Braving the Storm: Home Builder Marketing Trends for 2016
Is Anybody Thinking About Buying Houses RIGHT NOW?
Another day, another story about how the economy is in rough shape. It’s all over the news, everybody knows it – we get it! But this doesn’t mean that people aren’t in the market for homes anymore. All this means is that the pool of buyers is smaller than it was a year ago – but it’s still there and today I’m going to show you how to keep them engaged with your brand!
That’s why it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself from the competition in your online marketing – this is true in any industry, but especially in the Alberta housing market. Vovia has extensive experience with the home building industry, and we’ve been able to study and observe the industry trends first hand, over the course of many years. Thus, we are uniquely positioned to offer our advice for all those marketers working in the current economic conditions and landscape.
It’s When, Not If
Though the economy has put the home buying decision on hold for many people, it’s not a matter of if they will buy, but when they will actually pull the trigger. We have noticed that people are still searching for homes, but that they are spending more time researching and comparing homes, home builders, and communities in recent times. Just because a person can’t buy right away, doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to in a year from now. With mortgage rates at historic lows and predictions that home prices have not bottomed out yet, the market is still attractive.
What this recent online behaviour really means is that these prospects need to be actively engaged by your brand while they’re riding out the storm, or you will risk losing them to brands that are engaging with them.
Online Is the Place To Be
Let me share a couple quick numbers with you from the National Association of Realtors:
- 90% – percentage of home buyers who will use online searches during the research process when looking for a new home.
- 42% – This is the percentage of home buyers who will use the internet as their first step in the research process.
Numbers don’t lie – it’s now imperative for home builders to have a strong online presence. It’s simply where the buyers are!
It’s also important to note that this is the top of the sales funnel for the majority of these buyers. People are researching homes, sharing their finds, discussing home buying tips – all of it online.
This diagram shows that online marketing campaigns feed traffic into your website, then ultimately lead to direct contact such as a phone call, visit to your office or an in-person meeting. It’s the doorway to your brand, so why wouldn’t you make that doorway as inviting as possible?
Focus On the Long Game
Because many people are delaying the purchase decision, it’s important to keep your brand name visible while they wait things out. This is where engaging content comes in! If you can become a resource to help them weather this storm, then you’ll be the first one that they call when the economy gets better and a new home is looking more feasible.
Organic social media is a fantastic platform for this – specifically business fan pages and the posts that come from them. Once people have liked your Facebook page or followed you on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, they may be served your posts in their NewsFeeds or timelines. Interestingly enough, the ability to post organically on social media is more pertinent than ever. This is because costs for online advertising space has skyrocketed since last year, as the same number of home builders and sellers are now competing for a piece of a smaller pie. The one downside here is some social networks (Facebook) have throttled organic reach, forcing brands to pay for extended reach within their followings.
The key is to understand that your organic presence is not the place to sell to people. On the contrary, your posts should focus on content and being a resource for their home buying experience. Be helpful, not salesy! Consider posts about community events, home buying resources, mortgage calculators, giveaways, to name a few. Always think to yourself, “Is this interesting? Would this help me if I was in, or considering entering the market?” Then use that to guide your approach.
Watch Your Wallet
This heightened competition has meant that more and more sellers have turned to online advertising to reach consumers. Which in theory is fantastic, as it validates what we have been saying all along – that online marketing works! But while we’re excited that more and more businesses are allocating more of their marketing budget to digital channels, it means that costs are steadily rising for everybody. It’s simple supply and demand economics.
Cost-per-click (CPC) for Google ads in some regions in Alberta have risen by 50% compared to Q4 2015. This is a colossal increase and we’re only two months in!
What does this mean?
It means that now is the most important time to ensure that you’re being very targeted and specific with your marketing. Gone are the days when a builder can advertise all over the city and province, with ultra-generic keywords like “homes for sale”. It’s a waste of money and that kind of targeting was never an industry best practice, but still happened regularly by those who executed campaigns without a proper understanding of the implications of broad matching.
To keep your costs down and simultaneously reach more qualified buyers, narrow your targeting and focus only on areas of the city where you actually have inventory. Also make sure that you’re marketing to demographics who actually have an interest in your product, and the ability to buy. Don’t try to sell million dollar homes to 25 year old millennials – it’s a waste of their time, and your money!
Despite the endless headlines of the impending end of the world in Alberta, there are still many ways that you can continue to win over customers. By taking a longer approach and staying connected with those prospects while they weather the storm, you’ll reap the benefits when the economy rebounds. And, if there’s one thing that history tells us, it’s that things will rebound! Calgary is famously a boom and bust town, after all.
Things don’t have to be scary, but if you’re still worried, drop us a line! We’d love to help you “build” your online engagement strategy.