I recently read on an industry blog to write about your interests or something personal when you blog, so I figured I would give it a try. I have been competitive bass fishing almost as long as I have been in the apartment industry. I started both shortly after college and I have become very passionate about both. Typically if I’m not marketing apartments, I’m fishing (at least in the summer). When I began both I didn’t know much about either, but over the years I have picked up on a lot of different skills, read and educated myself on both and practiced, practiced, practiced. I have even attended trade shows for both. I will tell you that NAA and Brainstorming are WAY more fun than a fishing show. I am both a licensed real estate broker and a licensed fisherman, so I MUST know what I’m saying. From training to execution, from choosing how to attract and land customers to knowing the best time of year to do so and of course the agony of failure and the thrill of success, leasing and marketing apartments is like bass fishing in so many ways.
Getting Started as a Rookie
When I look back at my first season fishing in bass tournaments I often get a good laugh at myself. I specifically remember my first tournament. I was paired up with an excellent fisherman, so I thought for sure I was going to catch some fish. 8 hours later after watching my partner land bass after bass I walked away with nothing more than a sunburn and a bruised ego, or so I thought. What I didn’t realize that day was I walked away with much more than that. I saw the lures he used, I watched him tie his knots and he actually taught me a knot that I still use almost exclusively today, the polymer knot. I’m sure many of you can relate to this as a rookie leasing consultant shadowing a veteran. You copy everything they do and you just can’t seem to land that first lease. It’s not likely you wrote down everything they taught you and it’s even less likely you remember the majority of it. However, there is probably one thing that veteran leasing expert told you that you have carried with you ever since.
Well, it took me a couple of tournaments before I actually landed a fish big enough to weigh in for the tournament, and I’ll never forget how proud I was to FINALLY get my first one. Do you still remember getting your first signed lease? The rush of adrenaline. You try not to get too excited in front of the new resident, but the giant smile on your face completely gives you away. You actually did it. You got the taste of success and you couldn’t wait for the phone to ring so you could do it again.
Then the next tournament I didn’t catch a single fish, but I still remembered the rush I got from the previous tournament. It kept me going. It was a tough go my rookie season and the first few seasons actually, but eventually I was able to put together all of the lessons I learned from the great teachers I had and get out on the lake and consistently catch keepers!
One of the most challenging things about bass fishing and marketing apartments is figuring out which lures work best. The funny thing is that it really depends on the market or the lake that you are fishing. In one lake Apartments.com might catch the most bass and in another it could be the Apartment Finder that gets you the most strikes. Sometimes you might put a lure on that gets a lot of hits, but you never actually land any of those prospects. You might even have a prospect that you attract with your flashiest lure and reel them all the way to the boat and just when it’s time to get them in the net they jump off and go somewhere else to rent.
I’m using fishing and marketing interchangeably because they truly are. In a recent Twitter conversation with my friend Eric Brown from Urbane Apartments, Eric offered to trade me some marketing ideas for some fishing ideas. I replied, “Marketing and fishing are one in the same…”
When you have a lure that works, you know it and you can even remember some of the fish that you caught with it. I remember last summer I caught two 6 lb smallmouth (this size fish gets you a “Master Angler” patch from the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources) on Lake St. Clair using a green goby drop shot. I even marked the spot on my GPS and entered the lure I was using as a note in my GPS. One of the most important aspects about marketing is tracking your traffic. You don’t want to spend time and money on a source of traffic that doesn’t land you any leases, just like I don’t want to pull up on my favorite spot and forget which lure is the best.
Take Advantage of the Peak Season
Just like bass fishing, there is a peak season for leasing apartments and you definitely don’t want to miss out on it. Coincidentally, they both occur in the Spring and Summer in the North and the further south you go, the less disparity there is from season to season. Nevertheless, you must be prepared for it. Your hooks better be sharp and your boat better have gas in it. It wouldn’t hurt to have an expert on board either. For example, one season my good friend JD (who happens to be in the industry) and I went out on Lake St. Clair and we brought another friend with us who knows the lake very well. Usually, JD and I would go out this time of year and catch 20-30 bass combined. Well, with our expert on board we combined for over 150 fish on the day. There were at least ten instances when all 3 of us had a fish on at the same time. It was ridiculously fun. (By the way, we released every single one of them back into the water to be caught another day.) Make sure your best people are at their best during your peak season and if you can bring an expert on board to train and/or motivate them. You don’t want to be fishing for leases in the offseason to make up for the ones you missed during the peak.
Give Someone a Fish… they can eat for a day. Teach someone to lease and you feed them for a lifetime.