FloorPop  - Interactive Marketing Best Practices for Homebuilders, March 1, 2006
Vol. 6, Issue 12: Copyright (C) 2006 Blair Kuhnen.  All rights reserved.

FloorPop FloorPop (Flr-pop) n. 1. The home buyer who visits a Builder's community and writes a contract for sale the same day. 2. The sound made by a salesperson clicking their heels high in the air and returning to the floor after a prospect signs a contract the day they first meet.

The Short Cut to Sniping Sales

Savvy builders are growing market share by capturing homebuyers earlier in the home buying process. By building a relationship earlier in the process, they are able to take potential buyers out of the market and ensure profitable returns.

Existing home sales are down for the 5th month in a row. http://www.builderonline.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=26&articleID=264469. Normally considered a leading indicator of new home sales, this appears to be the case today. New home sales were off in January despite record mild temperatures for most of the U.S. http://www.builderonline.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=26&articleID=264086. What can you do to prepare and thrive in what may be more challenging year?

Homebuilders have always been able to cushion slowdowns with incentives. Unfortunately, incentives are not a solution to a slowdown that could last for more than a month or two. What is needed is an approach to growing market share that yields long-term results that build over time.

Don't expect to turn your results around overnight, but if you start now, you will be well ahead of the pack. Being ahead of the pack, means weathering and even growing stronger during a mild downturn.

The Low Hanging Fruit

If you can improve your lead volume by 50% and put a process in place to effectively follow-up with your added lead volume, you are positioned for solid market share gains. Here's where I see the low hanging fruit for most builders:

  1. Improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). By spending a little effort and cash, you can significantly improve your search engine results. Do you have a search engine strategy and tracking in place? If not, now is a good time to start.
  2. Improve your distribution. National homebuilder portals (i.e., www.homebuilder.com, www.newhomesource.com) or local portals (e.g., www.hotonhomes.com, www.dallasnews.com) can be of great value when you effectively follow-up on the high quality leads they deliver.
  3. Improve your visitor to lead conversion. Are you practicing permission marketing? What can you give away in exchange for an email address? Think about your pre-sale efforts and put a process in place to reward those who may become advocates for your new communities. Consider other things that are easy to provide that will be of value to your target market. Be creative and test to see what works best for your company.

What to Do With All Those New Leads?

Now that you have all these leads, what are you going to do with them? You need people, process and tools to take these buyers out of the market and put them into your camp.

Let's start with the process. Read "Upgrade Your Online Selling." http://www.housingzone.com/toc-archive-pbg/2005/20050201.html and put a process in pace that makes sense for your company. If you are ready to take on a bigger challenge, put a process in place to handle your coming soon communities and drive all your leads toward a higher level of permission. Create a VIP program. Read "Permission Marketing Buzz is Building." http://www.housingzone.com/toc-archive-pbg/2005/20050802.html and then form a program and process for rolling out your new communities.

It starts with a person, the online sales counselor (OSC). Make one person responsible for all Internet and other lead (e.g., 800 number) follow-up. She is a salesperson with great customer service skills. For more on what to look for in your OSC, read "Net Assets: Effective Online Sales Counselors Can Turn Web Site Visitors into Customers" http://www.floorpop.com/net_assets.pdf. Put a process in place that encourages leads to form a relationship with your OSC and your company. When you do this, suddenly all those online distribution channels look very economical and effective.

Now that you have dedicated resource for your Internet leads, extending the program into an advanced permission marketing based VIP program is easy. You want permission to tell people about sales events, opportunities, and other things that will keep them interested and moving toward a home buying decision. The process can be straight forward. Read "Making Your Coming Soon Interest Lists Work" http://www.floorpop.com/Floorpop070704.html for ideas you can put to work on your advanced permission marketing program.

So, now you have leads, a person responsible, and a great process. But how is your OSC going to handle all those leads and for how long does she have to do this? According to the Harris Interactive / Homebuilder.com 2005 Survey of New Homes Construction, Home Buyers spend average of 80 days deciding on their purchase after they have contacted the home builder. 80 days? Your OSC needs tools. Tools that allow the OSC to track and keep in touch with leads over long periods of time. But, tools are not a substitute for human interaction. Well executed, tools augment the human interaction. Look at the tools that are out there for following up on leads, prospects, and buyers. I would be glad to show you the Focus Marketing System, http://www.realtyinfolinks.com anytime.

Tools are necessary because without them, even a good OSC will simply run out of time for the personalized attention that converts leads into buyers. Tools allow you to concentrate your human interaction. There is no substitute for a warm, caring professional willing to give real attention to home shoppers. Unfortunately, if your OSC is spending all their time sending stale follow-up messages one at a time, aggregating reporting, and trying to track down conversion numbers, they will have little time available for the personalized attention that drives results.

Blair Kuhnen is the publisher of FloorPop and can be reached at 817-658-7698 or via email at kuhnen@earthlink.net.

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