Building a Remarkable Brand

With technology, the market is increasingly competitive; builders must set themselves apart to build sales

By DENNIS O’NEIL

It is undeniable that smarter digital marketing brings more leads. It is also true that when you stop paying for digital marketing, the leads stop, too.

Builders typically think about the sales process as beginning after the lead is captured. The lead is immediately in the care of a skilled online sales counselor, hopefully, where relationship building and active solution building can begin. Traditionally considered a sales responsibility, relationships introduce emotional connections into the shopping experience. Through dialogue, the online and onsite sales counselors actively discover shoppers’ needs and communicate the builder’s differentiating values.

Today, consumers are waiting longer to start a dialogue. The younger generation stereotypes would prefer dialogue not be required ever. Home searches are conducted with months and months of anonymous online lurking – where the welcoming personality of your OSC and sales staff is nowhere to be found.

So the question is, if the sales process cannot begin without a lead, how can a builder differentiate themselves when the competition has a monster advertising budget?

It has been said that advertising is a tax levied on unremarkable businesses.

Let’s consider how a builder’s beliefs, values, and resulting culture can minimize the advertising tax. Let’s consider what is required of an organization with a remarkable culture and how remarkable builders are able to build relationships and enter the sales process long before dialogue begins.

Belief and Anti-Belief Power Great Cultures and Great Marketing

Homebuyers are forming an opinion about your company: defining, organizing, and eliminating builders on their first exposure. Your advertising communicates more than dimensions and prices. It might be communicating what you want, or it could be unremarkable.

No one can build a relationship with an unremarkable void. Relationship building can only start when the consumer has some sense of a company’s identity. Identity, culture, and values exist as an expression of an organization’s beliefs.

A builder that believes energy efficiency is paramount must also believe that using substandard appliances is unacceptable. Defining the proverbial anti-value enemy is important. The enemy is not a competitor, it is any behavior or decision-making that does not align with the company beliefs. Some builders are concerned that taking a firm position of belief limits their flexibility. This is theoretically true. If a belief can be acceptably compromised, it is not really much of a belief. Directly and indirectly, the beliefs of an organization are discernible in its words, actions, and presentation.

A company without a discernible culture is unremarkable, and unremarkable companies are forced to spend more on advertising. The unremarkable builders regularly lack believable differentiation, and that means they often find themselves in the undesirable position of competing on price alone.

Design Represents Beliefs

Mission statements and corporate copywriting have little value to consumers. Without dialogue, only design can demonstrate the beliefs of an organization.

Decisions are made when design happens: decisions on what a user needs, what they do not, how something should work or feel, or what color something should be. These decisions are indicative of what is valued by the designer and the organization they are representing.

Value decisions occur during the design of a home, a logo, a sign, and everywhere else a builder exists. Those decisions, conscious or not, reflect what the company values, and project your company culture.

Consider the shipping boxes of online retailer Zappos. The in-house creative team designed these boxes covered with fun directions on how to repurpose the cardboard into things like a child’s foot measure, a smartphone holder, a geometric planter, and a 3D llama. Customers may never cut out the 3D llama, but Zappos designed the box because they believe it is better this way. “Create fun and weirdness” is a Zappos core value, so packaging like this is almost an expectation. It’s who they are.

It is also possible that the funky box design is disliked by some consumers. You would have to be a pretty grumpy person to dislike Zappos’s packaging, but grumpy people buy shoes, too. It is okay that not everyone likes your company’s identity. It is okay that not everyone connects with your culture. If you know who your customers are, you must also know who they are not.

Advertising is Ephemeral; Culture is Remarkable.

Advertising is necessary, but the effects are fleeting when it is working alone. Remarkable builders who communicate their beliefs through design are able to start the sales process far inside traditional marketing territory. These builders are making a connection before person-to-person dialogue is possible and taking sales from the unremarkable advertising- tax-paying competition.

Dennis O’Neil is President of ONeil Interactive, where he leads a team of creative marketing thinkers and doers. Dennis can be reached at 410-584-2500 or dennis@oneilinteractive.com.

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