FloorPop  - Interactive Marketing Best Practices for Homebuilders, April 5, 2006
Vol. 7, Issue 1: Copyright (C) 2006 Blair Kuhnen.  All rights reserved.

FloorPop FloorPop (Flôr-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.

6 Homebuilder Marketing Myths

This month I share with you 6 myths I regularly hear that might be harming your marketing results. Please let me know what you think at kuhnen@earthlink.net

Myth #1 Benchmarking

"If we benchmark and adopt the best ideas we find across the industry, we will generate solid marketing results."

I believe in benchmarking. It works. However, it is no guarantee of success. In fact, it is prescription for mediocre returns from your website and other marketing efforts. Just because a promotion, call-to-action, direct response piece, or web form seems to work for Pulte or Horton, does not mean it will work for you. You have to test, tweak, and re-test. The good news is that it is fairly easy to test if you plan for it. Your "knock-off" may even outperform the inspiration. I recently had an under performing e-Brochure request form on a website of a client. It was nearly identical to one that had proved effective for a national builder. We made some assumptions about how to improve it, tested it, and the conversion rate on the form nearly doubled. No new development, no heavy lifting. We just made a few small changes and did a little testing. If you make testing part of your process, you will see improved marketing results in quick order.

Myth #2 Measuring Sources of Traffic

"There is no sufficiently accurate way to measure sources of physical traffic and sales."

In the words of the traveling gnome, pish-posh. Let me share with you two secrets to improving the reliability of your measured sources of traffic. First, is a sales training trick from S. Robert August: Train your salespeople to build a rapport before asking "So what led you to visit us today?" Make this one small change and watch your "drive by" percentage drop dramatically. Second, and much better, consider adding a marketing survey at the time of the purchase agreement. In the survey add these two questions: (1) "Which marketing sources did you use or remember looking at as part of your new home search?" and (2) "Of the sources you used or remember, which influenced you the most to make your first visit to your new neighborhood?" The beauty of this option is that it is only asked of your very best traffic, Buyers. You might ask, "Would you mind helping me by answering our marketing survey while I make you an extra copy of the contract? It will help us bring attract the right neighbors to your new neighborhood." Expect 80-90% of home buyers to help. With your new data you will be embolden to make smarter marketing investments.

Myth #3 Working with Builder Portals

"We are a small builder. We can't afford to be on both homebuilder.com and newhomesource.com."

Let's compare the Internet to your traditional neighborhood traffic drivers (print and signage). Ramping up your Internet traffic is your most cost effective means of driving quality traffic. If you take your Internet related costs and divided by your Internet related sales or traffic (assuming you now have more accurate values through #2). Now do the same for your other media sources. Compare media sources to find the bang for the buck. Consider also that home shoppers do not generally use multiple new home builder portals. Meredith Oliver of Meredith Communications likened the decision of using multiple portals to billboards, "We do not say that we need just one sign at the corner of Main and Apple Street. We put them on Main, Apple, and Walnut…." If there were two affordable newspapers in your market, would you want to be in both? Leverage your lower cost options for driving traffic and watch your marketing cost per sale go down.

Myth #4 It's Only About Leads

"The purpose of my website and builder portals is to generate leads."

Leads are important, but physical traffic is more important. Don't think of your website or homebuilder.com as just a lead generator. The Internet is a great direct response vehicle, but that direct response may not be a request form. In fact, only about 20% of your Internet driven physical traffic will ever request information from you or a third party. They simply show up at your model. So, make it easy for those shoppers to follow your driving directions and provide drive maps on your website. A good rule of thumb: A relocating home shopper unfamiliar with your city should be able to find your neighborhood by using the written directions alone. Put up good direct response options and good driving directions and watch your physical traffic take off.

Myth #5 They Don't Want Me to Call

"Home Shoppers who contact you via the Internet want to be contacted that way."

While there may be "Internet people," more than 80% of home shoppers use the Internet as part of their new home search. On most web forms, a phone number is optional (as it generally should be). If someone comes to your website, is interested enough to fill out your contact form, and freely gives you their telephone number, it is an invitation to call. Your goal it to turn a lead into physical traffic, the best way to do this is by opening a dialogue. Email is rarely the best method for carrying on a conversation. If someone is truly in the market for a new home, they will rarely be offended by you returning their invitation. I think Oliver said in well in a recent telephone conversation "A phone number is as permission marketing as it gets." Go to the phones and your lead conversions will quickly improve.

Myth #6 I Can Spot a Good Lead

"You can differentiate leads and rank them automatically to identify high value opportunities."

Been there, tried that, it's not reliable. When home shoppers first contact you, they are not always as open as we would like them to be. They may be moving in X months, in an appropriate price range, and may give other clues, but until you try to contact them, you will not really know which leads are hot. The speed of a quality response is your differentiator. Some third party leads may be less qualified than others and routinely ignored. It does not mean they are not going to buy a new home, just that they aren't buying it from you. So, what do you do if you have too many leads to treat them all as good leads? If you have to triage your leads, I recommend this:

  • Respond via email and a call to those with comments first.
  • Respond to those who offer a phone number with both an email and a call next.
  • Then, let your system handle the non-phone leads without comments. If you track activity on your website for leads, use this information to send more personalized information to your own website leads.

Blair Kuhnen is the publisher of FloorPop and can be reached at 817-658-7698 or via email at kuhnen@earthlink.net. Meredith Oliver owns Meredith Communications, a sales training and marketing consulting firm located in Orlando, FL. She can be reached at 321-285-1660 or at http://www.creatingwow.com/

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