In the 1940s a fabulous new invention hit the shelves of kitchens around the country – the ready mix. That’s right; you no longer had to make pie crusts, biscuits, or cakes from scratch. They were almost an instant hit, almost. The cake mixes sold at an alarmingly low rate in comparison to everything else. This was a mystery for the modern day marketer to solve… why? The answer will help you sell more homes.
Ernest Dichter, known as “the father of motivational research,” and the individual to coin the term “focus group” found out why. It wasn’t because the ratio of ingredients in the cake mixes weren’t as good, or the packaging wasn’t as engaging. It wasn’t that the wrong flavors were being offered. It wasn’t the cost of the item either. Turns out, it was just all too easy. The house wife of the 1940s couldn’t in good conscience make a dessert for a special occasion by just adding water or oil and stirring it up in a bowl! It was too much like cheating.
You see, when cake mixes were first rolled out they all included dried eggs in the mix. In Dichter’s book The Strategy of Desire he says “the industry recognized this feeling of guilt and said, ‘All right, if you feel that bad about it, add your own eggs.’ Now the housewife felt very happy because she could use the cake mix and still express her individuality.” Yep, the secret to making cake mixes sell was to take ingredients OUT so that the customer felt like they were more involved in the creation of the final product – it made them happier. In Dan Ariely’s book The Upside of Irrationality he shows that Sandra Lee actually went on to patent an equation for the perfect mix of pre-made and personalization known as the “70/30 Semi-Homemade® Philosophy.”
So how can this apply to new home sales and new home marketing? People love the idea a fully custom home, but not the work involved in designing and building one. What’s more, we should act in our customer’s best interest and try to curb their custom changes of an existing to design to no more than 10-15% of the original design. Beyond that, and their expectations of absolute perfection will almost surely be met with disappointment or frustration. After all, they aren’t professional designers. However, it’s also in your best interest to make sure they do personalize their home beyond just the color of the carpeting or countertop. This will make them like the end product more, defend their decision to purchase, and ultimately make them happier and more invested. Done correctly, you can leverage this more intense connection to get you more referrals.
One last example. I used to always be amazed when a sales person would tell me that their last home made marketing tactic was a huge success. Often when I would hear their strategy, see how the executed it with Microsoft Paint, or read the cleverly misspelled copy – I just couldn’t understand how it could have succeeded (the numbers usually don’t add up to the emotion of how well it went either – one or two phone calls becomes a “great result”). Now, however, I know that it’s simply because we always over value our own creations – and rarely, if ever, do we realize it. Whether the thing we create is a painting, a child, a home, or a marketing plan - if we feel we are involved in its creation, we think its better.
Now, I make sure that they work within my “ready made marketing mix” and allow them to add their own egg… somehow – the results are always better than when the marketing department does it on its own.