Home buyers aren’t the only people that Charter Homes and Neighborhoods needs to impress.
The Central Pennsylvania builder also has to make a good impression with bankers who can lend Charter capital to develop neighborhoods, owners of family farms that it might want to acquire for development, and local town officials who might have to approve the builder’s next neighborhood development plan.
“We think of ourselves as in a very competitive business,” explains Charter’s president, Robert Bowman. “At the end of the day, people have to choose us.”
And that’s why a little over a year ago, Charter started publishing Blueprints, a magazine that shows how attractive its homes and neighborhoods are, and explains the company’s philosophy.
Beyond Traditional Advertising While most builders are satisfied promoting their products on their websites, in the newspaper, or an occasional radio or television advertisement, Charter executives felt that sending a high-quality magazine to “talk to the people of influence” would set the company apart from the crowd. Bowman calls it a “channel” to tell the public about the company.
“We believe that our product is best seen, rather than talked about,” Bowman says.
The thought was that at a time when so many people get their information on the Internet, receiving a magazine via traditional mail that shows Charter’s high-quality work, its executives, and its philosophy through beautiful photography and a few well-chosen words would make it stand out even more.
The builder can’t quantify how valuable the first two issues have been, but he has some anecdotal evidence that the magazine is not ending up in the trash can.
“I can tell you that I have been to many meetings [with bankers] where they pull it out of a file” to show during the visit, he says. “Landowners have files like that, too. It does a good job of telling the company story.”
Rather than dealing with the details of every house plan the company offers, the magazine showcases large photographs of Charter’s neighborhoods and home interiors. To make the publication memorable, the front and back covers are a panorama of a neighborhood. The goal is to sell community and quality rather than individual homes.
Bankers Are Readers, Too While its quality message is important to communicate to consumers, Bowman says it’s also necessary to promote to banks that the builder works with as well as potential land sellers. The ability to see the quality of the communities Charter has built makes sellers—particularly those who have strong ties to the land they are selling—more likely to sell to Charter rather than its competition. “We don’t think everybody wants to work with us,” says Bowman. “But those who are drawn to [our] character do.”