An Integrated Approach

Today’s commercial real estate market presents an extraordinary challenge but also an excellent opportunity for firms large and small to increase market share. Using an integrated marketing approach to communications will boost your firm’s visibility with buyers and sellers who will once again become active. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be successful. Integrated marketing communications is a process designed to assure that brand information received by customers and prospects for a product or service are relevant and consistent over time. It involves using online and offline marketing tools. Online marketing tools include e-marketing campaigns such as email, search engine optimization, blogs (Word Press, Blogger), micro-blogging (Twitter) and podcasts. Among offline marketing tools are traditional print (newspapers, magazines), public relations, industry relations, billboards and direct mail. To develop an integrated marketing communications program, you’ll need to identify some combination of these elements. But it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. Break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces and you’ll have better luck with your launch.  First, it makes sense to upgrade the company Web site. This sounds basic, but many firms don’t do it. Fresh, updated content, posted on a regular basis, has a higher rank on major search engines while old, static sites fade away.  Second, start a blog. Even if you just write a short commentary about things going on, openings and closings, county tax issues (lots to say there) or anything else related to the state of your local market, put it in a blog. You are the eyes and ears of the real estate investment community–let ’em know what’s going on. A blog can be set up quickly, and your updates can be as easy as sending an email. Third, email your contacts (provided they’ve given you permission; if you don’t have it, ask for it in a very brief phone call and tell them you will only send relevant information and you will not share their email address with anyone else). Regular emails provide timely and relevant information to your customers and prospects that will help them resize or expand when the time comes. The fact that they already have that information from you puts you top of mind when they’re seeking help.Micro-blogs like Twitter and podcasts can support your main blog as well as your primary Web site, providing even more content that’s updated almost continuously. Your online visibility will increase dramatically with these tools in motion. Offline marketing tools can also enhance your visibility, and work with your online tools. First, direct mail to your customer or prospect database, sent on a regular basis (every other month or even quarterly) increases visibility. Simple post cards with a short message and the URL for a special page on your company Web site for more information are cost-effective ways of doing this. And by directing postcard recipients to that special Web page, you can track how effective your post card program is, and whether you need to make changes.  Second, public relations can be an extremely valuable piece of your offline communications program. Create a relevant and timely article for local publication and cite your company information and you will gain exposure among interested prospects. Local publications are constantly seeking content and want to have something that’s not an ad but rather a useful piece of information for their readers.  As you put this together, keep in mind that an integrated marketing communications plan must offer information that’s relevant to your customers and prospects and should provide a consistent message. Marty Olson is business development director for integrated marketing communications firm BorderBound Communications.