Increase email Open Rates with RIGHT NOW Follow Up!

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Timing is everything.

It’s a phrase we often hear describing comedy, internet startups and relationships. Today, we’re starting to hear it more and more about effective internet lead follow up. But opinions on exactly what timely follow up varies depending on which blog or post you read. We all agree that sending an email in a timely manner is important. However, simply sending the email isn’t the goal though we often act as though it is. The real goal is to get the email read by the consumer. In the midst of all the new technology and follow up systems, one thing has become pretty clear: Sending emails is easy, but getting them read is very difficult. In the interest of getting emails actually read, home builders have started to focus on sending the emails in a timely manner to get home shoppers to open emails. Over the course of my home builder marketing career, I’ve seen “response times” (ie, how quickly a builder responds to a shopper after they receive the shopper’s information) range from 24 hours all the way down to 15 minutes. What I’ve discovered is that when it comes to open rates, there isn’t much difference between responding in 15 minutes or responding the next morning. If you want to get your email opened, you need to respond to the shopper while they’re on the internet- not after they’ve moved on to something else!

Ad agencies, marketing companies, developers, builders, onsite sales representatives, online sales counselors, real estate brokers and agents send millions of emails to home shoppers every single day. One thing home shoppers have gotten really good at is ignoring builder emails.

There’s only one way to guarantee sky high open rates with your emails: send them at the micro-moment the shopper demonstrates intent. Any strategy but this is a veiled attempt to get the home shopper on your schedule rather than you getting on theirs. The beauty of today’s technology is that this is actually possible! We all can know the exact second a shopper is interested in learning about our product.

In the new home industry, the average time that a new home shopper spends on new home website is less than five minutes. This is an important number because it represents a micro moment of intent on the part of the shopper and a massive opportunity for the seller.  It is during this time that a shopper is looking for, obtaining and consuming information that is critical to them at that moment. Shoppers have decided when they are going to spend learning about new homes. In 15 minutes, they’ll be on to something else. In 24 hours they’re miles away from this critical moment. Think of your internet behavior. Do you stop in the midst of what you’re currently doing to revisit something you stopped doing 30 minutes ago? The answer for most of us is “no”. Now, think about when your emails arrive in a shopper’s inbox. Do they arrive long after the shopper has stopped looking at new homes? In essence, your email is trying to get them re-interested in a topic they recently left.  Open rates often prove this. Email open rates delivered to shoppers 15 minutes after a search session ended are only minimally higher than those emails delivered 24 hours after a user’s session ended. Why? Intent. The shopper is no longer demonstrating intent for you product; they’re demonstrating intent for something else!  Google has stated that intent is more important than demographics when it comes to email marketing and internet behavior.

We’ve seen open rates in the 40%-50% range for emails that we deliver to shoppers while they are on our website. Conversely, for email delivered at any other time, whether it is 15 minutes after the user session or 5 days after the session, are far lower and nearly identical.

If you’re looking to get your emails read by the shopper, WHEN you send them is more important than any other factor, and this includes subject line, content, pictures, attachments or content. Find ways to deliver your emails to shoppers at the exact moments that they are shopping on your website, and your open rates will skyrocket because now, you’re on the home shopper’s schedule!

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Turn your OLD LEADS into NEW SALES!

Hidden-Leads-v4wide698x400Here’s a simple tactic to discover the “READY-NOW BUYERS” in your box of Leads!

Have you ever sat blankly staring at your email inbox, full of e-leads, and wondered which ones are really ready to buy today? What about shuffling through a stack of up-cards and trying to decipher the buyers from the lookers? The dilemma is that when you take a quick look at a lead, they all seem to look the same! You’re certainly not lazy, and you’ve followed best practices in all of your follow up methods- but none of that matters right now; it’s Tuesday and you need to write a deal this weekend!

Don’t despair, finding Ready Now Buyers is easier than you may think!

Landing a buyer that wants to purchase this weekend is more about timing than anything else. While many new home sales people look at “new” leads as the most desirable because they haven’t been inundated by every online sales concierge, new home sale counselor and email marketing system in the industry, your real buyers are those that have “aged” a bit.  Like a fine wine, most buyers just need a little time before they’re really ready for the (closing) table!

A quick look at the numbers will tell you who you really need to call to get a sale this weekend. First, according to their self-submitted registration information, nearly 80% of the shoppers that register on new home lead generation websites are at least 3 months away from making a buying a decision. Another 10% are between two and three months out and less than 5% of shoppers identified themselves as “immediate” buyers.  Rather than basing your success completely on taking a shot at the small percentage of leads representing immediate buyers and hope your email or phone message stands out from the cacophony of new home sales voices, starting with buyers who registered a three to six months ago will place you alone in a huge pool of buyers that are getting very close to making a decision.

And fortunately for you, industry practices are (sadly) also on your side! Most onsite and online sales professionals focus most of their attention on the newly registered lead at the expense of the seasoned lead.  The longer a lead is in their pipeline, the less attention it gets from the sales team. A lead that registered three months ago is largely ignored by builders and probably only receives a weekly or monthly email from the builder’s automated follow up system if they get anything at all. A lead that registered 6 months ago may have been discarded. Your phone call or email may be the only new home builder reaching out to that lead at all! Make sure your message counts. This is where your inventory flyers and amazing incentives really work!

Contacting “mature” leads is especially important if you happen to be a sales counselor new to this industry or just new in a particular community. We all know there is turnover in our industry and if you find yourself in a new community, don’t worry too much about the leads that have registered in the last 30 days- the sales counselor before you probably worked those pretty hard, and look where it got them! Go deep into the lead box and find the leads that registered 60, 90, 120 or even 150 days ago. These offline leads are now onsite shoppers and are ready to take important steps toward new home ownership.

Are we recommending that you ignore your new leads or those that identify themselves as immediate buyers? Of course not! But once you run through your “fresh” leads, take time to call the leads that everyone else in the industry has given up on and turn your old leads into new buyers!

What is the Value of One Video Viewer?

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What is a video view worth? Or better, what is the value of one Online Video Viewer?

Home builders spend millions of dollars each year trying to encourage online home shoppers to visit their websites and view information about their communities, inventory, plans and incentives. While most builders would say the goal is to get a shopper to register or reach out and request contact information, most shoppers are too early in their home shopping process to take this step.  Builders may get tens of thousands of shoppers on their website each year and only a handful will actually reach out to register and still fewer will buy homes from the builder. A builder’s website must present an easy way for those few shoppers to contact a builder and provide enough information for the thousands of others who visit to learn as much about the builder as they can. The single most important quality of a successful home builder website is video. It won’t be long before the home builder website world is broken down into two parts: those who have video on their website, and those who don’t sell homes.

 

A clear case for website video is repeatedly made by the big players in the internet world. YouTube is the second most used search engine, only to Google, and the number one destination for online video new home searches. Real estate listings with video receive 403% more inquiries than listings without videos. Forbes magazine reports that 59% of senior executives would rather watch a video than read a text. Video in an email will increase click thru rates by 96%, increase lead conversion from emails by 51% and will increase the amount of time an average shopper spends on your website by 88%. Viral marketing is critically important today, and without video you just can’t go viral. Facebook isn’t being left behind in the video world and is currently the second largest referral source for online videos. If you want to get mobile users, video is critical: it accounts for 52% of all mobile traffic and 92% of mobile users share videos with others. Shoppers expect video and if you don’t have it, you’re not going to be part of their world.  Having a video on your landing page can increase your chances of showing up on the first page of Google search results by 53%. Video on your website is effective, expected and connected to the way shoppers shop.

Almost as important as the quantitative data above is the way in which video impacts the quality of the home shopper’s user experience on your website.  Video is the media or choice when it comes to collecting information and shoppers use it to learn about communities (86%), tour home interiors (70%), obtain general information (54%), compare features across brands (44%), understand features (38%), watch testimonials (30%) and decide which company to purchase from (25%). People just don’t read books, magazines or newspapers; what makes us think they’ll actually read the text on our web pages? And with the home buying population having more Gen X and millennials in it, demand for video information is only going to increase. Video also gives the builder control of what information they absolutely need the shopper to know; nothing allows a builder to deliver a unique selling proposition to a shopper better than a video. The average time a home shopper watches a new home video is just over 60 seconds and video is a multisensory experience, incorporating imagery, text, voice, people, words and music, all contributing to information retention. Video is the only way to create a real emotional connection between your brand, your lifestyle and the shopper. And finally, not only does video get people to your website, it keeps them there, increasing retention rate by as much as 65% when compared to text based information, and landing pages with video increased conversion up to 800% more than the same page with no video.  If you want to get on a shopper’s short list early in their process, video is the best way to do it.

So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and we’re all accustomed to paying for an internet click on a search term or word (AdWords), what is a video view with thousands of pictures worth? Paid search terms like “new homes Frisco” or “new home builders Austin” can cost between $3.50 and $7.00 per click. When we buy these clicks, what are we really paying for? We’re paying for a chance to deliver a message to a shopper that has demonstrated some degree of intent. We’re paying for an opportunity to have a shopper spend time with our brand. However, a recent Time Magazine article stated that 55% of the people who click on an ad spent less than 15 seconds on the click destination page. Most people that click on your ad simply don’t stay on your page long enough to read your information. Of those who do remain, less than one third of them will actually scroll down the page past the “digital fold” to see information past the first third of your page. Video on your website will keep people on your website up to 4X longer than text and deliver exactly the information you want the shopper to consume. Once you look at the math, the case for video become clear. If you’re paying $3.50 for each click,  and only one in two shoppers will remain on your website for more than 15 seconds, and only 33% of those will read most of your information, the most desirable shoppers (those who spend more than 15 seconds  on your site and reads most of your information) costs over $20.00 each! Wouldn’t it be easier to create a great video, increase your website traffic, increase your conversion, improve the shopper’s experience on your website and engage that shopper for over 60 seconds with critical information that you create? For the cost of a single video, you’ll be able to drop your cost of “home shopper” acquisition and conversion to pennies!

When you look at these numbers, the real cost of video is not having video viewers on your website.

Stop Chasing Leads: Easy Lead Management Steps to Get Leads to Follow You!

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Home shopper leads to builders are like moving cars to dogs: we all chase them, but are not always quite sure what to do with them when we catch them. And, like the dog chasing the car, his “capture strategy” is often much more clearly defined than his “management strategy” regarding what to do with the car once he’s caught it. Builders are not much different. They use Realtors, promotions, signs, events, emails, websites, banner ads, retargeting, landing / capture pages, tv and radio, billboards and print to get a shopper’s contact information. Many even outsource their lead capture process to advertising or marketing agencies.  But while builders are comfortable working with others to generate leads, once they get a lead they keep it “in house”.  Capturing leads is very expensive and once a builder has landed a lead, they rarely turn over lead management to an outside vendor.

Based on internet secret shopper studies, there seems to be no clear industry consensus on how to deal with a lead once it reaches a builder, but here are 5 things to keep in mind as you or your team approaches lead management.

  1. READ the Lead. Before anyone fires off a substantive response to the shopper, take a moment to read the lead. Most have information on them that will help determine what the shopper is looking for and why the shopper is looking. Leads contain gems of information, like time of day the shopper was looking, where they currently live, what community they’re looking for, if the shopper has a home to sell, are currently leasing, or is the shopper looking for their first home. Did the shopper leave you several ways to contact them (phone number, email and mailing address) or just one? Does the shopper’s phone number indicate they might be a relocation buyer? Each of these bits of information will help you determine how best to address the needs of the shopper rather than deliver a generic email containing information they probably already know.
  2. What does the Lead NEED? Information contained on the lead will often direct you toward resources to discover what the lead needs to make a decision. If you have their information, do a quick Facebook, LinkedIn or Google search on the individual. You’ll be surprised what you learn. The lead’s LinkedIn page will tell you if they’re employed, how long they’ve been there and you can make some assumptions about their current salary, if they’ve had a recent promotion or have gotten a new job. If the person is active on social media, you may discover their marital status, number of children, hobbies and the associations they belong to or things they follow. I once typed a home shopper’s name into GOOGLE and found their baby shower page! Talk about an impending event! Once you discover a little about the lead, you’ll know the information they need to start making a decision.
  3. FEED the Lead. There are three parts of effective lead “nourishment”: timing, method and content. Initially, all leads should be contacted as quickly as possible with an email thanking them and letting them know that you’re putting some information together to help them on their journey. This email should indicate when they can expect your second email to create some obligation and anticipation about that email. All subsequent emails that you send to that shopper should be delivered during the time period that you initially received the lead. If the shopper likes to shop online on Saturday mornings at 10:00am, then all your correspondence should be done during that time until you learn otherwise. The method that you use to contact the lead is often dictated by the information the shopper includes on their registration. Most put their email address, some put their phone and still fewer put their physical address. Attempt to contact the shopper with all of the methods they’ve included on their registration. Assume a phone number is for their cell, and try both calling and texting. The shopper probably won’t answer an unfamiliar number, so be prepared with a concise voice message that thanks the shopper for considering your community and then create some obligation with the shopper by letting them know you’re putting together something specifically for them and to look for that informative email. The content that you put in your email will be determined by what you learned from your cursory internet search. Your emails will start feeding the lead the information they need. If they have children, compare the schools there they currently live to the schools in your district. If there is crime in their current area, how does that compare to crime in your community? Is your community closer to their job? Can you cut their commute? Compare your neighborhood amenities to theirs.  How does your community align with their interests and hobbies? If they have a home to sell, what can you do to help them sell it quickly? Are they upsizing or downsizing? Feed your leads with relevant information, tailored to their lifestyle and needs, and you’ll make a more significant connection than builders who simply send current inventory sheets. Putting the shopper’s needs in front of your own by feeding the lead with relevant and new information makes you important and valuable to the lead.
  4. LEAD the Lead. Stop following up with leads and start leading them! The goal is to get the lead to follow you! Delivering new and valuable information that will help the shopper achieve their quality of life goals based on your research about them, their life and ambitions as you know them is the only way to get the shopper to follow up with you. Get to know the shopper so well that you can eventually tie their goals to your community, inventory or house plans you’ll start to put distance between you and the other new home sales people in the market.
  5. Help the Lead SUCCEED. As a new home sales counselor, you’re paid for selling homes. But the only reason someone buys a home is if they think that purchase will make their life and their family’s life better. Often, the information that a shopper needs to feel comfortable taking the step into home ownership is less about the actual home and more about the new and improved life they’re embracing. This is often a journey, and each step of that journey requires different information. Information about selling an existing home quickly and repairing credit may be more valuable to a shopper during your early conversations than making sure they know about your existing inventory. Often we try and speed through the home sale process by focusing on the end of the process rather than the journey that we take with the shopper, but it is often the partnership we create with the shopper during the journey that secures the sale.

 

These five lead management steps will help new home sales teams focus their efforts on people rather than on product, putting themselves in a position as valued allies of the shopper and that will result in more sales.

Battle for the Buyer Pt. 3: Timing

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Approaching shoppers at the right time will be the single most important aspect of successful marketing and follow up. It will also be the most overlooked.

  1. Get on the Right Schedule. Stop trying to get the shopper on your schedule and start getting your marketing on the shopper’s schedule. Most shoppers will tell you by their actions when they like to shop. Get your sales team to put down a time of day when the shopper walks into the model and use this as the time when you assume the shopper likes to shop. Similarly, all web leads are delivered to your team with a time stamp; use this time as the time you know the shopper is comfortable shopping, then make sure that this is the time you call, text or send email messages to them. Trying to get the shopper to change the time they like to shop to accommodate your team’s days off or hourly schedule is ineffective, costly and frustrating. Open your door for business whenever the shopper wants to shop. This is the difference between having a “shopper centric” versus a “sales person centric” approach to marketing.
  2. “Right Now Marketing” is critical. Develop a system or find vendors that can automatically deliver relevant information to a shopper while they’re actually on the internet shopping. Delivering your emails or texts once a shopper has demonstrated their interest and intent to learn about new homes gives you a better chance of getting your email messages read. Email marketing is no longer about just sending emails out; it’s about finding ways to get your messages read. Find a way to send messages while shoppers are actually shopping and watch your open rates soar!
  3. More OSCs Please. Part of the problem with Online Sales Counselors is their job title. Sure they’re online, but they really can’t sell anything because you can’t buy a home on the internet; at least not yet. The OSC is much more of a marketing position than a sales position. They’re really Home Shopper Helpers and you should employ enough of them to contact all shoppers whenever they’ve demonstrated interest and consistently follow up with all of them. Many builders only employ a single OSC per division, and this approach usually quickly backfires within a week or two. Handling an ever increasing lead load coupled with existing lead follow-up rapidly becomes unmanageable. You never want your OSC to practice triage when it comes to lead handling and start looking for reasons NOT to follow up with some people because they just don’t have time but, that is exactly what usually happens. Four or five communities is probably about all an OSC can effectively handle. With realistic community responsibilities, OSCs could know everything about a community that any of your sales people know. Community knowledge is critical because OSCs are the real front line of trust. An OCS’s main goal should be to make it clear that they are there to help the shopper. Also, your OSCs should not work banker’s hours, but rather “shopper’s hours”. That means OSCs work weekends and nights, and are off during the day. An OSC should have a work schedule like a waiter: working when everyone else is off having fun shopping for new homes. If you want an OSC to neglect nurturing shoppers, cease creating trust, delay follow up and only scan the leads for those they think will buy that weekend, keep their focus on sales. If you want your OSC to create a pipeline of shoppers and nurture leads into appointments then hire enough of them to effectively address the needs of all shoppers and focus on helping them buy a home rather than trying to sell them one.

 

In a shrinking new home market, builders must not only get those sales they would normally win, but also those they take sales from other builders. The proper tactics, tools and timing will help your sales and marketing team get in front of the competition and into the hearts of home shoppers. How will your team win the Battle for the Buyer in 2016?

 

Battle for the Buyer Pt. 2: Tools

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Pt. 2

Tools

  1. Once you’ve got the Shopper…Keep Them. All the sales materials you give your team to distribute to your shoppers should be designed to get them off the computer and over to the kitchen table, not back to the internet. You can’t get the sale on the internet but you sure can lose a sale on the internet. While all your competitors exist on the internet, no one competes with you on your own collateral. Sending a shopper back to the internet once you’ve them in your store is like sending them back into the mall! Once you have a shopper, your sales team should deliver enough material for them to sit at their kitchen table and discuss a new home rather than hop back on the internet where every competitor you have in the market is trying to capture their imagination and lure them away from you.
  2. Make mobile easy. A mobile site is more than just a scaled down version of your traditional site. People use mobile devices differently than they use laptops and desktops. Shoppers approach these devices with different expectations than they have for traditional websites and mobile devices are used in certain situations. Understand how someone would use your site with a mobile device and you’ll probably see things on your traditional site that don’t belong in your mobile environment. Mobile is about what shoppers need “right now”, not what they may need down the road or while they’re talking with you.
  3. Lead the Lead. Develop or purchase an automated email and follow-up system that addresses and anticipates the needs of the shopper and delivers digital messages regardless of the status of your sales team. Sales people come and go, but automated follow up should be used until the shopper buys, dies or opts out. Relying on your sales team to effectively follow up with anything but a hot prospect will leave you frustrated. This isn’t to say sales people shouldn’t deliver important information, but no shopper should be ignored due to changes in a sales team. Remember, marketing moves people and sales move product. You wouldn’t expect your marketing team to be successful selling homes, why do you expect your sales team to be effective marketers?

The Battle for the Buyer

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Tactics, Tools and Timing for New Home Sales Success in 2016

Tom Bevins

2016 new home sales projections were recently released and of the four key Texas new home markets, it looks like Dallas / Ft. Worth was the only one left without a nick.  Sinking oil prices left Houston with an 8%-15% projected drop in units, and Austin and San Antonio were essentially flat with growth only anticipated in the lowest price points sufficient to counter unit reductions in the higher ones and hold sales unit numbers close to those in 2015. The challenge is compounded by many builders setting 2016 sales expectation numbers 10-25% higher than those they achieved in 2015! To meet these ambitious goals, builders will need to find a way to grow overall sales unit numbers and increase their market share in a shrinking or flat market.  The math is simple: if your total market sold 100 units, and your division sold 10 of those units, you had 10% market share, but when the market shrinks to 80 units and your projections increase to 12 units, not only do you have to get two additional sales (a 20% increase in a smaller market), you also need to grow your current market share from 10% to 15% and that takes some doing! Growing units in an expanding market is easy, but growing market share in a shrinking market is how you tell the smart operators from those just along for the ride. 2016 is going to be a Battle for the Buyer, and here are a few strategies to help your sales and marketing teams win.

2016 Battle for the Buyer

Since growing the new home category (the number of new homes sold in a market) is influenced by things out of our control (employment, migration, interest rates and …oil), marketing teams should focus on the buyers the market is already producing, expand their influence within the market to reach as many of them as possible and then capitalize on every single opportunity that crosses their virtual or actual threshold.  Builders that don’t approach this year with buyer centric campaigns featuring the right tactics, tools and timing will be left in the shopper’s dust

Part 1: Tactics for a Shrinking Market

  1. Focus on the shopper you have, not the shopper you want. Today’s market is already producing buyers, they’re just scarcer than they were last year. Find the places where shoppers hang out and deliver your information to them to create “1 on 1” influencing opportunities. In other words, go to the shopper instead of trying to get the shopper to come to you. Don’t waste money on trying to grow the new home category or trying to pull shoppers from the pre-owned home market. Target the buyer who has already shown intent to buy new construction. You know who buys your homes; go get more of them. Focusing on the wrong demographic is messy, inexact and expensive. Millennials are sexy and fun to talk about, but you’re not selling shoes and iPads; you’re selling houses and less than 15% of that category (Leading Edge Millennials) are considered viable buyers. Most projections still target Gen Xers as the “low hanging fruit” in the new home market. They have money, jobs, don’t currently live with their family, are not afraid of a new home purchase, have already paid off their school loans, have children and partners and are responsive to traditional advertising. Remember, Millennials lived through the last downturn where many were personally touched by the loss of a family or friend’s home and were inundated with horror stories for years about the housing and mortgage industry collapse. As a group they are timid with this purchase, and we’re already seeing news stories about the housing downturn hitting the news cycles. Since advertising resources are limited for most of us, moving ad dollars away from proven buyers to unproven ones may make you feel edgy, but it will keep you on the sidelines and playing from the back of the pack in 2016 and 2017.
  2. Focus on Comparative Value. How does your value, lifestyle, product, presentation and packaging stack up against the builder they just saw or the one they’re going to visit next? Since very few shoppers buy on their first visit to a community, the real goal of your initial encounter is to get them to come back for the second meeting where you really do the heavy lifting. Your team must be effective selling against apartments and pre-owned homes, but if you don’t have a compelling pitch against the builder down the street, get ready for a tough year. Most sales people can’t win the sale on the first visit, but you can certainly lose it on the first visit. What makes shoppers come back? Trust, professionalism, product knowledge, active listening, new information and value. This approach makes the sales person emotionally vital to the shopper as an agent of positive change. Builders don’t sell homes, people do. Make your people important to the shopper with value-driven collateral, presentations and new information they can’t get anywhere but from them and they’ll sell more homes.
  3. Leads. Leads don’t buy houses, people buy houses. The sooner your team can humanize any lead by putting a face on it, giving it a street address, children, discovering their hopes and dreams, the better shot you have of delivering relevant information to them and getting them into your model. In most cases, web leads will let you know exactly how to market to them if you just look at the lead. Here are some easy points all sale people and online sales people should do with digital leads. Immediately respond to the person with a short email containing all your contact information, let them know you’re available and are putting together some helpful information that you’ll deliver to them later in the day. Next, “Read the Lead” and learn everything about the shopper that you can. Many lead forms contain information about their current neighborhood, what time they shop online and what communities or builder’s websites they’ve visited online. You can also look many shoppers up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Google and can then tailor your follow-up to the shopper’s relevant points. Responding to an e-lead can’t be about you or your products: it has to be about the shopper, their situation and their dreams. Don’t attempt to sell the shopper a home in an email. An email is a marketing tool and marketing is about moving people, not moving products.

Parts 2 (Tools) and 3 (Timing) will be posted in upcoming weeks.