“We needed a far more user-friendly and interactive way of gathering information from our customers,” says Ed Horne, President, Wilshire Homes. “We didn’t have a good enough method of finding out what they were looking for and what was important to them.”
Horne and his marketing team knew they needed to revamp the lead generation efforts for Wilshire Homes, which markets residential building projects in three cities in Texas. From a series of post-purchase surveys with customers, they discovered that 85% used the Internet to begin house hunting.
For more than a decade, the company had leaned heavily on newspaper advertising to get leads in the door. They already had a Web site, but Horne wondered if a new online lead generation process might do the trick and bring in more qualified leads.CAMPAIGN
The firm's main Web site was already drawing more real estate prospects in their chief markets of Austin, San Antonio and Houston than other marketing efforts, so they invested 90% of their total ad budget into an online initiative called “Built Around You.”
They created a microsite that involved video and Flash elements and multiple levels of interactivity, as well as forms and designated spots for consumers to provide their contact information. Here are the six steps they took:
-> Step #1. Create microsite's online persona: Sheila
From focus group surveys, they decided to have a female character named “Sheila” become the site’s spokeswoman who would lead viewers through the home-buying process.
Next, they screen-tested about 30 women, looking for someone who was professional yet easily approachable. “If you’re going to talk to Sheila about one of the most important purchases of your life -- your home -- she’d better be someone you wouldn’t mind having a drink with or inviting over for dinner,” Horne says.
-> Step #2. Drive traffic to microsite
On the main site’s homepage, they alternated between two promotions to direct users to the microsite:
- An older woman and the words, “You say mother-in-law. We say secluded downstairs guestroom.”
- A boy with a tuba and, “You say tuba lessons. We say above garage studio.”
The message, “We’ll translate your needs into the perfect home,” appeared under either image, as well as a small house icon in the lower right-hand side of the screen. Right above the house icon, a quotation bubble popped up with, “Want to learn more?” followed by, “Let’s talk.” Users who clicked on this icon were taken to the Built Around You microsite.
To push traffic, they added smaller ads of the same images and “Let’s talk” button throughout the main site, including sections for individual cities, available homes, grand openings and financing.
-> Step #3. Interact with Sheila
After users clicked the “Let’s talk” button, Sheila appeared on screen to welcome them to the site. Standing in a living room with leather chairs and two side tables, she invited users to adjust the lights and add music via a virtual MP3 player on one of the tables.
When Sheila was done with her greeting, a “Let’s Get Started” button appeared to her right, allowing users to dictate the pace of the engagement. “Since having them make it to their housing report at the end was important, they also had to have some control over how fast or slow they went,” Horne says.
-> Step #4. Collect data from prospects
Horne interviewed his team of home consultants to determine the questions Sheila needed to ask prospects to best complete the lead generation process. The plan was to ask questions that would eventually help consultants with follow-up sales calls that were made within 24 hours after the online experience.
o Reason for moving
o Household size
o Personality type
o How soon is the move
o Evening routine
o Weekend entertainment
-> Step #5. Script revisions
While formulating the script, Horne and his team understood that they walked a fine line: they wanted to keep the site interesting but ask relevant questions that collected the information they needed. Here are two examples of Sheila’s questions that they reworked to serve a wider audience:
ORIGINAL - Which term best describes your family: newlyweds, tots in the house, family with teens or empty nesters?
NEW - Which term best describes your household: newlyweds, tots in the house, family with teens, empty nesters or palace of the single professional? Or maybe none of these?
ORIGINAL - Let’s talk more about your family. What’s your idea of weekend entertainment? Playing marco polo in the pool? Hosting slumber parties? Having poker night? Or hosting football parties?
NEW - Let’s talk more about your life. What’s your idea of weekend entertainment? Having friends over for wine night? Hosting slumber parties? Having poker night? Or hosting football parties?
“We know that consumers have a selection process and a de-selection process,” Horne says. “You don’t want to be the one getting crossed off that list. In other words, we did not want one of those questions to turn them off.”
-> Step #6. Hand off leads
So they could funnel traffic to the sales team, they offered four choices to prospects who completed their housing report:
o Print your housing report
o Forward to one of my associates at Wilshire
o Forward to a friend
o Start a new conversation with Sheila
Texas homebuyers are loving the microsite and Sheila’s down-home hospitality. At first, Horne had set goals that were mostly related to stickiness, but he was elated to see the microsite lift online sales leads by 13.54%. Even more interesting is that 2% of the site-generated leads actually complete their purchase online -- sight unseen.
Additionally, site-generated customers visit an average of six homes before making a purchase, while offline leads look at 15. “It tells you that the knowledge the site users are getting is beneficial, which allows our sales team to achieve higher efficiency,” Horne says.
- 56.2% who start the lead generation process complete the entire demonstration and receive their housing report.
- 11.17% print their report or forward it to a friend.
- 3.14% email their report to a Wilshire Home sales rep for follow-up.
- Users spend an average of 6 minutes on the microsite.
“We are continuously developing the way we present our homes and store plans online,” Horne says. “We are refining Sheila on a daily basis, and the risk we took was definitely worth it.”Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Wishire Homes:
nFusion - provides Wilshire Home’s technology/services for the microsite and Web efforts:
Beef and Pie Productions - video production company who helped with the microsite:
Built Around You microsite: