As we come to the end of what is looking like another stellar year for real estate, I thought I would take a look at how marketing has changed over the past decade and the importance of a strong presence online. While word of mouth and face-to-face communication continue to be the best way to create and maintain business relationships, we are facing a transition into a digital world of emails, texts, web searches and social media. For example, when a colleague or client refers someone to an agent to work with, the first place they go to is Google. In fact, the phrase “Google it” is probably the most common answer to many questions these days as people rely more and more on web searches to answer their questions. Depending on an agents’ online presence, the person will either find great search results (showing plenty of information on the agent and their listings) or not much at all. People always choose the business or agent with plenty of results and good ratings as opposed to the one with a URL that doesn’t work.
Making sure clients can directly reach and communicate with a business, as well as having an effective online marketing strategy, is crucial to business growth. There are several ways businesses can adapt to an online world and create a digital footprint. The easiest way to start reaching consumers worldwide, nationally, and locally is to create online profiles on Facebook, Google Business, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as blogging to your current market. It is important to make time to do this as Ruth Brajevich, CEO of Ware Malcomb writes: “The commercial real estate industry has been slow to adopt social media. A few common complaints include “I have a great network, why do I need this?” and “I don’t have time!” The reality is that commercial real estate’s clients, corporate America, already have embraced social media — which means that CRE needs to as well, to leverage it strategically to build your brand and grow your businesses”1.
While ratings and reviews have been limited in the past to restaurants and vacation rentals, we are now seeing online reviews of everything, including our doctors, favorite recipes, and yes, even real estate professionals. While this has not been a significant resource for choosing professional services in the past, the market is trending towards ‘reviewing’ online reviews and it is becoming more essential for businesses to have them. Our team has just added the ability to be reviewed on Google, Facebook, Zillow & Yelp, knowing that this is an ongoing trend, and it will become more important to have a long history of good reviews. While a small amount of reviews may not be meaningful, unless your competitors have none, people start to take notice and have a good feel for the type of service they may receive with a business that has 50-100 reviews. Not only do online reviews provide a statistical overview, but they also give the consumer a “personal connection” to the type of business or agent they are researching without even talking to or meeting them in person.
It is also important to have a good search engine for your specific type of search. Search engines are not just for general online searching, such as on Google, but for specific searches, such as shopping on Amazon or looking at real estate on Zillow. While Zillow has a great presence in the residential real estate market, it has not yet entered into the commercial real estate market. Loopnet and CoStar, two of the industry’s largest websites, have combined forces and are on track to be the biggest national database of commercial real estate properties. Currently, these websites are mostly being used for investment property searches in larger national markets, but they are slowly evolving and becoming bigger players in the smaller cities as well. In the meantime, Northern Michigan relies on a host of other web sites to show off its commercial real estate offerings. These include Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR), Northern Great Lakes Realtors MLS (NGLRMLS), Michigan’s Commercial Board of Realtors website (CPIX), Showcase, Officespace, Cityfeet and Catylist. In addition, each of the real estate companies (Coldwell Banker, CBRE, Colliers, NAI etc.) have their own web sites that pull information from the local MLS and can be either be all encompassing, like our cbgreatlakes web site, or specific to one area of real estate, such as our newly launched cbsrcommercial web site that focuses solely on commercial real estate with existing buildings.
We try and make sure all our properties are listed on the websites that will give them the best exposure for the type of property it is. For example, we’ve found smaller properties for lease tend to get more exposure on sites like craigslist, and properties with a business included, do best on sites such as bizbuysell. While we try and keep up with the best websites and our own online presence, the list is dynamic, and the top sites are continually changing. If you regularly use a website to search for commercial real estate, please let us know what it is so that we can keep our list and search marketing as up to date and relevant as possible. Suggestions are always welcome!
Dan Stiebel, CCIM
1. Brajevich, Ruth. “Social Media and Commercial Real Estate: Strategies to Grow Your Business and Build Your Brand.” Development Magazine, Winter 2013, https://www.naiop.org/en/Magazine/2013/Winter-2013/Business-Trends/Social-Media-and-Commercial-Real-Estate.aspx. Accessed 5 December 2017.