Wendy Froehlich, Vice President of Marketing, ForRent.com®   Every apartment pro knows the importance of communicating with residents and prospects, but it’s traditionally been easier said than done. Printing and distributing notices door to door takes hours. Emails frequently sit unopened in residents’ inboxes. Phone calls often go into voicemail that may be picked up too late if at all. (Goodbye, new lead.)   Texting changes the game by every measure. It reaches hundreds of residents with a click. Its near-perfect 98% open rate puts email’s paltry 20% to shame (Mobile Marketing Watch). And since most of us are as tethered to our smartphones as a yoyo to its string, 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes of delivery (Connect Mogul). You can’t get much more real-time than that.       ‘It Changed Everything’   One convert is Brittney Bridges, property manager at The Village at Western Branch in Portsmouth, VA. She runs the show at the 104-unit community, which sits a stone’s throw from the local Navy and Coast Guard bases and military hospital.   Bridges began using ForRent.com’s Community Messenger text messaging service in 2016 to supplement standard communication methods, and it quickly became an indispensable tool in her management toolbox.   “I’m now available 24/7 even if I’m not in the office,” she says. “That makes a big difference, whether I’m dealing with a maintenance issue, an emergency situation, or someone who is interested in renting a unit.”   How much of a difference? For Bridges, four big benefits stand out.   1 – Save time with mass texts.   With 26 hallways and 104 units, it used to take Bridges 30-45 minutes to deliver notices about scheduled maintenance or other issues to the whole community – longer if she stopped to have conversations with residents along the way. Sending the same information by text takes two minutes.     “I’m a one-person office and every minute counts,” she notes. “If I have to shut the water off, alert residents that they need to put their rent checks in the dropbox to avoid late fees, or send renewal notices, texting is much more efficient than going door to door.”   2 – Cement relationships that improve retention.   Being reachable by residents virtually around the clock via text pays off when it’s lease renewal time, Bridges says. It assures residents that any problems they might have will be handled. It enables residents who can’t phone the property from work to communicate with her after hours. And it shows that management cares.   “Nobody wants to stay at a property where they’re never able to get hold of anyone,” Bridges says. “Residents like the fact they can reach me at any time. They don’t want to start over and go somewhere else where they can’t be sure they will have the same level of management involvement and concern.”   3 – Stay in touch during emergencies.   When Hurricane Matthew pummeled Virginia in October 2016, Bridges turned to texting to prepare residents for the storm and maintain communication during and after the disaster.   “I hand-delivered hurricane preparedness checklists to residents the day before the storm hit, but I also sent out mass texts telling everyone to move their cars from the parking lot in case it flooded,” she recalls. “During the storm, I had residents whose apartments were affected texting me and asking me questions about where they could go for shelter and how to contact the Red Cross. And the next day, I used the text messaging system to let affected residents know we were letting them out of their leases and returning their security deposits.”   As it turned out, many of the residents whose apartments flooded either moved into vacant units or returned once repairs had been made. Bridges credits texting for helping bring those residents back into the fold – both because of the relationships it helped establish before the hurricane and because it served as a lifeline when the rains came.     4 – Never miss a lead.   Texting also gives Bridges a major competitive advantage over non-texting properties because she can respond to rental inquiries on her computer or smartphone the minute they roll in – even after she has gone home for the day. That wasn’t possible before she turned to texting, when the lag time could be as much as 48 hours if the lead came on a weekend. By that time, the apartment hunter would usually have lost interest.   “With texting, I can answer questions about rental rates, send floor plans, set up appointments, and even tell prospects what documents they need to bring if they are interested in immediate occupancy,” she notes. “It’s definitely increased my appointments and reduced the risk that I’ll lose a new tenant to the competition because I can get there faster.”   If you’re not texting yet and want to take the plunge, check out Community Messenger. A whole new world of communication awaits.   About Wendy Wendy Froehlich, VP of Marketing, joined ForRent.com in 2006 and is responsible for overseeing national marketing initiatives including events, sales materials and promotions, advertising, and other digital marketing efforts. Prior to joining ForRent, Wendy worked for PolyVision Corporation – a division of Steelcase, Coca-Cola Fountain and many years in account services for HCD Advertising in Atlanta, GA and Virginia Beach, VA. c

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