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Are You Asking the Right Questions but Still Ending up in Hot Water?

How multi-family lead attribution, sourcing, and property management software may be misleading you towards a delicious disaster.


About the Author

Todd Katler


 Prior to launching Anyone Home, Todd’s 23 years of industry experience include key executive positions at Entrata, RealPage, BRE Properties and

 Todd served on the Board of Directors for both the National Apartment Association and the California Apartment Association.  He lives in Coto de Caza, California with his wife and 3 children 

June 7, 2018 3:00 PM

The famous marketer John Wanamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”  Striving towards great lead attribution and efficient ad source spend is a key objective for operators; however, many obstacles exist within the systems of record we use today... and most don’t even know, or to what extent they’re impacting their decision making.  Like above the cartoon, you may be unknowingly headed towards the wrong destination.

Nearly all Multi-Family Professionals are Rooted in Reporting that has Existed for Decades

Most of these are rooted in financial metrics and focus on the transactional elements of a lease.  While these reports are critical in helping us to understand how our assets are tracking against budget, this reporting is only a measure of the destination, not the journey nor path.  The emergence of lead tracking software has improved this somewhat, but still leaves gaps that create a false sense of security as most lead management systems (LMS) conform to the same architecture as the property management systems (PMS) themselves.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s confine this analysis to measure a move-in/new lease. Every new lease will generally follow one of these two paths at the point of converting a prospect to an applicant to a lease:

First, we need to understand for all PMS’s and the vast majority of LMS’s, the following is true:

  1. Each ‘Resident’ record must be associated to one and only one guest card (or prospect record)
  2. Whichever source is listed on the associated guest card will be the only source attributed to the move-in

  3. Any other guest cards that exist for that same person, unless merged into a single record, will be ignored in the attribution

This means that when using an LMS, or worse yet, a PMS to evaluate lease conversion, the conclusions will be materially flawed due to the following conditions:

  1. The average prospect creates between 1.5 and 2.0 guest cards per property
  2. Looking within a property management company, approximately 20% of all prospects do not lease the first property they contact.  This means 20% of prospects first contact Property A but lease from Property B from that same management company.  And for portfolios that have density in a market, we have seen this number as high as 44%!

  3. While most PMS’s and LMS’s have methods for de-duplication, this feature is rarely used.  Having evaluated tens of  millions of leads/leases, we almost always see at least one duplicate lead for every lease

  4. The end result is that about 50% of leases will be attributed to the “wrong” lead and therefore, the original source will often be suppressed


"But my software de-duplicates automatically!”

That may be true, but ALL software packages use the following conditions:

  1. The last name must be a 100% match AND
  2. The phone number or email address must be an exact match


Why is that not sufficient?  There are several reasons:

  1. Online Applications/Leasing:

    • Unless a prospect uses an invitation that is sent to them by the leasing team, the online leasing platforms create a brand-new guest card attributed to whatever source selected in that process.  Any original guest card/source is ignored

    • Most online application users do not use the link sent to them (and that is assuming there was one ever sent to them)

    • Continuing with the point above, most online applications start by clicking on the link from your property website.  This is one reason why your property website is over-attributed and your other sources under-attributed

    • The better you do with encouraging online leasing, the worse your source attribution will be because they go direct to your site AFTER searching other sites/calling

  2. Common misspellings and hyphenation of names:

    • “Gonzales” vs. “Gonzalez”; “Le” vs. “Lee”

    • “Zeta-Jones” vs. “Zeta Jones”

  3. Multiple phone numbers or email addresses:

    • Initially calling from work number and later calling from a personal cell phone

    • Email address tied to the prospect’s Internet Service Provider which they later change to another provider (Google, Yahoo, Apple, etc.)

    • General typos in the email address

What's the Answer?

Your PMS is great for accounting and your LMS for basic lead management; however, these platforms are built on an architecture that does not enable an accurate view of the customer journey.  If the system you use can only attribute the guest card that was converted into the move-in for attribution, like our friend the lobster, you are heading straight to the boiling pot of water instead of the cool ocean waters.

Look for a More Holistic Approach

To derive the right approach, your analysis needs to include all of the following attributes:

  1. A system to 100% digitally collect all inbound calls, emails, web-chats and SMS messages providing bias-free source attribution at the guest card level

  2. The ability to compare a move-in to your entire database of leads, recognizing not just the last lead which was converted into a move-in, but the first and potentially all other leads/sources in the process

  3. Understanding that the renter journey: 20-44% of prospects do not lease at the first property they contact from the same management company.  If a prospect uses ILS #1 to find Property A, but then leases at Property B with the source, “Property Website,” this is critical information you need to understand

  4. The ability to use fuzzy logic which compares common misspellings and other slight variations to naming conventions that cannot be de-duplicated

With the right method of data collection and a good analyst, you can mitigate the limitations and inaccuracies of your property management software while still making advanced marketing decisions to improve NOI.  After all, a pot of freshly boiled lobster is great….unless of course, you are the lobster!










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