Cold Calling Is Out & Outreach Is In
By: Elaine Simpson Founder: Occupancy Solutions LLC.
It seems that throughout my 27 years in the multi family industry, I have always been responsible for some sort of cold calling or outreach to increase occupancy at my properties. In the beginning I failed miserably and looking back, I know why I was not successful in my cold calling efforts and have learned, practiced and perfected techniques to become highly successful in driving traffic to the communities I work with to increase occupancy. The first realization was that I should not have been “cold calling”; I should have been doing “outreach”. Most people assume that they are one in the same but they are in fact very different. A cold call is typically performed by a sales person soliciting a potential customer for a sale of a product or service. Outreach is simply reaching out to others in the community. In addition, I believe that outreach is reaching out to others in the community not to sell a product or service but rather to create partnerships and add value to your property that will benefit your residents as well benefit your new partner created by your outreach efforts. It must be a win, win, win. A win for your community, a win for your outreach contact and win for your residents.
My second mistake was that I did not plan my efforts. You’ve probably heard “She (he) who fails to plan, plans to fail”. That is exactly what happened. I had not planned at all. I did not plan what businesses I was going to visit; I had not planned what I was going to say to anyone; or why this business would want to refer to my property. I did not have a follow up plan for my contacts and I had not tracked any of my efforts so we had no idea if my efforts were effective. My third mistake was that I only sought out referrals, so I was selling my property and did not offer anything in return. By partnering with an outreach contact, you create a champion within that organization. This champion will come to trust you, rely on you, seek you out and support you to their teams and others in the industry, which increases referrals to my community. By doing outreach instead of cold calling, I add value for my residents, encouraging loyalty from my residents and champions, create valuable partnerships, which not only increases referrals it reduces move outs so my occupancy increases and expenses reduce.
Now that I have shared my mistakes, I will share my strategies for successful outreach for affordable housing communities:
Every property is different and what works well for one property may not work well for another. Factors that should be considered that may impact the success of outreach efforts include:
- Timing which includes the ability for the staff to perform the outreach duties at this particular time. Consider if your property ready for visitors and prospects to tour or are their some maintenance issues that should be addressed prior to kicking off your campaign?
- Consistency is very important because outreach is about creating a partnership and one meeting will not create that partnership. Successful outreach is a constant process. In most cases, between three and seven varied contacts are considered necessary for effective deliverance of your message and to create a partnership.
- When selecting the team member that will be conducting the outreach efforts, be sure that this person is regarded as credible and sensitivity. This person must connect well with others, listens well and speaks well on behalf of the property and your efforts.
- Consider the local culture and the surrounding community’s attitudes towards your property. Some properties may have to overcome negative news reports, criminal activity or negative reputations before outreach efforts can begin. In some cases you may be able to use this as a way to partner with an agency to help reduce crime etc. at your property.
Once you have determined that you are ready to begin your outreach campaign, you must create a plan. This plan should answer the following questions:
1. What are your goals for the outreach efforts?
- Add value to your property by creating, modifying and/or adding services, programs and sources for your residents?
- Increase the public’s knowledge of your property?
- Encourage referrals to your property from agencies, nonprofits, businesses and churches?
- How many new contacts will be made each week?
2. Who is going to be held accountable for the outreach efforts?
- Will it be a single person of your team?
- Will it be a joint effort?
- If a joint effort, who is going to be responsible for what efforts?
3. When and how often is the outreach going to be done?
- Will efforts be planned for weekly (preferred) or biweekly?
- Which day of the week and what time frame will be devoted to outreach?
4. Who can assist you in achieving your goal?
- What agencies, non-profits, businesses and churches should you target to meet your goal?
- Of this list, which entities should be the priority?
- Who/what department should you connect with within these agencies, non-profits, businesses to achieve your goals?
5. What is the message that they (the person you are reaching out to) need to hear?
- Do you know their mission, current and upcoming goals, grant obligations and obstacles?
- Does your message align with their mission, goals or obligations?
- How can you assist with fulfilling their missions, goals, grant obligations and overcoming their obstacles?
- Do your residents’ need for services, programs and support fulfill any of these groups’ missions and goals?
- How can these groups enhance your residents’ lives?
- How else could you or your property support their cause?
6. How are you going to connect and stay connected consistently with your outreach contacts?
- Networking events?
- Email blasts?
- Fax blasts?
- Mailing information and flyers?
- Visit to their offices?
- Have contacts visit your property for tours and meetings?
- Invite contacts to your property for events?
- Send thank you cards?
7. What are you going to take with you when meeting with outreach contacts?
- Business Cards?
- Activity Calendars?
- Book of other contacts to make professional referrals?
- Current advertising flyers?
- Floor plans?
- Photos of property and model?
- Testimonials from residents?
- Stories of how other outreach partnerships enhance a resident’s life?
- Testimonial from out outreach contacts endorsing you and your efforts?
- Calendar to schedule a visit to your property and tour of model?
- Small token to give to contact thanking them for taking time to meet with you?
8. How are you going to track efforts and success?
- Outreach log that lists daily efforts?
- Outreach log that is set up to log ongoing efforts and communication with each contact?
- How are you going to track referrals of new prospects?
The outreach race is not won by the hare but by the tortoise…slow and consistent will make your outreach plan a success.
With over 26 years of experience in the multifamily industry, Elaine Simpson founded Occupancy Solutions, LLC to provide site operations, marketing, leasing consulting and training services for multifamily professionals of market rate, senior and affordable housing communities throughout the United States. Occupancy Solutions, LLC, recognizes and tailors to the unique operational, marketing and leasing challenges faced by their clients to assist distressed communities with proven cost effective techniques and strategies to achieve optimal occupancy while realizing ideal rents and reducing expenses.
Ms. Simpson is a National Speaker, NAA EI Faculty Member, Michigan licensed real estate broker, a Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, an Accredited Resident Manager and a Certified Assisted Housing Manager.