How to Write a Killer Rental Ad

VanillaSometimes it’s hard to stand out, and not follow the crowd. That’s never more true than with writing ad copy. Somehow all rental ads morph into one another in an alphabetized symphony of sameness.

To make matters worse, it’s also hard to overcome the temptation to use the same rental ad again and again. That’s not a such a problem if your ad works.

How do you compete with all of the others when time, and every letter, is money?

The first rule of writing a stand-out rental ad is to have an opening zinger that gets the readers’ attention.

“If your standard ad starts out “Nice 2bd…, don’t use it,” warns marketing expert Dan Page. The words you choose don’t have to be witty, or eloquent, but each must convey an image for the reader-a first impression that shows why your property is different from the competition.

There are millions of ads out there that start with Available Now”, “Great Location”, “Nice”, “Clean”, or even “Very Clean”.

Whatever images those words convey to a reader are very limited in the first place. When your vanilla ad appears next to a string of identical ones, it becomes invisible.

Ice cream sundae“Take a moment to think about what you have to offer that is unlike the others,” Dan continues. “What matters most to your current residents?”

If it’s your location that’s phenomenal, describe it: “Two Steps to the Beach” will sell. If your location is hip, point out why. “Two blocks to live jazz” works better than “Great location.” Even if you don’t have the best location, you can still argue your case. Consider this effective example from an inner-city boarding house: “A refrigerator in every room. The best run building in town.”

If you have great incentives, offer them. Forget “Ask About Our Specials”, or “Spring Specials”. Those won’t motivate the reader to call just to find out more. Go with “Two weeks free”. Make your point.

Other effective openers include the option to buy, free high-speed Internet, an unusual size or floorplan, and green improvements like bamboo floors, and low energy bills.

The rental ad has to convey enough information to hook the prospect.

When it comes to finding a place to live, ask any tenant and they’ll tell you size does matter. If someone needs a three bedroom, they will never take your studio. Even if you do manage to persuade them to rent a smaller unit, they won’t stay beyond the original lease term. Don’t leave out details hoping to get a broader volume of calls. You can™t count on the reader to call you to fill in the gaps. They are in a mad-dash scramble to reassemble their lives in some to-be-determined new space, and they don’t have a lot of time.

Make sure each prospect can contact you directly. Missed calls are lost money. Consider open houses.

“Know your demographic,” Dan suggests. “That helps you decide whether to stress the great schools and low traffic, or the walk-to restaurants and singles’ scene.”

Close your rental ad with a demand for immediate action.

Why should the reader call right NOW? What incentives will you offer?

Lease signing incentives should be based on clearly calculated measurements. If running the ad for another week will cost $50, offer a $25 gift certificate as a move in gift, but only if the tenant signs within your deadline.

If the rental will sit vacant for one month, amortize that over the course of a year’s lease and offer a discount on rent for a quick close. But whatever your incentives, be specific. “Always have a deadline,” Dan suggests. Make sure the incentives for your call to action meets your demographic. Not everyone will be excited by a free month at the local Pilate’s studio.

Imagine yourself spending one afternoon showing the rental to a list of prospects, and closing by the end of day. Now, make it happen!

Dan Page is President of TrafficPointe, LLC, a national direct marketing and business development consulting firm.

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