I’ve been intrigued by the dynamic of building lead volume in our Apartment Finder business over the past year.

As I’ve discussed before, the multi-family marketing business is a competitive, lead-generating business that is driven by consumer’s accessing print and online directories and inquiring about apartments for rent.

There are three ways that marketing companies like Apartment Finder hand customer leads over to its clients:  a phone call directly to the apartment community; an e-mail to an apartment community, either directly or through a leasing intermediary; a click-thru to the apartment community web site; and, a prospect who walks directly into the community leasing office without making prior contact.

This week, one of our biggest competitors in the space shared a few public metric related to their lead production.  According to their recent earnings release, the company increased leads 35% year-over-year, and currently produces more than 75% of their leads from their Internet and mobile platforms.

lead comparison.pngThat made me curious.  How did our metrics at Apartment Finder measure up?

The chart to the right shows the increase in lead production at Apartment Finder over the past year.  Overall, leads gained 43%.  Phone leads were up 25%, e-mail leads were up 169% and click-thru’s to property web sites were up 71%.

This data is derived from two third-party sources:  CallSource, which manages our tracking number program, and Omniture, which provides us with web analytics.

Most interesting to me was the distribution between leads from print distribution and from internet and mobile distribution.

At Apartment Finder, 53% of our leads, including click-thru’s, are driven by our Internet distribution and 47% by print.  Subtract click-thru’s, which can’t be tracked back to a specific individual, and the ratio drops closer to 50-50.

But the key issue isn’t what source the lead comes from.  The issue is how useful the lead is.

I had an engaging conversation around the relative quality of leads with a leading apartment marketer at the National Apartment Association Conference this past June.  E-mails that are generated as a by-product of creating an appointment to see an apartment had a high conversion, he said.  Phone calls to the community were the second best kind of lead.  And e-mail inquiries were the lowest-converting type of lead.

That means there are other metrics that can point to how good the lead generation of a marketing partner will be.  A big one is the percentage of phone calls to e-mail leads.

At Apartment Finder, 80% of our leads from print and internet are phone calls.  20% are e-mails.   That’s an exceptionally good ratio, I think.