It’s natural that we want to understand and clarify uncertainty about the future. Businesses rely on financial forecasts, risk assessments and regular reporting to predict growth and plan investments. No one would expect you to hire more people or open a new branch without having a solid business case to support it. You’re a business person, not a fortune teller after all.
This poses a question as to why tracking and reporting are almost completely ignored by agents when it comes to marketing properties. If you can track where your enquiries come from, why wouldn't you do it? Many businesses in the commercial property sector still rely on a ‘finger in the air’ approach to planning their marketing activities. Long-term, it’s simply unsustainable. If you want to be effective, you need to know where to hit. With the right data sets monitored, gathered and analysed, you will be well-equipped to face tougher market conditions and use data to your advantage. For instance, knowing that on average a post on LinkedIn can generate 15 new enquiries and an email campaign usually generate between 5-8 leads, where would you put your effort? I know which channel I would bet my money on, especially when money’s tight.
Both Netflix and Airbnb are great examples of companies that use data to inform their marketing and product investments. Using the behavioural data, Netflix decides which new films or TV series productions to back and consequently grow the service. More on this here.
Airbnb also uses data to support their new product development process. For instance, understanding hosts’ preferences allowed Airbnb to build a full-blown machine learning algorithm. This matching algorithm improved experience for both hosts and guests. It was a win-win for the business and their customers. You can read the full story here. As they say, put your money where your mouth is.
One word - Amazon. One of the most successful businesses of our era, has data informing even the smallest decisions. Such attitude is embedded into their key leadership principles. Every new hire needs to show an alignment with these values before joining Amazon. It’s a mindset the company nurtures from the start.
But that's not all. Amazon’s mission statement reads: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Customer-centricity can only be achieved by understanding habits and choices of the customer and then acting on them. Amazon gathers a huge amount of behavioural data on their customers. Sophisticated algorithms use the data to serve personalised offers based on habits and previous behaviour patterns.
Nearly three quarters (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests (Hubspot). Amazon is as successful as they’ve become, because by utilising data and its findings, Amazon can determine which products to invest in and how to satisfy individual client's expectations. Staying relevant has been key to Amazon’s ever-growing list of successes.
If there is a lesson to learn here, it’d be one about gathering the right data, learning what it means to your business and acting on it. Without the insight to act upon, you might find yourself punching the air and hoping it strikes.
Amazon is not the only unicorn startup that has adopted the rules of digital transformation. Looking closer to home, WeWork is an intriguing example of a company that blends online and offline experiences to drive growth. WeWork has created an online brand that takes advantage of the reach and adoption of digital channels within their target audience, thus ensuring their online presence matches their offline.
So what happens after you’ve visited the WeWork website? You’ll be shown tons of remarketing adverts following you wherever you go. You can’t get away. WeWork understands a need of nurturing interest online before approaching a prospect directly. That’s digital marketing 101.
Many senior managers in the commercial property world, when asked 3 or more years ago if WeWork is considered a competitor, would have bluntly said ‘no way’.
One of most ironic quotes of the recent times comes from the former CEO of Blockbusters - Jim Keyes. Back in 2008, he said in the interview with Rick Munarriz:
“Neither Redbox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition.”
Now, many landlords and agents are looking anxiously at WeWork trying to figure out how to survive in an economy where flexibility is a currency and digital is the way forward. WeWork’s achieved a status of a global player by providing a service that suits needs of so-called digital nomads. A rise of the freelance and small tech companies culture has created a whole new segment of customers that hadn’t been directly targeted by the commercial property sector before. WeWork speaks the language of this newly emerged group through the channels they use daily.
Is it too late to start embracing digital and competing with likes of WeWork as equals? Definitely not, but the clock is ticking.
Check out part 2 of the ‘5 marketing lessons the commercial property industry can learn from the best technology companies’ article here.