A Builder’s Online Strategy: Employ Your Home Owners

Get it straight from the horse's mouthFinal review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

You’ve done all the “hard” work of getting people to come to visit your website and convert to a lead, but it isn’t time to call it quits yet. You have one very important step left – capture your happy customer’s feelings on paper, in photos, or better yet – on video. They don’t have to be long. They don’t have to be professionally shot. They don’t even need to be 100% positive. (ie: stop making excuses)

Customer testimonials fall into a category that is known as the “wonderful and magical third party endorsement.” No, really. There is perhaps no more important or valuable asset for your marketing team to have on its side than a load of third party endorsements. Why? Because as Seth Godin says, and all consumers believe: all marketers are liars! (Don’t confuse this with the equally famous all husbands are clueless – although third party endorsements are key there too right? Just get the mother-in-law on your side and your viewpoint is sure to be accepted)

How to use them

We’ll talk later about best practices on how to capture testimonials, but assuming that you’ve got them – how should you use them on your website? The only thing I can tell you for certain is not to put them in only one place. This is true with all important content on your site – give the browser multiple points of entry on multiple pages. It’s too important to bury in one small corner of your website. Also keep in mind that many of the people who visit your site may never see the homepage because they will click on a link from Google that takes them deep within your site from the beginning.

Below are two examples from my builder’s website. The first one shows the homepage with two pieces of content highlighting customer testimonials – on the left is a video ready to play instantly, and on the right is a promotional button that will take the browser to the testimonial page. The second image shows how in a subtle and non-obtrusive way you can get this great content on every page of your site.

testimonial use on homepage testimonial use on interior page

The final piece of advice is to use this content beyond just on your own site. Think YouTube, email blasts (opt-in only of course!), Realtor presentations, and more.

 

VidBit: The Referral Engine

The Referral Engine by John JantschEvery small business owner gets their start through referrals – from family, friends, or the first paying client. Over time this word of mouth advertising helps the company grow and expand… and ironically lose site of the power of the referral – or become unsure how to cultivate them as the size of the company means less face time with each customer. The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch is a fantastic book for those looking to create a structured system of creating referrals. John is also the author of the well known book Duct Tape Marketing.

More sales are welcome, but the best part of referred prospects are that price becomes less important, as John puts it, “when your business comes highly recommended by a friend, the role of risk is minimized, and that fact alone moves the significance of price comparison down the list.” He talks about how non-referred prospects may instead think to themselves, well if I’m disappointed with the result… at least I won’t overpay!

Are you sick of having to justify your price – or worse… negotiate away your margins? This just might be what you’re looking for.

Below is a brief video by John to give you a taste, however if you want specific actionable strategies you’re better served to pick up the book for yourself. Highly recommended.

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Ensure You’re Part of the Short List

Ensure You're Part of the Short ListQuick review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

Ensuring you’re part of the short list is a very similar concept to the number one rule for professional quarterbacks – do no harm! Their number one job is to protect the football, and not cause a turnover… to keep their team in the best position to win. Consumers today use the internet to narrow down the list of homebuilders or locations they want to visit in person. It’s shopping by elimination, and you can get tossed real fast – in fact they are looking for reasons to cross you off! Here are some of the most common and harmful errors I see on real estate websites:

Information Overload

Your mother always told you that too much of a good thing was still too much, and she’s right. Builders who give detailed pricing information (beyond the base house) or option lists can quickly find themselves getting scratched off the list. Even in a custom building environment, no one likes large lists – especially with prices attached to them. This information is best presented on-site by your sales team – who can sell the benefits, not just list the features – in a compelling and personal presentation.

I especially cringe at the (thankfully) few sites out there that let you build and price your home similar to how car dealers do it. Are you kidding me? This is as dangerous as if you let people walk through your model home unattended with big stickers on every upgrade showing the cost. Yikes! Determining what information is helpful and necessary is a balancing act, but one that deserves your full attention.

Comprehensive Standard Feature Lists

Similar to how some class that every Realtor must take tells them to use a photo that looks nothing like them on their advertising… there is some mysterious class that tells every home builder that they must have a standard feature list that has, at minimum, 200 to 300 bullet points on it. It should detail everything from the door bell and mailbox to the hinges on the doors – because the builder with the biggest list wins, right? No way. This is one I often find myself at odds with even my own sales team… inevitably every new hire will ask where we keep our comprehensive list (they’ve seen it from competitors – so we must have one?).

What’s the better option? Create a list of impactful features that tell your unique story. Impactful means things people actually care about or wouldn’t expect to be included (ie: not door bells).  You will of course get customers who will ask for your standard features list – a perfect opportunity for you to explain that you are different from the rest, and tell them your story!

Skimping on the Area / Location

The number one rule in real estate is location, location, location – and yet far too many builders treat location as simply a dot on the map, and skip right on into the floor plans. That’s a big mistake – especially if your location isn’t the obvious A+ choice. Always remember people shop from the outside in, and if you don’t spend any time selling your area / location then it’s an easy way to get written off the list before they spend much time looking at your house types.

No Third Party Verification

If your site doesn’t have testimonials or third party endorsements prominently features than you run the risk of not being trusted. We know one of the rules of sales is to build trust – and your website is no exception. Also make sure you’re regularly monitoring what is happening with your brand outside your own website. Make sure to take quick action and influence the conversations.

Lack of Follow Up

If a customer takes the time to request additional information and you don’t respond – forget about it. As Nicki Joy says – follow up is your first customer service test. Make sure you have a bullet proof online follow up process in place. If you don’t know where to start – then feel free to ask or visit Mike Lyon’s blog.

If you avoid these pitfalls and include enough visual appeal (photos / videos) to wet your prospects appetite then you’ll stand a fantastic shot at ensuring you make the short list of communities or builders to visit on-site because they want to learn more, verify what they saw online was correct, and ultimately buy from you.

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Engage Those “Just Browsing”

Engage Those "Just Browsing"Quick review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

We all know that when people come to visit a model home today and they tell us that they are “just looking” that they aren’t being 100% truthful. Prospects who take the time, energy, and money to come see us in person are there for a bigger reason than just to look around.

However, when it comes to the internet – there are hundreds if not thousands of people every month that will come across your brand as they are “just browsing.” They didn’t set out to find you, but they clicked here… then found something interesting there… then somehow a piece of you (an ad, a blog post, or maybe your full site) managed onto their screen and they click over for a few precious seconds. Serendipity and a rabbit trail brought them to your door, but what will happen next?

If there is strong content (original or curated) that speaks to the user where they are now – then at a minimum you can begin to build a sense of trust and respect with them. What I’m really talking about is segmenting your messaging/content as much as you segment your market.

See the chart below for an example:
Engage Your Target Market

Beyond these segmented messages are additional topics that are almost universally heavily researched. Here are a few:

  • Interior design
  • Landscaping
  • Kitchen and bath renovation
  • Home repair / maintenance
  • Home mortgage / refinancing
  • Local housing market insights

The bottom line: The item that enticed someone to come visit your site has to be followed up with strong relative content that will build brand awareness and respect. As an added benefit, that same content will in turn lead to earning more trust from Google.