What a difference a year makes in commercial real estate. During growth periods like the past decade, the sector experiences record profits, sky-high property values, and ample development opportunities. However, economic downturns usually hit commercial real estate industry harder than other sectors.
As the United States looks into the abyss of a probable recession, commercial real estate brokers are now riding this seesaw. From shopping malls to office buildings to warehouse space, heightened interest rates are fostering lower market demand and making transactions more difficult to complete.
Many in commercial real estate will be inclined to slash costs anywhere they can, including on marketing. This would be a mistake. Now is the time to invest in smarter and more effective marketing and consider outside-of-the-box strategies that help differentiate real estate brokers and their listings from the competition when times are tough.
Below are four tips for commercial real estate professionals looking to harness the power of innovative communication strategies to succeed, even during an economic downturn.
LEVERAGE NEW TOOLS
In the past decade, the tools for marketing anything, including commercial real estate, have evolved dramatically. Print ads in major newspapers have given way to digital advertising, social media, email marketing, and more.
In the commercial real estate space, traditional marketing approaches have been widely replaced by the likes of platforms such as CoStar and LoopNet. While these have unquestionably helped commercial real estate professionals place listings in front of larger buyer pools than ever before, they also prevent any single listing from truly standing out. You may be spending $2,500 per month with your diamond marketing package on LoopNet, but what is that really buying you when everyone else is doing it?
During an economic downturn, commercial real estate professionals need to consider how their marketing programs leverage owned, earned, and paid media.
Maybe your retail listing could be best positioned by throwing a thoughtfully curated event, with specially selected influencers targeting your buyer pool to drive attention. Or perhaps partnering with a local charity or beloved community business is the way to secure media attention and local love. No matter the asset, there are many ways to market a property and you should consider them all.
STRETCH YOUR MARKETING DOLLARS
As the commercial real estate market gets squeezed, so do commissions. With less to budget, commercial real estate professionals need to find ways to stretch their marketing dollars and get the most for their money.
Consider questions like: Would it be better to increase spend on social media marketing, or would working with a public relations firm to get a feature in the New York Times or Robb Report be a better use of my marketing spend? Does a hefty marketing package on Land.com or LoopNet best showcase my property, or will an innovative promotional video that goes viral draw more attention from other brokers and prospective buyers?
Make sure you are delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, or else precious ad dollars will go to waste.
CRAFT A POWERFUL NARRATIVE
Make your property part of a bigger story. Ask yourself: Does your property have historic significance? Is it home to an iconic individual or work of art? Is it creating more affordable housing options for working families, or spurring change in an important neighborhood?
If you can position your property within a trend, it will be more interesting to media and more attractive to potential buyers.
WORK WITH QUALITY, PROVEN COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONALS
During a time of scarcity and uncertainty, commercial real estate professionals need to make every dollar count. And don’t forget—there is nothing more expensive than cheap advice.
When considering a communications firm, be sure to ask about relevant experience and case studies detailing previous work. You’ll also want to ensure that the people driving your marketing strategy are fluent not only in the commercial real estate space but in our new media landscape.
Despite the many challenges facing commercial real estate professionals in the coming economic downturn, it is still possible to sell commercial assets if innovative communications strategies are fully integrated into marketing programs. By harnessing the power of owned, earned, and paid media, your listing could receive more media attention, reach both a deeper and wider buyer pool, and become the envy of your colleagues, all for less than you may have spent on traditional marketing. It may very well make your next transaction a successful one.
Nathan Miller is the founder and CEO of the marketing and crisis management firm Miller Ink.