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E-mail revamp helps ApartmentGuide.com boost open rates, track leads

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ApartmentGuide.com provides large apartment communities and their managers a way to advertise vacancies to real estate professionals and consumers. Until recently, those customers would log in to the company's website to sign up for text-only e-mails. There were no images, and tracking was difficult, said Jason Amann, the company's senior e-mail marketing manager, which meant there was no way to give apartment owners a heads-up that someone might be interested in their properties.

“It gave us no way to track if a property owner was getting leads,” Amann said. “You might have someone say they hadn't received any leads for a month and cancel their contract, and there was no way to check to see if they did or didn't.”

Hoping to help its real estate customers maximize their leads, the company in March launched a program with e-mail service provider e-Dialog. Today, when someone searching for an apartment clicks on a Web link, an e-mail is automatically sent to the property owner or manager, giving him or her complete contact information, including an e-mail address. That property manager can then follow up with a personalized e-mail that contains additional information about the property, including photos, links and a detailed description. This creates a branding opportunity, too, since ApartmentGuide.com can make sure that every communication contains logos and other branding elements to make people comfortable working with the company.

Almost immediately, Amann said, open rates increased considerably. “We had guessed previously that only 30% of the lead e-mails that were sent out were opened,” he said. “Once we switched to an HTML-based e-mail that was personalized and contained more detailed information, we were able to blow away our expectations and achieve a 60% open rate.”

Salespeople have more visibility into specific properties, too, because all leads are summarized in one place. They can see, for example, how many leads they received in total on a specific property, and which types of properties a specific renter might be interested in. Plus, the management company can track how well each salesperson is doing in his or her job. Finally, ApartmentGuide.com now has metrics it can show to its real estate owners to indicate the success of its listings.

“Now we can go back and show yes, you got these leads,” Amann said. “Our customers can use it as a sales tool. They can monitor the activity of a specific property and the activity of the leasing agents,” he said.

Going forward, ApartmentGuide.com expects to integrate social media and its CRM program, so that every interaction that a customer has with the brand will be gathered and analyzed. “It's really opening up the way we speak to our customers,” Amann said.

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