PivotalCRM – Analyst report – building brand

					Building Brand: The Importance of

                                                                                                                               A R T I C L E
Presenting a Unified Face
It’s conventional wisdom that branding is important. The top
brands are hard to avoid—their logos, event sponsorships, and
advertising seem to be everywhere you look. And certainly, the
most established brands are household names, with memorable,
appealing attributes that compel many consumers to choose them
over competing products.

But what does branding mean to a real estate firm or home builder—or a homebuyer? Might
homebuyers defer to brand preferences when choosing homes, just like they do when choosing
beverages and clothing? And even more importantly, can home builders and other real estate
businesses develop strong brands without the seven-figure advertising budgets of the big
consumer-goods companies?

The answer lies in a return to the fundamentals of branding. A brand, it is important to remember,
is not simply a name, a jingle, or a logo that the public associates with a company. A brand is the
totality of a customer’s impressions of a firm—an aggregate of every experience, interaction, and
association the consumer has with the company. Likewise, brand strength is not a function of flashy
big-budget advertising. A great slogan or slick marketing campaign might draw prospects to a
company, but if the customer’s experience with the company fails to match the brand expectations
created by the advertising, the customer’s trust will be lost and the brand will instantly lose
credibility. A brand is not just the promise that is made to customer, it’s their entire experience.

This means that every interaction a homebuyer has with your company has the potential to either
add to or detract from the value of your brand. This fact reinforces the critical importance of
carefully orchestrating the entire customer experience from end to end. Home builders simply
cannot afford to leave this to chance—merely hoping that a customer will walk away from their
homebuying experience with the right impression of your firm is not enough.

Buying a house is more than a purchase; it’s a major life event. This is all the more reason to take
care to ensure that every step of the homebuying experience is one that customers enjoy and
remember positively. Purchasing a home is a significant commitment that requires trust in the
home builder and the quality of its products. A strong brand, reaffirmed by a satisfying customer
experience, can go a long way toward establishing the confidence homebuyers need to feel to
make a purchase—or to refer their friends.

This is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems can make a big difference to
strategic-thinking home builders and other real estate businesses. As a centralized repository of
all customer information and interaction history, a CRM system can form the engine that drives a
strategically planned customer experience, which in turn fuels brand strength.

The primary goal of customer relationship management—whether we’re talking about the business
strategy or the software—is simple: to plan, coordinate, and support interactions with customers
to create a consistent, winning customer experience that stretches from the first encounter with
the potential buyer through the entire customer lifecycle. It’s what at Pivotal CRM we call “creating
customers for life.” Let’s look at how this can work, with a particular eye to branding.

Many builders associate branding with the marketing function: promotions, publicity, advertising.
And it’s true: marketing plays an extremely important role in communicating the “promise” that
underlies your brand. Many home builders do extensive advertising—through newspapers and

  This article was previously published by the National Association of Home Builders as a business management resource.

                                                                                                       Pivotal CRM | Article
                     billboards, for example. But as builders look for more cost-             consistent, informed, personalized service no matter who
                     effective means of promoting their homes, and larger and                 answers their call. Meanwhile, the builder maintains a
                     larger numbers of homebuyers rely on the web to find and                 comprehensive history of all work and issues surrounding a
                     research available properties, online channels are becoming              home, which becomes invaluable if the home is sold while still
                     an increasingly important marketing channel for home builders            under warranty.
                     and other real estate counterparts. Using a CRM system that
                     captures prospect information in a central location—whether              For Atlanta-based Beazer Homes, managing the customer-
                     they walk into a presentation centre, call in response to a              care process consistently is critical to its branding. “Open
                     print ad, or arrive at the builder’s website from a source like          communication, responsiveness, and respect are the core
                     Homebuilder.com or NewHomeSource—enables builders                        elements of the Beazer Homes brand promise,” notes Ken
                     to segment and market more meaningfully, as well as to                   Dohrn, Beazer Homes’ National Warranty Manager. “We use
                     personalize their marketing initiatives.                                 our CRM system to ensure that every homebuyer’s experience
                                                                                              with Beazer Homes—both pre- and post-sale—lives up to this
                                                                                              Brand Promise.”
   No matter how hard you work at creating a great
                                                                                              By maintaining excellent customer care and regular
   brand, customers have a tendency only to remember                                          communications well after the sale of a home, the builder
   their most recent encounter with the firm. If it was a                                     is able to continually reinforce its brand and build lasting
                                                                                              relationships with homeowners. When homebuyers consider
   poorly handled complaint, your brand will suffer.                                          their second or subsequent home purchases, the builder with
                                                                                              which they have an ongoing relationship and associate a
                     Many builders have grown through acquisition, which                      trusted brand is an obvious choice.
                     can pose a challenge for branding efforts. With disparate                Builders can also leverage CRM features to assess their
                     divisions and departments, sometimes dispersed across the                brand performance. Some CRM systems have built-in
                     country, it can be hard to maintain a consistent company                 surveying functionality builders can use to take regular brand
                     image. A CRM system with a strong marketing-automation                   “temperature readings,” asking customers and prospects alike
                     suite can easily remedy this, by putting branded campaign                how they feel about the firm and their experience with it. This
                     templates in the hands of all company divisions, ensuring                kind of feedback loop ensures a builder is communicating and
                     consistent reinforcement of brand image and messaging in                 delivering on its brand promise effectively, while also allowing
                     all communications.                                                      it to take quick corrective action when needed.
                     Although marketing is important to communicating brand                   What are the dividends of a strong brand reinforced by
                     value, delivering on your company’s brand promise                        a complementary end-to-end customer experience? In a
                     becomes even more important once a marketer passes a                     crowded, bustling market, brand strength and exceptional
                     qualified lead to the sales force. How quickly do your home              customer experiences offer the competitive differentiation
                     sales professionals follow up on leads? To what extent are               builders need to outperform the competition. Furthermore,
                     they able to tailor and personalize the experience for the               loyal, satisfied customers hold the secret to repeat sales
                     homebuyer based on knowledge gained through earlier                      even in a less vigorous market. Beyond that, builders with
                     marketing touches? How knowledgeable are they about the                  strong brands can often charge more for their products, which
                     kinds of options and preferences the buyer has expressed                 contributes directly to the bottom line. Market evidence proves
                     interest in? How quickly can they configure and reconfigure              that consumers will pay more for the quality they associate
                     quotes to meet buyer needs? A CRM system puts all the                    with a trusted brand—and on one of the most important
                     information home sales professionals need to personalize                 purchases they’ll ever make, there’s even more incentive for
                     the homebuying experience right at their fingertips, and it              homebuyers to pay extra for a brand they trust.
                     enables the company to implement structured, consistent
                     sales processes that reflect the corporate brand and quality             A robust CRM system can help home builders design and
                     standards, as well as industry best practices.                           implement outstanding customer experiences that reflect and
                                                                                              reinforce branding from end to end, nurturing brand strength
                     Just as important as the sales process is the builder’s                  throughout the customer lifecycle and creating the proverbial
                     handling of customers after the sale. It’s essential that                “golden goose:” loyal, happy customers poised for high-value
                     the buyer receive exactly what they paid for, and that they              referrals and low-cost repeat sales.
                     maintain their satisfaction with its quality after the sale. After
                     all, no matter how hard you work at creating a great brand,
                     customers have a tendency only to remember their most
                                                                                              Steve Lewkowitz is Professional Services Director of the Home
                     recent encounter with the firm. If it was a poorly handled
                                                                                              Building & Real Estate Group for Pivotal CRM. Pivotal CRM for
                     complaint, your brand will suffer and referrals will be unlikely.
                                                                                              Home Building and Real Estate is an industry-leading customer
                     CRM systems can take the guesswork out of customer                       relationship management solution and winner of the 2006
                     care by regulating and coordinating the steps involved in                Innovative Housing Technology Awards prizes for Best Sales,
                     post-sale service, including home inspection and warranty                Marketing, and Customer Service Automation Product and Best
                     management. Because the CRM system tracks all interactions               Overall IT Product.
                     with the customer in a central location, homeowners receive

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Description: It’s conventional wisdom that branding is important. The top brands are hard to avoid—their logos, event sponsorships, and advertising seem to be everywhere you look. And certainly, the most established brands are household names, with memorable, appealing attributes that compel many consumers to choose them over competing products.