It’s time for a great guest post from the super smart Kevin Oakley, Marketing Director at Heartland Homes.

Below are links to the 7 E’s of a home builder’s online strategy with one of my favorites articles of the series posted here – Elicit a Reponse.

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1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

The goal of any marketing activity – online included – is to create a lead. Never forget that your website is part of your sales funnel. Yes, it’s also your pretty online model home with lots of great content, photos, etc – but those things are what draw your prospects in, and now you need to get them to take action. The first thing is that taking action must be as easy as possible:
E – Eliminate all requirements except for email address
A – Allow multiple ways for the prospect to take action
S – Sell the benefit of taking the action
Y – “Y” not – don’t make it seem like a commitment

Eliminate requirements

Once someone begins to attempt to contact you, don’t screw things up by requiring too much information up front from your prospect – an email is all you should require. The dating analogy always works well in sales and marketing. Suppose someone of the opposite sex says hello to you – do you require them to show you a clean verified background check and clean testing before you continue your conversation? After all, some will complain, “I don’t want to waste my time if they aren’t good.” This is 2011 – your problem is NOT to weed out all the tire kicker prospects so you have time to work with the “serious” buyers. I’ve already talked to this in other posts, but any traffic (walk-ins, phone calls, emails, referrals) you get in today’s world should be considered “serious.” Any.

Allow multiple ways for the prospect take action

I’m not so much talking about the medium they use (contact form, email, phone, etc…), but I’m talking about the total number of ways to get to connect to your online sales councilor or your on site sales team. On the Heartland Homes main site there are 10 (I may have even missed one or two) different ways to contact our sales team. Wherever the prospect is when they decide they want to respond – we’re ready.

Sell the benefit

Don’t be rude. Asking someone to fill out a form or email without telling them why they should is just plain rude. Make sure it is easy for your prospect to understand why they should take the next step. Common benefits are more specific information about a house type or community than is currently listed, a helpful service, or a free needs analysis to get tailored advice on what will best suit their needs.

“Y” Not

Don’t make it seem like a commitment – that’s why you don’t often see a big BUY NOW button as the conversion method for home builders. Let them know they’re going to be interacting with someone who is “not in sales” – of course they WILL be, but the prospect should never catch a hint of commission breath.

After you make sure you’ve made it easy – then consider ways to elicit a response that are a little more subtle yet effective. One particularly effective way is to listen up and pay attention. Here are a few quick examples of what I mean:

1. On the Heartland Homes site when you view a particular home, the site tracks it without you needing to log in (easy). So that when you visit another community, the homes you’ve already spent the most time viewing will show as a featured home.

Listen Up! Featured Homes that change as you browse

2. When you select a particular home type, and then select a community that offers that home – the site displays a brightly colored box announcing the match you’ve created and an offer to customize it for you.

Listen up! Selected home / community match

3. If your site has a search box, make sure you are monitoring what things are being searched for. It’s free market research. Take action on the most used search terms by creating relevant content or improving existing content.

Don’t be “that site” that treats everyone the same and doesn’t listen or pay attention. That’s not going to help you stand out – or generate more leads.

So how do you try and elicit a response from your prospects? What has worked the best for you or your company?

Guest Blog Post – Kevin Oakley is a branding and marketing expert specializing in the new home industry. He is the Director of Marketing & Sales Training at Heartland Homes – a top 100 national builder (and Pittsburgh’s #1 custom home builder).  He believes results matter, brands are not dead, and that it’s not easy – but it is simple.

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