FloorPop - Interactive Marketing Best Practices, September 1, 2004
Vol. 4, Issue 6: Copyright (C) 2004 Blair Kuhnen. All rights reserved.
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Builders are dealing with tremendous increases in lead volume. Strong markets, more effective portals, better websites, more opportunities to ask for permission, and savvy marketing have all contributed to this increase in lead volume. If you are not getting enough lead volume, there are plenty of ways you can easily improve your results. First, look at your own website. It should be your primary driver of lead volume. If it's not, you need to find out why. These are not only your best Internet leads, but you also have the most upside here. Also, consider your online advertising and distribution options. I asked Rob Cohen, President & CEO of BeHomeWise what advice he would give to those of you looking to increase their lead volume. He said "My best advice would be to develop a comprehensive Internet strategy leveraging a number of Internet portals with an eye towards identifying what works best for them." Simply put, you need to be where the home shoppers are.
More people use the Web for information about new homes than any other source. Leads and sales related to those sales are up. However, not every builder performs at the same level. I asked Beau Ingman, CEO BuildTopia, how his clients (those using BT Sales) compared in terms of lead generation and sales conversion. Were similar sized builders in similar markets performing at the same level? According to Ingman, "Some builders get zero value [from the Internet] and for others it is their primary marketing channel." Cohen echoed this observation, "We have builders who have next to none [leads] and others who are overwhelmed." So, what drives this difference? "It all comes down to attention and focus. Builders who have taken the time to understand and measure this channel, those are the ones that see the benefit," said Ingman.
If you want to be kept on a home shopper's short list, you need to have an adequate website and solid content, but the key to turning your website visitors into sales is to turn your Internet marketing efforts into a system.
What is a marketing system? The key to turning your Internet marketing efforts into a marketing system is straight forward. The goal is to generate more visitor traffic, turn more visitors into leads, and have technology and processes in place to turn leads into sales. You need to be thinking about the entire process from the time a consumer first visits your website until the time they decide to buy from you a second time.
Let us highlight four things we believe you need to transition your interactive marketing efforts into an effective marketing system. You must:
Good websites don't stand alone. They are integrated upstream (your advertising) and downstream (your sales and marketing process). This means connecting your website to distribution networks, search engines, and your offline advertising. It also means that what you learn from your website about your leads, needs to be integrated into your lead management and follow up systems. Start by putting systems in place to aggregate all your leads into a central repository. Once you have done this, you can begin the processing of communicating from one storehouse of leads.
Most good websites have auto-response capabilities. And these are good for setting consumer expectations (e.g., "Thanks, Jane will be getting back to shortly. A brochure is in the mail"). However, with the right technology, your automated responses can become personal, freeing your salespeople up to focus on what they do best, close sales. As you develop your business rules and a methodology for handling leads, your personalization will begin to payoff. Your messages can start to speak directly to the consumer reflecting what consumers looked at on your website. One company trying to address this opportunity is RealtyInfolinks, the interactive marketing arm of Crozier & Henderson Productions. They have developed a lead follow-up system they call FOCUS. Clint Henderson, President of RealtyInfolinks believes "You must develop a methodology for treating people differently based on what they are doing on your website."
Your system today may be as simple as routing leads based on communities of interest. As you learn more about your leads, you can get more sophisticated in your responses and campaigns. One rule we always insist upon is to give special treatment to leads who offer their phone numbers. You may have an online sales counselor to follow-up immediately with these leads and then use automated systems for further follow-up. Once you define your methodology, you can use systems to automatically qualify your leads for campaigns.
Start by defining everything you know about your leads and then flowchart your method for handling the leads. For example, a lead may come in from www.homebuilder.com asking about a specific community, providing a phone number, and is relocating, then give them message #22 immediately, do "X" within 24 hours, and send message #34 on day 7 if you still have no response. It will seem daunting at first, but soon it will flow and you will have defined a method for responding to each and every lead individually.
Technology by itself does not make a marketing system. When you put an effective process in place with technology that supports your processing of leads, prospects, and referrals, you have rounded out your marketing system. Once you have defined your methodology, automation can help you handle your growing lead volume. There are lots of tools out there to handle leads and automate your follow-up. Your system will be able to classify leads so that an individualized set of responses can be sent. Ideally, this is done without human intervention to classify every lead. When you are in a hot market and your resources are tight, you need to find a way to minimize the number of leads that need significant human qualification.
With the right tools you can manage communications with thousands of individuals and begin treating them as individuals based on their preferences. You might want to start pushing content to individuals based upon their preferences. One of my favorite examples of this is Centex's Realtor Newsletter. Realtors sign up to receive inventory information and Centex sends the inventory information on a regular schedule along with Realtor incentives, consumer incentive, new communities, grand opening information, closeouts, and new products.
No marketing system is complete without solid measurement. It is your measurements that will allow you to hone your system into a uniquely effective system. It begins with measuring every campaign and looking at your responses. By making these measurements you can quickly adjust to develop more effective communications. At a minimum, you need to measure visitors, responses, leads, physical traffic, and sales. Without good measures, you wont be able to see what is working.
You can't expect every campaign to be a homerun. As Henderson put it, "Some things are going to work and others are not. The exciting thing about Internet marketing is that they [campaigns] can be changed on the fly."
If you would like to learn more about implementing an interactive marketing system that gets results at your company, give us a call at 866-923-4026. We would be glad to take a look at what you are doing now and provide you with a few simple recommendations. Just like this newsletter, "No risk, no obligation, nothing to buy."
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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. email@example.com.
Rob Cohen, President & CEO of BeHomeWise can be reached at 703-734-2224. Beau Ingman, CEO of BuildTopia can be reached at 866-209-3724. Clint Henderson of Crozier & Henderson can be reached at 817-658-7698. Blair Kuhnen is President of Lux Solutions, an independent consultancy serving the homebuilding industry by building sales and marketing solutions. He can be reached at 866-923-4026.