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Marketing
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December 12, 2016

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 locator referrals and what we learned may shock you. Keep reading and you just might save a small fortune.

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 channels.  

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 says “… communities that offer higher locator commissions are far more likely to get locators attention than other forms of ads”.    

The same message also resonated from property operators. Stephanie Graves, Founder and President of Q10 Property Advisors writes “We have had times when we thought banners would be a good traffic driver for us and consistently found that traffic was not impacted. We didn’t get any more calls or leads and the price tag was painful”

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these reasons and more, Smart discontinued offering search placement on our locator platforms – we realized it was an outdated practice that no longer worked.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 the “worst advertising”. 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 “Why Banner ads are dead and native ads are the future”.  Another reason is noted in this article “Banner ads are dead because your phone killed them”

 

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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