A Builder’s Online Strategy: Emphasize Your Differences

Emphasize Your Differences - Home Builder Web Strategy

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

So now that a customer is on your site and devouring your relevant and helpful content, what bigger picture message are you sending them? When you follow up later (you’re going to follow… right??!), what key points about you do you want them to remember? Don’t spend time telling them “yes, we do that to.” You want to stand out and you want to be memorable… maybe even remarkable. You’re only going to accomplish this by highlighting your unique and honest differences.

- Focus on no more than 2 or 3 main points so they can be easily remembered and repeated to other influencers in the decision making process.

- Back up each point with 2 or 3 extremely specific examples.

This specificity does two things. The first is that it proves you aren’t lying or over generalizing. The second is that because it’s so specific, your prospects minds automatically will fill in the other gaps in information with the assumption that your company must address those things with a similar level of care.

Below are a few of the pitfalls I see builders fall into in their attempt to emphasize their differences. Unfortunately, they try to hang their hat on one of these four danger areas:

- “Quality” is not a difference that’s believable a lot of the time

As a home builder, you are assumed to have good quality unless proven otherwise… because you’re a home builder. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that’s the way it is. We often do the same with doctors or dentists and do little background work on them because we assume they got the degree, so they must be good. Especially to uneducated buyers – the level of perceived quality difference will be extremely small unless heavily educated by a sales person they genuinely like and trust.

- “Green” is not a difference that more than 14% of the population cares about.

I’ve done two separate surveys of over 800 consumers in my local area over the last two years. Only 10-14% say that a home being “green” would be a key part of their decision to purchase. Nearly two thirds said energy savings above and beyond other homes would be. A far distant second was indoor air quality. The generic term “green” doesn’t tell them “what’s in it for me.”

- “Service” is something often promised and usually ignored in all forms of business.

Today’s consumer is jaded. Everyone tells them how much they care and will be there for them, and then they are disappointed time and time again. So even if this is a true point of differentiation – don’t say it yourself. You must use third party testimonials or awards to back it up.

- “Affordability” is a difference, but one that raises questions as well – be careful with this one.

There are a lot of home builders out there – especially today – that have their prices set too low. Yep, I said it… too low. You don’t need to be $40,000 – $100,000 less than the competition on your base house. That just raises the question of how much you’ve cut out (it’s the fastest way to make an uneducated buyer doubt your quality… see above!). Small differences in price really matter. When my wife and I bought our first semi-custom home we ended up choosing the lot based on a $500 price difference on a $275,000 purchase. Not too rational, but then again your buyers aren’t rational either.

Go Ahead – Add Your Own Egg

The inside truth about personalization and customizationIn 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.