2018 marks two big milestones in my own life. I’ve now been marketing new homes and communities for 15 years, and it also marks 10 years since the depths of the Great Recession. Having a career that has spanned as many lean years as anything else has taught me a lot about how to get things done that drive results without complaining about things beyond my control. Over the last three years, I’ve also seen universal challenges while working with builders across the country. Here are the top lesson’s I’ve learned along the way that I hope you can apply this new year.

Lessons learned from 15 years to apply to a new year!

Knowing Yourself & Your Customer Is More Important Than Tactics

Every builder (and market) is different. Not just in location selection, sticks, or bricks – but in personality. Not playing to the strengths of who you are as a builder is a mistake. Eventually, the consumer will sniff out your inconsistencies and your brand will suffer. Attempting to apply tactics that work for someone else without having a full and complete understanding of WHY it works, and IF it truly even works for them is a mistake.

Knowing your customers is equally important before you focus on advertising tactics. How many of them are out there to be had, what are their motivators, why are they choosing you or your competition, and why are they not are all critical questions to know the answer to.

Facebook ads are a current and relevant example. Do they work? Yes. For every builder? Yes. In the same way? Absolutely not. I recently spoke to a home builder (that will always remain nameless) that had spent $550,000 in 11 months on Facebook ads and only had 5 sales to show for it. They may have tactically executed those ads very well, but all that consumer attention that was purchased wasn’t able to be converted into much without knowing themselves and their customers first.

Think Like An Investor With Your Marketing Budget

When building our your budget make sure to think about the return on your investments. Getting the best content – of all kinds – will increase your conversion on all future ads you run. It will live “forever” on your own website for thousands of new people to see each month. It can be used by your sales team to more clearly and simply explain your homes and communities. It can be inserted into your follow-up and nurturing campaigns. It can separate you from the pack for SEO.

It all boils down to the fact that advertising on its own has no momentum. As soon as you stop spending for the ads, their return begins to halt as well. Only one of the many ways that I just explained that great content could be used above ends when you stop spending on ads.

Focus On Appointments Over Traffic

I had a really good marketer ask me last summer “How can I keep my traffic to the models consistent all year round? I’ve been trying for years to stop the summer and holiday slowdown of traffic without much luck.” My answer to him, and to nearly every marketer trying to solve this same challenge is to stop trying.

You can’t get consistent traffic all year long. What you can make more consistent are your appointments. I consider any on-site visit where detailed pricing information is discussed for more than a few minutes an appointment. These can occur when traffic walks through the door, or comes back at a set day and time.

The beauty is that you can create new appointments this month from anyone you already know (or your CRM already knows) – no matter how long ago that was. Most builder teams today are overwhelmed with incoming traffic of all kinds for most of the year. When things slow down at the very top of the funnel it allows everyone to shift focus to converting those people you already know. I’ve heard sales leaders I’ve worked with say over and over again “we’ve cleared out our pipeline – we need new blood” however that is almost never entirely true. Especially not when you may only need to cover 45 days or so of lighter incoming new traffic.

Serve The Market, Don’t Create It

This one comes directly from my time working at NVR. This is a well known saying that gets repeated regularly in strategic meetings of every kind. Winning companies find the under-served yet larger markets and outmaneuver their competition. Trying to convince consumers that they need something they’ve never thought is most often a recipe for disaster and wasted energy.

If you listen to what the market is telling you, and you have the right tools to analyze it you can make everyone else’s job in the company a whole lot easier and your consumers a whole lot happier. Too often when I analyze one of our clients struggling communities it comes down to the fact that they have strayed too far outside of the edges of their local market and now they want marketing to “fix it.” It probably can… but at a much higher cost and slower sales pace than anyone would want.

Builders That Work As A Team Will Win

This one sounds the most cliché, and yet I know it to be 100% accurate. I’ve worked for two builders that had a great team mentality, and one that did not – and the results completely speak for themselves. Working as a team has to come at every level – within departments and between departments. This often boils down to leadership, however each team member needs to do their part.

Getting the entire team focused on the customer’s needs, and how they can best serve them is the recipe for success. No ad campaign or shiny new app, AI, chatbot, or VR experience can save the day or change the world. Only the collective hard work of dedicated and passionate people who consider their co-workers fellow comrades.

My true hope is that 2018 becomes the year where these lessons of mine become yours as well. Applying them in a year like this one – so far removed now from the Great Recession – will have astonishing results for your company for many years to come.

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