Some 7,000 volunteers are expected to participate in The Estridge Companies’ construction of a 2,500-square-foot home that will be featured in this season’s final episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” How will the Carmel, Ind.-based builder bring order to such potential chaos? By turning to a local email marketing firm that for the first time will apply all four of its communications platforms to managing a single project.

It's a complex and technologically interwoven effort, but one that could offer useful lessons to builders and others as they seek to coordinate their workforce, connect with prospects, promote their homes to buyers, and gain publicity for their company for various projects or community events. 

In an interview with BUILDER yesterday, R.J. Talyor, product marketing manager for Indianapolis marketing firm ExactTarget; and Mary Catherine Grau, Estridge’s director of marketing and advertising, explained how technology will make their build go smoother for all types of participants.

Coordinating Volunteers: To recruit and stay connected with its volunteers, Estridge will be using the email marketing, text messaging, voice messaging, and landing page technology provided by ExactTarget, which has been a vendor for Estridge since last August. Estridge is also working with Westlake Design, a Web development company that donated its services to create the project Web site, which includes a blog, a photo gallery, and a video gallery.

That site links to a landing page that ExactTarget created and hosts, which is aggregating the traffic coming to the site. On Monday, a “smart capture” feature went live on the site to coordinate volunteer and sponsor applications. (Grau said that, as of yesterday, 662 people had already volunteered for non-construction duties like cooking and job-site cleanup.)

During the construction, which will occur from March 29 through April 2, Estridge plans to keep volunteers on schedule via ExactTarget’s voice- and email-messaging platforms. “They will receive an email the day before they are supposed to show up, and a voice message three hours and one hour before,” says Grau. “That might seem like overkill, but we think it’s important to stay in contact, and to give people the sense that they are part of the project.”

Grau adds the messaging technology should come in handy if construction phases need to be adjusted, which is to be expected for a house being built so quickly. “We’re trying to be respectful of people’s time,” she said.

Entertaining Spectators: One of the more intriguing aspects of this effort is Estridge and ExactTarget's plan to promote various building products to the hordes of spectators who are expected to show up during construction. Talyor noted that last November his company launched its inbound text messaging capability, which allows people who provide their email addresses to receive text alerts and other information, and to respond to those messages.

Estridge intends to text spectators with promos and other information about building products and the suppliers that donated them for the event. People in the crowd will be able to text-message their willingness to donate to the mortgage fund for the family that Extreme Makeover has chosen to own the house. Spectators will also be entertained during the build with promotions and facts about Estridge, the TV show, and its host Ty Pennington.

Engaging With The Community: Estridge's plans to reach out to community constitute an important test for ExactTarget, which Talyor said intends to use its results as a case study to market its platforms to other clients. Grau and Talyor also believe this kind of one-to-one marketing has applications for Estridge beyond Extreme Makeover, too. For example, Talyor suggests that customers who are walking or driving through Estridge’s neighborhoods might text the builder to request information on the houses they are viewing.

And Grau says this technology might also help Estridge “engage” the community in the builder’s philanthropic activities. For example, URBaCS, an interactive marketing firm that also works with Estridge on social media efforts, plans to use the Extreme Makeover event to help drive donations to two local charities—Gleaners Community Food Bank; and M&I Bank, which has set up a mortgage fund for people in need. Jayson Manship, URBaCS’s director of operations, says that ExactTarget has donated its resources to help with the text- and email-messaging for this campaign.

The season finale of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will air in May.

John Caulfield is senior editor at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Indianapolis, IN.