As part of my research into what’s happening (and, more importantly, what’s likely to be happening) in the fast moving world of property and real estate marketing, I spoke to John Rushton, chairman of the property marketing and design consultancy Small Back Room 

Tribes and Community – from Kazakhstan to Lambeth

“Look at the developments overseas and bring insights back to the UK. For example, in Kazakhstan most people live with their parents. They go to the mall to socialise rather than to shop. Developers there are maximising the floor areas and creating a new experience – drifting cars that crash into pillars of a basement car park and a top floor dedicated to co-working space”.  

“You can see similar communities developing here – the media and creatives huddling at clubs such as One Alfred Place and Shoreditch House and a hotel, spa and meeting spaces at Mondrian London at Sea Containers. There are on-line communities for those that share the physical space. At Elizabeth House, David Chipperfield Architects will create a new public space, reinforcing the business district at Waterloo with 8,000 workers who will create a micro-economy there and creating a need for a variety of service offerings around the transport hub. Future use of co-working space will perhaps include pop-in (rather than pop-up) guest retailers to serve their audiences”. 

Clients – whether these are the owners, developers, office and retail occupiers or their employees and customers – have different needs for their space and the marketing must address this. There’s no replacement for sound segmentation, identification of needs, development of a strong value proposition and creative excellence in marketing and sales communications through real and on-line communities.

Content is King and the Customer Experience is Everything

“Retail tenants want to know what landlords will be doing to help them grow their business. Content remains king. For Regent Street (owned by The Crown Estate) we used to produce a print newsletter for stakeholders and retail occupiers – there is always 10% of the area under development. Now we do it digitally – through the web site – which is primarily geared up to increase online consumer traffic. We are on our third journalist over 14 years for the successful fashion blog. We’ve built an online community with over 7,000 Twitter followers, around 50,000 Facebook page likes and nearly a quarter of a million social media check-ins” 

”But we’re extending the customer experience too. We were the first to create a gift card for an entire shopping area. We also have an app to guide shoppers. Then there is the long established Festival which is well covered by print and broadcast media and includes a variety of activities and special offers for children. There’s also “hands-free” shopping where customers can have their goods delivered to their homes”.  

“For the smaller office tenants in Regents Street we have added a search where the business tenant simply enters the number of people that space is needed for and they are advised as to the size and configuration of the available space that would suit their needs” 

Whilst the building forms the core part of the product, the added value in the service package and experience is becoming increasingly important for the occupiers/tenants. Help with building their business and innovative approaches to increasing foot-fall and sales will differentiate developments.

Living room selling

“The marketing suite has come of age. East Village is London’s newest neighbourhood on the site of the former London 2012 Athletes’ Village, offering high-quality homes in the UK’s largest ever  Private Rented Sector scheme (owned by Qatar Diar Delancey). It is on a 67 acre site adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City. It has 1,439 homes for the private rented sector, 1,379 affordable homes (owned by Triathlon Homes) and the location has planning consent for a further 2,000 private homes. It was voted ‘Best New Place to Live’ at the London Planning Awards 2014” 

“Obviously, we produced a book of buildings and advertisements for the London media as part of the marketing and communications strategy but great importance is placed on the marketing suite as helping the presentation and sales process. It spans 8,000 square feet and each of the areas are very different. There’s a wooden model of the entire area at the centre surrounded by five 3D stage sets that tell a story about living in the area – complete with interactive videos. There are iPads and touch-table displays and discussion areas with space for both high level presentations and low level seating – so you can chat as if you were in your living room”.

Consumers are more sophisticated and are used to doing their research on-line. Yet for property they will also want to experience the physical space so if they commit their time to visiting then it needs to be a rich and sophisticated experience that really sells the entire experience.

Watch out for further interviews with property marketing leaders. And get in touch if you have something to share that challenges convention in property marketing. These and other ideas will form part of my session at the EG Conference Marketing Summit on 26th June 2014