“Go ahead, underestimate me. You won’t be the first… you won’t be the last… but you will be wrong.” -Interactive Floor Plans
First, let me say, if you are a production or semi-custom home builder and you don’t have Interactive Floor Plans (IFP’s) on your website, you are very likely missing out on sales that could have been yours. Who’s getting those sales? Very likely builders with IFP’s and here’s why…
Emotional motivators are psychological triggers that consumers connect with. There are over 300 documented emotional motivators, but the five that are most important to home buyers are:
• A sense of FREEDOM. • A sense of THRILL. • A feeling of OWNERSHIP. • Feelings of SECURITY by erasing unknowns. • A feeling of CONFIDENCE in the future.
The right IFP platform on your website will engage and nurture all five of the above emotional motivators. Take note that I said the right IFP. If the user experience of your IFP’s cause frustration you will end up doing more harm than good, but that’s easy to avoid:
FREEDOM and THRILL
Interactive Floor Plans allow buyers to design and visualize their home by selecting the floor plan and options they want. This nurtures the FREEDOM and THRILL emotional motivators.
Providing the ability to save their custom plan strongly nurtures the OWNERSHIP motivator. Your buyer has spent all this time customizing their plan they don’t want to lose all their work. Allowing them to save their plan with the ability to come back and work on it at their leisure, or even share with friends on social media, will help create an emotional bond to that plan.
Another big advantage is now you have their contact information so your sales team can reach out to them.
SECURITY and CONFIDENCE
I strongly suggest finding an IFP platform that has a comprehensive space-planning tool allowing users to place a large array of furniture, fixtures and accessories. Even electrical components for special lighting, audio visual hookups and power outlets. This will also feed the FREEDOM and THRILL motivators but knowing exactly how a queen size bed will fit in a guest room, or that their Ford F-150 SuperCrew will fit in the garage will nurture the SECURITY (erasing the unknowns) and CONFIDENCE emotional motivators.
Buh-Bye Buyer – Builder Websites Without IFP’s
Let’s face it, people are driven by their feelings, and purchases even as big as a home are largely driven by emotions. If you want homebuyers to remember your product, they must be engaged and impassioned by their interaction with your website.
Do you know what homebuyers do when they come to your website and you DON’T have Interactive Floor Plans; or your IFP’s are frustrating and difficult to use? They go back to the builder where they had the most fun. The builder that engaged their emotions. Static floor plans with dashed in options, or options ‘on-the-side’ forcing them to mentally put the puzzle together are a huge turnoff, especially after the last website they were on gave them such a fun and positive user experience. Static plans have suddenly become an insult to them! Even if you have a floor plan that works just as well, and is in the right neighborhood, and is in the right price range (or maybe even better), if you don’t give them something to emotionally connect with… buh-bye buyer.
As if you need any more convincing to bring Interactive Floor Plans to your website, check out these statistics:
A Few More Tips on IFP’s
• Let your teen kids play with them, then let your parents play with them. If they think they’re cool, your homebuyers will too.
• No Exceptions:
o Make sure the tablet and mobile user experience is as strong as the desktop experience (most are not). Over 60% of your website visits are most likely on mobile devices.
o Make sure they work on Microsoft Edge touchscreens (most do not).
o Hot Spots – Add clickable icons to your floor plans to show photos, videos, animations, virtual reality or other engaging digital tools.
o Elevations – Allow buyers to select and visualize different elevation styles.
• Encouraged, but not required:
o Dynamic Pricing and Square Footage – Live price and square foot updates as people select options.
o Social Media Sharing – Allow buyers to share their custom plans on Facebook, Pinterest and others.
o Notes and Text – Allow buyers to draw lines or add notes to their custom plans.
o Allow buyers to print their custom plans at home.
So how important can a few hundred words a month on a blog actually be for my company. Well, depending on your goals, the actual result and benefit will be different. But there is absolutely some value. If you blog already – excellent! Pat yourself on the back and skip ahead to number five. Or, keep reading and find out why what you’re already doing is more beneficial than you may have realized.
By blogging regularly (1-2 times a month), you’re sending a few important signals to Google or your target audience. The first, and probably the most obvious positive thing about writing a lot of different blogs is that you’ll be growing the collection of content on your website. This gives you a much better chance of being relevant (Google’s primary search result criteria) to a wider variety of search queries and search intents. If you write a blog about ‘outdoor living’ or ‘sustainable homes’, your content can attract people interested in that subject, and so on and so forth.
I like to think about it as though you’re stranded on an island with an unlimited amount of fish trap nets. How many of those traps are you going to set? With each additional trap, your chances of catching dinner increase. It’s the same way with blogs – with each one you write, you not only increase the chances of getting a potential buyer’s attention, but you increase your overall digital footprint.
Another important signal that you’ll send to Google by blogging regularly is recency, which is essentially a measure of how old/new your website’s content is and how often it changes. Google has a tendency to not only supply a searcher with a list of the most relevant results, but also of the most recent/up-to-date results. Learn more at www.seoforhomebuilders.com.
Take for example a search for “vikings.” In 2010, a search for “vikings” likely turned up a Wikipedia article about the history of the Viking people. In 2019, if you search for “vikings,” you’re more likely to get an article about the History Channel’s hit show Vikings.
Recency is also important because of the way that the Google web crawler/spider works. Essentially, Google sends out a virtual robot “spider” that crawls around the World Wide Web, “indexing” or making a copy of nearly everything it finds. Those copies are what you see listed when you search for something on Google. When the Google robot continually returns to your website and sees nothing new, it makes a note to wait longer until its next trip back. If it finds something new – like a blog post, and keeps seeing new blog posts every time it comes, then it will send a signal that your content is always new and up to date, hence being worth frequent ‘crawling.’
This is a big reason why SEO shouldn’t be treated like a diet – because it’s a lifestyle change. As soon as you lapse on keeping up with it (in this case, blog writing), your competitor can surpass you. If you live in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, the image of one crab pulling another one down in a crab basket so he cannot escape is an image you recognize. Search results are very much like that. Just when you think you are to the top, a competitor ‘crab’ pulls you back down a notch.
You may be wondering, “I’m a homebuilder, what would I blog about?” Blog about trends and things that are current. Blog about energy efficient building techniques or building sustainable homes. Blog about staining concrete or material use. Blog about something that’s trending nationwide (hint: use Google Trends) and relate the trending topic to your company in a clever way. Take a look at what your competitors or national builders are blogging about. Put yourself in the shoes of the homebuyer – what would be useful or interesting for them to read? If its trending nationally or regionally, try to jump on the bandwagon and strike while the iron is hot.
Are you sitting down? I’m about to share with you an industry statistic that, as a new home builder, you absolutely have to acknowledge. No more pretending it doesn’t apply to you. Forget about thinking it’s an over-inflated number. And if you believe ignoring the significance of this statement really doesn’t play into the bigger picture you’re dead wrong. Are you ready?
95+% Of Every New Home Sale Originates Online
This is just the truth. There is no other tool in your arsenal that is more important than your website. I can hear you some of you now—“Brian, that’s just not accurate! Our model homes sell our properties better than anything else!” Really? Well how do you think those buyers initially found your beautiful models? That’s right… the website!
Your website is like Grand Central Station for the overwhelming majority of your online activity. It is the place where they either choose or eliminate you. Sadly, prospects will judge the quality of your homes based on the design and intuitiveness of your website long before they consider the actual craftsmanship that goes into your homes. To put it directly, your website really is the most important sales portal and you simply must get it right!
Based on 29 years experience marketing new homes, I’ve assembled a checklist of mandatory items every builder must consider when it comes to their website.
Is Your Home Builder Website Guilty Of Any Of These Sins?
#1. Does Your Website Look Older Than You?
Remember, prospects are shopping online, all the while eliminating builders from their list! A dated, inadequate website reflects an out of touch, antiquated home building company. Don’t be eliminated! Make sure your website behaves based on current user behaviors and practices!
#2. Is Your Photography Sub-Par?
Good photography, let alone poor photography, doesn’t sell anything. Only great photography sells homes. Invest in a great photographer for your website. You don’t need 50 images , 5 amazing images will really help. Here’s a bonus hint: Try to show people actually enjoying your homes whenever possible rather than just bland pictures of rooms.
#3. Can Users Find Everything They’re Looking For?
A great builder website is one that has intuitive user interface and navigation. Browsers tend to become impatient when they have to go on a treasure hunt for the information they need.
#4. Are You Getting Viewers To Your Home Plans Quickly?
Prospects are headed first and foremost to your plans. You must be certain your home plans are intuitive, getting viewers there within 1-2 clicks. Once there they can see your plans without downloading them. Never, ever, force your prospects to download plans in order to see them!
#5. Is Your Contact Information Easy To Find?
Make sure the means you choose for contacting you is evident on every page. You want them to reach out to you, so make it clear and simple.
#6. Is Your Website Mobile Responsive?
Significant online activity today takes place on phones, iPads and tablets. Your website must automatically respond to these devices, displaying all of your information clearly and appropriately. If it doesn’t, you can count on them seeking out a competitor!
#7. Don’t Make Building Your Database More Important That Showcasing Your Product.
It is crucial to gather prospect information, but under no circumstances should you lose sight as to why your audience is there. Always allow your visitors to view floor plans and elevations in an HTML environment first, giving them the option to even download them. Gathering information for your database should be a secondary expectation.
#8. Are You Properly Utilizing Lead Magnets?
You never want your website visitors to leave without giving you some data (email, phone number, name, etc.) A well-named lead magnet will help you achieve that. Here are two examples: “5 Floor Plans That Conserve Energy” or “Our Top 7 Best Selling Home Plans”. Create a white paper or brochure they will receive in return for their valued contact information or they will quietly bounce away!
#9.Is Your Website Utilizing Google’s Tracking Code?
“Tracking Code?” Relax; it’s a good thing! Every website needs Google’s tracking code—and maybe even Bing’s—in order for you to properly measure key performance metrics. You can’t improve what you’re not aware of!
#10. Your Site Is Search Engine Optimized, Right?
I can’t stress the importance of SEO enough! It’s crucial that your audience is able to find your website quickly. If you’re currently showing up anywhere other than the first page of search engine results you’re business will suffer.
#11. Are You Utilizing Engaging Content?
In today’s world your website must contain relevant, well-crafted copy. No longer can you use cheesy copy or poorly written content. Did you know redundant copy, which is using the same wording on more than one page, negatively affects your organic search results? Make sure you’re using original phrases when describing your homes!
#12. Are You Using A CRM And Marketing Automation Tool?
The typical closing ratio for a builder is 4-6%. That means on average 19 out of 20 leads are vanishing into thin air. A powerful CRM coupled with Marketing Automation software like Easy LeadLocker ™ is crucial to capture and nurture leads towards greater closing ratios.
#13. Certainly You’re Not Disregarding Your Target Audience
Too often websites are built without the consumer in mind. Before you build any website, make sure you have discussed the target audience with your Webmaster so they understand who you are intending to reach. This way your site can always use the most compelling messaging to get your consumer’s attention and keep it!
Friends, simply put, there is no acceptable reason to have an inadequate website. Your building company’s success depends largely on the design, navigation, ease-of-use, copy writing and photography found on your website. You also need a powerful CRM used in tandem with a robust marketing automation service.
The authority principle of reciprocity is simple. In new home marketing it is as simple as offering a white paper or ebook of value to the customer – not of value to you. This isn’t your brochure. This isn’t your price list. Something of value to the customer.
And in return all you want is an email or phone number. Done!
No matter what your building company does, advertising remains an instantly-forgettable blip in the day-to-day life of your homebuyers! You’ve ignored more advertising today than you even realize because your brain decided – without your permission, I might add – to disregard it.
So how do you get inside their head?
Brain power rocks.
From the placebo effect and false memories to mirror neurons; our brains are incredibly powerful. It does things without you even knowing. You’re on auto-pilot far more often than you realize – as are your home buying prospects. So how can you create marketing messaging that your prospects’ brain will allow them to hear? Let’s address just one aspect today: the Reticular Activating System (RAS) – the gatekeeper of your brain.
So what’s that, you ask? Your brain has three primary sections. The neocortex is where your brain processes data, math, critical thinking, etc. The second part is the mid brain (limbic system); this is where your brain interpret social situations and the meaning of things. But today, I want to address the third part: the reptilian complex – I like to call it the lizard brain! The lizard brain is the oldest part of your brain, and to a marketer, possibly the most important.
The lizard brain reacts, it doesn’t think! I like to say it decides, ‘should I eat it, kill it or mate with it?’ All really important stuff of course.
The RAS is the part of your brain that connects your four senses: hearing, seeing, touching and taste to your consciousness. Note that smell is not included as it is processed in the limbic system, but that is for another article. It is the gatekeeper of your conscious mind. Just hearing a marketing messages isn’t enough. You want your message to enter the prospect’s consciousness so they are fully aware of what you said. In order to do that, your message has to cross the limen threshold. Without getting technical, the limen threshold is the brain’s boundary of human perception. Cross it and your message registers. If you do not exceed the limen threshold, your message is sub-limen. You know the term for that: subliminal.
The reticular activating system resides in the lizard brain and has three primary functions: 1. Positive Focusing – This area decides what you hear. Like a new mom hears her baby crying ever so lightly because the RAS knows it is important. 2. Negative Filtering – Live by the railroad tracks? You eventually won’t even register the train going by; thank your RAS. 3. Individual perceiving – Ask any judge, there’s nothing less reliable than an eye witness account of an accident. That’s because your brain constructs its own perception of what happened. Just ask five people what happened, you’ll see.
So, you want to create marketing that will get past the RAS gatekeeper? It may be easier than you think. Three things get a free pass from the RAS every time:
1. Things your prospect values
2. Things that are unique
3. Things that are threatening
Let’s address values first. The key to successful marketing is understanding the ideas, schemas (blue prints) and feelings already present in your prospect’s mind. By understanding what they know, you can sneak your message past the gatekeeper like a Trojan horse. No one does this better than Geico. Notice how most of their television ads use existing stories – like Abe Lincoln, Three Little Pigs, Washington Crossing the Delaware, etc. They use an existing storyline you already know (and therefore value because of the influence principle of commitment and consistency) and simply ride their message on that storyline into your consciousness.
You can do it too. Who are your buyers? What do they already know and value? Let’s assume they’re baby boomers. The song ‘House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals is a perfect segue into your message. What if you know they really value outdoor living? Then address outdoor living in your messaging. What it they value privacy and safety… address it. What they know, they value. What they value they listen to.
How about uniqueness? I love this one most of all, but it is also very difficult to achieve as a builder. That said, it’s incredibly powerful. Most builders do many things the same. They use the same nails, 2×4’s, drywall, cabinet vendors, shingles, etc. and some even use the same subcontractors. So how can you be unique? I have a great list of questions to ask yourself that will help you find your uniqueness. Email me and I’ll gladly send it to you.
Your uniqueness – or your product’s uniqueness – is a free pass beyond the boundary of perception known as the limen threshold. In the cola world when Pepsi and Coke battled for position #1, along comes 7-Up. BAM, unique meant instant market share.
We work with a client out of the Nashville, Tennessee area. Their market is retirees who are also full-time RV’ers. Now there are plenty of builders building for the retirement market, but none like The Gardens. The owner and developer, Tim Wilson, has used his product’s uniqueness to create an evangelistic brand of customers who not only sell his product, but travel with him to trade shows and act as ambassadors. What’s unique about Tim’s community? His retirement homes include finished garages for huge RVs and are incredibly community-centric. Not for everyone, but that single uniqueness sets his community apart from all the other retirement communities out there. True uniqueness not only gives you immediate conscious access, but it tends to reduce the competition considerably.
Lastly, let’s address things that threaten us. Obviously, no builder wants to scare a customer – or do you? How about limited time incentives and offers? How about limited cul-de-sac lots remaining? What about limited river-view home sites? You get the point. Don’t miss the opportunity to use marketing messaging to convey potential loss.
There’s so much to say on this subject and so much detail to share, but so little space. Just remember that in order for your messaging to get a free pass into your prospect’s consciousness you need to achieve one of three things: Threaten them with losing something. Appeal to their values by selling what they already value. Or, understand your uniqueness and push it hard.
Remember, your prospect’s brain is determined to keep your annoying marketing and advertising at bay. Whenever possible, their mind will parse out what it believes is non-relevant information – and more often than not that is your email, or your blog, or your magazine ad, or your Facebook post, or your phone message.