CCIMs share their strategies for creating lasting impressions in the marketplace.
Establishing a unique
identity in today's marketplace is a challenge, particularly in the
competitive commercial real estate world. How can you stand out among
the bevy of local and national companies vying for business in your
market? While service and results long have been paramount to gaining
and keeping clients, a well-known brand also helps bring business
through your door.
But branding is not
just about edging out the competition, according to Jan Marie Dore, a
personal brand strategist and marketing coach in Vancouver, British
Columbia. Effective branding makes you stand out, but more importantly,
it ensures you are remembered, she says.
real estate pros agree. "Brands are sets of perceptions about companies
that all of us carry around inside our heads," says William M. Severi,
CCIM, president of North Bay Commercial Real Estate in Santa Rosa,
Calif. "What we think of these brands is impacted by logos, product and
service quality, price, availability, advertising, word of mouth,
personal experience," and much more.
common-sense rules such as using well-placed signage and meaningful
logos still apply, today's most successful commercial real estate
brokerages go beyond the basics to create recognizable brands that are
synonymous with the businesses they represent. The following strategies
can help you build or expand a brand that ensures your company's
identity stays at the forefront of existing and prospective clients'
Define Yourself and Your Brand
Whether you're starting a new brokerage or revamping your
long-established company's image, choose an identity that accurately
mirrors your primary business. "Make sure your company name reflects
what you do. If you need another paragraph to explain, it's too late,"
says Todd D. Clarke, CCIM, partner in NM Apartments in Albuquerque,
Reinforcing your established
identity helps transform it into a brand. Bill Eshenbaugh, CCIM, ALC,
owner of bbre/Eshenbaugh Commercial Services in Clearwater, Fla.,
identifies himself as the "Dirt Dog" for his work with local land
projects. Not only does the company's logo, an illustration of an
English springer spaniel in a cowboy hat, adorn his Web site (www.thedirtdog.com) and marketing materials, but Eshenbaugh also is introduced as the Dirt Dog at local speaking engagements.
define themselves, local independent companies also have to use their
brands "to show what sets them apart from the large national
brokerages," says Todd A. Gold, CCIM, president of REOC Partners in San
Antonio. His company's logo includes an image of the Alamo to highlight
its San Antonio roots. The acronym REOC, which stands for Real Estate
Operating Company, conveys the company's true role of operating " not
owning" real estate.
have the tag
line 'Nationally known' locally owned' on our marketing materials
promote our multimarket capabilities and 100 percent local ownership,"
says Samuel F. Smith, CCIM, SIOR, chief executive officer of Meridian
Real Estate Services in Indianapolis. "We want to promote our company
as Indianapolis' home team that is independent' not controlled by
investors in Los Angeles or St. Louis. We want clients to know that the
buck stops here."
However, if a local
company affiliates or merges with a national organization, experts
recommend retaining the original name and identity as much as possible.
The same is true for professionals who leave large companies to start
their own businesses. For instance, when Kay Harris, CCIM, principal of
Kay Harris Real Estate Consultants in Minneapolis, left a previous
employer after 10 years, she didn't want to lose the contacts she
worked hard to make. "I was advised to keep my name in the company name
so former customers and clients could find me more easily. I did, and
they did," she says.
"When you work for
20 years to build a brand in a local market, you must keep that brand
alive to keep up your business," says Mary A. Hutchins, CCIM, a broker
with Portfolio Properties in Bakersfield, Calif. Instead of affiliating
with a national brokerage to boost business, Hutchins networks through
CCIM Institute meetings and events, which expose her to national
opportunities without compromising her company's established brand in
the local market. The strategy has created prospective deals in faraway
markets such as Louisiana that otherwise might not have been possible,
branch out to offer new services or expand into different markets, they
shouldn't abandon the brand that brought them success in the first
place. "Even though our company has grown into property management,
consulting, and non-apartment commercial real estate and now [has] an
office in Denver, we never diluted the original brand," Clarke says.
"Rather, we started new companies as needed and applied our brand to
Showcase Your Specialty
Finding a niche in markets that expect versatile commercial real estate
pros isn't always easy, but it can help solidify your identity. "Become
an expert in your [specialty] and let your potential clients know about
it and how it can help them," advises Marc A. Boorstein, CCIM,
principal of MJ Partners in Chicago. Two strategies he recommends are
writing articles for local and national commercial real estate
publications and speaking at industry events. Boorstein, whose company
specializes in self-storage, has written articles for industry
publication Mini-Storage Messenger.
M. "Marty" Kotis III, CCIM, president/CEO of Kotis Properties in
Greensboro, N.C., agrees that specializing is an important part of the
branding process. "We are known as the restaurant real estate experts
in North Carolina," he says. To help build that reputation, Kotis is
active in the North Carolina Restaurant Association and attends
National Restaurant Association and International Council of Shopping
Centers conferences. The business branch that handles such projects,
Kotis Restaurant Group, retains the family name, a strategy Kotis
applied to all company divisions when he initiated a branding strategy
Paul Kiang, CCIM, CPM,
president of Global Business Alliance in Orlando, Fla., thinks finding
a niche is a brand "and business" builder. His company, which
specializes in representing tenants for Asian buffet and fast-casual
restaurants, quickly is developing a reputation as Florida's Asian
restaurant deal maker. Through targeted initiatives, such as e-mail
marketing and advertising on commercial real estate Web sites and in
Asian publications, Kiang's brand and business are on the rise:
Restaurant transaction volume rose to $11.5 million in 2003, up from
$4.9 million the prior year, he says.
operating NM Apartments for five years under a national brokerage's
umbrella, Clarke ventured out on his own with the NM Apartments name,
Web site, and client database. "When I left a national firm three years
ago we never missed a stride because everyone knew us as the
apartment authority in New Mexico," he says. He since has expanded to
offer multifamily consulting services under the same brand. "We started
a sister company that offers housing resources and tells clients we are
their resource for housing information," he says.
Stand Out in Your Market
Several CCIMs say offering clients a service they can't find elsewhere
is a brand-boosting strategy that singles them out in their
tops many of their lists. While national brokerages have more resources
to conduct and compile such research, smaller local companies also can
use this strategy successfully. For instance, MJ Partners' nine-person
office sends out quarterly reports highlighting Chicago's real estate
market. "We do all the research ourselves through a variety of sources,
which takes a lot of time but gives us a great response from potential
clients," Boorstein says.
also develops in-house quarterly market reports, Gold says. The
60-person company employs a researcher who focuses exclusively on San
Antonio's office, industrial, and retail segments. While the company
offers free tidbits of local activity on its Web site, it sells the
reports to local businesses and other real estate companies. Gold views
it as a way to add to the bottom line while reinforcing the company's
Community service is another way
to gain marketplace visibility. Smith's company sponsored a day at the
local ballpark with SpongeBob SquarePants to raise awareness for a
children's charity. "By throwing out the first ball and speaking about
[our company] on the radio, we helped raise money for a worthy cause
and helped build our brand."
also assisted Indianapolis' chamber of commerce and its affiliates in
relocating to new office space; the company donated its fees back to
the organizations. "We believe in giving back to our local community.
It's good business," he says.
your expertise by hosting local real estate-related seminars can get
you noticed. Hutchins specifically targets small local investors who
are "sitting on wealth in a real estate portfolio and need guidance in
evaluating strategies and opportunities available to them," she says.
In addition, she often partners with local related-service providers
for a double benefit: "We network with other professionals and service
providers [to build referrals] and have them participate in the
workshops so clients can learn about their services too," she says.
commercial real estate companies are using creative methods to build
their brands and establish their identities in the marketplace. Though
their strategies may differ, the ultimate goal for all companies is to
ensure that their brands create the right perceptions in clients' and
prospective clients' minds. While no one approach fits all, one
principle holds true: "Your brand is your promise of value. It's the
way to distinguish yourself in your industry," Dore says.