Social media remains a hot
topic among most businesses, including those in the commercial real estate
sector. There is one platform in particular that offers a great deal of value,
especially as a business development research tool: LinkedIn.
As we continue to exit the
Great Recession, a number of realities have changed, and the way that
commercial real estate professionals — whether investors, property owners,
managers, or brokers — identify new business opportunities represents one of
those shifts. Professionals now need to be more creative when it comes to
identifying and connecting with potential clients and business partners, and
LinkedIn can be a powerful, but often overlooked, tool.
Unlike most social media
tools, LinkedIn was built by business executives who understood how business
development and sales cycles work. The resources within LinkedIn can provide
businesses and professionals with the information they need in order to make
connections and grow. Given the size of the LinkedIn network, it’s tough to
pass it up. According to latest numbers, LinkedIn counts more than 259 million
users in more than 200 countries.
Making the Connection
Most LinkedIn users know
that they need to have a fully completed profile and a catchy professional
headline. But the true power of the platform lies not just in the ability of
people to find you, but leveraging LinkedIn to identify your own potential
clients or new business partners. If you know the name of the individual with
whom you are trying connect, LinkedIn offers great material on people’s
profiles — contact information, previous experience, and educational background
— which can help create common ground to build a relationship.
The best feature, though,
is seeing what connections you might have in common. When looking at someone’s
profile, there will be a series of boxes on the right side of the screen that
lists how you are connected to that person. This may be through a group you
have joined or, more directly, it may be through shared contacts. Thus, if
you’re in a common discussion group, you can reach out to the person through
the group. Even better, if you have a shared contact, you can ask that
connector to introduce you.
This approach has worked
for our company. We recently targeted a construction company as a potential
business partner and researched their leadership team through LinkedIn. We
discovered a common connection and asked that connection to introduce us via
LinkedIn. It’s an easy and nonaggressive process. That intro led to ongoing conversations
and a meeting about possibly working together.
The approach is very
similar to in-person networking: a friend introduces you or you seek out a
potential client at a CCIM chapter event or another networking function.
LinkedIn provides the online equivalent. However, just like you must show up at
the networking event, you need to show up on LinkedIn through your contacts and
LinkedIn company pages
also provide a wealth of information for business development purposes. When researching
a company on LinkedIn, you’ll find a list of a company’s employees on the
company page. This listing also includes a detailed summary of what, if any,
connections you have to that company. This listing is incredibly valuable and
often more comprehensive than the staff listings on a company website. For
example, if you are interested in meeting the executive in charge of real
estate holdings, you can look for that person on the LinkedIn company page to
see if you have any connections, belong to the same organizations, or have
LinkedIn users can also
follow company pages, which allows you to keep track of any new developments,
projects, or initiatives that a company is undertaking. As the company posts
updates to its page, you can be alerted through LinkedIn. These news tidbits
can provide you with a reason to reach out to a prospective client.
This research tool has
become an intelligence boon for number of commercial developers. They track the
company pages of tenants with which they want to work and analyze their
potential clients’ growth patterns to see if they’ll need more space and where
they’ve been active in the country. This information helps them anticipate the
real estate needs of these prospects and is used as a reason to reach out to
LinkedIn can be a powerful
business-to-business tool for the real estate industry. However, commercial
real estate professionals have to put the time in to dig for the information.
It’s not a panacea, but it does offer valuable information for business
development research — all you have to do is to look.
Mike Gray and Andrew Ryan
are partners with CPG, a holding company comprising Commonwealth Partnerships,
a full service marketing, communications, and community relations firm; Dogwood
Real Estate Fund; and the Virginia Real Estate Blog. They are based in
Richmond, Va. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.