The market for office space has seen an upturn over the last 12 months. The prevalence of office-to-residential conversions has taken a significant number of obsolete office buildings out of the market and supply is now much more evenly matched to demand. Nevertheless, developers still need intelligent, focused and creative marketing and PR campaigns to ensure their buildings stand out from the competition.
A change in emphasis
Although confidence has returned to the commercial property world, value remains an important consideration for businesses - a hangover from the recession. This does not mean that potential tenants are looking for the cheapest prices per square foot, as tenants are still searching for quality. But higher rents and high specifications do need to be justifiable and make business sense. For example, whereas a marketing campaign for a sustainable office might previously have focused on the environmental benefits of green features, now it would be more likely to emphasise how those features help reduce costs, improve perceptions and favourably impact an occupier’s bottom line.
Similarly, views, location, levels of natural light, outside space, cycle racks, changing facilities and other features are no longer presented as luxuries. Instead they are likely to be linked back to the value they create by improving the health, well-being and – perhaps most importantly – the productivity of employees.
Businesses generally are more cautious now than they were pre-recession. With improving confidence, decision making processes are speeding up but major factors, like an office move, are still given exceptional consideration. PR and marketing campaigns for office buildings have always been intended to persuade a potential tenant to want to move into a building but, in the current competitive market, developers are increasingly looking for new ways they can convince a potential occupier to take up space.
Focus on place-making
Commercial campaigns have become more lifestyle led with a focus on place-making, a concept more normally seen in residential campaigns. It is now not uncommon for the marketing materials for an office building to include amenities guides, newsletters, videos, blogs and social media sites to highlight local events, activities and venues that might be of interest to employees on their lunch breaks or after work. This ensures that all staff – and not just decision makers – are won over by a new office location. Some developers have taken this a step further by introducing events programmes, markets and pop-up stores in empty spaces to create a heightened sense of community and to provide further amenities for occupiers, right on their doorstep.
Digital creativity and optimisation
The competitive nature of the commercial property market has led to increasingly creative campaigns. The property industry has a reputation for being traditional, but technology has finally been embraced as developers have started to understand that online space offers a considerable opportunity to get ahead of the competition.
As most property searches – whether residential or commercial – start online, a good, optimised website is essential. Social media feeds (Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook in particular) and blogs can be useful tools, giving an additional channel to push out pictures, videos and news. Selectively engaging with appropriate feeds can help with positioning through brand affiliation, and tweeting about local events and venues can also contribute to place-making and community relations. Twitter is now also a valued tool for media relations.
Seeking measurable results
Marketing and PR campaigns have a reputation for being intangible but ways of measuring them need to be established at the start to ensure that they are making an impact. This could involve traceable telephone numbers, monitoring website analytics to gain an understanding of which marketing tools are delivering the best quality leads, and analysing the campaign against those of competing buildings.
Confidence is undoubtedly improving and the market for office space looks increasingly positive. However, value - both in terms of the messaging of campaigns and the need for them to deliver tangible results - looks set to remain a key priority for the time being.