The real workhorses — direct-mail letters, postcards, on-site events, phone calls, press releases (news articles) and signage — do most of the “advertising” heavy lifting for active adult lifestyle communities.
And they do it more effectively, in a more targeted fashion and at a much greater degree of cost efficiency than expensive mass media.
Build a Database
When an adult community is about to open with or without model homes and any recreation facilities in place, the first critical task is to build a database.
In my experience, this is best accomplished not by ads in the newspaper, but by database marketing.
This takes the form of direct response/direct mailings to:
- The builder’s past customers
- Past visitors (who didn’t buy) from other communities built by the same developer
- People who respond to signs and billboards promoting the upcoming development
- People who fulfill age, economic and location demographic sorting — in essence, people who are the right age, have enough money and live in the area (although one’s percentage of response from a “cold” mailing list versus a list of the builder’s past customers will usually not be as good).
Merchandise So Your Homes Will ‘Sell’ Themselves
Since “merchandising” also is a form of advertising, the sales/information center and properly merchandised model homes become a critical part of your so-called advertising efforts. How they look, how they make prospective buyers feel, and what they say about the living experience to be enjoyed at the community will affect the pace of sales, and the level of sale prices, as much or more than anything.
Anyone who has ever visited a Ralph Lauren store, strolled through F.A.O. Schwartz or shopped for food at Zabar’s or Dean & Deluca knows that merchandising is an invaluable form of “advertising” for any retailer. And make no mistake, real estate developers and home builders are “retailers” in every sense of the word.
The theme, décor, color scheme, furnishings, accessories and overall “feel” of your sales and information center will either help you sell homes, or hinder you.
Your model home showcase also is a crucial merchandising opportunity. Furnished and decorated model homes outsell unfurnished models more than 2½ to 1. And model homes that show customers how that home “lives” command higher prices than models that fail to adequately showcase their design and lifestyle attributes.
In a well-merchandised model home, small rooms look bigger, big rooms look warmer and more inviting and highlighted features will stand out and “sell” themselves. This is particularly true if you merchandise special sexy features such as outdoor kitchen/barbeques, media rooms, spas, wine cellars, writing lofts, art studios and other amenities that are aimed at the “hot buttons” of today’s young-at-heart 55-and-older folks.
Themed communities generally outsell communities without a themed focus. Communities that clearly portray a distinct “personality,” as you would probably expect, outsell developments that don’t.
Lighting, landscaping, waterscaping and accessorizing (exterior accessories include foot bridges over artificial ponds or lakes; fitness trail workout stations; gazebos; band shells and the like) give a sense of life to new adult communities and help create the perception that this is indeed a great place to live and play.
The Community’s Entry Will Make or Break You
I always have believed that a beautiful, welcoming entry creates a sense of arrival that influences every other aspect of a customer’s visit to a new housing development. If the entry wows, then the customers will be more inclined to like the models, buy a home and feel good about living in this new place.
So, if you do a stellar job of researching, merchandising, decorating, direct marketing, creating signage as well as promoting an impressive sense of arrival, you may not need any so-called “advertising” (i.e., newspaper ads, radio spots and TV commercials). Certainly, you will not need as many of them.
I have told many clients to take money from media budget and put it into more landscaping, a better entry and a more appealing sales center. Why do I advise builders to spend less on ads (which certainly doesn’t add profits to our ad agency’s bottom line)?
Because for active adults, this is what works best.
Rick Nulman is the CEO and chief marketing strategist for Pace Communications, a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations company with offices in New York City, and Orlando and Boca Raton, FL. Nulman is the winner of three grand National MIRM Awards for advertising and has written for numerous publications and been a featured speaker at conferences, including the NAHB International Builders’ Show. Nulman is a member of the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. He can be reached by e-mail or at 212-818-0100.
Mark Your Calendar for NAHB's Seniors Housing Symposium 2005
"Building for Boomers & Beyond": NAHB Seniors Housing Symposium 2005 is scheduled for May 16-18, 2005, in Chantilly, VA. Mark your calendars.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
'Analyzing Seniors' Housing Markets' Available at BuilderBooks.com
"Analyzing Seniors' Housing Markets," available at BuilderBooks.com, examines the complexities of seniors' housing markets and explains what developers, investors and other professionals need to know to understand and operate in these specialized niches. The publication familiarizes readers with the various product types and how they relate to the needs of seniors. It also explains market analysis, consumer research, market segmentation, financial analysis, market maturation versus market saturation and gauging performance of seniors' housing. Three case studies of regional markets comparing the development trends of both independent and assisted living within each market are also included. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 to order.