While canvassing has always been an integral part of the commercial real estate prospecting process, COVID really has changed everything, including how many people start their research. With various shutdowns as a result of the pandemic, your days in the office limited and in-person canvassing has become more difficult. If this sounds like you, it may be time to introduce digital canvassing if you haven't already.
While you may think there's nothing that can beat good old fashioned in-person canvassing, you can and should start moving your efforts online (if you haven't already). Not only can you cover more “ground”quickly, but contacts and retailer information are just a few clicks away - giving you the data needed for personal outreach.
To make the most of your online canvassing efforts, there are a few things you can do that will decrease frustrations and increase success.
Tip 1 - Target specific retailer types (or even specific retailers) to maximize your digital canvassing efforts. It helps you get to the retailers who could be potential tenants. Identify what uses the center needs, check non-exclusives of tenants to see what is and isn’t allowed based on who currently occupies space, and do void analysis - what’s missing from the area.
Tip 2 - Be armed with the right toolkit . New tools launch daily claiming to solve all of your problems. But too many tools can lead to an overwhelming feeling. This usually results in scrapping everything and going back to what you were doing before. While we believe Retailsphere should be your first option for digital canvassing, there are others you can use to get you started in the right direction.
Yelp can be a great place to start identifying retailers who are well loved by learning the number of five star reviews they have from customers. Beyone reviews, their mapping feature lets you navigate a particular area with simplicity.
Blogs can be another beneficial resource to your canvassing. Try searching local blogs where authors focus on finding the coolest new restaurants or shop at unique boutiques or perhaps partner with retailers. Many bloggers create lists of trending brands as well.
Once you’ve done some prospecting and outreach, you’ll need to keep track of your efforts. The Retailsphere all-in-one CRM allows you to prospect and lead nurture in the system. Yes, it’s time to kick those excel or Google Sheets to the curb. This is an outdated way to keep track of progress. Other helpful systems include Airtable or Monday.
Tip 3 - Conduct Void Analysis. While retailers in nearby shopping centers may be a good fit for your vacancy, they are also clearly your competition. Looking at these centers can give you an idea of what types of retailers you may want to avoid.Or look at it from a void analysis angle - what is the area lacking? This can be done simply by using Google maps. Plot your shopping center and search around that retail corridor.
You can also leverage a tool like Retailsphere to speed up the process. Simply navigate to the "Shopping Locations" section and search by distance from your location, type of center, or number of units.
Here, you will find an extensive list of shopping centers, each with a profile that includes: general center information, ownership information, contacts, key demand drivers, and most importantly, tenant information. Simply select the shopping center you would like to canvas to open up that profile.
Once you select a location, select “tenants” from the navigation and go “door-to-door” virtually, reviewing the retailers in that center.
Tip 4 - Utilize Social Media Social profiles can often give you an idea of the size of a brand and if they are poised for expansion. For retailers where it’s not as obvious, you can send a note on Facebook Messenger or try sending a DM (direct message) on Instagram to begin a conversation.
Tip 5 - Lead Nurture . The most important part of prospecting is your follow-up. Rarely do you get exactly what you’re looking for with the first message. You must keep track of your prospecting data and create a follow-up system for yourself to build on the relationship with your prospective tenant. If you use a tool like Retailsphere, you can log all of the businesses you’ve reached out to. Since the system was specifically created for commercial real estate professionals, it includes natural next steps in the CRM like Prospecting, Flyer Sent, Booked a Site Tour, or Lease Negotiation.
There are plenty of ways to canvas for opportunities in the digital world. Tools that can help you digitally canvas in commercial real estate include: Yelp, Google Maps, blogs and social media - all great ways to get started. Ultimately, you need a way to tie everything together and ensure you’re converting prospects into closed deals aka tenants. That’s where Retailsphere lends a hand.
Retailsphere is THE commercial real estate tech tool that gives you the data you need to target the right retailers - those that are expanding, prospect to the right people - inclusive of contact information, and track all of your progress and conduct lead nurturing all in one place - in its custom designed CRE CRM system.
This is an updated version of an article posted August 2020.