It's a good time to be in commercial real estate. In the third quarter of 2018, nearly three-quarters of commercial real estate agents closed a sale on a property, and the average transaction had a value of $1.8 million.
Looking forward to 2019, the vast majority of commercial real estate investors (97 percent) plan on increasing their commitment to commercial properties.
Investors want commercial properties, and you've got those properties to sell to them. But how do you go about promoting and marketing your commercial real estate properties to best appeal to those investors?
You need a plan and strategy to get your properties out there and to make them appeal to buyers. Here's how to do just that.
How to Create a Commercial Real Estate Marketing Plan
A real estate marketing plan lays out how you'll go about marketing and advertising your commercial real estate business and any properties you have for sale or lease over the coming year. With a marketing plan, you define who you are, what your target and goals are, and what methods you'll use to reach your audience and achieve your goals.
Two things are worth knowing about a marketing plan. First, like a business plan, a marketing plan isn't set in stone. You can revisit it as the months or year goes on and revise it as your needs change. Second, a marketing plan isn't something you can "wing." It's worth it to take the time to write down your plan. Doing so means you're more likely to stick with it. Plus, when you have a written plan, you can always go back and reference it.
Ready to start putting together your plan? Here's what you need to do.
1. Know Thyself
The first part of creating a marketing plan should be figuring out who you are and, most importantly, what makes your business unique. One way to figure out who you are is by working through a SWOT analysis.
SWOT is an acronym for "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." To get a clear sense of who you are, you need to look at both the good and the bad:
- Strengths: Strengths are the things your business does well. You might have properties in your portfolio that are located in the most in-demand locations in your city. Or your company might have decades of experience and instant name recognition. You might have a team of real estate agents working for you who have years in the business and books full of loyal, repeat clients. If you have any resources or access to features that put you ahead of your competitors, you should include them in the strengths category.
- Weaknesses: A weakness is anything that keeps you from performing at your best. Maybe you have high turnover and are continually losing agents to competitors. It could be that you haven't closed a sale in several months. Another weakness is being unsure of what your company is and what makes it unique compared to other commercial real estate companies or agents.
- Opportunities: If strengths are things your company already has that make it better than the competition, then opportunities are chances your company has to improve or become better than your competitors. An opportunity might be finding a commercial property to sell in an up-and-coming area, where there aren't many other real estate agents or where there's ample demand but fewer properties.
- Threats: Threats are factors that can put your business at risk or that can hurt your company. Zoning limitations can be a threat to a commercial real estate agency, as can an influx of other agents into an area.
In addition to a SWOT analysis, the "know thyself" section of your marketing plan should include the basics. How many agents are working for your company, or are you a sole proprietor? How long have you been in business? What's your company's mission or vision?
If you have a unique or exciting origin story, include it in this section.
2. Set Your Goals
The second step when putting together a marketing plan is to identify and set your goals for the months or year ahead. What do you hope to achieve?
The trick to setting goals is to make sure you're creating goals that you can achieve. To do that, it helps to get SMART about goal setting.
SMART goals are the following:
- Specific: Specific goals have a clear endpoint and result. "Increase sales by 10 percent in the fourth quarter" is a specific goal. You know exactly what you are working toward.
- Measurable: It's easy to get wishy-washy when it comes to goal setting, which is why it helps to have a goal you can track and measure. You can measure "increase sales by 10 percent" by looking at your sales figures from the previous quarter and comparing it to sales figures in the current quarter.
- Actionable: An actionable goal is one that you can actually do. To increase your sales, you can take steps to market your properties better and to find more leads and prospective buyers.
- Relevant: A relevant goal is one that makes sense for your company. It's within the scope of your business and the realm of possibility.
- Time-bound: How can you know when you've achieved a goal or if you've failed to reach your target? You need to set a time limit. "In the fourth quarter" lets you know when you plan increasing sales and whether or not you ultimately reach that goal.
3. Identify Your Buyers
How you go about marketing your properties all depends on the type of buyer you're trying to target. Commercial buyers are vastly different from residential buyers. They might have deeper pockets and might be more likely to pay cash for a property. The process of financing a commercial property tends to be more complicated than getting a mortgage on a home.
A person or company interested in commercial real estate might be more interested in how much income the property will generate while a residential buyer is going to want to know the value of the home in comparison to other houses around it.
Among commercial real estate buyers, different entities are looking for different things. You can't convince a restauranteur to purchase office space, for example, and it's unlikely an investor whose portfolio is strictly industrial properties will be interested in purchasing retail real estate. When you have a general idea of who your target buyers are, you can more easily fine-tune your marketing strategies later on.
4. Set a Budget
As they say, you need to spend money to make money. Marketing and advertising cost money. The key to making sure you're spending money wisely and that you don't end up hurting your bottom line is to set a budget.
One way to set a budget is to look at your anticipated revenue. If you've been selling commercial real estate for a while, you most likely have an idea of how much your company brings in each quarter. Try to keep your marketing budget below 12 percent of your expected revenue.
After you've put together a budget, if the figures are too high, it's time to look at where you can make cuts or reduce expenses. For example, you might consider hiring an intern to handle social media marketing instead of working with a pricier agency. Or, you might choose to focus on the marketing tactics that have worked in the past, rather than trying something new.
5. Choose Your Tactics
The next step when creating a marketing plan is figuring out how you'll get the message out there. In this day and age, you have multiple options when it comes to marketing tactics. You can use a combination of some or all of them to reach your buyers:
- Social media advertising
- Organic social media posts
- Video, photos and virtual tours
- Creating a website
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Print materials, such as brochures
- In-person events, such as agent meet-and-greets and open houses
Strategies for Commercial Real Estate Marketing
After you've put together your marketing plan, it's time to zero in on the specific strategies you'll use to promote your properties and bring in buyers. The strategies you use are influenced by your plan and are also a way to carry out your plan and reach your goals.
When it comes to developing strategies, a mix of old and new marketing tactics is likely to produce the best results.
1. Create Buyer Personas
When you created your marketing, you identified the prospective buyers you're going to reach. Now you want to find out as much as possible about those buyers. One way to do that is to create buyer personas, an inbound marketing tactic that tells you the who, what, where, why and how of your intended audience.
A buyer persona is usually a fictional representation of your target customer, but it is an accurate way to figure out the best way to approach them. When creating personas, you want to answer the following questions:
- Who is the buyer? Figure out what their interests are and what industries they work in. Consider whether they have purchased a commercial property before.
- What are their concerns or problems? You need to be able to ease their pain points and solve the problems they are having with your property. They might be a crafter in need of a new retail space, a commercial developer looking for a large tract of land on which to build a new shopping mall or the owner of a small business who's looking for office space. Along with knowing what the buyer is after, it helps to understand the obstacles they face, such as zoning or financing issues.
- Where is the buyer? Consider whether your buyer is local, looking to relocate from another state or are in another country altogether.
- What are they interested in? What features or concepts will stand out to this particular buyer?
- Why would they work with you? Think back to the strengths you listed in your SWOT analysis to determine how your company can appeal to this persona in particular.
- How do you connect with them? Learn what social media platforms your buyers use. Are they tech-savvy or technophobic? You might have a better chance of connecting with them offline, at in-person events or through traditional mailers.
2. Put the Property's Best Foot Forward
Whether you're selling or leasing a restaurant, a massive office building or an industrial property, you want to show it off. Several real estate marketing tactics let you present your property to prospective buyers in an appealing way.
A marketing video lets a potential buyer "tour" the space from the comfort of their office or on a mobile device. They can get a sense of what it's like to walk through the property without having to go through the hassle of scheduling a tour or appointment in person. If they like what they see, they're more likely to take the next step and schedule a visit. With a video tour, buyers are less likely to be disappointed when they see the property in person.
Creating a 360-degree virtual tour of the property can also give potential buyers a "taste" of the building before they schedule an appointment to see it up close and in real life.
3. Get a Website
In the age of social media and online commercial real estate marketplaces, do you really need to take the time to build a separate website?
Yes, absolutely. It's critical. You don't own the content you post on social media or external websites. The owners of those sites end up with final say over what content stays and what they do with it. That might not seem like a big deal, but it can be if a site decides to take down your posts.
When you have a website, you have full control over it and final say over what gets posted and when.
The value of real estate website doesn't only lie in ownership. It's also an opportunity for you and your real estate company to present yourself to the world. You can show off your listings on the site and give visitors an idea of who you are and why your company exists. By letting people know who your company is and how it came to be, you can establish trust and start building relationships.
Here's one more reason to have your own website — search engine optimization (SEO). People use search engines to find pretty much everything online. The odds are that someone is using an internet search to find their next commercial real estate investment. With a website and some SEO know-how, it's very likely that the right person will find your site.
If you don't know the first thing about creating a website, we can help. Our website design services will create a site that makes your company stand out.
4. Embrace Social Media
Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest, are great ways to show off your listings and to get people interested in your properties. You have two options when it comes to using social media as part of your marketing strategy. You can pay to promote your posts or you can try to reach people organically, by creating and sharing posts on your preferred platforms.
Often, individuals and companies like to go the organic route at first. After all, why pay for something when you can do it for free? Although some people might see what you share and post, the trouble with organic reach is that it's not very effective. No matter how many followers you have, it's likely only a few of them see any individual post.
For that reason, people often get better results when they use the advertising features of their preferred social platforms. Although buying ads does cost money, it also has a few benefits, including the ability to target hyper-specific audiences.
That means you can take the information you gathered when identifying your target buyer and when putting together your buyer personas and plug it right into the social platform's ad creator.
Whether you decide to focus on ads, organic reach or a mix of both, there are two things to keep in mind when using social media as a marketing tool.
First, keep the personal separate from the professional. Don't use your personal Facebook or Instagram account to promote your real estate listings. Also, watch what you post on either account. Sometimes, people assume that they can post whatever they want on their personal profiles, even if those things are offensive or negative. But there's always a chance that a buyer doing their due diligence will find your personal account and be less than impressed if they don't like what they see.
Second, remember that social media shouldn't be only about promotion. Your followers and potential customers will appreciate seeing useful and informative posts from you. If you find an interesting article about commercial real estate, go ahead and share it. The more value you provide to people, the more likely they are to turn to you when they're looking for a property.
How Marketing in Commercial Real Estate Is Different Than Residential
Although there are some overlap and similarities between commercial and residential real estate, there are also considerable differences. One key difference is the amount of emotional investment involved.
Residential buyers and sellers are likely to be more attached to a property. That's one of the reasons why a carefully worded offer letter can cause a seller to choose a buyer who's offering less money than another buyer. When marketing a residential property, an agent can play up the emotional resonance of it.
That's not the case with commercial properties. Commercial buyers are much more likely to be interested in "just the facts." They're looking for a property that meets specific requirements and will help them maximize their income.
Work With Designblendz
You want your properties to stand out from the rest, and you want to attract the highest quality investors, buyers or tenants. Designblendz can help. We can create a video or virtual tour of your property to help buyers feel like they are really there, and we can design and build your website for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you put your marketing plan into action.