When I decided in 2011 to start my own company, SquareFoot, to create a new way for business owners like me to find and secure office spaces, I knew that I was cornering a market that had been overlooked and undervalued by more traditional brokerages.
The idea was sound, and I knew that if I was able to execute on my plan, I’d build a customer-centric focus on entrepreneurs who had long been neglected by this industry.
The only problem I had on my hands though was figuring out where I could find them.
You see, the idea for success is radically different from the possibility of it. I knew these people were out there, I just had to figure out how and where to find them.
So I did what I always do when faced with a new predicament: I turned to Google. I began to read the basics about digital marketing and technical SEO, ideas I was only somewhat familiar with and had only a passing interest in.
As someone with a background in finance and real estate, these definitely weren’t topics that crossed my path regularly.
But as I read more, I quickly realized that this was going to be a part of my story going forward. I had to invest my own education in the basics.
Even with a B2B business like mine, the clients were ultimately people like me seeking solutions. I figured they would do what I did when I had an issue – Google for answers. So I decided that I’d like to give them something that meets their needs.
I worked with a team of engineers to build an online listings platform for people to search through themselves as they embarked on their pursuits of new office space.
Platforms like these had existed for some time for the residential half of our business and thought it wise to introduce and to implement a place for people to find information that had long been locked up by brother.
Further, I added a blog powered by WordPress to our website that would give them more insights into what to expect from the process and to explain industry jargon in layman’s terms.
My hope was that if people coming to us were more well-informed and had a stronger sense of what they sought, then our interactions with them and transactions on their behalf would go more smoothly.
Turns out, after over 1,300 deals completed, I was right in my assessment. People didn’t like being left in the dark, catering to brokers’ wishes and wills, as some of the other options advised. Instead, we relied on technology and transparency to build our business in those early years.
Had I not stepped back to learn about digital marketing, we couldn’t have jump-started this business in the quote the same way, at the level and pace that we did.
My approach to growing this organization and its client base gave me a lot to think about as I plan the next stages of our company growth.
From the last chapter, you take what has continued to work, and you build out new channels and funnels to drive the next stage of growth. But that costs money and people investment in a way that those early years didn’t.
When it’s just you, a small team and a dream, organic search and inbound marketing are fantastic places to give attention. The more people who walk in the front door, the better a position you’re in.
An industry like commercial real estate usually depends on a team of brokers to ask, “Do you need office space?” We reversed that process for the better, with people, when they are ready, coming to us saying, “I’m ready for new office space.”
For entrepreneurs first starting out, my advice is to strongly consider whether you have high-intent leads ready to come to you, should you have the information and insights they seek.
Through giving away content and resources that others don’t, you will earn credibility and trust in their eyes.
The place they’ve found out what certain neighborhoods cost pet square foot is also the same place they can find the broker to show them those offices in their area and to negotiate deals on their behalf.
I knew that I’d have to conduct some amount of marketing to build my business, but the form it took on caught even me by surprise.
I could rely on my ingenuity and hustle for some word-of-mouth referrals, but the scale at which I’d see leads pour in through online marketing was beyond what I could have imagined at first.
I began this company to be a new kind of commercial real estate company. It was only when I applied that same approach to my marketing efforts, and built my own knowledge in the tactics that could get me to where I aspired to be, that the vision I had transformed into a promising reality.