Savvy online marketing is often thought to be associated more with large consumer brands or swift technology companies rather than small local businesses. However, the reality is everybody is searching online for products/services regardless if the solution is from a local supplier or multinational corporation so it’s important to make sure any company has a well developed website strategy. To prove this point I recently had the pleasure of working with a client in an industry not typically known for it’s online marketing prowess – Custom home builders. It’s a traditional industry literally built on bricks and mortar as opposed to clicks and orders, but this is surprising considering research from Google that states purchases of $30,000 or more often start with a web search before anything else. Below is a short case study regarding Lexis Homes and how they embraced the online channel to differentiate themselves, engage their audience, and maximize their marketing efforts.
The home building industry tends to be quite conventional in it’s marketing and relies strongly on reputation. In Saskatchewan most home builders do not have strong digital brand experiences and their websites tend to be simple brochures rather than tools of engagement. So it was refreshing to be approached by Lexis Homes of Saskatoon to help them redesign their site and put together an online strategy that would be at the forefront of their entire marketing plan. After a few consultations with the owners of Lexis about their target markets, value proposition, and positioning it was revealed that an online strategy with a judicious integration of social media marketing would be the most effective way to differentiate them from competitors, engage their audience, and help spread the awareness of the Lexis brand further. Ultimately, Lexis Homes wanted to have the best website and most progressive online marketing strategy amongst home builders in Saskatoon and were willing to invest the effort. I was thrilled to oblige them.
Lexis Homes saw an opportunity for a home builder to really differentiate themselves by engaging with prospects where they were most often hanging out – Online. In addition, they wanted to effectively portray their corporate personality and establish themselves as a resource of information for people researching new homes. To do so, we needed to make sure Lexis had a user-centric website focused around great design, a presence in the correct social media spaces and a plan in place to consistently maintain their online voice.
Since an effective social media driven website strategy requires dedication and frequent content creation we built the website around a “hub and spoke” model. A hub and spoke strategy is when you create one authoritative domain (the hub), and then hang various related websites off that domain (the spokes). To that end, we incorporated a blog, Flikr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook accounts that all had tight integration with the website as well as being stand alone entities that could extend the reach of the Lexis brand in search engine results. These social media spaces, in turn, also fed the website in terms of content for their photo gallery, blog, news, and audience engagement.
To build the website and tie everything together we chose the open source WordPress content management system. WordPress is a popular platform for basic websites but it also has tremendous capabilities for expansion due to a large library of “plug-ins” that allows for integrating all sorts of functionality without the need for complex programming. In addition, WordPress would allow Lexis personnel to easily make updates at their leisure and have the flexibility to host the website wherever they wished since they would not be tied into a proprietary set-up.
To keep the development process collaborative and ensure commitment to the social media strategy the personnel of Lexis Developments were heavily involved throughout the building phase of the website. After some coaching they quickly created their own Flickr photostream, Facebook public profile, Twitter account, and YouTube channel along with the creation of content that would feed back to the website. This preparation and familiarity with the social media tools established comfort with the overall strategy and instilled confidence that they could maintain an active online voice. It was an easy achievement for Lexis personnel despite being self-described as “non-techie”.
The final design of the website portrays a contemporary company that is catering specifically to the needs of their target audience while also outperforming their competition by engaging with customers online through social media. The redesigned Lexis website was launched with promotion primarily through their social media spaces and was being found in search engine results before even being fully indexed. Within a couple days of being launched Lexis received multiple inquiries regarding their current home listing and availability for new custom builds. In September 2010 Lexis Homes was awarded as the best website in it’s category at the Saskatchewan Interactive Marketing Association awards. The success of the website is attributed primarily to the following:
Effective design. People instantly form an impression about a company as soon as they land on a home page. Since this site is well designed with intriguing high quality photos and intuitive page layouts, visitors get a great first impression of the company. The website content was developed to help maintain and build on the great first impressions. The owners of Lexis have received a multitude of phone calls and emails from people telling them that they were very impressed by the website especially in comparison to the competition.
Social media integration. This is proving to be a great method for the owners to keep in contact with potential customers. Rather than just relying on potential customers to “check back” with Lexis for updates or news, Lexis can now present information to them in places where they are already hanging out (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flikr). These features, along with the blog, also help Lexis interact with potential customers and build a relationship with them. Ultimatley, the social media tools allow Lexis to be a resource, build trust, and engage with their audience.
The Lexis team plans to continue building it’s digital brand experience by providing timely information regarding home building, design trends, and tips for people to consider when looking into building a new home. If you are in the market for a new home, Lexis Developments is a company that “gets it”. Their slogan states “different by design” and I couldn’t agree more when comparing them to other custom home builders in Saskatchewan.
About Lexis Homes
Lexis Developments is a Saskatoon home builder with the philosophy of building unique homes that reflect the style and character of the people who live in them. Our niche is catering to individuals who want to escape the world of cookie cutter homes by designing and developing unique homes that display creativity without sacrificing functionality. Fresh Ideas. Original homes. Different by design. www.lexishomes.ca