The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB
The first in a series about marketing and social media.
Although social media is clearly changing the way marketers approach their customers, it’s also adding relentless complexity to the marketing process — and causing plenty of anxiety.
According to a recent IBM study of more than 17,000 chief marketing officers (CMOs) working in 19 industries in 64 countries, the top challenge is the explosive volume, variety and velocity of data from new digital sources such as social media and networks (71%), followed by social media marketing (68%) and the growth of channels and device choices (65%).
These savvy marketers understand the dramatic shifts that are occurring in the way they engage customers, but they are struggling to manage the changes and stretching themselves thin.
According to the survey, 79% of CMOs said they expect to deal with a high or very high level of marketing complexity over the next five years, but only 48% said they were prepared to cope with it — a gap of 31%.
For many home builders, the social media explosion has also become a distraction that has — consciously and subconsciously — diverted their attention from other important marketing strategies.
Yes, a social media strategy is essential to any overall marketing plan, but it shouldn’t be the entire plan.
Social media may be the dominant element of the plan, but several other extremely important lead generation strategies also need to be included .
Key Lead Generation Strategies for Home Builders
Home builders should incorporate four lead generation strategies in their marketing plan. Each should have its own goals and objectives — as well as tactics and budgets.
In today’s explosive information environment, these strategies, in order of importance, are:
A digital strategy — including social media, but not exclusively
A Realtor® strategy
A media strategy
A referral strategy
With Internet marketing now firmly established as the cornerstone of all real estate marketing, it’s imperative that builders develop a digital strategy tailored to their individual goals and objectives, staff competency and budget considerations.
Unfortunately, without expert help, most builder marketing teams, however competent, are no longer capable of fully understanding all the digital choices available to them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the social media space.
Elements of a Well-Defined Digital Strategy
Developing a social media plan can overwhelm all other marketing — unless it’s created within a well-defined, existing digital strategy. But such a strategy must include more than just social media.
A comprehensive digital strategy must include:
Priority 1 — Website
A website is the most critical tool for generating online visibility and establishing a builder’s brand on the Internet.
A builder website should function as a one-stop research and information platform that enables prospective buyers to easily find product, pricing, location and promotional information.
Navigation across the site must be both effective and intuitive. To ensure a unique online experience, the website should integrate graphics, lifestyle imagery, virtual tours and video with search engine-friendly site structure.
Clear and bold calls to action also should be featured throughout the site — and guide prospects to a trackable funnel.
Above all, the site should incorporate a lead capture process that can translate into sales.
Priority 2 — Organic Search Engine Optimization
The goal for every builder website should be to dominate the first page of search results.
Dollar for dollar, there is no better marketing investment than search engine optimization (SEO) to achieve this result — because organically driven SEO leads are almost always the best-quality leads.
Links that organically appear at the top of the search pages send a clear message to users that the sites listed have more relevant content than on lesser ranking and paid links and, as a result, almost always are the highest-quality leads generated.
Priority 3 — Pay-Per-Click Advertising
A professionally managed and monitored pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program provides immediate, blanket coverage across all desired keywords and phrases and on high-ranking websites visited by the target market.
Builders should analyze PPC campaign data on a daily basis and continuously tweak the campaign to increase their return-on-investment.
Keep in mind, however, that a PPC campaign should only be carried out by an experienced Internet marketer. Violating a variety of entrenched PPC rules can result in an account being flagged or suspended — a detrimental status that is difficult to reverse.
Priority 4 — Real Estate Information Portals
Real estate information websites like Realtor.com, Move.com, NewHomeGuide, NewHomeSource.com, NewHomesDirectory.com, Zillow and Trulia are extremely popular with new home buyers because they make it easy for prospective buyers to search and compare properties by zip code, property type, price range or any combination of the three.
These information portals receive a high volume of traffic — and provide builders with additional inbound linkage from trusted sites.
For builders, product listings and banner campaigns that run on these highly trafficked real estate information portals are among the most cost-effective lead generation tactics.
Priority 5 — Social Optimization: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
Search engines award top listings to user generated content. An effective builder website will employ numerous social optimization tactics — including the integration of blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds into key areas of the site — which will ensure a continuous stream of fresh content for search engine spiders.
In addition, builders should feature social bookmarking and sharing buttons throughout their website so prospective buyers can share interesting pages and information with family and friends.
The tricky part of social optimization is keeping people engaged. Builders should consider associating with local charities through fund-raising activities as one avenue.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
Since most prospective buyers are likely to spend some time on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, it’s vital for builders to optimize their presence on these networks.
Facebook offers a rich variety of features — enabling builders to effectively engage local communities and members of the target market at large. They can increase their Facebook following within their target market through such programs and approaches as:
Corporate social responsibility campaigns
Trivia contests and giveaways to builder Facebook fans — also referred to as “gamification”
Distributing coupons for related businesses and services
Pay-per-click campaigns targeted to specific segments of the target market, directing clicks to “Like-Gates” and or “Squeeze Pages” to permission-capture these online socialites
Publishing local events on the builder Facebook page
For a growing audience, Twitter is one of the preferred ways to create, discover and share ideas with others. For builders, using Twitter to engage existing and potential customers is a great way to build brand presence, tweet about deals and receive important customer feedback — and it’s free.
LinkedIn provides builders access primarily to educated, affluent potential buyers. Executives from all the Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn and 59% of those active on social networking sites said that LinkedIn is their platform of choice over Facebook or Twitter, according to a June report by Performics and ROI Research.
Builders can use LinkedIn to target this affluent group — and gain additional SEO benefits, such as an increase in website traffic and leads generated.
Priority 6 — Email Campaigns
Builders should develop and distribute email campaigns to targeted audiences and lead groups — and they should be tracked and analyzed regularly, too, to ensure maximum traction.
The campaigns should include:
e-brochures distributed to leads and Realtors® and sales agents who express interest in a specific product/listing type. They should encourage potential leads and prospective buyers to submit their registration information in order to view email friendly brochures of various product and community details.
e-newsletters should be distributed to targeted audiences on a monthly basis and discuss recent news, monthly activities, ongoing promotions, featured homes, etc.
Priority 7 — Blogging, Press Releases, Social Bookmarking and Video Sharing Sites
There are three good reasons for builders to make a blog a key component of a digital strategy:
A blog is a quick, relatively easy way to communicate what is most important about a builder to interested audiences — and they can be updated quickly with fresh, relevant information.
A blog is easy to publish because no HTML or web coding skills are needed.
Blogs can achieve search ranking faster than regular websites because search engines like sites that can be frequently updated. And better search engine rankings can lead to more website traffic, which can increase the quantity of leads generated.
Various press release outlets are regularly crawled by search engine spiders, and receive high rankings in search engine results.
Builders should create and regularly post keyword-rich and properly posted and tagged press releases on the various press release outlets and distribute them to the multiple online press release and article marketing portals as part of a well-managed press release campaign.
Most of the reputable press release sites require a relatively low posting/distribution fee, but search engines regularly crawl these sites, which leads to higher search engine rankings.
Press releases on these sites can also get picked up by traditional and online news services and generate press coverage.
Social bookmarking sites — where users can save links to Web pages that they want to remember and share — are high traffic sites popular with people who want to discover new sites on a daily basis. Some of the most popular sites are Delicious, Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon.
These sites can help builder increase their search engine ranking — and all the related benefits — while also delivering highly targeted direct traffic.
Video Sharing Sites
Video sharing sites like YouTube, Metacafe and Vimeo offer builders a free, easy way to gain exposure and find new markets. A massive audience visits video sharing sites daily — about 71% of adults on the Internet watch video sharing sites online — and it’s growing because video connects with people in ways that plain text and pictures cannot compete with.
One of the great features that many of these sites offer is the ability to upload videos and allow anyone to display then on other websites — which can increase community or product awareness. Video sites offer builders a cost-effective way to visually engage with people and build brand presence.
Priority 8 — Top-Rated TV and Newspaper Digital Marketing Solutions
Top-rated local television stations and newspapers remain the preferred source for news for most consumers, which means they continue to attract large audiences to their websites.
These media have been at the forefront of developing digital applications for advertising and offer builders an incredible array of customized digital solutions — ranging from traditional display ads to search, mobile and social media. In addition, they have extensive research sources and tracking capabilities that can be used to target customers at no additional cost.
David Miles will be discussing this topic during the 2012 NAHB International Builders' Show in Orlando beginning at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Sales Central in West 311 E.
Next in the series: Non-Internet marketing elements and tactics that round out a marketing strategy.
David Miles is president of Miles BrandDNA, a Denver-based real estate branding and communications firm. During his career, which spans more than three decades, Miles has worked with such leading real estate brands as Disney, Hines, Orco (the largest developer in Europe), Newland Communities, General Growth Partners, Pulte Homes, Centex Homes, Shea Homes, David Weekly Homes, John Wieland Homes, The Seaside Institute and the Urban Land Institute of Colorado. He has won numerous local, national and international creative awards, including 92 Gold Nationals and more than 500 Silvers. For more information, visit www.milesdna.com; or email Miles, or call him at 303-880-2531.