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April 28, 2016

What real estate management and facility management can learn from marketing

Our entire market principle rests on two cornerstones: supply and demand. The place where these two meet is where economic transactions happen—and where we do business. It is the task of the sales and marketing departments to align supply and demand the best way they can: by thoroughly informing customers about the supply (through advertising, PR, and communication), and by serving customers who are already interested in the supply as best as possible.

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The latter task has become increasingly important in recent years. It even has a name: inbound marketing. In a nutshell, the underlying principle is that customers who wind up at your company “by themselves” (e.g., through Google) are the most valuable (because they are seriously interested in your product) and this group must be nurtured.

All things considered, the world of the marketing department doesn’t differ all that much from real estate management (REM) and facility management (FM). The focus of these departments has traditionally been directed from the inside out; whether it’s stock-taking of the real estate portfolio or building maintenance, an important part of REM and FM is initiated from inside the departments themselves.

Just as with marketing, a reversal can be observed in real estate management and facility management. More and more professionals in the field are prioritizing customer-orientation. Instead of pushing the supply outward, they are focusing more on serving the demand. Optimally aligning supply and demand is also a good way to shift from operational real estate management and facility management to a more tactical and strategic approach to the profession. Translated into various cornerstones of real estate management and facility management:

1. Real estate management
Aligning supply and demand is crucial in real estate management. What do we have in the portfolio and what will be in demand in the coming years? Will the organization add, close, or relocate branches? This has always been a rather reactive role; real estate management doesn’t become involved until the opening or closure of a branch is a reality.

In a more proactive approach, the department will start planning as soon as the future (re)location of branches is being discussed at the strategic level. After all, information about rental prices and the appeal of branch locations affects the ultimate choice, and, by all logic, this is a discussion in which real estate management should be involved.

2. Technical maintenance
In order to maintain buildings for minimal costs, it is important to (a) have a complete and reliable picture of the requirements, and (b) for the technical service to have at its disposal the right resources at the right time. To an extent, these resources can be kept in stock, but some must be purchased externally. The optimal manner of aligning supply and demand here is to continuously review the future need for assets and allocate these as efficiently as possible.

3. Space management
The same principle can be applied to space management: proactively thinking about the future demand for workstations helps to better meet demand. In many cases, the demand for permanent and flexible workstations and meeting locations fluctuates. Analyzing data and predicting what demand will look like in three, six or twelve months allows one to respond to the organization’s need as best as possible.

4. Integrated services management
The relationship between the customer and supplier is, of course, the essence of reconciling supply and demand. REM and FM departments can facilitate this by offering product and services catalogues that clarify how they can help and at what cost—whether this concerns replacing a lamp, a relocation, or renting additional office space.

Marketing the products and services supplied by REM and FM in this manner requires transparency and close cooperation with the purchasing department. After all, this department is responsible for purchasing the external products and services that real estate management and facility management supply. An integrated software tool can help best align supply and demand.

In recent years, building management and facility management have gradually shifted from operational to more strategic roles. By proactively responding to (possible) questions and processing incoming requests as optimally as possible, real estate managers and facility managers can adopt this strategic role even more.

Kurt Van Paesschen
Sales Director Planon BeLux