Build a Passive Lead Generation Machine with Inbound Commercial Real Estate Marketing

July 13, 2021

Inbound marketing is a strategy that uses educational and entertaining content—like blogs and webinars—to generate new business. In CRE, it’s an often underappreciated sibling of outbound strategies, like cold calling and email campaigns.

The beauty of inbound marketing is that it’s hard at work collecting new leads long after you’ve made the last cold call of the day. Like the neon sign of a 24-hour diner, each blog post, podcast, or webinar you create attracts people searching and browsing the internet for CRE education at all times of the day and night—often for years after it was produced.

Inbound strategies don’t replace outbound marketing campaigns—you can never make enough cold calls. Instead, the two work in tandem. Inbound continually introduces lots of new people to your firm and tells you when they’re ready for a call. Outbound takes the leads delivered by inbound and turns them into clients.  

A commercial real estate marketing plan that incorporates both inbound and outbound tactics will accelerate new prospect generation and reduce time wasted on dead-end outreach.
Why include inbound tactics in your CRE marketing strategy?Inbound tactics add passive lead generation to your CRE marketing plan while also improving the efficiency of your manual outbound efforts like cold calls and emails.  

No matter how good you are at cold calling, there are only so many hours in the day, and you can only make so many calls. This study from Baylor University says you’ll spend 7.5 hours making 209 cold calls to generate one lead or referral. That’s just for the lead—it might be 5 times that to close a deal.

What’s worse, there’s no lever to scale cold calls. Sure, you can hire people to do it, but it’s still one call, one potential lead.

Compare that to this blog post from Tyler Cauble, a Nashville-based CRE broker. According to Ahrefs—a tool that measures online traffic—this article has already attracted over 3,000 readers interested in CRE since it was published last July. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile, Cauble can use the traffic from that blog post to make his outbound marketing efforts more targeted. For example, he can offer readers of this article—which is about flex space commercial property—a free consultation on finding the best flex space properties. Or he can ask them to sign up for his newsletter, which gives him contact details for future outbound actions.

There are several ways you can follow Cauble’s lead to generate more high-value leads for your brokerage through inbound marketing. Whether you have a lot of time to invest or a little and are a great writer, speaker, or organizer, there’s an inbound strategy to fit your CRE marketing plan.

1. Write blog posts

A blog post can attract qualified leads to your website, introduce your firm to readers of third-party blogs, and even help your website appear at the top of Google searches.

Write a guest blog post

A guest blog post is an article you write for a website other than your own. When you write a guest post, you get a low-commitment way to practice blogging while reaching an existing audience.

Benefits of guest writing for a CRE blog
It takes a while to build up an audience for a new blog. But when you guest write a post for an existing blog, you’re putting your brilliant ideas in front of a ready-made group of eager readers.

You can also be choosy about which audience you target. If you’re interested in signing on new high net-worth investor clients, offer to write a post for that blog.

A guest post can also benefit your own website. Ask the blog owner if you can include a backlink to your site. Backlinks are an important way to help your website rank highly on Google searches.

Here’s an example. Soozie Jones Walker, president of Commercial Executives Real Estate Services, wrote this post for the CCIM blog. CCIM’s blog reaches 15,000 CRE pros, giving Walker exposure to a large audience of the exact people she needs to reach.

Find guest post opportunities
The easiest option for finding a guest post opportunity is to enter “commercial real estate + guest post” or “commercial real estate + write for us” in a Google search. If that doesn’t surface the perfect opportunity, there are several other tactics you can use, like reaching out via Twitter or using AllTop.com to find the best blogs in your industry.

Most blogs that accept guest posts have a formalized submissions page like this one from Perfect Real Estate Investments.

Example of a guest post submission request
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You’ll usually find some verbiage about community standards, word count, and writing original content. And search the blog for the topic you wish to write about, so you’re offering a fresh take.

A final note: keep your post targeted to the blog’s audience. If other posts on the blog are geared toward owner-occupants or inexperienced investors, make sure your post is, too. Ready to reach reach out to a blog owner and pitch your post? Following these 5 steps can make sure your pitch gets noticed.

Create a blog on your website

Publishing regular blog posts to your website takes more time than guest blogging, but it gives you control over the audience and lets you build more authority with them over time.

Benefits of creating a commercial real estate blog
As the creator and curator of a CRE blog, readers will come to know you and your firm as the go-to source for the information they need. That automatically places you at the top of their list when it’s time to buy, sell, or lease.

Once you have those readers perusing through your content, guide them to take further action using calls to action. A CTA tells your reader what you want them to do next and can be presented in a link, button, or popup on the screen. For example, you might ask readers to read another post, view properties for sale, or call for a consultation.

Here you can see multiple CTAs at the bottom of Texas-based broker Coy Davidson’s post.

Example of a call to action in a blog post
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Davidson asks his readers to download a report, read another report, and share the post on their social media accounts.

A blog will also give your website a significant boost on search engine results pages. As Google indexes each of Davidson’s blog posts, for example, it learns that his website has topical authority in CRE for his market. So when someone searches for “Class A office space in Austin,” his website is more likely to land at the top of the page.

Launch your blog
The technical side of setting up a blog can be a bit daunting. Ideally, you can add that capability to your existing website. If not, WordPress is a free blog platform that’s fairly easy to use.

Finding a continual stream of topics to write about can also be challenging, but there are several places to look for inspiration:

  • Answer questions your current clients ask.
  • Look at Q&A sites like Quora and Reddit.
  • Find keywords that CRE readers search for.
  • Use Google’s “people also ask” feature.

The “people also ask” Google feature is particularly helpful. Here’s what comes up when you search “NNN lease.”

Screenshot of Googles "people also ask" feature

This list surfaces several topics for posts about NNN leases. Note that every time you click to expand one question, Google adds several more to the list.

Tip: Repurpose blog content for more value

Once you’ve published a blog post, you can use that asset to generate more commercial real estate leads from other places.

For example, add helpful content to your email campaigns to give people more reasons to open and read them. Or combine several blog posts that cover one aspect of a larger topic into an “ultimate guide” and ask people for their email address in exchange for that valuable resource. And post your blogs to LinkedIn for additional exposure.

In some cases, brokers will even turn blogging into a side hustle. They do it either by growing an audience of their own and selling ads or affiliate links or by charging other outlets for their posts.

2. Record podcasts

Podcasts share some of the same audience- and authority-building benefits of blogs but in a format that’s easier to master for those who don’t love to write.

Become a podcast guest

Just like guest blogging, you can access a ready-made audience by being a guest on an existing podcast. Show off your subject matter expertise and let listeners know why you should be their CRE broker.  

Benefits of being a podcast guest
Acting as a guest on a podcast is one of the lowest-lift forms of inbound commercial real estate marketing. Just show up ready to tell your story or speak on a topic you know well. The host has even done all the heavy lifting of generating an audience to hear you talk.

As a guest, you’ll also have a chance to learn the basics of podcasting from the experienced host in case you decide to produce your own series later on.  

Consider this episode of the BiggerPockets podcast featuring real estate agent and author Ryan Serhant.

Screenshot from the BiggerPockets podast website
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In exchange for about 70 minutes of his time, Serhant introduced his book and services to thousands of listeners. And like a blog post, this podcast episode will stay live for a long time—continuing to generate new leads for Serhant.

Find a podcast and send your pitch
Unless you’re already semi-famous and podcasters are banging down your door, you’ll need to reach out to podcast producers and let them know what you plan to speak about.

Be open-minded when you’re first starting out. Consider newer podcasts; even if they don’t have a lot of listeners yet, you’ll find less competition for a spot.

Also, go beyond CRE-specific shows and look at podcasts that discuss investments, finance, business, or even motivation (successful CRE brokers are hustlers at heart).

Once you’ve identified a podcast you’d like to be a guest on, send a pitch to the podcast producer. Make sure your pitch matches their audience.

Say the show is about general investment advice; you might talk about why CRE has a better return than, say, stocks. But if the podcast is for experienced CRE pros, pitch a topic that goes deeper into a more sophisticated real estate challenge.

Create your own podcast

While you’ll have to invest some time in creating a series of podcasts, you’ll start to grow a dedicated audience that returns to your show and shares it with others.

Benefits of recording your own podcast
When you’re in charge of the podcast schedule, you get to choose the topics and, in turn, the type of people it attracts. If your firm helps first-time investors, then you can produce episodes that cover 101-level CRE topics.

As the host, you’ll also have a chance to plug whatever service, property, or message is important to you, which means you can turn regular listeners into clients.

Michael Bull’s podcast, America’s Commercial Real Estate Show, is the perfect example. For more than a decade, Bull has used his weekly show to generate leads for his firm, Bull Realty.



Screenshot from the America's Commercial Real Estate website
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On average, the podcast is downloaded over 600,000 times a year. Meaning there’s a huge audience listening in to Bull and his guests discuss commercial real estate and be reminded about the services of Bull Realty.

Launch a podcast
You don’t need to start out with a professional recording studio or technical wizardry to get your podcast going. Some basic recording equipment, a platform to publish your show, and a list of great topics are enough.

The first step is to decide on a format. How long will each episode be? Is it just you, you and a co-host, or will there be guests? And what’s the layout like? For example, will there be a teaser, intro music, an interview, then a call to action?

With that and your platform decided on, you can start lining up topics using the same strategies that work for blog topics: your clients’ questions, Google results, and questions placed on Quora and Reddit.

Tip: Film your podcast episode for more exposure

Michael Bull expands his audience by videoing each podcast recording session and posting it to YouTube—where he has an additional 8,000 subscribers.

You can follow suit and net more exposure using video without a lot of extra effort. Plus, small video clips from your podcast are useful content for social media posts.  

3. Deliver webinars

A web seminar, aka webinar, is a digital presentation—usually with both audio and video components—broadcast to a select group of attendees. Webinars are a high-value lead generation tactic because attendees need to offer up some details, like an email address, giving you an effective lead capture device.

Join a group webinar

Many webinars are joint efforts featuring representatives from several organizations. Join a group webinar to split the workload and multiply the audience.

Benefits of joining a group commercial real estate webinar
There’s a lot that goes into producing a webinar. Joining an experienced group, especially for your first few attempts, will make the workload easier and give you time to figure out how it works.

You’ll also get to access a much broader audience than if you go it alone. Each company represented at the webinar will have its own customer base and social media following to invite. Assuming your audiences don’t have 100% crossover, everyone will get exposure to new people.

This webinar presented by LiquidSpace featured four experts in a roundtable format.


screenshot from a webinar invitation
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Having multiple people present and answer questions on the webinar made it more valuable for the audience while splitting the presentation duties four ways.

Find a group webinar opportunity
The easiest way to find a potential webinar group to join is to reach out to companies that organized past group events.

Start by Googling variants of “CRE webinars” or “wealth-building webinars.” Connect with the organizer through LinkedIn and let them know you’d like to work with them in the future.

In your outreach, be prepared to explain what topic(s) you can present on and offer some background about yourself. If you’ve ever done any public speaking, mention that, too.

Produce your own webinar

Producing your own webinar means vetting speakers, arranging the technical platform, and making sure people actually sign up for it. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll enjoy greater control over the content, marketing, and distribution of the final product.

Benefits of producing your own webinar
Managing your own webinar means you get to vet each of the other speakers and decide on the content and format. That gives you the latitude to pick companies and speakers that will complement your own presentation.

As the webinar’s producer, you get a chance to strengthen your network by inviting those in your circle to participate. You can include your best finance, title, and legal partners, showing them more value in your relationship.

Produce a webinar
To produce a webinar, you’ll need a topic, a format, a platform, a slide deck, and a promotion strategy. But before you get into all of that, you need to recruit your team.

Your webinar team will consist of:

  • The organizer (you)
  • The presenter/facilitator
  • An assistant
  • Panel members

The presenter/facilitator is the webinar’s MC. They should be adept at public speaking and moderating groups of speakers.

The webinar assistant is your audiovisual expert and general troubleshooter. They’ll manage the back end of the event while others speak and answer questions.

Panel members are the subject matter experts. It’s their knowledge that attracts the audience.

Recruiting a great team first will make the rest of your webinar production much easier and more successful.

Tip: Create other content from your webinar

Your webinar will have a range of topics and helpful tips worth exploring. Use it as a launch point to write or record more content that attracts more leads.

For example, you can:

  • Post the presentation with notes on SlideShare.
  • Create blog posts or podcasts, each referencing one aspect of your presentation.
  • Post quotes to Twitter with links to the webinar recording.

Don’t sleep on new inbound CRE lead opportunities

Blogs, podcasts, and webinars are solid ways to get new leads for your CRE firm, but it pays to consider new platforms—like the voice chat room app Clubhouse—as well.

New platforms may not have the popularity of podcasts or webinars yet, but there’s less competition; it’s easier to be the loudest voice in a less crowded room.

Ember Hansen
With over a decade of marketing & business development experience, Ember brings a fresh perspective on CRE to the biproxi leadership team by turning her passion for SaaS into actionable insights for brokers and investors looking leverage technology to create a more successful business.
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