Do Your ILS Perceptions Jive With Reality?

We all cope with aging in different ways. In my case, I have always taken solace in the fact that I don't quite look my age.

But this week, I got a rude awakening. I had a few headshots taken for a speaking engagement, and in one of them, I look ten years older. The photo captured every wrinkle and every uneven spot in my complexion. I look in the mirror every day, so to me, my appearance doesn’t seem to change. But seeing the truth captured in print was a wake up call that my perception was not in alignment with reality.

This same type of shift—a slow erosion that's unnoticeable month to month but adds up over the course of a year—is happening in the online advertising space. During the past year, it's likely that a combination of the economy, a proliferation of new sites, and your own improvements to your website and internal web marketing have reduced the number of leads you are getting from paid advertising sources (although not all sources are experiencing declines). Renters are being more careful than ever, which is also decreasing the average closing ratio.

But has this shift changed your thinking about the standards by which you measure your ILSs? Some marketing managers are very realistic, but many are still expecting to pay less than $10 per lead. In most submarkets, you'll be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Sure, you’ll still get some leads, but if you cut all advertising that doesn't meet this standard, you'll lower your cost per lead but you won't have enough leads to work with.

Although it's tricky to measure where leases come from, it's not difficult to look at year over year changes in aggregate data. Take a look at your lead data for the past three years to make sure that your expectations are not outdated. You can also ask ILS vendors to identify overall trends.

Like me, you might not like the year over year picture. But the best decisions can only be made if you are armed with the facts, so it's best to just take a deep breath and take a closer look.