Marketing

Have you StumbleUpon’d your Delicious Digg and is it worth it?

Posted by mhurston on August 11, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

You may have no idea what heading means, and that’s probably ok if you’re in the Real Estate industry. If you’re in to SEO/SEM or are looking for an easy way to increase traffic to your website a quick Google search will lead you to all three of these sites: Stumbleupon, Delicious and Digg – but are they worthwhile for the Real Estate Community?

These three sites are considered, Social Bookmarking Sites, meaning they allow users to submit links to places on the Internet they find interesting. These links are then placed into the sites directory of user submitted links and the entire network could comment on them. It’s an easy way of generating an influx of referring traffic to your site with minimal effort. But does it convert?

From several articles I have read online as well as my own personal use, when a site offers a product for sale, such as a digital download or a subscription based service the traffic from these social bookmarking sites doesn’t seem to convert. My most recent experience yielded over 900 visitors within a single day, and 1,400 over thee days, yet none of them purchased a single copy of my eBooks. On the other hand, I had a press release go out to a popular online gaming site and received 13 visitors of which 2 purchased eBooks from me.

So what does this mean for real estate?

Much like my questions and comments on Twitter, I think social bookmarking is a great way of generating traffic, but since real estate isn’t something people can click on and buy instantly, you’re chances of having that traffic convert are even less than others. However, it is a great way to show clients how much exposure their property is receiving, but what’s the point if it’s not ending up in a sale or lease of the property after months of high traffic?

So how does one get traffic to convert, or better yet, how do we increase the rate of conversion on any links we have? That’s where SEO/SEM come into play.

Statistically the conversion rate of visitors to sales has always been a very low percentage, so the goal becomes to increase the amount of traffic so incredibly that even with a 0.001% conversion you’re able to sell your products. Below are the most common examples of typical SEO/SEM:

Article Submission – submitting articles you write to online webzines is a great way to advertise your site, as you can include a link to your site in the articles “about” or “signature” block.

Blog Commenting – commenting on other peoples blogs can be good or bad, if you are there just to drop a site link people will know and it doesn’t always reflect kindly on you.

Directory Submissions – If you have a real estate blog submit it to a real estate blog directory, it’s a pretty simple concept. If you have a site about flowers, find an online flower site directory and submit it there.

Craigslist – many people have a love/hate relationship with this site, but at the end of the day search engines seem to pull content from this site quite often, so posting ads about your product or services here is a good way to get yourself noticed in search engines like Google quickly.

Emails – even if you don’t have an email list to market to, just put your site’s URL in the signature of your emails, the people you talk to on a daily basis will see it and maybe even take a look or ask you about it. Think of this as an easy in for Word of Mouth.

Forums – not quite as popular in all circles, but there are many forums available for a number of topics, if you happen to be involved in one, such as the CrackBerry forums for BlackBerry users, it’s a good idea to include your site’s URL in your forum Signature, so as you talk to others they keep seeing your site.

Press releases – these aren’t just for local papers anymore. All PR sites now place their releases online where search engines and subscribers come to view them. Include your web address in any press release you send out.

RSS submission – if your site is a blog or you generate an RSS feed for it, there are many RSS syndication sites out there that want your feed, Syndic8 is the first one that comes to mind.

Reciprocal Linking – this is probably one of the least used methods of SEO/SEM, but it can have very successful results if done right. You basically find other site owners who run sites similar to yours, but do not compete directly with you and the two of you add links to each other’s site on your pages. It can take some time, but if you have at least 10 sites in your head that come up as places you could cross link with, that’s a great start.

But what about Meta Tags and Search Engine Submission?

Here is my answer in a nutshell, for Meta Tags websites have smarted up a lot with them and the days of the late 90’s where people stuffed a gazillion words and sentences into the code of their site to inflate rankings is dead and gone. Here is all you need to do with them: for keywords don’t use more than 15 terms and for the description, a one liner, sentence, is fine. Anymore than that and most current search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will toss out the rest anyway so it doesn’t help you. As far as submitting your site to a search engine, once you’re site is working the way you want and you have a good amount of content on it feel free to stop by free services such as AddMe and SubmitItExpress. If you’ve taken advantage of at least 60% of the above suggestions you won’t need to pay anyone for SEO/SEM.

I really see no reason why anyone couldn’t invest a single Saturday afternoon and complete all of the above, but if you are really busy and would like to hire me to do your SEO/SEM, feel free to drop me a line. mgh@lasvegascrenews.com

– Michael G. Hurston

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Which social networking site is right for me?

Posted by mhurston on July 22, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

If you’re in commercial real estate this is something you have probably started to ask yourself. Do you immerse yourself and join every possible site out there, automate all your postings with Ping.FM and run the chance of not having the time to manage responses to all these sites or do you select a couple key places to better manage your ability to interact with potential clients on a more personal level?

While the first option may sound great as far as exposure for your listings, advertising on a site that doesn’t have your target audience in mind may end up causing you to waste a lot of time on setting up accounts you don’t need. While from a business standpoint it may be worthwhile to create the accounts to block others from using the company’s name, that’s not always a concern when you’re focusing on your individual listings. To help in deciding which place may be the best for you to hang your hat I’ve taken a look at some of the demographic information provided by Quantcast.com on several of the most popular social sites and compared to our typical client information.

The following sites are in order of popularity based on subscriber information and visitor traffic. US Site Views are based on 30-Day increments.

Facebook.com
US Site Views: 90.8 M
Majority Users: 54% Female
Age: 46% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 30% over $100k/yr

MySpace.com
US Site Views: 62.7 M
Majority Users: 57% Female
Age: 46% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 25% over $100k/yr

LinkedIn.com
US Site Views: 10.9 M
Majority Users: 56% Male
Age: 43% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 38% over $100k/yr

Ning.com
US Site Views: 7.3 M
Majority Users: 54% Female
Age: 35% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 16% over $100k/yr

Bebo.com
US Site Views: 5.1 M
Majority Users: 60% Female
Age: 45% are 12 to 17
Income Level: 20% over $100k/yr

Hi5.com
US Site Views: 4.0 M
Majority Users: 52% Male
Age: 48% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 6% over $100k/yr

Friendster.com<
US Site Views: 1.9 M
Majority Users: 52% Male
Age: 29% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 27% over $100k/yr

Orkut.com
US Site Views: 485.9 K
Majority Users: 54% Male
Age: 55% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 18% over $100k/yr

So why is the above relevant?

Given that the majority of commercial real estate clients tend to be Male, between 45 and 60 with mid to high level six figure salaries we can see that it wouldn’t be worth our time to advertise our Industrial or Office availabilities on a site that has a primary demographic of females between the ages of 12 and 17 such as is found at Bebo.com

Overall, LinkedIn seems to be the best site for professionals to connect with other professions, followed closely by Facebook, which also boasts 9 times the number of visitors and users when compared to LinkedIn. The only other site from this list I would consider, from a strictly commercial real estate point of view, would be Ning, as this social networking site operates completely different than the others. Instead of signing up and being part of a wide variety of users the site instead allows each user to create or subscribe to user driven social clubs. Essentially a Ning user can create their own “social networking group”, such as a social club focusing on Las Vegas Real Estate.

While other social media services like Twitter can compliment all of these sites it may also be worthwhile to look at up and coming networks. Recently I became aware of a new social networking site geared specifically for real estate professionals. The site, RealCorner.com is still relatively new and unfortunately I could not find much third party information for them short of Alexa.com which of my last checking had a lot of holes to fill with their information still.

In any case the site is still worth watching and based on its description and meta tags is usually not blocked by most companies firewalls or web filters, much like LinkedIn, where as most of the popular sites listed above are blocked from within the work place.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Preliminary Marketing Report – Broker Feedback

Posted by mhurston on July 08, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

Broker Marketing Feedback

While our overall office strategy effectively increased visitors to our website, lead generation that results in a transaction has and will most likely always come from the brokers own networking and marketing strategies. The following is based on the feedback received from our offices Brokers and their Marketing Specialists.

Print Ads

Of the brokers who responded to the questionnaire all of them were no longer running print ads, post cards or any printed marketing for that matter. The reasoning across the board was that it was simply too expensive for the current marketing budgets. While they did mention that in the past leads had been generated from print ads and post cards it was too low to justify the cost involved.

Email Marketing Campaigns

This was the number one used marketing resource of all brokers, primarily because it allows them to reach large amounts of people quickly and with little cost involvement. The additional tracking information seemed to be under used, though an added bonus for those who follow it. While some brokers indicated that they would receive up to five responses per every 100 emails, others mentioned that many of the smaller brokerage firms as well as agents who also work in residential were typically the first to respond. In either case, almost all of those who responded indicated that if email campaigns lead to a transaction it was usually due to an outside broker who received the email. This was also the exact result from brokers who were regularly using services such as PropertyLine and other third party sites.

Signs

Signs were and still are the primary lead generating tool, based on the feedback we received from the questionnaire. The majority of deals that did not involve an outside broker seemed to come from people driving by the property and calling the number on the sign. Simply put, property signs will always be a necessity.

Events, Press Releases & webSite

The various use of the companies website, press releases and participation in local events was very diverse overall. Where one broker mentioned that events such as NAIOP’s breakfast or an open house had lead to a deal, several other brokers had comments in direct contrast about the usefulness of participation in any event. Similar was the response about the companies website, such as the use of team sites and featured property sites. While some indicated that they had never received a call from someone who visited the website, others stated that they received calls on a regular basis from people who found them via their site, though none had lead to a transaction being done, so far. Press releases and news coverage seemed another item that some brokers felt strongly about being involved in, but others did not see the need. While some brokers saw media coverage as added exposure, even without leading to a transaction, others admitted it was useful for gaining public awareness, but since it wouldn’t lead to a transaction it wasn’t something they wanted to focus on.

New Media, Viral & Social Marketing

With the release of emerging social media and viral marketing there have only been a handful of people across our partnership that have actively been involved in marketing their listings this way, many with limited success, though at least two with significant results. Our take, is that as this technology becomes more familiar with more people and the learning curve is passed, it may begin to have similar results as email campaigns and PropertyLine.

Broker Suggestions

The broker suggestions this year were varied, but had a consistent theme. More tools and flexibility were desired. The top requests were, more flexibility with the company website as far as what information could be put up and how we are allowed to market them. A desire for broker edit able marketing templates was expressed, such as for brochures, proposals, offering memorandum, etc. The sharing of all email lists among all of the brokers within Colliers was also mentioned, as well as the sharing of more marketing collateral.

Feedback Sources

The information compiled within this report was primarily based on the ebb and flow of projects and production within the Las Vegas Colliers Graphics Department. In addition, the following brokers and marketing specialists gave feedback on the marketing questionnaire: (In alphabetical Order) Adam Malan, Alicia Luz, Brian Riffel, Delia Dominguez, Kimberlee Hamilton, Margery Schulz and Megan Hatala.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Can real estate be sold on Twitter?

Posted by mhurston on June 16, 2009
Creative Corner / 3 Comments

Can real estate be sold on Twitter? Whether you’ve been a fan of Twitter for some time now or if you just happened to start using it recently because you read it’s a great social media tool that is becoming popular, you probably have asked yourself at some point – is it possible to make money with Twitter?

A quick Google search of this topic will lead you to find many people all telling you that it’s easy to do…but is it for everyone? From poking around the net I’ve found, and I think many will agree with me, that the people making money with Twitter are those selling Retail products or Affiliate services. Dell is a great example. Recently Dell announced that they made over $3 Million from Twitter exclusive deals. They would post a direct link to their product on Twitter; people would follow the link and buy the computer. Fantastic, it’s proven; you can make money on Twitter. But can you buy a house? What about an office building?

This is something I’m really interested to find out and am willing to give it a shot for the next while. I’m sure many of you have noticed the feeds from Las Vegas CRE News, which include commercial property listings, get pumped out to Twitter every few hours. While the traffic from this has been great, no one I work with has reported a lead generating into a sale from Twitter. Many of the brokers I’ve spoken with outside of the Vegas Valley have all given me the same response. This begs us to then ask the question – if it is not generating results is it worth it?

Too many variables exist right now in my research to give a definite answer one way or another on how effective Twitter is or may be in the future as more people in the CRE industry begin to use it to market their listings, but who I’d really like to hear from are those on the residential side of things. Residential brokers seem to embrace new technology and marketing ideas a lot faster than commercial brokers, so it would be safe to assume that those who have been using Twitter longer to market their listings would give a better insight into the chances of having a property sell from a lead generated from Twitter.

So this begs me to ask, if you’re a real estate agent or broker for either commercial or residential and have actually had a lead generated from Twitter result in a transaction being completed, I’d love to hear about it and post it here for others to be inspired by. Please contact me at mgh at lasvegascrenews dot com

– Michael G. Hurston

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Preliminary Marketing Report – It’s about results!

Posted by mhurston on June 03, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

The following is my preliminary marketing report for the first half of the year. Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing brokers and their marketing specialists to use in the full report coming out later this summer.

Marketing Overview

This year our marketing goal was to completely overhaul the way we do advertising and marketing for our office. We needed a new approach on a reduced budget that would still get us results with lead generation and staying in the public eye.

In the past we had done many overpriced one off campaigns and for the most part ignored any type of promotion of our website, regardless of its updated features. Therefore, this year we decided to focus on multiple phase marketing strategy which included extended length web advertisements to promote our featured property websites, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a consistent branding campaign to show the people behind Colliers and a recruitment campaign to bring in more brokers to our office. We also created guides for the creation and use of listings on Craigslist and Social Media sites, simply put this year we pulled out all the stops.

While our PR firm MassMedia handled much of the price negotiations and the actual buys, the campaign placement, concepts, designs and photos were all done in-house (with exception to the Las Vegas Strip Aerial and Corporate Stock Art).

 

Ad Campaigns

In October of 2008 the planning began for a new ad campaign for 2009. We looked at a few of the ads we had done that conveyed messages or ideas we wanted to promote and incorporated these ideals into our campaigns, but with a unique and fresh look.

While the Las Vegas office has always had a strong relationship with many of the local publications, including In Business, Nevada Business Journal, Review Journal, Red Report, Western Regional and the Business Press.

Due to significant budget restraints this year we decided to pick Greenspun Media as our main outlet for print advertising. Greenspun Media Group is currently the owner and distributor of most publications within Southern Nevada. They currently produce In Business, Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Home & Design, Las Vegas Magazine (LVM), and many others.

In addition to their print publications they also own and operate many of the local business news websites and niche media outlets in Southern Nevada including RecruitingNevada.com, 702.TV, LasVegasSun.com and more.

While Greenspun Media was where we placed the bulk of our budget, we still included placements in other print publications such as the North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Henderson Chamber of Commerce publications. For our online ads we chose the Las Vegas Sun website and PropertyLine.

During the year, as always, brokers and their clients were free to pay out of pocket for any specific publication ads. Those included, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Nevada Business Journal among others.

The primary message we wanted to get across in our branding campaign was that we were not simply a business offering services, but rather people servicing our clients. The concept of the ads was to show the “faces behind the divisions”. The distribution for this was In Business Magazine, one of the most popular business magazines in Southern Nevada. We had six Island Ads, with an ad popping up every other month. A couple times throughout the year we managed to be upgraded to a full-page ad at no additional cost.

We chose the North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Henderson Chamber of Commerce publications to target a very set demographic. We tailored each of the ads to their specific areas, Speedway & Aliante (North), Downtown and Strip (Vegas) and Green Valley Ranch & Horizon Ridge (Henderson)

The Las Vegas Sun was the news site we chose to advertise our website on. All ad banners were created in either flash or animated gif formats and also appeared in the e-newsletters (e-bizclick) sent out monthly. The links directed viewers to our featured property page.

For our recruitment campaign we were able to negotiate for 3 consecutive pages of ad space. This allowed us to place consecutive ads showing growth and work as a teaser within the publication. We again chose In Business to place our ads in. The online version of the ad linked to our recruitment page and was included in the PropertyLine e-newsletters.

 

SEO Strategy, Social Media & Craigslist

While we received an immediate increase in direct traffic to our featured property sites due to our online ads, we still needed to increase the overall organic (search engine) traffic to our website. We did this by incorporating a three-step process. We began by reviewing and writing into our featured property sites appropriate and individualized Meta Tags; the key words and descriptions that some search engines use to index websites. The next step involved the massive re-submission of our sites and main Colliers sites to multiple search engines. We used available free services from Addme.com and Submititexpress.com. The final steps involved created a web presence among sites that already had high organic rankings and could direct visitors to our Colliers site. This was done by the creation of a CPI Wikipedia page and Aboutus.org page. After one month we began to see a slight increase in organic traffic.

Our next online endeavor was to educate those within our office who were members of social sites on how to include their listings on their social pages, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This had two immediate affects, the first was that the brokers now had another reason to give to potential clients on why they should list them based on the amount of exposure their property would receive, as well as this resulted in increasing our organic traffic. Similar results occurred with the implementation of Criagslist postings as well.

 

Public Relations & Exposure

In the past we had lost some of our offices connections with the local media, so this year we made it a point to correct this. We began with the internal promotion of all public transactions to generate buzz within the office and get our brokers and staff thinking about our media exposure. A calendar of events was created, one internally for CRE events and one by MassMedia that included many local events that would be worthwhile for our brokers and staff to attend. We next worked with MassMedia on consistently generating stories within local publications and sharing them with others within the office. To coincide with this we had MassMedia create a bi-monthly e-newsletter for our office sent out to over 12,000 people. An official media policy was developed for our office, as well as a reporter source book of contacts within our office the media could rely upon for accurate and timely information.

We also included more focus to our research this year, with Matt and Campbell organizing an industry round table for the quarter ends as well as a magazine style all inclusive report known as the VQR (Vegas Quarterly Report), later renamed to LVQ (Las Vegas Quarterly). Being the first CRE brokerage in Southern Nevada to release their market report each quarter allowed us to play up our media publicity each quarter.

 

All Eyes on Us

Among the Graphics departments within our partnership we typically all share “best practices” among each other. While many of the other offices in the past have used a few of our ideas, this was the first year that the majority of these marketing strategies created in our office were pushed out among the other offices. The Event Calendar, our Craigslist guide, our Viral Marketing guide, our SEO strategies, our Reporter Source Book, and our Recruitment Page are all being considered for implementation at many of the other offices based on the work done within our Las Vegas office.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Viral Marketing with Social Media

Posted by mhurston on May 25, 2009
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What is Viral Marketing?

The buzzword, viral marketing, refers to marketing techniques that use social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.

The term “viral marketing” has also been used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns—the unscrupulous use of astroturfing on-line combined with undermarket advertising in shopping centers to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm.

– Wikipedia

 

So how do we use this?

One of the great social aspects of the internet are the popularity of Social Networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. All of which focus on the primary goal of staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, as well as the sharing of information.

One of the benefits of these sites is the ease of automated replication of your listings onto your profiles, so they can be seen and shared with everyone on your network with little time involvement.

The next few pages will list information on how to display your listings on these sites, the initial time involvement is minimal and once done you will never have to manually update anything.

 

Step One

Acquiring your RSS feed. Chances are no matter which Commercial Real Estate brokerage you work at, your companies database puts out, or has the ability to put out, Property Listings via RSS feeds. For example, at Colliers we have feeds for our Market Reports, PodCasts, Exclusive Listings for each office as well as individual broker listings.

Ask your local Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer or Research Department for it, if you have questions on this. Once you have the feed url you can start to get your listings showing in lots of different places. Your feed will look something like this: http://www.colliersparrish.com/rss/excl/las/feed.emolfetta.excl.xml

 

Step Two – Linkedin

I’ll begin with Linkedin.com as it is probably the most easiest to implement as well as the most used site for strickly professional networking.

Once logged in you will select “Edit My Profile” from the left hand sidebar. Next select “Websites” and choose “Edit”. While you can select up to three sites to enter, choose one of these to be “My RSS Feed” and copy your Properties RSS feed to this. Click “Save Changes”.

Next, select “Applications” from the left hand sidebar. Scroll down until you see an application called “BlogLink”. This application will pull information from any of your website(s) feeds and display them on your profile. If you’re feed is working, you should immediately begin to see your listings displayed on your profile.

Note: If you have more than one website listed BlogLink will only display up to the four most recent posts, however it does have a scroll arrow users can use to click through your listings or posts.

 

Step Three – Twitter, TwitterFeed & OpenID

If you have a Twiiter account, you will not need to do anything special from here. If you don’t have a Twitter account, it might be a good time to create one.

Once you have a Twitter account you will want to go to TwitterFeed.com and set up a RSS Feed that will post to your Twitter account automatically.

You will need to sign in with an OpenID. See below for explanation on what an OpenID is. Once you have logged into TwitterFeed, you can select “View My Feeds” or “Create New Feed”. The form here is pretty self explanatory, you paste your Properties RSS feed where it asks you as well as you can set the time to display updates. I’d recommend setting it to 5 hours. On the section where is says “Include” I would recommend selecting “Title & Description”.

You will need to “Authorize” the application to access your Twitter account. It just involved clicking the Authorize link and signing into Twitter. Congratulations, within the next 5 hours you will start to see your Property listings displayed on your Twitter automatically.

Chances are you already have an OpenID, though if you do not, you can sign up for many free online services and use that as your login. For me, I have an account on Gmail as well as WordPress, so I use those to login.

 

Step Four – Facebook

Once you login to Facebook, choose “Home” and scroll tot he bottom of your page. A button on the lower left hand corner will say “Applications” select this and choose “Browse Applications”. Search for the Twitter app. (Note: this is different than Twitter Updater app). Or you can go directly to the applications page at http://apps.facebook.com/twitter/ to install it.

Once you have it installed, and have “Authorized” the application your Facebook “Status Updates” will display your Twitter posts, which should be including your Property feeds.

 

Step Five – Other Sites

While other social sites include Myspace, Orkut, BeBo, Hi5 and Friendster – the popularity and target audience are not necessarily the most beneficial for the Commercial Real Estate industry.

Therefore I have not taken the time to create a guide for them. That said, if you have an existing social network on any of these sites and would like me to look into it for you, I would be more than willing to help you out. Just drop me a line.

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Brief Commentary on Media Training

Posted by mhurston on April 29, 2009
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I recently attended a media training session hosted by MassMedia, a successful full service advertising, PR and design agency here in Nevada. While I have always known the importance of returning calls to reports, I had never known the specific time frames in which to better plan out my days and releases.

Publications that come out “fresh off the presses” every morning are ran during the night and edited the afternoon before. This leaves a typical cut off for any writer or news reporter with a 2pm deadline everyday. A minute later and his other story is either already on the desk of his editor, is being bumped to the next day or discarded because he didn’t get a hold of anyone to confirm your info. So it’s best to get back to these people first thing in the morning when possible.

The next type of publication is the weekly one, who usually releases their editions on Mondays, Wednesday or Fridays. In either case their deadline is usually the Thursday before release. Knowing if a reporter is from a weekly edition can help to give you a lot more time in formulating a response, unless of course they are calling you on a Thursday afternoon.

TV is daily and throughout the day it seems to take on a life of its own and at any given moment one story can bump another. This is also similar to how radio works, so these two outlets will pretty much be open to any pitch 24/7.

So what does this all mean to you? As a marketing person who may not take interviews by reporters, but who needs to direct them to the top brokers in your office its imperative that you stress and effectively communicate these times to your sales staff when notifying them of a potential story in their field.

If nothing else, it provides you with a timeline to best pitch your press releases and increase the likelihood of a response by a reporter contacting you or the office to follow up for additional information. So what is this timeline?

The timeline is simply this: Mondays to Thursday, between 9am and 12 noon (based on time zone of publication) or 2pm to 4pm. This means I can send out a press release to my contacts at 9am Pacific Time and I am able to hit both my west coast people and the east coast. It goes without saying a solid press release or story pitch to a reporter during this time has the most likely chance to be looked at and one of the best ways to have your office start to get noticed.

Overall I was pretty impressed with their presentation, my brief commentary here touches on so little of the four hour presentation, but ultimately I hope some of you out there will find this tidbit useful as I did.

– Michael G. Hurston

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What Constitutes Good Design?

Posted by mhurston on April 14, 2009
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In my last segment I overviewed various marketing tools that can benefit any commercial real estate office, but this time around I became a little side tracked. Instead of continuing on the marketing subjects I outlined, I’m going to start with design, as that is what everything else I’ll have to talk about stems from. I’ve broken this down into what I see are the three aspects of design, visual, functional and structural.

For marketing collateral purposes we’ll look primarily at the visual design. For the most part visual design is something that the client will find appealing to their senses. The sights and sounds of a TV ad or flash banner on a website or the look of a printed page. While visual design is one f the most important elements for marketing, it is also the most subjective.

Edward Tufte can be considered a genius within the visual design field with his ability to present incredible amounts of statistics within an easily identifiable and understandable display. This is one of the first steps towards good design. However, Tufte will be the first to admit how much he dislikes marketing and many of the elements used in advertisements and various forms of collateral that irritate him to no end.

With that said, it’s important as a designer to understand that the client is not always right and it’s part of your visual design duty to make sure you can talk them out of doing something that will hurt their business.

The next most important part of design is function, or simply, how stuff works. For example, a website is one of the areas where functional design is extremely important. It does no good to both you or your clients if people aren’t able to find the information they want on your website. A little study of typical human behavior on the web and you will understand the necessity for multiple links to the same information along the top and sides of a website, among the reasoning behind many other online strategies. However, functional design is not just important to interactive media such as websites, flash applications or interactive PDF’s, it is also important to printed items, such as when creating a book or magazine layout, where you are incorporating bleeds and spreads. It is also important to understand the media on which your printed pieces will be produced, such as the difference between the look of a 10 pt Gill Sans Light on glossy magazine stock versus newspaper.

Some could consider structural design the least important, but structure varies drastically from designer to designer. If you are your own boss and work alone, chances are you don’t care how you organize your files, how you name them, or how your layouts are set up. After all, if it looks good and works, who cares right?

This is in strong contrast to the ideals of anyone who has worked in either a design studio or with an in-house team who constantly handle each other’s files as needed. In situations as these it is essential to an efficient and successful workflow to come up with a system and stick to it. In addition, the actual design setup of layouts should be done in a way that the other designers will be able to easily adjust and edit.

Anyone who has worked with me knows of my issues I have with designers who use spaces after a bullet point in an InDesign file instead of using tabs as well as my pet peeves of those who would make each line of text for a bulleted list placed in it’s own text box and then not even bother to align them properly with the align tool. These are things that cause a person to be seen as an amateur within their circle.

Ultimately it is important for designers, especially those in print, to understand and know how to use and adjust items such as tracking, kerning, bullets, styles and tables when doing text layouts. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, such as when creating text for a cover or header piece that may require the text to be adjusted and set in a non-standard way.

While code formatting is for the most part irrelevant due to the many applications that auto format the display and highlight code, what is relevant is the expandability of the code. In short, is the site designed in such a way to allow the addition of new features, links, ads, etc easily or would it require a rework or site rebuild?

In conclusion good design is a product of proper structure, usability, function and ultimately strong and captivating visual design. A good understanding and planning from each of these aspects will typically end with the creation of a successful collateral piece, ad campaign or website.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Marketing Perspective – April

Posted by mhurston on April 10, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

Over the next few months I hope to get a chance to talk more about marketing and cover the various resources available to those within the Commercial Real Estate Industry, as I truly believe it can be one of the most demanding fields to work in, especially with the current depression we find ourselves in.

Real estate has, and more than likely will, continue to be a relationship-orientated business, which leads many commercial real estate professionals debating whether if investing time and money into building their online presence is actually worth the effort.

My opinion is one that more than likely any transaction completed will be the direct result of the brokers interaction with the client, but providing value-added services for your clients, may help to not only strengthen an existing relationship, will also provide a resource for potential clients to want to use you to market their listings, as well as bring in new contacts.

This is why I believe a successful marketing strategy consists of many tools, and not all are cutting edge, though the ones who pick up on new social media tools may have a stronger relationship base in the next 10 years.

 A year ago, and the year before, I wrote a “Marketing Observations” report for our Colliers office here in Las Vegas, which was my reflections on a marketing feedback survey I had sent out as well as one-on-one questionnaires I did with some of the teams. The results varied and ultimately what worked well for one group didn’t always work well for the next, but each tool did give some positive results to some individuals and teams.

While I won’t go into the specific details and listing of each and every tool now, the general topics I looked at were as follows:

Print Publications

I started with advertising in Print Publications; these included small local papers, magazines as well as regional, national and global newspapers and magazines. Having a solid campaign within your local market can be a real boon to your local awareness, as chances are, the majority of people within CRE industry we meet everyday read at least one of the publications you’ve advertised in. While this may not cause someone to buy a property, it does keep your companies name recognition prominent within the community.

Regional, National and Global publications are the opposite. In my experience people reading the Wall Street Journal will see an ad and inquire about it. Our office actually had a few transactions done by reaching out to investors in other states and even one in another country, both of which came from the WSJ’s property ad.

In my opinion, I see local publications, and maybe even regional publications as a means to keep your target audience familiar with your name through branding campaigns, while national and foreign publications can be a great way to actually gain new contacts and potentially move your properties.

Direct Marketing

I have always had a strong dislike of the term, as it reminds me of late night commercials and Internet scam sites. The truth is Direct Marketing should include sending collateral directly to clients and relationships you’ve generated. If you’re just grabbing a random email list or mailing list and sending out information, chances are you won’t get much of a response and people will dislike you. Remember, negative impressions last longer than positive ones.

Postcards, Flyers, email campaigns, cold calling offices in person and leaving your information with flyers can all be considered forms of Direct Marketing. The results of this are very dynamic, for example, while cold calling an office and offering tenant rep services in a down market, may result in a positive outcome, cold calling an office and trying to get a hold of the owner to see about leasing out one of his vacant spaces may prove more difficult.

Email campaigns seem to do the most for brokers though, as they can direct people to their properties web page (if it has one), their listings page, online profile if they’ve just changed brokerages, or inform other brokers who may represent a seller for their buyer. The other aspect is the cost effectiveness of a good email campaign, even with hundreds of emails multiple times a month, many services out there cost less than a penny per email.

If nothing else, emails provide a way of keeping you, your properties and endeavors in the eyes of those around you and work for not only potentially closing a deal, but also keeping you, the broker, marketed.

Press Releases

I’m a big fan of press releases. News is free and in my opinion it is the best way to get your self noticed and heard. While not everything you may have to say about your company or industry will get attention, it never hurts to have a write up on a new product type, service, or event that could potentially end up on the news stand, or in some cases, on the morning news.

While it may not generate a transaction immediately, gaining exposure is the number one means of meeting new contacts and finding potential leads. Again, the commercial real estate industry is a relationship-orientated business, the more people you know, the better your chances for success.

Social Media

I think technology scares a lot of people still, or at least they don’t understand enough about it to realize how it can help. Let me spell it out for everyone: Yes, what your 12-year old uses online, can actually help you build your professional network.

Now I’m not saying go build a MySpace page and expect to get your commercial retail space leased the next day, but what I will say is that social media provides an additional means of staying in touch with others as well propagating your information through the internet. With the way technology works now, information can be distributed quickly, instantly and easily, through the way RSS feeds work. You don’t have to understand the ins-and-outs of the technology, in fact you don’t need to know anything about it other than this: putting your property listing information, press releases or other relevant information online can allow you have this information replicated across multiple sites and seem by an incredible amount of people.

To get more specific, lets look at this site for example. Information from various news sites and Colliers is displayed here; people viewing this site see all of this. But, this information, this exact post, gets replicated over to Twitter (it’s ok if you don’t know what it is), which displays the post to people viewing that site. The post is also sent over to LinkedIn and FaceBook (social networking sites, think MySpace, Friendster, etc). People who have this site on their friends list will view the post. In additional to all this we have the other sites users, viewers of the site, who have chosen to pull information from this site and have it displayed on their blog or website, which again gets distributed out to other sites. But it doesn’t stop there, because people who visit this site can click on the little icons below to “recommend” this site to social bookmarking sites (another type of social media news and information sites) essentially allowing anyone who views this post to “spread the word”. The amount of people seeing this post can continue to grow exponentionally. That is what Social Marketing and Web 2.0 have brought us, the ability to distribute information without having to think about it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This has always been a topic I believe people make much more complicated than it needs to be. The concept is simple, improve traffic to any website by making your site appear in search engines more often. Although this topic is simple in my opinion, I do believe many CRE sites over look it, as it requires someone with more technical knowledge of how search engines work and the best ways to make your site search engine friendly.

Getting down to the basics, SEO starts with simply creating a proper website that has content relevant to the key words and headings used for the description of the site. For example, Las Vegas CRE News has CRE content for Las Vegas and throughout the site are references to Las Vegas News and Las Vegas Commercial Real Estate (I’m simplifying a bit here). The next item takes place with what are called Meta tags, lines of code that are not seen by the user which tell some search engines what a site is all about, they provide key words and a description and ideally should use the same descriptors that can be found throughout the sites content. It’s important to note that due to so many sites improper use of Meta Tags, as well as blatant methods of Spamdexing (including unrelated key words and repeating popular phrases to make your site appear more relevant than it is) has caused many popular search engines to no longer index sites based on Meta Tags alone, or in some cases at all.

Next we move on to the website indexing, or rather, the inclusion of your site into search engines. While there are many sites that will automatically submit your sites to smaller search engines, to get your site listed within top companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft you need to look into manual submissions as well as the Open Directory Project, which allows users to submit there site to the directory and then a real person will look through your information to make sure it gets listed in the proper category.

Once a site is indexed, Crawlers (search engine tools that continue to look at and monitor websites) will continually view your site, which brings us to the final item in this very brief write-up, dynamic content, or simply put, Search Engines like to see content updated regularly as opposed to static pages.

There are additional items we can look at involved with this, such as the use of link backs, Wikipedia and AboutUs.org, but we’ll look at those in a later segment.  

– Michael G. Hurston

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