During a presentation on how to choose blog topics the speaker, a social media expert, asked a group of CRE agents and marketing staff to define the target user. The COO spoke first – “everyone and everybody!”.
Flummoxed, the expert said you can’t market to everyone the same way. Then the marketing people chimed in, explaining that commercial real estate users vary widely and each segment has their own requirements. No…nothing like males over 40 or those of certain income levels. But by things like the type/size of business or level of information needs if not in the demographic terms most marketers are used to.
If one of the basic tenets of marketing to always target the user, then why are commercial listing sites mostly one size fits all? You get a peek of a property via a photo or two, a flyer, maybe a video and then you get to fill in a form to contact the agent. Just like residential MLS sites. But home-buyers are a much more homogeneous group. No matter what their income level, age or level of sophistication is, their needs are basically the same.
Could it be that all along, a company looking for office space would have preferred to have a site tailored to their needs rather than have to put up with a lot of “other” noise? That is what the newer CRE listing sites are thinking. Small space users, office leasing and investors are the usual targets but retail and industrial listing sites are cropping up, too. Does that mean that maybe, in the case of marketing space, the residential model isn’t the one CRE should be trying to emulate?
What’s interesting is that many of the newer, targeted sites were developed by users who were frustrated with the current state of online CRE marketing. They built what they wanted to see. Do they speak for all users? And if they are successful, is there still a need for a monolithic listing site?
But agents are “users” too in the sense that listings are being marketed to them to consider for their clients. And from their perspective, having to visit a bunch of listing sites to find “product” doesn’t sound too appealing. Specialty aggregators could ease the pain by offering their listings for publication on another site – an aggregator of aggregators if you will. It could be designed as a marketing platform that could drive traffic to the specialty sites or the listings could be aggregated by a LoopNet/CoStar-like data alternative. Or what if someone created a syndication service where all your listings could be entered then sent to the appropriate listing sites – as well as being listed on a single site?
At the very least, it’s clear that what agents want in terms of listing aggregation is muddled by their desire for a CoStar alternative. But a marketing site’s purpose is lead generation – not to be a data provider. And it’s also clear that the paid search model for marketing listings isn’t working very well for that. Let’s see where these targeted sites take CRE marketing. It might not look like what the residential is doing, but maybe it never should have in the first place.