Even though this article will focus on home builders, any local business can use these same 11 online marketing tactics to beat their national competitors at their own game.
So the housing market seems to be climbing again, especially here in Phoenix, so the national and local players are at it again. The only problem is, the national guys are lean and they have marketing budgets and investors up the ying yang. So how on earth does the smaller guy compete?
You could rely on rising demand.
After all, the US is only building about 1 million homes per year, which is double what it was during the credit crises, but still less than half of the 2.3 million homes that were built in 2005-2006.
There is more good news.
Mortgage costs are still only 17% of average income. Considering that the long term average is 24%, we are looking at double digit increases in opportunities for home builders over the next 5 years.
So the real questions still beckon.
Are you going to miss this gravy train? How can you jump on the bandwagon and pour that gravy over your turkey?
Well another bad analogy certainly isn’t the answer.
The answer lies in clever online marketing tactics. You see, the thing about online marketing is that there are tons of ways you can do it for a low price. The big guys out there spend way too much per customer than they have to.
Imagine you are a billion dollar company and you have a lot with 300 homes to sell. Your budget allows you to spend $10,000 per home on marketing, because the profit on each home is $30,000. So you go to a marketing agency and you write them a check for $3m with a guarantee of selling all the homes.
That marketing agency will be able to sell each home with less than $1,000 in marketing costs, but the home builder doesn’t care. All he cares is that his budgets and targets have been met.
According to a new study by Rex Briggs big companies waste 40% of their marketing budgets. Even though ‘big data’ is meant to help them. I personally think that marketing agencies help to underplay that 40% of waste, so the true figure is perhaps unknown.
So what are the big guys spending their money on?
As you can see, according to CMA, the large ‘corps’ are spending 15% of their budget on ‘internet/web’. If you include social media in that statistic you will be looking at 24%.
Another interesting stat is that 76% of construction companies will be increasing their marketing budgets in 2013. So who do you think is going to grab the bulk of the pent up demand? You, or them?
If you are a local home builder and you implement the following online marketing tactics you can compete with these guys on a level playing field. That means getting more customers, becoming an industry thought leader, getting attention from the local media, having your pick of investors etc.
So let’s dive in and I will explain exactly how you can achieve all of this, and more, in these 11 marketing tactics.
According to HubSpot, active blogs draw 6.9 times more organic search traffic and double the amount of referral traffic. Check out the results of their study below.
Why does Google reward me for writing blog posts?
Google has changed a lot since it came to us (with a bang) over a decade ago, but one thing remains the same. Google indexes pages and tries to connect the most relevant pages to search queries people type in. The more pages you have, the more chance you have of someone coming across your website.
So blogging has been driving traffic to websites for years, but there has been some recent fundamental changes in the way Google operates which give high quality, freshly updated, smoothly shaven (kidding), blogs more authority in the search results.
Google now looks at quality and quantity more than ever. Spam websites are getting punished and this has opened up an opportunity for legitimate businesses. So blogging has a higher ROI than it used to, because tons of spam websites aren’t competing with you anymore.
It is pretty obvious how more traffic from search engines will help you to acquire customers. However, all sorts of interesting people who are in the home building industry will also come across your website. That includes investors, reporters, politicians, procurement departments, consultants, lawyers, and your competitors.
Position yourself as an expert
Blogging does a lot more than encourage a ‘Google love fest’ on your website. It also positions you as an expert within your industry. By writing highly effective blog posts, all those people who are now coming to your website will believe that you really know what you are talking about.
“Being an expert fosters trust and respect”
Don’t you hate coming across those customers that just don’t respect you, or what you do? Well, that drastically reduces when you are constantly blogging and become an authority in your space. Imagine people calling you up and asking you to help out on their building project? You have just landed your first consulting job, thank you very much sir!
If you build tract homes and need investors, wouldn’t it be great to show off how much other people think of your knowledge? Wouldn’t it be incredible if they contact you, because you have written an outstanding article on something they are interested in? Blogging is an excellent way to prove that you are the real deal.
What do home builders blog about?
So I am guessing that you are convinced that blogging is worth it (because it is), but what on earth should you blog about?
By using the Google keyword tool, you should be able to make a list of what keywords to write about, but it isn’t as effective as you might think. The best thing to do is find out what your target audience are really looking for. You have to blog for people, not for Google.
Let me give you a breakdown
Tract Home Builder
If you build communities of homes, then you should blog for three audiences.
Investors – e.g. how to find the best lots for homes
Builders and contractors – e.g. what materials work best for modern framing
New home buyers – e.g. how to save $40,000 on your new home mortgage
If you usually take on one project at a time then you should focus on your ideal customer. This would probably be older, upper middle class, people.
Blog about how you can use your self-directed IRA to get a tax break on building your new home.
What to look for when they choose their custom home builder.
What ROI a custom home can give them.
How to leave their assets, like their home, to loved ones tax free.
The possibilities are really endless.
Make a list of interesting blogs to get ideas
I have a list of 8 inspirational bloggers in an excel spreadsheet. They give me tons of ideas on what content to write for my blog. When I read an interesting article which really gives me value, I will make a note of the title, and the URL of the article. When it comes to me deciding what to write about, I can have a look at 20 different topics for ideas.
Blogging got me to the top of Google for some big keywords, including Phoenix web design even though my homepage is not optimized for it in the traditional SEO sense:
Try to write about 4-8 blog posts each month. The more frequently you post, the more traffic you will get. The most important thing is to stick with it. It can take a long time for your blog to become popular, but if you combine blogging with content marketing, then you will be able to rise to the top even faster.
#2 – Spread your expertise around the web with content marketing
Now that you have a blog which is spitting out fresh and juicy content for Google and your target audience, it is time to leverage the hell out of it.
There are several ways in which you can spread your content around the web, but I am going to clump them together into two categories. Paid and free.
Free content marketing method
You are probably thinking that this is the way to go, but what you save in hard costs might be outweighed by the amount of time it takes.
Create a list of influential bloggers and tweeters in your industry – to do this go to Technorati.com and search for blogs in your industry.
Link to the bloggers on your list.
Send a personal email to the blogger and let them know that you have mentioned them in your blog post. You should also ask them to Tweet your content.
Leave comments on their blog, linking back to your relevant content.
This will help you to build some long term relationships. You can also ask some of the thought leaders in your industry for interviews and post them on your blog. This way they will get some exposure and it will add to your credibility.
Paid content marketing method
Paying to have your content distributed is much easier than reaching out to influencers, but it does cost money. I recommend using a service like Outbrain to have your article featured on websites like Forbes.com, USA Today, TIME, New York Times, Mashable, Techcrunch etc.
By spending about $10 per day you can get over 40 visitors to your blog post.
You have to make sure that your content is of a really good quality. If it isn’t, then you will be wasting your money, because the traffic will just bounce right off your website. You want people to stick around. The more they stick around the more likely they are to share their content on their social media accounts, especially Twitter and Google+.
Reaching out to influencers is still your best bet in the long run, but they may not look favorably on your blog if you don’t have any comments or social shares.
I would recommend using a combination of paid and free content marketing tactics, because then you get instant traffic as well as building long term relationships with some incredible bloggers.
Blogging and content marketing will take care of the traffic for now. Before pursuing any other traffic generation strategies, you should optimize your website to capture leads.
The golden rule, when it comes to lead generation, is that not everyone is ready to buy your product or inquire about your services when they land on your website. But that doesn’t mean that they never will be. The problem is that once they are ready to contact you, they may have forgotten how they found you in the first place.
So it is very important to give your visitors something for free in exchange for their contact information. This will allow you to build up your email list which fits nicely into your blogging and content marketing strategies mentioned above.
Here are three lead generation techniques and what to do with those leads.
Technique One – get the email
Write a detailed eBook or a whitepaper which will give your web visitors a mountain of value. That means giving them something which is practical and easy to implement. For people looking to buy or invest in homes, it should be geared towards saving money, or making money.
Here are a couple of examples that come to mind from the top of my head. I know some of them sound cheesy, but they work.
99 Ways to Bring Down Your Mortgage Costs
How to Make a Return on Investment of 29% per Year With Home Building
22 Ways to Get Cheap Financing for Your New Home
9 Secret Strategies Wealthy Investors Use to Profit from Custom Homes
A Practical Guide to Paying NOTHING for Your Dream Home
You have to know your target market in order to write something that will be of value to them. If you don’t, then you are going to attract the wrong kind of lead. You might want to generate two types of leads from your website.
Once you know exactly what your target audience wants, you should write at least 5,000 words, otherwise it won’t be detailed enough. If you are not a good writer, or you don’t have the time, then I suggest going to Textbroker.com or putting an ad out on Craig’s List. There are lots of English majors who are unemployed out there with impeccable writing skills.
What to do with your new found content
Now you should create a sign up form on your blog sidebar, or a popup, which asks for a visitors email address and nothing more. The less you ask for, the more leads you’ll get.
Every time you write a new blog post you should email it to your list of prospects and ask them for their feedback. This will help to improve your content marketing and will firmly position you as an expert.
Now that you have your lead, that person will be constantly reminded about you and your company. When they are ready to buy a new home then YOU are the person they are going to contact. Better than that, if one of their friends wants to buy a new home, YOU will be the person they refer them to.
Technique Two – up the engagement with an email series
The second technique is about improving the engagement once you have collected the email address. By engagement, I mean the user taking action to contact you.
By just sending them your blog articles every week it will help to remind them of you, but you can be even more successful in pulling them in by creating an email series. That is a series of at least 7 emails in which you give them even more value, above and beyond the eBook.
Each email needs to have a specific purpose. The first few will simply lead them to look forward to the next one. The last few will start prompting them to take action, and the very last email will be an outright sales letter.
This achieves a number of things:
The whole purpose of getting someone’s email address (by offering the eBook) is because they may not be ready to engage in a serious conversation about your product. The reason for emailing them your blog posts is to keep your company in the forefront of their thinking when it comes to homes. The reason for the email series is to push those who are ready, over the fence and into your arms.
This technique is geared towards your secondary audience. If you build custom homes, one at a time, then this might not apply to you, because you only have one target audience: customers. However, if you are looking for customers and investors, then this technique will go a long way to helping you out.
I used to think that getting $250k+ cash investors from the internet was impossible. Not only was I wrong, but I found that plenty of $1m+ investors were lurking around, ready to be picked up. I found this out when I was marketing LegacyForex.com using the very strategies I talk about in this blog post. We had more than 50 prospects with over $100,000 each in liquid cash to invest, and about 5 with more than $1m.
So they are definitely out there.
Luckily for you, your blogging has already done most of the work for you. You have the traffic and you have the credibility. Now you just need to let people know that you are accepting investors.
You should create a landing page specifically for investors, and leave subtle links around your website to drive traffic to that page. You will be surprised about how many private individuals have tons of money lying around in their IRAs.
The landing page needs to show them facts and figures on what they can expect by investing in your building projects. Then give them a simple form to fill out so that you can get in contact.
You can do this with any secondary target audience, but you have to do it right. Otherwise your website will lose focus and the conversion rate will drop.
#4 – Social media marketing the right way
Social media is an incredible way to create conversations about your brand. Big companies use it all the time, but I don’t really like it as a marketing medium for small businesses. What is the point of creating conversations? If anything, you probably need less conversation and more sales.
That doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t work for small businesses, it just means that you need to use it in the correct way. Paying for Facebook and Twitter ads, creating videos, memes, and #hashtags, will cost you time and money without a measurable the ROI.
Here is what you should be doing as a home builder
Create a Google+ business account, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter profile. Don’t worry, the upkeep will take you less than 5 minutes per day. I would suggest getting a designer to make all of your social profiles look professional. The default generic looking ones will make your business look like an amateur.
Adding content to your social media profiles
Every time you add a new blog post to your website you should add the link to each of the social profiles. You can use a service such as Buffer to automatically post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
On top of your blog posts you should be adding about 2 updates per day. This can be anything from funny pictures, relevant quotes, links to other articles etc. You should be going this even if you don’t have any followers or fans. Google looks at your business’ overall social presence and factors that into your search ranking.
Getting fans and followers to your social media profiles
As a small business you don’t really want to pay Facebook to feature your business in front of your target demographic. Google Pay Per Click (PPC) is way more efficient at reaching your target market, so any money that you are going to spend on buying ads should be spent on search, not social media.
So how do you get the fans and followers?
The reason why social media works so well for certain businesses is due to brand advocates – people who rave and rant about you and your business to anyone that would listen (in a positive way of course). These are the kinds of followers you need on your social profiles.
You are probably wondering what difference this is going to make to your bottom line. Well, according to a study conducted by Zuberance, companies that successfully use brand advocates see a 1,000% ROI. So if you invested $1 in brand advocates you will get $10 in return. Best of all, you can harness your brand advocates for FREE. And here is how:
Every time someone signs up to your email list, you should direct them to a ‘thank you’ page which prompts them to engage.
Add a call to action at the bottom of every email.
Add another call to action at the bottom of every blog post.
Finally, tell your customers to ask you questions on your social networks.
Number 4 is the most important, because it achieves three things:
It increases the activity in your social media account, which keeps search engines interested.
It provides more social proof for your business. By solving problems quickly, and in the open, you are showing potential customers how easy it is to get customer support.
Every time someone posts on your social media account, all of their friends and followers see it too. Yes sir, that is called a free brand awareness campaign.
Imagine all your customer service questions come in through a free platform that promotes your brand in the process? Isn’t that the best kind of social media utilization you can think of?
So which social media account is best for home builders?
Since Facebook is the most popular platform with over 167 million users in the US alone, I think that would be your best bet. Especially since older Americans are really getting the hang of it whereas the younger generation utilize Twitter.
Facebook also allows you to promote certain posts to your followers if you wanted to run a special event or an opening of a building project. You should still be running Twitter and Google+ accounts for the SEO value they give your website.
Eventually, when you become an enormous company, due to these marketing tactics, you can invest more heavily in other social media platforms.
#5 – YouTube your way to the top
By now you will be sitting pretty. You are generating tons of organic traffic to your website, positioning yourself as an expert, and you are utilizing social media in the right way.
Now things will get really interesting. By utilizing YouTube properly, you will be able to add another layer of social proof to your website by generating a ton of traffic. Home builders never use YouTube to its full potential, so you will really get one up on your competitors.
The only problem with video marketing is that it is expensive to maintain. Getting a high quality video shot isn’t as cheap as some of the other content creation methods. Posting videos about your company from an iPhone isn’t going to do you any favors (you know who you are).
So what kind of videos are we talking about?
Ideally, you want the kind of videos which shows off how much your customers love your company. Below are a couple of my clients, RES Contracting, and Easy Living Homes. They absolutely nailed their videos.
I would suggest finding a local freelancer to shoot and cut the video for you. Craig’s List is always a winner when it comes to stuff like this.
Promoting your video on YouTube to get to the top of Google
That’s right, you can get your video to the top of Google for almost any keyword. In fact, it is 52 times easier to rank a video than a web page. You should be targeting those really competitive ones with at least more than 500 searches per month. Here are a couple of examples.
New homes Phoenix
Phoenix home builders
Home builders Phoenix
These are just a couple of examples. Obviously just replace ‘Phoenix’ with whatever city you are targeting. By doing a proper keyword analysis you will be able to find more than 100 relevant keywords people search for.
Now that you have your video and your keyword, what’s next?
Get a 1,000 word article written for that specific keyword on iWriter or Textbroker. You will place the article in the description of your YouTube video. Then get another unique article written about the exact same keyword, and post it on your blog.
When you upload the video to YouTube, you should embed it in the blog post you just posted. This will tell Google what the video is about. Especially if the two articles are relevant to one another.
Next, head over to Microworkers.com and get USA users to write 100 comments on your YouTube video. You should create a second micro project and ask over 300 workers to share the video on Twitter and Google+. The third micro project will be to ‘like’ the YouTube video – and you should get about 500-1,000 ‘likes’.
Once you have created all the projects, you should submit the video to Virool.com and blast it with USA based YouTube views. How many views really depends on how competitive the keyword is, but the more you spend on views, the higher the odds of your video reaching the top of Google. You would need at least 10,000 views.
Lastly, head over to pennybacklinks.com and get 1,000 low quality links built to your video.
Not only will your company get tons of exposure from doing the promotion, but the continuous traffic from Google will be incredibly beneficial. The more videos you do, the more traffic you will get. It also has the added bonus of increasing the conversation rate of your website.
There are tons of ways you can use paid ads to get traffic to your website, but you need to focus all of your attention on the ones that generate the highest ROI. Luckily for you, I have already done the research for you.
I know everyone rants and raves on about Facebook and Twitter ads, but in the end, search engines win out, and here’s why.
Social networks are just that: social. If you were sitting in a bar, chatting to your friends, and someone shoves a flyer in your face about a new home development, you will take one look at it and be pissed off – even if you were interested in buying a new home. It is not the time or the place.
Search engines are different. If you were actively searching for a new home, and you come across a flyer with information about new homes for sale, you are way more likely to take action.
Paid search includes Bing Ads and Google Adwords. When you take into account all the moving parts of these ad platforms, it can get very complicated, very quickly. So think about hiring an external company to handle your PPC campaigns. You will save a ton of money and time in the long run.
Retargeting is an awesome form of advertising, because your ads are only displayed to people who visited your website. So if someone visits your site, they will see ads for your website all over the internet for 30 days. It might sounds annoying, but it has an incredible ROI.
You can use the Double Click network, or Positionly, but make sure you rotate your ads every week. People get tired of seeing the same old stuff and your ROI will drop.
#7 – Be there when someone asks a question using Google Alerts
If you have implemented everything we have talked about on this blog then you will be getting a lot attention from potential customers. At this point you need to start monitoring your reputation online.
If anyone says anything about your company online you have to be there to answer. All negative and positive comments, blog posts, articles, Yelp reviews etc. need to be monitored on a daily basis.
This is a very simple, yet very effective, strategy. You may think ‘reputation management’ sounds like it is dangerous, but it really isn’t. If you are always around to answer questions on every single website in the world, then your reputation will exceed all expectations. Also, Google loves it! Every time you comment, or answer a question, there will be a link pointing back to your website.
More traffic, better reputation, and Google juice! What isn’t there to like?
So how do you monitor billions of potential websites?
It couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is set up a daily Google Alert for a particular keyword. In most cases, it will be your company name and/or your name. Then, at the end of each day, Google will send you an email with a list of all the websites that mentioned you.
To be honest, you are unlikely to be flooded with results, but there should be a couple every day. Make sure you write a little something on every single one of the results that get sent to you.
I was right wasn’t I? Very simple, but very effective.
#8 – Press releases that get you featured in the News
Now it is time to start getting featured in the local newspapers, and perhaps some national ones too. This strategy is going to help you to achieve some massive traffic results and press coverage. I have had some fantastic results using this strategy for clients. In fact, it is an integral part of my viral marketing strategy.
Talk about how your business helped out a customer in need.
Support a controversial cause.
Simply do a case study about how your business did something truly exceptional, like a project you completed.
Write the press release
Make sure that you get the formatting of the press release right. As a benchmark I always use this templates provided by Publicity Insider.
One of the most important things about your press release is the fact that you should be reporting the news. Don’t use words like ‘we’ and ‘I’. Over 30,000 journalists and bloggers will receive this news article and they should be able to copy and paste the entire story without editing it.
Distributing your press release
I wasn’t joking. Your press release will go to over 30,000 journalists and bloggers. If you have something interesting to say then someone somewhere will write about it.
To do this you should head over to PRWeb.com and do one of their premium releases.
Once you have distributed your release you need to keep an eye on your Google alerts and engage when your business is mentioned.
#9 – Location based marketing
As with all areas of online marketing, location based has tons of things to consider. But you know me, I like focusing on the one thing that gives you the highest ROI, and that is Google+ Local.
By doing this right, you will be showing up on people’s maps if they search for business within a specific area. You are also very likely to be featured in the top of the search listings if you physical location matches the zip code of the ‘searcher’.
So how do you implement location based marketing?
It is pretty simple actually. Just add your business and the address to Google + Local. Since you have already set up your social media accounts (remember strategy #4?) you just have to go to www.google.com/local/add and follow the steps.
Make sure that your customers write as many reviews as possible on your Google + Local Listings, because they show up in search engines.
If you have implemented everything in this guide into your marketing mix, then you will be getting an avalanche of traffic and leads. One of the great things about online marketing is your ability to test and revise everything you do.
All the big guys are continuously testing and improving their websites with A/B split tests. Here are a few examples:
1. Highrise increased their website’s conversion rate by 102.5% by showing a happy customer and a testimonial in the background of their homepage.
2. Performable improved conversions by 21% by simply changing the color of their button from green to red.
3. Intuit increased their conversion rate by 211% by adding a chat feature to their website.
You get the point right? All of these companies had great designers behind their projects and they were still able to improve their conversion rate by testing different variations. You don’t know if you have the optimal sales funnel on your website until you actually test it.
So what instructions should you give to your web designer?
One of the simplest ways to test different variations of a page is with A/B testing. If your website is WordPress based, then this will be easy.
What is an A/B split test?
It is when a piece of software serves two versions of a particular web page to your visitors. 50% of the visitors get the first page (A) and the other 50% get the other page (B). By measuring the conversion rate of each page, you will know which variation is the winner.
It is important that the software you use to do your A/B split testing is accurate. That is why you should test the same variation of the page first to see if you are getting the same results. Once your A/A test is complete and it shows roughly the same results, you can go ahead and do your AB. The last thing you want is inaccurate reporting.
You need at least 100 actions (conversions) in order to determine whether the test is a success on each page variation, otherwise you might get something that isn’t statistically significant.
Don’t expect big wins from small changes on your website. Focus on BIG changes first and once you have maximized their potential, only then focus on small changes. I would recommend spending a lot of time on changes to headlines first, because they make the biggest impact on your visitors.
How small business home builders should use conversion optimization
Like I said before, if you are marketing your business correctly you should be receive thousands of visitors every month. However, what if you are just starting your AB testing now, when you are just getting 200 visitors per month? Well, you are going to get inaccurate results, unless you follow these steps.
Run your tests for at least 4-6 months.
Test micro conversions, like the click rate from your home page to your portfolio. Some of the pros in the industry warn against doing this, but if you do this for every part of your website, you can see some big improvements. Especially for small visitor counts.
Test one page at a time. Don’t run AB tests on multiple pages at once. You need to know what effect each variation has on all your stats.
If you have made it this far, then you have done well, because this section is very technical for the average home builder.
Let’s dive into how you can get those big deals!
#11 –Telemarketing your way to the $5m deal
When I first planned on writing this guide for home builders I was going to stop at number 10, because technically this marketing tactic is not an online one. However, I have had such success with my own business doing this, that I thought I would give you a little bonus.
Why would you want to do this?
Connecting with individual customers is great, but connecting with people who want 50+ homes built in one go is way better! At the very worst you will probably land a consulting gig.
When I started using a telemarketing company they set up more than 10 appointments in one month with potential customers. Then that got me thinking, what if I hired them to make business connections? What if they called accountants and asked them to do a strategic partnership, for example?
So instead of connecting with one customer I would potentially get 3-4 customers per year for every partnership they set up. Since they get 5-10 appointments per month there would be a very good chance of that happening. I haven’t tried this ‘strategic partnership’ telemarketing strategy yet, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest it works.
According to B2B Marketing telemarketing is still one of the most effective B2B marketing channels available. Silver Pop rave and rant on about how telemarketing is incredible for making connections to other businesses.
So here is what you do
Draw up a plan – Who do you want to call? What do you want to offer? I would suggest targeting hedge fund managers, pension funds, money market managers etc. They are always looking for way to improve their ROI, and housing is always a hot topic. Make sure you offer them facts & figures mixed with some sizzle & bang.
Hire a company to do about 40 hours of cold calling per month. If you want to know who I use and trust, please contact me.
Get appointments and ask for feedback. It is important to ask for constant feedback to improve your pitch. Test out two different scripts and look at the success rate of each one.
Meet them and close the deal!
A parting thought
So there you have it! A comprehensive marketing guide to help you build more homes. By focussing on the online marketing with the highest ROI hopefully I was able to lift the veil on the wild west of the internet. If you have any questions you should leave a comment below or give me a call.