be so horribly deficient that you’ll need to place special emphasis on them for an entire year in order to bring them up to par?”  Talk about a personal question!!!  Okay… so maybe that’s a bit rough.  Sharing resolutions really is a good thing — it’s a little humbling, and reminds us that we have room to grow and evolve, and voicing our goals gives us a chance to strengthen our resolve.  Face it — once you’ve said it out loud, you might as well commit to following through, because you won’t even be able to count the number of times you’ll be asked personal stuff like “how many inches have you lost on your thighs so far?” or “aren’t you pregnant yet?.

Before I’m even asked, I’ve decided to share my biggest resolution for 2014 with all of you — all several thousand of my readers.  How’s that for commitment?

This is my problem:  I am stupid (and I do mean stupid).  I listen attentively to what other people have to say to me because information is power, and the more information I receive, the more empowered I am to be the best person I can be.  This is the line of b%#!s*%+ that I was more than happy to believe about myself for pretty much all of 2013. I am stupid because I do listen — at least for the few seconds that it takes me to decide whether I agree or disagree, or whether or not the information is useful to me.  If I agree or if the info means something to me, I listen some more.  If I don’t agree or don’t care, I don’t listen.  It’s that simple.  It only gets complicated when I realize — usually way later — that I should have listened a little further before I shut my ears off, because that bit of information really was important to me, whether I agreed with it or not.  Lots of times, I probably don’t ever realize that I missed out on some pretty good stuff — and ignorance may be bliss, but I can promise you that it certainly isn’t profitable.

Here’s a fine example of my stupidity in action in 2013, and the driving force behind my 2014 resolution to focus on what others are trying to teach me (and hopefully, become less stupid in the process).  My friend, is the Executive Vice President of a major Property Management Company, and he has a real talent for marketing.  This should have been reason enough for me to listen, but it’s no secret that I know everything already. Now, even if I’m not really listening, I’m rarely rude about it — I said “Yeah!  That’s a great idea!” and then apparently quit listening, because as great a suggestion as this was, I didn’t do a thing about it.

The fact is, I had no idea what a great suggestion it really was until four months later when I bothered to check it out even further. The bottom line is that I, finally listened, and it immediately clicked that if I’d taken his advice in the first place, I could have saved myself and my community staff loads of time and effort.  If I’d listened, learned, and taken his advice, this valuable tool could have delivered instant information about our community to anyone who wanted it.  There are at least a million ways I could have used this to benefit my community, but I wasn’t listening or keeping an open mind.

I know I’m certainly not the only one who has this problem to overcome.  We’ve all experienced the frustration of saying something important to someone whom we know isn’t taking it as seriously as we wish they would.  We’ve all experienced the frustration with ourselves that comes with realizing much later that we should have been paying closer attention to something that was told or shown to us in the past.  The indisputable fact is that we all have something to learn from each other, but we can’t learn unless we allow ourselves to.  It’s up to us to listen attentively and keep our minds open.  That’s exactly what I resolve to do in 2014 — to listen carefully and keep an open mind — to continue listening even when I’m not immediately certain that the information is of value to me.  Why is this important to me both personally and professionally — and why is absorbing new information important to us all?

Because as we enter a new year, knowledge and information is an increasingly powerful commodity.  The more you know, the more valuable you are to others, and the more valuable you are to yourself in your ability to become a better, more effective, more skillful, and more “positively charged” person!

Because knowledge has a strong positive inertia.  The more we know, the more we understand.  The more we understand, the more we can do.  The more we can do, the more effective we become.  The more effective we become, the more successful we become.

Because sometimes what you learn determines what else you can learn!  Someone once explained it to me this way:  certain kinds of knowledge — especially the increasingly technical information that’s just plain part of our lives today — requires a sort of foundation upon which to sit… a “frame of reference” within our heads.  You would never have been able to learn to read without first learning the alphabet, right?  Keep listening, because you never know what key bit of information you’ll need in order for a future revelation to fall into place for you!

Because, “Ideas are portable.”  They are your ultimate resource.  They go everywhere that we go — and the more of them we have at our disposal, the better equipped we are to face what life has in store for us.

Because a closed mind is a limited one.  There are only so many solutions that we can come up with on your own, but when we let someone else’s ideas or suggestions in — whoa!  One of someone else’s ideas added to one of your own is usually all it takes to start a chain reaction.  Let in a couple of others, and you’ve got a full-blown solution riot on your hands!  I’ve seen shared ideas practically take on lives of their own, multiplying all over the place. If you want to see it for yourself, join us at the Annual Multifamily Brainstorming Sessions!

That’s all a bit on the philosophical side, but it’s tough to discuss keeping an open mind without getting philosophical about it.  If you want the very best, plain-old-common-sense reason to listen to what other people have to say to you, it’s this:  we all have a great deal to learn from each other.  It’s a lesson that took me a long time to learn, and I hope that I can make it take root in my life this year.  If we cross paths this year, and you have something important to say to me, I’ll be listening!

 Tips For More Effective Listening & Learning


Remove distractions, or remove yourself from them.  It’s difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying to you if you’re occupied with something else, or in a crowded, noisy room.  If you’re occupied, either finish what you’re doing, or put it aside for later.  If there’s too much going on around you to pay attention to what’s being said, ask the person if they’ll follow you to a more quiet place so that you can continue your conversation.

Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions when the information isn’t completely clear to you.  The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.

Take mental notes.  It might seem silly, but when someone tells you something important, make a mental note of it.  This can be as simple as stopping when the conversation is over to repeat in your head the important points of the conversation.  You’ll be surprised what your brain is capable of retaining when you make just a little extra effort.

Finally — network, network, network!  The stronger your personal network is, the more other brains you have to rely on when you need a little help or more information.  You may not remember that important thing that someone told you a few days ago at the critical moment that you need it; but if you remember who told it to you, and you can call that person up and ask them for more information, you’re off to a great start!

Well, now you know at least one of the important things that I’ll be concentrating on in 2014.  I wish you the very best of success (and successful listening!) for the New Year!







Apartment Leasing,Marketing and Management Made Predictable!

August 21, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Management Ideas, Apartment Marketing Ideas

We are all predictable!

Apartment Leasing, Marketing and Management made predictable.

Don’t miss Eric at Multifamilypro’s Brainstorming Sessions and Executives join him for a hands on workshop

Brainstorming Interviews

August 10, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Management Ideas, Apartment Marketing Ideas, Brainstorming Sessions, Brainstorming Sessions - Executives, Brainstorming Sessions - Main Event


Over the years we introduced you to a national industry event that’s like no other.  The Annual Multifamily Housing Brainstorming Sessions™, now in their twenty sixth year, will occur in November, Las Vegas, Nevada; and we invited Tami Siewruk, the Chief Imagination Officer of the Multifamilypro and creator of the Brainstorming Sessions to sit down with us and share more information about the event and what attendees can look forward to this year.


Q:  We’ve heard a lot of “buzz” about Brainstorming over the years, and one of the things that we hear often is that it’s completely different from the industry’s other national events.  What’s so unique about it?


A:  I love to see and hear people talking about Brainstorming because they just light up all over.  We’ve heard so many people say the words “I’ve never experienced anything like it” that it’s become our motto.  They use words like life changing, and in the same breath, they say the thing that I hear most often, that “Brainstorming is the one industry event that you just can’t afford to miss.”  I certainly don’t mean to disparage our industry’s other national events and conferences because they are outstanding also, but I’ve never heard anybody refer to them as a life altering experience at the same time that they’re talking about the professional value; and that’s what I think sets Brainstorming apart the most.  It touches attendees’ lives both where they work and where they live.


Q:  So, would you say that comparing Brainstorming to other national apartment events is an apples to oranges proposition?


A:  Yes, that’s probably a fair observation.  As an example — and I say this having participated in other national events as a vendor, presenter and attendee – the other national events that serve our industry have far more in common with each other than with Brainstorming.  There are two big reasons for this.  The first is that we don’t just focus on sharing information with our attendees – though we do that very well through a broad variety of seminars, workshops, and panel discussions – but the overall focus is on getting our heads together to come up with workable solutions.  That focus represents a whole added dimension to information sharing that nobody else offers.  As a result, Brainstormers walk away with some really unique tangible benefits, including a year of exclusive access to all of the ideas that they bring to the event to share in our Brainstorming Tools, Forms & Ideas Exchange™, and the ideas that they come up with during the event.  The ideas that they Brainstorm at the event are gathered up, translated wherever feasible into usable tools like ads, campaigns, plans, forms – you name it – and given back to them in a private website, so they receive ideas and tools that they can use immediately to bring in more traffic and sign more leases, retain residents and manage their properties more profitably.


Q:  And the second reason?


A:  Well, I’m not so sure that I can do this justice in words, but it’s probably where all of those stunned “I’ve never experienced anything like this” reactions come from.  The second thing that sets us apart in a big way is the “personality” of the event.  The entire Brainstorming environment is worlds apart from anything else out there.  It’s the thing that, when it’s all over, you wish you could bottle and take home with you.  We give certain parts of the event a fun new theme each year, and we really go all out to make Brainstormers feel like they’re spending a few days in a new and different reality than they’re used to. One Brainstormer called it “brilliantly organized chaos,” and another said to me once “I like the way you kind of shake things up to shake things out of us.”  Was it Oscar Wilde who said all progress is made by unreasonable people?  Sometimes you have to separate people from their everyday reason and reality in order to bring out their best ideas.  It works remarkably well… so well that the registration fee comes with a money-back guarantee.


Q:  You just talked about bringing out people’s best ideas.  How does that relate to the Brainstorming Tools, Forms & Ideas Exchange that you mentioned a couple of minutes ago?


A:  The Brainstorming Ideas, Tools & Forms Exchange is one of the absolute best benefits of Brainstorming.  One of the first things that we ask Brainstormers to do after they’ve registered is to send us one of their best ideas.  The idea can take practically any form, as long as it’s something that other apartment professionals will find interesting or useful.  They can submit the idea in narrative form – just tell us all about it via a form on our web site – or submit a tool or form by sending us a computer file containing, say, a spreadsheet or ad layout or marketing plan or anything else they’d like to share.  So, by the time everyone has registered and sent in their submissions, we have hundreds of amazing pieces of information from all over the country… traffic generation ideas, retention tips, leasing exercises, training event plans, low-to-no-cost marketing tips, etc.  It’s like some kind of a magic treasure chest that just refills itself every year… but there’s a catch.  The only people who get the key to the chest are the people who put something into it.  We compile all of the ideas, tools and forms that we receive for each event, and only the people who contributed something access to this area of the website.  I can’t tell you how many times I returned to my desk after Brainstorming to find voice mail and e-mail messages from attendees saying that they just got home and went through the special section of the website and realized that the ideas on it would more than repay the cost of their entire Brainstorming participation.  I love the calls that say that just one idea alone made it worth the trip.  My favorite calls are from people who say, “I just showed my Idea Exchange to my boss, and not only am I definitely coming back next year, but they’ll be coming with me too!”


Q:  So, what are some of the best ideas that have come from the Tools, Forms & Ideas Exchange?


A:  Wow, where do I begin?  Actually, I can’t begin any sooner than Brainstorming 2011 because that’s part of the deal – we agree not to release the ideas to anyone other than the contributors for a year after each event so they stay somewhat exclusive before we share them with our customers and subscribers.  These are a few attendee favorites from among the most recent ones I can share:  give your new residents change of address postcards that feature one of your floor plans.  Create a sister community referral binder with information for residents who are being relocated to an area where your company has properties.  Leave behind nice photo frames as corporate call gifts with your leasing team’s photo and your business card in them.  Stamp the back of your business cards with “Pass this on to someone who’s interested in an apartment, and when they lease, we’ll mail you $250!”  Use a Polaroid sticker camera during the community tour to ad snapshots to your brochure for follow-up.  Use window decals that read “Leased!” or “Last One Like It!” during lease-up to create urgency.  Add electronic gift certificates for little things like free coffee or movie tickets to your follow-up e-mails.  Put up a “Quiet Time” sign at poolside every night to keep noise under control.  Use “Getting to Know You” surveys at lease signing to find out what residents like, and make a customized move-in package just for them.  Ask residents to sign an agreement at move-in that if their account ever goes to collection, they’ll pay the collection agency fee along with what they owe you.  Create Customer Service Zones matching residents with a specific leasing professional or service tech for more personalized service.  Recruiting?  Advertise a free seminar on what it takes to become a leasing professional.  Marketing to students?  Put up flyers on campus advertising a free seminar on how to budget for an apartment and still have a life. Try the ““One Extra Thing” Maintenance Program, where the service technicians always look for one extra thing to change, check, or fix in each apartment while they’re completing a service request. We have also heard a lot of ideas for saving carpets, like the Carpet Amnesty Program.


Q:  What are some of the best ideas that were created at Brainstorming?


A:  I can tell you that the first time I heard anybody say that one-day people would use the Internet to find an apartment, it was at Brainstorming.  A lot of concepts that are commonplace in our industry now became “implementable” solutions at a Brainstorming table, such as renewal rewards and frequent referral programs, kids clubs, recycling, submetering and resource conservation, custom home options, home buyer programs, concierge services, revenue sharing, business centers and cyber cafes and SO many more. After 26 years, it’s fun to see ideas that were created at Brainstorming, that were originally considered unrealistic, come to life and work in today’s markets. Some of my favorites are the ones that are forehead-slapping, brilliantly simple. Create new positions for “floating” experienced managers to help get new communities off the ground.  Offer flexible lease terms that are staggered to keep the unit mix consistent through the year or scheduled to expire in peak traffic months.  Sell “insurance” against lease breakage.  Sponsor coffee breaks at large corporate employers, teacher break rooms, and your local police and fire departments.    When road construction cuts into your traffic, make your own “Detour” signs leading people right to your door.  Reinvent slow-to-lease two-bedroom, one-bath apartments into “one bedroom plus den” ones.  Each new group of Brainstormers brings something new to the table, so even the classic ideas get a fresh twist every year.


Mark your calendars for November 13th – 15th in Las Vegas, and sign up now at http://brainstorming.multifamilypro.com.  Chances are, there’s at least one idea in this article that’ll get you one new or renewed lease – and that would more than pay for the cost of your trip.  Tell me all about it when you get there!



We interviewed several well-respected industry leaders and asked them to share why they consider Multifamilypro’s Brainstorming Sessions  to be the one national industry event that Apartment Professionals can’t afford to miss.  We also asked them to share the very best idea they’ve ever taken away from Brainstorming.  Here’s what they had to say!


Tracey Hopkins


Don’t Miss It:  “Nowhere else can you find such well-rounded education and strength skill building, and all-around mental aerobics.  Brainstorming has literally catapulted my career.  It’s a ‘Must Do’ for everyone who’s interested in apartment marketing and training!”


Best Idea:  “My favorite of all of the ideas that came to me at Brainstorming is Kiddie Collateral; the idea to provide marketing collateral that’s especially for children.  Kids love the special attention and feeling of involvement that it gives them.  While I’ve taken away literally thousands of ideas, Brainstorming has also afforded me the opportunity to get my own mind working on my own challenges and solutions.”


Debbie Davis


Don’t Miss It:  “One word sums it up, opportunity.  Opportunity to network, share and receive ideas, gain knowledge in a surrounding of your true marketing and training peers.  And to have fun while learning is the icing on the Brainstorming cake.”


Best Idea:  “If there is one idea I use year after year and it really originated even before the conference began was Tami’s Networking Directory.  This has been a tool to use both on a corporate level and onsite.  Business cards have their place but putting a face with a name has been a lifesaver year after year.  I network with it, write notes by contacts I have made with details or an idea shared while networking. We are even developing an internal network directory for our own company.  Do I have a favorite idea, that would be hard to pin point.   But what about a tried and true, meaning you know it works cause you tried it. This was shared at my table two years ago that proved to be a huge traffic generator. Post It Notes.  We overprinted the notes went out and stuck them on car windows (with a tickler to bring it in for a lease special) and I promise our traffic increased by over 30%.  And the cost was minimal.”.


Sandy Avery


Don’t Miss It:  Brainstorming is the only event that allows everyone to openly discuss real problems and real solutions in an exciting and stimulating environment.  Rather than spending several days sitting and listening to others speak, Brainstormers become active participants in the creative solution process and as such, revolutionary ideas are born.  The opportunity to learn from and share with others as well as the unique position of learning about and participating in cutting edge ideas before they reach the general population cannot be found anywhere.  Anyone who misses Brainstorming is definitely behind the curve.  Brainstorming provides the best return and is the one industry event that Apartment Professionals truly can’t afford to miss.”


Best Idea:  “Wow! How do you chose just one?  My favorite best idea from Brainstorming would have to be the concept of ‘live models.’  We have created a entire campaign around this idea and each year we hire actors to ‘live’ in our apartment homes for few days.  Everyone loves to work on this campaign and the public response continues to grow.  Each year produces a new best idea and I am anxiously awaiting the best of 2002.”


Esther Bonardi-Basden


Don’t Miss It:  “There are a few things that make Brainstorming the one conference you shouldn’t miss.  First of all, Brainstorming creates an environment that is truly conducive to learning.  I’ve heard people who haven’t been say that it looks like a big party.  It does look like a big party, but all of those crazy costumes and room decorations serve a real purpose. They tear down people’s barriers–barriers to learning, barriers to creativity, and barriers to each other.  At most conferences, we carry our professional baggage into the classroom to a certain extent.  At Brainstorming, all of that is peeled off, and we are left with hearts and minds that are excited about learning something new.

Another reason not to miss Brainstorming is the opportunity for networking. The entire conference is pretty self-contained within one hotel.  Other conferences lose their attendees at 5:00 to the entertainment throughout the host city.  At Brainstorming, people stay together hours after the sessions have ended for the day.  There are a number of networking receptions and dinners built in to the conference that help facilitate relationship building.  And once you have seen each other dressed in silly costumes, it is easy to find something to talk about.  I go to several conferences a year, but the only one I have built lasting business relationships—and friendships–through is Brainstorming.

Finally, Brainstorming gives you the opportunity to recharge and remember why you love this business in the firt place.  It is inspiring and invigorating–a religious experience without the religion!  Believe it or not, the motivation can last throughout the entire year!”

Best Idea:  “It’s hard to pinpoint one ‘best idea.’  There have been so many!  I can say this – often I am so inspired by Brainstorming that I come up with some great ideas after the sessions are over.  Something I hear during the day will spark a new train of thought, and I will come up with my own idea later… built off of a seed planted during a Brainstorming session.”


Sharon Ruttenbur


Don’t Miss It:  “Property management professionals cannot afford to miss Brainstorming because of the fantastic networking opportunities! You have the chance to share ideas in an inhibited environment with career-focused professionals that would pay for the conference out of their own pocket, if they had to!  You can run an idea, or ask a colleague if they had ever tried a product; and get real feedback, immediately. I’ve been attending for nine years, and always mark the next year dates in as the event comes to close.  It’s the energy boost I always look forward to year after, year!”


Best Idea:  “From the idea exchange, I adapted a version of a Superior Shopping Spree that I still use today to inspire excellence in our Mystery Shop Program.  Believe it or not, I learned PowerPoint at Brainstorming 1998.  It was amazing.  I was able to create a presentation needed the following week for my Company.  Brainstorming focuses on the issues of today and tremendously keen eye on the future of our industry. Very exciting stuff!”


Lisa Klinglesmith

Don’t Miss It:  “First of all, there is nothing in the industry like it!  Almost 1,000 of the top “industry minds” together, not just listening and learning from speakers, but SHARING their common knowledge.  As an industry we all experience virtually the same challenges each and everyday.  However, Brainstorming is the only industry vehicle that affords us the opportunity to not only discuss these common issues, but to actually find and share solutions.  If you cannot take back solution concepts after actively working with so many professionals of all levels and geographic experiences, you’re not listening.” 


Best Idea:  “WOW!  So many ideas and concepts come to mind.  I really do not know where to start or end.  In general, some of the most powerful ideas I have taken back have dealt with handling personnel issues.  I have picked up a few tricks that have bolstered my efforts towards staff motivation, instilling loyalty, and getting staff, as well as, supervisors to buy into the training and marketing efforts.  There are many amazing ideas out there.  But, the coolest thing about this is, the ideas have already been tried and by the time you get them most of the wrinkles have already been ironed out!  That works for me!”

Jennifer Nevitt


Don’t Miss It:  “Every sophisticated owner is looking for new ideas.  Even a single new idea that has been proven by a colleague in another region of the country could be worth the entire trip!”


Best Idea:  “We’ve picked up a variety of ideas for working with ‘latch key’ kids over our years of Brainstorming, and they’ve been among the most successful we’ve tried.”


Terri Norvell

Don’t Miss It:  “There are so many benefits to attending Brainstorming, but I think the bottom line is that it imparts the valuable skill of applying creativity and resourcefulness within one’s position.  The business advantages of being able to do that are enormous.  More than any other conference in our industry, Brainstormers learn how to ‘outthink’ their competition by using innovative resources, and to be more creative in developing solutions to their challenges.  That’s why attendees keep coming back year after year…they learn, they grow and they get energized to perform at higher and higher levels!”


Best Idea:  “The most valuable thought I’ve taken away from Brainstorming is that we each have SO many resources that are readily available to us.  It’s a forum of new ideas and solutions that we can turn to when we need solutions to any challenge!”


Claire Collins


Don’t Miss It:  “There is no other event that offers attendees the opportunity to rub elbows with the best in the industry.”


Best Idea:  More valuable than any of the great ideas I’ve culled from Brainstorming is the attitude it’s given me.  Before Brainstorming (BB) my approach to training and problem solving was much different.  BB, I was much more closed-minded.  Much of what I did followed a cutting-the-roast-in-half thought process:  ‘we’re not really sure why, but we’ve always done it this way’ was the rationale behind everything.  After Brainstorming (AB) I became much more innovative.  Challenges are met with more creativity, and AB I have a network of peers throughout the country who can help.  I’ve brought much back to my company in the form of productivity and ingenuity, which I feel I’ve sparked in others too”


Douglas D. Chasick


Don’t Miss It:  “Brainstorming is the ONLY national conference/event/meeting/gathering where everyone has the complete freedom (and responsibility) to fully participate in determining the outcome of our three days together! We invent, imagine, create and share any and all ideas, regardless of their initial practicality or feasibility; and, as a group, we discuss, mold and shape these often outlandish thoughts and ideas into practical, easy to implement tools that we can take home and use immediately! Think about it – where else in our industry does that happen, year after year, EVERY year, without fail? Simple – NO WHERE ELSE!!!”


Best Idea:  “The best idea I’ve taken away is even more valuable than any specific ‘How to lease more…’ idea, rather, it’s been a complete shift in my attitude toward my team.  I completely reinvented the way I related to my staff, conducted meetings and solicited their ideas, opinions and criticism based on the incredibly powerful interaction model practiced at Brainstorming. While I still have my preconceived notions, judgments and “brilliant” ideas, I’m SO MUCH more open to everyone else’s ideas and, due to my training and practice as a facilitator, I create and maintain an environment where ideas are grown, nurtured and fine tuned, instead of listening to people because it’s the “right thing to do” and then doing what I wanted to do regardless of what my team said!”


Kathy Lane


Don’t Miss It:  “brainstorming is an opportunity to re-energize yourself, your team and your company with new ideas in marketing, management and training.  The idea exchange has the most valuable tools, ideas, forms, policies, etc, that can be immediately implemented and used by your entire team.  As professionals it gets difficult to constantly come up with new ways to keep our companies and communities “cutting-edge”.  Brainstorming is a group of hundreds of committed individuals that help you solve your challenges and improve with NEW ideas.  It is like hiring 200 top consultants at one time.”

Part 4: Help For Apartment Leasing Professionals To Dominate The Market

May 23, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas

 Learn How to Lease on Value not on Price


Multifamily On Site TeamsA lot of communities/companies have been utilizing this concept for years. As a matter of fact, the Johnstown Companies preached added value in their training and marketing programs, so it’s not a new concept. What is new about added value is how our residents and future residents perceive the value we are trying to add. In other words, what they thought was great in the 80s is not so great today. In the 90s, we added services such as merchant discounts, onsite convenience centers, copy and fax machine access, daycare centers, executive office centers, community tool chests, and so on. These services were designed and implemented to add value, to stand out from the competition, and to reduce resident turnover. From what I’ve seen, these things are working in many markets. The rental question is not, “Do services add value?” It is, “What do residents and future residents want?” What do they consider a value? I can share with you what national surveys have to say, but if you really want to find out what you can do to create value, you’ll have to ask them.


In numerous survey’s we have found that people moved because they found “a better value.” According to the National Council of the Multifamily Industry’s survey, “What Renters Really Want,” our residents and future residents are looking for energy and efficiency, less crime, less noise, and a better neighborhood. The survey stated that these preferences are similar across household type, age, and income. Renters want, in order of ranked importance, a smoke detector, a washer/dryer, a storm window and doors, linen closets, central air conditioning, a bedroom walk-in closet, an additional bedroom, a microwave, and security system.


Don’t get discouraged because you can’t rush out and add a linen closet, a walk-in closet, and an additional bedroom. Break it down. What they are really saying is that they want space. Can you create space for them that will add value? Your turnover cost on a $660-a-month apartment is probably somewhere around $1,300 or more, based on vacancy loss and reconditioning. You may be thinking, “Then why in the world should I raise rents and force people to move for a $300 to $400 a year rent increase, when we’ll be losing $1,000 or more if they decide to move.” Great point, if you are stuck in the 80s.


Many owners today are trying to maximize rents even though the markets are getting tighter due to increased home sales and new construction.  Okay, okay, some of you think this is too basic, and some of you just had a light bulb go off. Whatever the case, the fact is that it’s time, in most markets, to focus on raising rents and providing value to residents so they will stay. Let’s say we have conducted our own survey, and the results are the same as those found by Mr. Kelly and “What Renters Really Want.” We know they want, among other things, space. Can you add shelving and organizers that will create it? Compare it to your turnover costs. Is a $300 investment worth it? The same logic applies to smoke detectors, washer/dryers, storm windows and doors, etc. Is the cost of adding these items worth saving a resident? Your survey will help you determine what creates value in your residents’ minds. You may find that each resident’s idea of “value” is different. Can you provide a list of items they can select from at renewal time? You may be thinking to yourself, “We are already providing them with their choice of renewal gifts.” That may be the case, but do those items add value in the resident’s mind? Have you considered giving the incentive (stays with the apartment) 90 to 120 days prior to lease expiration, so the residents have a chance to build value in their homes before they get hit with a rent increase?

Resident Referrals Will Have a Huge Impact on Apartment Marketing

April 19, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Marketing Ideas, Resident Referrals Ideas

Multfamily MarketingHow the multifamily industry should think about resident referrals has changed. Our  old school “refer-a-friend program” is happening every day and most apartment marketing teams aren’t or haven’t figured out how to monetize the conversation that social media marketing has provided.

With the Right Focus on Social and New Media, Resident Referrals Will Have a Huge Impact on Apartment Marketing

New and social media changed dramatically in 2012.  Social media players made major changes to how apartment marketing teams used the new media channels for marketing campaigns (think Facebook Timeline). Pinterest grew in popularity and apartment marketers felt increasing pressure to show the ROI of these channels.

Relationships with our Residents are Key!

While social media plays an important role in any resident referral marketing program, it’s definitely not the only channel your residents make referrals and communicate about their homes through, according to research that I’ve read recently; it’s not even the most popular. So—while it’s important to make social media a focus, don’t forget about all the other media channels people use to share information in addition to face-to-face interactions. Relationships are key may sound a bit first grade but if we really sit down and look at what we do day in and day out you will quickly see that the apartment industry can do a much better job of nurturing relationships with our residents.

  1. It’s time to invite residents become a part of the marketing team! The most powerful marketing tool you have is the story of a happy resident.  It has become crucial for us to engage our brand ambassadors, encourage them to refer and reward them for those referrals.
  2. Resident Referrals will go mobile. Don’t ignore the power of “in the moment” actions. Make it easy for your residents to refer to your apartment community when and where they want to. That means mobile. Does anyone have an app for that?
  3. Ambassador and resident referral programs will increase in popularity throughout our industry as companies realize it plays a role in the future of social marketing efforts. While the idea of engaging brand ambassadors isn’t new, we have to focus on resident referral programs becoming an essential marketing tool rather than an after thought. We need to be capable of encouraging, tracking and monetizing resident referrals; those who don’t will be left in the dust.
  4. Marketing spend will continue to shift away from traditional channels. Recent Forrester Research shows that 55% of marketers believe that social and mobile marketing will increase in effectiveness as marketing channels over the next three years.

The Creation Of True Brand Ambassadors

Your residents and local businesses are your biggest marketing assets.  As an industry, we are starting to realize the power of brand ambassadors. We see the power of social and new media channels.  Now it’s time to put more effort into engaging residents as a marketing strategy for the apartment community. Whether through social, mobile or face-to-face, resident referral marketing and refer-a-friend programs are the “new black”. Several property management companies have already started to harness the power of their residents. They have already started focusing their budget, time and resources on their residents. For me it’s fun to watch it all unfold and hear reports of the amazing results that are being achieved with this new focus.

From the First Visit, the First Resident Referral to the Final Reward we Must Keep Engagement High

From thanking them for referring to sending ambassador program reminders, we have to make certain that our refer-a-friend programs include regular emails, old school door hangers, mentions in our digital newsletters etc. All of these efforts are keenly designed to keep our programs on the top of our resident’s minds. We have to remind them to put our community in front of their friends!

How are you creating a buzz with promotions?

How do you create those WOW moments that keep your residents communicating about your community?




Multifamily Trends: Gen C – The YouTube Generation

April 17, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Management Ideas, Apartment Marketing Ideas

Multifamily TrendsCheck out what I just found on Think Insights:

Introducing Gen C – The YouTube Generation

Gen C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It’s a term we use to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset defined by key characteristics. 80% of Gen C is made up of millennials, YouTube’s core (though by no means only) audience.

See more at Google Think Insights

Tools To Help Apartment Leasing Professionals Dominate The Market Part 3

April 1, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas

Are you creating value? How do you demonstrate value?

Many leasing professionals assume that residents or prospective residents already know what value is provided. The reality is that the leasing team possesses the knowledge and expertise that residents have come to expect them to apply to the leasing process. We must take the time to educate them. The greater the difference you can establish between your apartments, community and what your competitors offer the greater the probability of leasing an apartment without concessions and renewing those leases with a rental rate increase.

Many communities work hard behind the scenes without making the residents aware of what they are doing on their behalf. By keeping these services to themselves, they diminish the value of the services that are being delivered.

Your residents can either view your apartments and community as a commodity that any one of your competitors can provide, or they can view it as a unique experience that only your community can provide. When we talk about value, we’re conditioned to relate it to price; but remember that price isn’t the paramount concern in the buying decision that most of us perceive it to be. Have you ever heard of Wal-Mart, for instance, wanting for customers. They’re proven to offer the best prices on most items that people need every day; but if price where the only consideration, why would anyone shop anywhere else? There would be no Sears, JC Penny’s or Target ot Nordstroms if that were the case. Services, peace of mind, convenience, location, curb appeal, design … those are just a few of the other factors that come into play. How do you create a unique leasing experience? What are your WOW moments?


Here are a few things to consider:

Multifamil Leasing Creates Value

Multifamily Leasing is about creating value

What would you think if someone served you a drink this summer and provided you with an ice straw? Is it a WOW moment?

Multifmaily Leasing with WOW moments



Tools To Help Apartment Leasing Professionals Dominate The Market Part 2

March 25, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas

This is the second of a on going series.

Have you posted your available apartments on Zillow? It’s FREE! Plus… They create a fabulous looking Craigslist ad for you.

Multifamily Leasing with Zillow











Multifamily Leasing with Eyejot



Are you still handing out business cards? Don’t you know that a vast majority are lost or filed away without ever being accessed. Why? It’s simple. They’re all alike! Eyejot’s vCard application makes it super easy to create and send video business cards from your iPhone. Using a pre-recorded video you create and upload to our servers you can send a personalized greeting along with all your contact information to anyone you meet in seconds. Or you can record them from your computer and email them for FREE!



Tools To Help Apartment Leasing Professionals Dominate The Market

February 9, 2013 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Brainstorming Sessions - Main Event

This is the first of a on going series. Tools To Help Apartment Leasing Professionals Dominate The Market Part 1

Start adding the resources in this series  to your leasing portfolio to help you dominate the market!

U-Haul’s Box Exchange

Paying for cardboard moving boxes can feel like paying for, well, fresh air or water, but hounding every grocery store and big-box retailer for weeks is no fun at all. Once you’ve settled on buying into new digs and moving, hit up this forum and see if anyone in your area has stuff to unload. No luck there? Pay less for good-quality  at UsedCardboardBoxes.com, which is exactly what you might think it is.


Scope out neighborhoods at Yahoo and City-Data.com.

As with so many people, pricing isn’t everything when it comes to renting. Yahoo Neighborhoods lays out the demographic averages and charts across a nicely graphical landing page, while City-Data.com is a Census geek’s dream—one huge page for nearly every area of the country, with crime, housing, school performance, and pretty much anything that’s been collected and stored.

Leasing with iPads, Smartphones, and Other Smart Devices

September 16, 2012 in Apartment Leasing Ideas, Apartment Training Ideas, Brainstorming Sessions - Main Event, Resident Renewal Ideas

The iPad is perceived as a great new leasing tool, to empower your leasing team to deliver more provocative interactive presentations, and enable marketing to provide engaging content.

And the perception is becoming reality, as:

  • 30% of sales professionals are now using iPads and other tablets in their sales activities (CSO Insights) with 47% of 8,500 sales professionals worldwide reported accelerated sales cycle as the tablets’ greatest advantage (Huthwaite),
  • 23% of buyers are using tablets for research on purchases, according the DemandGen Report research study, and as a result, “The desktop computer is becoming nearly obsolete as a primary research channel”.

Enable Leasing Efforts with the iPad or Other Tablet

For your leasing professionals, the iPad or tablet represents a tool with great promise, and this cannot come soon enough as:

  • Less than 1 in 3 sales professionals are perceived as adding any value to the sales process, and only 13% of buyers think sales meetings are valuable. (Forrester)
  • The “Inability to communicate value messages” remains the number one inhibitor to achieving quota (SiriusDecisions)

Think about being able to sit down next to a prospective resident or resident with your iPad, answer a few simple interactive questions, and receive a customized configuration, recommendation on the perfect apartment or a cost to move analysis to help your team sell a rent increase.


We can completely personalize our leasing and renewal presentations, justify the purchase, prove competitive value and win the leasing and retention game.
Connect, Engage and Entertain Better via the iPad or Tablet
For marketing, the ability for traditional content to generate leads and engagement has been declining steadily as residents and prospective residents become more overloaded and demanding. If you are like most, your traditional marketing vehicles are challenged to work as well as they used to.

Your customer wants content that is shorter in length, more personalized, 110% relevant, and can help them justify “Why this community?”, “Why this apartment?” “Why this company” and “Why You?”  And the demands don’t stop there, as your prospects also want the content optimized for whatever media they happen to be using, especially tablets like iPads.

The Bottom Line
Your residents and prospective residents have changed, now more in-control, overloaded, skeptical and frugal than ever before. As a result, marketing and leasing the same old way just won’t cut it.

To be effective, we need to dump the traditional marketing materials, taking advantage of new devices like the iPad and new interactive value leasing and marketing tools to be more relevant, provocative and challenging.


Don’t miss this Interactive Educational Session at Multifamilypro’s Brainstorming Sessions

Leasing with iPads, Smartphones, and Other Smart Devices

Leasing today is all about reaching future residents in the places and ways that they prefer to receive information; and with most customers glued to their smart devices, there’s no better or faster way to help them make the decision to choose your community. In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn all about the latest Smart technologies, tools, platforms, applications, and more and how you can begin using them immediately to WOW your prospects and increase memorability from first contact to demonstrating, overcoming objections, follow-up, closing the lease, and setting the stage for increased retention, too! Join us, and walk away with a whole new arsenal of tools that not only complement traditional leasing strategies, but will also help you add entirely new techniques to your leasing process!  Whether you’re a Leasing Professional or someone who’s responsible for the leasing skills of others, this is one session you absolutely can’t afford to miss!

Date: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Time: 10:30 am – 11:30 pm
Room: Marketplace Stage
Track: On-Site
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Presented by Toni Blake, Owner, TotallyToni.com

Toni Blake is an international speaker, author and comedienne. Having invested more than 30 years of her life in multifamily housing, she tours over 50 cities each year inspiring thousands of industry professionals. As a published author, Toni’s expertise has been published in over 36 trade magazines across the country. In November 2008, Toni was awarded the Multifamily PRO Industry Legend Award. She was selected by the National Apartment Association as one of the industry’s “Marketing Gurus” and is recognized for her research and innovative concepts in customer service, sales, and marketing.  Toni was honored at the very first Multifamily PRO “People’s Choice Awards” winning awards for Educational Excellence, Imagination and Innovation.  Utilizing her multi-lingual talents, Toni was a featured speaker at the 2006 ISTA Conference in Kassel Germany, presenting IN GERMAN to an audience of 260 German multifamily professionals. She currently serves as President of TotallyToni.com, and Founder/President of the Multifamily Speakers Alliance. Toni lives in Northern Colorado with her husband.  “You will always enjoy this industry-favorite event.” – Toni Blake