When you get down to it, marketing commercial real estate is about building relationships. Sure, there’s plenty of 21st-century whiz-bang technology that can be used in that pursuit as well as tried and true traditional methods like direct mail, property signage and monthly real estate newsletters. Every year, millions of square feet of commercial property are leased or sold, and the constant factor in each of those transactions is the personal, human relationship between buyer and seller, lessor and, lessee.
Think, Feel, Do
There is a marketing theory known as the hierarchy of affects model which presents the six stages a customer is likely to go through from first becoming aware of a product to making the purchase. The stages are awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and finally purchase. These stages are true for consumers of commercial real estate as much as they are for buyers of breakfast cereal. Think about it. Building signage, a brochure and, a prospectus creates awareness and knowledge for the prospective client, getting them to “think” about your property—the first steps toward conviction and purchase, the “do” stages in the model. What’s particularly interesting from a commercial real estate perspective is the middle stages, liking and, preference, which can be summed up as the “feel” stages.
The feel stages are the ones that seem to almost scream for the need for human interaction. If liking and preference (which can also be defined as fondness) seem to you like words more suited toward describing a friend or companion, you’re right, they do. But, importantly for the commercial real estate professionals, people do business with people they like. According to American Express, a customer that likes the person or brand that they do business with, is likely to refer up to nine others to that business.
In 1937, when Dale Carnegie first published the original version of his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he was a little skeptical of the need for such a book. However, as history has shown, business people have a genuine need for being “liked”, and the best way to do this is by allowing prospective customers and business partners to get to know you.
Getting to know another human being builds trust in a relationship. Commercial real estate marketers should take every opportunity to let prospective buyers and lessees know about their company and their brand. There are lots of ways to do this, but one important and sometimes overlooked method is communicating about the successes, or wins, that you’ve had.
Brag a little
In her book, Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It author Peggy Klaus emphasizes the importance of talking about our success and wins. She says that “...effective self-promoters position themselves more strategically while at job interviews, pitching new business, working with clients and customer, and even maneuvering within their own companies.” (p. 68)
While talking about our accomplishments or those of the company we work for seems counterintuitive to winning new clients, nothing is further from the truth—if it’s done right. Think about telling the story of your successes in a way that shows opportunity for prospective clients. If you were able to help a growing company re-locate from a multi-building campus to a 325,000 square foot facility, bringing all employees under one roof, that’s a story that should be told. Be sure to emphasize how your efforts helped foster cooperation and collaboration within the organization.
Not every activity you communicate about has to be as grand as the one above. If you’ve published a new case study, leased space to a marquee tenant or participated in a local charity event, these are all great touches to have with the real estate community. Make sure you also take the time to highlight your employees and their successes. If you just hired a top-tier seller or an expert in the medical office building space, you’ll show that you’re vested in your employee’s success as well developing your brand presence.
The Value of a Brag
Remember, talking about your successes should hold value for others. They may not have known that you handled retail space before your announcement about your recent win. Or, your partnership with a management company may provide them with the comfort of dealing knowing their building will always be maintained. With that mindset, talking about yourself will pay dividends for your clients and you.