Over at Leasary, we have a lofty goal: revolutionize the rental industry. However being a one-person team your time is the most valuable asset you have, and there are enough ideas to go around. In talking with a friend one weekend we realized that Leasary has a long way to go until we make traction with our users, but that shouldn't stop us from getting our first ones now!
Talking to users is the single most important source for getting new ideas and features. There's a lot of methods to accomplish this. You can: call them up, put out a survey, or make an MVP that advertises the feature and test it out. We decided to learn how to talk to users by creating a simple MVP to test out collecting rental applications digitally. The concept is simple: don't talk to users and build a solution for a presumed problem.
That's where EasyRentApply comes into the light. EasyRentApply is a purpose-built application to solve one problem: collecting rental application data from applicants. It is also split from the Leasary name, so our ideas can be tested without impacting the main brand.
Ideally, the scope is as narrow and clear as possible because time is not on our side. We choose to solve a simple problem: replace paper tenant applications with a digital copy. Nothing fancy, no approval, nothing beyond a simple application that landlords can use to gather information.
We discussed the primary workflow, and each time we found ourselves wandering, we reigned it back in. The primary workflow ended up being split into five pages, three for the landlord, and two for the prospective tenant.
- Create Rental Application Page - Landlord
This one ended up being simple with just two personal questions (name & email) and a property address to remind the tenant where they're at. No email confirmation or registration required.
- Rental Applications List Page - Landlord
Once you have your rental application created, the obvious next step is to be able to review applications. A simple table or list should suffice, with the next page intended for application consumption. This page also includes the unique link for landlords to share the application.
- View Rental Application - Landlord
This is the meat of the project. The rental application review page gives the landlord everything they need to know about the prospective tenant.
- Rental Application Page - Tenant
Once a landlord has shared the unique link with the tenant, they can visit the rental application page which contains standard fields for collecting the data. The prospective tenant will receive a confirmation email once it is submitted. The landlord will receive a similar notice.
- Rental Application Submitted Page - Tenant
Simple page to thank the tenant for submitting their application. No actions are possible.
How it's Built
The most critical piece of this project is time, and not wasting it. It's important to stick to familiar concepts when building an MVP. It can be tempting to jump into new technology, framework, or architecture, but that quickly clouds the vision of the product.
The first step was to define the fields to collect from the landlord & tenant. We ended up fighting over the landlord name field in an attempt to cut down the number of required fields as dramatically as possible.
Once we had the fields set out, it was smooth sailing. We made each of the views, along with a single field from each page, and ensured they were wired together and functional. Once you have one field on each page, additional fields are simple & straightforward. We created a couple of components to help handle errors & recover the user's input on error, which made adding new fields blazing fast.
Once you have forms & fields wired up, you'll need some kind of notice of success. Since EasyRentApply has such a simple foundation, the safest approach is emailing the user to let them know about the newly created rental application. This doubles as two things: it gives the user a link back to their rental application list page and gives them a notifications channel.
We picked a couple of tools to help along the way:
- Laravel - Web Framework
- Mailgun - Outbound Mail
- DigitalOcean - Cheap & easy hosting
- FastMail - Inbound Mail
- Google Analytics - Analytics tool
- Skeleton - CSS framework
Our approach to advertising is also simple: throw things at the wall for relatively low cost, and hope something sticks! Facebook appears to be a great platform for targeting landlords because the demographics overlap perfectly. Advertising platforms can significantly differ depending on your target audience. For example, TikTok is great for targeting young adults but not necessarily landlords.
The first test was to make the ad description engaging and use a stock photo to fill it out. We linked directly to the call to action page with a Learn More button.
Selecting the audience was much tricker, as Landlords do not have a clear denomination. We did find a category under Interests that suggests landlord-like intent but there were some hesitations with Facebook's liking approach. We'll also be testing additional messaging & audiences in the future to learn more about reach.
Given the duration of the ad and it's expected audience reach we set some initial targets for a successful ad. Our initial success formula was:
2,900,000 total audience
10,000 impressions = 0.35% of audience
35 clicks = 0.35% of impressions
2 conversion = 10% of clicks
Surprisingly, EasyRentApply had a very large number of click throughs from Facebook to the landing page. Either the ad content was engaging enough to merit a click or there's a lot of fumbling fingers on Facebook. However, all of this traffic only resulted in one rental conversion and unfortunately no applications (which indicates the landlord was either confused or just testing the waters).
2,900,000 total audience
6,610 impressions = 0.22% of audience
136 clicks = 2.05% of impressions
1 conversion = 0.73% of clicks
The impressions were easy to explain since they relate directly from the amount you spend. However the amount of clicks from the impressions was very surprising at a whole 2%! This Facebook advertising campaign was a success! It drove users & traffic to the website, even with a bare bones ad post (missing avatar, slightly sketchy name, etc). Here are the ad results directly from Facebook. They are very closely aligned with Google Analytic's results on the campaign. You can find the full results of both in the Appendix of this blog post.
All in all, this was an awesomely successful test. We built an MVP in a week, launched it, and acquired one customer. We also learned about advertising on Facebook, and we now have clear direction on two next attempts at capturing attention from users. The two next tests will be:
- Content Marketing Blog Post on Leasary — Can we drive engagement when the content is more in-depth, even without a call to action?
- Change Audience for EasyRentApply — Is there a better audience or market to target? Facebook has another market segment to use that classifies landlords a bit more generally.
Thanks for reading this post! Leasary is an open company, which means that all of our companies content & planning are open and accessible. If this concept interests you, please read more in our Welcome to Leasary blog post.
GitHub Source Link
Full Facebook Ad Submission
Facebook Ad Results
Google Analytics Results