Have I ever told you that my sense of direction is horrible? I've long since maintained that if my parents had wanted to ditch me as a small child, it would have been all too easy, since I was known to get lost in the grocery store. It's not that I could get lost in a paper bag so much as it's the fact that frankly, I just don't pay attention to what I'm doing or where I'm going three quarters of the time. If I could concentrate on my map or directions while driving, I could get there just fine, but I'm trying to drive, which is a scary thing to begin with, so my concentration on reading a map goes right out the window.
A few weeks ago, I went to visit a property in a metro area. It was a multiple building mid-rise in a quaint little neighborhood. All in all, I was expecting a good experience. When I shop a property, or even just stop in to see what's new, I always come at it from a "customer centric" point of view. I try to pretend that I know nothing about the industry and that I'm average Joanne Renter.
In trying to find this property, I got lost several times. Either I can't follow directions (which is a very likely possibility) or Google maps was lying to me, but either way, it took me a while to find the place. When I finally checked my GPS and found that I was right on top of where I was supposed to be, I STILL couldn't see the apartments I was looking for. Don't get me wrong. There were several buildings around that looked like they might be apartments, and that was the problem. ALL of the buildings COULD have been the particular property I was looking for, and there were no labels that I could see easily from the street as I was driving by.
I found the place, but only out of sheer luck. One of their A-boards was facing sideways - a direction that you could not read from the street if you were approaching the property, only as you were passing the property, and then only if you were looking out the passenger window. I don't know about you, but when I drive, I tend to do most of my looking out the front windshield. The other board was facing the right direction, but obscured behind a telephone pole. There were, however, balloons attached to that board.
As I was touring with the leasing consultant, I mentioned having a hard time finding the property. He asked me, "Didn't you see the balloons?"
The question bothered me well into that evening.
Balloons. In our PM world, we're very aware of what they mean.
In the real world, however, they are not the universal sign for, "We Gots Apartments!!!" but rather, to quote a favorite Family Guy episode, "A Balloon tied to a mailbox is the international symbol for party over here!!!"
How many times do you see balloons somewhere and immediately think, "They must be renting apartments!" or, "I wonder how much their two bedrooms are going for?" Now, the better question is, if you're in a car with other people, do they think those same questions when they see balloons? I'll bet not.
I will grant you that the context of the message is important, but don't think that just because someone sees balloons bouncing off your A-Board that it's going to trigger the apartment alarm in their head. Remember - You're an apartment professional. That puts you a long way from being a normal person with a normal mindset, and that's a good thing! The trick is to remember how to think like a normal person when you're trying to attract the average renter to your property, or even helping a directionally challenged consultant navigate through the mean and highly confusing streets of your metro area.