Referrals from happy residents can get your owner or management company praising you all the way to a holiday bonus. The usual way to drum up referrals for your apartment community is the "Refer a Friend for $500 Off Next Months Rent." That's great, and you should be doing it, but what if (1) your owner isn't willing to take the loss in rent anymore or (2) you've been doing it so long that your residents aren't really paying attention to it anymore.
In the case of the first one, the owner is, well, an idiot. If things are that tight then it's time to start looking for another job. I'm serious. Any owner that isn't willing to take a little loss in the short run to get a new lease has something going on... either the bank is about to forclose on the property and you're going to show up to work one day with padlocks on the office or they're selling the property.
In the case of the second... your first reaction is to run out and buy a banner right? Hold off. You're going to end up spending $250 of petty cash for a banner that's going to be ignored 12 hours after you hang it up. Try these instead:
1. Give something tangible away for a referral. Give away the electronic thingy that everyone wants - right now it's an iPad. Or how about a $300 gift card or gas cards? Straight cash works too. Make the giveaway real for your residents - something they can see when they come in the office.
2. Put a limits on the giveaway. You've got to create immediacy to get referrals moving. "Refer a friend by the end of the day for $200 cash!" or "Everyone who refers a friend gets an iPad. This week only!" or "The next 10 residents who refer a friend get a $300 gas card."
3. Give away something you're going to spend money on any way. If you're in the process of upgrading your units, give away a new appliance, or new carpet (if they don't have a pet), or paint their cabinets. Most residents will love those things and, hey, you're doing it anyway.
4. Go big. Try an annual referral race. Who ever gives the most referrals over the next 12 months gets $2000. How many referrals will it take for your apartment owner to make their money back. About 1. They'll go for it.
5. Tell your residents. Door hangers, facebook, signs in the lobby, signs at the mailboxes. Tell every resident that comes in your office or calls you on the phone. Do those and you won't need a banner.
Good luck! And don't forget to vist our friends and sponsors.