December 21 2008

Pardee Homes Boosts Reputation By Using NHD Buzz

In June of 2008 Sarah Cook and I met with Jessica Heinz of Pardee Homes to pitch a new application we were developing for builders.  The essence of the application was a press release website for home builders to promote their companies, their communities, and the marketing professionals of those companies.  With free sign up, and unlimited press release postings, these stories would be found on Google searches that would contribute to the builders online reputation.

We've seen the negative reputation builders can have because of negative consumer testimonials found through Google searches for builder company names.  If you are not familiar with what can happen, read When Consumers Attack.

On July 7, 2008 Jessica Heinz posted three press releases to NHD Buzz.  Today a Google search for Pardee Homes displays the Buzz story entitled Pardee Homes Nationally Honored at 2008 IBS in the number 7 position. 

Pardee Homes Buzz

 

In addition, a Google search for Jessica Heinz displays Jessica Heinz Press Releases on NHD Buzz in the number 6 position.

 

Jessica Heinz Buzz

It's all playing out just like we envisioned.  Jessica is filling up the first page of results with positive stories about Pardee Homes while at the same time she is filling up the first page of results with great PR about herself as a professional.  In short, Jessica is successfully marketing both Pardee Homes and herself as a professional in the new frontier of marketing.  Great job Jessica, keep it up.


Still not sure how easy it is?  Read Builders Reach More Consumers By Using NHDBuzz.com.  All you have to do is post your builder and community stories and NHD Buzz takes care of the rest.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

 

December 20 2008

Video Is The Next Consumer Expectation

I've been saying this for about 8 months.  The train has officially left the station.  ComScore just announced on December 18, that YouTube searches make up 25% of all Google searches and that YouTube searches are greater than Yahoo! searches.  Are you kidding me?  Just six short years ago, Yahoo! search was king.  And now they are out searched by a video site?  Yep.  Don't blink.  You may miss something.

It just so happens 8 months is how long we've been working to develop NewHomesDirectory.TV.  It will be in beta for a few more months as we anticipate working out the bugs we aren't aware of yet.  New members, please be patient.  For all intents and purposes, the site is up and running.  Current videos have been produced for K. Hovnanian Homes, D.R. Horton Homes, Standard Pacific Homes, Pacific Ridge Homes, and Shea Homes.  Others are beginning to trickle in so stay tuned.

You know what else?  On the same day (December 18, 2008) the YouTube blog announced its High Definition roll out.

It all makes perfect sense.  We love watching video.  It's easy.  Video is getting easier to produce.  Internet infrastructure is quickly evolving to support video.  Broadband continues to be more accessible, continues to get faster, and continues to get cheaper.  Over the next 5-10 years we will see Natural Selection as its finest.  Anyone not on this train will be left in the dust.  Caution: The traditional stale, lifeless, corporate videos are not going to cut it on the new frontier.  Can you see the YouTube pattern?  Authentic. Real. Raw.

Over the next 1-3 years we will see a proliferation of video blogs.  Get ready.  Do you have your 'name.tv' domain?  I just bought JimAdams.TV today.  I'm not going to be left behind.

Stay tuned for NewHomesDirectory.TV.  Just when I thought that HD Video and Licensed Artist music was the end, it appears it is only the beginning.  We are working on some really cool stuff.  

Mike Sipes -  I'm going to blow you away with my next idea. 

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com 

 


December 20 2008

3 Hours With Jeff Shore Changed My Life

3 hours with Jeff Shore changed my life.  7 years of presentations always left me feeling the same way...I wonder what will happen next?  I could never put my finger on that empty feeling in my stomach of not knowing whether my presentation hit the mark or not.  Can you imagine shooting at a target blindfolded?  You shoot then take off the blind fold to see if you hit the target.  Some times you do, but most often you do NOT.  That's been me.

After 3 hours with Jeff Shore (2 hours in a class and 1 hour over lunch), I no longer feel like I have to wonder what the outcome of my presentation will be.

Jeff Shore 's instruction has helped me identify why buyers buy and why they don't.  Knowing the elements I need to identify before I even begin my presentation gives me confidence that I can hit the bulls eye every time.
 
Jeff Shore specializes in new home sales training but selling is a personal and psychological skill that applies to pretty much the entire human race. 

Selling is a lot harder than it seems. If you or your team's presentations are not hitting the mark every time, you would be absolutely crazy to not get Jeff's assistance.  Visit his website at www.JeffShore.com.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

December 16 2008

Successful Blogging Must Haves

1. You must have an audience

You must have a current audience or you must have an audience in mind. 
a. If you have an audience already such as consumers interested in your new home community, you’ve got a great start. 
b. If you don’t have an audience, you should have one in mind.  Begin by writing to the audience you have in mind, then contact them, let them know about the blog post you wrote, and then ask them to make a comment.

2. You must have information the audience wants, needs, or information that will benefit them.

If you want to gain and maintain readership, you must give the audience a reason to read your blog.  If the information doesn’t benefit me in anyway, why would I read it?  Just because you write doesn’t mean people will read.  Success is not an accident.
3. You must have information that your audience can’t get anywhere else. 
a. Company executives should be blogging.  Readers want to hear information directly from the decision making source.  We want the inside scoop.  Information from third party sources are less powerful because we don’t always know if that information is accurate or if we can rely on that information.  But we know that if the information is coming from the one in charge then there is substance; information we can bank on and make decisions based on that information.
b. Community sales people should be blogging.  A community sales person is the builder representative for that community.  They are the authority.  There are so many things consumers want to know and be kept up to date on concern the home, their community, and their builder, both before and after the purchase.  Blogging keeps consumers engaged in your brand.
4. Your information must be timely. 
Your audience should get the information first from you.  If they get the information from somewhere else first, your blog loses that exclusive ‘juice’ it should have to keep your readership coming back.

5. Your information must be real.

I like the word authentic.  I see so many blogs that are sterile in both the tone and the information.  To make a connection with people, give them real information, not the corporate yada yada yada.

6. Your blog must have a tone of one PERSON to another PERSON. 

The personal touch in the writing style is what separates blogs from news stories or press releases.    Blogs don’t just report the news or dispense information.  Blogs are person to person(s) communication.  It’s this person to person tone that brings about an emotional connection between the blogger and the audience.

7. Your blog must allow comments. 

Comments are what validates a blog.  Comments show there is a conversation going on.  Comments show involvement.  Comments show that people are interacting.  No comments say 'No one is listening'.  I do think it wise to set the blog settings where you have to approve all comments before they are displayed but you must allow comments.  Comments are what complete the circle of communication.  Allowing a comment is the listening portion of the conversation.  If you don’t listen, then you’re back to traditional one-way, in your face, marketing.

8. You must allow both positive and negative comments. 

I know this is one of the greatest fears in blogging.  ‘Aren’t we setting ourselves up for disaster?’  It’s a valid question.  No, you are not setting yourself up for disaster.  You’re setting yourself up to be a hero.  Many times, negative comments come from people that don’t feel listened to or cared for.  Since comments are the essence of listening, the feeling of not being listened to greatly disappears.  However, you must realize there will be negative opinions of consumers in all business.  Negative comments validate the authenticity of the blog.  Negative comments give you an opportunity to show you care and that you have nothing to hide.  Negative comments and the response to them is the transparency that drives consumers to trust and become emotionally involved with our companies and products.

9. You must respond to the comments. 

Whether responding in a general sense to several comments at once or specific comments, you must respond to continue the conversation.
a. If the consumer comments are neutral to positive, maybe just a ‘thank you for contributing your comments’ are in order.  Maybe you add something to the comments made that furthers the information in the original blog post.  Blogs are conversations.  If someone engages you in a conversation, continue the conversation until it ceases of its own volition...or momentum.
b. If the consumer comments are negative, this is your chance to shine.  Address the negative comment.  Address it and show you care about that person.  It may be as thorough as a full solution or as minimal as a simple validation.  In any case, show both the consumer with the negative comment and the world in large that you and your company address negative feedback.  When other readers read the blog post, the negative feedback from a consumer, and they read your response, it creates trust in the reader.  It says that ‘if the company/person cares enough to address that consumers beef, then the company/person will care about me and any negative issues I might have down the line also.’  Always address negative comments.  Never do the ‘no comment’ thing.  No comment says “I hear you, but I don’t care.”


The future of new home marketing is one where all sales people are bloggers. 

The future of new home marketing is one where all new home community websites have some form of consumer dialogue whether it be blogs, online community groups, or simply a Facebook page.

Social media, with connections in mind, produces stronger buyer to seller connections, a more effective and efficient way of maintaining those buyer-seller relationships, and effective dialogue marketing.  Social media marketing is the new marketing. 

We need to begin figuring out how to make social media marketing work for us. 

We need to begin training our current people in the art of successful social media marketing.

We need to begin looking for marketing professionals that know how to implement and execute successful social media marketing.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


December 13 2008

Lennar Leads the Way in Social Media Marketing

I'm beside myself looking at the progress Lennar has made in the social media space.  Though homebuilders have a reputation of not being quick adapters of Internet technologies, this big builder is breaking away and setting the pace.  A quick glance on the home page and you will easily find Lennar on FacebookLennar on Twitter, Lennar on YouTube, Lennar Communities, and Lennar on Wikipedia to name a few.  

Now some might tend to believe that Lennar is just jumping on the Buzz Bandwagon, until you actually visit those Web 2.0 sites.  Granted, not everyone in the social space really understands effective social media marketing.  Not Lennar.  Social media has had the broad sweeping impact it has because it has more powerfully and conveniently enabled person to person connections.  Social media is about making connections with people and Lennar gets that. 

Personal Experience

I'm following Lennar Corporate on Twitter.  One of the Twitters I received was from a discussion on Lennar's Corporate Facebook page.  You can easily follow along with the path to this connection.   

First, go to www.Lennar.com.

Second, click the Lennar on Facebook link.

Third, scroll down about 75% to the Discussion Board.  It's right under the First Time Homebuyers image.

Fourth, click the Discussion Board topic What does your new dream home include? 

Fifth, you will see my response to their question.

Sixth, you will see that an unknown person in Post #3 commented back to me.  And in Post #4 you will see Kay Howard, the Director of Communication, responded to me personally.

Both on a personal and professional level this is awesome.  Lennar sends out Twitters to all its followers asking for input.  Wait a minute.  Builders asking consumers for what they want in their dream home?  Wow.  There are a couple things going on here.

First, Lennar is asking for consumer feedback.  What a great way to get REAL market intelligence.  How many times do companies just guess at what consumers really want?  No more guessing.

Second, because the unknown in Post #3 and Kay Howard replied to my feedback, I feel as though Lennar is listening to me personally.  When I as a consumer feel a company is listening to me and that they care about me, I can now have a relationship with them beyond the sterility of the typical transaction.  I can now begin to have a relationship with a company like I have a relationship with a person.  To me, Lennar is no longer this cold outer shell of a company.  Now I really like Lennar.  This is the power of connecting with consumers using social media.

It's always been difficult for consumers to identify and associate with a big company but Lennar is opening the doors to online connections like few large companies have and even fewer builders.

So What Does It All Mean?

1.  Lennar has overcome the objections and fears of having public conversations online.
2.  Lennar has overcome the objections and fears of the transparency social media demands.
3.  Lennar has opened the doors to allowing people to connect with the PEOPLE at Lennar.

Lennar is way out in front.  Lennar has created places for consumers to gather, get to know Lennar, and to converse with each other.  This is how you prevent consumers from attacking. With all the negativity about homebuilders on the web, the building industry is ripe for making these kinds of connections.  While it may appear to some that this will open the door to more negativity, I say it will open the door to far more positivity both in marketing and in selling.

Nobody likes change.  It's hard.  It's inconvenient.  It's uncomfortable.  Social media is not going away.  If one of the biggest builders in this country can step out into social media, every builder can.  All you have to do is look at what Lennar is doing.

Additionally, I count 32 Lennar divisions using Facebook and/or Twitter in their social media marketing efforts.

What Other Builders Are Using Social Media?

New Homes Directory has created the Big Builder Social Media Network, a resource for finding the social media links of big builders so you can participate in the conversation.  Go to www.MySpace.com/NewHomesDirectory

Kay, I'm dying to hear what you had to do to overcome all the objections to social media we are hearing from builders.  We would all love to hear your comments.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


December 13 2008

Space Optimization - The New Marketing Frontier

Wikipedia defines search engine optimization (SEO) as the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.  SEO has been vital to online marketing since the beginning of the Internet.  Millions of consumers search the Internet every day.  Getting your website found for relevant consumer search terms is the single most powerful way to influence your target audience and to be viewed as an authority on that particular subject.  SEO has historically focused on consumer product search terms like ‘San Diego Real Estate’ or ‘New Homes San Diego’.  Consumer search terms like these are extremely competitive because as home builders, we all know that being found for those terms (our target audience) will lead to sales.
 
Until recently, we really never paid any mind to the Google search results for our company name.  Company name search results were never really competitive and being found for our company name was easy because we were the only ones that cared to be found for that name.
 
Social media has changed all that.  In the old days (3 years ago), publishing to the web was difficult.  You had to know HTML, how to use HTML editors, how to buy a domain name, how to point that domain name to a web server, and how to FTP your HTML to the web.  Confusing - I know.  Today publishing to the web is easy.  You don’t need to know HTML, using an HTML editor is as easy as using Microsoft Word, you don’t need to buy a domain name, and you don’t need to FTP anything.  
Most Internet publishers don’t get their own website, they simply post comments and opinions on either community groups or blogging sites.  These sites are typically free to use, have simple built in HTML editors and all you have to do is press save and your content is live on the web.  
 
Social media has made everyone a publisher!  Now anyone can talk publicly about whatever they want.  Guess what they are talking about?  YOU.  They are talking about your products and they are talking about your company.  Consequently a Google search that only returned your company website for a search for your company name, 3 years ago, is now returning results of conversations consumers are having about your company.
 
As consumers, we all want to be heard by the companies we buy from, especially if we are unsatisfied.  So if consumers don’t feel like the company is listening, they want to tell someone else.  How they hit those non-listening companies the hardest is by telling other consumers about their bad experience.  
 
Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful marketing there is.  Consumers trust other consumers much more than they trust the companies themselves.  This is why reviews on sites like eBay and Hotels.com are so popular.
 
One of the revolutions social media has brought about is space optimization.  Space optimization is the next evolution of search engine optimization.  Where SEO is about being found IN ONE of the top ten results, space optimization is about being found IN ALL top ten results (or at least multiple spots).  The blog post, When Consumers Attack, is a prime example of why companies need to add space optimization to their online marketing agenda.  This is as vital as SEO itself.
 
Today we Google everything.  If we don’t know something, we Google it.  If we want to research a product, we Google it.  If we want to research a company, we Google it.  If a consumer Google’s your company, what will they find in addition to your company website (please say your company is found number one for your company name)?  Good stuff?  Bad stuff?  Anything?  Companies have to be concern about what is being displayed in that ‘top ten’ space.  Your company reputation is riding on those results.  If negative consumer stories are displayed in that space, that will affect your reputation.  If good consumer stories are displayed in that space, that will also affect your reputation - but in a good way.
 
Space optimization is the most powerful way to influence consumer perception when your company’s reputation is involved.  Space optimization is no joke.  Look again at When Consumers Attack.
 
Consumers are more sophisticated than they have ever been before. It only stands to reason that marketing will need to be more sophisticated than it has ever before.  Space optimization is one of marketing’s next levels of sophistication.  
 
Setting up a community website is the most effective way to both give consumers a place to talk as well as give the company a place to listen. Caution, if companies don’t give consumers a place to be heard, consumers will find their own places.  
 
Let’s not let sites like ConsumerComplaints.com and RipOffReport.com be the only consumer comments in our company space.  Let’s give consumers a place to share their positive experiences as well.  This is space optimization.  Where search engine optimization is optimizing your company’s website on Google, space optimization is optimizing your company’s reputation on Google.  
 
Take action with your company’s reputation.  If you don’t others will do it for you and chances are it won’t be pretty.
 
Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


December 10 2008

Builders Reach More Consumers By Using NHDBuzz.com

As of today, NHD Buzz, the building industry's press release website, has 523 press releases from 180 publishers and those press releases have been viewed 2,197,973 times. I just reviewed the web server stats. What I found was that NHD Buzz stories have been found and visited for over 970 different consumer search phrases.  View all the Buzz search phrases for November 2008 BuzzStats11-08.xls (77.00 kb). Just a few notable search phrases include:

mattamy homes orlando
k hovnanian homes
mbk homes
dr horton southern california
brookfield homes green
how to write a new hire press release
ryland homes new york ny
centex condominiums
ryland homes 2008 incentives
teramachi homes los angeles
unique penthouses
ashton woods homes orlando fl
skyline condominiums boston ma
You buzz publishers should be lifted up and proud of yourselves.  It takes time to write these stories.  It takes time to get them on the buzz.  You are benefiting your companies, your communities, and yourselves as professionals.  Your stories are on the Internet and they are being found by your consumers.  This is part of the new marketing frontier.  
Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

December 3 2008

When Consumers Attack

As an industry, we can not ignore how social media is affecting our companies, our brands, and our reputations. If we blatantly ignore, turn a deaf ear, turn a blind eye, or just quietly deny that consumer voices on the Internet are shaping our brands and reputations, we risk the vicious attack of our very own consumers.

We’ve spent years of physical, emotional, and mental toil into building our brand. We’ve spent millions of dollars in ads and media that build our reputations. And now, social media facilitating the public attacks of consumers, we risk those negative messages eroding what we have labored for years to build.

Many of us remember the late 1990’s Fox series “When Animals Attack”. “The shockumentary series presented unbelievable footage of people caught in dangerous situations with animals. Stories included one man defending himself against a great white shark, a boy being attacked by a mountain lion, a woman almost swallowed by a whale, and a vicious killer bee swarm descending on Texas.

We have never figured out why animals attack, but the terrifying footage showed us what happens when they do. This blog follows a similar line; much less terrifying, but similarly tragic consequences for business that care about how consumers perceive their brand and reputation.

You’ve seen the videos of when animals attack. Take a look at the Internet to see what happens when consumers attack.

Here's a link to a Business Week article entitled Angry Homeowners Take To The Web. Here is a list of a few more angry homeowner websites.

When Consumers Attack
Google Search Results for – K Hovnanian or K Hovnanian Homes

 

In this example, both the #3 and #4 results are consumer attacks - and they are ugly. 50% of the top 4 results are attacks. The crazy thing about this nasty (you know which one I'm referring to) site is that the last time anyone posted anything to the site was August 2007. Complaints go back as far as 2005. This is the most extreme example in the building industry how consumer voices on the Internet can influence our brands in a negative way.

When Consumers Attack
Google Search Results for – Pulte Homes



In this example, the #4 example is a YouTube video of people at a construction site getting repeatedly pelted with water from a Pulte truck. I don't know the story behind this but it looks really bad. I would love a Pulte representative to comment on the video so we can know the other side to this story. Come on Pulte; just let us know the story and it won't look as bad as it does now. You don't deserve to look this bad.

When Consumers Attack
Google Search Results for – KB Home



Another nasty example. The #3 spot is another YouTube video entitled "KB Home's Bombs - See How Housing Developer Manipulates the System and builds ..." Read the comments. There are people both denouncing and defending KB Home in this. I think we all would like an authentic KB response to this. Then the clip isn't just negative.

Think this is no big deal? John Eric Pearce, Editor of Not-Khov.com reported on 6/10/08 that he found two emails for people who stated that they DID NOT purchase a KHOV home because of the information on this website! 


Staving Off The Attack
Google Blog Results for – KB Home



This is an example of both negative and positive press. On the one hand there is a voice pushing that KB Homes are disposable but there are two other voices right alongside insisting that KB is an "extremely good builder" and that KB is the "most admired" of all builders. Balance is what we find in this example.

Staving Off The Attack
Google Search Results for – Lennar Homes



In this example the Lennar Blog is in the #4 spot for a company search.

Staving Off The Attack
Google Blog Results for – Lennar Homes



In this example the Lennar Blog is the #1 result for a company blog search.

My take:
Everyone is on the Internet today. The first thing we do when we want to find information is to "Google it". Social media, and specifically Blogging, is the simplest way to accomplish two critical business elements.

1. Blogging opens the door for strong connections with consumers. Consumers want to hear authentic messages from a person, not a company. They also want to be heard.

2. Blogging is Marketing Through Dialogue. In most cases, the content from the company blog will be displayed on many company related search phrases. This doesn't go away and is a powerful way for other Internet consumers to gain a connection with the people inside the company.

What should be done?
There are many obstacles for a corporation to incorporate blogs. Here is what makes sense to me.

Blogging Guidelines: I suggest implementing corporate policies that say that employees can’t sexually harass anyone, they can’t reveal secrets, they can’t use inside information to trade stock or influence prices, and they shouldn’t talk ill of the competition in any way or via any media.

These guidelines should include e-mail, writing a blog, commenting on blogs, and other forms of online communications such as forums, chat rooms, and Internet messaging.

Any builder that builds homes is susceptible to the homeowner that will never be happy no matter how hard the builder tries. Shame on those people. I write this to the executives and the legal counsels of builders that have concerns about the impact social media are having on our industry right now.

Yes ,it is a new media to contend with. Yes, it is something new we need to learn. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it will take a small reorganization. No, it is not expensive. No, it is not difficult.

So let's try to navigate our way through this media and Join The Conversation.

Sincerely,

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

 

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