Build Trust, Protect Value With Online Branding
By Stephen Feltner, CSP and Tyler Waite, CSP, Move
Today, many home builders are discovering that successful online branding is vital to strengthening and even preserving the value of their company’s image.
But builders who are seeking to build their brands online should consider building “brands of value,” rather than going down the traditional path of trying to create successful brands that are often viewed as blending advertising and hype.
It’s All About Them
“In order to get people to pause, you have to offer or provide something of value,” says author and branding expert Tom Asacker.
Successful branding is not about getting the right slogan, the right colors or the right messaging, Asacker points out in his book, “A Clear Eye for Branding,” and in an online presentation available by clicking here.
Instead, he says, branding is about understanding what expectations your customers have and crafting satisfying solutions that draw buyers with subtlety. First and foremost, value-oriented branding reassures current and potential customers that they are making the right decision by placing their trust — and their money — with your company.
Build a Strong Brand Online
Before the Internet, building and maintaining a trusted brand was a long-term process for home builders.
Now, builders’ Web sites — with their product images, glowing client testimonials and lists of awards — can significantly reduce the time needed to build a brand.
Meredith Oliver, MIRM, CSP, president of Meredith Communications, sees the Internet as “the great equalizer, when it comes to branding. A compelling Web site can level the playing field — but it is the starting point, not the ending point.”
“Branding takes place when you can be found in a lot of places,” Oliver says. “The more sites that link to you, the better. Internet listing services, sponsored searches, display ads, third-party referrers — all are important to putting a builder on the Internet map.”
One way to gain more linking is by using Web site sub-domains, because they can open up new territory for site indexing, improve the consumer experience and increase the branding footprint in a given market.
For example, a home builder going by the name of Elegant Homes could expand its Internet presence, provide strategic local content and improve its performance on Google and other search engines by creating such company- and mission-related sub-domains as www.ElegantHomescastlepines.com, www.ElegantCustomHomes.com and www.ElegantHomeCommunities.com.
With tens of thousands of new Web logs (blogs) going online and hosting millions of posts every day, setting up a blog is fast becoming an important online branding and search engine optimization strategy that builders should not ignore.
But, as Oliver points out, “most builders do not have the staff or expertise to build and maintain their own blog. Home builders usually have to hire a company to write the blogs and figure out where to post them. It takes at least one post per week to be effective.”
Effective blogging also requires developing a comprehensive strategy that encompasses more than just maintaining your own blog. A successful blog strategy should include:
- Posting positive entries on a builder-owned or sponsored blog
- Posting comments on civic, community or nonprofit blogs
- Responding to negative posts and complaints, addressing grievances and presenting the builder’s view
Safeguard Your Brand in Cyberland
Given its vast and unrelenting reach, the Internet has the ability to make or break a brand with startling speed. The Internet can provide home builders with a unique opportunity, their worst nightmare or a mediocre online presence somewhere in between.
Builders must also be aware of the emergence of Web sites and blogs dedicated to airing home buyer grievances and how these blogs can affect their branding and marketing. These grievance blogs thrive on the viral and instantaneous nature of online communication, posting the latest builder blunders to bolster rants.
Some builders who have been targeted by these blogs have experienced the power of naysayers to undermine their brands and negate the millions that they have spent on marketing.
Home builders have been able to persuade some of these gripe-site operators to give up their causes when the builders initiated dissenting blogs that countered the gripes.
In addition, savvy builders have made Internet protocols a vital part of their brand protection.
Tom Crandell, CEO of Ayowahr Interactive, points to trademark protection provisions and the use of sub-domains in search engine marketing as effective methods to fight brand dilution and safeguard your brand.
“Every search engine has a unique policy to mitigate trademark infringement,” says Crandell. “For example, Google will allow you to eliminate the ability for third parties to use your trademarks in the title and copy of ads.”
The Road Ahead
With good planning, proper provisions and expert help, Internet marketing and online branding can help home builders establish successful brands based on value and trust.
Stephen Feltner, CSP, serves as president of the new homes and rentals divisions of Move®, the online real estate network. He also serves on the board of governors for the Builder Marketing Society is active in the Southern California Building Industry Association.
Tyler Waite, CSP, is the regional sales manager of Move New Homes and manages the company’s Denver and Dallas territories.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit – including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
“The new tax credit provides a great opportunity for first-time home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. “Combined with today’s near record low interest rates, the large selection of homes on the market and very competitive pricing, the tax credit should provide the extra incentive needed to get prospective buyers who have been sitting on the fence into the market.”
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight the tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
‘ValueMatch Selling for Home Builders’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“ValueMatch Selling for Home Builders,” available through BuilderBooks.com, presents a selling process that focuses on selling feelings and appealing to prospective buyers’ emotional need to buy a new home in today’s market rather than product.
Learn how to build rapport with prospective home buyers, meet their needs, make powerful presentations that are focused on their values and go for the close.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
Subscribe to Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for Cutting-Edge Information
For additional cutting-edge sales and marketing information, subscribe to NAHB’s Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine (www.smimagazine.com).
Click here to learn about membership benefits of the National Sales and Marketing Council and the Institute of Residential Marketing.