Warren Buffet often says the time to buy stocks is when everyone else is selling, thereby taking advantage of the vacuum left by those who fail to see the hidden opportunities to make a killing. That axiom is true for home builders as well. In the constant quest to increase sales revenue while reducing costs, it is easy to be seduced into complacency by good market conditions. I have seen it happen over and over again during the past four decades and through four significant economic downturns.
The ability to find opportunities others ignore comes from developing a mindset and a culture that foster a constant and intense focus on improving the fundamentals of your business. This competency comes from not allowing yourself to be seduced and distracted by anything offered as an easy panacea. These pitches include but are not limited to presentations that tout “the new rules,” “secrets for success,” or “the one thing you need to do.”
To help you stay on track for a breakout year, my 2014 articles will be serious about staying focused on the fundamentals by presenting strategies, processes, and systems that have proven to be timeless and effective in all market conditions. Select home builders, salespeople, sales and marketing managers, and Realtors—all currently and actively involved on a daily basis in producing profitable new-home sales—will co-author and explain the what and how, and the results that they achieve by implementing these break-ahead strategies.
Through analysis and examples, we will help insulate you against being distracted by “experts” whose biographies and track records demonstrate very little or no real-world, hands-on, practical industry experience in actually creating provable and profitable sales revenue.
We kick off 2014 by debunking the myths of social media and Internet marketing. Kristi McArthur Allen, sales director for Salt Lake City builder McArthur Homes, is our expert. Why? For openers, she is a highly experienced and successful new-home sales professional who developed, implemented, and measured a process to use the Internet and social media to make sales, not just friends. In addition to her responsibilities to lead, coach, motivate, and manage the entire sales operation, Kristi is in charge of all of McArthur Homes’ online marketing efforts, which currently account for more than half of its sales revenue. Proof positive that when something becomes personal, it becomes important.
Kristi says that it is very easy to get distracted by the glamour and fun of social media and the confusing messages from “experts” who declare that social media’s purpose is increasing brand awareness, keeping customers satisfied, and improving search-engine optimization. Their promised results are fantastic and extremely vague. Kristi offers the following:
Social sales media
To be successful, we must be more specific about our goals. Stephen Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” said, “Begin with the end in mind.” What is our end goal as home builders? Is it to increase brand awareness? Is it making people feel warm and fuzzy about our company? Is it to be popular and have lots of friends and followers? Not in my world. Banks will not accept a list of followers and friends in lieu of money. It’s clear that banks are not social, warm, or fuzzy. Our goal must be to sell homes.
We began by assessing where we were and setting expectations as to where we had to be. In 2011, our online efforts produced 10 percent of all sales. Not acceptable. In 2013, that number jumped to 52 percent. As an on-site salesperson, I was taught that selling is a contact sport. Pretty simple. The more contacts I make with people who visit our website and provide me with contact information, the more appointments to visit one of our sales centers are confirmed. The more appointments that actually show up, the more sales we make. Extremely fundamental. Of the more than 800 online leads in 2013 that provided contact information, 39 percent kept an appointment to tour one of our model homes.
The following are my top-10 tips for debunking the social media myths and measurably increasing sales through your online efforts:
1. DO gain good fans and followers by asking prospects to like you when they visit the model home.
2. DON’T use marketing sites or gimmicky giveaways to gain thousands of insincere fans. Sure, you might gain a thousand new fans by spending a few hundred dollars, but now you have a thousand people following you just to get free stuff. These new fans may or may not be from or interested in the area where you build. They may or may not fit the profile of your target buyer, so don’t waste your time or money. People who foster these activities probably have never been responsible or accountable for generating a provable ROI. I was taught to always ask myself this question: Would I do this and spend the money if it were my own?
3. DO use homeowner involvement and offer well-planned contests for your homeowners, encouraging them to get their friends to like you. Friends and family of current homeowners make great prospects.
4. DON’T create contests or incentives that violate rules for the social-media platform you are using. Many builders fail to follow these guidelines and risk having their entire website shut down.
5. DO keep in mind that sharing online content from your company is good, but getting others to share that content is much more valuable. Our most successful campaigns include photos of buyers’ homes under construction. Who doesn’t love sharing photos of their beautiful new home?
6. DON’T post “Buy a home from XYZ Builders!” or “10 Percent Discount on Homes Today! Buy Now!” No one wants to read your sales pitches on a social media site.
7. DO entice social media prospects to your website with good content. Catch their interest with a beautiful photo or an intriguing headline and then link to an article on your blog, to a neighborhood, or floor plan that you mentioned.
8. DON’T be shy about asking prospects for their contact information once they move from social-media sites to your website. We want to motivate, entice, encourage, or tactfully provoke when appropriate as many people as possible from our website to our model homes. Remember, selling is a contact sport. Capturing contact information is a crucial step in this process.
9. DO ask for contact information in several different places and on each page of your website. Besides the typical “Request Info” button, use calls-to-action such as “Find Out How Much Home You Can Afford.” Test different types of contact request forms to discover which ones are most effective in capturing lead information.
10. DON’T work hard at gaining new leads and then fail to follow up. Have a solid follow-up and sales system in place in order to convert as many prospects as possible to a sale.
Don’t forget that the goal of using social media and online marketing is to measurably increase sales. If you aren’t tracking your prospects through each step, you won’t know if your efforts are resulting in new sales. Using Google Analytics, an affordable customer-relationship management software, and a simple spreadsheet, you can track the following:
How many people visit your website?
Where they are coming from?
How many give you contact information?
What percentage of prospects was contacted in a timely manner?
How many resulted in appointments and which of those led to sales?
You’ll know which posts are moving prospects to your site and yielding the highest percentage of contact information.
To read more about Kristi’s implementation process and receive an example of the tracking spreadsheet, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
. You also can see Kristi Allen discuss her online marketing tactics in “Secrets of the Internet Marketing All-Stars” at the 2014 International Builders’ Show, Feb. 4th in Las Vegas. Bob Schultz also will present a variety of ideas and tactics at three IBS programs. For a specific schedule go to www.newhomespecialist.com
Bob Schultz is president and CEO of Bob Schultz & The New Home Sales Specialists, a management consulting and sales firm based in Boca Raton, Fla. Schultz is the author of two best-selling books, “The Official Handbook for New Home Salespeople” and “Smart Selling Techniques,” and was named a Legend of Residential Marketing by the NAHB. He can be reached at email@example.com.