The message on this billboard is not a new one in any industry. It attempts to gain awareness by saying your product is the most affordable and deserves consideration. Let me start off by saying that it is a legitimate strategy – IF you are dedicated to it no matter the cost (pun not intended – but I’ll take it). Once you lead with low price it is more likely that your business will no longer be in business than to later successfully change that strategy.
There is always someone hungrier and less risk averse than your company who will offer something cheaper. I once had someone tell me, “Yeah, but no one will trust those cheaper guys. Look at the Chinese drywall scandal – you get what you pay for.” He didn’t see the irony in his own statement, but that is your prospects mindset too.
What about resale? What about foreclosures? Might they offer a cheaper price per square foot? If they do, then the sales person will have to backtrack and explain why value – not price – is what they really need to be thinking about. While I’m thinking about it – do people really purchase by square feet? As they walk through your model home can you see their lips move as they silently count off their steps? When I showed a photo of this billboard to a friend of mine he asked “Is he a home builder or a shoe cobbler?”
Sure – everyone starts out with a desired threshold number. 2,000 square feet for example. It’s a nice round number… why not? The reality is that it is just like a mortgage amount to them. Ask someone how they came up with their square footage threshold and they’ll tell you the same way they came up with their mortgage limit. “I don’t really know – it is what we’re comfortable with.” Let me suggest that when a prospect brings up price per square foot to you that you should only internalize it as this – they have been to a low price competitor already. They are only asking you to defend your value (not your price!). Remember that they are in front of you because they love your home (or else they would have just bought what was cheapest).
So that this post doesn’t go on forever let me list three quick downsides to this message in terms of buyer psychology:
1. Which Side of the Brain Are You On?
Focusing on price takes people to the analytical left-brain and away from their emotional right brain. You are trying to prime the sales pump – but you are more likely to stall out the engine. We all feel long before we think. A recent IPA database study of hundreds of advertising campaigns found that emotionally oriented ads generated twice as much profitability as hard-sell ones.
2. You Get What You…
Price and quality are linked incredibly close during the initial exploration and information gathering part of shopping. Everyone wants the highest quality – however they are not sure they can afford it (or if it would be wise even if they could). However in the United States today there are more people who will rule out the cheapest right from the beginning than will rule out the most expensive. Stories of recalls, safety notices, and worse have all caused the consumer – especially the female consumer – to look for safety in quality. Those who keep the lowest price in their consideration set will be more skeptical and potentially harder to convert. They will keep the more expensive options open longer when searching for a home because it is what they aspire to, and are hopeful they can find a way to make it affordable.
This brings up an interesting side topic of surprise. Let’s say your company was committed to being affordable, but you didn’t lead with it. Instead you started with how beautiful your homes are, national quality awards that you have won, and an innovative home design process that is fun and pain free? After all that, then you proved that you were also extremely affordable. How would your prospects be likely to react? Never discount the emotions of surprise and delight. Timing matters – a lot.
3. Is That All?
Leading with a low price leads consumers to believe you have nothing better to talk about, and without experiencing or researching your product – price has no meaning. I’ll prove it to you. Do you want to buy this really cool thing from me? It’s in my pocket and you can have it – and it’s only $50. The skeptics out there are saying “that’s not the same at all. At least in the billboard people know you’re talking about a house. I have no idea what is in your pocket.” Touché. Ok, I have a ring in my pocket and it’s only $50… no do you want it or not? I could have a 2ct. diamond ring or a my two year old’s costume ring but because you don’t know enough about it you can’t even begin to determine if you are getting more or less for your money.
The words I don’t care for in the message on this billboard are “price per square foot.” I do like the word “best,” but that alone wouldn’t make a very good… wait a minute.
(If you missed the other post discussing the use of billboards as a medium and the creative design of this particular one, you can read about it here.)