Amp up your property management lead gen game: How to get new owners in the door

Tony Maiella
| 12 min. read

Download Buildium’s 2020 State of the Property Management Industry Report

If you’ve been noticing changes in the property management industry that are affecting your property owner clients and portfolio—you’re not alone. It’s tough out there for small business owners.

A seller’s market is causing property managers’ client base (namely Accidental Landlords) to sell off their portfolios at record speed, creating a recurring need to find new rental owner clients. In fact, The 2020 Industry Report identified that property managers who actually expanded their portfolio decreased by 7.2 percent in 2019.

But what can you do about it? You have to look for new owner clients, but finding them isn’t always as simple as it seems at a time where everyone is trying to avoid traditional ads.

Regardless of whether your MO is to grow your business fast or sustain the size of your portfolio, lead generation can be a lever you can pull when you need it. After all, getting new (and honestly more valuable) clients is at the top of everybody’s list.

Still, in order to put strategies that work into place, you should have a general knowledge that allows you to get the most bang for your buck in the channels that are available.

In this post, we will walk you through the three general stages of a lead in the marketing funnel; the best sources for property owner leads; and finally, some practical, cost-effective strategies to put into practice.

The Marketing Funnel (And Where We’ll Focus)

For those who aren’t familiar with it, a marketing funnel is a conceptual framework used to track a lead from the first moment a potential customer learns about your company; to when you collect their contact info; all the way to when they become a customer.

  1. Top of funnel is focused on awareness and then acquiring leads who often don’t know your business at all.
  2. Middle of funnel focuses on getting the lead to a mindset where they’re evaluating their needs and starting to see how your services could help.
  3. Bottom of funnel is the stage where leads are comparing your services against your competition, potentially with a proposal in hand.

For the sake of property management businesses with limited budgets, it’s usually best whenever possible to focus on leads that are already middle of the funnel and show signals that they are evaluating their needs, since there isn’t an unlimited marketing budget to nurture a lead down the full funnel. These potential clients are naturally farther along in the decision-making process and have already started to recognize property management as a solution.

Sidenote: Although it won’t be the focal point of this article, it’s immensely important that you know your ideal owner profile; otherwise, you might target and attract the wrong leads with your marketing. Before we get into actionable strategies for finding property owner leads, let’s cover the most common sources of owner leads.

Lead Gen Sources for Property Managers

In order to get a sense of what you can do, it’s necessary to have an understanding of the general sources that can generate new rental owner clients. Below are the most common options.

Your Website

If you don’t have a website with an identifiable, differentiated brand, you should think about what that looks like. Even then, there are a whole host of enhancements that you can use to optimize your site to capture people’s contact information.

Content Marketing

Most small business owners won’t have the resources or time to support a robust content program with regular blog posts, guides, white papers, videos, and podcast episodes—and that’s completely okay. There are still some scrappy ways to put content into action on your website (and social media) that will prevent you from biting off more than you can chew.

Social Media

Regardless of how much money you have to spend in your marketing budget, Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram play an increasingly important role in your lead gen strategy in a surprising way that’s driven by your residents (more on this later).

Review Sites

Brands like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business have quickly become a trusted way for consumers to vet services and provide their own reviews. No business can turn a blind eye—even if they wish they could.

Local Business Events

These are events happening in your local real estate community where you can connect with other business owners and show your expertise to drum up new business.

Paid Search

For certain small businesses, the ability to experiment with paid search acquisition is more doable that you might think. Paid Search on Google and Bing allows you to bid on keywords that your potential clients are typing into their search bars.

Matchmaking and Marketplace Services

Clearly, doing all of the marketing yourself requires a lot of time. These types of led gen services exist if you don’t have a moment to take a deep breath. You can essentially buy quality leads and get put into contact with property owners already seeking a property manager.

5 Cost-Effective Strategies to Generate Property Owner Leads

Now that we have a general understanding of the marketing funnel and the channels that you can leverage to get more property owner clients, let’s get to the good part. Below are some actionable strategies to find new owner leads.

#1: Optimize Your Website

First, a couple basics that you should follow with your site: You need your website to reflect your brand, which should communicate your unique value proposition to your ideal property owner audience. This requires listing your services with well-written copy surrounded by a strong design that correctly executes the technical aspects of your site. Lack of sitemaps, 404 site errors, and slow load times can all hurt your chances to rank in Google. There are many free tools available like SEM Rush’s Site Audit to help you identify any issues your site may have. (Note: You should still consult a web professional.)

Above and beyond technical issues, you want to make sure that you’re optimizing for the keywords that relate to your business—and then providing potential clients with content that addresses any pain points that you can alleviate. How people are searching for your services in your local market is important, and can be discovered.

Also, have you noticed all of the chatbots appearing on sites lately? These can be useful automation tools to fast-track leads for a conversation with you. Most tools like Intercom start at around $50 per month and are worth exploring to help your site capture an email address, along with other useful information like services needed, property type, and number of properties.

What’s Your Best Move?

Establish a strong website, both on the marketing and technical sides. Make sure that you organize your site based on what is most important for potential prospects to learn. Do some keyword research, too; and even consider new tools like chatbots. Use content sparingly, and only when it can satisfy a pain point that you can solve for your customers.

#2: Be Socially Aware—But Don’t Go All In

Social media has become a challenging playing field for many small business owners. Some marketers may tell you to dive right in, but that’s really not sound advice. In the present day, every social media network will try to get you to advertise—and when it comes to property management, it’s tricky to target the right audience. You’ll have a hard time finding the right owner clients—even with a big budget, and especially on a pricey platform like LinkedIn, where the average cost per lead can be $75.

That doesn’t mean you should neglect social media: It’s quite the opposite. As a business owner, you should invest in posting on social within your means with your expectations in check.

What’s Your Best Move?

Your business can get slammed on social media and review sites for perceived bad service—sometimes when it’s not even your fault. The main takeaway is that residents will talk about your business, while potential clients voyeuristically watch what they write, along with your responses. As a result, your best move is to maintain a respectable presence; cultivate positivity; and respond to any negative comments in an even-handed, timely fashion. Don’t let social or negative reviews be a detractor.  You can also show continuous value to your audience by curating and sharing other relevant content with your spin on it—aim to do this about 50% of the time.

Pro tip: Ask your existing customers for reviews at the right moment and even consider establishing a referral program.

#3: Test Paid Search Responsibly

You might be thinking, “Well, why paid search, and why not paid social?” The fact is that you are able to target more granularly with Google Ads, and you generally have more opportunity to attract the right crowd when you can hone in on your audience.

According to Tariq Huq, Senior Manager of Paid Acquisition & Demand Generation at Buildium: “The key differentiator is to find ways to distill your unique value prop through your ad copy. You have well over 100 characters to make an impression. Think long and hard and be creative here, since this can really move the needle.”

That said, the cost will vary depending on your location and the keywords you’re bidding on. For example, if you’re in a smaller market, it’s possible that you could get away with spending only $500 a month to test out this channel. More densely populated cities are likely to require roughly $2,000-$3,000 to test a campaign. Huq further points out: “If you decide to give paid search a go, then you have to test it for at least 30-60 days so you can learn, see what’s working, and adjust your approach.”

In addition to nailing your value prop, which assumes you have a strong sense of your brand, you’ll also want to examine your landing page experience before pressing play on any paid ad. What does that mean? Well, you should look at the web experience from a potential client’s perspective: First, how does the copy and imagery ladder up to the ad copy you use? Second, does the landing page load quickly and work efficiently on a desktop browser and mobile device? If it doesn’t, you’ll make a bad first impression and waste your money. For a 101 on landing pages, check out The Unbounce Landing Page Course.

What’s Your Best Move?

Use tight copy that communicates the key value your business offers, but also ensure a responsive landing page experience if you decide that you have the budget to run a paid campaign for at least 1-2 months. Most of all, make sure that you aren’t bidding on terms that are overly competitive—which is always tempting. It’s recommended to get as specific as possible with the keywords in ZIP codes where you operate.

Pro tip: You can also use paid search to test demand in new markets that you are considering entering.

#4: Try Out Matchmaking and Marketplace Services

It’s not without effort to run a paid campaign, and that’s the exact reason many property managers partner with marketplaces to buy leads at a regular clip. Services like All Property Management give property managers the ability to bid on warm leads—owners who are looking for property managers in their exact locations. Additionally, All Property Management’s service is now integrated directly into Buildium, so you can search specific ZIP codes and see how many owner leads are currently available within a given radius, and then have the leads conveniently delivered.

You might be curious what all of this costs to get off the ground. For most single-family owners, you’ll most likely need to spend $500-$700 over the first couple of months to get 1 lead to convert to a customer. Historically, you can expect the leads obtained from a matchmaking service to convert at around 10%—meaning 10% of the leads you buy will convert to clients—assuming that you have a solid sales process established.

From All Property Management’s data well, the Lifetime Value (LTV) of a customer is $7000 based on an average time span of 54 months. Using this math, the ROI of a single-family lead would be 1000%! Not so bad, huh?

What’s Your Best Move?

Try out marketplace or matchmaking services to see if they can connect you with new owner leads, but always monitor your ROI closely. It’s also important to point out that if other aspects of your business are not set up to handle incoming leads, then these companies won’t be able to wave a magic wand to help you. They can send you quality leads, but you’ll have to work them if you want to succeed.

#5: Be a Subject Matter Expert in Person

When it comes down to it, one of the best (and also the most costly) ways to get new leads is to do it through events. Attending local events and connecting with other real estate professionals that serve investors or your most lucrative ideal clients will help you “show up.” Think about the biggest players in your market and where you can connect with them when it’s truly worth your time.

What’s Your Best Move?

Only attend the events that really have a solid track record, and make sure to stand out in the crowd. If there is an opportunity to showcase your business, take advantage of it to show people what you are all about. Furthermore, if you identify a community of investors and other real estate professionals that isn’t being served, consider putting on your own event or mixer.

It All Boils Down to This

Getting new owner leads in the door isn’t easy, no matter what strategy you choose. We know you’ve heard this before—but while there are various channels that we recommend for the average property management business, there is no silver bullet.

In order to judge what works best, you should measure how much you’re spending to acquire each lead and give it enough time to fully judge the effectiveness. Still, acquiring the leads is smoother when you already have a solid business in place. If you have a strong brand, and already provide world-class customer service to your residents, all of this will work better and faster.

Read more on Marketing
Tony Maiella

Tony Maiella

Tony Maiella is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Buildium. With a deep appreciation of storycraft, Tony leads Buildium's content marketing strategy to connect and educate property managers with the latest insights to grow their businesses. In addition to being a creative writer of content, he also has an affinity for Brazilian culture and will pick up a guitar any chance he gets.

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