Written by Jennifer Cooper, CMO at Focus 360
It’s fall, and homebuilders are in the throes of planning season weighing the balances of risk, growth, unforeseen market conditions and how much they want to spend to keep traffic coming in the door. Marketers over the last few years have been forced to pull back spending due to a strong market. As demand changes and builders find themselves fighting for market share, we should see increases in marketing spend come back to life and rise from the past few years. Where should dollars be spent and how should they strategically be allocated is now the question, and we will explore some of those recommendations and what to consider.
The Role of Technology in Homebuilder Planning
One of the biggest areas to budget for is technology. In fact, does your company even have a technology road map? If you don’t, maybe that is yet another exercise you want to add to the to-do list!
Technology should be infiltrating your systems and processes and nearly all of them will somehow tie back to marketing if you map out the data points! Your marketing teams have lofty goals and responsibilities that include; building and managing a brand, managing reputation online, creating awareness of communities, driving traffic and leads to the website and sales office, creating memorable experiences online (and onsite), continuing to educate the customer through the marketing funnel with materials and information used to sell, creating high-quality virtual model design experience and physical model design, and data gathering and analysis…. oh yeah that one! Marketing teams can produce a wealth of data through their applications that offer customer insights nearly every department can use to become more efficient.
Marketers can answer a ton of questions. Where are customers most interested in buying, where are they moving from, what floorplans get the most views, what elevations are trending, how are floorplans being configured, what is being saved, how long is it taking customers to convert, at what point on a website do customers stop engaging, and at what point do they start? See where it starts to get interesting? This data provides details for product development, sales, online sales, purchasing and even construction teams relatively quickly. It also helps a marketer adjust their sails on marketing strategy and communications, but only if you are considering how technology plays a role at the planning table. It all comes down to how much you are using it and relying on it as a team.
Staying Competitive with Technology
Hopefully you are starting to see why technology has a place in the board room discussions around 2024 planning. Some reading this blog may be thinking, “wow, we can’t even connect all of these dots just yet” while others are planning way beyond these status quo metrics. In fact, innovative builders and service providers are now looking at the next phases of customer experience and the introduction in AI that will dive further into customer interactions and predictions taking data points to yet another level.
Furthermore, if you are not planning to add more technology to your customer experiences, your company will eventually see your growth and opportunity to keep up with fellow builders stagger behind. Without the right technologies in place to drive your business you will lose market share – period. This is especially true in a down market where ready, willing, and able to buy consumers are looking for information and applications that guide their attention and on-demand exploration.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
How should technology have a voice in your planning meetings? Let’s come back to a few marketing focus areas and consider how your consumer expects more transparency, more tools, and more ways to explore homebuying on their own time. Think about whether your current technology assets stop buyers or support them in this effort. Consider these discussion areas to kick off your analysis:
Your competition is most likely already doing more so what are they doing? “The early bird gets the worm” is a true statement. Perform a full competitive analysis of what they do co compared to what you do. Define what top performing visuals to add to your strategy and create a technology road map to onboard the tools that may take more time and budget. If you don’t plan for the future, your competition will capture willing and able buyers first.
Increase Online Engagement
Want to increase online engagement KPI’s? Keep prospects on your website longer with animation videos, interactive floorplans and lifestyle inspiring virtual model home tours. Help your customers play with their dream home! Also, where do you capture your leads? More applications now exist to configure their home design, and even verify a homebuyer to reserve a home. Consider what you are missing in this lineup that might make your prospects linger a little longer and fall in love your home designs and community.
Preselling with Technology
Looking to presell? Have no fear when you bring your model homes out of the ground and into the virtual world. Entice your buyers with real-to-life renderings and engaging site maps to understand your community’s plan of action for phased growth. A static VIP or coming soon landing page is simply a sign-up sheet to get emails. Go the extra mile to build real interest and engagement.
Improving Appointment Conversion
Want to help your OSC’s improve appointment conversion metrics? Give them more tools to share in conversation, text, and chat! Interactive assets help sell, while limited photos and black and white rendering drawings do not. Not sure where to start? Bring in your OSC team to talk about where the stop gaps are in their conversations to convert to appointment or what tool might get more prospects across the finish line to take a step inside the sales office.
Connecting Digital Spend to Performance
Need more data to connect your digital spend to your online performance? Of course you do! Use your high-quality renderings and videos to pull people from their website browsing and into your website’s front door. Make the most of digital display ad and social ad dollars especially when you have new floorplans coming into market that have yet to be built. Technology and virtual assets can boost that interest quickly and you can track that performance into and through your website.
Consistency in Online and Onsite Sales
Create seamless experiences from online to onsite. How you sell online should feel similar or the same to how you sell in person. For example, at Focus 360, our next™ Sales Solutions, offer the same tools to buyers on their couch as your sales teams can share in the sales office. Furthermore, these integrated sales tools offer data on preferred prospect floorplans, elevations and selections. Your marketing ROI can stretch in various ways while offering a consistent buying journey experience. It’s another win,win if you leverage the data!
Be Future Focus
As you can see, technology and ultimately VizTech will play a HUGE part in 2024 and years to come. Your marketing and R&D dollars must support advancement of the customer experience especially online. So, start building that road map and don’t forget to hold a seat for technology as you plan for next year.