When promoting downtown real estate, Joe Grunnet, a downtown broker, has never been short of ideas or enthusiasm.
He opened a coffee shop next to his Minneapolis office, the Downtown Resource Group, so that neighbors would have a better place to gather. Last year he sold online coupons for neighborhood tours aimed at helping people who might someday want to live downtown.
In February, he consulted with a Twin Cities-based start-up company, Traffik, which specializes in helping companies raise their online profile. Traffik's president, Luke Huebner, had an idea: Create a website aimed at capturing the attention of people searching the Web for information about downtown neighborhoods.
"We all live and work in this 'hood, but if we didn't, what would we want to know? What's the useful info?" Huebner asked.
The end result was the Ultimate Minneapolis Condo Guide (condoguide.drgmpls.com). The site was created by a team of writers, editors and designers who worked with Grunnet to build what looks like a site that's educational rather than promotional. And it doesn't require a login or password, eliminating the sense of pressure that consumers often feel when they have to register to view content.
Huebner's goal, he said, was to create a site with the kind of information, photos and graphics that would distinguish it from the plethora of others. The key was to create a site that doesn't blatantly focus on generating sales leads, but subtly promotes the DRG brand.
"It's a huge differentiating strategy," Grunnet said. "Every other real estate website is the same and they don't give the consumer what they want."
The first iteration of the site, which was launched last month, focuses on the North Loop — a neighborhood on the edge of downtown that includes the Warehouse District and a swath of condo and townhouse developments along the Mississippi River. The site includes profiles of every condo building in that area, including detailed information about the homeowners association, and descriptions of the building and some specific units.
When Brady Lundblad, for example, was recently looking for a place to live downtown, he used the website frequently to uncover his options and said it was superior to the several others that he'd perused.
"I live downtown and work here, and I still didn't know what was available," he said. "It took me six months to understand what was what, what was available, what buildings could work, what the price range is for location and square footage."
For those serious about shopping, the site also includes live links to Grunnet's website, which is populated with all active listings in the area. And to bolster the credibility of the site, there's a place where residents can offer feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of their building and neighborhood.
The team is working on building profiles of other downtown neighborhoods, including the Mill District and the Central Business District, which he expects to launch in the next 45 days or so.
It hasn't been cheap or easy. Grunnet said that a team of five, including his office, has been devoting several hours every day to creating and maintaining content.
But it's been worth it, he said. In just three weeks he's had an additional 1,014 likes on the Facebook page, where he's seen a tremendous increase in visits.
Michael Sharp, a sales agent with ReMax Results who specializes in the downtown condo market, said he commends Grunnet for his efforts to promote downtown living, but said that there's no question that the primary objective is promoting DRG. "I would have loved to have done this," Sharp said. "But it's all about him and them; they have their name all over it."
"All real estate websites aren't the same, and they don't give consumers the right, or real info," he added. "This content is king."