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The changing values of property marketingBy: Henry Columbine

The changing values of property marketingAlthough the commercial property market is now showing significant signs of improvement, the past few years have undoubtedly been difficult. Whereas initiatives such as Help to Buy have provided a boost to the residential sector, the market for office space has been considerably quieter. As commercial schemes across the country have chased fewer potential occupiers, the importance of intelligent, focused and creative marketing and PR campaigns that drive enquiries has increased significantly. Commercial property marketing has seen a number of changes in recent years, driven primarily by the economic environment and advancements in technology.

At the most basic level, the economic downturn has been a catalyst for a change in the overall messaging of campaigns. Value has never been so fundamental. This does not mean that occupiers are looking for the cheapest schemes, as quality remains an important consideration, but higher rents and high specifications need to be justifiable and make business sense. For example, whereas a marketing campaign for a sustainable office building seven years ago might have focused on the environmental benefits of green features, now it would be more likely to emphasise how those features help reduce costs and favourably impact an occupier’s bottom line.

This principle applies to other areas as well. Views, location, levels of natural light, outside space, cycle racks, changing facilities and other features are no longer simply presented as status symbols; instead they are linked back to the value they create by improving the health, well-being and – most importantly – productivity of staff.

Throughout the downturn, a familiar complaint has been the length of time taken for companies and individuals to make important decisions. One of the major factors preventing firms from moving into new office space is fear of rocking the boat. Office moves are a significant event in the life of any company and – particularly if they involve a move to a new location – can lengthen commutes, change atmospheres and, ultimately, result in staff changes. This has become a significant consideration in property marketing too, with commercial campaigns becoming more lifestyle led with a focus on place-making more normally seen in residential campaigns. Several new office developments now use amenities guides, newsletters and area blogs to highlight local events, activities and venues that might be of interest to employees on their lunch breaks or after work. This makes sure that all staff – and not just decision makers – are won over by a new office location. Some developers have taken this a step further by introducing events programmes to create a heightened sense of community and to provide further amenities for occupiers, right on their doorstep.

With fewer UK companies looking for new office space, many developers have taken a more international outlook. Marketing and PR campaigns have increasingly included an international element to target tenants from overseas – playing particularly on the UK’s position straddling US and Far East time zones. From translated marketing materials and feng shui compliance, to adverts and editorial in overseas publications, international appeal is now a vital element of an effective marketing campaign.

The competitive nature of the commercial property market has led to increasingly creative campaigns. The property industry has a reputation for being traditional, but technology has finally been embraced as developers have started to understand that the online space offers a considerable opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

Given that most property searches – whether residential or commercial – start on the internet, a strong online presence is essential. Whereas fewer and fewer hard copy brochures are being produced, the need for an interactive, dynamic and attractive website, optimised for search engines, has never been so great. Videos can be an exceptional sales tool, bringing developments to life and enabling key messages to be put across through interviews with local occupiers, attractive shots of the local area and footage of the building either in real life or as computer generated images (CGIs).

Twitter feeds and blogs can also be a useful tool, giving an additional channel to push out pictures, videos and news. Selectively following appropriate feeds can help with positioning through brand affiliation, and tweeting about local events and venues can also contribute to place making and community relations. Twitter is also an increasingly important tool for media relations.

Bling and ostentation have been superseded by benefits and value: both in terms of the messaging of campaigns and the need for them to deliver tangible results. Marketing and PR campaigns have a reputation for being intangible but ways of measuring them need to be established at the start to ensure that they are making an impact. This could involve traceable telephone numbers, monitoring website analytics to gain an understanding of which marketing tools are delivering the best quality leads, and analysing the campaign against those of competing buildings.

About the author

Henry Columbine, Redleaf PolhillHenry Columbine is Director of the Property team at PR and marketing agency Redleaf Polhill.  

Features June 2014

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