OBI – Evolving and Engaging

Andrew Cowell | 24 October 2016

To-Let-pic--blogHow has leasing or selling a property changed over the last 30 years? The answer in truth is very little. At OBI we may be too young to remember the property industry as it was back then, but we’ve all seen the old particulars created in-house, while boards were erected in the hope that an occupier walking the streets or driving around their preferred locations would spot it and make the call. It was a case of an agent waiting for that golden enquiry.


Technology has moved on, occupiers no longer needed to drive or walk the streets as websites such as Rightmove, and Zoopla enabled desk-based research. Smartphones have moved things on yet further.

However, one thing that hasn’t changed is that once an agent lists their instruction in the places available to them they still, by and large, wait for an occupier to initiate contact. Once technology is stripped out, the process is basically the same as 30 years ago. Different methods, but the same thinking.

Knowing the market
At OBI we feel that it is time to bring the real estate industry into line with current buyers’ habits. In other industries, there’s more recognition that as customers, we research every purchase we make.

Ipad-blog-picWe all visit websites to read peer reviews, whether it’s the holiday we’re thinking of booking, the car we want to drive, the restaurants and bars we’re considering visiting.

Positive feedback then influences and underpins the decisions we make – the content we read, and increasingly the content we view is critical. And people are increasingly viewing content – over the last 12 months, the likes of Facebook, LADbible and Snapchat have moved the majority of their content to video. For Generation X and Generation Y, who are themselves influencers when occupiers are making property decisions, this is how the world operates.

In the Manchester office market we know the importance of the upcoming generations – tech businesses with not a grey hair among them account for 20% of the total annual take up. But if the young “digital natives” are so influential, why does the industry still feel it appropriate to take some photos of a building, put them on a standard website and cross their fingers?

The questions we are asking at OBI are: where is the engaging content? Where is the endorsement from an occupier who can tell his peers that “this is a place to locate to become more successful”? Some of the most successful bars and fashion brands have blossomed through social media’s “in the know” early adopters – it’s all about creating brand advocates. Imagine owning an asset like this where occupiers advertise the building for you!

Building our business for change
At OBI we know how to position buildings. Our approach looks nothing like the current industry norm. We have invested and expanded our in house marketing team – a central part of the business to us. Our investment has seen us recruit video specialists to ensure all of our content is ‘pushed out’ in exactly the right way. We work with digital marketing specialists. All this allows us to change how your asset will be marketed. It all becomes interactive, flexible and able to focus in on key messages – tenant endorsements, videos of fit out, onsite management explaining the offer and an OBI team member talking viewers through the building.

We’ve also invested in a research department. Whereas most firms’ departments tend to look back and report on what’s happened, which is useful for your quarterly asset management paper, that doesn’t lease space or improve the performance of your asset. Our research focus is forward-looking, designed to generate business. They make outbound calls, they build relationships. They understand that every business is different, so look to find out the key triggers of when that business makes its property decisions. We understand fully what occupiers want, and we’re able to advise our clients on how to structure transactions to make your assets attractive to them.

Over the next 12 months we’ll host regular events. The focus will be on occupier engagement – we’re very proud to be the North West’s most active acquiring agent for the last 5 years running. We continually work our client base and network – the more businesses we meet, the more intelligence we build. The more people engage with us and see the fantastic workspaces we’ve created to help businesses grow, the more the positive outcomes of relocation might begin to outweigh the reasons they see for staying put.

OBI are evolving in these are exciting times. We’re sure the changes we’re making will ensure that we continue to provide you with the highest levels of service. When you’re next passing, please call in and meet the new team. It will be a pleasure to see you.

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