The most successful builders and developers often base that success on years of great face-to-face first impressions with buyers.
The most successful builders and developers often base that success on years of great face-to-face first impressions with buyers. For this reason, many in the industry have been reluctant to invest heavily in the Internet as a way to market their communities. Print and direct mail advertising is tried and true, while change is risky.
|The Ladera Ranch web site deliberately strikes a delicate balance between image and information to drive buyers to actually tour the community. Teaser pages above comprised the bulk of the site during the months leading up to the MPC’s July 31, 1999 opening.
But the marketers behind a recently-opened Orange County, Calif., master planned community have found that print advertising can drive web site traffic and translate to a wider and deeper "interest list" to further target with direct mail communications.
When Ladera Ranch opened to the public last July 31, approximately 22,000 shoppers toured its communities over the course of two days. By the end of October about 230 homes had been sold in its seven neighborhoods. The MPC, which has a seven year build out, has a lot of favorable characteristics: great location, an innovative land plan with 1500 acres of recreation space, and a strong emphasis on popular two-story floor plans ranging from affordable to luxury. But some of the credit for the great turnout can be linked to a creative marketing campaign that used traditional print advertising to drive prospective buyers to the MPC web site with the prominent headline - www.laderaranch.com.
"What we found is that you have to have the print advertising in order to generate traffic at the web site," says Ann-Marie Moiso, marketing manager for Rancho Mission Viejo, LLC, master planner and developer of Ladera Ranch.
Source: Rancho Mission Viejo LLC, 2000.
Profile Of www.laderaranch.com Registered Users
Starting the previous October and running up to the opening weekend, a total of 95,000 people had visited the Internet site and nearly 9000 had enough interest in what they learned on the web page to supply at least their name, street address and e-mail address, adds Moiso. Through their online registration, these people became part of an overall "interest list" for Ladera Ranch. The concept has recently been dubbed "permission marketing" where the registration is a tacit approval of marketing messages to come.
"hat we are asking with our direct mail and with our web site is to let us into their home," says Moiso.
After visitors to www.laderaranch.com register on the site, they are queued up to receive a series of 11 dynamically-generated e-mails about the community at intervals of 14 to 30 days.
This type of permission marketing is the norm in the world of retail, says Diane Gaynor, vice president of the public relations firm, Roni Hicks & Associates, that assisted in the Ladera Ranch media launch. Retailers, she says, were the first to discover the strong ties that can be developed with prospects through regular e-mail messages. "It is a real dialogue with the buyer," Gaynor notes.
The trick is to not provide so much information during the course of the conversation that buyers decide they do not actually need to see the location, says Moiso. Home buyers using the Internet want floor plans, fee information, tax rates, and builder information, but most of these details were held back initially on the web site, she says. Instead, users found teasers that explained the community benefits - recreation, open space and unique designs.
This approach dovetailed with a similar newspaper print campaign. After the web site headline, the typical newspaper advertisement for Ladera Ranch was text only."What if you did not need your garage door opener to find which home was yours... that would be distinctive, that will be Ladera Ranch," read one print ad.
|Ladera Ranch married its print advertising campaign and web marketing to collect information about potential home buyers.
Most of the more than 9000 registered users of www.laderaranch.com came to the site after reading these print ads, but Moiso and her outside web development firm were careful to also drive buyers from other real estate portals by purchasing online banner advertising. More importantly, they were also careful to work with the Internet’s major search engines to coordinate proper tagging of the Ladera Ranch site so that it would pop up quickly.
Called "meta tags," anyone looking for "Ladera Ranch" with exactly those words would find the site at the top of the search results page. The site is also easily found after searches using the phrases "wired community" and "Orange County communities."