For decades, commercial real estate marketing has focused on properties — not people.
Randa McMinn, senior vice president of integrated marketing at Ten-X, knows this well. Before she started working with the digital CRE platform, she spent close to a decade leading marketing teams in commercial real estate.
In that time, she learned a lot about marketing strategies that worked and where there were opportunities for improvement.
It’s not just the strategies that are evolving, McMinn says. The expectations of customers are transforming at a rapid pace, too. Those who don’t adapt in the current business climate risk losing their customers to the competition. “This really is the age of the customer. Understanding their needs and pain points and being able to adapt quickly are going to be how we win,” McMinn says.
The customer-first approach is transforming all industries, not just commercial real estate. In fact, a report from Forrester proclaims we are seven years into the age of the customer — a 20-year business cycle that is shifting the power from businesses to consumers. That shift has also come with profound technological innovation. Technology allows businesses to collect data, which allows them to understand their customers’ wants and needs.
The Ten-X platform was built to help brokers and investors harness that data. The platform has assembled a database of more than 400,000 buyers from around the world, and it uses a proprietary matchmaking algorithm, based on past transaction history and other attributes, to connect those buyers with various investment opportunities.
For example, if a broker is looking to sell an office building, Ten-X can survey past transaction behaviors from its database and focus on all those buyers who have purchased or who have expressed an interest in similar properties in the past to create a pool of potential customers. Ten-X then puts together a marketing strategy to reach those targets, plus potential targets provided by the broker, across multiple channels — email, digital ads, print, etc.
“Not every property or every buyer is going to be responsive to all marketing channels. It’s about understanding the right mix for the right people and what makes a greater impact,” McMinn explains. “It’s being where the customers are.”
Rather than just focusing on positioning the property in a compelling way, brokers can now use technology to offer a targeted group of investors exactly what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it, McMinn says.
“As marketers, we have to flip our perspective and make sure we are understanding customer needs, wants and desires — and that we’re able to convey how our product meets or exceeds those expectations.” As an industry, finding traction in technology comes with proof of concept. Brokers need to see technology as a tool to buy in to the innovation. That’s why Ten-X recently launched an online dashboard that allows brokers to check all relevant metrics, monitor how many investors have checked out a particular property on the platform, and collect qualified leads.
“That’s been a game changer for us — to be transparent and put the control in the hands of the brokers,” McMinn says.
Ten-X is also trying to walk the walk when it comes to putting the customer first. To that end, the company is launching a voice-of-the-customer initiative, embedding surveys and questions into the platform to collect real-time customer feedback. The company is also developing a customer council, to allow customers to weigh in on possible product enhancements as they’re taking shape.
“We learn based on transactions and behaviors — what our customers are looking at and engaging in on our platform,” McMinn says. “The use of data, algorithms and automation — all those things really make our jobs so much easier, but most importantly, more effective.”
Original content SFBJ