May 6 2010

Increase Leads By Increasing Engagement

Research done by Eyeblaster, Microsoft Advertising, and comScore shows that the more a consumer engages your website, the higher the conversion.  Eyeblaster's 'Global Benchmark 2010' report examined billions of rich media impressions and found higher engagement resulted in higher conversions.  An increase in 'dwell rate' from 5% to 15% resulted in a 45% conversion increase.  Dwell rate was defined as a mouse over or some type of interaction with an ad.


Image provided by eMarketer.

Research also showed that high engagement led to a 39% increase in brand-related search engine searches and there are many studies that show brand related searches have a higher conversion than non-brand related studies.

What this means for home builders:

In order to get a lift in leads, there must be ample opportunity for a consumer to engage you.

Ways to increase consumer engagement are:

  1. Good content - Site content should be comprehensive and relevant to the entire home shopping experience.  This means school info, utility info, neighborhood info, area info, etc.
  2. Add video - This is the easiest and quickest component to increase engagement.  Consumers love video - the constant rising video stats prove it.
  3. Have a blog - Post at least weekly and let consumers know the lights are on AND you're home.
  4. Have a Facebook fan page and converse with consumers.
  5. Have a Twitter account and converse with consumers.

Increasing consumer engagement takes time and money.  If you home builders want a lift in online conversions, you're going to have to allocate more of your budget to the online world.  From my perspective, as an industry, we're getting there slowly but we have a long way to go.  There is still way too much money spent on traditional media and not near enough online.  For goodness sake, all our consumers are online - spend the money there.  All the tools are here for us to succeed; we just need to use them.

Jim Adams - CEO

 


April 26 2010

Blogging And Homebuilding - It's Only A Matter Of Time

Blogging has been a hot topic within the homebuilding industry for several reasons.  A few of those reasons include:

  • Companies are tentative to let employees free in an open and public space.
  • Blogging is a marketing force multiplier. The more employees blogging, the more Internet exposure that company gets.
  • Blogging keeps a website fresh.  All to often a consumer perception is that 'the lights are on, but no one is home', because the website rarely gets fresh content.
  • Blogging freshness contributes strongly to the search engine optimization of a home builder's website.

It seems that as an industry, many have acknowledged the benefits of blogging but where do we get the extra resources?  It takes extra time and extra people to implement a successful blogging strategy.

But it's only a matter of time before blogging becomes common place within the confines of home builder websites. In February 2010, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that Internet users ages 18 - 29 were about one-third more likely to say they blogged than those 30 and older. Check out these graphs from eMarketer.

Blog reader stats - blog writer stats March 2010

The most interesting part comes from the second graph - the reasons for blogging.  As home builders, we've got to hone in on the preferences brought on by technology.  It's not just that younger people are more technology savvy, it's that technology is playing a large part in shaping consumer preferences.  Young people adapt to technology because 1., they aren't set in their ways; and 2. because they have more time to experiment with new technologies.

Younger people tend to like blogging - just look at the image below.

 

Why bloggers blog

The bottom line is that blogging works in the home building industry and that it is an inevitability of marketing and connection in today's world of commerce.  The quicker we can adapt, the better off our companies will be.

Jim Adams - CEO


April 13 2010

How Important Is SEO To Homebuilders?

Adam Audette, blogger for Search Engine Watch, just posted a great article about getting big SEO results. He covers a variety of topics but the big take aways I got for homebuilders is that 86% of all Google clicks, comes in the form of non-paid, organic listing clicks (Avinash Kaushik), while at the same time 85% of company budgets are spent on paid, sponsored listings (Forrester Research).

Organic SEO Spending Compared With PPC Paid Listing Spending

There is both a massive imbalance between where consumers are clicking and where builders are spending their money.

It would makes sense to me that if the vast majority of the clicks come in the form of natural listings, a greater percentage of a homebuilder's budget would be allocated to natural SEO.

I also interpret this as a gigantic opportunity for homebuilder to spend money on organic SEO and reap the benefits of a greater lift in conversions.

Another 2009 study by iPropsect shows that 95.3 of all Internet search users never make it off the first page.

Given that Google users have indicated they prefer organic listings over paid listings at the rate of 70 percent to 30 percent, it would seem to make the most sense for homebuilders to allocate a greater percentage of our budgets to natural SEO. 
 
To add more support to the importance of having an organic listing, recent research by Google and Enquiro shows that regardless of user preference, purchase intent elevates with a presence in both top organic and top sponsored listings, even for branded queries.

Homebuilders like Ryland and KB Home has understood the value of natural SEO for years - they're in most new home searches.  There is still a lot of opportunity for homebuilders to benefit from more traffic and greater conversions by investing more in natural or organic SEO.

Jim Adams - CEO

 


September 17 2009

Attention Home Builders - 300 Million Facebook-ers With No Signs Of Slowing

On September 15, 2009, Inside Facebook reported it has reached 300 million monthly active users around the world. Facebook has added 50 million users in only the 75 days. That's the equivalent of 670,000 users per day. Remember, it seems like only yesterday (mid-July), that Facebook reported it had reached 250 million users.

Facebook-growth-chart-2006-2009


Though Facebook users have been flocking the connection addiction site since 2004, the sites growth, as recorded by numbers of users, shows no sign of slowing down.  In June 2009, The Nielson Company announced the US had a unique audience of more than 87 million people, compared MySpace's less than 63 million visitors the same month.

Check out the Facebook growth over the last 30 days:

13 - 17 Males: 14.5%
13 - 17 Females: 10.2%

18 - 25 Males: 8.6%
18 - 25 Females: 4.9%

26 - 34 Males: 10.0%
26 - 34 Females: 6.4%

35 - 44 Males: 11.1%
35 - 44 Females: 8.3%

45 - 54 Males: 12.8%
45 - 54 Females: 11.8%

55 - 65 Males: 10.2%
55 - 65 Females: 11.0%

 

facebook-30-day-growth-august-2009



August 2009 US Facebook Users by Age and Gender

13 - 17 Males: 3.7 million
13 - 17 Females: 4.9 million

18 - 25 Males: 10.7 million
18 - 25 Females: 12.1 million

26 - 34 Males: 7.9 million
26 - 34 Females: 10.5 million

35 - 44 Males: 6.4 million
35 - 44 Females: 8.7 million

45 - 54 Males: 3.7 million
45 - 54 Females: 5.9 million

55 - 65 Males: 1.9 million
55 - 65 Females: 3.3 million

 

facebook-users-august-2009-male-female


InsideFacebook.com reported that 45.4 million people, that's 57% of the site’s users, are women. That's higher than their males counterparts, who represent 34.3 million.  

For Home Builders

The rapid and continued growth of both female and male users of all ages signifies there is ever increasing opportunity to connect with both present home buyers and future home buyers.  Another undeniable metric, home builders cannot afford to look past is the increasing time spend on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging sites. 

In April 2009, time spent, in minutes, on Facebook had grown 700% from April 2008 (1,735,698 - 13,872,640 [000]). 

Time spent on Twitter was up 3,712% during the same period (7,865 - 299,836 [000]).  

Time spent on Blogger, though a much smaller increase in time was up 30% for April 2009 from April 2008 (448,710 - 582,683 [000]).

Home builders must figure out how to maximize Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.  Any builder without plans for these social sites, as part of their overall marketing strategy, will be left behind by the more 'in tune' home building competitors.

What Can Home Builders Do?

Mike Lyon, author of 'Browsers To Buyers', has the most progressive, forward thinking, and practical, virtual social media training series on how to get the most out of social sites, I know of.  Sign up today and begin navigating the new marketing frontier.

Contact Jim Adams today to see if NewHomesDirectory.com can subsidize your Mike Lyon training series fees.

Sincerely,

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory .com

 


June 19 2009

The Consequences Of I Don't Know

“I don’t know”.  “There’s nothing I can do”.  Does anything make you more frustrated as a consumer, than when you have a problem with a company and they respond with “I don’t know” or “There’s nothing I can do”?

I was recently couldn’t check in on one of my Southwest Airlines flights.  I had no idea why.  I asked the attendant at the counter. “I don’t know why” was the reply.  I called the 800 number; again, “I don’t know why” was the reply.  I asked to speak with a supervisor.  Their reply was not only “I don’t know”, it also included “there is nothing I can do”.  I spoke with two supervisors – same answers.  I politely pressed them into giving me a non-published customer care number.  I did finally get someone who found out that I was on the Southwest Airlines terrorist watch list. I’m off now.

How backwards is that? I spend thousands of dollars on Southwest airfare each year, and they’re response is “there’s nothing I can do to solve your problem”?  I was ready to change carriers.

We’ve all been there - companies making it hard for us to give them our money.  Are you kidding me?

As consumers, we hear this all too often - so often that we’ve gotten used to it.  Those two phrases have quietly infiltrated our society and have become an acceptable standard that is slowly ebbing away our standards, our brands, and our profits. We’re so numb to it, we often times don’t even know it has permeated our souls.

If you’re in new home sales, “I don’t know” and “there’s nothing I can do” will put you on your company’s ‘Next To Be Let Go’ list.  

If you don’t know, you can’t help; if you don’t know, you can’t meet the need; if you don’t know, you can’t solve the problem; if you don’t know, you can’t relieve the pain; if you don’t know, you can’t produce.

The essence of selling is meshing solution with need.  The art of selling is getting to the need.  

What is that consumer really looking for?  Why are they there?

Everyone visiting a physical sales office today has already seen your homes online.  They are already familiar with your product.  But why did they take the time, get into their car, spent $10+ in gas, and visit you?

Are they really just looking?  Or are they looking for a home with a garage in a safe neighborhood because where they live now, their midnight blue ’69 Camero keeps getting broken into?

Are they really just looking?  Or are they looking to be as close as possible to their parents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?

So often a consumer walks into our sales office and the first thing out of our mouth is “let me know if there is anything I can help you with”.  Another popular sales technique is to immediately barrage the consumer with all the fantastic features of the new home and the new home community.  

The goal of each new home sales person is to find out why that consumer is in that particular sales office.  This is called qualifying the consumer.  We’ve been spoiled.  For the past several years, qualifying the consumer meant “can they qualify for the loan?”  That’s not selling.  That’s riding the wave of insane consumer demand.  That may have been acceptable then, but it’s not now.

Consumers today have serious and legitimate needs.  With the housing market being as competitive as it is, we’ve got to find out what they are REALLY looking for - what’s most important to them.  

When a consumer walks into a sales office, how are they qualifying that home?  If you know that, you’re in.

But if we don’t ask, it’s impossible to know.  That’s the bottom line.

The number one trait in a successful sales agent today is asking the right questions in order to get to the core of why that consumer is in that sales office.

Sure, energy is important; sure a professional appearance is important; sure knowledge about the product and services are important.  But if you don’t get to the crux of why that consumer is in that model home, you will not know where they are in the sales cycle and you will not know how best to meet their needs.

As sales people, let’s surgically remove the lackluster standards of “I don’t know” and “there’s nothing I can do” from our lives.  

Consumers want their needs met.  They’re willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for it.  Don’t fool yourself.  They want to tell you.  Be a great sales person and make it easy for them to tell you.  Let’s say to ourselves, “I don’t know now, but I will politely inquire until I do know”.

Tip: a simple opening question.

"So what has you out shopping for a new home?", or even more simply, "Why are you thinking about buying a new home?" (Questions compliments of Jeff Shore)

If they say, “I’m just looking”, like many do, it’s time to get creative and keep asking.  They are not just looking.

Politely inquire until you know.

Jim Adams – CEO
New Homes Directory.com


June 18 2009

What Facebook Means To Homebuilders

As of May 2009, Facebook is the most popular US social networking site.  According to comScore, Facebook’s May 2009 unique visitors totaled 70,278,000.  This is up 97% from last year at this time. Surprisingly MySpace visitors shrank 5% over the same timeframe, slipping to 70,255,000 unique visitors.

Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst for eMarketer said “Facebook is becoming the go-to social networking site for marketers. While MySpace still has a huge quantity of visitors, they are becoming less relevant for advertisers.”



What this means for new home builders is that Facebook can’t be ignored.  People love being connected and Facebook is delivering the platform for which to do it.  With such a massive increase in usage, Facebook is now the number one way to connect and converse.

Reaching new home buyers today is not about advertising to them, it’s about connecting and engaging.

In the home building industry, the best use of today's marketing dollars is not one-way interruption advertising - it's connecting with consumers where and when they want to be connected with.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


June 13 2009

Real Estate Of The Digital World

Last night at 9:00p and one second, PST, the Facebook land rush was on.  My pre-Facebook party consisted of Lisa Redmond from RedRocketLA, Mike Lyon, Ed Doss (NHD), and Ruth Kincaid (NHD).  We were all eagerly anticipating the NASA type of countdown and launch to get our Facebook domain.

Once the rush began, I immediately saw that jim.adams was available.  I elected to pass and search for the slightly better jimadams.  The search for jimadams was unsuccessful so I immediately tried to go back to the second best domain, jim.adams.  My heart sank as I saw jim.adams was taken.  Knowing domains were going fast, I quickly chose the far lesser of the two, jimadams1.

As I shut my computer and went back to watching Grand Torino with my wife, I was completely depressed.  I thought it would be a passing depression that would ultimately be just an evaporating disappointment.

I was wrong.  I woke up this morning still depressed.  Growing more and more introspective as to why I still felt depressed, it dawned on me.  It’s not that someone won’t be able to find me at jim.adams1 or that jim.adams1 will be THAT much harder to remember.  

It’s about the real estate. I was depressed because I got the lesser of the pieces of real estate.  Instead of getting the authoritative beachfront property, I got the small lot on the corner with only a partial view of the ocean – and all for the same price as the beachfront real estate.

It’s similar to getting the .NET domain extension instead of the .COM.  

The bottom line is, in the digital world, real estate is about the domain.  The domain conveys authority – or a lack of.  Domain affects consumer perception.  

Real estate becomes important when there are a lot of people in the same space.  Today, real estate is important on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, and now Facebook.

I side stepped the desired jim.adams and lost it.  I now must settle for a second-rate domain.

No, it’s not the end of the world for me that my Facebook domain is second-rate.  I still have my most important domain JimAdams.me, which has links to all my social profiles.  But my lingering depression made me realize that if you delay in the digital world, the consequences can be enormous and irreversible.  

Speed is king, not cash.

The idea of getting the most prized real estate should resonate the loudest with Homebuilders.  The same concept holds true in the digital world.  Unlike the physical world where the best real estate comes at a premium price, premium real estate in the digital world costs very little, and is given to the quickest decision makers.  Speed is king, not cash.  The spoils of digital real estate go to the quick.  The quick also happen to be the leading visionaries in the digital world.

The Internet is expanding at almost a ‘big bang’ rate.  Much of the talk I hear today is about how to monetize social media.  The bigger and more pressing issue is getting the digital piece of land.  Get the land and figure out later how to monetize it.  Homebuilders can’t wait until everyone knows how to monetize it.  It will be too late.  I know everyone has less money and fewer personnel.  A marketing person that knows the digital world is a homebuilder’s greatest asset to selling homes in the year 2009.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


June 7 2009

NHD Buzz - May Upgrades And Stats

NHD Buzz just got better. We just added an RSS feed link to each NHD Buzz user account.  This means that all Buzz stories posted by a unique user can now be fed into any RSS feed reader (i.e. iGoogle). RSS feeds are becoming an increasingly important way to filter out noise on the Internet and have the content YOU want, delivered direct.  You will now see an RSS billboard logo on the right of each user page.  To view an example, active adult communities by Epcon Communities now has its own RSS feed.

RSS feeds can also be fed from one site into another for display purposes. So if your company won't let you blog, you can use NHD Buzz as the blog and you can stream the RSS feed into your website as a way for your consumers to view updates on your new home communities.

NHD Buzz has evolved from soley a search engine optimized PR site, into a blogging platform also.  If you're a new home sales or marketing professional and your company is not yet comfortable with you maintaining a company blog, you can use your NHD Buzz account as a blogging tool.

Stay tuned.  You will soon be able to update your Twitter and Facebook account when you post a Buzz story!  Because Twitter and Facebook are becoming critical tools to reach out and connect with our consumers, I felt like this was the next critical development to NHD Buzz.

I'll keep you posted on its development.

NHD Buzz continues to permeate the Internet with relevant home building news that consumers are looking for.  Stats for May 2009 show almost 6,000 visits, from 3,032 search terms.  Here is the May 2009 search term list NHDBuzzStatsMay2009.xlsx (29.41 kb)

Some notable searches include:

ryland model homes
ryland homes in rochester ny
hovnanian homes
luxury penthouses
tustin cottages
henley on hudson
edgebrook glen
roosevelt collection

and all of our favorite - penthouse model


Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com



June 1 2009

Are We Missing Out By Not Text Marketing?

eMarketer.com today reported mobile activities for mobile phone users.  We all know that pretty much everyone has a mobile phone so the following report is important to homebuilders because it reveals opportunities to connect with new home buyers.  

Why does email marketing work?  Because everyone has and uses email.  So what about mobile texting?

The top two mobile phone activities for all generations is 1. taking still photos, and 2., text messaging.  The graph below shows that 86% of Gen Y'ers text on a regular basis, and that 75% of Gen X'ers text on a regular basis.

Yet at the same time, when marketing tactics were evaluated for U.S. marketers, email marketing topped marketing tactics at 73%, while text marketing was deployed a mere 19.6%.  What this all boils down to is that marketers are not meeting consumers where they want to be met.



Only a few short years ago, when it was obvious everyone was either online or getting online, homebuilders were still spending the bulk of the marketing dollars on print.  Over the last couple years, marketing dollars have been shifted and an increasing percentage of those dollars are now focused online. It's common knowledge now that online is the place to spend the dollars and print is NOT.

Everybody has a mobile phone and everybody is texting.  Our texting behaviors are largely why Twitter has become so popular and Twitter is the perfect tool for new home builders to connect and communicate (market) with home shoppers and buyers.  As marketers, we need to begin shifting dollars to more effectively connect with those text lovers. It's my guess that spending dollars on text marketing will be common knowledge by late 2010.  That leaves a year and a half for the homebuilder marketing leaders to exploit the indecision of their competitors.

If we're not attempting to market through texting, we're not participating in the number one mobile phone activity of our consumers.  It would be like not employing an email marketing strategy, or not marketing on the Internet.

Just like the Internet advertising revolution of the last several years, those who adapted early, like Ryland Homes, now CalAtlantic Homes, reaped the benefit when others were paralyzed with indecision. CalAtlantic Homes may have been the first builder to commit to organic SEO while others didn't even know what SEO was.

Today the text revolution has begun.  Those who jump in and begin figuring it out will also reap the benefits and stand out amongst the competition while many others will choose the route of indecision.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


May 31 2009

A Twitter Account Is The Next WWW Domain

The growth of Twitter is staggering.  The adoption of group texting has become the most convenient and efficient way to connect and stay connected to the people and information you want.  

Check out the following growth pattern of Twitter - it's snowballing with no signs of slowing down:
March, 2009: 131%
February, 2009: 55%
January, 2009: 33%

The March, 2009 numbers reported by comScore showed worldwide visitors to Twitter.com increased 95 percent in the month of March from 9.8 million to 19.1 million. This compares to 9.3 million visitors in the U.S.

These numbers only count visitors to Twitter’s website, and does not include people who interact with Twitter via desktop or mobile clients, which is a large segment of users.

Other noteable Twitter news includes Ashton Kutcher’s race with CNN to one million followers, Oprah using Twitter, Twitter providing TV channels for media like CNN, and Verizon's vision of incorporating a Twitter widget into its FiOS TV interface.

This all adds up to Twitter being as critical as the world wide web domain rush.

For the most part, all the good .com domains are long gone.  The Twitter trend is quickly letting us know that all the good Twitter accounts will also soon be gone.

The Vision - Each New Home Community Has Its Own Twitter Account

Ultimately, new home consumers will expect each new home community to have a Twitter account in order to help them with both their home shopping and home buying decisions.  A Twitter account for each new home community will dramatically increase consumer satisfaction.  Timely and accurate communication has always been the foundation of successful consumer satisfaction and Twitter is the perfect solution for the home building industry to drive sales and consumer satisfaction.

Twitter restrictions that homebuilders employ now will have to be relaxed and new home sales professionals will have to be trained on how to effectively use Twitter - but that's easier than email.

You've got to get your Twitter account ASAP or chances are someone else will.  Then you'll be stuck with some wacky Twitter account like @JimAdams234 instead of just @Jim_Adams.  I was an early adopter of Twitter and I still missed out on the simple @JimAdams.

So what do you do if you've already missed out on the Twitter name you want? 

The most simple solution I've found is to purchase a www domain and forward that domain to your Twitter account.  For instance, I purchased www.TwitterMeJim.com and it points to Twitter.com/Jim_Adams.  You can purchase your name with a .me domain also (www.JimAdams.me), which I've chosen to display all my social profiles.

Twitter is inevitable.  You may not use Twitter now but you had better get your account so when you change your mind, you won't be left out in the cold.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

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The New Homes Directory.com Corporate blog began in 2008, due to the increasing difficulty of keeping both our company personnel as well as our client base up to date with both site and product enhancements. Read more...

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