Technology

Virtual Business

Log on as CCIMs take presentations to the next level.

As today’s technology tools quickly evolve, some commercial real estate professionals are forgoing traditional presentation methods and taking advantage of video-based marketing and presentation software. This move has distinguished them from the competition and allowed them to expand into other markets. “I am able to reach markets that otherwise would have been closed before the use of online video and marketing,” says D. Scott Smith, CCIM, an instructor and commercial sales manager at Long & Foster Real Estate in Glen Burnie, Md.

Along with Smith, these CCIMs have found that getting creative with video marketing programs can help build strong client relationships and open doors to new opportunities.

Robert E. Smith, CCIM

Company: Smith Equities Corp.
Title: President/broker
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Product: e/pop Web Conferencing software

After 20 years in commercial real estate, Robert E. Smith, CCIM, says that utilizing online-conferencing software separated him from other brokers in his market. His Web designer researched several products and selected e/pop Web Conferencing by WiredRed Software as the best program. Smith has been using it since April.

E/pop Web Conferencing is a secure, Web-based, voice over Internet protocol, and video-conferencing program that lets users share their desktops, use company-wide instant messaging, and view other parties. “It’s great for business because it enables your clients to put a face with a name, giving it a personal touch,” Smith says.

Smith’s clients do not need to install e/pop on their systems to link in. Instead, they gain access by clicking a link on his Web site. Smith can add clients to the conference, allowing participants to see one another and share his personal desktop.

Smith can link in up to 10 people and change video devices, quality, size, and frame rate in real time, without having to restart the call. Unlike traditional video conferencing equipment, e/pop provides complete multiparty PowerPoint presentation-sharing as a standard feature, which allows Smith’s clients to view PowerPoint presentations while taking part in the video conference call.

The Benefits

Smith uses “both video cameras and desktop sharing” in all aspects of his daily business routine. While some banks and insurance companies don’t allow Web conferencing due to the security issues of sharing desktops, clients who can link in lead to more business opportunities for his brokerage, Smith says.

Web conferencing “builds relationships with buyers, walking them through the marketing materials as well as displaying our Web site to them,” Smith says. After reading an article about a condominium broker in Chicago, Smith realized that some of the buyer’s properties were listed with Smith Equities. Smith called the buyer via e/pop to demonstrate — online — how his multifamily properties were performing. After spending an hour on the video call, the buyer saw several deals he wanted to pursue. “It was so much easier for me to show the buyer everything he needed to see right then and there,” Smith explains.

In another instance, after sending out a mass marketing e-mail for a property listing, Smith received a phone call from a buyer who was interested in other potential investments. Smith worked with the client to find a property that met his needs. “By sharing my desktop while on the phone, I get instant feedback and based on what I hear, I can easily discuss another deal that may never have been discussed otherwise,” Smith says. After seeing other properties, this particular buyer decided to proceed with a deal.

Smith uses e/pop through physical showings as well. Recently, a buyer came to the La Bella Vida Condominiums, an Orlando property that Smith Equities is developing. Shortly after leaving the property, the buyer phoned Smith intent on writing a contract. “I was at the office and started up the video conference, filled in the contract while the buyer was watching, and e-mailed it to her. She came in the next morning with a deposit check and a signed contract,” Smith explains.

Developers and land investors also can benefit from the program, Smith says. “I can answer all their questions at one time and run a rent analysis on a to-be-built development and have the developer help pick out rent comps with me,” he explains.

E/pop also is useful at closings when buyers, sellers, and attorneys need to see all the necessary documents and discuss other issues. “If confidentiality is an issue, then I set up a private conference and have it password protected,” he says.

“While [e/pop] isn’t necessarily a deal-maker tool, having clients see all their options definitely helps speed up the process,” Smith says. The program also comes in handy at model sites when no one from his company can make it to the property. Smith hires a representative to staff the site and dial in when interested parties ask to see details about the property. “It’s a great tool for a broker to be everywhere,” he says.

William Gladstone, CCIM, SIOR

Company: NAI Commercial-Industrial Realty Co./The Bill Gladstone Group
Title: Sales agent
Location: Camp Hill, Pa.
Product: Adobe Visual Communicator

Wanting to keep up with the latest technology and impress his clients while improving company operations, William Gladstone, CCIM, SIOR, started using Adobe Visual Communicator (formerly Serious Magic Visual Communicator) to enhance his traditional business presentations. “Video is an element that my company uses frequently. We use it in listing presentations, education conferences, to make interactive CDs, and on our Web site to introduce potential clients to our group members,” he explains.

Visual Communicator was designed for inexperienced users who know little about making their own videos, he says. The software is created for single users to set up and shoot their own videos and is packaged with a plastic green screen and a microphone. Visual Communicator also includes a library of customizable graphics, effects, titles, music, and templates to enhance presentations. Users also may create video broadcasts as well as conferences.

Gladstone chose this particular brand based on a colleague’s recommendation. He found that it is quick to develop photos and video. Also, “it takes us out of the box, is portable, and the editing process is very user friendly,” he says.

The Benefits

The teleprompter function is the most helpful feature of Visual Communicator, Gladstone says. “You can type the script for your presentation directly into the teleprompter or cut and paste text from other programs. There is no need to memorize a script, but practice does help,” he says. Once the video camera is set and positioned, users can press record, and as they talk, the program automatically showcases images, videos, graphics, titles, effects, and music in real time, he explains.

Gladstone knows that presentations have to be business-oriented, but “keeping it entertaining will help your audience pay attention as well as establish credibility,” he says. He could do the same presentation in PowerPoint, but his audience is more intrigued by the video effect. “I always joke to my listeners that they need to meet my partner — virtual Bill,” he says. Virtual Bill and “live” Bill go back and forth, asking and answering questions using a pre-recorded video, adding entertainment value. “Now, my presentations go way beyond PowerPoint,” he says.

The video’s novelty has benefited Gladstone’s business. For instance, on a recent sales call, a company cut his presentation time from one hour to 20 minutes on short notice. He told them he could do the presentation in five minutes, but ended up staying for close to an hour because the client was so impressed with his presentation. “We ended up getting the listing, which was a huge money-maker for my company,” he says.

Gladstone also uses Visual Communicator to pack a punch with new perspective clients. After seeing a building for sale in Harrisburg, Pa., Gladstone shot a video to entice the owner to list the property with his company. Shooting on site, on the 17th floor with the backdrop of the city, he showed the owners that The Gladstone Group has “a real ‘wow factor’,” he says.

D. Scott Smith, CCIM

Company: Long & Foster Real Estate
Title: Instructor and commercial sales manager
Location: Glen Burnie, Md.
Product: YouTube

Instead of trying to find the right video-based software, D. Scott Smith, CCIM, decided to familiarize himself with the two-year-old, Google-owned, online video site YouTube.com. YouTube allows anyone to share and view original videos through the Internet. Users also can upload and share videos within the site and across the Internet through Web sites, mobile devices, Weblogs, and e-mail.

Using this site for marketing has helped Smith broaden his audience and appeal to younger customers who now use Web-based programs on a daily basis, he explains. “Now I have calls and e-mails from all over the country requesting educational, consulting, and brokerage services,” Smith says.

The Benefits

Smith uses his Logitech Quick Cam for Notebooks Deluxe to shoot videos and uploads them along with pictures onto YouTube. Smith chose this particular camera because it’s small and clips directly to his screen. “The camera also can interact with Yahoo! Messenger 8, so if the person you are chatting with has a Web camera, you can call each other through your computers and have face-to-face business meetings for free via the Internet,” he explains. Working with YouTube shows his clients and his competition that he “uses guerilla marketing-style efforts instead of basic marketing campaigns,” Smith says.

Smith originally started using his Web camera to do international activity, but soon realized he could use it for regular, day-to-day business as well. Recently, he designed four video courses for his brokerage members to take, as well as a three-minute promotional video, he explains. “I am able to use it for educational training because more people would rather watch a video. This way, I am mixing entertainment and education,” Smith says.

In addition, subscribers to Smith’s YouTube page remain up-to-date on his business activities. “Any time you post a new video [to YouTube], it gets sent directly to your subscribers,” he says. As a result, Smith doesn’t have to send out separate video links or codes. He can just pass out his YouTube link and “people can go and look at video postings on all subjects, for free, which is basically direct marketing at its best,” he says.

After visiting his YouTube page, a subscriber asked Smith to train his real estate group. Smith’s actual students “usually follow up with calls and e-mails regarding specific transactions. I usually end up working the deals with them under a 50-50 agreement so they get both class and real-world education,” he explains.

Aside from making educational videos, Smith also likes using YouTube because it’s not cluttered and it is easy for people to find his videos on the site using keyword searches, such as “CCIM.” He also can create video clips of properties and send them out through direct e-mail, with the video in the body of the e-mail. “The video offers possible clients an inside, up-close look at the properties,” he says. It also gives his clients a more personal experience, leading them to take more immediate action on listings. “They even feel more comfortable and call me by my first name,” he says.

Another reason Smith uses YouTube is to establish a more youthful take on traditional real estate strategies. “The older generations aren’t really using it,” he says. Taking advantage of YouTube’s services helps him stay current and bring new approaches to his clients, showing them he is capable of learning and using the latest technology to better assist them with their needs.

While video-based marketing programs are still a relatively new concept in the commercial real estate industry, CCIMs using these tools set themselves apart as tech-savvy individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to connect with clients and build business. However, as more commercial real estate professionals become familiar with these programs, they will start to realize all the benefits. “It’s like a fax machine — it’s an important tool to do business,” Robert Smith says.

Vital Virtual Tools

Product Features
e/pop Web Conferencing; WiredRed Software; $6,000 for 10 unlimited licenses; www.wiredred.com
Good security, VoIP, video and Web conferencing, instant messaging, multiparty PowerPoint presentation sharing

Visual Communicator; Adobe; $200–$500; www.adobe.com


On-screen teleprompter; video creation capabilities; graphics library; video sharing through e-mail, Internet, CD, DVD, and closed-circuit systems

YouTube; Google; free; Webcam costs around $50; www.youtube.com

Watch and share videos and video clips via the Internet, mobile devices, blogs, and e-mails

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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