More Leads for Less

In difficult economic times, allocating budgets grows even more challenging. But tough times also have a way of producing smart shifts. A case in point: Commercial real estate dollars committed to online marketing hit an all-time high in 2008, both in dollar terms and as a share of overall marketing budgets, according to media research and consulting firm Borrell Associates Inc.Online spending is expected to rise 17 percent in 2009, according to Borrell, as the industry continues its move online. Fish where the fish are, the proverb says. And, increasingly, prospective buyers and tenants for commercial real estate are more accessible online than through traditional media channels.Borrell says 48 percent of commercial property marketing spending last year was allocated online, with consideration for email marketing and property-related Web sites.Online property marketing is growing for three good reasons:•    It’s cost effective. Most online sites offer free listing options, which means the only cost is for time to input and maintain listings. Paid advertising upgrades deliver greater exposure, often for as little at $15 per month per listing. Traffic is measurable, the number of leads is quantifiable and the cost of leads is generally low. •    It delivers national and international reach. Tenants and buyers (or their brokers) are more likely than ever to be three, four or more states away. On, for example, about 50 percent of all property searches originated outside the local market in November.•    It’s environmentally friendly and more practical. You can store vast information online and update it without having to print new brochures or offering packages. CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest real estate services company, recognizes the benefits. The firm lists all of its available North American properties online, with the exception of those a client has specifically asked it not to, according to Ray Wong, director of research operations for the Americas region. “It is in the best interest of sellers and landlords for us to provide maximum exposure for their properties,” he said, terming online marketing a critical part of the company’s listings process. Online spending has consequently continued to “shift up,” he added.CBRE is not alone. The industry continues to move its marketing online. And today’s recession is only likely to accelerate the pace.Mike Manning is vice president of marketing for LoopNet Inc., an online commercial real estate marketplace.