In this new economy, investing in social media is part and parcel of a successful marketing campaign. When it comes to home buying, all kinds of media need to be engaged, but there is no doubt that a development’s website is the meat of the media meal. People will spend hours searching websites before they start hitting the pavement on a hunt for their dream home. So if your website isn’t up to snuff you’ll have lost a potential homebuyer right there at the click of a mouse.
At my company Braun/Allison Inc., we set out to help real estate developers ensure their websites – and more – are attracting potential homebuyers. And in our experience there are three must-dos:
1) Customize a development’s website to showcase its key features. It seems like such an obvious thing to say, but it’s crucial that your project’s website isn’t looked over. Beyond the pretty colours and carefully selected fonts, the basic structural design of the website needs to complement the development itself. If community is a keyword for a project, as a developer you need to think about how that sense of community will be presented on your site. Perhaps there will be an online forum for the exchange of ideas, or a series of blog posts that highlight community events in the area. Does it make sense to force people to register if you’re trying to promote a place for open and frequent discussion?
By way of example, our client Ledingham McAllister pride themselves on stunning showrooms, and giving potential homebuyers a look at what living in a Ledingham McAllister development can be like. The visual aspect is extremely important to them, so it was essential that their websites include a video component whereby potential homebuyers could actually see and virtually explore their showrooms.
2) Even if you’re not face-to-face with homebuyers you still need to listen to them. What are homebuyers saying, and where are they going? Note which areas of the website visitors are most interested in, and then give them more of what they want. Are they curious about floorplans? Or are they more concerned with the project’s features and amenities?
What comments are being left on the site? Are these comments being properly monitored? Queries should be answered, thank yous sent and general interest acknowledged. It can be a great idea to give your sales team login access to a project’s website, so that they can engage directly with consumers’ comments, questions and feedback.
3) Be real, authentic and more than just a corporate entity to your audience. Give people some good old-fashioned humanness so they can engage and relate. Avoid the company jargon and hyperbole and just be honest. Talk one-on-one even though you’re talking one-to-many.
Here’s an example from the client books: We’ve been working with Macdonald Development Corporation in Phoenix on a project called ONE Lexington for quite some time now. Phoenix was hit particularly hard in the recession, and it was important that this was acknowledged on the website. We explained that ONE Lexington was originally known as Century Plaza until the economic slump caused the development to buckle. We introduced Rob Macdonald and his partner Rob Hubbard by video, as the new developer and let them talk about their enthusiasm for the project and the city. We like to think this approach, and all our other tactics combined, helped this project in some small way hit the initial sales milestone of 30 sales in the first 30 days, in a market where five sales a month was considered a win. And continued to help it reach 100 homes in 11 months just recently.
Real estate development websites need to step up and be more: more engaging, more interesting, more complete and more human. Do that, and you’ll not just get a few random browsers skimming through floorplans, but honest-to-goodness fans who come back over and over to see what’s new, and soak up the stories you have to tell. These story-soaked, engaged and enamoured folks will not just be prospects anymore, you’ll have moved them along the scale to being believers. And believers are buyers.