I have had my worst fears confirmed. There truly is a missing link in the evolution of new home sales.At least in the Seattle market.For my out of town readers, I’m checking up on you as you read this, so don’t get too smug…yet.
New homebuilders spend tens of thousands of dollars on websites, and even more on media ads and internet campaigns in search of those increasingly elusive buyers. One of my worst fears as a provider of marketing advice and services was the thought of how many buyers get lost through the cracks of a well planned marketing campaign? A few weeks ago, I realized I was in the market for new home. After 19 years on Bainbridge Island, it was time to make the move back to the city, perhaps downsize, find a cool neighborhood, explore the options of condo convenience or single-family privacy.Here was my chance to do some first hand research.I had everything a “live one” needed: motivation, a price range, a timeline and questions.Here we go, I thought. I’ll use this opportunity to see who is doing the most outstanding job of following up on leads.
To even the playing field, I established some rules.I would look in the Seattle Times New Homes Saturday two times. First on March 22, and then two weeks later on April 5.I chose the Times because it was the most expensive place a new homebuilder can go to generate live ones…leads that is.We’re talking about ads that cost from about $1,500 to well over $6,500 for single run. That’s how important new leads are.Second rule, I would only respond via the builder or building’s website.I would completely fill out the form, answer all questions, and only initiate the test if the project fit my price range and other criteria.I would then proceed to answer questions, etc. as the bubbly sales agent followed up on this live one.So, on week one, eager to meet some exciting new people and see some wonderful new product I began my quest.I had some great places to choose from and even knew quite a bit about many of them.Here’s who I signed up for more information with:Caymus Townhomes, Veridian Cove, Cooper Creek (Centex), Berrywood (Quadrant), Element, Trace Lofts, Bellevue Tower, Ruby, San Juan Passage, Front 9, Verdeaux, Canal Station, Brix, diModa and Centerra.I would have signed up for a cool project in Columbia City, a neighborhood I love, but the listing agent only offered his phone number, not even an email.I guessed he didn’t want me to call him after midnight, the dope!Two weekends later I added The BelBoy, 5th and Madison, Polygon at The Point, One Main Street, The Vue, The Parc and Olive 8.If you or your client are represented above, you might want to stop reading right here.
Eric Jones of Centex.You’re my hero.Centex sent an auto-responder and Eric followed up with several polite emails and phone calls, engaging me in conversation about my needs. The agent for San Juan Passage sent an excellent personal response within hours after my inquiry. Sean from Ruby followed up with an email wanting to know more about what I was looking for.OK, that’s three out of twenty five! The rest of you?Pretty much missing in action.
Williams Marketing rocks in the auto-responder department, every project I inquired about netted me a quick robot reply. One auto-responder even promised me a 24-hour personal follow-up. That was March 26… I’m still waiting. I got few other auto-responder messages, and on more than half—thirteen out of twenty-five—of my inquiries, I received absolutely no acknowledgment or follow-up.
The lessons learned?Before we spend a builders’ hard-earned money on ads, search and outreach, all of us have to sharpen up how our sales teams get the resulting leads and think long and hard about effective follow-up and lead tracking systems.Each lead, in these current market conditions, is costing builders and developers in the high hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.The least we can do, from the marketing and sales side, is make sure someone invests in at the minimum a phone call and a personal email.
If anyone mentioned above has some lame excuses to offer or would like to bust my chops, that’s what the comment box below is for.