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Best of The Nationals 2021

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Sales + Marketing Award Winners

Best of The Nationals 2021

These standout entrants from NAHB’s 2021 National Sales and Marketing Awards (The Nationals) reflect the changing times, with campaigns that focus on new normals

By Caroline Broderick, Associate Editor February 4, 2021
Web campaign for Shea Homes' Solstice community
Shea Homes' Solstice community won a Nationals award for best email marketing / web banners / rich media advertising. Scroll down to read more about the winning campaign.
This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Pro Builder.


This extended version of the article that appeared in the February 2021 issue of Pro Builder features additional Nationals winners.

Register to attend the Nationals IBSx Virtual Awards Presentation on March 5 at thenationals.com to see and celebrate the winners, including the Best in 55+ Housing Awards, NAHB Honors, and the Global Innovation Home of the Year.


Best Social Media Campaign

empire communities home reimagined


Builder: Empire Communities
Creative: Sue MacKay, Empire Communities
Project Location: Ontario, Canada, and Texas

Empire Communities launched its Home Reimagined social media campaign to assist new buyers in finding homes that reflect their needs while inspiring the life they want to live.

To encourage engagement, the builder opted for an interactive and entertaining method: a quiz. Based on personality traits, values, and needs, the quiz matched customers with the features, designs, and layouts that best fit their lifestyles. Every quiz taker was also assigned a curated identity: Iron Chef, Future CEO, Comfort Lover, Family First, Holistic Homebody, or Humble Host. 

home builder marketing sales


The campaign included social media posts on Instagram and Twitter, as well as paid Facebook postings, for 12 weeks total, through Texas and Ontario, Canada, resulting in 30 million impressions, a couple thousand quiz takers, and 13,000 website visitors.

Best 30-to-60-Second Commercial


Builder: M/I Homes
Creative: Thomas Mines, M/I Homes
Project Location: Columbus, Ohio

M/I Homes’ 60-second commercial opens with the simple question, “What does home mean to you?” 

With uplifting background music, the spot presents a plethora of different wants and needs homebuyers seek in a home, such as safety, silliness, and peace. The goal: to evoke visceral feelings in the clip’s viewers as the voice-over expands on these different lifestyle goals.

Promoted through Facebook, Instagram, and a two-month targeted campaign on Hulu, the commercial garnered 1.4 million views in three months. M/I Homes tasked itself with relating personally to a broad audience in the 15 markets where it builds, meeting that challenge through diverse representation in the visuals and topics covered. 


Best Website For a Community

solstice community website marketing

Builder: Shea Homes
Creative: Cheryl Haflich, Shea Homes / Milesbrand
Project Location: Littleton, Colo.

To compete with the community’s nearest, and larger, competitor, Shea Homes launched a brand new website geared toward attracting first-time buyers, move-up families, and active adults.

community website sales marketing


The more intimate, smaller master planned community of Solstice offers residents 71 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Its close proximity to both a state park and a lake provides residents with more than 3,000 extra acres of outdoor space. Those amenities became the focal point for the website, with striking images of people kayaking, paddle boarding, and walking through nature.

From the site’s launch in January 2020 through October, Shea Homes received more than 175,000 site visits and nearly 2,000 requests for additional information. Of the 96 homesites released, all have been sold—not to mention the 250 interested buyers who are on a waiting list.


Best Website For a Builder

tilson homes builder website

Builder: Tilson Homes
Creative: Dawn Dantzler, Tilson Homes / ONeil Interactive
Project Location: Houston

Recognizing the confusion its potential buyers experienced with Tilson Homes’ “on your lot” concept, the builder’s new website sought to make the process easier for visitors to understand and, in turn, to help reduce unqualified requests sent to the sales team.

tilson builder nationals nahb

The redesigned website offers more than 50 floor plans for buyers to review, as well as information about the 150-plus counties Tilson serves. Prospective buyers are now able to see the estimated costs for each type of home in each county, resulting in prices for more than 8,000 combinations of floor plans and county locations. The site revamp brought in a 48% year-over-year session volume increase and 75% year-over-year organic traffic increase in the first nine months.


Best Email Marketing / Web Banners / Rich Media Advertising

email marketing campaign community

Builder: Shea Homes
Creative: Cheryl Haflich, Shea Homes / Milesbrand
Project Location: Littleton, Colo.

Shea Homes used a vibrant color palette of oranges, blues, and greens in its email marketing to grab and hold buyers’ attention, using a key selling point of the Solstice community—the intersecting High Line Canal and outdoor amenities—to develop its slogan, “Home Sweet High Line.”

 master planned community marketing

Email newsletters included labeled maps of the High Line Canal, while imagery presented all of the opportunities the area has to offer. To further differentiate the community from its nearby competitor, the builder chose to use haikus. “High Line Haikus from Solstice” also helped to set the tone for the community, and the marketing campaign has attracted the most sales traffic of any current Shea Homes’ community.


Best Digital Marketing Campaign 

delaware beach home builder


Builder: Schell Brothers
Creative: Alyssa Titus, Schell Brothers
Project Location: Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Once the pandemic hit, Schell Brothers decided to get back to basics, just as its customers have done. So the builder focused on two things that are top-of-mind for buyers at this time: family and home. In addition, Schell realized that more people working remotely could play to its advantage. 

schell brothers marketing


The digital marketing campaign for Delaware coastal living offered a range of ideas for a “new normal,” such as kayaking, golfing, and walks along the coast. Pairing whimsical fonts with dreamy visuals, the aim was to enable the target audience to envision a new life and its possibilities. The campaign reached 1.8 million impressions on Google Ads and 34,241 on social media alone.


Best Use of Technology

elevate condos marketing sales


Developer/Builder: Werner Leuschner Enterprises
Creative: Werner Leuschner Enterprises / Pureblink
Project Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

The middle of a pandemic is not the best time for opening sales for luxury condominiums, but 90% of the units in Elevate Condos have sold, with more than 200 virtual visits to the online sales center.

virtual tour elevate condos nationals


While in-person contact was difficult if not impossible, the company created a 3D, real-time touch-screen sales center app that includes a model of the entire project, available for viewing in either day or night mode, and virtual tours of the amenities, including the rooftop common area’s recreational facilities. 

Buyers could easily view every floor plan with up-to-date pricing and availability, along with renderings of both the interior and exterior of the building. Using such technology was also well suited to this locale, since Kitchener is one of Ontario’s tech hubs.


Best Lifestyle Program for a Community

pomona lifestyle calendar


Builder: Hillwood Communities
Creative: Diana Carroll, Hillwood Communities
Project Location: Manvel, Texas

Pomona’s diverse target audience includes a broad swath of ages from 30 to 65. To help this community connect, there are 300 to 400 events each year, from wine clubs and fitness classes to after-school activities. 

pomona community lifestyle activities


Not only does Pomona want community members to engage with one another, it wants to connect them with local businesses for a stronger sense of community. One pre-COVID event saw 1,500 people in attendance, with an additional 1,200 folks from outside Pomona, all while raising $10,000 for the parent-teacher organization. That event also resulted in 26 new-home sales. Hillwood Communities’ thinking is that happy homeowners sell homes, and Pomona enjoys making its homeowners happy. Events have continued through the pandemic as well, with several virtual offerings.


Best Virtual Sales Process/Experience

m/i homes virtual reality


Builder: M/I Homes
Creative: Jeannine Kranchick, M/I Homes
Project Location: Columbus, Ohio

An in-person tour of the home may be the most important part of the sales process, according to M/I Homes. When March rolled around and social distancing measures were enacted, the builder wanted an innovative way to virtually show potential buyers their future homes.

m/i homes virtual tours

With Matterport tours and plan elevations already available pre-pandemic, M/I Homes leveraged its existing materials for use through a virtual reality headset. The single-user headsets were advertised through social media ads, posts, YouTube advertisements, emails, and even direct mailings. 

Each headset included M/I Homes branding and only required a buyer’s smartphone and the cardboard and plastic headset provided by M/I Homes.
The builder has distributed more than 4,000 headsets since their introduction, playing a pivotal role in several new-home purchases. 


Best Virtual Special Event

home builder marketing virtual event


Developer: Carl M. Freeman Companies
Creative: Jeff Evans, Carl M. Freeman Companies
Project Location: Selbyville, Del.

Carl M. Freeman Com­panies wanted to provide its 1,200-home Bayside com­munity with a safe outdoor activity that would promote the community’s lifestyle, so it called its residents to action with a photo-based scavenger-hunt. All participants who found eight of the 10 checklist items received a swag bag and were entered to win a $150 gift certificate.

virtual sales event nahb nationals


Checklist items included simple tasks such as, “A picture of the chess set in the commons,” but the intent was to inspire residents to get out and explore their community. The campaign elicited hundreds of photographs, and residents continue to ask for a second round of the promotion. 


Lifestyle Director

nahb nationals lifestyle director


Builder: The Howard Hughes Corporation - The Woodland Hills
Nominee: Tammy Davis
Location: Cypress, Texas

Tammy Davis, lifestyle coordinator for The Woodlands Hills community, gets excited about the prospect of challenges. Despite social-gathering restrictions, Davis finds excitement in planning activities for the community, even virtual ones. She has created nearly 75 different activities for her growing community of 225 homes to look forward to, which includes a choice of virtual or socially distanced participation. 

From the comfort of their homes, residents have learned how to dance, cook tapas, and concoct the perfect mojito. To get residents outdoors, Davis organized scavenger hunts, chalk art activities, and backyard campouts. The lifestyle director has attempted to ensure there are activities for all types of residents, from story times for new parents and their children to on-demand fitness programs. And, due to her deep passion for the community, Davis is able to call upon the talents of the community's many residents to enrich activities even further.


Online Sales Counselor of the Year

online sales counselor nationals


Builder: Elite Homes
Nominee: Charla Ellenbrand
Location: Louisville, Ken.

Charla Ellenbrand’s past life as a prosecuting attorney gives her an unexpected leg up when it comes to her role as an online sales counselor, according to Elite Homes. While her bubbly personality and charisma are what win clients over, Ellenbrand's innate skill for paying attention to details is what really sets her apart from the rest.

Ellenbrand’s high appointment-to-sale ratio equates to 70% of the company’s sales, despite the barriers created by an outdated and difficult CRM system. Clearly, that system never held her back. In fact, she improvised a multistep approach to each of the system’s issues in order to continue meeting her goal of eight to 12 follow-up touch points during the first 30 days. In her first month on the job at Elite Homes, Ellenbrand completed six sales after sending out 66 personalized videos and attending 22 opens and 18 appointments.

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Written By
Associate Editor

Caroline is associate editor for Pro Builder and its sister publications Custom Builder and PRODUCTS. Most recently, she served as the editorial assistant for a weekly, hyperlocal newspaper serving Boston’s downtown neighborhoods where she wrote about luxury real estate, crime, and art. cbroderick@sgcmail.com

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