MOST SALES INFORMATION centers are instantly forgettable, says Wayne Hancock, the executive director of Estrella Mountain Ranch, a sprawling 20,000-acre master planned community in Goodyear, Ariz.
“They have pretty little pictures of pretty little people doing pretty little things,” Hancock says.
He needed much more than a typical information center to convince home buyers to make the drive past other communities with similar homes at a lower price point. Hancock needed a place to show them the lifestyle that he believes makes his community a better value despite a higher price tag.
“We have projects they will pass on their way to us that will sell them a home for $25 a square foot less, and they're good homes,” he says. “Why should they buy from us? If it's my models against a competitor's, I'll lose as often as I win. … No one understands the lifestyle unless we can explain it. This building helps us be a winner.”
Hancock began traveling the country, trying to find an existing center he could copy. He didn't find one, and instead, wound up designing and building an 8,400-square-foot information center called the Luminarium Home Finding Center. In January, the center took home the Gold Award for best sales information center in the Nationals, the NAHB's top award from the National Sales and Marketing Council.
Sales Strategies Easily seen from the highway, the Luminarium's 28-foot-tall copper sphere is particularly dramatic when lit at night. Inside, the sphere is home to a planetarium-style theater for viewing a film about the community's lifestyle.
But the theater is only one part of the center's sales strategy, Hancock says, which begins the moment visitors open the door and continues through every part of the experience. In addition to the theater, the center also features a comfortable reception area, an innovative “Discovery of Life” room with information on various aspects of community life at the Estrella Mountain Ranch, a children's play room, a builder showcase room, and a real estate agent's office.
The building is designed to respond to four stages in the selling process—a warm welcome, an emotional introduction to the community, specific information about the amenities and lifestyle, and details about product and pricing, Hancock says. The first is a comfortable introduction without the feeling that a sales person is going to attack them. The welcome desk is set in a back corner; a Realtor office is just off the lobby. Guests are welcomed and offered cookies and a glass of ice water. Even that step is intentional, Hancock says. Most builders in his market offer visitors bottled water. That's fine, but bottled water can be tucked in bag and taken away. Not so with a glass.