While we were walking around St. John’s Wood, London, a few months ago, I came across this sign.

I hadn’t seen anything like that before, at least in the U.S., so I did a double-take. When you think about it, though, it makes perfect sense. Texting is on the rise among “older people” in the U.K., as reported by MediaWeek a while back:

The research claims texting is becoming more prevalent among older people, with 44% of 35 to 44-year-olds and 14% of 45-plus ages sending more than 30 text messages every week.

However, texting still remains the most popular among 25 to 34-year olds, with 40% of this age range more likely to use their mobile phones for texts rather than talking.

Conducted by Tekelec, a provider of mobile messaging solutions, across three groups; under-35s, 35 to 44-year-olds and 45-plus, the study shows texting is more popular among women than men.

So: you have an affluent neighborhood, the rise of texting among the age group that’s most likely to be able to afford living in said neighborhood, and texting being more popular with the gender that’s more likely to actually look up the real estate.

In that context, that sign makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

I asked my networks if they’d seen any creative uses of mobile/social media here in the U.S. Jason Falls put me in touch with Mike Whaling, who has an interesting post on how apartment companies can use Foursquare – but I haven’t actually seen any of this in action (then again, I’m not in the market for an apartment).

Via Google Buzz, Renee Revetta said:

You know what gets me about this? It’s so simple. It takes the behavior of Edmund Cude’s target market, puts it together with its penchant for technology, and delivers a call to action that’s quick and easy to implement.

From the horse’s mouth

Thanks to my cohort, Bryce Keane, I was able to get in touch with Edmund Cude after returning to the States, and Alex Vinter, a manager with the company, told me a little more about their approach to this form of marketing (all emphasis/italicization mine):

“The texting service was launched only recently. It triangulates the potential Tenant’s location and send them to top matches within the area and links to the relevant properties. It also registers their details on the system. We contact the potential Tenant during the week, to discuss their preferences and register them exactly for what they are looking for.

“Even though it’s a fresh new service, we have received lots of inquiries. From our property sources currently it accounts for 2% of all inquiries. Incidentally, a further 2% of inquiries come from callers who see boards on properties.

This is roughly the same amount of inquiries from one of the large referral websites we use, of which we pay a subscription to, so that’s great news. Furthermore, it’s just launched and there will be more and more boards with this information on soon, so we expect enquiries to rise.”

How much does this cost?

“The costs are quite minimal to run day-to-day; it did obviously have the set up costs and the IT expertise behind that. Each prospective Tenant that sends us a text is charged at their normal standard rate, and we are charged a similar amount to return information to them via the same medium.”

How do prospects respond?

“The prospects respond well to the calls and appreciate the service. If they are not for whatever the reason, we take them off the registration system straight away. I have not come across a case where this has happened though!”

Can you say “good customer service,” anyone?

Why they’re doing this

“We decided to use this as it registers their interest on our computer system in real time. It also gives them instant feedback to their interest. Most potential Tenants do not leave a message registering their interest, so this really is important. The more potential Tenants details we have, the better rents we can achieve for our Landlords and the urgent properties can be let faster.”

What about mobile applications?

“We are trying out some new ideas in regards to possible mobile applications and other uses of mobile technology to make it easier for Tenants to access our available properties. But nothing is due to be released at the moment.”

What’s working?

“In terms of marketing, I think the most important thing we do well and which directly helps our business is by registering all callers and registering their requirements in the best detail possible. They are then called often to update them with new properties and to keep our lists up to date.

This allows us to generate viewings as soon as new properties become available, rather than advertising and waiting for the enquiries to come along. This proactive approach, allows us to give us a very low void rate on all our properties and get the best return on our client’s investment.”

What’s the goal and ROI?

You can see from Alex’s comments this approach is all about ROI. Elaborating further:

“Our goal, as always, is to give the best possible service levels to our clients (the Landlords). If we can capture information for as many potential Tenants as possible, then we stand a much better chance of doing this. Hopefully also, by showing this proactive approach and using different methods, then more Landlords will choose to use our service, which in turn drives our business to grow.

“The success will be judged on how many inquiries are received; these have been initially promising and partly depend on how many boards we actually have out there, which would not be for 100% of our recently or currently available properties, because of certain restrictions in London on which properties can and cannot have boards attached to them.”

Now, that’s smart measurement. None of this AVE crap.

How else are they using social media/networks?

“We have recently launched our own Landlord portal on our website, where Landlords can log into and find out a various wealth of information about their portfolio/properties.  I think the next step is moving into some other popular mainstream ways to get our name out there, like Twitter, Facebook and possibly a blog version of our quartile newsletters.”

Pretty cool, huh? Why isn’t everyone doing this, or some version of it?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so do chime in. And Bryce, thank you so much for helping me get in touch with Edmund Cude. I owe you one.