Not a lot of people need to think about what goes on behind the scenes when an office building or retail store switches owners. Unsurprisingly, commercial real estate agents are almost equally as invisible because most non-business-owners have no need to consider what they do. This can make marketing online for commercial real estate agents a bit of a challenge.
Compared to residential, commercial real estate agents have to target a smaller group of clients who and have to sell a bigger, more expensive property. It’s important to think about where these clients exist on the web and how you can reach them in positive and professionally acceptable ways. You don’t want to attract the people who won’t be interested and miss the ones who will be.
Commercial real estate can bring in a lot of money because of the typical size of the property being sold. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that, in 2018, commercial real estate agents most sold land (19%), industrial warehouses (15%) and multi-family apartments (13%). Not to mention, the NAR also notes the average transaction for a real estate agent values at about $1.7 million compared to the average selling price of a home in the U.S ($255,400).
But the transaction can take much longer because there are more parties involved and less demand for commercial property. You have to ask yourself: Who is looking to buy property like this and how do attract their attention?
Let’s take a look at some marketing techniques you can use to improve your business online.
I would go as far as to say that having a company website is nearly non-negotiable. A company website is the starting point for most online marketing strategies, be it for commercial real estate or not. You need a place to link back to when someone clicks on your Google ad or when someone wants more information about you.
It’s a good place to keep all the information you want available to your potential buyer and it makes communication between you two easier to achieve. You can clarify the ways you prefer to be reached, be it email or phone number, to make it easy for potential buyers to inquire and for you to organize.
It’s a good idea to have an online space connected to you that lists your properties as well. If a business is interested in apartment complexes in New York, for example, offering them the ability to look through the option you provide through your website makes it more convenient for them.
If for some reason, you don’t have any apartment complexes in New York available, making it easy for them to find out (through categorized searches, for example) which can save both of you time and frustration.
For example, take a look at the way Marcus & Millichap organize their listings on their business website.
They offer options both for “Property Type” and “Property Location,” plus another section for “Specific Criteria.” They make it as easy as possible for someone looking at their website to find what they’re looking for.
The webpage is well-organized and makes it easy to find other important pages (like the “About Us” page). Something user-friendly will definitely keep visitors engaged and encourage them to revisit.
It’s also a great way to begin building your identity online. What does your business specialize in? What sort of person are you? Who are you hoping to connect with? Social media, which we’ll touch on later, is also intertwined with creating an identity and giving your business a personality.
If you work independently, you’re marketing yourself to other businesses and so it’s that much more important people can feel like they know what kind of person you are. Inspire them with enough trust and confidence in you that they’ll choose you over someone else.
Try to make your website look organized and professional. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s the starting point of your online marketing strategy and you want the people who stumble upon your website to be confident in your abilities and professionalism, especially when those people are likely representing other businesses.
Google Ads makes you more discoverable by people searching for commercial real estate through Google’s search engine. Google is the most used search engine in the world and it’s in your best interest to become discoverable on it. Consider signing up for Google Ads and utilizing their automated marketing features to get your ad on the first page for the right kind of search.
There’s an undeniable advantage to being the first link someone sees on a page.
Notice the specificity of the search. It’s not simply “commercial real estate agent.” I’ve also looked for the type of space I want and noted I want to find offices around my area. The first result probably would not have shown up if I was looking for retail space and rightfully so. I would have indicated I was not searching for offices, which seems to be what the ad result specializes in.
Utilizing keywords to find the types of businesses you’re targeting is how you make your Google ad the most effective. Localize your search if necessary–including keywords for the cities you’re selling your properties in and eliminating keywords that bring your ad up despite being irrelevant. This is also important for real estate agents that work in international sales.
The NAR reported a 25% increase in international sales for realtors in 2018. If you happen to be one of these realtors, you really want to make sure your properties are showing up online for the places they need to be. If you’re based in Oregon but you’re selling property in China, you have to make sure the property is showing up when someone searches for areas in China and not for areas in Oregon.
Eliminate keywords that might target the wrong people. For example, if you don’t deal in selling or leasing homes, only offices or land, eliminate keywords that might attract those kinds of clients. If you’re selling an apartment complex, you don’t want someone who is only looking to move into an apartment to click on your ad because it will mean nothing to them and it will cost you money.
Google charges based on how many people click on your ad. You don’t want to be spending money unnecessarily. So it’s best to make sure you’re getting the most out of those clicks as you can. Find out what keywords businesses are using to find listings or commercial real estate agents online and use that to your advantage. It may take some trial and error but the rewards outweigh the drawbacks.
According to a study by Dr. Artta Bandhu Jena and Snehasis Panda, 65% of companies report somewhat success and 20% report being very successful after implementing automated marketing programs like Google Ads. Besides, once optimized to achieve the best results, automated marketing can make the ongoing discovery of better keywords and the ability to quickly update old keywords much easier and more time efficient.
You can add content on your website, providing useful articles or videos on commercial real estate or something similar to attract traffic to your website. The people who visit your blog posts or videos aren’t necessarily there to inquire on a listing or purchase from you, but it can certainly lead there. The trick is to make your content relevant and useful enough to appear on Google’s organic search results.
Though I say “trick,” there’s really no easy way to achieve this besides putting in the effort and work into writing good, long, genuine posts. Google rewards unique and useful content. If you want to appear organically on the first page, there has to be honesty and effort in your content.
You may be asking: is it really worth it? According to Moz, there are a number of both tangible and intangible benefits to content marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO), and strong brand awareness. Plus, content marketing makes you appear more credible and trustworthy. It says: I know what I’m doing.
Besides, if you’re regularly creating content you’ll build a loyal following that will continually return to your website to read your articles or watch your videos and in turn build the potential for recurring or long-lasting clients.
Take a look at Jim West’s website.
His website appears as the first organic search result no matter the combination of words I use in my search (while sharing my location so I get localized results). He also happens to run a local commercial real estate radio show.
He provides consistent, relevant content, encouraging his visitors to come back and portraying himself as an expert in his field.
You can also send content through email campaigns. Salesforce notes that “64% of companies consider email marketing their most effective marketing channel.” Email marketing would be great to utilize when you want to make someone you already know is interested aware of listings that become available.
Notice that in Jim West’s radio show screenshot, he also includes an option to sign up using email for a “FREE Commercial Property Workshop.” This an effective way to get people to sign up. Sending out timed emails (weekly/biweekly, for example) encourages them to return and makes sure they don’t forget about you.
We’ve written some tips on how to combine customer retention and email marketing that might be helpful in guiding how you structure your email marketing campaign.
Like your company website, social media can be used to create an identity and make yourself discoverable online. It’s a way for you to creatively define what you and your business represent and provide. The trick here is figuring out who you want to reach and how to do so.
The great thing about social media is that it’s not only about making an identity but also about connecting with other people. Since commercial real estate is business-to-business, social media means connecting with other business people and even fellow real estate agents.
You can interact with potential buyers or past clients when they’re not necessarily looking to buy or lease. The advantage is they’ll think of you when they are ready because they’ll know you (or they’ll know the identity you created online). Interacting with them online fosters trust and loyalty.
Not to mention, connecting with other real estate agents keeps you in the loop and fosters connections that could come in handy down the line. For example, if someone contacts another agent about a type of listing they don’t specialize in but you do, they can pass the potential buyer to you and vice versa.
Now let’s look at some essential online platforms. It can be time-consuming and difficult to keep up with several social media sites at once, so it’s okay to start with one and make it your central social media platform. Think about getting on:
LinkedIn is perhaps the safest website to become a part of. It’s well-known as the online platform for business people and professionals. The website is good both for professionally connecting with other business people and making yourself discoverable to businesses looking to purchase or lease property. LinkedIn specializes in helping employers find employees and vice versa and this is especially helpful when it comes to helping businesses find good real estate agents.
In fact, they have a program called PROFINDER intended to help a potential client find the right business or agent for them based on their answers to a few questions.
Making, at least, a profile page on LinkedIn that lists your experience and qualifications makes you look that much more credible to interested parties.
Facebook is good to consider for a variety of reasons but especially for the opportunity to connect with other people in your business field. You can join closed groups exclusively for real estate agents. At the very least, becoming a part of one or more of these groups can provide you with helpful tips and insights. Ideally, you can network with other real estate agents to keep up with trends and make connections that, as mentioned earlier, may help you in the future.
You can also make a business or “fan” page on Facebook, where you can post listings or helpful articles and link back to your website. The ability to “like” your page makes it easy for work friends and clients to keep track of what you’re up to and makes it harder for them to forget your business.
Facebook, like most other social media sites (Twitter, for example) is all about engaging with the people around you. Being active at least once a day, responding to comments on your posts, and paying attention to shares and likes can really improve how well you attract attention on Facebook. You’ll be invisible if you post nothing.
Facebook, like Google, offers Facebook Ads to allow you to advertise yourself or your business on their website. You can tailor Facebook ads to target specific locations, interests, levels of education, etc.
Because Facebook collects so much information on its users through their profile, targeting ads are very effective. Considering Facebook has more than one billion daily active users, advertising on Facebook could yield some positive results.
Twitter is all about hashtags. It doesn’t have the same closeness as Facebook or the look of professionalism of LinkedIn but it does have a wide, wide reach and plenty of potentials. Some commercial real estate agents use it to advertise their listings by using tags specific to them.
For example, someone might use the hashtag #commercialrealestate but would also use hashtags to specify location and type of property. Like your page on Facebook, though, it’s also a great way to share content you think is relevant to commercial real estate.
Or you could do what the person below that tweet did and use your platform to build your online identity.
The tweet humanizes him in a professional manner that still relates back to commercial real estate. He gives us enough of a glimpse into his life to connect to him. Looking through his profile, you’ll find him tweeting about both store closures and walking his dog. The variety is good because it’s unlikely to leave his followers tired of seeing the same old thing.
Don’t feel pressured to have an account for every social media site out there. It’s better to actively post on one or two platforms than to have several but remain barely active on all of them.
If you need to, make time in your schedule to focus on your social media. Plan out what and when you post or tweet or consider software that will help you manage your platforms, such as HubSpot’s social media manager.
HubSpot’s program, according to their website, can help you “track engagements automatically and schedule your social posts to be published when the right people will see them,” among other things.
Owning a website and being active on social media is important but don’t forget to list your properties on major listing websites such as LoopNet.com and RE/MAX Commercial.
LoopNet always manages to appear on the first page of my Google searches about commercial real estate, regardless of whether I’m looking for retail, offices or apartment complexes. It’s a listings website meant specifically for commercial property. Their “About Us” page claims they are the “leading mobile and online real estate marketplace” with 500k listings available five million unique visitors.
Not only is LoopNet used as a website for listing your properties (which they allow you to do for free), but you can also use it as a marketing platform. They offer the option for premium (which can range from $70 to $3,000 a month) advertising, which will boost your exposure on their website, utilize search engine optimization and access to marketing tools that would allow you to do things like start email campaigns.
This ad appeared between two listings during my search on LoopNet. Notice how the ad lists the broker’s name, his phone number and what he specializes in. He’s boosted his exposure and narrowed down his targets, which will save him money in the long run.
There are tons of commercial real estate listing groups you can become a part of and it’s a good idea to research and see which ones fit you best. There are local and broader options.
Some websites let you list for free up to a point while others may ask for a membership fee. Make sure to pay attention to your budget because, as LoopNet’s prices have shown, things can get pricey fast.
Some of them say they’ve teamed up with CoStar, a commercial real estate intelligence website that provides useful information and resources that will help you plan out your marketing strategy more thoroughly. CoStar prices vary depending on which of the features you use and the duration of the program.
It can’t hurt to be on the lookout for listings websites that have teamed up with CoStar. CoStar actually purchased LoopNet in 2012 and so the premium service offered on their website will add your listing to CoStar as well.
Commercial real estate marketing can be tricky because it requires different strategies than other kinds of real estate marketing but there are many resources out there made to help, like listing websites made especially for commercial real estate.
Make a marketing plan, choose which social media sites you would like to utilize and keep up with your email or Google Ads campaigns to make sure you’re doing the best you can in improving your business and marketing to the right people.