As a commercial real estate marketing team, we’re frequently asked to provide digital advertising budgets and strategies for the commercial real estate properties we represent. 

We’re often asked “Which advertising platform is the best?”, “Should we spend our money on this platform or that one?” and “Where are we going to convert the most leads?” 

Read Next: How Much Does It Cost to Market a Commercial Property?

The answer is, it depends on who you’re trying to reach and where they are in the sales cycle. While there are pros and cons to each digital advertising platform, we’ve found that they shouldn’t be considered as this or that options. But rather, as complementary strategies working together, like interlocking cogs, to move your prospects through the buyer’s journey – from awareness to decision

Buyer's Journey | Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

Image courtesy of Hubspot.

 

In this article, I’ll explain which digital advertising platforms AQUILA recommends for each stage of the cycle.

 

Awareness-Level Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

At this stage, your goal is to make sure the market knows about your property and the opportunity that it presents. 

Your goal is to make sure your property is in front of the brokerage community, industry players, the city and chamber of commerce, and business decision-makers (CEOs, CFOs, Real Estate Directors, etc.) both in your market and any potential “donor markets.”

Donor Markets: Cities or regions that are home to companies that are likely to expand into or relocate to your property’s market. For example, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are considered prominent donor markets for Austin. 

This is the widest point of the funnel and what we might call the “scattershot” portion of your advertising campaign. You want to make sure everyone who should know about your property, does. 

The advertising “rule of 7” states that someone must see or hear something seven times before they make a purchase. Because of this, the main goal of commercial real estate advertising is awareness and brand building. Seeing your branded property across different platforms or mediums is the best way to get someone to remember it.”

– Alexa Russell, Best Places to Advertise Your Commercial Property

Awareness ads are particularly relevant when timed to coincide with major milestones, such as permitting, groundbreaking and delivery. Rather than spending funds throughout the construction and lease up of your property, we recommend focusing on shorter, one-to-three-month campaigns that coincide with these milestones. 

There are four platforms we recommend for the awareness stage of your campaign. 

Industry or Trade Publications

One of the best ways to get in front of the commercial real estate community is to pay for a sponsorship or placement in a real estate publication that is read by the industry. 

Examples include GlobeSt., Bisnow and Real Estate Business

Business Journals

Advertising in The Business Journals is a great way to get your property in front of both the real estate community and local decision-makers. 

If you’re looking to attract out-of-town companies or companies with out-of-town decision-makers, The Business Journals are a great way to reach the business community in multiple markets since they have publications across the country. 

The Austin Business Journal reports that 66% of their readership holds the title of “Owner/Partner/Top Management” and 79% of their readers influence purchasing decisions. 

Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

Mueller Business District Business Journal ad.

Broker-Focused Social Media Ads

At this early stage, one of the most important groups to educate about your project is the tenant representation brokers acting on behalf of your prospective tenants. 

In the past tenant rep brokers were seen as “gatekeepers” to tenants. If you wanted to get your property in front of a company, you needed to go through them. With the introduction of digital marketing, more real estate firms are targeting consumers directly. That said, tenant rep brokers will still play an important role in the decision-making process helping these company leaders survey the market and analyze their options.

These brokers should be aware of your project through the “block and tackle” marketing campaigns like broker emails, listing sites, etc. But, to make your property stand out and keep your project fresh on their mind, you might consider implementing broker-targeted social media ads. 

Read Next: How to Market a Commercial Property: 7 Essential Tools Your Leasing Firm Should Provide

On LinkedIn, you can create an audience of the major brokerage shops in your target markets. In our experience, broker-facing campaigns get slightly-higher-than-average engagement, but also cost a bit more than an average LinkedIn campaign. The data in the chart below is taken from an actual ad campaign we recently ran.

Broker-Facing Ad Campaign Averages Across LinkedIn*
Click-Through-Rate 0.56% 0.39%
Cost Per Click $12 $9

*Social Media Examiner – Averages Across LinkedIn

Facebook and Instagram advertising is typically a more affordable option, but you have less ability to narrow in on your audience by profession or company because it is primarily a social platform. (As a professional networking platform, almost everyone lists their company LinkedIn – not true for Facebook.)

LinkedIn Social | Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

MetCenter II LinkedIn ad.

Realty Ads

RealtyAds has become a staple tool for property marketing in the Austin market. The platform uses artificial intelligence to market to target prospects and brokers across multiple platforms including social media and Google Ads. 

The advantage here is that you can cover multiple platforms in one place, and you can tinker as much as you like or you can use it as more of a set-it-and-forget-it option. 

 

Consideration-Level Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

Once you’ve cast your wide net and the market is aware of the opportunity, it’s time to narrow in on your targeted list of prospects. 

In this phase, your goal is to get your property in front of the decision-makers at companies who are actively looking for space like yours. 

These prospects should include tenants who are known to be in the market or who meet a certain set of parameters (size, lease expiration date, recent funding, etc.) to be considered good prospects for the space.

Commercial real estate used to be a world of brokers talking to brokers. These days, the company decision-makers are doing their research online. This is your opportunity to reach these decision-makers directly and put your property at the top of their mind. 

Company-Focused Social Ads

Company-facing social media advertising takes a similar approach to the broker ads we discussed before. In this case, rather than targeting brokerage firms, you’ll target companies who are on your prospect list. 

You can take this even further by narrowing your audience to include only decision-makers or to focus on specific markets. (If a company has offices across the country, you may want to focus your ads on just your market.) 

Costar/LoopNet

If your brokerage team is worth their salt, your property will be listed on Costar so that brokers can easily find it. But, Costar requires an (expensive) paid subscription, and most tenants don’t have access to these listings.

LoopNet is Costar’s public listing service. It’s free for users to search, but requires landlords to pay to list their properties. If your target tenants are searching for real estate on their own, it’s likely that they’ll find themselves on LoopNet. At a minimum, you’ll need to have a Silver placement to appear in their search results. 

(Note: this is a new development, it used to be free to list on LoopNet.)

There are also premium placements that you can consider, which give you prime placement and display advertising opportunities across both LoopNet and Costar. Your Costar rep should be able to guide you through your options. 

 

Decision-Level Digital Advertising for Commercial Real Estate

Finally, once you’ve made contact with a prospect and have them in your sights, it’s time for decision-stage ads. 

If awareness is a shotgun approach, this is a sniper campaign. Your focus here is to get in front of a specific group of people. 

Prospect-Focused Social Ads

In this case, you’re taking the social advertising strategies we’ve discussed before and honing in on just the decision-makers at one or two companies. 

We suggest running these in the period of time leading up to and right after a meeting or a pitch. You want them thinking, “wow, since I learned about this property I just keep seeing it everywhere.” You want to be front and center in their minds and on the tip of their tongue as they’re having these conversations in the boardroom, around the water cooler, or via Zoom. 

Digital advertising should by no means be the only tool in your property marketing tool belt, but it should certainly be in the mix. And, while often thought of as interchangeable options to be considered, the various campaigns and platforms available to you should really be thought of as a multi-tool. If you’re building a chair you don’t want just a saw or a screwdriver, you want both. Both have their specific use and job to do, just like the advertising tactics laid out above. 

To learn more about putting together a successful property marketing campaign, check out these helpful articles:

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Lauren Little | Senior Marketing Coordinator | AQUILA Commercial

Lauren Little

Lauren Little served as AQUILA's Director of Marketing and helped shape and lead AQUILA's marketing efforts from 2013 to 2021.

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