Presented By: JPMorgan Chase
CRE’s Digital Marketing Revolution
Marketing tactics were already rapidly evolving before the pandemic, as digital transformation drove the adoption and popularity of social media and other online forums. Still, COVID-19 changed everything, accelerating changes in how we communicate — including how marketers engage the commercial real estate (CRE) industry.
Partner Insights spoke to Marci Rankin, marketing strategy director for commercial real estate at JPMorgan Chase, about the changes the firm has implemented amid the ongoing digital marketing revolution.
Commercial Observer: What are some of your top considerations and challenges when marketing to the CRE industry?
Marci Rankin: JPMorgan Chase has clients spanning various asset classes and geographies. So, first we need to know who we are marketing to and what problem we’re solving for them. What’s important to an apartment building owner/operator in Los Angeles is vastly different than what’s important to a large developer in New York City. Our goal is to deliver the right message to the client at the right time, and through their preferred channel, so they can find solutions when they need it and keep their focus on their CRE portfolio.
You must be creative and able to pivot quickly in this dynamic industry. There are a lot of forces and factors facing our CRE clients, such as policy changes, legislation, interest and employment rates, and, of course, the recent impact of the pandemic. For example, once the pandemic hit, we had to quickly go from full-funnel marketing to connecting directly with clients to share important and timely information. Our shift in communications consisted of detailed support related to the Paycheck Protection Program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and our loan relief program so we could help our clients and their tenants navigate unprecedented times.
How has marketing and communications changed within the financial/CRE industry in the last 20 years?
Technology and digital transformation, coupled with the rise of mobile devices, has resulted in an always-on experience. There has been a convergence of clients’ business mindsets with their consumers’ expectations. They want real-time information at their fingertips delivered in a personalized and contextual manner. As a marketer, I no longer have to wait for a direct-mail piece to land in the client’s mailbox, I can communicate the key messages and content 24/7 through digital and social channels. Even with adoption of technology and real-time delivery, integrated marketing — leveraging both traditional and digital channels to connect with clients and prospects where they prefer — is the most effective approach I’ve experienced for our industry. This type of method must balance digital delivery with human interaction to really connect with the audience.
The pandemic forced us all to rethink how we connect with one another. We had to adapt quickly to virtual events and webinars to continue information sharing, networking and learning. Video conference technology helped us make this adjustment, but it did require training for sales and clients. Creativity was super important. How can you keep the audience engaged while they suffer from the exhaustion associated with video calls? We introduced variety and unique formats, from economic roundtables to a hands-on cooking session with a “Top Chef” winner. It’s evident how much our clients and sales team value in-person engagements. We’ve seen a lot of interest and participation in our recent events and industry conferences.
As a new generation of owners begins to take over family CRE portfolios, how are you and your team thinking about altering marketing toward them?
We are taking the time to really understand what is important to these clients: what keeps them up at night, problems they’re trying to solve, and how they like to communicate and receive information. They may prefer learning about us through social channels, rather than the traditional phone call. It’s no longer just about the product solution, but a sense of shared passion around purpose-driven missions like JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to racial equity and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. For example, a major focus of the firm is to help solve the nation’s affordable housing crisis.
We really concentrate on building trusted relationships with the entire family and creating a sense of community and connection. It’s important for us to offer this new generation of clients a place where they can swap insights and best practices about cost-effective and eco-friendly amenity upgrades, tenant trends, estate and succession planning, digitizing their business (like rent collection) and community impact.
For a fairly risk-averse industry, how can marketing play a role in driving adoption of new CRE technology and digital solutions?
The industry has been viewed as a laggard when it comes to technology, but the pandemic drove digital adoption out of necessity. Tenants, especially the younger generation, expect to manage and pay rent digitally and in real time, as they do for other transactions as consumers. To remain competitive, owner/operators must adapt.
We like to showcase clients who have been successful early adopters of technology and digital solutions and highlight the positive impact it has had on their business, tenants and suppliers. We bring their stories to life and share their journeys through case studies, training videos, peer-to-peer roundtables and more. All these marketing tactics are aimed at getting folks comfortable with digital transformation and providing resources to help facilitate the transitions and overcome any hesitancy. We recently launched our “Changemakers You Should Know” content series, which elevates leaders in the industry who are making strides — whether through modular housing, hiring diverse suppliers, implementing digital rent collection or optimizing build-to-suit projects with the environment in mind.
Is direct mail dead? Or is the CRE space still into it, and why?
Not dead, but maybe less popular than 10 years ago. Direct mail is now a tactic in a much larger integrated marketing campaign. It’s most effective when the audience is unreachable via email or phone due to lack of data or opt-out lists. It’s important to be thoughtful and targeted with direct mail recipients to reduce waste. Eco-friendly materials, ink and production costs are all at the forefront of our strategy. It’s an expensive channel with slower delivery, so it’s imperative that it’s deployed effectively.