Commercial real estate broker and marketing professional Rebekah Carlson of Carlson Integrated brings us up to date on the latest trends in commercial real estate marketing.
Our industry, marketing, has done a lot of shape-shifting in my 15+ years of experience. However, the changes have been accelerating dramatically, and it seems an opportune time to keep others “in the know”.
Last year I did my first marketing webinar ever – I was invited by QuantumListing, and put together the Why’s of Marketing.
When I talked about the Whys, I had no idea (of course) what 2020 would hold. But the premise that marketing elevates the exposure and credibility of any firm is as true today as it was then.
Then, earlier this year, they invited me to present a second webinar - the Hows of Marketing. You can find both webinars on their site – both video and blog – and also on the Carlso Integrated website.
It’s a solid primer on the strategies and tactics that enable you to develop a marketing plan – because in marketing, just like in any other area of life, you’ve got to plan your work and work your plan if you want to achieve results.
It’s important to understand that everything in marketing centers on the brand. And this is both your corporate brand and your personal brand. More and more I appreciate the importance of being authentically YOU in addition to being a representative of your firm. You can’t have relationships without having a personal brand, even if you don’t call it one. People like you for who you are, not just for your profession or the company you work for.
Take a look at the chart. Most companies have a handle on at least a few of these. Growing your business means making sure you have a cohesive plan for them all – and it doesn’t have to be crazy complex, just mindfully addressed.
I want to start out with answering some big picture questions that we have encountered – where you should focus, how to make a marketing plan, channels, and analytics
Once we get out of the big picture stuff, the questions that come through from friends and colleagues tend to be really tactical. I am going to cover a bunch of them here.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
These are all options you may need to set up to have a well-rounded marketing plan. When it comes to eblasts, we have used both MailChimp and Constant Contact. I know other people who opt to send eblasts by using the BCC field in outlook or another email provider. (and yes, you have to use the BCC field because you are being responsible with your contacts’ data).
One of the challenges of using your own email address as the sender is that the more eblasts you send, the more the spam filters decide you are an evil spammer. You, of course, are NOT an evil spammer. But the filters don’t know you.
I’m starting to experience the challenges myself as I’ve often used my own email as the sender for my MailChimp eblasts. Time to change the plan! There are always ways to make things better!
Social media is an amazing tool if you elect to use it for business purposes.
LinkedIn is most often the platform designated for business purposes. But we are seeing more and more commercial real estate companies and properties on the next tier – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Hosting any videos that are created on Youtube or Vimeo allows people to watch video after video of your fabulous properties.
There are other social platforms that may or may not be useful to you on a professional level – it’s good to know they exist but you don’t have to feel pressured to be on any of them. It is totally up to you how far down the rabbit hole of social you want to go.
One thing that you should remember before you invest all your time and energy on social media is that your followers do not actually belong to you – they belong to the platform. So, if the platform decides that you are a bad dude and prevents you from sending out information, your contacts lose sight of you while you appeal.
Or if the platform goes away suddenly, like Music.ly did, the contacts vanish with it. This is one of the reasons that an integrated approach using the whole circle is important.
One trick of the trade is to use a posting software to plan posts in advance and to schedule posts at peak times for your audience – we use Buffer, and other options are Sprout Social and Hootsuite which tend to be more expensive but have excellent features as well.
Going back to your contacts for a minute. Remember when I said that your contacts on the social media platform do not belong to you. It is important that you find ways to get contacts that do belong to you.
How many times do you get a business card or meet a new person and then what…. I know I know we all think later is a good time to deal with those business cards, but a CRM is definitely the best place to put your contacts. That way you can interact with them in multiple ways! Card readers are awesome for adding to your phone, but when it comes time to, say, invite people to your webinar, people who are just in your phone tend to be forgotten. Keep your contacts all in one spot!
We already talked about the benefits of understanding your analytics, but I also want to point out that there are specific tools you can set up that make it more effective. Google Analytics / Exact Metrics track website analytics. The social media posting platforms have their own sets of analytics as well. For a complete picture in one tool, we use Metricool which connects to the website and all of our social media platforms simultaneously and provides excellent reporting.
There are a ton of options out there, and a few ways you can get yourself in trouble. It’s pretty easy to infringe on a copyright, even accidently, online. (Which causes your content to get pulled down). We avoid that as much as humanly possible by using paid and free stock imagery from reputable sites.
If we make a video, we use licensed music!! Our team uses several programs for photo editing – while our primary designer and I have Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, other associates have found Pixlr and Canva to be super easy to work with – for free.
Once you have make a video, it may need to be cut – after all, Instagram stories limit you to 60 seconds total, cut into 15 second chunks. There are free and easy online video cutting tools (seriously, google it). One other way you can make a more professional video is using Adobe Spark – this tool has free licensed music, text transitions, stock imagery and video shorts to include.
This 100% online tool has a free 2 month trial. A couple of video hints no matter what you are doing and where you are using it – keep your camera steady (this means you are probably not holding it in your hand), use a headset or a microphone to help prevent background noise, and check your lighting.
Your website matters. It is your virtual brochure and where people go to evaluate your company’s offerings and capabilities. Furthermore, it has to be responsive, which means it changes shape depending what device someone is on. If you don’t have an SSL certificate – which is like $100/year from your host and makes your website appear “safe” to browsers – you need to get it.
You can tell if a website has it because it’s an “https:” rather than “http”. Finally, your site needs to house the content you promote on social so you can track analytics when people click through to it.
I recently read a statistic that 71% of commercial buyers (this is B2B) begin their research with generic Google searches. Then, over half of website visitors will leave the site immediately if it’s not attractive. In this day and age, a lot of what we do on our websites is determined by the search algorithms applied by the magical little bots of Google.
There are back-end website plugins that assist with your SEO (search engine optimization), and another element that we have found that helps you own that whole first page of Google, is to have social media accounts. The more platforms you are on, the more space it takes on that first page of Google and the more likely that people will find your firm when they are looking for you. How many times have you looked at the second page of results?)
We all see pop up forms on websites. Consumer-facing websites do it all the time. Why are we so afraid of it in the B to B world? Remember how I said that social media platforms own your contacts!?! People who give you their information willingly are taking a second step to establish a relationship with your firm.
Getting people to part with that information may be as easy as offering a white paper if they sign up, or adding them to an event invite list. We just added an ebook to our site – it was a bit of a hassle to set up the auto-send functionality through MailChimp but it was worth it. Whatever you choose to do, be diligent to build your database.
Remember how I talked about populating that first page of Google? I have an idea for you. Alignable is a local business networking site. I added two branded shopping centers to it (branded just means they each have their own distinct name and look) last year. I wanted small local tenants to reach out to the owner.
While it has not been the most effective source for advertising, it has done one very interesting thing – their Alignable listing shows up before their property listing or even their property website on Google. That is pretty cool.
Also, don’t be afraid to advertise properties on social media. I have friends that have sold shopping centers through LinkedIn posts, who have done tours and leased space using Facetime, who have identified and underwritten properties without ever seeing them in person. Especially today, the industry is looking for creative ways to increase deal flow.
Because video stands out SO MUCH and is prioritized by social platforms, I recommend that clients complete their own video tours of space on social, create branded videos for investment properties, or even engage a professional like Adam Ekstein of Real Site Video to create compelling visual representations of high end buildings and their available spaces. Adam happens to be a drone pilot as well and includes his own footage in his productions – which work well for assets that will trade on an institutional basis.
My last two property marketing pieces can – and should – work together very nicely. In fact, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to my colleague Andreas Senie, who runs a firm called CRE Collaborative, or CRECO.ai. He has created a dashboard that enables users to connect all of their various technology platforms in one place. It’s a game changer. And they are constantly working to improve the platform, taking in user feedback to make it better. The new user experience-focused homepage will debut super-soon, which will be awesome.
And while there has been a proliferation of listing sites over the past several years, I am partial to Quantum Listing. I dabble on the other big ones. I actually work in Quantum Listing. In addition to absolutely loving their leadership and their platform, they have a Google Ad integration that is staggering.
It’s literally a couple of clicks, and you can start an ad campaign for a property. For my office building in Geneva, I spent $25 – and somehow got 30,000 impressions on Google. I’ve never had that much exposure from an ad – and I didn’t have to figure out how to do it all myself.
This one has changed the most dramatically in the past 150+ days. I want to encourage you to find some new places to network online. I’ve commented lately that the virtual world has suddenly become the real world – and I believe that for the foreseeable future that will remain true. We are not going to assemble in big groups, and we need to continue to work to expand our networks in new ways.
Facebook has been heavily promoting its groups functionality for the past 9 months – you’ve probably seen one of their ads. Whenever Facebook promotes something, it’s a good indicator that their platform is going to prioritize those aspects in the algorithms. Almost every organization under the sun has transitioned their programming to online options that are inexpensive or free and you can just dive in.
Networking with people outside of your geography can bring incredible added benefit. A client in Florida was referred by Andreas at CRECO.ai – he’s in Connecticut. A client in Canada was referred by a local Chicago client. A client in Florida made the referral to a prospect in Colorado. Your network is full of people who would be willing to make an introduction for you. I am part of a group that started in the Chicago area called the Strategic Introduction League – its sole purpose is putting people together.
The newest platform I learned about just yesterday was SpotzCity. It’s an online, membership-based resource group for small businesses – primarily women and minority business owners. And it just launched! I am so excited to be a part of this group which will enable me to scale my business with partnerships for potential government contracts. I wasn’t thinking about government contracts even 1 week ago. Suddenly that world has opened up to me – by nature of a 30 minute intro call.
Paid advertising can be done pretty much anywhere. You’ve got to set a budget and determine how that will be allocated. We boost on social for our clients regularly. Last week I learned from a new Facebook ads expert friend that the right way to do it is to create actual ads in the Ads Manager instead of boosting. We are changing gears, even within Facebook, for all of our clients now. If your goal is website hits, though, and you want to drive traffic outside of just using social media, I know a couple of professional google ads experts that will take on new clients. LinkedIn paid advertising is touted to be the most successful – but be mindful that the average price per click on LinkedIn is $8.00. Most of our clients don’t have the budget to allow for that kind of tab to rack up.
And if you are thinking of advertising with publications, just make sure you check to see what they provide for analytics before you sign a contract. Print advertising is pretty standard – a single price for a single ad. Media placement on websites and eblasts may not have pricing that is as easy to understand. They are often priced at CPM, which is cost per thousand impressions.
That means that the platform’s traffic for the month dictates the exact cost. For one media buy we looked at last week, that would have been $22,900 per eblast if their entire circulation received it. Boy, was I glad I ran the calculation before I made the recommendation. The cost benefit analysis for a single eblast, testing the waters with a new ad location, was definitely not the budget number they were thinking.
Public relations are another great way to grow your market presence. Developing a strategy and message is key. We work with Open Slate Communications to do everything from announcements to articles to award submissions that make our clients stand out. This summer we worked together to nominate two clients for GlobeSt.com influencer awards. It was so exciting when they both won!
We also work with clients on press releases, features, and bylines. Our client’s the top ranking story in an industry publication amplifies their voice and gives them credibility that a traditional marketing campaign just doesn’t totally do. Thought leadership that is delivered by the press is perceived differently by audiences than thought leadership that is from the company.
Since Open Slate also has vast experience in national surveys and market reports, we’ve started highlighting to specific clients that we can take on these sorts of projects. Having the partner with professional credibility to aggregate this kind of data, coupled with our design, format, and social media skills, adds tremendous value and credibility to our clients who want to lead the industry in this manner.
We all have that item(s) that we have received that we love and use over and over. One of my clients told me that they use their Carlson Integrated notebook as a happiness journal, to write down good things that happen every day. I was surprised and honored – I sent them the notebook as a holiday gift in late November of 2018. I wear my hat from my friend Lauren’s environmental firm to socially distanced coffees. My daughter packed her things to take to Grandma’s house in a title company bag.
Get the idea? People like to get cool stuff, and that stuff sticks around. Truth be told, I’m on a constant quest for fun, unique giveaways but don’t really have the time to shop. Thank God one of our clients – and my supplier for the past 10 years of cool ideas and products – shares the best new ideas with me. In all seriousness, if you want to get on her mailing list, just let me know!
We are now on Lightning Round – this is where I will cover a handful of things really quickly! So here goes!
We have covered a TON of stuff. But that doesn’t mean we’ve got you covered! What are some questions we can answer for you?
Finally – my last challenge for you.