Over half of companies seeking commercial real estate do their own online searching, even if they're working with a commercial real estate broker. That's according to a January 2015 study by Google and Loopnet. These results aren't surprising. The rise of the internet and the digital age have changed the way that people and companies acquire nearly everything, and that includes warehouses, office spaces, and income-producing properties. Corporate consumers today are savvy. They're in the habit of doing their own research, and educating themselves about potential strategies.
The number of people seeking commercial real estate opportunities, who do their own online research will only continue to increase, as more millennials enter the market, and technology becomes an even greater part of our industry’s culture. Because of these trends, a commercial real estate company's website has become an important tool for capturing leads, finding prospects and “shifting spaces” faster.
With this in mind, give your website an honest evaluation. How does it stack up? Is the website aesthetically appealing? Is it user-friendly and easy to navigate? Have you filled it with valuable and engaging content? Content that your audience needs, that will drive traffic to your page? Have you taken the time to ensure the website is Search Engine Optimized (SEO), so that it ranks in the Google search results, and prospective tenants, buyers, and sellers are able to find you?
If you cannot confidently answer in the affirmative when thinking over these questions, it's likely your company's website is falling short. This could lead to missed opportunities, as those prospective tenants, buyers, and sellers gravitate towards competitors with a superior web presence.
Many of the best commercial real estate websites belong to the largest companies. This is because, in the past, creating a visually-appealing, engaging website, with lots of features to enhance the user experience, would have cost quite a lot of money. Many people are under the impression that this is still the case. Thankfully, it isn't! Today, you can build a good website, that has great visuals, content, and several features, all for around $1200. The cost to maintain and update a website like this will usually cost an average of about $90 a month. I have found this to be a reasonable price point for independent brokers, regional brokerage firms, industry trade associations, and even small to mid-sized landlords. Mind blowing, industry leading websites, with many features, range from $10k to $60k. These can be constructed in phases, over time, as a way to diffuse the cost.
You should think about this as an investment into your overall business development strategy. A strong web presence is a key inbound marketing practice. Rather than hunting for new clients, commercial real estate companies should consider investing in ways for clients to find them and grow their market share even more. A great website is one of the best ways to do this.
There are lots of free website builders out there, and many of them provide hosting and have easy to use drag and drop software. However, unless you or someone on your team has experience with these, it would benefit you to hire a professional. You want your website to look great and function great. There's no point in having a beautiful website, if it's full of glitches, or so slow that visitors give up on it.
After you've hired someone to build your website, you'll want to keep in touch, communicate your needs, and overall just keep tabs on the process. Daniel Devereux, founder of Site Assembly, offers the following advice for planning and launching new websites:
- Develop a strong sales funnel that leads TO your website-NEVER away from it!
- Develop a localized keyword optimization strategy.
- Design a stable, secure, and user-friendly website.
- Develop a strong call-to-action that tells your site visitors exactly what you want them to do, and make it super simple for them to do so.
- Develop a hyper-local marketing strategy
I recommend starting small. Just take one step at a time. If you start focusing on all of the different moving parts, you run the risk of becoming discouraged and giving up, or putting the project off and procrastinating.
Don't worry too much about making it perfect. You want a quality website, but it's all about balance. You can't obsess over the website to the point that the website never goes live.
Keep a lookout for future posts about how to improve your website.