What is this thing called Marketing?
Let’s first look at what Webster has to say about the meaning of “marketing” – (1) the act or process of buying and selling in a market; and (2) the commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer. A more commercial definition of marketing that might be found in a high school or college text could read something like this: “creating a sale with the consumer for your product and/or service.”
Then, let’s look at Webster’s definition of “promoting” – (1) to forward or further, to encourage, to advance; (2) to raise to a more important rank, to contribute to the progress or growth of, to urge adoption of or advocate; and (3) to attempt to sell or popularize by advertising or by securing financial support. Again, a more commercial definition of promoting might be something like: “bringing the consumer to your product and/or service.”
These definitions tell us that we need to be involved in both promoting and marketing! It is the act of promoting that creates enthusiasm and brings us the traffic. It is the act of marketing that defines the sale of a home or signing of a lease. Without both of these tools in your toolkit, you would have a really hard time filling, re-filling, or upgrading your community.
Deciding Why you Want to Market
Do you want to promote because you have a new development? Or will it be to fill vacancies within an existing community, or to upgrade (and turn around) an older community? Each of these three stages of a community requires a different marketing plan, a different focus, different promotional strategies, and differing amounts of involvement.
Marketing has been the subject of many volumes of material, college courses, high school courses, and numerous articles in literally thousands of magazines. There are many facets of marketing for whatever business you try to promote. It depends on the type of market you are in, the general state of the economy at the time you decide to start a promotion and marketing program, whether you are creating a demand or meeting a need, and several other variables.
Who are your Partners in Marketing?
- Curb Appeal
- Personal Development
- Industry Knowledge
- Civic Involvement
The Mental Picture of Marketing
Every minute of every day in every dealing you have with each person, you are promoting yourself, the company you represent, your community, and the industry as a whole. Picture a diagram that consists of a huge wheel. There is a hub in the very center. It is a small circle. You are this hub. Radiating outward from this hub are eleven spokes that then connect with a huge wheel on the outside. Each of the eleven spokes is one of the areas of promotion we are going to discuss in this handbook. The huge wheel on the outside is your market: the general public, the planning and zoning officials.
In other words, this huge wheel is a never-ending stream of potential customers. This huge wheel also makes up the members of the general public at large. Everyone has an opinion. On this huge wheel, everyone has an opinion about manufactured housing and manufactured home communities. Part of a successful promotion and marketing program is to create more and more favorable opinions of the general public that is part of that huge wheel.
When the one of the eleven spokes joins the wheel, a direct line of vision, understanding and agreement is created between the hub (you) and the wheel (your market). Both ends of the spoke (you in the hub and the general public on the wheel) then see things the same way. The conduit that enables this “coming together” of opinion is the spoke that links you in your hub with your potential customer on the huge wheel. When this happens, you have successfully created a promotion (being noticed) that may result in effective marketing (a sale or lease). The other positive side effect is usually the creation of a more favorable image of the manufactured housing industry as a whole.
When the public that is represented by the wheel is comprised of elected officials, your promotional efforts may result in positive zoning decisions or approval of expansion plans for a new community. When that public represents your customer, you will have created a sale of a home or a lease of a homesite. We need all kinds of people from this public arena on our side.
This illustration gives you a visual image of the way a successful promotion can take you where you have never been before – or leave you spinning around in circles. You are in the center ring. Take charge of your promotional efforts. Create new markets. Realize new growth opportunities. Change the image of manufactured housing. It all starts with you!
A successful promotion and marketing program will affect your staff, your community, your residents, their friends, their co-workers and families, the surrounding business community, and the industry as a whole in a positive way. It will help change the perception of manufactured housing in the eyes of the uneducated public, the elected officials, and increase the number of homeowners. Your successful promotion and marketing program will generate a continued bottom-line growth for your community and your company while providing housing that is perceived as a true value by your customers.
And, by the same token, an unsuccessful promotion and marketing program – or the total lack of one - can keep your community frozen in time. It can perpetuate a negative image of the industry. It will hamper your efforts in expansion, fill or upgrade. It will prevent you from reaching the highest level of personal and professional excellence that is obtainable. To be more blunt, the lack of a promotion and marketing program that does good means you, your community, and the industry will suffer. It means that more people will neither believe nor share the positive messages the industry has to offer.
Key Concepts to a Successful Marketing Program
- A successful promotion is a successful perception of value
- Every day is Open House
- Curb appeal is your job
- Use white classifieds
- Use reverse classifieds
- Create a comparison grid for your community
- Look at your community honestly – through the eyes of a video
- Enforce your Guidelines for better curb appeal
- Remember that word-of-mouth is your best advertising
- Utilize business cards in new and creative ways
- Everyone forms an opinion and every opinion matters
- We are no better than others perceive us to be
- Help retailers understand the values of your community
- Allow them to use the amenities
- Invite them to activities
- Offer a special tour for new salespeople
- Allow them to install model homes
- Hang a lifestyle picture in their sales office
- Visit on a regular basis
- Use custom labels for bags of donuts or candy
- Color code a map with vacant sites and sizes of homes
- Send gift certificates to a salesman’s spouse
- Call to thank them for sending prospects
- Consider using resident referrals
- Free rent
- Certificates for dinner
- Mention in the newsletter
- Create a win-win promotion
- Give a shed, plants, gift certificate from nursery, deck, patio furniture, lawn mower, lawn care for six months, snow removal for a season, sod for the lawn, reduced water bill for watering
- Take brochures to area businesses
- Join the chamber of commerce and volunteer on committees