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Gone are the days, at least for now, when we could put out “Open House” signs, unlock the doors to our models and watch as a steady stream of prospective buyers came to visit.
Now, we sit in our models with our doors open and wait. So, how do we change that? What can we do to get more prospects to visit — and buy?
We need to get creative with ways to attract interested visitors and play a more effective numbers game — successfully marketing as often as possible to increase traffic and the odds of making a sale.
Don’t be afraid to try something totally new or even outrageous. If you close the door to your imagination, you may as well close the door to your model.
Remember, it’s not just about people coming to your model, it’s also about you getting out into your community, attending events, networking and using resources already in place to promote your product.
The following are some ideas you can try:
Give Your Signage a Boost
- Put awareness riders on your signs to make them stand out — both by their message and their shape. Emphasize your price point, monthly payment or even a free strawberry sorbet (remember that imagination). Sign placement will make a difference; a corner location will help a sign stand out. Also, use a set of four different signs per neighborhood and mix them up to create interest. Don’t let your audience get bored.
- Place signage at community events that direct attendees to your model. Do your homework and use your local municipality’s Web site to learn about all the upcoming community events that would attract your targeted buyers.
- Place banners on homes under construction that relay their status and availability — “Now Selling” or “Two Remaining.” Many passersby will have a general curiosity about what’s going on. And for those with more interest, the banners can help generate some urgency and get them to stop back.
- Place welcoming and contact information signs near your model that are easy to read and visible so that visitors will know how to get in touch with you when you’re away. Make sure you have a sign such as “For Immediate Viewing, call (your name and number)”, because if they are interested, you don’t want to miss them.
Promote, Promote, Promote
- Sponsor opening and closing events for each new model. Hold a VIP night before your official opening. Past visitors will feel special when they are invited. Hold a similar celebration when you close a model.
- Shop where they shop. Place business cards and community and model home information on local bulletin boards and in restaurants, markets and lumberyards. As I said before, get creative and you’ll discover numerous possibilities.
- Have a booth, literature and photos at local home shows, fairs and trade shows.
- To target first-time buyers, have a booth at wedding fairs or expos. Ask a past client and fan to offer testimonials while helping out at the booth. In fact, if possible have clients at all your booth presentations.
- Keep your local chamber of commerce up to date with current homes available. Add flyers to their regular mailings, especially any that might go out to families relocating to the community.
- Establish charitable giving in your models and make sure you publicize the opportunity to your community at large. For example, have a “Giving Tree” and invite the community to come to your model to drop off donations of clothing, food, toys or whatever you designate. Make sure you take photos and submit them to your local paper and your chamber of commerce. Also, make sure you put them on your company Web site.
- Form a networking group to enhance your personal business as well as your company’s growth. Get the good news out about your homes and communities, and use your network to learn what others are doing. Joining your local builders association and sales and marketing council is a great way to start your local networking.
- Use your company’s Web site to promote your homes. Link with your suppliers, vendors and any local area businesses to increase visibility. Advertise your special promotions and update the site frequently to keep it fresh. Include a link for potential visitors to get directions from their door to yours.
- Send out a monthly newsletter with seasonal home maintenance and landscaping tips, buyer testimonials and maybe a favorite seasonal recipe. E-mail marketing software works well for this kind of communication.
- Submit short articles to your local newspaper that provide home owners with tips on how to buy, sell and maintain their home — while subtly promoting your homes and community. Use the articles to establish yourself as the go-to real estate expert in your area.
Events, Events, Events
- Host a customer appreciation event, such as a barbecue or picnic, and encourage your invited customers to bring guests. Good will goes a long way, and you can foster that year-round by adapting the event to the particular time of year — a holiday cookie exchange, a St. Patrick’s Day party, a summer chili cook-off; the list goes on.
- Get involved with your local Habitat for Humanity organization or other non-profit, and encourage your team and trade partners to join in. Take advantage of any publicity that might come your way as a result, for example, a press release, local radio and television news coverage and an article in the local newspaper.
- Think seasonally and regionally. For instance, organize back-to-school supply drives in September, a pumpkin-carving contest in the fall and a spring-time Easter egg hunt. Also, try to tie your homes to as many local events as possible. Promote your area high school football team, sell tickets to the local county fair, etc. Take advantage of local advertising to get the word out about all your efforts.
- Hold a “ladies night out” that involves local businesses and invite a few of your vendors to set up in the various rooms of your model to demonstrate their products. For example, invite a local spa to offer free 10-minute massages or a local restaurant to provide samples of their menu — hors d’oeuvres or desserts, perhaps. Encourage invitees to bring friends and ask vendors to contribute to the advertising and refreshment expenses. Everyone is hungry for new business so plan it so that everybody can win.
- Sponsor a coloring contest for the kids with pictures of your models as the contest sheets. Hand them out when families tour and be sure to offer prizes. You’ll want the children to complete them at home so the family comes back for a second visit in order to receive a prize when the coloring is complete. (Make sure that the address of your model is on the picture.)
- Hold ongoing drawings in your models, such as count the jelly beans, candy corns and candy canes in the jar — remember, think seasonal. Turn each winner into a photo opportunity when they come to collect their prize; a gas card, coffee card, etc. With permission from each winner, post their photos on your Web site or newsletter.
- Host housewarming parties for your most recent home owners and have the builder there to answer any questions and show pride in his product. Make sure to encourage your invited home owners to bring guests.
Events for Brokers
- Offer continuing education classes for real estate agents in your models. Hosting such classes will increase your model homes’ visibility.
- Sponsor a Realtor® focus group in your model to gain insight and ideas about future offerings and amenities. Keep them in your loop so that they will continue to promote you.
- Have a “Meet the Team” weekend that includes your builder, designer, architect and sales team. Such an event will ensure that local Realtors® can see the concierge-level of care that your community and team offer.
- Create a “multiple buyers” program for real estate agents who sell more than one of your homes in a year. Consider expanding the program to include those who have multiple showings of your properties during the quarter. A gas card is a great prize that most agents will appreciate.
New-Construction Promotions for Buyers and Prospects
- Host new-home planning and financing seminars, builder blueprint evaluations, home design/decorating seminars — anything that will attract potential customers. Reward attendees with something that directly applies to their new purchase.
- Photo document the construction process for future home owners. Construction progress and new photos give you reasons to call and e-mail prospects.
- Think green. Have experts present ideas for protecting the environment that prospective buyers can do easily and inexpensively.
The key to attracting new traffic is not about what you do some of the time — it’s about what you do all of the time. Be consistent, innovative and continuous. While we all want to find ways to get more visitors during the down times, professional know that working to find prospects every day is the best practice — and yields the best rewards.
Take the first step by figuring out what community relations ideas work best for you, then turn those ideas into an action plan and put that plan to work.
Kerry Mulcrone, MIRM, CMP, CSP, is president of Mulcrone and Associates, a Minnesota-based new home sales and training company. As a speaker and trainer, she shares her unique ideas for sales management, teamwork and personal and professional success with organizations, educators and associations. She is a board member of the Builder Association of the Twin Cities and a member of the National Sales and Marketing Council. For more information, e-mail Mulcrone, call her at 612-817-4089, visit the Mulcrone and Associates Web site, or network with her through LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog.
This article originally appeared on the NAHB Sales and Marketing Channel.
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