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Why your building should tell a story

Marketing advice is rarely so singularly unhelpful as when it speaks in aspirational vagaries. In the property management world, “your building has to tell a story” is a common refrain. The thing is, this is actually good advice that is just packaged in an almost deliberately confusing way.

Let’s unpack it.


How can a building tell a story?

We aren’t talking Romeo & Juliet. The story that a building should tell is more like an elevator pitch. It should answer questions like, “what are the key advantages of the space?” or “what businesses is the building tailored to serve?” or even “what sort of employees would be happy working here?”

Having a strong story for your building can help prospective tenants to put the amenities and location of a building in context. This goes a long way toward helping themselves to imagine their business in the space and picture the relationship that they would have with the building. It may also help units in the building to command a higher price if prospective tenants place a premium on the features being highlighted.

For example, a building that is LEED-certified may appeal to tenants who understand the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system and place a value on it, but many will simply pass it by. However, by giving feature placement in your building’s marketing materials to several of the elements that are involved in LEED-certification and possibly making a few other small changes, a building can be marketed as a “green space.” Most renters have no problem understanding the merits of a green space and those that place a premium on these features may be willing to pay a premium for them.

The story that your building tells should be specific to its advantages and features, and as such, there are almost infinite stories a building could tell. Here are a few common stories that you may want to consider.


Family Friendliness

Buildings that cater to large, established companies or especially to family-oriented companies may find success in focusing on family friendliness. Adjacency to schools, community centers, or day-cares may be a particular selling point. In some cases, it may even be worth cutting a deal to attract a day-care tenant for the benefit that other tenants will see from in-building care.

Buildings that are focusing on family friendliness may also find it useful to highlight nearby features like parks and playgrounds, family restaurants, movie theaters, and libraries. Some property managers have added changing tables to bathrooms and private areas for breastfeeding in order to further bolster their family friendly image.


Healthy Living

Another attractive story is a focus on health and wellness. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 16 percent of employees would forgo a modest pay rise for an office gym, and a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine found that employees who got 30 to 60 minutes of exercise at lunch saw a 15 percent productivity boost.

This is another area where proximity to local parks or trails may be a powerful selling point. Even better is the inclusion of an onsite fitness center and showers. A fitness center may slightly increase a building’s insurance, depending upon the equipment that it is stocked with, but for the right tenants, it adds considerable value.

Even without a fitness center, the inclusion of showers may be worthwhile in areas that are amenable to biking and jogging. Adding bicycle storage as well helps to complete the story at very little cost. Highlighting nearby or in-building restaurants that serve healthy food, investments in interior air quality, or other health-oriented amenities is also probably worthwhile.


Startup Focused

As we wrote in a previous article, there are a number of amenities that are useful for attracting millennial dominated companies. Top of the list is high-speed internet access. Offering wi-fi in the lobby along with comfortable seating - or better yet, a coffee shop - might help to further polish a building’s startup-friendly image.

Other amenities that may help in attracting startups include things like proximity to trendy bars and restaurants, a location in the heart of an urban center, or the option to rent an attractive, furnished space. Flexible lease terms may also be useful in attracting startups because of their less-certain futures. There is, of course, some level of risk that comes with offering a flexible lease, and this should be considered ahead of time.

Startups often also appreciate proximity to each other, so attracting one may help property managers to attract more. In this respect, committing to the building’s story may be especially valuable.



For modern offices, sustainability is quickly becoming a virtual necessity. In 2011, about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies published sustainability reports. That number jumped to 81 percent by 2015. For many companies, office space makes up a substantial portion of their carbon footprint, meaning that sustainability is often top of mind during the rental process. The lower utility bills that come with green spaces may also be attractive to prospective tenants.

First and foremost for telling the sustainability story is efficiency certification. LEED and Energy Star are the most common and well-respected certifications in the U.S., although both require a significant commitment from buildings that have not yet undergone the process.

Support for alternative transportation options is a great option for conveying a building’s commitment to energy efficiency in a way that is tangible for tenants. This includes things like bicycle storage, car-sharing programs, and easy access to public transportation. Recycling and composting programs are also tangible benefits that will help tenants to feel engaged.


Niche Focused

In some cases, it may be helpful to target a specific type of commercial tenant. Shaping a building’s story around these tenants’ industry helps to signal that their needs will be catered to. This level of convenience presents a strong pull for some high-level tenants.

To tell this kind of building story, it’s important that property managers have a strong sense of the needs that their target industry has. For example, a building team targeting tech-heavy business tenants that run servers should be able to provide high-capacity electricity and powerful HVAC. A high-speed internet trunk line may also be important. A team targeting medical office tenants should advertise that it is open 24/7, that parking areas are well lit at night, and that a functional security team in on staff.

Proximity to certain businesses or areas may also be important. Law firms may be attracted by proximity to courthouses. Political organizations may prefer to rent space near government buildings. In these cases, a building may already be serving a particular niche, and by further catering to that niche, property managers can increase rents or improve rental rates.

Spend some time considering the natural advantages that your building already has, the ways in which you can compliment them with added features, and how best to promote your story to the correct tenants. While it is sometimes challenging to identify the best story for your building, it can be a valuable method for increasing its profile in a crowded field.