Property marketing: Trends and challenging convention (Summary of EG Property Marketing summit speech)

Posted on: July 1, 2014

At the Estates Gazette (EG) inaugural Property Marketing Summit conference on Thursday 26th June 2014 (#marketingsummit) I gave a presentation entitled “Challenging convention: prioritising investment – from traditional to sophisticated marketing in the new property world”.

This is a summary of the key points from my presentation – please email me (kim@kimtasso.com) if you would like a copy of the distribution version of the Powerpoint slides. There are other blogs relating to other presentations at the conference (see below).

I was asked to:

a)     Examine evolving market conditions and customer behaviours

b)    Determine how marketing techniques and channels are developing and their appropriateness for property

c)     Consider how to add value to empowered customers

d)    Encourage creativity

After looking briefly at the forecast trends from futurologists both in the wider economy and on the technological horizon I reflected that perhaps marketing in the property sector was a little behind as supply and demand still puts property sellers in a strong position.

Segmentation

Beyond the generic B2B and B2C classifications, the real estate market has many different segments – investors, developers, occupiers and tenants/residents/consumers and these are also diverse when you start drilling down.

It is not an homogenous market which means that marketing needs to be considered in each of the different sub-segments – a basic principle that is rarely observed. This is further complicated by the technographic and social media segmentation which must be over-layed and we have all witnessed the low adoption rates within the sector.

Visualisation tools enable us to focus on micro-segments and to build buyer personas that allows new digital techniques to be used more effectively.

Campaign planning

Another issue is that often the campaigns for each segment are designed and executed individually – with the initial investor and developer campaigns rarely having considered the impact on the downstream occupier and consumer campaigns.

Investors and developers

Marketing still doesn’t not have a place at the table when it comes to some of the most critical elements of the marketing mix – namely, place (land, location and area development), product (nature of the built offices, warehouses or homes) or price. There is little evidence of the use of behavioural economics in determining price and creating choice architectures.

Innovation is Marketing in the property sector is largely focused on promotion or communications. And in the investor and developer markets there is a focus on investor relations and high level personal selling, conducted by agents, in a B2B context within a relatively small market.

Owned media – Web sites are critical but there is little to really differentiate investor and developer sites. There are still many which are not even mobile responsive. Free tools such as Hubspot’s Marketing Grader can pinpoint and help resolve issues around mobile, lead generation, SEO, social media and blogging fundamentals.

Animated infographic – I mentioned Segro’s annual report infographics, videos and social media campaign (primarily through LinkedIn and Twitter) as one that I thought had managed to address both personal and digital channels effectively. https://www.linkedin.com/company/148198?trk=vsrp_companies_res_name&trkInfo=VSRPsearchId%3A3988331404120380100%2CVSRPtargetId%3A148198%2CVSRPcmpt%3Aprimary

Animated and on-line presentations – To support face-to-face presentations, some real estate companies are using software such as Prezi and Presentia to put the clients in the driving seat and sharing on-line portfolios of disparate properties and curating quality content using platforms such as http://www.scoop.it/

If you can’t win the news race, provide the back story – With so many sources provided instantaneous news, there’s an opportunity to provide and regularly update trusted back stories whether on the economics of the property market or on key developments (the example I provided here concerned the legal implications of using commercial drones). There is a move towards measuring influence (with tools such as Klout and PeerIndex) rather than followers, likes and activity.

Generation differences – While Generation X (born 1960s-1970s) predominantly use email, Generation Y/Millennials (born 1980s-2000s) use social media, text and instant messaging. Communication differences will continue to require adaptation in campaigns. The use of social media in B2B sales and relationship management contexts is a topic I have explored extensively in the past – see http://www.kimtasso.com/one-more-time-why-is-social-media-helpful-to-lawyers-accountants-and-surveyors/

Thought leadership – Whereas the property sector had always been good at producing high quality research, there is a shift to thought leadership campaigns that take a broader view of economic and commercial issues which effectively put real estate on the Board room agenda. The change is reflected in the output of firms like GVA http://www.gva.co.uk/thought-leadership/ and in the recent MIPIM #bullorbear campaign from CBRE investment which combined advertising in the financial and business press, posters in airports, interactive displays at exhibition stands, micro-websites and social media campaigns http://www.kimtasso.com/property-marketing-case-study-cbre-mipim-bears-bulls-video-social-media/.

Occupiers

Large commercial organisations such as those in the financial and insurance sectors had invested in databases and the use of “big data” to allow predictive analytics. This allows you to model past behaviours of similar groups of clients and thus predict their likely actions in the future – making it easier to target time relevant messages.

Client focus The Regent Street “Office Direct” service for small commercial occupiers was an example of allowing businesses to enter criteria relevant to them (rather than to the property industry) for property searches.  http://www.rsofficedirect.com/

Niche approach I highlighted this campaign http://joneslanglasalleblog.com/sandiego/a-space-to-suit-law-firms/#.U7EzMmfQfcs as it focused on providing valuable benchmark information and the business benefits to the members of a small, specific niche (i.e. City law firms).

Digital content and community There was little evidence of the use of SlideShare and ebooks although there was an increasing use of video within the property sector – See http://www.kimtasso.com/property-marketing-case-study-video-knight-frank-berwin-leighton-paisner-estates-gazette/.  Whilst there are strong online communities (e.g. LinkedIn farmers 5,000, property management professionals 51,000 and commercial property investment, development and management 90,000) the level of engagement is weak suggesting that more could be done. Real community programmes – linking commercial tenants, workers, local residents and charities – for example at King’s Cross offer strong potential http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/blogs/showblog.php?post=3039

Consumers

The “Big Six” of social media were explored with the property industry interest in image sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. The latest developments in Google+ – especially for local businesses – were mentioned. When consumers want us, they must be able to find us. Hubspot’s data on the effectiveness of different channels at driving web traffic surprisingly showed organic search in the lead with email before social media and PPC.

Work to improve the customer experience through quality blogs, local gift cards, mobile apps and real events were considered at  http://www.regentstreetonline.com/ and http://www.westfieldeditme.com/ . The East Village marketing lounge was also highlighted http://www.eastvillagelondon.co.uk/ as a good blend of digital and traditional methods.

We looked at Augmented Reality (AR) use for area guides and for providing floor plans and additional information from advertisements, brochures and hoardings using apps such as Virtual View http://www.virtualviewapp.com/  and I managed a Blippar https://blippar.com/en/ demonstration to show integration with video and sound. Examples of projection mapping were considered.

The recent availability in the UK of Google Glasses and their possible use in serving international buyers was another point. The demographics of gamers was considered an indicator of the potential for gamification.

Summary at the panel session

At the final panel session, I provided some thoughts on the future for property marketers:

Learning to run faster – With digital marketing changing so fast, how do we stay abreast of all the developments and find the time to assess which new channels and techniques might be appropriate for our clients and consumers?

More lunatics have taken over the asylum – Not only do we have to attract and engage with consumers and earn their trust, how do we find time to also encourage all of our internal Brand Ambassadors to engage as well as providing a “centre of excellence” to guide their involvement?

Leaps of faith – Whilst we understand the need to build a strong business case with clarity around Return on Investment (ROI) or even Return on Engagement (ROE), how do we achieve this when the channels or techniques are simply too new for us to know or if we hope to be truly innovative and creative?

It’s personal not personalisation – Whilst the focus is on what big data might help us achieve in consumer markets, the big bucks remain in the commercial property sector where personal selling and relationships dominate. What are we doing to increase sales automation and efficiency and to support social CRM?

Collaboration, community and crowdsourcing – Marketing used to control things centrally. We were expected to have all the answers. These days we need cross-functional teams and external collaboration and to work with our clients and referrers through community and crowdsourcing programmes. How do we achieve this?

Paraphrasing Led Zeppelin – The Story remains the same – Regardless of creativity and channel, the focus must be on the stories we are telling – of commercial and consumer success. How do we ensure that good quality content – whether written or visual – is sourced and used for all of our communications?

You don’t sell Maseratis on Amazon – Digital and social methods are not a panacea. We should reflect on our segmentation and, with regards to ultra-high net worth clients, focus on more confidential and personal methods of approach.

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