5 Critical Trends Essential to the Future of Commercial Real Estate

There was a time when commercial real estate (CRE) marketing strategies focused very narrowly on marketing a property and selling to a buyer or tenant. Today, nothing is so simple, and it takes a truly creative and comprehensive range of expertise to make a deal happen.

Commercial real estate marketing is perhaps like no other field of marketing in that it must be extraordinarily technical, while also being resourceful and creative. Technical knowledge without creative execution (or the reverse) will not work any longer.

Here are five critical trends you should consider when thinking about how to enhance your commercial real estate marketing program - whether you are an owner, developer or broker:

1. Your Next Customer Could Come From Anywhere

As a commercial real estate expert, you work hard to market your properties online as well as on-site, and you network with your colleagues in the owner/broker communities. But that's not enough. Your next customer could come from just about anywhere, and you need to expand your communication channels.

A commercial building in the background with a sign in front saying class A office space availableDo you know how many of your colleagues have a presence in social media? (The answer is, not many -- which gives you the first-mover advantage). Yet your next client or tenant could be there. What about search engine marketing around the kinds of business opportunities that are ideal for a tenant? If you're marketing a space that's perfectly positioned and zoned for a day-care business in Philadelphia, how about online marketing that focuses on the business opportunity or potential of the site? Or how about not just attending CRE, SIOR or CCIM events, but also other business events where your target tenants could be? (For example, if you have a rail-served warehouse available to market, attend an APICS or WERC event).

The point is, you're no longer just marketing space. Today, you're marketing competitive advantage; business opportunity; and investment potential.

2. Paint the Picture

The days of showcasing photos of a clean but vacant space are gone. Today, you need to configure multiple options, either with photography or illustrations. Show how various build-outs would work, demonstrate configuration options, and customize for your top industry options. Certainly, many owners and brokers do this for office space (the most common customization option being the law firm and open office build-outs), but it's time to take things to the next level.

Don't just showcase build-out options, demonstrate business benefits. Emphasize how the property can accommodate a growing tenant, or meet the needs of an evolving market sector. Restaurants today have dramatically different requirements than they did just a few years ago – how can you meet them? Technology companies want to thrive in an ecosystem – how can you attract the right tenant mix to support them?

3. Showcase Flexibility, Proximity and Community

In addition, owners and developers in particular need to emphasize flexibility in their property marketing. More companies today are looking for a mix of traditional and on-demand space, or for pre-built suites they can move into without delay. Others are eager to have close proximity to key clients or partners in their supply chain.

Some property developers have actually taken the added step of performing internal 'zoning' of their properties -- designating areas and amenities for different kinds of users and working to ensure that their tenant mix combines traditional office, open office, creative firms, 'maker' industries, and more. Today, some office users are eager to have first-floor, retail-style space for the exposure, and others want to start in a co-working center or shared suite and upgrade later. Are you ready to showcase how these pieces can fit together and create the community that your tenants or buyers want?

4. Build a Preferred Advisor Network

Most of us have different professionals we routinely rely on or refer clients to -- but how many have taken the extra step of creating a formal, visible professional network of these experts? Your extended team needs to include architects, interior designers, land-use attorneys, environmental engineers, program and construction managers, general contractors, title companies, property appraisers, office furniture providers, telephone and IT firms, and more.

Provide a place to showcase their expertise on a blog or in a custom publication (where you can also showcase your best property listings). Hold events, lunch-and-learns or workshops that your partners can present at. Publish white papers on key topics relating to the commercial real estate process that they can contribute to. Each of these steps will not only strengthen your network and each partner's loyalty -- it can also extend your reach and credibility with potential clients, expanding your differentiation and market position.

5. Develop and Deploy a Tailored Deal Team

Deals don't just happen – they are engineered every day through the hard work of developers, investors, owners, brokers, tenants and buyers. In addition to your traditional key players, you need to expand your circle to incorporate other parties who can bring key benefits to the table. If you're marketing to small manufacturers, develop a relationship with a lender authorized to perform SBA 504 loans and make sure to introduce yourself to the regional Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

If you've got properties in a downtown area, meet with the downtown association, community revitalization or Business Improvement District team (BID). And certainly, you need to have good contacts at your city, regional and state economic development agencies -- people who can bring public funding, technical assistance and support services to the table.

Applying these five strategies to your commercial real estate marketing efforts can create short-term wins and long-term gains that will strengthen your market position, whether you are a solo broker, midsized building portfolio owner or a large-scale developer. And, in the end, you'll be adding value at every step of the process and differentiating not only your properties, but your people as well.

Image Credit: MBN @ Flickr (Creative Commons)

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