Why insight is the property sector’s most valuable asset and how to unleash it

Posted on June 3, 2015 by Alexandra Kent

Bricks and mortar is not the property sector’s most valuable asset. In the new market landscape – where customers demand insight as standard and even the most traditional real estate firm is required to offer consultancy – ideas are the new currency.

In response to the fundamental shift away from transactions and towards partnerships, the way property firms market and sell is also changing. According to Man Bites Dog’s new research, three quarters of CMOs in the property sector agree or strongly agree that driving ideas-led sales conversations is the cornerstone of their marketing strategy and 66% confirm that the only way for their company to differentiate is based on ideas. However, 48% admit that they are not adept at using ideas to sell.

There is no shortage of data in the property world – companies in the sector dedicate significant resources to gathering research for marketing and business development. But often this research for the sake of research generates a PR spike but no meaningful client engagement.

But some companies are getting it right. Arcadis, the global natural and built asset design & consultancy firm, devised a Sustainable Cities Index (SCI) to bring new life to the sustainability debate – collecting data on the performance of urban environments, in 50 countries, in relation to people and profit as well as planet. But for this data to be meaningful they had to answer the “so what?” question. They needed a big idea on which to hang their sales and marketing – a compelling narrative.

Arcadis engaged Man Bites Dog to develop a compelling global narrative from the SCI data – telling the story in an impactful, globally relevant way. We generated worldwide appeal by proving that global cities fail to balance the three pillars of sustainability – prioritising profit and planet over the needs of people, according to a comprehensive analysis - and brought this to life through multimedia content and a unified visual identity. We created an online hub, which hosted a whitepaper, animated videographic, infographic and allowed users to interrogate SCI data and compare the performance of cities like-for-like.

More importantly, the SCI is now the key business development platform for Arcadis’s urban development team. In following up leads, generated by unprecedented media coverage and online engagement, Arcadis was able to track over $24million in potential fees to its sales pipeline. Not bad.

Here are my tips on how to design, build and leverage creative content that sells:

  1. Get personal

Sales and marketing professionals in property are adept at building personal relationships with prospects. Known for being social creatures, they are often found making contacts, closing deals and shaking hands at the pub. We know that developing a personal connection is the most effective way to build trust and inspire action. But this personal relevance is missing from marketing campaigns. According to our research, only half (55%) of marketing campaigns in the property sector are personally relevant to the target audience.

By putting your target audience at the heart of content, you can generate the handshake effect on a larger scale. At the start of any new campaign, research and segment your audience to uncover who they are, their role in the organisation and what’s troubling them – allowing you to develop a targeted value proposition and creative campaign idea that appeals directly to the individual.

  1. Play to your strengths

Once you know who you’re selling to and what they care about, you can begin to develop your big idea. Man Bites Dog has spent a decade generating creative and commercial campaign ideas for B2B organisations, and over this period we’ve developed a fail-safe process.


The 4D Model highlights the key areas to consider when developing content to ensure that it:

  • Is relevant to your customer and their challenges
  • Aligns with what makes your firm unique and what you want to sell
  • Finds the white space where competitors are weak or absent
  • Directly speaks to an emerging market trend in a completely original way

Playing to your strengths as a company and building campaigns around your sales offering is the key to generating a big idea that will enable you to lead the market and, ultimately, sell.


  1. Push boundaries

The property sector is incredibly innovative – always striving to build taller, smarter and more efficient buildings, or to bring an exciting new solution to market that shapes and influences how we work and play. But can the same be said of your marketing campaigns? Our research uncovers that only 45% of campaigns in the property sector push boundaries, and 55% of CMOs bemoan company leadership for relying on tried and tested ideas.

Competition in the sector is fierce and many firms are facing a race to the bottom. In this market, differentiating on the strength and quality of ideas is the key to commercial advantage. But no one wins by playing it safe. Avoid following the crowd and re-treading well-worn topics and issues in your marketing campaigns. Push boundaries with your ideas, think bigger and think differently – seeking inspiration from outside the industry

  1. Make it beautiful and useful

How you package an idea and take it to market is key to generating commercial return – a clever idea, packaged in an engaging way and executed with precision will make it travel further and resonate deeper. Time-poor decision-makers are bombarded with content and cutting through this noise is a key challenge for marketers. War and Peace white papers don’t cut it any longer – audiences are looking for targeted, useful insight delivered in an imaginative way. But three quarters (72%) of property CMOs say that their content lacks creativity.

Use visual storytelling to bring your content to life and encourage interaction – allowing audiences to interrogate data and benchmark performance using live diagnostics, infographics and videos – and meet your audience where they are. A 10 minute podcast they can listen to on the move or a Slideshare presentation that they can flick through on an iPad is sure to make your message stick and their hand reach for the telephone.

What is your biggest marketing or PR challenge in 2015? Let us know what’s keeping you or your board awake at night and we will provide a solution to help you sleep.

Click here to send us your creative challenge.

Alex Kent is a Senior Account Director at Man Bites Dog and heads up our Property and Construction team. Get in touch [email protected]


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