The Wire Interview is a continuing series of interviews with players in the corporate housing industry.
Hey folks! We have a great interview for you this week, this time with Tim Touchette, founder and owner of Attache Corporate Housing (Attache Property Management LLC). Attache Corporate Housing specializes in Unique Corporate Housing in Washington DC. In this interview, Mr. Touchette speaks about technological impacts on the industry and gives an in-depth description of a peculiar marketing strategy. Read all about it below.
Can you give a brief description of what your company does and why it is unique in the marketplace?
We are a property management company that specializes in renting fully-furnished condos and houses on a monthly basis. We’re unique in the marketplace since the majority of corporate-housing providers work with apartment complexes, which means we’re able to provide truly one-of-a-kind furnished rentals — 100-year-old townhouses, carriage houses, penthouse condos, all furnished by the property owners with their style and our oversight.
What do you think is happening to the furnished rental business? Challenges?
I’m a fan of how technology is impacting our industry. It’s making it easier to provide more information about locations, photos and videos, and pricing, thus improving communication and customer service and mitigating administrative challenges. For instance, one challenge we face at Attache Corporate Housing is to provide excellent and consistent customer service across more than 180 furnished properties when no two properties are alike. Technology enables us to better handle all the differences (and all the requests).
How cost-conscious are your clients?
I think all of our clients care about costs. One reason we’re a good option for our guests is that we are frequently priced below the national providers. We can often offer, for example, two bedroom properties where some other one bedrooms are priced. A second bedroom is a plus for the business traveler who wants to have family stay with him/her while in Washington DC.
What is the optimal experience you want your clients to have?
We want our guests to have a convenient, flawless and fun stay. We have three different people check out each property before a guest moves in to make sure their initial impression is flawless. As much as I would like everything to work perfectly, I realize that’s not possible (things do break), so when a repair or maintenance comes in, we aim to have it handled the same day or within 24 hours.
What is the average stay of your renters? Do your renters stay less than 30 days?
Our average length of stay is between three to four months. We have a 30-day minimum stay.
What do you like to call your short-term renters/corporate housing clients?
Guests. Since we require our guests to sign a lease agreement, technically (and legally) they are tenants, but referring to them as guests helps us focus on service, like how a four-star hotel would treat them.
How do you refer to your units? Do you refer to them as corporate rentals or furnished residences?
We tend to use both terms.
How do you use the Internet to promote your business?
Please tell us more about this car:
We first wrapped our smart car with a map of Washington DC to help showcase our city-focused properties. Then we designed red vinyl movable and reusable stickers and cut them into map-pushpin shapes with the words “Furnished Monthly Property Available Here!” and included our new URL — StayAttache.com — and a unique phone number (to track calls we get based from the car). The removable stickers are placed on the car across the DC map, indicating where our most current vacancies are, and then they are moved around the vehicle as our inventory changes. Oh, and at the bottom of the pushpin-styled stickers, we encourage interaction with the command “Please take one!”
After a failed attempt to get “Attache” for our personalized license plate approved (probably due to something about a few embassies located in DC), we went with the more active request to “Stay At [Attache]” on our tags. This coincides with our new URL and encourages people to “Stay At” Attache Corporate Housing via StayAttache.com.
And finally, since this is a moving marketing exhibition, we added a QR that directs mobile phones to our professionally-produced, 32-second YouTube advertisement about the experience you can expect from renting a furnished property from us.
The car re-design is set to match our re-branding from Attache Property Management to Attache Corporate Housing. Attache Property Management is what we do, and Attache Corporate Housing is what we provide. The entire re-branding is almost complete with the launch of a new website. We hope our new website will also turn heads, grab eyeballs and “stick” with our customers.
Factoring in the limitation of exposing our mobile advertisement to only people who are in DC, the map-wrapped vehicle with movable stickers was able to spawn a wider audience with a Flickr post created under the title “Clever Marketing,” and a story in the Washington Post online (it’s the second article down on the link).
Furthermore, we see this as an awareness campaign for the corporate housing industry in general. On the back of the car, if you glance at the “Stay At” license plate and read the words directly below the plate, it creates the command “Stay At Corporate Housing.” It may not be the best use of English, but the point is made.
Any future plans or developments for the business?
Our new website (to launch in February) has been in the works for 18 months. It’s our machine that is being custom-built to automate and digitize as much of our systems as possible. From tracking new housing requests, to recording quality-control inspection reports and maintenance requests, and providing a portal for all of our owners, our new website will allow us to provide an even better service to all our guests and owners.