November 25 2008

Does Blogging Work In The Building Industry?

We've heard the social media buzz for a while now.  We know the new Gen Y demographic is one of our largest ever and they have embraced social media.  What we have not heard a lot of is how, specifically, do we make social media work for our company.  So here is a specific example of how a divisional marketing professional is successfully using blogging and another social media site.

Jonathan Torres of D.R. Horton Tampa has a division blog.  Kudos to both Jonathan and D.R. Horton for letting this official or unofficial pilot exist.  So, is it working?  I say we let Jonathan comment on the challenges and successes.  I would however like to comment on the Internet Marketing impact the blog is having.  First, the D.R. Horton Tampa Blog has received credible press and recognition from Big Builder Online and from New Homes Directory just for being one of the only, if not the only publicly traded home builder to be actively blogging.  Secondly, you may or may not know that Google has a rapidly increasing interest in blogs.  For the past several months, Google has been including a link called 'Blog Results' into many its search results pages. 

1. Google Search for 'DR Horton'.

I did a Google search this morning for 'DR Horton', found and clicked the 'Blog Results'.  Low and behold what did I find?  The D.R. Horton Tampa blog as the first result. 

2. Google Blog Search for 'DR Horton'.

This is not the only influential item I found.  I also did a Google search for 'DR Horton Tampa'.  I found two powerful examples of Internet marketing that completely validate the Internet benefits of using social media as a major part of a marketing strategy.  The first example I found was that the D.R. Horton Tampa blog was the 9th result for the search (DR Horton Tampa).  The second example I found as the 10th result was a news release posted by Jonathan on NHDBuzz.com, the building industry's press release website.

3.  Google Search for 'DR Horton Tampa'.

Due to Jonathan's social media efforts, he single handedly has secured 2 out of 10 positions on the FIRST page of a Google search!   The first page of a Google search is the most powerful marketing real estate anyone can have.  It is the beach front property of the Internet. Most of us know the negative things that can appear in a Google search for a builder name.  Jonathan's use of social media, blogging and another social media site NHD Buzz, has ensured that the results page for D.R. Horton Tampa is filling up with positive influence.

Social media has made everyone a publisher and ensures everyone has a voice on the Internet.  We all need to understand that we no longer have complete control over our messages and our reputation is now being influenced heavily by our consumers.  The best that we can do now is to engage the social media space knowing that we can better connect with our consumers and we can proactively influence what our consumers see on the Internet.

Congratulations Jonathan!  You are helping poise D.R. Horton to positively influence your consumers in the social space.  I only hope that D.R. Horton corporate is watching, listening, and evaluating the results of your social media efforts.   Please let us know some of your challenges and successes.

If any of you know of other builders blogging, please share them with us in the comments below.  If you are a builder blogging, please share with us your challenges and successes.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

 


November 14 2008

BIS Show 2008 Video Blog

I spoke with Mike Lyon, author of 'Browsers To Buyers' yesterday and during our conversation he threw out the idea of doing a video blog at the IBS in Las Vegas in January.  I thought it was a fresh idea so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  Here's to you Mike.  

Attendance at the BIS Show, as you might imagine, was leaner compared to past years and the economic and housing news didn’t contribute much to enhancing our optimism.  Times are tough now in California and everyone here feels it.  Spending is down and consumer confidence is low, low.

A bright spot in the conference was the Sales & Marketing Roundtable yesterday (Thursday, Nov. 13th).  This was the first ever BIS Roundtable session.  The Roundtables were dynamic sessions covering a range of topics that are at the forefront of discussions in today’s market.  

I was both an attendee and a moderator along with Cindy Douglas, V.P. of Sales & Marketing - MIRM, from Ponderosa Homes. Ponderosa Homes builds in both Northern California and Southern California. Attendees were encouraged to engage the moderators as well as other attendees in close, interactive discussions relevant to their businesses.  We all had the opportunity to ask questions and share personal experiences in a network setting.

I felt that everyone in the Sales & Marketing roundtable was energized by the fact that we all seemed to connect on several topics.   My feeling is that housing professionals need to feel connected to others facing the same challenges because together, we feel we can survive this market.  Together, we can do it.

Watch a few of those who responded to the roundtable.   I know it's raw, but that's life. Thank you Bobbie, Cindy, and Christy for being brave enough to comment on video. Here is the YouTube video. Make sure to click the 'Watch in high quality' link for the good stuff.

Jim Adams - CEO - New Homes Directory.com



November 08 2008

Big Builder Show 2008

The best building industry show ever? Check it out. The 2008 Big Builder Show was held Nov. 3-5 at the Gaylord National Resort in Washington, DC. The show was hosted and coordinated by John McManus, Editorial Director of Big Builder Magazine, Jerry Shrair of Boiling Point, and Sarah Yaussi, Executive Editor of Big Builder Magazine.

Personal Opinion Of The Show

As building industry show formats go, this was the most unique and provocative show I have ever attended.  The standard show format includes keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and a networking mixer of some type.  Not this show.

This show pretty much demanded that attendees participate and collaborate.  This was fantastic!  It was so easy to meet and speak with others after the sessions were over because of the session participation.  I personally made more great connections at this show in two days than I have in most 3-4 day shows.

To John McManus, Jerry Shrair, Sarah Yaussi, and anyone else influencing the format of this show, I say thank you.  I can only imagine it had to be quite gutsy (to say the least) to have this show format amid a conservative and historically non-transparent industry.  I applaud you with the utmost respect and admiration.

On a professional level, I felt the show had such a strong value that I will attend the Big Builder Show as long as I'm in the industry. The Show's quality was the best I've attended.  It was obvious that meticulous care went into the planning.  For those who don't know me, trust me when I say I'm not easily impressed.  Here's what I loved about the show's quality:

  1. Dan Ariely, Jerry Shrair, and the roundtable with Ara Hovnanian, Sheryl Palmer, and Jeffery Peterson were all speakers that positively affected my business in a significant way. I have not yet read Dan's book but plan to based on his demostrations to us. The book is called Predictability Irrational.
  2. Gaylord Resort. Awesome atrium, free Internet, and the National Pastime (restaurant) was one of the best places to watch football I've been. The pictures on the website don't do the place justice.
  3. The quality bags given out to attendees (I never keep these). I use this bag to tote around my laptop now instead of the roller I was using.
  4. The pre-show breakfasts.
  5. The cappuccino bar.
  6. The Wii game stations.
  7. All the open bars.
  8. The election party was off the hook.  Located in the Pose Ultra Nightclub in the Gaylord, this party had huge TVs everywhere for us to watch the election, fantastic hors d'oeuvres and dessert bar, a beer tasting bar, a rubik's cube demonstration bar hosted by the world record holder of the 14 sided rubik's cube, and a large ice sculpture the bar tender poured shots off (I won't go into detailed activities regarding this one – oh yeah).


Thank Yous
To Carol Ruiz, author of How To Write A Press Release and the PR company (RedRocketLA) for NewHomesDirectory.com, thank you for urging my attendance (DC is along way from home) and thank you for the fantastic introductions.  You are exactly what our company needs.  Your level of professionalism and way of doing business is very rare in my experiences.

John McManus, thank you for pulling the trigger on something radically different. I can only imagine it wasn't easy for many different reasons.  The show you put together had a great influence on my business and for that I am grateful. I had a great time to boot.

Sarah Yaussi, you did a fantastic job moderating a very vocal and passionate group of sales and marketing professionals. You were polite, gracious, and professional in an emotional environment – not easy to do.


Show Details (The boring things you probably don't want to read)

The show began with a combination of a keynote speaker  and a Q&A roundtable; same as most shows. A major emphasis of the show was attendee participation and collaboration (very different) leading to discussing opportunities for improved profitability.

However, the second day, Jerry Shrair, CEO of Boiling Point, a leading international innovation and brand consultancy, began the morning by asking a series of questions on several topics.  Topics were divided into:

  1. Purchasing
  2. Operations
  3. Sales & Marketing
  4. Finance
  5. Land and Design


Just a quick comment on Jerry.  I thought Jerry was fantastic for the building industry and for this show. His blueprint for improved profitability was perfect for our industry - even more so in the current economy.  It was glaringly obvious Jerry is a subject matter expert in regards to brand development, team collaboration, and profitability.  Look at the client list. Hard to argue with results.

Jerry handed out 4 pieces of paper and asked everyone to write down opportunities for improved profitability in each of the areas above.  The catch is that you could not write down ideas for your area of expertise.  You had to write down ideas for each of the other areas.  The idea was to give fresh, outside ideas. Jerry then proceeded to troll through the crowd with a microphone and had attendees answer the questions.  This was uncomfortable because, again, the questions were not about topics we knew anything about.

Jerry asked a question about financing, (I know nothing about financing hundreds of millions of dollars), so I put my head down and made sure I made no eye contact.  As you can guess, he called on me.  The first thing I said was that this was not a good question for me.  He told me (over the microphone to 300 people) to give it a shot anyway.  So I did; ugh.  Now no one loves this, but it created an atmosphere of vulnerability, participation, and collaboration – which was a major emphasis of the conference.

As you might imagine, it was easy to make conversation after that because we all had one thing in common – speak to a group of 300 about an idea on a subject we have little to no expertise.

After that opening, we proceeded to our break-out sessions.  I went to the Sales & Marketing session led by Sarah Yaussi.  The session was the typical sit and listen to a speaker.  The format was similar to the opening keynote session.  Sarah directed us to come up with 3 of the best opportunities to increase profitability in sales and marketing.

If you have ever asked open ended questions to a group of people, you know that it can easily become chaotic.  And true to form, our group brought up many things, both on topic and off topic.  We did this about an hour before lunch and about 1.5 hours after lunch.  Attendees to the sales and marketing session were active and passionate participants.

All five groups then reconvened in the main session room and two representatives from each group presented the top three opportunities for profitability to everyone else.  Mike Disler, a former Division President for Ryland Homes presented the sales and marketing opportunities to the rest of the groups. Thank you Mike – whew.

The end of the day concluded with an election party.  Now I've been to lots of parties - they're fun, I buy a few drinks, and chat with a few folks.  This party was awesome (read what I loved about the party above).  Enough said.

Jim Adams – CEO
New Homes Directory.com

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