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What are some new ways to market a custom-home builder in this slow market?

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We are a custom-home builder in the triad area of North Carolina. We specialize in the $300,000-and-up market. We emphasize quality over quantity and have an outstanding reputation with our customers. How do I make our company stand out among all the other builders during this slow market? Most of the ideas I read on this site are geared more to retail and service-oriented companies.
Great question! Thanks for taking the time to post it. While it's difficult to give you strategic recommendations without more information about what you've already done to market your firm, here's my take on any business that markets quality over price:

Get in touch with your consumer base. You need to have a firm grasp on WHO is most likely to buy your homes, their age group, likes and dislikes, where they shop, what radio station they listen to, etc. Of course, you also have to have a defined geographic footprint (where you are looking to draw leads and business from).

[b]Get Branded[/b]
It's been proved that branded firms can command higher prices. Your brand consists of a strong logo, consistent colors and style guidelines for every advertising campaign/vehicle (including radio, print, direct mail and e-mail marketing). The combined effect is to give the consumer positive feelings, attitudes and beliefs about your product line (custom-built homes) and your firm.

[b]Get Your Marketing Toolkit in Hand[/b]
Once you know whom you want to reach and where they are apt to be engaged, you are better equipped to put together the tools you need. The basics include:
1. A suite of professionally designed and copywritten marketing materials
2. An SEO-friendly  website
3. A branded e-newsletter
4. Direct-mail pieces
5. A folio containing a consumer press kit
6. PR

All your marketing materials are an investment in your success. A suggestion: All materials should depict exterior and interior shots of beautifully decorated homes, with smiling families, couples and singles in different homey scenes

Of course, there are lots of other strategic actions you can take to engage new buyers--especially internet marketing--but these first steps must be in play before you can begin to rise above the "clatter" of your competitors.

Have a dedicated marketing budget and an overall annual plan, so each action supports and builds on the last.

Bottom line: It's important to know where you're going before you put the car in drive, so if you use the right creative team (marketing strategist, graphic designer, professional copywriter, webmaster,etc.), you'll have a much better chance of arriving sooner rather than later.

Best of luck in your endeavors

Pattie Simone

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