Getting the Message Out

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With buyers still relatively scarce, home builders have to be shrewder than ever with their sales and marketing strategies

Pavilion Park bike stand

Photo: Damian Tsutsumida and David Lauer

At Pavilion Park, in Irvine, Calif., each homeowner receives a branded cruising bicycle at closing, to promote use of the trails throughout the neighborhood.

January 30, 2015

With buyers still relatively scarce, home builders have to be shrewder than ever with their sales and marketing strategies in order to be competitive. If “build it, and they will come” was ever true, it certainly is not now. You have to be out there, making a splash wherever potential buyers are, to have even a chance of capturing their attention. Campaigns launched by some of the winners of this year’s NAHB National Sales & Marketing Awards—many of which involved projects that were mothballed during the recession and are now being brought back to life—offer quite a few pointers on how to get noticed. 

Preparation for the grand opening in September 2013 of the 726-unit community Pavilion Park, the first of eight Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine, Calif., was an enormous undertaking. Earlier plans for the project, part of the redevelopment of the El Toro Air Station, were shelved because of the downturn. The purchase of the base by Lennar was big news in 2005. Now, the marketing team faced the challenge of starting anew.

Their strategy was one that could be called “be everywhere, do everything.” The campaign had to be broad-based and appeal to a diverse audience. So it was delivered through nearly every medium available: print publications, social media, signage, mobile devices, Pandora radio, and Hulu video. The messaging coalesced around an iconic image of an orange bicycle, and the resulting images and copy easily conveyed the community’s features and benefits: parks, healthy living, family life, and fun.

And—the true measure of any marketing campaign—it worked. The grand opening event logged 28,000 visitors and as of January 2015, the community is 93 percent sold.

Of course, not every project is this big and not everyone can afford a big budget for marketing. But large or small, the basics are the same: You must determine who your project is for and what appeals to them, then deliver it to them where they will see it, hear it, or hear about it.

The most effective ways to accomplish that goal, and by far the biggest bang for your buck, are in electronic media. We’ve all heard how many shoppers go online to search for homes; why wouldn’t that be where you put most of your emphasis? A stellar website is a necessity, but you must also find ways to get shoppers there.

That’s where social media comes in. Think about your target market and then consider this: Facebook is becoming the social networking tool of choice for older women. In the past three years, Facebook added 16.4 million new 35 to 54-year-old users and 12.4 million new users over the age of 55, most of them women.

Not selling to Gen X and Boomers? If you want to reach Millennials, YouTube is the place to be. According to Nielsen, nearly half of this age group watched videos on YouTube between December 2013 and February 2014, rating it as the best place to view content, higher even than ESPN. That’s a pretty big marketplace.

Take a look around and see what other builders are doing. If you’re not getting the kind of traffic you want, it’s probably time to try something different. PB

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Denise Dersin, Editorial Director
ddersin@sgcmail.com
 

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