Imagine this for a moment, you’re the boss and your ambitious recent hire is staring their first day.
You’re both filled with excitement and both quietly envision a long and prosperous future working together.
You know, from past hires, that the more time you invest now the more self sufficient your new employee is going to be down the road.
As you sit down for the first time at the gleaming granite topped boardroom table over lukewarm coffee you start to detail the marketing plan for your rental properties.
You explain how in a study conducted by Prof. James B. Oldroyd at MIT, showed that by waiting even just one hour to contact a lead dramatically reduces your chances of success.
You further detail that the odds of being able to contact the lead increase 100 fold if the lead is called within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes.
Your new pupil hastily and dutiful takes down notes and even triple-circles and double-stars the fact that the longer you wait the less likely you are to even contact your prospective tenant. You smile and feel proud that you’re able to pass along your wisdom and feel that yes, finally, this real estate marketing hire is going to be your best ever.
Only, the sad truth is that, it won’t be.
The problem with this scenario is that there is no one that I have ever met, who is able to respond to prospective tenants almost instantly with the information that they are seeking. Well no one I know can be this attentive for an extended period of time.
How do I know this? Because I tried to be that guy for far too long.
I tried to respond instantly to every single person who called or emailed me about my units. Although I might have been able to keep up with the hundreds of inquiries for the first couple of days, over time my response times started to slip to the point where some people never even heard back from me.
Not contacting a prospective tenant, someone who wants to pay you money to rent your property, is NOT a great way to generate passive income through real estates. This I know for sure.
Why I Market My Own Rental Properties
I have a number of rental properties, and although they are professionally managed which I believe is a must if you want to be a real estate investor (more on that is a later article), I still help to market the properties.
I could not be happier with my property managers right now when it comes to marketing and filling my rentals. They are all doing an excellent job when it comes to turning units over and keeping them full.
That being said, I still work on marketing my properties myself for a number of reasons and two in particular.
The first is that I will actively market them in locations, such as craigslist, that require posting ads daily in order for your properties to ever be seen by prospective tenants as CL posts newest ads first and old ads get pushed further and further down the list.
Over the years, craigslist has been the single largest source of the tenants that I have found and placed in my rental properties. The best news, craigslist is free to advertise. Most property manger will advertise on Craiglist (CL) but in a more generic fashion. It’d be unreasonable and unrealistic for a property manager who manages 500+ units to advertise each and every one of them daily on CL. Since I want my individual properties being advertise on CL, I go to the trouble to manage the advertising myself.
The second, and perhaps the more important reason, is that by interacting with prospective tenants I can keep my fingers on the pulse for what tenants are looking for as well as be able to, first hand, gauge the rental demand in a market.
Staying on top of rental demand and what tenants are looking for can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars from either buying a property that isn’t in demand or holding a property long after the demand for an area drops. I find that by taking part in the marketing I am able to gather invaluable information on the markets I’m invested in and the time spent to do this is well worth it.
Advertising on Craigslist and keeping a finger on the pulse of a rental market does come with a price. Time. Lots and lots of time. I would estimate that, during peak rental times, I was spending 4-5 hours per day placing ads and handling the correspondence.
When you spend 4-5 hours per day doing any one task there isn’t a lot of the day left for other things like taking care of your health, family, friends, sleeping, working on anything else, etc.
I knew I wanted to continue marketing my properties but I also know that continuing to spend 4-5 per day was not sustainable.
There had to be a better way
I first considered hiring an assistant to manage the marketing. The idea of taking on an employee, paying them a salary and having them be the buffer between me and the market research was not getting me too excited.
Next I thought about just letting my property managers continue to perform their marketing tasks which absolutely work to keep my units full. Again, this idea didn’t excite me as I wouldn’t be able to keep my finger on the pulse of the market.
I knew there had to be a way to streamline operations while still being able to gather all the info on the markets while still dramatically reducing the time I spent each day.
I figured it had to be a technological solution and my first crack at it was using Gmail filters and canned responses. I used a filter based on the subject line and I set it up to send each person that replied to my CL ad a canned response that I had pre-written. This worked for a while but what I didn’t anticipate is how many people change the subject line when they don’t email you through CLs built in email contact tool. If the subject line was different then the automate response wasn’t getting sent. This method turned out to be good but not great. Next.
The next thing I decided to do was just send everyone who emailed me an “out of office” reply with the information on all my available, or soon to be available, units making sure to let them know that this was an automated response of all the FAQs in hopes to get them the answered they were looking for right away. This didn’t work either as it would trigger when people would follow up and they would get the same message over and over. Super annoying for all prospective tenants. Not good. Next.
The other thing with both of these methods was that there was no easy way to follow up with prospective tenants. I would need to go through all of the emails inquiries I received and had to follow up with each of them individually myself. I have secured more tenants through the follow up email than not so I know this is a valuable step and one that cannot be skipped. I was spending a lot of time still doing this step which was the final nail in the coffin of the first two automated methods I tried.
The 3 Most Important Things I Needed To Streamline My Real Estate Marketing
I decided I needed to start from scratch and outline my goals for this process. I boiled it down to three goals that absolutely had to be met in order for a system to be acceptable. Those three goals were:
- Automatically providing instant information to the prospective tenants 24/7
- Automatically follow up with the tenant 24 hours later
- Being able to alert all prospective tenants about an availability or price change
I quickly realized that the answer had been under my nose the entire time.
The Answer That Saved My 3-4 Hours Per Day
I was marketing my properties via email… and the answer turned out to be email marketing.
I signed up for the $1 trial at Aweber and have never looked back.
The beautiful think about Aweber is that it is a full service email marketing tool where you can build automated follow up sequences that get sent out to subscribers at pre-determined intervals. This allowed me to load a message in Aweber that contained all of the information about the rental unit that would get sent immediately after a prospective tenant inquired. Goal #1 complete.
It also allowed me to load a second messages, a follow up message, where I just asked the prospective tenant if they have any more questing and when they wanted to come see the unit. I set this message to get sent 24 hours after the initial contact. Goal #2 complete.
Since everyone who submits my form to inquire about one of my rental units gets added to by list as a subscriber I can send broadcast messages to the entire list at the same time. This has come in handy when a lease fell through and a property was once leased is now back on the market or when I decided, based on market response, to lower my aggressive rental rates a little bit. Goal #3 complete.
Aweber for the win. Yes!
Switching over to Aweber to manage the correspondence of my real estate marketing has been one of the best things I have ever done. It’s easily saved me 3-4 hours (or more) per day.
I still read every single message that comes in as there is always someone who has a question that isn’t answered in the automated response I have set up and reading these messages keeps my fingers squarely on the pulse of the market.
Having just two messages loaded into Aweber – the initial FAQ message and the 24-hour follow up message – take care of 99% of the inquiries I receive. The other 1% I handle myself and I don’t miss handling the other 99% one bit.
Aweber has been the best marketing employee I have ever hired. It never gets tired, it doesn’t slack off, it executes my marking correspondence sequence flawlessly, it doesn’t complain and best of all, the first month is only $1 (and only $19/month after that a.k.a. most reasonably priced 24/7 “employee” ever).
Of course, Aweber is not limited to being a prospective tenant follow up management tool. If you have a blog in any way shape or form, you NEED to be building your subscriber list right now. We’ve all hear the horror stories of Google penalizing a site and traffic drying up overnight.
Building a list of loyal insiders is so very important even if you don’t have anything to sell. Being able to alert your entire subscriber base when you publish a new blog post, get featured on mainstream media or about your next live speaking gig are all things that will benefit you immensely. I wish I would have started building my lists sooner but we have all heard the following quote:
The best time to start building a list was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
~Chinese Proverb (slighly modified)
Click here to try Aweber for $1. It could very well be the best “hire” of your life. It certainly has been one of my best “hires” for me so far.