FloorPop  - Internet Marketing that Works, March 3, 2004

Vol. 3, Issue 12

Copyright (C) 2004 Blair Kuhnen.  All rights reserved.

Changing the Marketing Coming Soon Communities

This month, we begin a 6 part series of articles. In these articles we will explore how marketing coming soon communities is changing. The series focuses on leveraging alternative media, new technology, and research tools to improve your marketing and sales performance.

For many builders marketing new homes is a product-driven exercise. They buy land, build product to model, promote communities through newspaper and/or directional signage, and then sell based on the model.

A number of market changes are leading some forward looking builders to consider alternatives to traditional media. Some of these changes include: the increase in number of in-fill projects, the high cost of land, higher cost of media, media shift toward the Internet, and tighter management of phase releases. Each of these changes has implications for marketing new homes.

At the same time, consumers are changing. They are shopping differently. The Media Audit reports that newspaper readership has declined from 60.7% in 1997 to 49% today. Reaching your target is becoming more difficult.

Layer Your Marketing to Improve Results

Layering your media and using alternative media can help you reach your prospects more directly. Using a combination of media, you can increase your reach and your frequency. You increase your qualified traffic, but it takes planning.

Up-front, when you are putting together your marketing budgets is when you need to do this planning. You may spend more on marketing up-front, but your payoff is higher initial sales velocity and sustained demand. As a side benefit, your efforts will likely stay under the radar screen of your competitors.

A Layered Approach

About a year ago, Taylor Woodrow, a major North American homebuilder, acquired a land position in Colma, California. Colma is in the South San Francisco area, but it is not what most homebuilders would consider +A land. Colma is the burying ground for San Francisco. Shortly after the great San Francisco earthquake nearly all the cemeteries in San Francisco were moved. They were moved to Colma. I'm told Woodrow's development increased the living population of Colma by more than 10%. Further, the land was adjacent to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) rail and bordered blue collar business enterprises.

Taylor Woodrow spent much time defining their target audience and weighing their marketing options for their new development called Verano. They wanted to reach sophisticated urban buyers who might be considering lofts in the city. The challenge was to gain sufficient reach and frequency that would drive interest. They were confident that if they could get prospects to see Verano, they would become buyers. Which media could target most effectively their audience and what were the relative costs? They had to have a way to cut through the clutter to reach these sophisticated urban buyers.

In addition to on-site signage, they had several media types in their mix, including: targeted outdoor advertising on the BART and bus shelters, select magazines, direct mail, radio, and San Francisco Chronicle inserts. With strong and focused imagery, they tried to grab the attention of their likely buyers. As Toni Leance, Marketing Director for Northern California, put it "You have to cut through the clutter." All this off-line media pointed prospects to a website developed for Verano (http://www.visitverano.com). Here they educated and informed their buyers. The site became their primary means of beginning a dialogue with their prospective buyers.

While Verano had its marketing and operational challenges, Taylor Woodrow was able to quickly generate more than 300 high-quality prospects on their Interest list before opening and sold all but 3 of their homes in their initial release to those who registered at the website. While they had front-loaded their marketing investment, they were able to shut off the marketing through close-out by continuing to work their website interest list.

The Key to the Approach

The key to this approach is to fully understand your target audience. With this knowledge, a layered media approach can increases your points of contact with the buyers and your overall reach. We are not talking simply about leveraging the Web, but a combination of media that may include:

What's the right mix? Every community will be different, but with careful planning up-front, builders can drive qualified traffic more efficiently.

According to Leance "This approach works better for two reasons: First, you are reaching the non-newspaper reader. Second, it increases your overall reach and frequency."

What to Do

The goal is to drive qualified and informed prospects to your community. "If you can reach your prospects more directly by cutting through the clutter, and sending the right message to your targeted audience, you are going to see an increase in qualified traffic." Said, Leance.

Recent Popular Internet Marketing Articles for Builders

- Net Assets - Effective Online Sales Counselors (pdf 140k)
- Benchmarking and Sharing Best Practices to Improve Performance
- Managing "Coming Soon" Interest Lists Online
- 9 Ways to Drive Internet Leads and Sales
- The User-Centered Web Site (pdf 127k)
- Drive Leads with Permission Marketing

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FloorPop is published on the first Wednesday of each month. We welcome your comments, thoughts, and questions. Please send write or call anytime. blair@luxsolutions.com.

Blair Kuhnen is President of Lux Solutions, an independent consultancy serving the homebuilding industry by building sales and marketing solutions. He can be reached in Fort Worth, Texas at 866-923-4026 (toll free 866-923-4026) or via e-mail at blair@luxsolutions.com