Why Branding Is So Important For Commercial Real Estate In 2023
Commercial real estate has never been an easy business. Yet, amid a fraught landscape of changing market conditions and economic upheaval, it has become even more challenging for agents and brokers to stay afloat. With reduced demand, fluctuating property values, and intense competition, it’s essential for real estate firms to adopt a forward-looking and nimble strategy to maximize their opportunities for success. In this article, we’ll explore branding as a key strategy that commercial real estate firms can utilize to weather the uncertain times ahead and come out on top.
Commercial Real Estate in a Post-Pandemic World
The commercial real estate landscape, like many things, is facing a tough year ahead. In what can really be traced back to an accumulative effect of the past three years’ disruptions, today’s agencies must compete in a market unlike any that they’ve seen before. Things started to go downhill in 2020 of course, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. The global emergency has lasted up until now, and while dwindling, has created its fair share of problems for CRE. First, lockdowns brought business to a halt altogether; in a matter of days, agents found themselves at home, unable to show properties and conduct business as usual. Things have since opened back up, but demand isn’t anywhere near the same level as before COVID-19. The reasons for this are problems in and of themselves – byproducts of several other converging crises that have taken the world by storm over the past few years.
One major concern that’s weighed heavily on the market and continues to affect businesses is the economy. Borrowing costs dropped significantly during the pandemic to lows not seen in decades. This was a good thing for agents, who had a larger pool of interested buyers to work with despite limited commercial activity. Who wouldn’t want to cash in on once-in-a-lifetime interest rates before they eventually climb back up?
Those that didn’t are likely kicking themselves now; pent-up consumer savings spurred unprecedented spending as the economy reopened, while global conflicts and political tensions disrupted the balance of supply and demand across the board. Inflation hit a multi-decade high in the summer of 2022, prompting The Federal Reserve to respond by promptly increasing its key lending rate several times over. In stark contrast to only a few years ago, buyers are more weary than ever about signing onto any kind of financing agreement or committing to a large commercial property investment. It’s also worth noting that some can’t even qualify to begin with, as lenders typically require applicants to pass several stress tests and meet certain criteria before becoming eligible for their money.
Lastly, there’s the ongoing effect that remote work has had on business culture, and in turn, demand for commercial office space. First implemented in March 2020, social distancing measures had forced many companies to adapt to remote work arrangements, and as the pandemic continued to evolve, many have found this new workstyle to be efficient and cost-effective. As a result, demand for commercial office space has been plummeting steadily since then, and property valuations for city-center locations have been hurt badly as a result. While some experts believe that this trend might reverse as the pandemic recedes, it’s clear that remote work has had a profound impact on the commercial real estate industry and that investors will be factoring this into their calculations moving forward.
All of the above-mentioned concerns have come to a point of culmination in 2023, making the commercial real estate market’s outlook more uncertain than ever before. Many businesses are finding themselves with a shortage of clients, while any that do come in are extremely hard to sell to. Buyers seem to recognize how much things have shifted over the past three years and are playing the field accordingly – establishing high standards, taking the time to thoroughly evaluate properties, and becoming more conservative in their offers. This problem is compounded by the current economic climate. Commercial building owners know that their property is more likely to be sold if it has that ‘wow factor’, but due to inflation, are priced out of making any measurable upgrades. Even worse, the changing market has caused many pieces of commercial real estate to decline in value, meaning many owners are now managing outsized mortgages on properties that are worth less than what they paid for them.
Why Branding is So Important for Commercial Real Estate in 2023
Overall, the commercial real estate market is facing a challenging period. It remains to be seen how these trends will develop, but experts predict that things will continue to lag in the coming years. This paints a tough picture for anyone in the business, but at the same time, represents a potential opportunity. Despite decreased demand, CRE firms are finding pockets of growth in certain markets or asset classes. Additionally, innovative approaches to property management and leasing, such as incorporating technology and flexibility into office spaces, may help attract tenants and drive new business. While the road ahead may be bumpy, those who are able to adapt to the changing landscape may find success and emerge stronger than before.
Branding is a large part of this. While important prior to the pandemic and the global challenges we’re facing today, it’s an invaluable practice in times of reduced demand like these. The right strategy can give agencies the extra edge they need to effectively contend amid a difficult market.
What Does Branding Include?
Branding is defined as the process of establishing and promoting a unique name, image, or idea that differentiates a product or service from others in the market. The process involves developing a brand strategy, creating a brand identity, and executing a plan to communicate the brand message to target audiences. In the context of commercial real estate, branding aims to create a positive perception of a property in the minds of buyers, drive interest, and ultimately, offers. Effective branding serves as a competitive advantage during periods of reduced market demand and can even lead to increased price premiums if done properly.
Branding and promoting a commercial real estate building is no small task – it’s a multifaceted process that requires multiple people, as well as an investment of time and resources, to execute. Here’s an overview of the fundamentals every CRE branding effort should cover:
High-Quality, Bespoke and Well-Considered Strategy
Some people view branding as a ‘plug-and-play’ process where they simply need to come up with a catchy name or logo to effectively promote their offerings. It is the complete opposite; branding must be strategic and thoughtful in order to resonate with potential tenants and investors. This means developing a clear messaging strategy, identifying target audiences, conducting competitive analysis, and creating a visual identity that accurately reflects the building’s unique attributes and value proposition.
Strategic planning includes:
- Crafting a Compelling and Differentiating Story
Commercial real estate buildings need to have a compelling and differentiating story that set them apart from other properties on the market. This goes beyond simply referencing features and amenities – it’s about highlighting what makes the property truly special, such as its history, architecture, or location. A good story can capture the attention and imagination of potential tenants and investors, helping to generate interest and build excitement around a property.
- Creating Consistent Brand Assets
Consistency is key when it comes to branding. All marketing materials, from property listings to website design, should be cohesive and reflect the same brand messaging and visual identity. This helps to establish trust and credibility with potential tenants and investors, making it easier to sell and lease the property.
Unique Website and Online Presence
In today’s digital world, there’s no such thing as successful exclusive offline branding. Reaching the right people, not to mention competing with other listings, requires a strong online presence that effectively conveys everything the earlier strategy relies upon to be effective. This goes beyond simply creating a website or social media account, too. With everyone already in the digital landscape, it’s imperative to fabricate a unique online identity that stands out from the rest.
Best practices include:
- Avoiding the Use of Cookie-Cutter Website Templates
Websites are easier to create than ever. Just find a platform, sign up, pick from suggested designs, paste relevant information in, and you’re good to go, right? Wrong! Although this is a much faster and simpler way of going about the process, it’s never worth it if you want to actually make a lasting impression on site visitors. Oftentimes, the most effective websites are those that are unique and tailored to the brand’s specific needs and goals. Cookie-cutter website templates lack individuality and personality; their generic designs make it difficult for audiences to distinguish one brand from another. People often fail to realize that a website should be a reflection of a brand and its values, using a design that properly conveys the right message. Creating a website from scratch allows for more creative freedom. While more resource and time-intensive, it pretty much guarantees a final product that will stand out and speak to target audiences effectively.
- Building a Strong Social Media Footprint
Social media platforms offer a unique opportunity for agencies to engage with prospective buyers and build a community of interest around their properties. Regularly showcasing building features, responding to comments, and utilizing paid social media advertising spots can all drive awareness, and in turn, branding results.
- Emphasizing Visual Content
Visuals are a vital component of a successful online presence, but especially so in the case of real estate. Potential buyers will almost always establish their first impression of a property online and before seeing it in person, making the need for high-quality images paramount. Investing in professional photography is a smart move that can make all the difference when it comes to effectively conveying a commercial building’s offerings and promoting them through brand strategy.
- Establishing Physical Significance Online
Google Maps, Search, and other digital platforms are musts for any building that wants to be discoverable in today’s day and age. Online listings should be claimed, accurate, and completely filled out with not only a property’s relevant information, but also brand assets that do its features justice. This is often the first content that people will see when discovering it online, so it has to be appealing.
Video gets a whole section under the branding umbrella for the sheer value it offers strategies at large. It has quickly become a dominant force in the digital landscape, and for good reason. Video can convey messages in ways that text and static images simply cannot. Whether it’s showcasing features and amenities of a property or capturing the atmosphere and culture of its surrounding neighborhood, good content can bring a building to life and make it more memorable to potential tenants and investors. Incorporating video into branding strategy can also help increase engagement and drive conversions, both of which are valuable in difficult or competitive market conditions.
Types of video to consider for commercial building branding campaigns include:
- On-Site Walkthroughs
On-site walkthroughs are a great way to showcase the features and amenities of a commercial space. This type of video can give potential tenants or investors a firsthand look at a property, highlighting its unique selling points and giving them a better sense of what it would be like to work or do business there.
- 3D Mockups
This type of video can give viewers a realistic, immersive experience of the space, allowing them to visualize how it could be customized to fit their needs. 3D mockups can also showcase the potential of a space that is still under construction or in the planning stages, helping potential tenants or investors to see the finished product before it’s even built.
- Virtual Tours
Virtual tours give potential buyers the opportunity to explore a property without needing to visit it personally. They are ideal for appeasing those with stringent criteria for their investment and also individuals who may not be ready to commit to an in-person tour.
This type of content features current or past tenants or investors speaking about their positive experiences with a commercial space. Testimonials can help demonstrate the value of a property while also providing social proof that it is a trustworthy and reliable choice.
Going Beyond Branding
The adage ‘build it and they will come’ does not hold true in the world of commercial real estate. Once you’ve branded your property, you need to tell people about it. This is where branding’s partner, marketing, comes in.
Marketing involves the active promotion of a product to its potential customers. It can be seen as an extension of branding, working to tell people all about the features and key differentiators decided upon in the earlier process.
Marketing strategies often employ the use of social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, and other digital or traditional channels to get messages across. In commercial real estate, we’ve found the following three to be the most popular.
Email marketing is a tried-and-true way of reaching potential buyers and keeping current ones engaged. Commercial real estate professionals can use email marketing to share updates on properties or market trends, showcase success stories or listings, and announce events or webinars.
Email marketing is a comprehensive process that many consider a full-time job in and of itself. Some of the steps involved include:
- Building a Strong Contact List
Email marketing efforts are only ever as good as the lists of contacts they’re sent to.There are several ways to build a strong contact list, such as collecting email addresses at industry events, placing sign-up forms on the company website, and offering incentives for signing up, such as exclusive content or discounts.
- Crafting Compelling Content
The content of an email is crucial to its success. It should be well-written, engaging, and provide value to the reader. This can include industry insights, market updates, property information, and client success stories.
- Designing Eye-Catching Templates
A visually appealing email template can grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to engage with the content. The template should be professional, on-brand, and easy to read on all devices.
- Scheduling and Sending Emails
Timing is an important factor when it comes to email marketing. Professionals should schedule emails to be sent at optimal times, such as during business hours or at a time when their target audience is most likely to be checking their inbox.
Account-based advertising involves targeting specific accounts or businesses with personalized messages and content. This strategy has become increasingly popular in the commercial real estate industry as a way to reach decision-makers at companies that may be interested in leasing or purchasing a property.
Ad campaigns can be tailored to target specific industries, company sizes, or even individual companies. This method can be laborious, but it can also yield higher conversion rates as the messaging is more personalized and relevant to the intended audience.
Content Creation and Promotion
The saying ‘build it and they will come’ may not apply to commercial real estate, but ‘content is king’ sure does. Creating and promoting valuable content is essential for establishing expertise and building trust among potential clients. This can include blog posts, eBooks, videos, infographics, and more. Professionals should also promote their content through social media, email marketing, and other channels to increase its reach and engagement.
The Consequences of Business as Usual
Think your business can make do without proper branding efforts? Think again. Failing to properly promote commercial real estate is the wrong choice for so many reasons. While it may seem tempting to pass it over for time and cost savings, those benefits are short-lived. In virtually all cases, they turn into otherwise-avoidable consequences.
In a market as competitive as today’s, no CRE firm can afford the standards of business as usual. Here’s a look at just some of the possible negative outcomes poor branding – or an entire lack thereof – can create:
- Reduced Opportunities
The first and most obvious result of poor branding efforts is a reduction in business opportunities. With so many options available to consumers and businesses alike, it’s critical to stand out from the crowd and make a memorable impression. If your company is not properly promoting its offerings, it risks missing out on potential relationships and deals.
- Decreased Credibility
When a building appears unprofessional, it’s natural for potential buyers to question its worthiness as an investment. A strong brand identity, on the other hand, helps to establish credibility among prospective buyers, making it more likely that they will be willing to make an offer.
- Reduced Valuation and Investment Potential
Poor branding can have a negative impact on a building’s valuation and investment potential. Investors and potential acquirers are looking for properties with a strong market position and positive reputation. If a CRE firm has failed to invest in this area, its properties may be perceived as less valuable and therefore less attractive to potential investors.
Is someone already handling your branding efforts in-house? Great – that’s the first half of the problem tackled. The second is managing these initiatives in a way that actually delivers return on investment. While it’s always better to have some form of promotional strategy in place than none at all, results can vary wildly based on how you go about implementing things.
The best course of action is to work with a professional agency. inMotion Real Estate Media specializes in helping commercial real estate firms effectively brand and promote their properties, offering a suite of services and packages that can be customized to your unique needs. Inquire today to get started.