An APB (all-points bulletin) is urgently needed for commercial real estate (CRE) property management thought leaders on the Web. They’re currently missing from the front lines of the property operations conversation taking place online – and that’s a problem.
I have some ideas as to the reasons why this is the case, but before I go into that, allow me to share some context.
Thought Leadership as an Owned Resource
At Building Engines, we embraced the concept of inbound/outbound digital content marketing and social media as a means of reaching our target audience well over seven years ago. Before that, we primarily created awareness for our company and product through traditional marketing methods. Think events, cold calling, direct mail, print ads – all “old school” methods.)
We saw content marketing as a way to own our brand in the market, building awareness, and creating demand in a much more cost-effective way, and personalized way. It’s created clear differentiation in the market for us and has paid off quite well in terms of helping drive our growth. It still does.
Nowadays this approach is considered the de-facto standard across various industries, including CRE. You now see folks like Duke Long, and newer CRE Tech companies like Hightower, VTS, and others. They’ve done a very effective job promoting engaging content and establishing a solid online presence.
But to be honest, it pains me to see commercial property management/operations fall to the wayside of the digital conversation. We helped lead the CRE Tech industry revolution, with regular creation and delivery of helpful thought leadership and best practice pieces for property management and operations. Property owners, managers, and teams have consumed and shared our content for many years.
So why aren’t they contributing to the conversation?
The Proof is Out There. But Something is Missing.
We’re committed to the continued production of helpful sales enablement and client support content, which still delivers results from a demand and lead gen perspective.
We distribute our content through our own database as well as through industry-focused platforms like The News Funnel, Bisnow and various trade association platforms. We also distribute content through social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn (among others,) and try to drive conversation there. We even created the industry’s first podcast series, CRE Tech Talks.
The problem is that much of the time, we’re really having a one-way, outbound conversation. – Where is the thought leadership and conversation online coming out of the operational side of the CRE industry?
We live in an online echo-chamber, particularly in social media channels. In most cases, we’re speaking to, sharing with, and promoting content from folks at other CRE Tech and service companies. To put it bluntly: we’re talking to ourselves, people!
The only regular participants I see from CRE companies are the few visionaries from the brokerage and deal or investment side of the business like Barbi Reuter, Alan Buchanon, and Coy Davidson, or regular CRE Tech conference panel participants like Jon Schultz. Sure, you also see the marketing departments of large 3rd party firms like JLL, CBRE, and Cushman & Wakefield also regularly produce content for their markets and services. But otherwise, the digital space is loaded with tech companies, the people/firms that funded them, and other interested, related, and associated parties.
Not the boots-on-the-ground commercial property management/operations folks.
You don’t see operating executives, CIO’s/directors of IT, property managers, tenant coordinators/administrators, or anyone from the engineering department. While they might be consuming some content, the people that operate commercial real estate aren’t creating their own content, sharing best-practices or thought leadership with the market online.
These people are MIA.
Possible Reasons CRE Property Management Voices Are Absent
They are too busy
This is the most obvious answer. If you ever meet someone busier than a property manager, let me know. Finding time to consume all the content we send them is hard enough, but the prospect of finding time to write a blog post, search for and read/comment on Tweets or a LinkedIn discussion and create an on-line presence is most likely unachievable in their minds.
They do not see the return on their investment of time
To commit to an activity, you need to understand how it will personally benefit you or your organization. I don’t believe that most operators in the roles I’ve identified can connect an online presence effort to any tangible benefit.
They are worried about divulging proprietary information or sharing their firm’s “secret sauce.”
Commercial real estate is a competitive space. Properties and property teams compete with each other and it’s difficult to grasp how sharing their thought-leadership and best practices doesn’t help their competitors and won’t erode competitive advantage.
We (the tech companies and providers) scared them off.
Frankly, many of us blew it in the early days when some operational folks did go online and participate in things like LinkedIn CRE Groups to ask questions and try to solve problems. The typical reaction was a flood of responses from sales people using heavy-handed responses to promote their products and services instead of trying to help and forcing the person back into the relative safety of their analog world, never to return. People are looking for a conversation, not to be shouted at and sold to. We messed up here and need to fix it to get the industry back.
They, along with everyone else, are suffering a bit from “content shock.”
As Mark Schaefer, a marketing strategy expert discussed in his piece on “content shock,” there is simply so much content being pushed out these days that it becomes impossible to sift through it all to determine what is valuable and what is relevant. Add to that that much of what we receive is irrelevant and self-serving (i.e. only talking about us/selling our “great product” or service) instead of helpful, and it’s no surprise that property management thought leaders don’t want to participate.
We Can Do Something About It.
This isn’t an unsolvable problem. I think there are answers and antidotes to each of these blockers and they will be the subject a few follow-up posts, including one covering the ‘__ Most Influential CRE Property Management Thought Leaders.’
In that post, I want to recognize the currently very (and I mean very) small list of some companies and people I know of on the operational side of the business (providers, professionals, and operators) who can be seen engaging in conversation as well as providing valuable content across digital channels. And there is a good chance I’ve missed a few. To those of you who notice, I welcome you to reach out and let us know you’re out there!
After all, we’re all in this together, to positively transform property management.