The commercial real estate industry is a crowded marketplace—but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out from the rest of the pack. Commercial real estate marketing has evolved tremendously over the past decade. Some industry professionals are struggling to keep up, creating an opportunity to differentiate your business from the others.
In this definitive guide to commercial real estate marketing, we dive into the most important aspects of creating an effective marketing plan—from finding and understanding your target market, to optimizing your content and campaigns to drive leads to conversion.
Commercial Real Estate Marketing
Consumers today are driven by experiences—not individual products. In order to sell your products or services, you need to deliver a tremendous customer experience across all marketing mediums.
This requires a robust marketing strategy. Piecemeal efforts, like the occasional tweet, will fall short.
If you’re going to delve into the realm of commercial real estate marketing, it’s important to take a thoughtful approach and commit the time and resources needed to execute accordingly. At every touch point, you want people to walk away thinking, “wow, that was helpful,” or “wow, what useful information!”
There are many steps you need to take to get to that point. In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to do so by discussing the following:
Finding Your Target Audience with Reonomy
Perhaps the most important aspect of your commercial real estate marketing strategy is understanding your target market in full and knowing where to find them.
For instance, if you’re trying to sell a 50,000 square foot commercial office space, your target audience might be large corporate clients. It wouldn’t make sense to create marketing materials targeted to residential real estate buyers if they aren’t in your target market.
Compare this to someone who is in the business of selling commercial solar panels. The audience will be entirely different. In this case, the audience might include large land or building owners, or institutional clients such as public agencies, hospitals and universities.
In order to understand your target market, take a step back and ask yourself:
- Who am I selling to?
- Where do these people currently buy similar products and services?
- What is my service area (geographically)?
- What is the average income or company (or property) size that I want to sell to?
- Historically, what is the profile of my prospects that have converted?
Once you understand who your audience should be, you can begin to research the properties and property owners that fit within that audience. The easiest way to do so is with Reonomy.
Reonomy makes it incredibly easy to search for and find the ideal properties in property owners in any market nationwide. From large metros like LA and NYC, to tiny Opportunity Zones in Oakland, and on.
You can find your target audience by running a property search on Reonomy’s web platform.
You can identify properties within your target market by searching geographically, by asset type, by sales and debt history, owner name, and more.
For the sake of example, let’s say you’re a commercial mortgage lender in Baltimore, MD. Your institution specializes in multi-family property loans of a specific size (in terms of both number of units and mortgage amount).
Believe it or not, when using Reonomy, generating a list of multi-family properties in Baltimore in need of refinancing is quite simple.
The first thing you can do is search within Baltimore. By visiting the “Location” tab of Reonomy’s search platform, you can search for properties by state, city, county, zip code, street name, and exact street address.
In this case, enter Baltimore into the “City” search bar, along with any zip codes or street names that may apply.
From there, you can add a filter for a specific asset type. In this case, we’re searching for multi-family properties, which can be done in the “Asset Type” tab of the search page by adding a filter for “All Multi-family.”
In the “Building & Lot” tab of the search, page you can also add more layers of filtering, adding specifications for number of units, building and lot size, as well as other filters for property age, renovations, and zoning.
Property Search by Sales and Debt History
Once you’ve searched for properties based on their physical characteristics, you can begin adding filters for specific sales and debt characteristics.
Reonomy let’s you search for properties based on their most recent sale price and sale date, as well as most recent mortgage amount and date, lender, and on.
Being able to search properties with such granular filters lets you find your target market in the blink of an eye. Reonomy also allows you to quickly and easily build lead lists to fuel your marketing and cold outreach campaigns.
From there, you need to begin establishing your brand and building targeted marketing campaigns.
Building a Commercial Real Estate Marketing Plan
It’s likely that you have at least a few competitors serving your same target market, so you need to figure out what sets you apart from them. Are you the low-cost competitor? Do you provide tech-enabled solutions for your customers? Maybe you only focus on ultra-high-end listings within your marketplace. Perhaps you have access to off-market properties and your competitors don’t.
Whatever the case may be, you need to understand how you’re different from the rest. Develop a logo, mission statement and/or company values that reflect your identity or brand.
You also need to better understand your target market. With the help of Reonomy, you can better understand your targets on an individual level, while staying well-versed in the market overall.
Understanding those two things will serve as a foundation to the rest of your commercial real estate marketing strategy.
At a minimum, you should have a strategy in place that includes a well-designed website, content marketing, social media, email, AdWords, and remarketing, all backed by the necessary tracking and analytics. Your strategy should outline a path for integrating each of these components over time.
By some estimates, more than 80% begin their search for products and services online. That means you need to create a highly responsive, engaging website to accompany your commercial real estate marketing materials.
Your website should be intuitive. People need to be able to find the information they’re looking for with the click of a button. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to learn about a product, service or company and having to navigate multiple pages to find what you need (or worse, NOT find what you need!).
Here are the basics to consider when designing a new website:
- Images: Be sure to feature professional images that highlight you, your company, products and services. Invest in high-quality photos if you haven’t done so already.
- Description of Products/Services: Include a page on your website that clearly describes the products or services you offer.
- Contact Information: This should be obvious, but it’s amazing how many websites fail to include basic contact information! If people want to learn more about you, your products or services, they need to know how to contact you. Embed a contact form, or at a minimum, simply give a contact name, phone number and email address for those looking to touch base offline.
- Call to Action: A “call to action” is one of the most critical aspects of a commercial real estate website. When thoughtfully done, it can draw the contact information out of your website visitors—information that’s overwhelmingly beneficial when prospecting. For instance, you could offer a free commercial property assessment for those who enter their name, address, email and phone number. Or you could offer a market prospectus available for download after entering your contact information. It’s important that the product or services you offer through the call to action are of high enough value to engage your audience.
- SEO-Friendly Content: Start by doing research on the most often searched keywords relevant to your target market. Then embed content on your website that includes these keywords. This makes your website what’s called “SEO-friendly.” SEO stands for search engine optimization and in short, refers to your website’s likelihood of ranking high in website search results. You could design the sleekest website but it won’t matter if people can’t find it!
Content marketing is no longer a buzzword – in fact, it’s the linchpin to an effective commercial real estate marketing strategy.
The Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for information on all-things content marketing related, describes content marketing as follows:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Content marketing can take many forms: website content, blogs, podcasts, videos and more. The key here is providing highly valuable, narrowly-targeted content for your specific audience. You can share this content across all media, and in each case, the content you share should be optimized to be SEO-friendly.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is a great way to connect with your target audience. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat are just a few platforms to learn. But again, create a thoughtful social media strategy. Which forums do your prospects engage with most? If you’re targeting a younger crowd, you might focus your attention on Instagram or Snapchat. If your audience is older, consider Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But remember—even the most sophisticated, technical companies tend to have younger people manning their social media accounts—so don’t rule out other forms of media. For instance, a company executive might not monitor his company’s Twitter account, but you might be able to connect with the company’s social media intern to set up an introduction to that executive.
One caveat to all social media marketing: be careful not to overly self-promote. Social media should be used to share information about your own products and services, but it’s also a great way to share other thought leaders’ content.
A second caveat to social media marketing: social media is often like getting a puppy dog. It’s fun and exciting at first, but the puppy dog eventually turns into a dog—and it needs to be loved, nurtured and cared for over time. Commercial real estate professionals often launch social media strategies and then fail to follow through. Social media is a major time commitment, so be selective with which platforms you decide to use. Be sure you can post content consistently to remain relevant with social.
As your email database of prospective and existing clients, consider launching an email marketing campaign. Hyper-targeted campaigns can be a great touch point for keeping you top of mind with your target market.
Consider a monthly email that offers a discount on your product or services. Or every so often, send out an email blast that details your company’s recent successes or major sales transactions. Another strategy is to cultivate market information or commercial real estate market trends that you can share with your target audience – this will help position you as a thought leader within your market niche.
Adwords for Real Estate
Ever wonder how Google makes money? The search engine sells ads through what’s known as “Adwords”. Adwords is an advertising system that publishes paid, clickable ads based upon a user’s keyword search. For instance, if you’re a hard money lender in the Miami area, you might want an ad for your company to show up when someone in Miami searches for “alternative forms of commercial real estate capital”. Or if you’re a retail broker, you might want your ad to appear when someone searches for “retail space” in your target market.
Real Estate Remarketing
For commercial real estate professionals working within a limited budget, consider real estate remarketing. Rather than advertising to the masses, real estate remarketing is a form of online advertising that only displays ads to people who have previously visited your website. This is another great way to keep your company top-of-mind with people who are at least vaguely familiar with your brand, products or services.
Tracking and Analytics
How do you know whether your commercial real estate marketing strategy is effective? It’s all about data, data and more data! There are several tools available to collect, monitor and analyze your marketing efforts. Google Analytics is the most basic way to track your website and social media metrics. Cyfe, Segment and ClickMeter are other tools that can help you track and analyze your CRE marketing efforts.
There are many benefits to tracking and analyzing this data. First, it tells you how far you’ve come. If you analyze your performance before implementing your new strategy, you’ll be able to quantify your gains after implementing the strategy. Second, you can determine which marketing strategies are having the greatest impact – in other words, which tools are helping to generate the most leads? This allows you to target precious marketing resources most effectively.
Commercial Real Estate Public Relations
We’ve already mentioned the types of content that can help you become a thought-leader in the CRE industry, but why does that matter? People like doing business with professionals—others that they know are credible. Building relationships with external publications and businesses can serve as terrific forms of advertising.
One of the easiest way to get in front of your target audience is by getting into their most-often read publications. The easiest way to do this is by advertising in those publications—such as CCIM’s CIRE (Commercial Investment Real Estate) Magazine or NAIOP’s Development Magazine.
Better yet, try to get an article placed in those publications that reference your product or service. An alternative strategy is to write a guest column or op-ed in one of those publications that highlights your expertise within your specific market niche.
Likewise, local business journals are a great way to market your knowledge, experience or services to a hyper-local audience. One of our favorite techniques is to speak on an industry panel that the publication will likely feature—thereby getting your name in front of your target audience in an indirect but important fashion.
Sticking Out in a World of Marketing
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into creating a successful commercial real estate marketing strategy. Start by creating a manageable strategy, and build upon that strategy over time.
It might be that you only focus on designing a highly-responsive, beautiful website at first. Then you might decide to test the waters with weekly blogging as part of your content marketing strategy. When you’re ready, embark on a real estate social media marketing campaign that helps distribute that content to a broader audience.
In the end, what matters most is that you’re in-tune with your own needs and the needs of your target audience.