NAIOP Trends + Technology Conference Recap

October 24, 2014

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In the afternoon of Wednesday, October 22, NAIOP assembled an event that highlighted new technologies and marketing trends that are positively influencing today’s commercial real estate market. NAIOP is the leading voice representing the interests of the real estate industry, including developers, owners and other professionals engaged in real estate development, investment and ownership in the Commonwealth. A keynote address and two panels of real estate professionals opened a dialogue to the marketing, branding, digital media and technology advances that are driving decision-making.

Behind the Brand: Opening Keynote Address
Kicking things off was MC for the day, Derrick Goodwin, Vice President of NAIOP, who introduced Tom Bloch, COO and Principal, and Sabrina Sandberg, Director of Marketing, at Samuels & Associates. With a background in retail consumer brands, Sabrina brings a different perspective and a consumer mindset to the commercial real estate business. To brand several new developments in the Fenway neighborhood, Samuels needed to shift the conversation away from baseball, auto repair shops, and parking lots, to the diversity and “hole of the donut” that is Fenway. Surrounded by world-class institutions in the Longwood Medical area to the west, MIT to the north, and several colleges nestled in the neighborhood, Fenway is an ideal location prime for new developments. Tom and Lisa emphasized three aspects to the success of the area – partners, message, and impact.

They set up partnerships with tastemakers – Sweet Cheeks and Citizens - which took a chance on an up-and coming area. Bringing  in Tasty Burger was a gamble but clearly a huge hit with the locals. And the first Target in the city brings affordable and convenient home goods to residents.

The messaging was really about speaking to the community and helping them share their message. Stories through video interviews from Fenway residents helped paint the picture for what the neighborhood was to become.

Impactful actions helped build buzz for the Fenway development. Samuels brought Fenway’s infamous Sausage Guy to MIT, to gain traction with young entrepreneurs and technology companies. A “Mom and Pop-Up” shop brought diversity and interest to a retail space through cost effective applications. And the old Howard Johnson was completely transformed to bring new life to the outdated building.

In all, the Fenway development was a campaign to change the perception of the neighborhood, from a place all about the Red Sox and surface parking, to a vibrant neighborhood that people want to live in and stay in.

Sharpening the Tools: New Trends and Technology
As the panel moderator, Krista Bourke of Stantec introduced three key concepts that technology has changed in real estate. 1) Big content, little time: real estate and marketing firms must be sharing content that people care about and that holds their attention. The message must be crafted around the target audience. 2) Make strengths memorable: leverage the positive attributes of a property and highlight them through illustrations and visual techniques. 3) Deals are best made face-to-face: even with technological advances and high speed mobility, business is about developing relationships and still requires an intimate dialogue.

The first panelist, Michelle Mastribattista, Director of Digital Communications at Solomon McCown, spoke of the importance of social platforms in engaging an audience. No longer is social an option, but it’s critical. For 101 Tremont, digital social tools help in increasing awareness, engaging users, and converting leads.

The second panelist, Deniz Ferendeci, an architect and Senior Manager of Building Services, demonstrated a marketable focus for commercial buildings. An arsenal of communication techniques, from renderings and stacking diagrams, to amenities maps and virtual fit plans, help sell a building through new and creative ways.

Rob MacLeod, Founder and President of Neoscape, described how technology is secondary to ideas in telling stories. Strategic storytelling helps amplify a brand – Neoscape tells stories through incredible video productions. The technology, though, must work for the user and isn’t applicable in every scenario. New technologies need to overcome barriers in order to be effective.

Donald DeSantis, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Hightower, described the challenges of the commercial real estate workflow and maintaining accurate listing data. Even though we have the communication resources to keep up to date, there exists new tools to sync all data across all channels to manage portfolio assets.

Blazing the Trail: Case Study Presentations
Linda Swain, SVP of Marketing at JLL, set the tone for the next panel with three themes – Engage, Envision, Experience. She also released the results of a pre-conference poll in which attendees ranked mobile technology as the most important trend for CRE in the next year.

Through the use of video marketing, Barbara Hicks, a Director of Marketing and Media, offered alternative ways for architects to stay in touch with a target audience. With positive statistics on their effectiveness, video in real estate offers engaging content to a prospective audience with an excellent ROI.

The Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Federal Realty Investment Trust, Andi Simpson spoke of the Assembly Row neighborhood in Somerville and the firm’s mission to create great environments for a better way of life. The user-centric focus and considerations of time, money and risk factors helped achieve a nearly 98% lease rate in retail and residential.

Tina Snyder, Director of Marketing for The Bulfinch Companies, emphasized the need for marketing in a mobile age. With deals getting done on the go, it’s critical for property websites to be responsive and accessible on any device.

Stephanie Williams, Senior Vice President of Planning and Advisory Services at Bozzuto Management Company, effectively appealed to customers living in their managed properties by focusing on their brand loyalties. With an understanding of what residents aspire to and support, they can craft platforms apps for shopping, scheduling, transit, and show what life is like in their properties.

RE:Tech Demo Day
The afternoon wrapped up with networking and demonstrations of seven new technologies for real estate. As a partner of the conference, RE:Tech is committed to innovating and enhancing real estate by bridging the gap between real estate and technology. Founder and CEO of RE:Tech, Ashkan Zandieh, introduced the following featured startups.

  • CompStak gathers information that is hard to find, difficult to compile it otherwise unavailable providing meaningful data for owners, brokers, investors, asset managers and more
  • VTS is a cloud asked leasing and portfolio management platform that provides brokers and owners with real time access to everything happening in their portfolio
  • Pivotdesk helps startups and small businesses find affordable, short-term office space with a platform that allows companies to drive income from their excess office space
  • Kisi gets rid of keycards, fobs, and badges and replaces them with a cross-platform smartphone-enabled access system that is a smarter, sleeker access control for offices
  • CodeGreen is a sustainable building solutions firm that develops innovative solutions to help clients conserve capital, reach sustainability goals and reduce energy consumption
  • coUrbanize helps communities and developers build better cities with an interactive platform where developers can distribute project information and gather feedback online
  • Hightower uses intuitive cloud and mobile apps to streamline deal tracking, the inventory marketing process, and increase leasing velocity while providing real-time leasing analytics to drive better portfolio decisions and reduce leasing risk

With so many speakers and so little time, the conference was chock full of short but inspiring stories on how firms are evolving their marketing practices for commercial real estate. Although there were several different perspectives from industry experts, one theme was clear – focus on end users and engage with them through relevant storytelling on select channels. We’re looking forward to where the coming years will take us.

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