Real estate has, and more than likely will, continue to be a relationship-orientated business, which leads many commercial real estate professionals debating whether if investing time and money into building their online presence is actually worth the effort.
My opinion is one that more than likely any transaction completed will be the direct result of the brokers interaction with the client, but providing value-added services for your clients, may help to not only strengthen an existing relationship, will also provide a resource for potential clients to want to use you to market their listings, as well as bring in new contacts.
This is why I believe a successful marketing strategy consists of many tools, and not all are cutting edge, though the ones who pick up on new social media tools may have a stronger relationship base in the next 10 years.
A year ago, and the year before, I wrote a “Marketing Observations” report for our Colliers office here in Las Vegas, which was my reflections on a marketing feedback survey I had sent out as well as one-on-one questionnaires I did with some of the teams. The results varied and ultimately what worked well for one group didn’t always work well for the next, but each tool did give some positive results to some individuals and teams.
While I won’t go into the specific details and listing of each and every tool now, the general topics I looked at were as follows:
I started with advertising in Print Publications; these included small local papers, magazines as well as regional, national and global newspapers and magazines. Having a solid campaign within your local market can be a real boon to your local awareness, as chances are, the majority of people within CRE industry we meet everyday read at least one of the publications you’ve advertised in. While this may not cause someone to buy a property, it does keep your companies name recognition prominent within the community.
Regional, National and Global publications are the opposite. In my experience people reading the Wall Street Journal will see an ad and inquire about it. Our office actually had a few transactions done by reaching out to investors in other states and even one in another country, both of which came from the WSJ’s property ad.
In my opinion, I see local publications, and maybe even regional publications as a means to keep your target audience familiar with your name through branding campaigns, while national and foreign publications can be a great way to actually gain new contacts and potentially move your properties.
I have always had a strong dislike of the term, as it reminds me of late night commercials and Internet scam sites. The truth is Direct Marketing should include sending collateral directly to clients and relationships you’ve generated. If you’re just grabbing a random email list or mailing list and sending out information, chances are you won’t get much of a response and people will dislike you. Remember, negative impressions last longer than positive ones.
Postcards, Flyers, email campaigns, cold calling offices in person and leaving your information with flyers can all be considered forms of Direct Marketing. The results of this are very dynamic, for example, while cold calling an office and offering tenant rep services in a down market, may result in a positive outcome, cold calling an office and trying to get a hold of the owner to see about leasing out one of his vacant spaces may prove more difficult.
Email campaigns seem to do the most for brokers though, as they can direct people to their properties web page (if it has one), their listings page, online profile if they’ve just changed brokerages, or inform other brokers who may represent a seller for their buyer. The other aspect is the cost effectiveness of a good email campaign, even with hundreds of emails multiple times a month, many services out there cost less than a penny per email.
If nothing else, emails provide a way of keeping you, your properties and endeavors in the eyes of those around you and work for not only potentially closing a deal, but also keeping you, the broker, marketed.
I’m a big fan of press releases. News is free and in my opinion it is the best way to get your self noticed and heard. While not everything you may have to say about your company or industry will get attention, it never hurts to have a write up on a new product type, service, or event that could potentially end up on the news stand, or in some cases, on the morning news.
While it may not generate a transaction immediately, gaining exposure is the number one means of meeting new contacts and finding potential leads. Again, the commercial real estate industry is a relationship-orientated business, the more people you know, the better your chances for success.
I think technology scares a lot of people still, or at least they don’t understand enough about it to realize how it can help. Let me spell it out for everyone: Yes, what your 12-year old uses online, can actually help you build your professional network.
Now I’m not saying go build a MySpace page and expect to get your commercial retail space leased the next day, but what I will say is that social media provides an additional means of staying in touch with others as well propagating your information through the internet. With the way technology works now, information can be distributed quickly, instantly and easily, through the way RSS feeds work. You don’t have to understand the ins-and-outs of the technology, in fact you don’t need to know anything about it other than this: putting your property listing information, press releases or other relevant information online can allow you have this information replicated across multiple sites and seem by an incredible amount of people.
To get more specific, lets look at this site for example. Information from various news sites and Colliers is displayed here; people viewing this site see all of this. But, this information, this exact post, gets replicated over to Twitter (it’s OK if you don’t know what it is), which displays the post to people viewing that site. The post is also sent over to LinkedIn and Facebook (social networking sites, think MySpace, Friendster, etc). People who have this site on their friends list will view the post. In additional to all this we have the other sites users, viewers of the site, who have chosen to pull information from this site and have it displayed on their blog or website, which again gets distributed out to other sites. But it doesn’t stop there, because people who visit this site can click on the little icons below to “recommend” this site to social bookmarking sites (another type of social media news and information sites) essentially allowing anyone who views this post to “spread the word”. The amount of people seeing this post can continue to grow exponentially. That is what Social Marketing and Web 2.0 have brought us, the ability to distribute information without having to think about it.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This has always been a topic I believe people make much more complicated than it needs to be. The concept is simple, improve traffic to any website by making your site appear in search engines more often. Although this topic is simple in my opinion, I do believe many CRE sites over look it, as it requires someone with more technical knowledge of how search engines work and the best ways to make your site search engine friendly.
Getting down to the basics, SEO starts with simply creating a proper website that has content relevant to the key words and headings used for the description of the site. For example, Las Vegas CRE News has CRE content for Las Vegas and throughout the site are references to Las Vegas News and Las Vegas Commercial Real Estate (I’m simplifying a bit here). The next item takes place with what are called Meta tags, lines of code that are not seen by the user which tell some search engines what a site is all about, they provide key words and a description and ideally should use the same descriptors that can be found throughout the sites content. It’s important to note that due to so many sites improper use of Meta Tags, as well as blatant methods of Spamdexing (including unrelated key words and repeating popular phrases to make your site appear more relevant than it is) has caused many popular search engines to no longer index sites based on Meta Tags alone, or in some cases at all.
Next we move on to the website indexing, or rather, the inclusion of your site into search engines. While there are many sites that will automatically submit your sites to smaller search engines, to get your site listed within top companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft you need to look into manual submissions as well as the Open Directory Project, which allows users to submit there site to the directory and then a real person will look through your information to make sure it gets listed in the proper category.
Once a site is indexed, Crawlers (search engine tools that continue to look at and monitor websites) will continually view your site, which brings us to the final item in this very brief write-up, dynamic content, or simply put, Search Engines like to see content updated regularly as opposed to static pages.
There are additional items we can look at involved with this, such as the use of link backs, Wikipedia and AboutUs.org, but we’ll look at those in a later segment.