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The Full Circle: Controlling Crucial Conversations from Start to Finish

For better or for worse, the internet has quickly become the medium where a significant portion of first impressions are now made.

Digital marketing involves many pieces but, perhaps more than anything else, marketing is about effectively starting—and controlling—a conversation and this could not be more true than now, during the current crisis.

Many decision-makers, including investors, sponsors, and others involved in the real estate industry, make their decisions at break-neck speeds. Only occasionally will a “pitch” before a decision-making audience give you an opportunity to genuinely sell yourself from scratch; more often than not, it seems, these meetings are really more about confirming your audience’s already-established opinions about you.

Even when speaking to a live audience for the very first time, be it by phone, on a Zoom call, or in person, you will rarely be making a first impression. Rather, you will make a second impressions, a twelfth impression, or even a hundredth impression. Real estate professionals love details and know the importance of doing their homework. In cases where all your audience did was Google your name while they waited for you to arrive—and in most cases, their research will be significantly more thorough—these crucial impressions have already been forged.

In Hollywood, we often see the cliché of a casting director abruptly declaring “Next!” before the aspiring try-out has even had a chance to say a single line. While many involved in the real estate industry have a bit more decorum when making decisions, their thought process remains fundamentally the same. Keeping the rapid speed of these decisions and the importance of first impressions in mind, there is suddenly a lot of pressure on all parties—both investors and sponsors—to effectively establish themselves and control the dialogue as soon as they possibly can.

Getting heard early and remaining consistent

For better or for worse, the internet has quickly become the medium where a significant portion of first impressions are now made—and while we all hunker down in our home offices this has never been truer. Employers will research their prospective employees before making any sort of permanent decision. Romantics will find their dates online and conduct some research as well. The inevitability of the digital impression is one that is truly inescapable. One of the challenges when running a business—both small and large—is controlling which digital impression your firm makes will actually be the first.

Building—and maintaining—a strong digital footprint is one of the most effective ways for your business to get noticed and for your voice to be heard, and having precisely the right approach in your communications during the current crisis can create a bond with your audience like no other. What are you saying and what are people saying about your business on LinkedIn? On Twitter? On Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit? If the answer is tone deaf to the circumstances, you need to reevaluate your digital marketing strategy. If the answer is nothing, you need to really reevaluate your digital marketing strategy. If the answer is something constructive, you need to keep pushing forward because even when all metrics and KPIs are indicating a certain trend, success during challenging times will only last as long as you keep working to maintain it.

Regardless, it remains clear that planting many seeds is the surest way to raise a healthy crop. Your message needs to proactive, not reactive, and remain consistent throughout the entire web. While you may need to adjust your exact approach depending on the platform you are using, the conversation remains in your control and you will want to be sure that you are effectively answering the questions your aspiring partners might have.

This conversation really does begin with a lot of the basics. Apart from who are you, what services do you currently have to offer, what’s your story, why should a prospecting firm choose you over the countless other competitors, your narrative today should demonstrate you are aware of what is going on, explain how you’re dealing with it, and ever so gently, articulate where you see opportunities emerging so that when they do emerge you will have teed up your audience to expect the shift.

If you, as the current leader of your enterprise, cannot answer these questions and communicate them with your audience, then it is likely that nobody will. The digital sphere is an unforgiving place and if you remain silent and don’t attempt to control the foundations of this important dialogue, then it is very likely that these conversations will be dictated by the ever-scrutinizing voice of the internet.

Instead of focusing on the features of your firm—which are often dry, at best, and overwhelming, at worst—it usually makes much more sense to be focusing on the benefits you can provide and how the systems you put in place to handle recessionary pressures are kicking in now. Working with a diversified firm such as your own can provide the benefit of protecting yourself from asset-specific risk. Working with a forward-thinking firm such as you own can provide the benefit of creating gains during times of market uncertainty, such as we have already witnessed in 2020. Whatever your unique benefits might be, these benefits should be a driving force in your firm’s broader marketing scheme and should help set the tone for the kind of conversations you hope to begin online.

The onset of digital marketing has effectively changed the ways we prepare for important meetings. Succeeding in a meeting is no longer about coming up with a catchy tag or hook that is sure to get your audience’s attention—it is about planting these seeds well in advance, knowing that your audience has already gone online and unapologetically judged you. This pending judgement day is seemingly unavoidable; what remains in your control, however, is the materials you give them to work with.

Adam Gower Ph.D. is an authority in content marketing and online communications for the real estate industry. He has more than 30 years and $1.5 billion of transactional experience in commercial real estate finance and investment. Over the last five years he has built a digital marketing agency at GowerCrowd.com and advises clients on how to raise capital during good times and bad. To access a guide to crisis communications during the coronavirus crisis that he developed for his clients, click here.

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