As builders vie for a piece of a shrinking pie, the old forms of marketing are less effective. Guerrilla marketing tactics — originally designed for small entrepreneurs with limited resources —are now being used by some of the largest firms.
Nearly 25 years ago, Jay Conrad Levinson  coined the term guerrilla marketing in his book  by the same name. He used the term to refer to a marketing strategy that uses unconventional and aggressive promotions that rely on energy and imagination more than ad dollars.
In competitive times, large home builders can lower their marketing costs by using guerrilla marketing tactics that differentiate them from their competition while showcasing their value to prospective customers.
Because originality is at the heart of any successful guerrilla marketing campaign, home builders should look beyond traditional forms of advertising for inspiration. Guerrilla marketing relies heavily on event planning, networking and free publicity. Some tactics from outside the industry:
- Virgin Atlantic  placed loaded egg cartons  on baggage carousels to show how carefully the airline handles its customers' luggage.
- Sonic  drive-in restaurants created magnetic cups that adhered to the trunk or roof of a car, making it appear as if the driver accidentally left it there when he or she got into the car. The marketing stunt created a lot of buzz and word-of-mouth advertising for the business.
These ideas won't work for home builders, but they illustrate the unorthodox approach you need to take to get noticed.
As a home builder, consider these suggestions:
- Conduct a "stop renting" seminar and recruit renters in the neighborhood of your next project. Conduct it weekly and educate buyers about the benefits and affordability of home ownership. While seemingly basic, this type of low-volume but high-reward strategy is exactly what your company needs to survive these tough times. This strategy is great for your first-time buyer product.
- For your higher-end empty nesters, team up with a local high-end restaurant that has the same target audience that you have. Sponsor a free wine tasting, complete with tapas and live music. Invite your existing happy customers from the community you are currently selling in or one nearby. Use the event to enable prospects to mingle with existing home buyers making attendees aware of a new housing development underway. In this guerilla strategy you become the non-imposing host, while your existing homeowners do the work for you. As the host you should focus on building key relationships and ensuring the prospective home buyers have a great evening.
There are few rules when it comes to guerrilla marketing; a good guide is to never do anything that could cause property damage or incite public fear.
In the end, successful guerrilla-marketing campaigns are about quality, not quantity. They're about being relevant to your audience and having impeccable timing. For home builders working with bare-bone staffs, reduced advertising budgets and fierce competition, the time for guerrilla marketing is now.
|Paul Cardis  is CEO of Avid Ratings Co., a research and consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction for the home-building industry. He can be reached at [email protected] .|