Everyday more and more potential buyers are visiting your website to consider your viability as a contestant in their own personal reality show: “Who Will Build My New House?”, also known as “Last Builder Standing” or “Amazing Race… to the Permit Line” or “Building with the Stars” or “My Best Builder Crew” or “The Real Builders of Name-of-your County” or “America’s Next Top Builder” or even “Deal or No Deal”…ok, I’ll stop there. But the reality (pun intended) is that MANY builder websites fail to engage their buyers, to offer a compelling point(s) of differentiation, or to create excitement and urgency thereby motivating potential homebuyers to rush out to the appropriate sales and information center to further investigate the homes-of-the-right-square-footage/configuration/quality/green-ness/location/amenities/activities/features/price.
If your company has a well-organized process to guide buyers through the personalization experience, if you offer a wide variety of carefully selected high-quality brand name products, if you support your buyers’ desire to invest into those features which are important to their comfort, convenience, lifestyle needs, and personal sense of style, and/or if you offer a one-stop-shopping in a design center environment, then you should be shouting it from the rooftops as a point of differentiation against your competition. Is your website joyously shouting it too? Or kind of bringing it into the conversation here and there? Or maybe just whispering it in the corner? Or even being silent on the subject?
Today I’ll address the first of five questions I asked in my last post, specifically: “Does your website send the message that you are ready, able, and excited to support your buyers’ desire to get the home they want OR is it unclear about exactly how (or where or when) the personalization experience might occur for them?”
I fully understand that we all have a lot on our plates right now, everyone is understaffed, and we are often just trying to keep up with the daily demands. Nonetheless, now is the PERFECT time to take an honest, clear-eyed look at your website and take the necessary steps to maximize this fabulous and underutilized sales tool since it is highly likely that more potential buyers will be looking at your website in the coming few years than did in the past few years.
After days of researching builder websites, I’ve been lost, confused, and frustrated more often than I’d like to admit! Sorry to say that the “bad” examples I’ll share with you are from real, live, current builder websites. Kind of like the “What Not To Wear” of builder websites.
So, if you’re up for the Challenge (Rewards and Immunity at stake), let me declare:
For this round you’ll have less than five minutes to capture your website viewers’ attention and motivate them to visit a local sales and information center. Builders, you may open your baskets. Your mandatory ingredients for this task are as follows. (that was a possibly not well-known reference to the Food Network reality show Chopped, stay with me here…).
Mandatory Ingredients for a website which screams “We’d LOVE to help you personalize your home so it is just right for you! Nobody does it better than us!!”
Ingredient #1: Corporate Endorsement of Personalization (Creating a Home That’s Right For You)
Does your website include a statement, voiceover with photo, or best yet, a video, from the President of the company, clearly stating how excited and ready the company is to help buyers create a home “just right for them” along with some general comforting information about how easy and fun this experience will be? An added benefit is the sense of comfort and familiarity you’ll create about the person in charge, the person who homebuyers often think is directly responsible for the quality of their home. Leave no room for doubt about your commitment.
Ingredient #2: Easy to Find Information in a Logical Place on the Site
I almost feel stupid writing this because it seems like a no brainer but I’ve been on many builders’ websites, sometimes a builder who I KNOW is passionately committed to personalization, sometimes a builder who I KNOW has invested into a state-of-the-art design studio, yet I can’t find the design studio information on the website!!! I’m not kidding, ludicrous as it sounds: the information is either not there at or in an erroneous place. Don’t make the mistakes I’ve seen and bury this information as a subtab under a main-level tab labeled “Communities” or “Find Your Home”, or as the 7th item under the “About Us” tab, along with “Financing” “Safety Information” or “Employment”. Please don’t make it a subtab of a subtab! Having a main level tab labeled something like: Design Studio/Design Center/Showroom/Personalize Your Home is a great way to prove your commitment to this concept. If not, it’s appropriate to have “Design Studio” or “Personalize Your Home” as a subtab under something like “The Builder X Difference” or “Why Choose Us” etc.
Ingredient #3: Beautiful, Professional, and Large Size Photography :
Inspire your buyers! Connect with them emotionally! When buyers dream about how they will personalize their brand new home, it’s a VISUAL experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to inspire, excite, motivate, and enthrall! Feature photos of your: 1)superb Design Studio Environment, 2) professionally-merchandised model homes, 3)beautiful shots of design studio products such as flooring, cabinets, countertops, faucets, hardware, exterior materials, trim, anything that looks awesome, individually or in stylistically coordinated collages, 4)happy homebuyers enjoying the selections experience… just to name a few. How many of those top 4 “Photo Ops” does your website feature?
Ingredient #4: HIGH CONCEPT explanation of the easy and fun personalization experience
What Not To Do: “Please remember that you must schedule your appointment within 5 days of signing your agreement. If you wait longer than this time you may miss out on making important design choices.” I am a HUGE PROPONENT of the importance of proper expectation setting, BUT there’s a time and a place. The website viewer may be learning about you for the first time, they don’t even know if they want to CONSIDER buying a home from you, so now is NOT the time to tell them they might miss out if they don’t follow the rules. While this is an important policy, there are better ways to state it, and certainly better times and places than your public website.
What To Do: state enthusiastically your company’s desire, and ability, to help each buyer create a home that meets their needs… … the buyers will work directly with a professional design consultant…you have a state-of-the-art design studio…even if you don’t have a dedicated design consultant or a first-class selections environment, you can state that you offer a wide array of brand name product choices sure to satisfy their design preferences and lifestyle needs… that you are completely committed to making this experience fun and easy…etc.
Ingredient #5: Buyer-focused language/ Proper terminology
I’ve seen plenty of beautifully crafted, confidence-inspiring, and professionally-worded website text examples and I’ve also seen plenty that did more harm than good.
Your website text should convey ALL (SOME is ok, ALL is better) of these concepts to your prospective homebuyers:
- Welcome, join us
- You’ll be in good hands, you’ll work with professionals, this won’t be overwhelming
- Enjoyable and fun experience
- Plenty of choice in products, finishes, sizes, colors, performance levels, investment amounts, you’ll find what you want
- Be inspired, be creative, there’s design assistance
- All in one place, you won’t have to traipse all over town, we’ll guide you…
- We’re excited to help you create your dream home
- Other builders may not provide this amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience like we will
In addition to conveying those key concepts, Watch Your Language. Here’s two examples of what NOT to do:
1. Don’t use builder-focused language such as having a graphic on your home page which states “Visit Our Other Product Line”. Why in the world would anyone be motivated to click on that statement? Don’t say “our estimator will work up a price quote” or “we’ll process a change order” Not only is that poor language, but it’s unnecessary to go into that level of procedural detail at this stage of the game and in this format. Similarly, don’t state “you’ll leave with an exit package” (sounds like you’re getting fired from a job).
2. Please do NOT say “Making all these decisions can be overwhelming, but our professional design consultants will guide you…” You can just start the sentence with “Our professional design consultants will guide you…” Not all of your prospective buyers are thinking it can be overwhelming, so don’t put that thought in their head!! Just state the opposite thought, ie the benefit of the way you do things which, in essence, is NOT overwhelming. Instead of saying “we have so many choices, it can be, at times, overwhelming”, lose the word “overwhelming” and turn the sentence around to be buyer-focused rather than builder-focused and state “With so much to choose from, and with the help of our expert design consultants, you’ll be able to confidently and easily create a home just right for you.” Or “We’ve simplified the design process/personalization experience by blahblahblah…” The word “overwhelming” does not belong on your website unless you are referring to the homebuying experience offered by ANOTHER builder.
Ingredient #6: Testimonials
Not much beats John and Sue Smith smiling out from the website page without a care in the world, leaning on their spectacular granite kitchen island, talking about how fabulous the selections experience was with Builder X. Not much is better than the happy Lopez family beaming in front of their two-story brick fireplace in their perfectly clean and cozy-looking family room telling us that they can’t imagine having a better experience with any other builder and how grateful they are to the Builder X Design Team for helping them create their dream home….all within the budget they set for themselves!
I think I am over my allotted time for this round of the reality show competition, but there are still MANY Discretionary Bonus Point Ingredients for your America’s Best Homebuilder Website ie powerful techniques and creative ideas you can add to your website recipe to convince potential homebuyers that you are the obvious, unbeatable choice. These “potential” ingredients include things like Meet Your Design Team, properly leveraging your awards and the power of your trade partners, how to use video effectively, plus a variety of tools, games, and interactive experiences…and much more!!
So, in closing, the reality is that improving your website with some of these ideas is a relatively inexpensive way to leverage your personalization experience and to differentiate your company from the competition. Come on, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. I’ve said at least a billion times: “Perception is Reality.” Fair or unfair, you can build the best quality home in the universe, but your buyers only know what you tell them, show them, and prove to them, so if you don’t market that quality, it’s probably not going to matter. If you don’t market your unique ability to give your buyers more choice and to support the creation of their dream home, then it’s probably not going to help you sell more homes.
Maybe I’m focused on reality shows because I’m a Jersey Girl (hold the jokes), from thelandofCake Boss,JerseyShore (embarrassingly), Jersey Couture, and Real Housewives of New Jersey.
I don’t want you having nightmares of being a contestant on the aforementioned Food Network show, with host Ted Allen, posing as your next potential homebuyer, proclaiming “Builder Michael, you’ve been Chopped” (at which point you have to pack your tool belt and exit while taking off your hardhat and walking down a long hallway). So….I “challenge” you to take this blogpost and use it as a checklist for your own website.
Our extensive step-by-step 16-page “How To Use Your Website to Promote Your Design Studio And/Or Personalization Experience and Attract More Homebuyers” HowTo Guide is include in our Designed2Sell programs (all levels). Order yours today!