The Power of Home Builder Branding:
How To Build a Brand that Works for You
In today’s complex landscape of social media, Internet, television, and growing global communities, building a successful brand is no small feat. Building a home is simple compared to laying the foundation for a strong brand for a home builder. This guide will help you hone all the parts and pieces that make up a successful brand with a special focus on the needs and challenges of home builders.
Top US Home Builder Brands
Understand What a Brand Is
Follow the history of the brand and you’ll find yourself on a long and, at times, confusing journey. It began as a way to distinguish your goods from the contractor next door, but it has since evolved to the point where branding your product is more about customer relations and social media management than slapping a logo on the side of your truck. If you’re going to succeed at building a strong image in today’s consumer culture, it is absolutely essential that you grasp everything a brand really is.
Today, a brand is a complex combination of products, services, experiences, and reputation. It goes far beyond a snazzy logo or sharp marketing campaign. When you have a strong brand you can certainly market it, but your marketing plan is not the sum total. Building a brand is about bringing several different elements together and arranging them in one neat, cohesive package that your customers can easily understand and fall in love with.
Strengthen Your Brand: Narrow Your Focus
Image via Flickr by Images Money
It’s easier to have a winning brand when you’re in a narrow market. Instead of hoping to present your company as the very best home home building contractor, step back and take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Now highlight your strong points and build a niche brand from that.
Instead of going head-to-head with competitors, distinguish yourself with your differences. If you’re in a cookie cutter market where homes pop up fast, don’t compete for speed. Focus on customization and fine attention to detail. Where others may offer broad statements about their warranties, be refreshingly honest, even about potential pitfalls. Your customers will quickly realize that your home builder brand is about trust.
Don’t leave your customers guessing about where your specialties lie. Consider Lennar’s touching catch phrase: “Everything’s Included. Even Joy.” Buyers can immediately recognize that this builder won’t try to tack on extra charges for every addition. With 13,802 closings in 2012 alone, it’s obvious that many buyers saw just that.
Tailor Your Image to Your Market
Defining your market is one of the most important parts of brand building. Everything from your logo to your writing style should cater to your ideal home buyer. Retirees and young mothers are looking for very different experiences when they buy a home. Identify the market that you want to focus on and tailor your business identity appropriately.
Most importantly, you should display the types of homes that your customers will actually build. Unless you’re really building for the rich and famous, stay away from the kind of awe-inspiring homes that the average Joe will never afford. Consider the customer’s location, income, and family size. A holiday campaign featuring a snowy front yard is impossible for Florida buyers to relate to, but a yard of palm trees invokes images of a vacation rather than a home when you’re in the Midwest. Put together a few fictional profiles of your ideal customers and build a brand just for them.
Define Yourself with a Simple Mission Statement
Image via Ryland Homes
Head to the Ryland Homes web page and you’re hit with three simple words, “You’re already home.” KB Homes are “built for the way you live.” These concise messages have a big impact. They convey their images far more efficiently than a clutter of text with no tag line. To identify your message, start by writing out a complete mission statement. Gradually whittle it down to what’s important.
Help your company stand out by avoiding broad generalities like “quality homes.” Do you source materials and supplies locally to support small businesses and local economies? Do you offer customizations that your competitors don’t? Do you keep on the cutting edge of green building practices? Turn your most distinctive features into a strong yet simple statement.
Know That Your Employees are Part of Your Brand
Too many businesses stop at the outward image and forget that it’s what’s inside that counts. Your employees are part of your brand, from the foreman to the customer service agent. Take the time to train them and build a company culture that sets your people apart. Consistency in customer relations builds confidence. All customers should ideally receive the same care at every stage of the building process.
Take a walk through the customer’s experience, from the first call to the last handshake, and specify what your company provides at every point. Develop a training plan that goes through and highlights these points for your employees. Make sure every department knows what the other ones are doing. Your customer service staff needs to know how things really work at the construction site, and your builders should know what the customer hears when he calls. A pleasant experience shouldn’t be the lucky result of getting your best agent. It should be the predictable result of thorough training.
The feelings that your company evokes in the customer’s mind are a crucial part of your brand. When you build your brand right, the customer will see your logo and experience a pleasant sense of familiarity, like seeing an old friend.
Create a Recognizable Image
Image via William Lyon Homes
Now that you have an idea of what your brand is about, you can begin building that logo. Look for elements that convey the same ideas you’ve touched on with your market focus and mission statement. A company that focuses on modern home designs should have a very different logo than one that produces homes with a historic feel. Choose a logo that conveys a specific message. It’s also helpful to incorporate clever elements that will help the name of your company stay with the viewer.
William Lyon Homes features a stylized lion in the logo. The tag line “experience the pride,” is a further play on this memorable theme. Crown Communities uses a gold crown in the “O” of the name and repeats the crown image throughout their marketing materials.
Once you have a logo, choose a color scheme and typography that fit your image as well. All together, these elements will create an identifiable image for your company that clients will learn to associate with you.
Design Your Marketing Campaigns with Your Brand in Mind
Now that you have an easily identifiable image, you can begin marketing it. After all the time and attention you’ve devoted to building your home builder brand, you’ll want a chance to really highlight it. Your marketing campaigns may highlight different deals and features at different times of the year, but you always want to include your key elements, namely your logo, market focus, and message.
Maintain a sense of consistency in all your materials. You have a problem if the viewer needs to read the content of the advertisement to know that your billboard, web page, and print materials are all from the same company. Drivers who see a sign by the road aren’t likely to stop and take it all in, but if they catch enough to identify the builder, they can make a phone call or search the Internet to get the rest of the story.
Make Your Call to Action Obvious
Image via D.R. Horton
When you’re designing a marketing campaign, you need to have a specific call to action in mind. What do you want your potential customers to do when they see your name? Don’t give them a full menu of options. Plastering a phone number, web site, and directions to the model community across a single billboard will only confuse the viewer. Pick one and push it hard.
This also makes it easier to measure the success of your efforts. If you’re directing customers to visit your web page, you can easily see the results reflected in online traffic. If you’re pushing them to visit a model, you’ll clearly see how many people have done just that.
Build an Impressive Internet Presence
In today’s market, it’s essential that home builders maintain an online presence. First, make sure that your site is easy to find. Enter several search terms that your customers are likely to use and see how close your page is to the top of the results. Don’t forget to search your name in different ways, both with and without the proper spelling. There’s no need to waste print space on your web address in big bold letters if you’re SEO optimized for customers to find you through an online search.
If you have builders across several states, build a responsive page that automatically redirects visitors to a site optimized for their location. This offers a nice touch of personalization that will help build that comfortable sense of familiarity. Make sure your site includes a wealth of information. This will replace the in-person experience for visitors who forgo a personal call in favor of the ease of use the Internet has to offer.
In the United States, 15.2 percent of web traffic comes from a mobile device. This statistic from July 2013 shows a marked rise from 9.4 percent just a year before. Prepare your company for this rapidly growing trend with a site that’s mobile optimized for any device. Finally, include that call to action that will push customers forward toward the next step.
Go the Extra Mile
Image via Flickr by Birdies100
Going beyond what customers expect of a home builder is the final step to creating a memorable brand that your customers will happily recommend. Get creative when thinking about ways you can improve the buyer experience. One way to do this is to send a special housewarming gift to welcome families into their new homes. Rather than sending a one-size-fits-all gift basket, try to match your gift to the family, sending special extras if they have children or pets.
Extend your reach beyond current customers by getting involved in the community as a whole. Home builders are responsible for creating the houses that residents will call home, but what else can you do to help create a welcoming community? Get involved in charitable building projects. Sponsor community events like 5Ks and local festivals. Choose a cause and stand firmly behind it to show that you care about the community beyond the current build.
Stay Consistent: Build Your Brand for the Long Haul
All the time and effort that goes into building a brand is lost if you redesign too often. Freshening up your image is necessary from time to time. If you’re reading this, it may be that your own company could use a makeover about now. As you’re building a new brand image, create something that will last. Don’t redesign around a special anniversary or you’ll lose all your careful branding efforts when the event passes.
Creating an evergreen image is the best way to get lasting recognition for your company. The most valuable brands are typically those that have been around long enough to cement themselves in the minds, and often hearts, of their biggest fans. If you’re ready to rebrand your company now, take the time to do it right and you’ll have a lasting image that can serve you well for years to come.
Building a home builder brand is a major project, but with the right tools you’ll see real results from your efforts. Keep in mind that it is as much about experiences as it is about flashy images and appealing colors. Though it may take time to get steadfast fans of your new image, when it happens you’ll see that the work you put in was more than worth it.