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Online Marketing For Home Builders

By Oren Jacobson 7 min read

Are you a home builder? Do you work for a home builder? If so, then I’m about to share with you the most important kind of truth— a truth you don’t want to acknowledge and most people never have the courage to say.

Here goes: You probably have a bad website.

That may hurt to read. You may not agree, and that’s ok. I’m being intentionally provocative. However, I also stand by those words. I have not seen a single website from a home builder that I think is good. If you’re reading this, odds are I’ve looked at your website.

I’ve seen plenty of clean, easy to navigate, and attractive websites from builders. I’ve seen websites with lots of information that is reasonably well organized and well designed. Having a clean, easy to navigate website with lots of information on it doesn’t make your website good. It simply makes your website clean, easy to navigate, and full of information.

This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your marketing team, though. In fact, this isn’t their fault. Your marketing team is following the industry here. It goes without saying that if you build a new website you’re going to look at what the industry is doing as you. What if the entire industry is doing it wrong? In that case, following the industry will ultimately mean your website is wrong too. In my opinion, that’s exactly what has happened.

So why are all of our websites so bad? The answer is fairly straightforward and built on three core issues, which if you fix, will help you build a good website.

  1. We think customers are looking for a solution (product - home). They’re not.
  2. We think flowery/descriptive language is powerful and compelling. It isn’t.
  3. We think the buyer will explore the site and read the info. They won’t.

Let’s deal with these one at a time. I’ll lay out the problem and the suggested correction:

We think customers are looking for a solution (product - home). They’re not.

We’ve built our websites the same way Verizon has built their sites. Where can you find our store, what products do we offer, what are the features, and what is the price? This construct is based on the idea that the customer wants to see is our product (which I define as a solution). However, with this type of complex purchase, a customer doesn’t care about the solution you offer until and unless they know you understand the problem they are trying to solve. What's worse, in many cases our customers don't even know how to express their problem which only increases the burden on us to do it for them.

We shouldn’t be building websites around the solution (product). We should be building websites around the problems our customers want to be solved. We shouldn’t be building websites around the builder. We should be building websites around the customer. We shouldn’t build websites designed to tell our story or communicate our value. We should build websites around our customers’ lives and what they value.

So, begin by asking yourself what problem your customer is trying to solve? Hint: the problem isn’t that they need a new home.

We think flowery/descriptive language is powerful and compelling. It isn’t.

This is the classic sales and marketing myth. That somehow the right descriptive adjective will magically make something more appealing. Not only is that not true and diminishes you in the customer’s eyes, but it can actually backfire in two ways. First, it can activate the wrong frames. Second, and most importantly to this discussion, extra and empty words make it less likely that we can effectively accomplish the point above. Your goal should be to communicate your message in as few words as possible. Clear, crisp, and concise wins every time.

Powerful keywords highlighted and elevated on your website will be far more impactful than all the flowery and descriptive adjectives you’re using now. Remember, people want to know if you can solve their problems. Even if you don’t have a problem-oriented website these extra words make it more confusing and less attractive to a customer because most of the descriptions we use don’t actually tell the customer anything of value.

Is your community perfectly nestled inside of a beautiful alcove off the beaten path of one of the area's most desired parts of town? Well, that’s great for you, but what the heck does that mean for me?

I would argue that even if you connect the dots between that idea and the value to a customer, that the description itself is a net negative on a website. Use images to show instead of telling. Support those with short statements built around keywords that have a clear meaning to establish who will find value there.

We think the buyer will explore the site and read the info. They won’t.

You have between 10 and 30 seconds at the most to ‘capture’ a customer when they get to your website. To be clear when I say ‘capture’ I don’t mean get them registered (capture the lead). I mean pique their interest. Why? The customer is trying to figure out as quickly as possible whether or not they should invest their limited time and energy searching through your website. They’re ruling you in or out, and in most cases, they will rule you out.

Think about it this way. How many of your actual buyers fully read the warranty manual and warranty process instructions? Not that many, right? These people are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars with you. So why would we expect the person who hasn’t even decided whether to walk in your door yet to read it all? We shouldn’t. Given all the builder websites that are out there, not to mention Zillow, Trulia,, and the rest of the general real estate sites, the information overload is overwhelming. When they get to your page the question they are asking themselves is whether or not it is worth their time.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include key information. Rather, it should change how we deliver it and structure the site. If you really want them to know something you can’t bury the info deep in a paragraph in the middle of the page. You have to use design elements, in addition to the concepts above, to entice the customer to stay a while and start to build a relationship with you.

To close this up let’s go back to the basics. What is the purpose of a website? The purpose of a website is to help convince a lead (someone who is considering you but hasn’t walked in the door) to become a prospect (visit a model). When your customer gets to your website they’re essentially treating you like they would treat someone on a dating app.

In order to get that all important first-date in person your customer needs to know you understand their problems. To do that you have to use incredibly clear language that is centered on them, not you, and remove clutter so that you can capture their interest in the few seconds they will spend considering you as a partner. Otherwise, they’re going to swipe left.

Oren Jacobson holds an MBA with an emphasis in strategic management and a Masters in Economics and Policy Analysis. As the lead strategic marketing analyst for New Home Star, Jacobson specializes in helping builders maximize their asset positioning through market segmentation, consumer alignment, and data analysis. He also leads the NHS team in the creation of training tools and resources to develop and enhance their expertise in sales.

Originally published Oct 20, 2017 under Explore the latest topics, updated February 2, 2024

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