Rachel Flint, Vice President of Hubbell Homes
Courtesy Hubbell Homes Rachel Flint, Vice President of Hubbell Homes

A new, powerful generation has broken into the world of home buying and builders are now looking for innovative ways to alter their marketing strategies to target this unique group: millennials.

At the 2019 International Builders’ Show, Rachel Flint, vice president at West Des Moines, Iowa-based builder Hubbell Homes, along with Stephen Moore, senior partner of West Des Moines, Iowa-based architecture firm BSB Design, and Georgia Castellano, associate creative director of Group Two Advertising, a marketing agency in Philadelphia, will speak during a Feb. 20 session from 3:30-4:30 p.m. called “Cracking the Millennial Code: How to Successfully Design, Build & Market to This Powerful Generation of Buyers.”

In the session, the speakers plan to identify product-design solutions, marketing methods, and customer-relationship processes that are essential to engage, capture, and retain the millennial buyer.

Below, Flint gave BUILDER an exclusive preview into some of the tactics that will be discussed during the presentation.

Q: What do you plan to cover during the millennial marketing session?
A: Our panelists want to redefine and truly understand who millennial buyers are and why they are purchasing a home. We view them as an introspective and self-aware generation, especially when it comes to their finances. Buying a house is a big decision and should be treated like one. It’s also an extremely fun process – customizing hundreds, or thousands, of square feet to reflect who you are. We need to connect with this generation and that may mean redefining what today’s “standards” are.

Q: What challenges do builders face when trying to successfully capture a millennial buyer?
A: Millennials are all about the experiences – skydiving, cross-country treks, or creating start-up businesses. Shouldn’t home buying or building be just as fun? We need to be creative in making the home buying steps a positive experience and homeownership an act of self-expression. Their home should be Instagram-worthy and the pinnacle of Pinterest’s latest trends. Millennials want a customized buying experience – none of this cookie-cutter business. We will continue to face challenges in floorplans, exterior options, and color palettes being different enough.

Q: What is the status quo approach builders use to target millennials now, and why is it important to not utilize this approach?
A: Currently, status quo is to focus on products, pricing, and information overload. When it comes to millennials, pricing and products are just as important as brand design, customer service, customization options, and even design center experiences. Once you reach the millennial generation, building a home is a logical “next step” and some millennials opt for the unexpected.

Builders need to be prepared when meeting with their architect on what the “must haves” actually are for this buyer. It’s not enough to show up and say, “we’re targeting millennials for this product.” We need to give architects specific direction on what is essential to this buyer. Customizing their options, touring a model, or choosing floorplans should all have one thing in common – fun. Even non-custom builders can build a brand narrative that makes their homes feel more customized than their competitors.

Q: What is important to know about the customer-relationship process with this demographic?
A: The relationship with millennials must be hands-on, personal, accessible, transparent, and immediate. Millennials want instant communication and answers to their questions whether that’s via email or text message. Why wait for phone calls or in-person meetings when everything can be done via technology?

Millennials are also good at research and like to know where their building products are coming from, including how the home building company treats others. Being transparent in your process and building trust is paramount with any generation, but more so with millennials. Builders should show, in more ways than one, that they are a trusted name. Whether that’s through community philanthropy, personal messages, brand consistency, or exceptional customer service, it needs to be evident.

Q: What should builders do to attract, capture, and retain this type of buyer?
A: Builders need to blend construction, design, and marketing. Companies should take a hard look at branding. What does your message convey to your audience and does it make them feel special? There are a lot of small, but impactful, experiential changes that can be made at the ground level to better your chances in the millennial market.

Q: What home features do millennials consider must-haves?
A: Everything– I’m kidding, kind of. Millennials want a house that represents them from the first-floor bathroom to the master bedroom. We see smart home features like charging outlets, voice-activated light, temperature controls, and camera systems all topping the list. But when it boils down to it, they want a home that showcases who they are, where they came from, and where they’re going. This can be difficult to overcome in communities with similar floorplans and features, but each home within a community can be, and is, different from the next. In some ways, we should be thanking millennials for pushing the boundaries on home buying and what it means today.