And now, the third commercial real estate technology problem that we chose NOT to fix.
Try this now:
Step 1) Go into Google
Step 2) Search for "NYC Office Space"
Do you notice anything weird about the results? After years at one of the larger comercial real estate firms in the country, I do. The search results contain page after page of hits for office suite companies, as well as a few of New York City's smallest commercial brokerage shops. After 10 pages of results, I gave up looking for a link to a major CRE brokerage firm in NYC.
Perhaps I just searched for the wrong thing. After all, if I want to find the top CRE brokerage firms in Manhattan, I should really just try that search directly. So that's what I did.
Search #2 - "Manhattan Commercial Real Estate Brokers"
This time my luck was a little better. On PAGE 5 I found New York City's, and the world's largest commercial real estate services firm (listed in the Fortune 500) - CBRE.
And this problem is not limited to search results. Try searching for CB Richard Ellis, Jones Lang LaSalle, Cushman & Wakefield or Colliers International on Facebook. Not one of them has an official Facebook page! On Twitter, you'll find that all of these brands have accounts, but they seemingly have no control over their brand. Every regional office has an account, and since they all use the same logo in their account it's nearly impossible to figure out which account is which.
So here's the problem. Commercial real estate firms don't know how to market themselves online. As a result, they don't know how to generate business online, their customers can't find them easily, and powerful brands are losing out to secondary players.
There could be many solutions to this problem. In my mind, the most interesting solution is an online marketing platform like RentJuice. This platform would help brokerage firms better market and manage their available listings online. By building a better presence around listings, these firms would in-turn improve their search rankings and brand recognition with the side effect of loosening CoStar's death-grip on the commercial listings space. Ideally, this platform would also help firms build their presence in social media and online professional networking channels.
Realistically, while I think there is a demand for a platform like this, my guess is that the large firms that need this platform as much or more than the small firms will not avail themselves of the service.
Why We Didn't Do It
We never really considered doing it. Perhaps because it means asking brokers and brokerage firms to substantially change the way they do business? Do you think this is a good opportunity?
Who's Doing This Now
I don't know of anyone specifically trying to help real estate better market themselves online. However, Rofo (mentioned previously) does help individual brokers market themselves and syndicate their listings. Rofo's integration with Twitter and LinkedIn also helps brokers get the word out via social media all from one place.
In my next post, I'll stop talking about the real estate technology companies we didn't start, and instead focus on the one we did!