December 12, 2019

3 Locator Marketing Mistakes You're Making (and how to avoid them)

Are you spending money on locator advertising or considering it? We studied over a million apartment locator referrals, and what we learned may shock you.

We all know that the apartment locating industry has gone through a
significant transformation in the recent years so it’s no secret that traditional
marketing methods to locators are no longer successful. More and more communities
are abandoning obsolete marketing services in favor of leaner, more effective

At Smartlocating we looked at more than a decade’s
worth of data coming from 10,000+ industry professionals and upwards of a
million locator referrals. What
we learned just might shock you.

Paying for search placement is a dead-end.

The average apartment locator will review hundreds of listings each day
sifting through specials, photos, rents and more. It doesn’t take long before this process becomes
blindingly fast and efficient. Locators are, by nature, highly tuned to commissions
and specials – almost with radar accuracy.


What’s more, locator search results are almost always sorted by
commissions showing highest paying communities at the top.  And unlike Google, locators can sort
properties by commission rates with a click so it’s no surprise that this is
the most heavily used function in their database.  You might be thinking that your property is
always shown at the top, where in fact your search placement is exactly where
it ought to be: relative to the other communities with respect to commissions
(or any other sort order)

Bubba May, the CEO of
MoveForFree - one of the largest apartment finding services in Texas

The same message also resonated from property operators. Stephanie Graves, Founder
and President of

For these reasons and more, Smart discontinued offering search
placement on our locator platforms – we realized it was an outdated
practice that no longer worked.  

Takeaway: search placement
is rarely regarded by locators. Instead, invest in higher locator commissions.  We find most locators seek attractive deals
for their clients that hopefully entails a fair commission. Offering such
combination is a potent and powerful proposition.

Banner ads are dead too.

A second mistake that’s even more costly is needlessly paying for
banner ads. These range from promoting anything from specials, commissions and
locator parties.  Fortunately, the
question of “do ad banners work?” has been answered by both our own research
and independent studies -- and the answer is clearly no.

DigiDay explains that banners have become invisible labeling them as
And in our experience, many apartment locators found them distracting
and counter-productive altogether. LaunchBit, a company that specializes in online
marketing vividly explains more in their article titled “


Most of us can’t even remember the last time we saw a banner ad, let
alone clicked on one.  It’s no surprise
search engines dropped banner ads for better alternatives long ago.


The good news is that management companies are starting to realize
that too now.


“Oxford Enterprises Management does not participate in or pay for locator search placement ads
because we’ve found that directly contacting the locators via email or with an
in-person visit is far more productive and cost-effective; allowing for savings
in advertising that can be allocated to the actual commissions we pay the
locator “ -
Kara Garst, Director of Operations, Oxford Enterprises

We asked the same from the locators and the response we got back?  You guess it. 

“Banner ads are not effective advertisement because
the high cost and limited effectiveness.  It’s better to spend the money
elsewhere.”    CEO, MoveForFree apartment locators.


Takeaway: reconsider banner ads altogether.  Your commission rates and will naturally draw
both prospects and locators without them. 
If there are specific things you wish to promote just use email. It’s
still the best, mostly widely used form of reach.  We saw
a big trend in 2016 with communities using more and more emails as a primary
form of communication with locators.  We
expect to see even more of this in 2017.

The secret about locator ads.

There’s no such thing as “Houston Locators” or “Dallas Locators”
because in Texas, like most states few locators physically escort their clients
to communities which allows them to work the entire state and even do so
remotely from anywhere.  Advertising your
product with any one database company means alienating yourself to another group
of locators using another database.  

Thousands of real estate agents have utilized Smart Locating giving us
every incentive to sell various forms of ad packages. Yet, we deliberately
choose not to do so for the simple reason that we don’t believe this form of
locator-database advertisement works.      


Gina Y. Erwin, President of GWR Management writes “our management company has a commitment
going forward to streamline advertising and focus on driving prospects to our
website. This includes no longer paying for locator ads, and we have not
been hurt at all by this decision.”


Takeaway: experiment with turning off locator ads temporarily and see
the results for yourself. We can tell you that nothing will change for the masses
that use our services every day.  The savings,
after all could be in thousands of dollars.

Truth and lies of Locator marketing (that can save you thousands)
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