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Marketing is a straightforward discipline.

With today’s technology, you can attribute sales results to each dollar you spend. You can quickly retarget only your competitor’s website or model home traffic. Google Analytics gives you a clear picture of what contribution different sources of traffic make on your website. Automated marketing is the easy button we’ve been waiting for, and artificial intelligence will make everyone in your organization an expert marketer. You can accurately predict and create the content your consumers need six months in advance. Geofences are actual real fences—they’re just invisible.

The last sentence probably gave me away, but if not, let me say it plainly: Everything I’ve written so far is a lie.

Unavoidable Complexity

Simple concepts are the ones that linger in our minds and shape our understanding. It’s natural that we yearn for simplicity in our lives when possible, but attempting to distill something as multifaceted as “marketing” into an oversimplified concept is a perilous endeavor. It not only misdirects focus from what is important, but also can waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in a year.

Imagine this scenario: A prospective buyer sees a builder ad on Instagram, is referred to the same builder by a friend, works with a Realtor, and ultimately submits a lead after searching “new homes Dublin Ohio” on Google and visiting the website for the eighth time in the past 45 days. Each party involved in this consumer’s journey (Meta, Google, etc.) clamors for recognition by the marketer, eager to stake claim to a portion of lead attribution or as a source of qualified traffic to the site.

The problem is many of the tools used in our industry were built for a shorter, less complex sales cycle. In the business of marketing and selling new homes, there is unavoidable complexity. This is great news if your team is able to make sense of the complexity for you. What isn’t helping you find clarity are all of the liars.

Multiple Types Of Liars

I’m using the word “liar” for emotional effect, but also because for some it is appropriate. A minority of actors lie intentionally with full awareness of why they believe the lie is necessary. The majority are unintentional—they are uninformed or overly simplistic in their approach. Today, I’ll focus on the intentional crowd.

Intentional Type No. 1: Ad Platforms & Reporting Tools
Advertising platforms love to be intentionally deceptive. What counts as a “view,” “engagement,” or “click” can vary from one to the other without calling attention to the differences. Each one highlights its own area of advantage and tries to put the competition in a bad light. Some agencies or partners will alter tracking codes to mask the real source of traffic. Some advertisers talk about their “exclusive” audience, despite knowing full well that everyone does internet searches and no one shops for a home using only one source.

One example is Google’s default last-click attribution method built into its analytics platform. It wasn’t done by accident. Google knows that while a digital ad may bring initial awareness of a product or service into the consumer’s mind, it is most likely an organic search for that product or service that occurs prior to conversion to a lead. An example of this is any brand term (think fictitious community “Happy Acres”) used in a search must already be known for the customer to type it in. That means if a consumer types “Happy Acres” into the search box, some other experience or medium informed them that it even existed. However, organic search via Google will claim full credit for the conversion in your reports.

Intentional Type No. 2: The Lead Volume Obsessed
Another type of intentional liar is the marketing leader who is obsessed with maximizing the volume of leads at any cost. Quality or true intent to purchase means nothing to them. This obsession often develops as a defense mechanism. Their theory is that if sales results struggle, they can’t be blamed because they are providing “more than enough” leads. They are focused on securing as much credit to their department or themselves, at the expense of the company overall.

Say someone again searches for “Happy Acres.” Only this time the lead-obsessed internal marketer or agency partner runs ads targeting the community name. Instead of Google organic traffic getting the credit, the marketer “steals” the traffic for themselves by paying per click for “Happy Acres.” They then can send that traffic to a special landing page where they require a lead form to be completed to gain access to the full Happy Acres community page. Not only does this approach steal credit for the marketer or agency, but it also costs the company real money when the direct organic cost per click would have been $0.

Intentional Type No. 3: The Predatory Sales Rep
Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are powerful tools to a company or individual trying to sell a service or product to builders who saw their sales decline in the third quarter last year. Fear that you’re missing out on something the competition is using to “kill it.”

Yes, you can attempt to run ads that target your competitor’s model home traffic, but you’ll also be running ads to everyone who visits that Walmart across the street. In most cases, the dilutive effect of all the people who move in and out of the target area means it isn’t worth any amount you’ve paid to do that targeting. Geofencing is built into nearly every modern digital advertising tool—for free. Yet builders are inundated with sales calls telling them they need to pay thousands in overhead costs for a special platform.

Many tout that they can either overt privacy laws, regulations, or policies by the big tech companies and governments or skirt around them. When, in fact, they use available databases and tactics like Google’s free “in-market” categories or make educated guesses but present it as fact.

My final example is platforms that tell you about all of the data that your homes and communities on their platform will create, but then want to charge you to access it.

Some consider the data or leads created as their own and not the property of the builder, and actively search for ways to sell it to your competition.

Eyes Wide Open

Navigating the marketing landscape in our industry is a complex task. Here are four ways to work toward developing a more strategic approach to your marketing efforts:

1. Recognize the unavoidable complexity of the home building sales cycle and human behavior. Embrace the challenge and work to develop a comprehensive, data-driven strategy that informs decisions, not makes them for you.

2. Understand that there are intentional and unintentional liars. Ask the “dumb” questions and don’t stop until you have a full picture of how something works and the likely implications so you can better protect your organization and its resources.

3. Develop a culture of transparency and collaboration. It’s easy to be misled when we are scared and defensive. Encourage open communication, prioritize data accuracy, and establish a clear understanding of how goals and objectives impact all departments.

4. Continuously educate yourself and your team on the latest marketing technologies, trends, and regulations from people who aren’t trying to sell you something. Explore how other industries approach similar problems, and ask people in those industries for candid feedback.

Embrace the work, and know that with time, effort, and focus, you and your team will begin to see the benefits of concentrating on the most important aspects of marketing without getting distracted by empty promises or misleading tactics. You’ll find clarity and success in your marketing endeavors while others get stuck heading in the wrong direction.