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“New and improved” marketing techniques have emerged with the maturation of online media. To guarantee optimal results, an online marketing campaign builds on the tenets of traditional marketing campaigns.
The “improved” part comes with increased ability to track results and the ability to reach larger audiences cost effectively.
Some marketing experts suggest that home builders follow a different maxim — “out with the old, in with the new.”
It’s true that the new age of technology and communication have put traditional advertising and marketing in the back seat while social networking, blogging and Internet advertising seem to be driving most campaigns.
Many marketers have been drawn to social media marketing as they continue to look for ways to get the most bang from their stretched-thin marketing budgets.
However, if the lessons learned from years of managing traditional advertising campaigns are abandoned, home builder marketing campaigns may be headed the way of the new and improved debacle of the 1980s, New Coke — down the proverbial drain.
When marketing new homes, it’s better to integrate traditional means of planning, message formation and distribution into a digital campaign to make campaigns smarter, more effective and trackable.
Improving the Basics
Integrated campaigns actually take marketing experts back to the basics — identifying the target market, defining messages and finding the right media mix to deliver those messages.
Weaving traditional marketing into an online media campaign works to strengthen the overall marketing effort and creates a plan that can be tracked through website analytics and immediately tweaked based on results.
This malleable quality — the ability to measure and react quickly as consumers respond to marketing messages and media — is perhaps the most important aspect of the improvements introduced by online marketing. Marketing experts used to say "50% of your marketing budget is wasted, if we only knew which 50%."
The great news today is that all advertising can now be tracked, including traditional sources.
For a few years, builders have placed unique 1-800 phone numbers and URLs on billboards. This makes it easier to gauge the effectiveness of those placements by measuring website traffic and phone calls.
Now Facebook pages and Twitter handles are appearing in specialty magazine ads and other printed publications, with the goal of increasing the builder’s fans and followers on those social networking sites.
Even targeting direct mail pieces with a special incentive or coupon to a specific landing page of a builder’s blog or website helps focus efforts and identify both the effectiveness of a mail piece and the stickiness of a blog.
Connecting the Dots
Of course, the new ways of measuring effectiveness rest on the oldest marketing basic in the book — planning.
Creating a strategy with specific goals to achieve and specific messages to communicate to target audiences is instrumental in tracking and analyzing campaign effectiveness. Tracking key performance indicators on a monthly basis will show the success of each source of advertising specific to each marketing campaign.
How will all this tracking help? Consider Circle 75, an Atlanta townhome community, which was recently featured in a newspaper ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Analysis of the community’s website showed a small spike in direct traffic around the time the ad ran.
This increase in site visitors is expected with an effective ad. It is interesting to note, however, that the same ad placed in conjunction with a banner ad on the same newspaper’s website and a landing page on the builder website resulted in more traffic and a higher conversion rate.
The website tracking report of central Florida home builder Highland Homes revealed that a small portion of website traffic was coming from the Middle East. This phenomenon was a bit of a mystery for a few days until Highland Homes' director of marketing, Kathie McDaniel, MIRM, put the pieces together — the traffic was from soldiers getting ready to complete their tour of duty and return home.
A targeted placement in the military base’s newsletter and direct mail pieces to areas surrounding the local military base proved an effective way to supplement online marketing with traditional marketing.
Most successful marketing plans have always included a media relations component. As with other marketing activities, online outlets offer a “new and improved” means of reaching reporters.
Even with reductions in print subscribers, mainstream media still look for stories to publish. With budget cuts at the papers, reporters and freelancers rely more heavily than ever on press releases and other suggestions for stories.
Newsworthy articles are syndicated both online and in print and coverage in print still brings traffic, buyers and sales. One of the ways to communicate with the media is through social media. Getting reporters to follow and helping them find experts online is one of the keys to getting printed offline.
Adapting to a New Market Reality
It’s no coincidence that “new and improved” marketing techniques have emerged in tandem with significant shifts in the economy and on the cusp of dramatic changes to home buyer demographics. Many of the formerly tried-and-true techniques are now simply too expensive or have been replaced to entice and attract a different buyer segment.
Unlike New Coke, new and improved marketing is the real thing. At no time in recent memory have home builders needed, smarter, more trackable marketing perfectly priced for shrinking budgets. In short, marketing is now, more than ever, accountable for ROI.
You can’t get any newer and more improved than that.
Mitch Levinson, MIRM, CSP, MBA is a top new-home sales producer and a managing partner with mRELEVANCE, an Internet marketing, public relations and social media agency focused on meeting builder and developer needs in a changing marketplace. For more information, e-mail Levinson, call him at 874-259-7312, or visit www.mRELEVANCE.com.
This article originally appeared on the NAHB Sales and Marketing Channel.
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