My client was a global executive suite company and we were negotiating on a 10 year lease for a 22,000 square foot space in Atlanta. “We can’t sign the lease until we know when our Yellow Pages Ad will come out. Our opening needs to coincide with when the Yellow Pages books are delivered.” We had missed the deadline by 5 weeks so our expansion into the Atlanta market had to wait until next year. That’s how important the physical Yellow Pages Ad was for my client in 1992. Why? Because in 1992 the Yellow Pages Book was the “go to” source for finding products, services, restaurants and any other type of local business you were looking for. That was then….this is now.
Delivery methods for marketing messages are dominated by digital communications. You may be reading this blog on your laptop, desktop, tablet or smart phone but you are most likely not reading it off of a sheet of paper. So it goes with modern marketing and branding. Commercial real estate brokerage is just beginning to catch on to the idea. We take for granted that a search for information about a company, an individual and yes, a property is but a few clicks or taps of a digital keyboard away. If the connection is too slow (meaning it takes more than about 5 seconds to show up on our device) we grit our teeth in frustration.
As technology continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, we as commercial real estate brokerage professionals will need to harness the tools available to us so that the marketing and branding messages we put out to the world remain relevant and dynamic. This will provide commercial real estate agents and brokers a competitive edge almost as important as their skill set.
This will be the first of 3 posts where we will layout the most basic fundamentals and tools commercial real estate brokerage professionals can use for digital marketing and branding. This week we will cover the foundation of having a digital presence, your websites and email marketing. The tools discussed hee are tools I personally have used and recommend in our resources section, but I encourage you to explore the many other tools and resources available that accomplish the same purposes so that you use tools that suit your own personal needs and budget.
WEBSITES: Imagine a business of any significance today not having a website. What would you think of such a business? The information you can showcase on a website is limited only by your imagination. Written word, audio, video, imaging and even interactive messages abound through websites for everything from individuals to Fortune 500 companies. Even if your brokerage firm provides a website, you can build your personal brand and enhance your marketing efforts by creating websites for everything from an “About Me” site to full sites that showcase your listings. You don’t have to be a tech genius to create a website and you don’t have to spend a fortune to have one created. Simply write down your ideas for what you want on the site and come up with a name for your site. You can then go to a hosting service like Dreamhost or Bluehost and see if your domain name is available. You may have to try a few before you find one that is available. These sites have tutorials or you can go to YouTube and find “how to’s” for just about everything. Built in point and click templates like WordPress allow for a great looking site or you can upgrade to something more dynamic with a premium theme like the ones found on Theme Forrest. Adding bold images to get your message across can be very effective and you can buy royalty free images to place on your site through services like iStockphoto or DollarPhotoClub. I suggest you purchase your individual name (i.e. www.JohnJones.com). Use this site to simply tell the world about yourself in whatever manner you’d like. It is also a tremendous credibility builder with clients and prospects. How impressive is it that you have a website “named after yourself”? Building websites is simple and fun. These days you could put the whole thing together over a weekend or in a few evenings. If you want something elaborate, you can always go to Elance.com or Fiverr.com and hire someone to build it for you.
EMAIL MARKETING: Despite what you may be thinking about what a pain it is to sift through all those spammy emails you get every day, statistics show that email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to engage people you want to do business with. Now before you can launch an email campaign you will need a database or “list” of people who you can send to. These can’t be (and shouldn’t be) random people. You’re email list needs to be comprised of people who in some way, shape or form have agreed to allow you to communicate with them. A common term for this is “opting in”. You must also give the people you email to a way to “opt out” or unsubscribe in every email you send so that if they don’t want to hear from you anymore, they can notify you not to send any future emails. The easiest way to do this is through an email marketing service like iContact. The email marketing service allows you to create specific lists for different purposes and tailor your message to the people you send to from each list. You may want one list for prospective buyers and another for property owners or landlords. A service like iContact provides a variety of templates that you can use to create your email in a professional and dynamic way. The service also provides analytics that show you who received your email, who opened it, who clicked on links in your email and what emails were not deliverable. It shows you what’s working and want isn’t. Start your list with your own database and then look at who you are connected with on LinkedIn (including groups that you are a member of), Facebook, Twitter, etc. You will also want to consistently build your list of “opt in’s”. One tool you can use to do this effectively is LeadPages. Using a variety of templates that in essence serve as individual websites, you can create everything from new listing announcements to free research reports that the user will need to “opt in” to receive. Leadpages is super easy to use, affordable and they provide tons of tutorial videos to show you how to create great pages. We’ve also put together a video specifically for commercial real estate agents called “Using LeadPages Templates in Commercial Real Estate Brokerage”. Remember not to over use email marketing. If the people you are sending to feel that they are being spammed or overloaded with information, you will lose them. Focus on quality of message more than quantity of delivery. Once a week at most is my suggestion.
In next week’s post we will talk about utilizing social media in commercial real estate brokerage. For now, get your creative juices flowing by building a website and creating an email marketing campaign. The return on your time investment and the minimal amount of cost involved can pay great dividend in your earning ability long term.