In 2021, JLL identified around 8,000 proptech firms now in existence globally, writes Sara Donnelly, all involved in driving improvements in the real estate industry’s efficiency and accountability. Add to this recent estimates that the Covid pandemic has propelled the proptech industry by five to 10 years, and it’s clear the market is reaching maturation point.
At this week’s Propel by MIPIM, all eyes will be on those technology innovators who are helping to answer some of the built environment’s most pressing challenges, especially around ESG and decarbonization.
As one of those 8,000+ proptech firms, a vital question is, how do you create standout in such a thriving and busy sector? And how do you ensure the issues your tech solves drives change in the minds of the relevant decision makers?
Here, we outline the five key pillars of strong communications that will help ensure your proptech is front of mind.
- Set your objectives
The most important pillar of communications is to set the objectives that will enable you to measure its success. These should always be directly aligned with your overall business and marketing objectives.
For example, your business objectives might be to:
1) increase turnover by 15%
2) attract £250K investment for growth
3) increase market share by 25%.
For communications to have a direct impact on the business’ success, you must translate those business objectives into communications objectives. So:
- Becomes: raise awareness of product with asset managers
- Becomes: raise awareness of the brand among the proptech investor community
- Becomes: launch channel partner programme
Understand your audience
In order to engage with decision makers across the built environment, you must first understand them. What are their issues, concerns and priorities? Using this insight will help you define the benefits of your technology in solving those challenges. For many in the real estate sector, the most pressing issues facing them today are around ESG, decarbonisation, smart cities for the future, citizen and tenant voice and future workplaces. Ask yourself, where does your tech fit within these and focus your priorities there.
Immerse yourself in the sector and be visible; attend conferences and events, such as MIPIM, read the trade magazines and websites, follow the influencers and get involved in trade bodies and organisations.
Develop core messaging
With the insights gleaned from your audience and sector research, it’s vital to create powerful and engaging messaging that aligns your technology with the key issues in real estate today. Whether your potential buyers are developers, asset managers, housing associations or facilities managers, the one thing they all have in common is the desire to understand the benefits technologies can bring to their business or to enable them to do their job better. As such, it’s important to focus your key messages around the benefits rather than the features of your solution as this is what will sell it.
For example, instead of saying your tech ‘features an advanced application that can turn multiple asset datasets into real-time efficiency analytics’, consider what benefits that delivers for the end user and focus on that – ‘our advanced technology combines all of your assets into one simple dashboard, enabling you to see, at a glance and in real-time, the efficiency and performance of your buildings’.
Craft a PR plan
With your key messaging in place, the next pillar for strong communications is to develop a robust PR plan that will reach the eyes and ears of your target audiences – the audience research in pillar one will help inform this.
The most effective communications campaigns are those that deliver relevant content in the right channels to the right people. Think about the tactics that are most likely to engage your audiences such as news releases, opinion articles, Q&As, event speaking and roundtables. And then consider how you can get this information in front of them, for example, trade media publications, social media platforms, industry bodies and events are all potential channels for communicating and engaging key real estate audiences.
In my experience, it’s best to strike a balance when it comes to activity – so combining regular news announcements with issues and behaviour change campaigns for example. Particularly in the real estate sector, there is huge opportunity for proptech leaders to become credible and authentic commentators on the biggest issues facing the industry, such as ESG and decarbonisation, because often their solutions are the ones that can help tackle these challenges. Once you are positioned as an expert in your field, it is much easier to create demand for your solution because you are now trusted by your target audiences.
- Measure success
As I noted in pillar one, PR and communications should be aligned with your overall business objectives. Think about how you will measure the success of your PR strategy, make this a continuous process and iterate your approach as you go. Do more of what works well and less of what’s not.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Did you succeed in meeting your business objectives?
- Did you change understanding, opinion or behaviour?
- Has your brand visibility increased?
- Are your spokespeople talking at key events / on key subjects?
Think also about the types of measurement that you could use. For example, event attendance figures, website visitor numbers, amount of press coverage, feedback forms and focus groups.
In an industry that is flourishing – over $32bn was poured into technology for the built environment in 2021[i] – and with so much choice and availability, it is definitely a buyers’ market. As such, it is vital for proptech companies to raise their visibility in order to command share of voice and grow market share. By following the five key pillars to effective communications, they can begin that journey.
Sara Donnelly is director of Social Tech Communications, part of Social Group, a fully integrated communications agency with offices throughout the UK