If you build it, will they come? - Part II

A follow-up to my recent blog: The Key to Building a Successful Startup: LISTENING! One of the things most founders of startups in the real estate space will tell you is that the hardest part of their journey wasn't necessarily building the site, but marketing it.

It's the classic struggle of a startup. You have an awesome idea. A really cool, useful site/product but if no one knows about it, you’re screwed.

This struggle is way more evident in B2B verticals compared to consumer categories. With B2B, the target audience isn’t as accessible.  With B2B, tech just isn’t such an integral part of the target audience’s daily lives.

And therefore, marketing your B2B product/site/service is extremely challenging, especially in the commercial real estate sector. There are huge barriers to entry in this field, largely because tech is so new and only a small percentage of professionals are actually embracing it. But things are rapidly changing and several sites are gaining traction and are even profitable. Big VC dollars are also coming into the sector like never before.

In a recent blog post, I asked several of the top CRE entrepreneurs this question: “What was the first big discovery you made about your site or the marketplace post launch and how did you adapt?”

The responses were so insightful that I wanted to continue the conversation. So, here is Part II of this series about CRE startups and lessons learned.

This time, the question I asked each founder was focused on marketing and how they were able to grow and scale:

What was the most effective marketing tactic you used to grow your site?

Nick Romito, VTS

The most successful marketing tactics we've used is the oldest marketing method in the book. Picking up the phone and speaking to a prospect. Our user base is receiving hundreds of prospecting emails per day and in a relationship business like commercial real estate having an actual conversation with a decision maker on how his peers are all using VTS has a much higher ROI. That doesn't mean that you don't need al the other marketing arrows in your quiver (drip campaigns, demand gen, etc) but there's nothing like human contact. VTS may be a new school company but we have old school values, something our users always respect.

>> @viewthespace

>> @NickRomito

> Connect on LinkedIn

Dave Eisenberg, Floored

Floored's most effective marketing tactic has been to take our awesome visual marketing and encourage our customers to feature them prominently at their most important trade shows: ULI, ICSC, NAIOP and more. We make software that helps CRE owners lease space faster, so there is no better way to market our software than to show other firms how our customers are doing it well.

>> @Floored3d

>> @Eisenberg

>> Connect on LinkedIn

Michael Mandel, Compstak

Hands down, the most effective marketing tactic for us has been building relationships with the press.  We've been in a very lucky position to have access to data that reporters can't find anywhere else. Real estate reporters (particularly in NY) love to write about deals, and they know that if they want information on a deal, they can call us.  When a reporter does call us, we respond in minutes with the information they're looking for.  Since every story is always on a deadline, this responsiveness has been key to our success in this area.  We've also gone out of our way to reach out to reporters when we see an interesting deal come in, that we think they would like to write about.

Between inbound requests and our outreach to reporters, we were averaging over 1 press mention per DAY! At this point, however, most of the world's top landlords are our customers, so we make sure to check with them before releasing data about deals in their buildings. While it's a good problem to have, this has somewhat constrained our ability to get our data in the press.

>> @CompStakCEO

>> @Compstak

> Connect on LinkedIn

Stefan Martinovic, CREATE

At every trade show, we use a variety of different highly visible display technologies to grab people's attention: large format projectors, giant touch screens, touch tables, and tablet PC's. These are critical to painting the full picture of what Create is all about and gives people at the events the chance to play around with it themselves on site, which is the best way of sealing the deal!

>> @Create_Tech

>> Connect on LinkedIn

Tom Kiernan, ClickPay

Customer referrals. Like most industries, there is a "herd mentality" in the real estate industry. If you do a good job for one of the largest players in each geographical market, word spreads quickly.  It fast tracks the review and sales cycle and is really the most authentic way to grow.

>> @ClickPay1

>> Connect on LinkedIn

Adrian Hessen, TenantRex

Since our inception over 3 year ago, I would say the most important part of growing our site has been building relationships. For the first few years while we were building TenantRex and getting beat up, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, we were also building bridges to our future customers. I mean for crying out loud, we were just trying to get TenantRex in front of people to see what they thought. Once we had product fit, we spent (and continue to spend) a significant amount of time learning our customers businesses, how they think, day-to-day workflow – what works, what doesn’t work, current technology stacks, data security, the decision makers, budgets, you name it. I’ve come to understand that for us, the “Service" part of SaaS, is actually more important than the “Software" and started long before we closed our first sale.

>> @TenantRex

>> Connect on LinkedIn

Isaac Herrera, Flyer IO

The most effective marketing tactic by far has been to give value to the real estate professional before pitching anything. They need to interact with our brand at least seven times before deciding to do any kind of transaction.

In the past, B2B companies could do this through content marketing, but with the amount of information coming out this is becoming more difficult. That is why we started doing side projects, so we can bring something of value to the real estate professional without asking for money. This has become by far more powerful than any kind of content.

A clear example of this is our automated platform (http://www.flyer.io/beta/), which empowers real estate professionals to build their marketing just by emailing our robots. There's no login, no apps, and no learning curve. They simply send an email with the property information to have their website, PDF, and mailer ready in a few minutes.

>> @MrIsaacHerrera

>> @FlyerIO

>> Connect on LinkedIn