5 Ways to Lease Up a Development Faster

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February 4, 2020

Every developer and owner/operator wants to see an immediate return on investment when a building goes online. In this article, I'll touch on the top 5 ways you can be on your way to a property marketing plan that results in profits for your project.

1. Name Early and Create Brand Recognition

The first piece of your (early) property marketing plan—whether that's commercial, multifamily, mixed-use, etc.—must be a thoughtful naming and brand process. I can't stress enough how important crafting the experience of your project is going to be when considering the long term success of the property.

Generic name A and quick logo creation from website B simply won't stand out, and many developers don't grasp this concept. It's like getting the third best piece of land, or the linoleum instead of the matte tile, or plastic instead of polished brass. It's affect has, well, lasting effect.

But that's not you. You wouldn't be reading this article if you played the game of cutting corners!

Thoughtful developers and owner/operators understand the value of how one experiences their spaces over all else. Think about it: would the Ace Hotel be successful with a thoughtless name and brand?

It would not.

Bottom line: branding impacts leasing because brand tells the lessee who you are, what you stand for, and what buyers can expect when they invest. See how we took this approach with One Fillmore Plaza in the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver.

2. Build a Splash Page and Grow SEO Now

When our partners invest in an early web presence we see a dramatic effect on the project's long term success. This is crystal clear.

If you're not establishing your project at a domain of choice, someone else will talk about your project first. And, unfortunately, you'll have already lost out on controlling the message.

Time and time again we see CRE industry publications pushing content that talks about a project's vision, specs, and everything else under the sun. But the problem is that the more articles that surface, the further down in Google results your website will fall... once it's finally built.

For example, as illustrated by research conducted by Backlinko in their definitive guide, the data is clear that new (and thus, low ranking) content will take much longer to bubble to the surface if competition is high for the name (keyword/phrase) of your project. If you're curious, we took a similar approach with the Dwell on Park project.

Remember, while an article on the Business Journal might not be the story you want to tell nine months later, it's going to rank higher in Google search results simply because the domain is seasoned and the content has been getting clicks for months before you made a move.

Bottom line: building a simple website early establishes clout on a domain you control and tells the story you want to communicate from the beginning. And as a bonus, your SEO will organically grow with this thoughtful approach!

3. Think About Community Engagement

Whether engaging with the community is a requirement, or simply something your firm desires to be a part of the process, leaning into digital technology is a win-win.

Traditional engagement efforts boil down to community meetings, city representatives, and a lot of heated emotions. But it doesn't have to be that way! As noted in the latest eBook and study by coUrbanize, it's clear a thoughtful approach is the way to go.

They point to a recent 2018 study by Boston University, where researchers found that attendees are, on average, older and likely whiter than the average for the communities they live in. They’re also likely to own their homes, rather than rent. Of the "loud voices" in the room, only 15% were in support of proposed projects in MA that year.

But, here's the thing. People who don’t attend public meetings are often those who would actually benefit from your project, such as renters, first-time homebuyers, new residents, young families, single parents, and millennials.

You need to hear from them, too—the majority. So if community engagement is in the process, make sure you can reach them as well so you have collected all data points.

Bottom line: when you leverage a digital tool that connects outside of the meeting room, you can capture more data and make better decisions about your project.

4. Speed Up Leasing Activity with Digital Marketing

Assuming you've been building a swell of momentum online with the steps above, you can start thinking about the digital avenues to accelerate leasing when the time is right.

Think back to the initial splash page. If built thoughtfully, it's been capturing emails from the very beginning. It's also be effortlessly sharing the project vision, the experience one can expect, and various floor plans and pre-leasing teasers.

We commonly practice this on our projects. Nordost Exchange in Minneapolis and The MKT in Houston are great examples.

So, as one example, a thoughtful email campaign would easily target those exact parties that you already know are interested. While run of the mill sales emails from big box stores like REI, Target, or Home Depot might get 1-3% open rates, we often see targeted email campaigns come in at 25% and higher depending on the project and the drip campaign we run.

This same website could have been the landing place for basic paid social campaigns from the beginning, too, as another example. These days we can hyper-target by neighborhood, income levels, previous interests, families with kids, and more.

What about partnering with the right industry publication, also? The right message in front of the right audience will full up your space in no time. Digital marketing doesn't need to replace your broker team, but it can absoutely work in tandem to drive even more leads their way.

Bottom line: digital marketing speeds up leasing because it unlocks multiple avenues for better connecting with potentially hundreds of targeted people when it's time to aim for ROI.

5. Use the Web to Educate and Update

Perhaps one of the worst mistakes you can make is not maintaining the website you so diligently created from the very beginning.

When you invest in a thoughtful name, brand, and initial website, you're committing to providing access to important information to various stakeholders. When that falls short, tension for everyone—from investors to the community—can quickly rise.

It doesn't take data to support this claim, because the reason is obvious. We've all seen a new build go up and want to learn more, right? But we visit a website that's either broken or six months outdated.

It doesn't take much to start asking questions. Where is the project now? What comes next? Will there be retail? When can I get information about leasing? Who's behind this?

Bottom line: sticking with your website, and building on it as a foundation, will keep interested parties coming back for more time and time again.

What else can you consider?

When it comes to leasing up your development faster—getting rent payments lined up, making sure leases are being signed, and bringing in the keystone tenants—you must begin to think strategically about harnessing the power of where everyone is these days: online.

Each business and project is a little different, but if you've not yet started leveraging the web, you're already behind! Think forward, not backwards, and your real estate projects will be more successful because of that mindset.

Now it's your turn. What's worked for you in the past? What do you want to try in the future? Don't hesitate to reach out. We'd love to hear from you!

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