Our goal for 2016? To change the status quo
For several years, he has been monitoring trends and looking for solutions that would be particularly effective in the real estate market. He summarises the past year drawing on his own experience and shows that marketing is largely about leveraging the possibilities that come with new technologies.
Marketing 360: 2015 is already gone. What kind of year was it for SkyConcept?
Tomasz Ogrodzki: Definitely an intensive one. Throughout the year our team was working full throttle. At the beginning of 2015 we set ourselves very ambitious objectives. Today I know that we managed to achieve them. Thus, we are heading into another year full of enthusiasm and energy. I must admit that there is also a certain amount of adrenaline…
Adrenaline? Can you elaborate?
Let’s say that this year we set the bar much higher than we did before. As of now, I cannot reveal more details… (laughs)
In that case, let’s leave this topic for a while. As a person who actively observes the real estate market, could you tell us how the approach of market participants towards marketing has been changing over time? What is the role of marketing in this industry today?
First of all, it must be noted that we are witnessing an unprecedented evolution of marketing in the real estate industry, both when it comes to commercial and residential property. Everything is changing – from how office space is displayed to prospective tenants, through the methods used to build interest among investors, to the ways of presenting investment areas. There are many reasons for such dynamic changes, however, the key factor is new technologies, which might even appear as “tailor-made” for real estate, as well as a growing awareness of client expectations among developers and investors. Additionally, all of this is driven by the positive economic situation and the optimistic sentiment in the market. The amount of space for sale and lease is growing, which increases competition – developers have to draw the attention of prospective clients and take care of them.
What type of content is most popular?
It is difficult to name a single solution. According to our market analyses, photographs and static visualizations are still the primary type of marketing materials. These are ideally suited for displaying architectural structures and are used in all sectors. A type of asset which has been increasingly appreciated and seems to have a bright future is dedicated applications based on spherical aerial panoramas, which provide a wide range of possibilities in terms of presenting the merits of an investment project. 360-degree panoramas have been known for years, but only today’s technological capabilities allowed to take this solution to entirely new heights, thanks to the advances related to the integration of panoramas with information on available space. Another aspect that could be mentioned here is enabling such interactive presentations to work with virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift. Something that a few years ago was the domain of science-fiction today is regarded as a real alternative to traditional real estate presentation. Speaking of videos…
Apparently, a lot has been happening in your company in this respect…
That is correct. Last year we have completed several major video projects that far exceeded the standards of our materials from the past few years. There is no doubt that videos enjoy great success in real estate marketing, and the best times are still ahead of them. I could keep talking and talking about videos, but I think there will be some articles on that in this issue… (laughs)
That is right, there is an article on the corporate video for Panattoni Europe’s 10th anniversary and the charity video for St. Andrew’s Foundation. Would like to say something on these projects?
Only that these were extraordinary events accompanied by exceptional circumstances. I am extremely proud of both of them, and I am glad that we could create them.
Today the company’s portfolio comprises more than just aerial photographs or promotional videos. You are working on more and more IT projects: websites, applications, databases, and so on.
That was one of our goals for the previous year, which I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation. Indeed, we are gradually expanding our range of solutions for the real estate market. In 2014 we noticed that our multimedia materials are not enough, as developers and agencies expect more comprehensive services, such as providing a “space” or a platform that would allow to present their marketing materials. The more materials were created, the greater the demand became. This tendency persisted and we wanted to move forward, so we began to build an IT department. We sought out specialists with experience in real estate projects who were able to find solutions that would meet the needs of clients in the industry. This is when we started to create our first websites and dedicated applications, including IPI – an online graphical space design tool which was used by residential developers to create interactive presentations of their offers. The breakthrough came when we designed a website for one of our clients, which externally worked as commercial space search engine, while internally it constituted a fully-fledged property database used not just by the administrators of the website, but also by leasing and sales departments. In this case, our client appreciated the benefits of owning a business aggregator of this type. We were convinced that we wanted to go in that direction when an application that we designed for internal information management purposes was implemented on a global scale by one of the real estate investors. Today the tool is used in all the company’s branch offices, from the United States through Europe to Asia. Our approach and understanding of the business was appreciated once again, which assured us that we are headed in the right direction.
You mentioned a business aggregator. What exactly do you mean?
What I meant is a kind of tool that integrates operations within different areas of the client’s business activity. The website design that I mentioned was an example of such a basic aggregator – it addressed the needs of the marketing department, while at the same time actively supporting the operations of the sales department. It increased the flow of information and its consistency, and thus optimised the company’s activities. In terms of costs, it was a very viable alternative to developing two independent platforms.
You are speaking about a basic aggregator. Are there any advanced versions?
In short, these are platforms that work similarly to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications. The difference between these platforms and traditional CRMs is that they were created specifically for real estate companies, which means that their functionality goes far beyond a standard contact database and an activity log for the sales department. Generally speaking, they are dedicated tools which support companies that have to deal with very flexible information, as it is the case with real estate – especially commercial property. With a large amount of real estate and space in the offer, it is difficult to gather all information on the current status of buildings and their availability in one place, while simultaneously ensuring real-time access to all the data.
It can be concluded that systems like this – both the basic ones and those more advanced – allow you to stop using the inflexible Excel. How does data management look like in SkyConcept then?
While gathering experience and observing the effectiveness of such applications, we developed our own CRM during the first months of 2015. Today the flow of key information related to sales, marketing, project management and administration takes place within our application. The tool has been designed as a web-based solution. Employees can access it anywhere, also on mobile devices. This was the first step towards creating a system that would be perfect for the real estate industry. It builds upon our previous experience and our continuously acquired knowledge of the market and client needs. We presented our ideas and previously developed applications to one of our clients and it turned out that it was exactly what they needed. In the next few months we developed a dedicated Eclipse system which is used by JLL’s Industrial Department.
How do you support a system like this?
In the case of the real estate industry, it can be explained by quoting several examples. First of all, the property base is very dynamic, which is a result of frequent changes in the status of space in the market. Depending on your needs, a dedicated system allows you to specify search categories in order to view only these properties that match the query. Secondly, the client database is structured – it gathers information that may be useful when contacting a particular client, regardless of who was the agent assigned to the lead. In addition, the system allows you to keep track of any activity that is related to the given client, and thus monitor the work of the sales department and draw conclusions from it. These are just some of its capabilities – as I said, a dedicated system makes it possible to adjust the functionality to your business needs. We are currently working on a system that will provide answers to as many issues related to the industry needs as possible. We hope that 2016 will be a year of business applications that will streamline the operation of companies. It is our goal to change the status quo in the area of CRM systems and take advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies.
Does this mean that you are going to present your clients with an entirely new CRM system?
I do not know if you can really call it a CRM, as it will have much more functionality than a traditional CRM focused on the client database. This will be a system based on our knowledge of the real estate market and the needs of the clients in the industry. We want to provide businesses with an optimal solution, of which there are none in the market. It will be developed in a way allowing for easy implementation and maximum effectiveness in many areas, such as customer service and property databases. We plan to adapt it to the office, commercial, industrial and residential property industry.
When will the system be available?
It is currently undergoing intensive internal testing, so we expect that we will be able to deliver a final version to our clients in the coming months. In the first place, we are going to present functionality suited to the needs of commercial real estate agencies.
Could 2016 be another stage in the development of IT tools for the real estate industry in Poland?
The market is constantly developing and the needs in the area of managing huge amounts of data are growing. There are more and more requests for powerful tools. Therefore, it can be concluded that in terms of technology, we have a very interesting year ahead of us.