Posted June 10th, 2015
June 2, 2015 was a monumental day for Indatus and RealPage. Last Tuesday we officially announced that RealPage acquired select assets of Indatus for $49 million. This major transaction combines two unmatched prospect and resident solutions in the multifamily industry.
With a big move like this, there are usually more questions than an episode of Jeopardy! We’re hoping to answer a majority of those for you here. (Don’t worry…we’ll refrain from answering in the form of a question).
Why did Indatus sell?
One of the obvious questions when a company decides to sell is “why?” Why would a growing company want to sell their assets to another company in their space? The answer can be broken down into two main reasons:
Focus and Scale: Indatus began as a telecommunication company. Indatus essentially started from nothing and transformed into an industry leader with Answer Automation. Even after becoming the nation’s leading automated answering service, Indatus still had room to grow and examined its options. After looking at these options from every angle, Indatus decided to partner with RealPage as the best way to grow the business quickly and to provide new options, flexibility and even greater value to their combined customer base. RealPage has the resources and the scale to invest in solution development and to provide the members of the Indatus team with new opportunities for growth.
Innovation: The acquisition will see the development of seamlessly integrated live agent and smart answer automation solutions. These solutions will be part of Level One, the prospect and resident management business unit at RealPage. The strength and reliability of the combined solution offering is unmatched in the industry, and that excites us!
Why did RealPage acquire Indatus?
Another obvious question is “Why would RealPage want to buy Indatus?” Other than the fact that President Obama called Indatus ”Guys with cool beards…”, there are a couple of other reasons:
Perfect Product Alignment: RealPage’s live agent solution, Level One, has been the leader in capturing and qualifying leads and generating appointments about leasing opportunities through phone calls, chats and email. By combining Level One’s live agents with Answer Automation’s smart automated call-handling abilities, RealPage can now offer by far the most robust set of solutions in the industry.
President of Level One at RealPage Michael Daley said,
“Live agent response is the most effective way to significantly increase capture rates for leads and improve resident satisfaction on service calls, but new smart answer automation capabilities fill a need for some properties wanting a low-touch option for calls to be answered and managed. We believe the capabilities acquired through Indatus give us the ability to offer compelling new products, including a powerful new solution that captures maintenance calls through answer automation, transcribes the calls with our live agents and injects a service request seamlessly into any property management system, greatly increasing tracking accuracy and the effectiveness of the local maintenance technicians.”
RealPage is Always Looking to Be the Best: RealPage has been known to acquire companies they believe will give them strategic advantage and will strengthen the RealPage brand as the industry leader. “If you can’t beat them, buy them,” a wise man once said! RealPage always wants to make their offerings better, so they are willing to acquire companies that have specific strengths.
What does this Acquisition mean for Customers?
Many current Answer Automation customers may be wondering what the acquisition of Indatus and Answer Automation means to them and their company. We’ve already heard questions from customers so we wanted to address those we’ve heard so far and reassure you that the acquisition will not change the current service in a negative way.
Your smart answer automation service is already the leader in the industry. The acquisition means better alignment and integration with all RealPage products and services. RealPage has a large portfolio of great products to which Indatus customers will gain better access. Our product teams are completely focused on making our combined offering one that helps drive results for your business and delivers a great customer experience for your residents, prospects and team.
What this doesn’t mean for customers: Don’t expect sudden changes in service or radio silence. We plan to keep you fully informed as we move forward, including information about upcoming releases, new products and new integration opportunities.
Any questions or concerns will still be taken care of by our (now larger than ever) customer care team.
Looking Forward to the Future
Indatus and RealPage are thrilled with the acquisition and we’re excited to see what the future has in store. We want to grow with you and make sure that you get the value and service you’ve come to expect from us. We look forward to showing you what this partnership can bring and hope you’re just as excited as we are!
Posted May 20th, 2015
Many involved in the multifamily industry know the importance of answering services to their respective businesses. In many ways, your answering service is a direct representation of your brand. Answering services help potential residents get their questions answered and help current residents get their maintenance needs taken care of. The service you have can say a lot about your company, but with so many answering services out there, how do you know which one is right for your company?
All Day Availability
It’s 3 am and your apartment resident, Betty, has her sink pipe burst. Water is gushing everywhere and Betty is in a panic because her kitchen is flooding. If Betty were to call your company at 3 am with this emergency maintenance situation, would her call be heard and responded to immediately?
24/7 capability is perhaps the most important feature you should look for in an answering service. If it’s after business hours and your staff is unavailable, residents need to be reassured that their calls will be heard and that emergencies will be taken care of as quickly as possible.
Another important aspect of availability is being able to reach the right person. Our product, Answer Automation, increases availability by allowing you to fill nine slots for an ‘emergency call roster.’ The roster can be made up of various maintenance techs and customer support staff members. Answer Automation will call each slot until the message is heard and responded to by someone on the emergency call roster.
Bottom Line: Choose a service that has 24/7 capabilities so Betty doesn’t have to swim around her kitchen until business hours.
Professionally Voiced Greetings
What’s the worst sound to a resident’s ears? It could quite possibly be those cheesy, robotic sounding greetings that many answering services use. You know, the ones that make you feel like you’re talking to Siri through a Burger King drive-thru? In order to help make people feel comfortable and at ease, look for an answering service that allows you to record custom greetings that will make your residents and potential residents feel comfortable, instead of like they’re talking to a robot. Your residents will appreciate the down-to-earth vibe they get from your answering service.
Bottom Line: Look for professionally voiced greetings when searching for an answering service and avoid sounding like Robocop retired from the force to join your staff.
Easy Tech for Techs
Just like not everyone is handy with tools, not everyone is tech savvy. While there are plenty of maintenance techs that are tech savvy, there are also a lot that aren’t up to date with newer technology. It’s crucial to not only your maintenance techs, but also to your residents that you choose an answering service that is easy to use and understand.
Answer Automation is easy to use for both maintenance techs and residents. It features easily navigable menu options so residents can get their questions and requests addressed without the hassle of sifting through confusing menu choices. Answer Automation also makes the lives of maintenance techs easier too.
Let’s say your maintenance tech Earl just figured out how to text last month. Earl, more than likely, would prefer to deal with a simplified answering service rather than a complex one when dealing with emergency maintenance requests. Now let’s say Betty, the resident from the 2nd paragraph, calls at 3 am about her busted sink pipe. If Betty’s apartment complex used Answer Automation, she could leave Earl a message stating her emergency. That message then is relayed out to all on-call techs in the call roster. Earl then sees the message and calls Betty back to let her know he’s on the way. When Earl arrives, he can check-in on-site, document photos of the pipe fix, and he can then mark the situation as resolved all through Answer Automation’s Mobile Maintenance App on his phone. The problem is fixed quickly and all parties involved are happy.
Bottom Line: For the sake of your maintenance techs, choose an answering service that is easy to use and spare Earl having to ask the question, “What in tarnations is going on?”
Other Answering Service Essentials
The three paragraphs above are some of the main essentials you should look for in an answering service. Looking for these three things is certainly a great starting point to help you narrow down your search for the right answering service. Other important features to look for are:
- Voice Activated menu navigation (Answer Automation doesn’t currently offer this, but we’re looking into it!)
- Reporting and call analytics
- Multilingual support
- Customer satisfaction ratings after maintenance completion (Another add-on we’re looking into for Answer Automation)
The Bottom Line
There are many answering services out there so it’s important to consider what the needs of your business and residents are before pulling the trigger on a service. Do your homework and consider some of the features discussed in this post. We didn’t create this post to toot our own horn, but we are very confident that our answering service will meet the needs of your property and the satisfaction of your residents as well.
Posted May 14th, 2015
It’s no secret that the information revolution we are living in has dramatically changed business as we know it. It may not be more apparent than in the world of sales & marketing. Businesses have multiple options to close deals, and significantly more ways to get the word out about a product or service. Those tasked with s&m roles are finding themselves quickly becoming faster, leaner, and more digital.
Marketing certainly looks different. According to an article in Huffington Post by Kim Garst, “The transformation is so great that the line between traditional and digital marketing has been blurred….”
The same goes for the sales team as well. In a recent Inc Magazine article by Bob Marsh, he states, “…in order to compete and succeed in today’s marketplace, sales managers must evolve their skill sets to incorporate operations, a social, and a marketing mentality.”
So how can management companies and property managers adopt these new roles in multifamily?
Goals need to get laid
It all starts with goals - for both your marketing and your sales staff. It’s not new, but still seems to be a widely overlooked starting point. Your property goals may sound something similar to:
‘Increase occupancy by 15% this year.’
‘Completely fill all new units within 1 month of completion.’
These are not sales goals or marketing goals. They are business goals, and everything else falls out of here.
For a good article on techniques of setting goals, see this article from Entrepreneur Magazine.
Ways to get there
Once you have your goals set, its now time to figure out how to get there. This is where your sales & marketing staff should work together, but where the 50 shades of grey can really begin. Without teamwork, the lines become blurred between the roles of s&m - leading to duplication of efforts, loss of time and money, and even frustration.
To better organize your approach, define the roles of Sales & Marketing in your organization. In today’s fast-paced world, typically roles are defined as:
Marketing = Strategic
Sales = Tactical
What this means is that your Marketing folks should be responsible for the strategy and execution of messaging, the deals, the approaches and the delivery. Your sales Team then follows up and closes deals, playing more of the role of the ‘hero’.
In multifamily, your marketing team should have plans for everything from: content, social, creative, brand, SEO, SEM, ILS Listings, trade shows, lead capturing, and traditional advertising. Your sales team should have plans for: follow-up, pricing, closing, and customer transition to operations.
By clearly defining the roles, the teams can now work together to lay down a plan to accomplish your original business goals.
Fun new toys
The digital world has introduced a plethora of shiny new toys for sales & marketing teams to use. In order to keep up with the pace, its important to maximize efficiency, communication, and automation. Here is a short list of potential software and tools that can help your sales and marketing teams work efficiently and in harmony:
Sprout Social - Helps organize, schedule, and manage company social properties
Campaign Monitor - Helps send opt-in newsletters and e-mail campaigns
Call Tracker - Indatus product that helps track inbound call traffic from sources
Salesforce - Captures leads and funnels to sales, tracking follow-up
Toggl - App for personal time tracking
Ring DNA - Helps analyze outbound call data and follow through to sale
Not a freebie
With your s&m teams humming, you’ll need to re-think the way you budget and track expenses. Make sure you increase your monthly budget to account for software licenses (hint: take advantage of software offering ‘freemiums’ for smaller accounts).
According to Huffington’s Kim Garst, “last year digital marketing accounted for 25% of all marketing dollars spent and that that number is expected to rise to 33% this year.”
Perhaps the old adage that ‘you have to spend money to make money’ is simply timeless.
Tweaking is a must
Whatever your plans are for achieving your business goals, when using a defined s&m strategy, you must plan on measuring your progress and tweaking the plan along the way. Don’t fall victim to thinking that your plan is a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Using the data you collect, and staying open to tweaking your plans, will help you make the most out of the new, nimble, and fast-paced world of sales & marketing.
Posted May 06th, 2015
Many B2B (business-to-business) companies invest plenty of time and money into various trade shows. According to Mike Thimmesch in the Trade Show News Network article 16 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows, B2B trade show exhibitions make up 39% of B2B marketing budgets and attendees spend an average of 8.3 hours viewing trade show exhibits. To put those statistics into perspective, that’s nearly half of an annual budget spent on events lasting one-third of a day. With companies spending so much on trade shows, how can they make sure they’re maximizing their opportunity to engage with their audience?
The answer: Make your trade show giveaway items stand out, not fit in.
Before you scold me for my view on pens, hear me out. First, pens work just fine as a giveaway. They are definitely popular and can be very useful for trade show attendees. Most companies have used pens as giveaways for a few reasons: they’re affordable, practical and compact. We use pens as giveaways all the time, so don’t think I’m saying eliminate pens from your arsenal of handouts.
With that being said, however, just about every company gives pens away. Some companies rely solely on pens to give out at trade shows. Unless your pen can do something that most pens don’t, like double as a flute or transform into a boomerang, chances are it will blend in with the slew of other pens that attendees will have collected from other trade show booths. While pens are useful, they generally won’t set you apart from everyone else, even if they have a sharp design or a unique ink color. It’s also hard to fit anything other than your logo on a pen, so your chances of being unique are limited.
So what will make you stand out at a trade show?
One of the best ways to attract visitors to your trade show booth is to have uniquely designed giveaways, or ‘swag’ as we like to call it. Putting your own personalized touch on giveaway items not only separates you from other booths, but it shows your audience that you took the time to design something just for them.
According to designer Tremayne Cryer in Margot Carmichael Lester’s article Trade Show Booth 101: How to Get Noticed on a Crowded Expo Floor, “Engage a professional designer to create a suite of materials that reinforces your brand. From banners and signs, to packaging, to handouts and follow-up correspondence, these components instill your brand to an audience, both contextually and visually.”
If you can incorporate your own unique designs, or professional designs from a graphic designer, into giveaway items, attendees might directly correlate that extra time and care you put into the giveaways with your brand and products. Giveaways are a great way to reinforce your brand image and to establish a sense of trustworthiness to potential customers.
Now that you understand the need of utilizing unique designs, what specific items should you put them on?
Diversify Your Giveaways
There is no handbook to tell you exactly what items you should and shouldn’t be giving away, besides the “Pens Alone are Too Basic” pamphlet written by me of course. All joking aside, I would suggest selecting items that are unique and relevant to your brand. Items don’t have to be direct representations of your company, but they should at least be appealing to your target audience(s).
At Indatus, we believe in letting our designs speak for our brand. By creating uniquely designed artwork to incorporate into giveaway items that appeal to our potential customers, our goal is to show those potential customers that we genuinely care and don’t mind to put out that extra effort to ensure quality and customer satisfaction. Some of the items we’ve used and had success with in the past have been coasters, stickers and buttons. If done plainly with no original design, these items might be thought of as boring. If you, however, add your own style to these items with unique artwork, it makes the giveaways more enticing for attendees and can help your company be more noticeable.
Don’t be Afraid to Test Out New Ideas
If you have some different ideas for artwork and various giveaway items, don’t be afraid of a little trial and error. I suggest testing out a smaller sample of items at a trade show and seeing how popular they are with your audience. If everyone raves about them, then your idea was probably a hit. If people tend to steer clear of that item, maybe you should go back to the drawing board. The worst that can happen is that you learn what not to use for future trade shows. Eventually, you’ll find items that people love in which you can either reuse frequently or create new artwork for if desired. Just make sure that you offer something else besides pens because chances are that attendees will already have enough ink to last them the duration of the year by the time they reach your booth.
Posted April 30th, 2015
You’ve changed your billboards and newspaper ads with social media and banner ads. Your online presence has gone from non-existent to prominent and proud, and even that’s not enough! That’s because you’ve got to figure out how to market, and then reach the varying groups of millenials, gen-x (and y) and let’s not forget the Silver Tsunami. Wouldn’t it be great if there was one thing that would reach all of your markets at once?
Well there is! Seriously…there is!
Meet 2015’s biggest expected marketing trend—Cause-Based Marketing (aka Cause Marketing or Outreach Marketing). All you have to do…is do something nice!
Caused-based marketing is taking on a cause—big or small, local or international, short or long-term. It is really that simple. This kind of marketing has become so powerful in fact, that Kim Gordon, from Entrepreneur, reports:
“The number of consumers who say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand were associated with a good cause has climbed to 87 percent, a dramatic increase in recent years, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey… [And] according to a newly released College Explorer study from Alloy Media, nearly 95 percent of students say they are less likely to ignore an ad that promotes a brand’s partnership with a cause.”
Those are amazing numbers, and it’s a win-win situation! You are creating awareness for a good cause and awareness of your community. How great is that?
It’s the Thought that Counts.
So how do you get started? Simply ask yourself, “Who would I really like to help?” There is no shortness of need—whether it be animals, cancer awareness, needs in third world countries, homelessness, hunger.
There are huge non-profits and organizations that are highly regarded and easy to tap into. The biggest craze in 2014 was definitely the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, as businesses, schools and even celebrities got involved and got iced. There are constantly cancer awareness walks/runs going on in communities across the country. Businesses can easily become a water stop, or host a booth at the finish line. And anyone with a parking lot can hold a blood drive for the American Red Cross.
While the options are readily available and seemingly endless, you don’t want to go just choosing one willy-nilly. The cause should be something that you actually care about, either as an individual or a community leader. While it may be easy to just pick one of the plethora, be discerning.
Zach Robbins of Leadnomics warns businesses against simply taking on the persona of caring in a recent Mashable article, 8 Cause-Based Marketing Trends to Look for in 2015.
“Social minded storytelling is most effective when users can easily see an authentic connection between the brand and the cause: when the partnership makes sense. As brand storytelling gets increasingly personalized, companies can no longer have a successful campaign by just supporting a good cause. The connection has to be clear and real to the user, or it could be perceived as disingenuous.”
Your story will be your marketing, so make sure you have one.
Look for Causes that Hit Close to Home
So while the large orgs and foundations may be easy to grab on to, hitting a cause that’s closer to home and heart can gain you a lot of local marketing and community good will. Maybe you’re a pet-friendly community—that’s a good reason to host an adoption day with your local Humane Society.
Has something recently happened in your local area or city? It’s easy to tout the reasons you want to help the place where you live! Find the need there and fill it! Do you have a high number of millenials? Create a residential Uber of your own to provide safe rides or ride shares, or partner with local cabs or mass transportation.
In a recent article on Rent.com, Brittany Boyce had this advice for owners and managers of residential properties in, Outreach Marketing Strengthens Multifamily Communities in Key Ways:
“Modern advertising strategies have changed drastically for all types of businesses to favor greater interaction, education, personalization and making social connections. Property managers can tap into this trend easily through community activism, sponsoring meetings, promoting community events and offering use of the facilities for worthwhile endeavors. Outreach marketing provides connections with people who seek real value instead of just advertising hype, so focus your efforts on helping instead of selling to achieve the best results.”
You may have never considered how much you have to offer. But, now that you can, it should be easy to cull down the causes you want to take on.
Let the People Know
Once you’ve chosen your cause, let people know about it. Don’t go at it alone, use the resources available through the organization or cause you are working with. Gordon advises:
“To make your affiliation a win-win for everyone, work with the nonprofit you choose to define how it will help your business increase its visibility, brand or company awareness. If the organization has a newsletter or other communications with its constituents, negotiate for opportunities to do joint promotions. Discuss how you will use the organization’s logo and name in your marketing campaigns, and how it, in turn, will use your company logo and name in its press releases, on the organization’s website and in other materials.”
Even if you’ve never participated in a marketing campaign of this kind, the cause you are supporting most likely has. Use their knowledge to help get you going and then get going everywhere. Make sure that your social media, website, advertising, residential community—anything that has your name, should also have your cause, including logo and information on how others can get involved.