Filling Commercial Vacancies in 2020 – 3 Ways To Be Smart, Current and Local.

If you’re a Sacramento-area commercial property owner and want to fill a vacancy, or better yet, prevent one before it happens, you had better stay with the times in 2020. While “Vacancy” may be a dirty word for commercial property owners, it's important to tackle the idea head-on. The word itself connotes stress and struggles in the quest to find the right users for your idle property. After all, a good return on investment requires a return. Consider the following ideas for filling vacancies from the experts at Capital Rivers Commercial.

By Capital Rivers

Filling Commercial Vacancies in 2020 – Be Smart, Current and Local

1. Smart marketing materials and smart transmission

Marketing for commercial real estate is behind the times when compared to other industries. A busy populace is inundated with a constant feed of information from smartphones, computers and a multitude of other video screens.

Communication now happens in ways that were new barely 10 years ago. You – or in most cases, your broker – need to differentiate your property with marketing if it’s going to stand out from the crowd and get noticed.

The marketing package still has a prized place, but the bar has been raised.

  • Make sure your marketing package is of a high, professional quality with engaging modern graphics, but at the same time simple and uncluttered. Highlight the “unique value proposition” your property offers, don’t just offer the demographics and statistics that are so standard (though certainly not unimportant). Highlight amenities in the subject shopping center or immediate vicinity and target messaging to specific types of users that you want to target and that would provide synergy with those other businesses in your property or immediate area. Make sure the marketing package is internet-ready, meaning the pdf file has working links and your listing has additional supporting online materials like a memorandum and a financial analysis available for easy download.
  • Video is a must; two-dimensional images alone aren’t enough anymore. Business owners are very busy and a clean, concise (two minutes or less), professional video helps tell the story of the property in a much more engaging and interactive way. Make prospects feel like they are at the property, without having to visit – this will help get your property on the tour list.
  • Drone footage is great and a must, but take it further. Great services are out there that will turn your standard flat marketing package into a digital masterpiece. You’ll find it well worth the investment, as you highlight the property as a local “amenity” tenants will want to consider.
  • If your space is unique or really a “stunner,” consider 3D renderings and video tours where prospects can virtually walk the property. Highlight the special aspects of the property while tying it into the local surroundings. Matterport is the leader in this field.

Consider the myriad ways now available to transmit marketing materials and inform prospects about your property.

  • If your broker isn’t marketing on social media, you’re almost in the Dark Ages. They should be prospecting on all social platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and even Yelp. Stay on the look-out for Tick-tock as well, which could transform to become the next Instagram. Your prospective tenants are on these sites, and you need to let them know the perfect space awaits them. Don’t be passive and wait for them to come to you; reach out and ask questions. Be engaging, inquisitive, and make the “ask.” Search for local tenants, join local web pages and blogs, and make sure your property is part of the community – ideally, becoming viewed as local amenity. Don’t be afraid to highlight your space on social platforms and in groups where an interested business owner may lurk.

Even an old standby like the listing sign can be creatively leveraged in a new way. Capital Rivers Commercial is using “text marketing” on their listing signs. Listing signs offer a short, easy-to-remember word that may be texted by prospects to a short phone number and generate an automated response. The response links the prospect to selected marketing information such as a video or the marketing package. This approach provides the prospect instant gratification and puts us right on the prospect’s phone (striking while the iron is hot), while providing an automated log of prospects to follow-up with. It also overcomes the reflexive distaste of some for the traditional phone call route (aggressive or hard-to-reach agents) that may deter some prospects.

2. The keys are marketing “local, live and in-person”

It’s never a bad idea to get engaged with your local community, wherever your property happens to be – in Sacramento or beyond.

  • Engage with local organizations and attend events that support entrepreneurs and business owners in your locale, because this very well may be where you find your next tenant. Business-oriented organizations in the Sacramento area who hold regular events include the Sacramento Business Journal, Comstock Magazine, HaneyBiz, local Chambers of Commerce, food service organizations like the California Restaurant Association and SactoMoFo, Business Network International (BNI), California Small Business Association, and local Rotary Clubs.
  • Hit the streets. Gone are the days of sitting in the office and relying on cold-calls. They are called “cold” calls for a reason. Your broker should be actually hitting the streets to talk with neighboring tenants to see if any of them are expanding or relocating, and to get more detailed market knowledge including specific “needs” in the area.
  • Talk to your broker about co-marketing. In other words, the brokerage firm can utilize your property as a focal point for marketing their firm in local publications or at local events, helping them fill your vacancy while demonstrating how far they’ll go for their clients – a proverbial “win-win.”
  • Your broker can host an event at your property, bringing in local prospective tenants and highlighting the space. People love free food and drinks, so use that to bring local awareness to your property that could lead to your next tenant. Even if your next tenant doesn’t attend, his CPA or the buddy he’s seeing in a few days might.

3. Have you heard of a “current” tenant mix for retail spaces?

While it’s by no means dead or dying, Brick-and-mortar retail is evolving. Therefore, so must retail property owners. While traditional sellers of retail goods are still around and are not to be overlooked, the landscape has changed and will continue to do so. Prudent shopping center owners will seek a tenant mix that helps “internet-proof” their centers while creating synergy.

To do this, smart shopping centers are looking to tenants from the so-called Five F’s of Retail: fashion, fitness, food, fun, and furniture. Fitness, food and fun generally require in-person consumption, while a variety of factors steer consumers away from online fashion and furniture purchases.

Though not a new trend, a healthy mix of local, regional, and national tenants is also important to diversify a center’s roster. Though they’re often forgotten due to the smaller size and corresponding higher risk, local tenants more often than not can drive significant traffic and be among your best tenants in a shopping center.

The Conclusion

“Nobody is doing that” isn’t a good argument against a particular marketing initiative or idea. In fact, it may be the best reason to do it. Different marketing differentiates the marketed product, and in an uber-competitive business like commercial real estate, that may be just what you need to take down that listing sign – or perhaps prevent it from going up in the first place.