In recent months, commercial real estate leaders and experts have shared guarded yet optimistic predictions about the future of the industry. While contributory factors like a widespread return to the office carry a degree of uncertainty, one imperative remains clear: CRE firms need to stay relevant and top of mind in order to buy, sell, invest and hire in ways that maximize growth in today’s real estate landscape. One effective way to do this? Branded content.
Branded content is an advertising tool through which businesses can improve their brand authority and reputation. By positioning themselves as industry thought leaders on a platform that reaches their target audience, B2B marketers can bridge the gap between their companies and their potential clients. Businesses leverage various forms of branded content, including articles, videos, podcasts or infographics, to share key messages in a way that appeals to a particular audience, usually through an informative or educational approach.
“Branded content works best when you’re offering readers something of value — your insights or expertise — without pushing an overt sales message or asking for anything in return,” says Tom Needham, executive director, The Business Journals Content Studio. “Readers are then more likely to view your firm as a potential partner, someone who has the expertise to solve their problems. And that’s not just opinion. Our data shows thought leadership content keeps reader attention 17% longer than an overtly promotional message.”
In other words, when readers trust your brand as a resource, they’re more likely to want to do business with you. Nearly 81% of consumers say brand trust is a deciding factor when it comes to a purchasing decision.
Commercial real estate companies turn to The Business Journals to create and share branded content articles with educated, influential and affluent B2B readers, including owners, brokers, tenants and investors looking for relevant CRE news and information. Topics and strategies vary, and so can the reader response. Regardless of content strategy, the channel moves the perception needle. In our most recent subscriber survey, 58% of TBJ readers said they thought more highly of companies after reading their sponsored or thought leadership content, while 37% said they are likely to put the company in their consideration set.
In an analysis of sponsored CRE content from September 2021-March 2022, a few strategic content tactics appear repeatedly. The following sections explore some of these branded content marketing trends. Many of the article examples listed here would be considered high performers in terms of reach (pageviews), and all of them take a smart approach to creating valuable content for readers.
Strategy 1: Interpret the industry’s pressing challenges
If your clients are asking about it, or your colleagues are talking about it, readers likely want to know about it, too. Tackling a top-of-mind commercial real estate concern or problem through content can be a reliable way to gain traction among readers.
In recent months, well-received CRE content has covered timely topics ranging from pandemic lessons learned, how much office space a firm with many remote workers really needs, and perspectives on inclusive office design. Discussions of diversity in CRE and women in industrial commercial real estate are appropriate at this moment in time. Articles offering guidance on how to handle worsening labor concerns and supply chain shortages in commercial construction have understandably been popular. Potential legislative and policy changes makes for another compelling topic.
Although the specific article subjects vary here, the content approach is the same: the advertiser, positioning themselves as a thought leader, analyzes causes behind emergent industry issues and offers expert guidance for their target audience. The best examples leverage recent data, report findings and real-world case studies to slake readers’ curiosity about how to handle the issues they’re dealing with daily.
In terms of execution, the biggest challenge with this kind of branded content strategy is the need for speed. To earn the web traffic or attention boost that can come with an article about a hot-button industry issue, CRE marketing teams must work quickly. Pull your firm’s expert insights on that topic into an engaging article while the issue is still a discussion worth having — or risk missing the conversation altogether.
Strategy 2: Zero in on a high-growth district or sector
Regardless of your business sector, using branded content to weigh in on prevailing industry issues is a strong play when it comes to staying relevant. But CRE marketers, in particular, have another tool in their box: the local element.
When your focus is the commercial real estate business, location is perhaps the most important piece of your target audience persona. CRE marketers frequently choose to speak directly to that local demographic in their branded content pieces. They share population data, regional sector growth trends, new site developments, projected area outlook and more to pique the interest of with investors, owners and/or potential tenants.
Many of The Business Journals’ commercial real estate advertisers use this approach in their branded content. For example, recent topics have ranged from the status of Boston’s life sciences real estate market to the ongoing transformation of downtown Jacksonville. Savvy CRE marketers shared content on Portland’s industrial sector and Houston’s office market momentum. And a broad overview of Kansas City’s entire commercial real estate market offers useful details for readers.
When you zoom in on local CRE news in your headline and article message, you essentially target your content to an audience in that geographic area. This specificity helps ensure you’re reaching the audience you want with your expertise, with the aim of boosting your firm’s brand awareness among readers (e.g., prospective clients, investors or partners) in that region. Consider sharing your branded content via media outlets that are both recognized and respected in the local market you’re trying to reach.
The built-in, local nature of the industry is one of the key reasons The Business Journals — with its local focus — makes such a strong pairing. In fact, CRE branded content headlines produced a 171% higher CTR than the content average during the analysis period.
Since this local tactic is typically a snapshot of a sector or district at a moment in time, it’s not as evergreen as some content formats. But use of specific language (the geographic keywords) can boost an article’s search engine optimization value and generate organic traffic irrespective of any paid promotion.
Strategy 3: Explain a product, service or process
What is it about single-tenant triple net leases that caught the eye of so many commercial real estate investors in 2021? Why do some property owners see big advantages in precast concrete wall panel construction? And what are the pros and cons of the sale-leaseback transaction in today’s economic environment? CRE firms explored these questions and more in recent branded content articles published on The Business Journals’ sites.
These types of topics — which spotlight a particular product or process in commercial real estate in a non-promotional, informative way — are attractive to many CRE marketers because readers tend to find them engaging. The trick is to focus on the benefits to the reader, rather than enumerating the advantages offered by the advertiser. Articles may offer advice, pass on practical tips, or serve as a how-to guide.
Readers who are drawn to articles like these are frequently in the “consideration” phase of the marketing funnel. They want to learn more, but they may not necessarily ready to reach out to someone at your firm. The educational content may help persuade them to take the next step.
Approaches to branded content in the commercial real estate space are as varied as the number of firms in the industry. Specific topics are bound to change over time, too. But the three key content strategies here — weighing in on industry issues, sharing local market growth data and patterns, and explaining a complex or in-demand product, service or process — are all solid ways to boost the ROI of your CRE branded content.
Learn more about content strategies, direct relationship marketing and gathering market intelligence in The Business Journals’ ebook, “How Commercial Real Estate Marketers Reach Prospective Clients.”