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Put Your Company's Message Here

by Chrissy Jackson, ACM, PHC

Sometimes in this world, we have to blow our own horn to get ahead of the game and the competition. In the world of communities and home sales, this is often the case. So - how long has it been since you have done a little self-promoting?

There are lots of ways to focus attention on yourself, your home sales, and your community. Not all of them are expensive, and the rewards can be more than worth the efforts and money you expend!

If there is an opportunity to take part in a regional show, don't pass up that opportunity! Whether you have a booth or display a home, the public usually turns out in droves for these opportunities to see our products. Keep your home or booth area spotlessly clean, well-stocked with current materials about your products, and a smile on the faces of people working with you. Make sure only knowledgeable people help you. When the public has a question or comment, your representative needs to know how to answer

During the months of January and February, there were two opportunities for our company to be represented in such a way. January was a state association-sponsored regional show, and February was the state fair. In each case, our people were dog-tired physically, and totally rejuvenated mentally after the events.

When we displayed a home at the state fair, it was an education for us to hear some of the comments. One of the visitors looked into a closet and commented to her husband, "Henry, this looks just like a real closet!" To those of us in the industry, we want to say, "Yeah, so what did you expect?" But the real question we ask should be to ourselves: "How much more can we do to educate the public about the quality product we have? And, are we missing opportunities to do just that?"

During the state fair, we installed a people counter at the front door of the home. With a 3% ratio of error, we had 1,832 people through our home on the slowest of the 12 day event! That's over 150 people an hour! Our heaviest traffic day was 8,374 people in a 12 hour day, which translates to 698 people an hour! What an exposure for our industry!

And what an eye-opener for us as far as public perception. One woman in particular, who was recently widowed, and looking for a new home, stopped in at all 16 of the model homes at the state fair. She told me she had never been inside a manufactured home before, and just wanted to see what they were like. Her comment stuck with me: "I'll bet once you moved in, you'd forget that it wasn't a real house, wouldn't you?"

Again, those of us with a little time in the industry would immediately come back with the thought: "It IS a real house!"

But, let's look at what her comment really says - - - that not only has she recognized our product, she has accepted it for what it is - - - an attractive, acceptable, alternative form of housing. With those three a's on our side, we can't go wrong.

Self-promotion extends beyond regional shows and state fair exhibits. It reaches into your promotional mail efforts. What are you doing? Do you target apartment complexes where the rental rates are higher than the combined cost of site rent and home payment in your community? Those apartments shouldn't be too hard to find! Some of the latest statistics are available from the Economic Department of your local Chamber of Commerce. You can usually get labels from a company that specializes in mailing and postcard printing is less than $50 for a quantity of 1,000. Postage is cheap! So, where are your postcards?

Telephone calls are another great opportunity to promote yourself, our industry, and your community! Make sure the person answering your phone is knowledgeable about your homes, your community, and the benefits available to residents and homeowners. A mistake often made is to put a minimum wage person on the phone who doesn't know a lot about anything the callers need to know. What a waste! Make sure the person answering your phone is an asset to your company.

Provide the telephone desk with information about why the public should consider moving into your community and/or buying a home from you. Take time to make a list of at least 51 reasons why it is a good decision. List the amenities available, location, affordability, and other values.

Then, work with the people who will be answering the telephone and help them translate these features into benefits. Are you close to a major highway or road? If so, that is a feature. The benefit is that your residents can quickly access the needed route to work, shopping, or hospitals.

If you come up short on ideas when making your list, ask your residents why they value living there. Make it a contest with each idea from them going into a jar. Draw out one or two at the end of the month, and give $20 or $30 in free rent to the winners.

The real winner, however is you! You know will have a better idea why the public perceives your community as a value and a great place to live. Oftentimes, reasons will surface that never were known to you before. What a marketing bonanza!

A constant way of promoting your community and yourself is through your newsletter. Don't print just enough copies to distribute to the residents. Take them to the retailers; mail them to seasonal residents who are not in residence at the time; give them to potential residents; leave some at a favorite local restaurant; get creative with this inexpensive form of promotion!

And the best way to promote anything you believe in is to simply promote yourself. Analyze a feature/benefit type of presentation using your personal assets as values for your community.

Look at the level of professionalism you represent. That is a feature. The benefit side is that you are better able to serve your residents; anticipate their needs; run a profitable business; solve problems calmly; and provide them with a well-maintained, quality environment.

Another personal feature may be your ability to work with residents in activities. The benefit to them is something to do in the clubhouse, a way to meet their neighbors, a "good feeling" created by having memories of fun times to cherish.

Encourage your employees to do a feature/benefit analysis on themselves also. Knowing that there are benefits to the residents from your employees' personal features can go a long way toward boosting sagging morale; giving you another marketing tool; and - when shared with your residents - makes them feel better about where they live.

An example of a feature/benefit for employees might be that one employee loves flowers. That is a feature of his/her personality. The benefit to the residents and the community will probably translate into attractive flower beds with lots of color and beauty. Without that green thumb on your staff, the costs may go up (if you had to hire a landscaper) and the quality and appearance may go down (if you had to stick to a budget).

And, carry this "feature/benefit" way of thinking one step further. Look at all your operations and expenditures from this angle. What are you doing or contemplating? That is a feature. What good will it do? That is the benefit. If there is no benefit, you may want to reconsider.

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