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Commercial real estate marketing strategy: The simple way to get more customers (+ examples)

Commercial real estate presents unique challenges when it comes to getting more customers. Here's how to get started with a do-it-yourself approach that can revolutionize your business.

Commercial real estate marketing strategy: The simple way to get more customers (+ examples) Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue and Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

November 30th, 2020 min read

If you've sent out thousands of mailers and paid for print ads — all with little measurable return, you're probably eager for a new strategy. To attract more customers to your real estate business, the answer might lie along a different path.

The "outbound" marketing strategies of yesteryear are increasingly easy to ignore and bypass. Instead, companies of all kinds are employing "inbound" marketing principles to attract qualified, ready-to-buy customers who come to them, not the other way around. 

It starts with thinking like a buyer. When you made your last major purchase, how did you begin?

Inbound marketing: An overview

At the most basic level, inbound marketing is really simple. It starts off with a basic premise: The internet has changed the way people buy. When customers are thinking about making a purchase, whatever it is, they start by gathering information. They do this with a computer and a search engine. 

They begin by typing in questions, and they look for pages that answer those questions. They keep reading and they keep learning, all as they get closer and closer to making a purchase.

If they read a few articles on the same website, that company becomes someone they recognize and trust

All you have to do is answer their questions. (Don't believe me? Check out how this commercial real estate firm in Texas saw a 10-fold increase in their lead generation by answering every customer question they could think of.)

If you answer all of your buyers' questions, they'll trust you enough to buy from you.

And you won't need to spend money on an agency each month to get a handful of sub-par leads.

The people typing in questions related to your industry are way more qualified for your services than the general population who receives your mailer. Think about it:  Wouldn't you rather send your offer to someone who just Googled "How much does property management cost?" than to every single person in your town?

So, how do we put this strategy to work?

Inbound marketing in real estate

In the abstract, inbound marketing is a methodology that any business can implement. No matter your industry, location, product, or business structure, potential customers can be attracted to your website by way of your website content (written and video), and they can subsequently turn into clients.

However, things have a way of not working quite as smoothly in reality as they do in theory.

Those of you who work in commercial real estate have a unique needs and challenges — even among other real estate businesses, let alone in comparison to software firms, law offices, or e-commerce shops.

So, will inbound marketing still work for you? Is there a content strategy that will serve your needs — as well as those of your customer?

The short answer is yes. For a longer answer (along with a strategy) read on. 

🎓 Free online course: Digital sales and marketing for today's modern buyer

The cornerstones of your content strategy

To serve today’s buyer, you need to understand that the buying process has changed. Today, customers take to the internet to start their research. When they find the answers they need, they become more informed buyers. If your business is the one to provide those answers, the customer will begin to trust you. Trust is at the center of all inbound marketing. If you make content that is transparent and helpful, you're likely going to accomplish your goals. 

Following SEO best practices ensures that buyers will be able to find you. 

Then, when those buyers enter the sales process, they are more educated — both in terms of their purchase and your company. 

Remember, you need written and video content

Today, buyers want the content they consume to be in the format that most suits their needs. For some, this might be video. For others, text. Therefore, an effective content strategy makes use of both these mediums. What the balance will look like for your business will depend on your needs, staffing, and industry. 

🔎Related: How to run a seamless blended written and video content strategy

The questions every buyer is asking

The beauty of inbound marketing is that it can be simplified down to this: Make sure you're answering the most basic questions that every buyer wants to know. These questions are industry agnostic, and they allow you as the content writer to share your expertise and build trust with your audience at the same time.

For example, no matter who they are and what they are buying, every customer wants to know about cost. They want to know they’re getting the best deal possible. They want to know they're not wasting their money.

But their questions go beyond money. 

They also want to be able to compare their options and to know the pros and cons of each.

This is true no matter what the purchase — whether someone is buying a lawnmower or signing a lease for office space. 

At IMPACT, we call these essential, universal questions The Big 5:

  1. Cost
  2. Comparisons
  3. Problems
  4. "Best of" lists
  5. Reviews

Because all buyers want answers to these same questions, these are the five categories that should serve as the organizational structure of your inbound marketing strategy. 

To get your content strategy off the ground, focus on addressing these topics for all of your services and products. 

Be the informational authority that your potential customers crave. They’ve got questions. If your content provides them with clear, honest, thorough answers, they’ll come to your website. 

Below, I’ve put together examples from the commercial real estate industry that address the most pressing questions your buyers are asking. 

🔎Related: We’re never done Big 5 content: Where do we start?

1. Everyone wants to know about cost

No matter the product or service being considered, cost is a central factor in that decision. How do you feel when a website does not reveal the cost of something that business sells? Are you likely to see a “Call for price!” button and immediately reach for your phone? Unlikely. 

So, how should you address cost on your website? You might not always be able to communicate the exact price for something, but you should offer people a ballpark cost range and explain the factors that might make it go up or down. 

Your buyers are realistic. They know that if you say something costs around $10,000 and then the final bill is slightly more or less, it’s still around that figure. 

Here, our client Aquila commercial, based in Austin Texas, puts out a thorough explanation of what you can expect to spend on an office lease in their metro area.

In addition, look at this clear, concise explanation of how commercial rental fees get calculated:  

 

If you’re a business looking to set up shop and you find these resources, are you likely to trust Aquila? Are you more likely to give your business to them or to a competitor who isn't as upfront?

🔎Related: How to write an effective cost article 

2. Comparisons to help customers feel informed

Column A or Column B? At the center of any purchase is the final choice between the options in front of you.

Content that helps customers make the right decision for them is content that builds trust and wins business.

Here, Value Penguin, connected with mortgage giant Lending Tree, provides a detailed comparison between leasing and owning commercial real estate:

For another example of comparison content, Aquila offers an important explanation that can help customers feel more knowledgable: Project manager vs. construction manager: What's the difference?

In this case, perhaps a customer would hesitate to ask this question to a sales rep or broker, fearing they might look stupid. A helpful piece of content lets everyone feel more informed. 

3. Addressing problems up front

According to a 2016 study done by Power Reviews, 82% of shoppers intentionally seek out negative reviews. It makes sense. We want to know what might go wrong when we purchase a product or service. It makes us feel prepared for the worst-case scenario that might await us. 

Here, an office design company called Office Interiors dives into the pros and cons of open-concept office layouts. You finish the video and feel more well-informed, even though the content doesn’t take a clear stance on the polemic. As with a lot of questions, the answer to “Which type of office design is best for me?” is it depends. 

🔎Related: The Big 5: How to write great "problems" content

4. People want to know: What are the best...

People love lists. When we can see our options laid out before us, ranked according to various metrics, we feel like we can make the best purchasing decision possible. 

Check out Commercial Property Executive’s no-frills ranking of top property management companies. This is high readable, and you can click through to learn more about their methodology and to see previous rankings. We know it’s up to date, as the year and publication date are both provided. 

For another example, here’s a video put out by eForms that covers the top five property management software solutions.

Notice how quickly this video builds trust as you listen to the presenter. She immediately establishes the essential aspects of property management: people have to trust you. How do you gain trust? By being dependable and honest. The right software can help you stay organized so you can offer that dependability to your clients. 

5. Buyers trust candid, unbiased reviews

There’s a reason sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are so critical for people making purchasing decisions. We crave reviews from buyers who have come before us. According to research from Qualtrics, 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product

Here, Aquila offers its take on the top tenant representation firms in the Austin area.

Click through to the article and you’ll find the five best options, along with quick reviews on each. Aquila gives the background, including how long each firm has been in Austin and other key facts and figures, as well as a checklist for choosing the best tenant rep for you: 

Providing more information is this video covering three questions to ask before hiring a tenant rep broker. Potential customers are asking this question in YouTube or in search engines. Aquila's content gets found by buyers who are seeking the information this content provides.

🔎Related: How to write a practical product review

Getting your content strategy off the ground

Hopefully these examples inspire you to get started with your content marketing. Remember always keep your buyers in mind. The essential question any content manager should be asking about their content is this: Are we answering the questions our buyers have?

In order to make sure you’re doing so, you first need to know what those questions are. Regular meetings with the sales team will help you compile a running list.

🔎Related: How to run an effective content brainstorm

If you’re ever uncertain about how to proceed or what to cover, keep leaning into The Big 5. Think of what you would want to know if you were a buyer. Chances are, your central questions would focus on one of the topics listed above. 

Uncomplicate your sales and marketing

You’ve had enough of ineffective inbound marketing and “top-tier” agencies that overpromise and underdeliver. 

Digital Sales & Marketing Mastery teaches companies the most essential sales and marketing functions through an intensive 12-24 month program of coaching, training, and strategy — resulting in better leads and more closed sales.

At last, the proven framework that uncomplicates your sales and marketing.

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Give your team everything they need to experience inbound marketing success.

Digital Sales & Marketing Mastery teaches companies the most essential sales and marketing functions through an intensive 12-24 month program of coaching, training, and strategy — resulting in better leads and more closed sales.

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