There Is A Lot That Goes Into Brand Management for Manufactured Home Communities
By Jennifer Tyson, HappyCo
Brand management an oft overlooked aspect of manufactured home sales
A strong and positive identity increases rental rates and final selling prices. It also decreases rental vacancies and accelerates the speed at which you sell.
But what is your brand?
It’s not your logo, website and other marketing assets. While critical to your brand identity, those are the visual representations of your brand, not the brand itself. Your brand is your promise to your residents. It is every interaction your employees have with current and prospective residents, and is every interaction those residents have with your community.
Your brand is what sets you apart from competitors and alternative housing solutions. Most importantly, your brand is what your customers say it is.
So how do you ensure residents and prospects know your brand and admire it?
Your Brand Promise: Get the Details Right
Just as no amount of marketing can turn a one-bedroom house into a two-bed, two-bath home, presenting your manufactured home community as the high-quality, less expensive alternative among housing options is entirely negated by a first impression of a community that is improperly maintained.
A thorough, regular and consistent community inspection program key to creating long-term, positive associations with your brand
With regular inspections, you not only ensure compliance with regulatory and corporate standards, you can catch problems (like a small leak in a rental home) before they become big problems (like gushing pipes into the street).
Clearly, you want to reduce overall risk and keep residents safe and happy in their homes. Even better, with a well-maintained property, current residents become your key brand voice. If they’re satisfied with the upkeep in and around their home, they will tell their friends.
Conversely, they will tell anyone who listens if they’re dissatisfied.
Technology to Support Community Quality and Brand Management
While performing regular inspections for compliance-related factors and for things that contribute to overall brand image — like landscaping and curb appeal in common spaces — might sound like a lot of work, modern digital inspection platforms actually can make this process easier and more effective. There are several such apps on the market. HappyCo’s property inspection app is available for iOS and Android.
If an inspection app is intuitively designed and easy to use, it can significantly improve the speed and quality of data collection over pen-and-paper inspections, especially if it makes use of mobile device cameras.
To be sure, improving the quality of your inspections is an investment. However, the return on that investment really can pay off. Remember, your brand is influenced by every interaction your employees have with residents, as well as the quality conditions of your manufactured community. In this way, ensuring your residents wake up to a beautiful, friendly community is a mandate for a better brand.
Talk About Customization
From fashion to food to furniture, millennials want everything about their lives and their image to be customized to them. What’s great about manufactured housing is that it offers a capacity for customization that is unparalleled in most other parts of the housing market.
Yet, the benefit of manufactured housing has yet to be fully embedded in the minds of most millennials. Broadcast this message loud and clear, particularly if your manufactured homes are in a region that has competing product. This includes apartments, condos, tiny homes and site-built single-family residences.
Customization will set your community apart in the minds of many customers, particularly millennials. It shows that you cater to individual needs. It’s this kind of differentiated positioning that forms the essence of branding.
Price Is an Object
Apartments in major markets are pricey in comparison with most manufactured housing communities in the same vicinity. The average apartment for rent in Houston costs more than $1,300 each month. A manufactured home in the same area can be rented for near $1,000, or less. In coastal cities, the difference can be much more dramatic.
We are in a housing market where millennials spend thousands for closet-sized spaces. Manufactured housing, again, is an opportunity to deliver a win-win. Photos and videos are the key to delineating differences between a manufactured housing community and a big-city studio. Show the customer that for near half of what they’re paying for an urban apartment in an old building, they can live in a beautiful new manufactured home.
Catch the Customer’s Attention
In today’s market, the first impression of your brand often is online. So, when it comes to attracting prospective residents, that means putting care into designing your website. Residents need to feel like they’re going to have a comfortable experience before they see a home. And having a clean website with a modern user interface and welcoming language goes a long way toward bringing people in.
Digital marketing has long been the key in an effective brand strategy for home sales and apartment rentals. A 2017 study of homebuyers from the National Association of Realtors reports that 42 percent of people search on the internet as the first step toward purchasing a home. That number surely is even higher for millennials, the so-called internet “natives” who represent the majority of renters today and a rapidly increasing percentage of homebuyers.
Millennials Are The Emerging Homebuyers
With 18-29 year olds representing the biggest segment of the manufactured housing market, at 23 percent, mastering today’s digital tools to communicate your brand to this new generation of homebuyers has become high-stakes business. Create a meaningful experience through targeted advertisements.
Modern property managers have a host of tools to help them create standardized, sleek websites and ads. Beautiful web templates abound to help you showcase your community’s strengths, most of them at extremely affordable costs. Google Adwords makes it easy to narrow down and precisely target the markets and individuals most likely to buy. It serves messages tailored to their home-search patterns. Facebook and other social media sites help you convert current buyers or renters into evangelists for your brand. And review sites provide the opportunity to publicly address any problems and demonstrate you are a caring, responsive community manager or home seller. Of course, MHVillage has myriad advertising opportunities and a sophisticated and focused manufactured housing audience.
Also, the feel of a well-made business card and a solid brochure shouldn’t be discounted. Offering a potential customer something to read and admire before and after a tour is another excellent way to keep your housing solutions top of mind.
Attract new faces to manufactured communities
Strategic brand management can help bring entire new demographics of customers to your communities and to your homes. The key is to make a promise that resonates with the groups you’re trying to target — and then follow through on it.
Unfortunately, branding isn’t a one-time, “set-it-and-forget-it” activity. It requires diligent upkeep. This starts with physically maintaining your property but encompasses all the interactions between residents and the community and its employees. Brand management isn’t easy, but get it right and you’ll have a clear competitive advantage.