I’ve been out in California for the past several days at Kelsey’s Local Interactive Marketplaces conference. The weather has been beautiful and I’ve had a chance to listen to a lot of engaged and interesting people talk about new ways of doing business.

(One of the nicest guys was Craig Donato of Ooodle: he makes sense and can’t repress his smile.)

Apartment FinderBut the most energizing experience I’ve had the past few days was with Jamie Jump, who runs our Apartment Magazine franchise in Southern California.

As we were winding down a lunch that focused on how to make it easier for her team to be more successful, the conversation turned to a challenging dialogue she’d had with a client. The client is looking at spending money with a lead generation company. The program would be billed on a cost per lead basis. The client was going to drop their advertising spend as a result.

Jamie’s counter was simple: How much are you going to pay per lead?

The client said, X.

Jamie: OK. I’ll give you the same deal. Pay me X per lead.

The client’s response was: But your leads aren’t the same!

Jamie: Why not?

The client is considering Jamie’s proposal. Why didn’t she jump at it? I don’t think she was ready for the creativity and the flexibility that Jamie was offering. Clients are thinking about their marketing in neat boxes: I’ve got search, I’ve got lead generation, I’ve got print and internet advertising.

But in the end, the issue comes down to economics: How much am I paying for a lead and how good is the conversion of lead-to-lease from each of my sources?

Jamie was comfortable making the offer because she’s done a lot of work analyzing how many leads she’s generating for her customers. She was willing to bear the risk, and she knows that at the lead-generation-company prices, she is going to make what she charges her customer normally.

The challenge in the multi-family industry isn’t innovation, it isn’t flexibility and it isn’t new sources. It’s having access to good data and applying good marketing discipline to new tactics.