Apartments.com Delivers Online Reputation Management at Scale with 1112% Review Volume Growth
Founded in 1982, Apartments.com is headquartered in the U.S. and premier online marketplace and digital advertising platform for the rental industry. Apartments.com also has been a Vendasta partner for 10+ years.
The Apartments.com brand serves multifamily housing providers nationwide. Their comprehensive offerings empower apartment communities to effectively market their listings, manage their online reputation, and connect with their target audiences. Apartments.com recognized the need to streamline operations and consolidate vendors to provide a more cohesive experience to their customers—and help them scale as they added more markets, more salespeople, and more work to fulfill.
Enhancing online reputation and digital marketing performance at scale
- 1.7M total reviews generated
- 404K total review responses
- 1112% review volume growth
- 58% review citation growth*
*From 2021 to 2022
Apartments.com, a network including 10 different websites catering to segments of the rental industry, has navigated various transitions and acquisitions to become one of the most prominent players in the rental industry.
Erica Byrum, Apartment.com’s Assistant Vice President of Social Media, has been there for it all.
Back in 2010, Byrum was the Director of Social Media at ForRent.com, whose partnership with Vendasta initially centered on reputation and listing management. When Apartments.com acquired ForRent.com in 2018, it was a turning point for the brand as they continued to expand their offerings.
But there was a caveat. They were still using different vendors, tools, and logins for their services, with social media marketing, Byrum’s area of focus, falling under a separate provider.
“It wasn’t really until the acquisition with Apartments.com that we really started to kick things into high gear and bring everything under one roof [with Vendasta],” Byrum says.
Byrum could see the huge potential of a more centralized approach—for both Apartments.com’s customers and their sales reps.
One of the challenges was to get the C-suite to see it, too.
In deepening their partnership with Vendasta, Apartments.com had several key objectives.
- Streamline operations and create a single source of truth to facilitate scalability and efficiency.
- Consolidate vendor partnerships to offer a centralized solution for fulfillment and billing purposes.
- Demonstrate value and educate their audience to gain a broader adoption of their digital marketing services beyond just listings.
- Align marketing and sales to drive revenue growth and implement a repeatable recipe for success.
Consolidating Vendor Partnerships to Create a Centralized Experience
As Apartments.com layered in multiple vendors to manage its expanding range of digital solutions, operations became increasingly fragmented. Internal inefficiencies can easily translate to a more disjointed experience for customers as well.
For Byrum and her team, consolidation was integral to reducing complexity and creating refined processes with better outcomes. The strategic decision to centralize everything under Vendasta’s Marketplace “was about workflow,” she continues, “to create synergies and ease of use for one central source of truth, one login, one set of tools, and one team of experts.”
Without the unnecessary toil of managing multiple vendor relationships, Byrum and her team were finally able to focus on cultivating the relationships that count—customer relationships.
Relying on Vendasta’s Technology to Integrate, Streamline, and Scale
Since consolidating, “Vendasta’s technology is the software that anchors us,” Byrum says, which is essential to facilitate Apartments.com’s ongoing growth and expansion.
Plugging into multiple software vendors is often an integration nightmare. Ensuring seamless coordination and compatibility among various systems can be time-consuming and complex. For Apartments.com, which uses a convenient single-sign-on (SSO) approach, it was crucial to “have everything sync up versus having multiple APIs and partnerships,” says Byrum.
“For [Apartments.com] to scale at large,” she continues, “it makes the most sense to have a partner like Vendasta because it allows us to have everything centralized in one place for both fulfillment and for billing software purposes.”
This centralization through Vendasta’s technology has played a pivotal role in facilitating the efficient scaling of localized marketing efforts for social marketing and reputation management. The impact has been particularly notable for Apartment.com’s larger partners, who can access a comprehensive view across single and multi-locations through a single platform.
“We’re also centralizing our customer needs when they log in,” Byrum adds. “It’s a single-sign-on experience for social and reputation. Both tools are available to them in a click of a button. That’s really important so that we’re not sending them to multiple portals—everything is underneath Apartments.com.”
Aligning with Sales to Close Deals as Subject Matter Experts
Byrum’s role with Apartments.com is both focused and multifaceted; she drives operations, fulfillment, sales, and marketing—but specifically for social and reputation products.
When it comes to generating revenue, it’s Byrum’s dedicated social media business development manager who plays a vital role in partnering with the sales force.
“So [the social media business development manager] and I research the leads that our sales team qualify for us,” Byrum says. “We deliver the pitch and then it’s sales’ job to close.”
This collaborative four-legged approach to closing sales has an extremely high win rate.
“If we can get the customer on the call and show them the pitch deck that we’ve prepared, along with [Vendasta’s] software, we typically close. Especially with smaller accounts, sometimes they sign the same day.”
The social media team then takes charge of fulfilling the customer’s needs while maintaining an ongoing relationship in conjunction with the sales rep. This closely aligned approach allows Byrum and her team to establish themselves as subject matter experts. “It’s very similar to what people do in the SaaS software world,” she says.
Working in tandem with sales post-close allows the social media team to deliver expertise and deepen customer relationships.
Pitch-Perfect Sales Automation
If Byrum can get the product in front of the right decision makers, her team can typically close quickly. There are additional contributing factors, however.
“We have a lot of sales automation built in when a rep has identified a candidate,” Byrum says. This includes the automatic enrollment of prospects into a drip marketing campaign that provides additional information about the company’s social and reputation services.
The marketing team has played a role in supporting these efforts, especially considering the challenge of overcoming the perception of Apartments.com as just an internet listing service. Although the company operates a website with over a billion visits and advertising services, their ancillary offering of social and reputation management is a crucial aspect of their portfolio.
Positioning the Value of Social and Reputation to the C-Suite
When it comes to optimizing collaboration and seamlessly integrating many moving parts, one of the primary challenges lies in effectively conveying the value of social marketing and reputation management to the C-suite.
Byrum, who has spent over a decade of her 18-year tenure partnered with Vendasta in some capacity, understands the significance of positioning these services alongside Vendasta’s critical role in the overall puzzle. “It’s half the battle,” she says. “But at the end of the day, [Vendasta] allows us to scale at large versus us taking a lot of this in house and constantly retooling onboarding processes.”
One way Byrum overcame some inherent silos between sales and marketing departments? She recognized the potential of reporting to the Senior Vice President of Sales.
“I was sitting under the CTO [before] I went to our SVP of sales and said, ‘Hey, I think that we would have better product adoption if I moved our group under you.’” After some advocating, she got her wish. “I think being vocal about where we sit [is important] because we’re not marketing, we’re not sales, we’re not product—we’re kind of a hybrid.”
That tenacity has definitely paid off. Byrum’s hybrid, collaborative approach has been the key to her team’s success.
Leveraging Thought Leadership to Reach a Broader Market
Byrum has been laying the foundations of her pioneering thought leadership since the early 2000s. She’s earned her title as a leading authority on social media for real estate by speaking at industry events, participating in podcasts, writing blogs and articles, and more.
Currently, Byrum is in her second year of her social media series, Engage with Erica. By actively participating in speaking engagements and sharing valuable insights through platforms like LinkedIn, Byrum is not only establishing credibility as a thought leader and building her personal brand, but she’s also creating conversation starters for Apartments.com sales reps.
“It gives us a quick talk track,” she says. “Sales reps can say, ‘Hey, did you see the most recent Engage with Erica? If you have an interest in social reputation, we would love to get you on a demo with her.’ So it’s just a quick, easy gateway piece of content to lead them down [the funnel].”
Apartments.com also leverages quick, 30-minute webinars as a strategic tool to engage with their audience. “We call them Apartmentology,” Byrum says. “Marketing has me on as a guest and that gives us a platform. We hype up social and can do a 30-second pitch at the end.”
The webinar, along with Byrum’s other thought leadership initiatives on social media, act as important resources to aid Apartments.com in reaching a broader market.
It has been these tactics and more that have led to the sale of a substantive 7,000+ billed products generating recurring revenue. In total, more than $27 Million in gross marketplace revenue has been brought in over the course of their partnership with Vendasta.
“It’s been a great longstanding relationship with Vendasta. Whether it’s ideas on how to drive additional business, tool sets that we should be taking advantage of, new features, or product roadmaps, you’ve really given us a platform and a voice… I feel like it’s a truly great partnership because of that.”
Assistant Vice President of Social Media
Apartments.com’s best-selling products:
Byrum has been in the game for a long time but can still remember how her “ah-ha!” moment felt.
“I realized early on in my career that social media couldn’t just be a marketing tactic. We really needed to make revenue,” she says. “Getting [leadership] to understand how we could monetize social and reputation was the game changer. When we were able to finally pivot, I remember that moment like it was yesterday.”
That was also the moment Apartments.com could really leverage a deep partnership with Vendasta to build something scalable together.
Today, Apartments.com’s partnerships extend to prominent multifamily firms, including American Landmark, with whom they manage over 100 properties. These large-scale partnerships exemplify the pivotal role that Apartments.com plays in supporting their partners’ marketing efforts. No doubt, they’ve come a long way from being “‘just” a listings provider.
As the demand for localized marketing, reputation management, and social media expertise continues to grow, Apartments.com is well-positioned to meet these needs head-on. Their dedication to thought leadership, strategic collaborations, and ongoing product development ensures that they remain the go-to partner for multifamily housing providers across the nation.
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