Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Something happened yesterday that exemplifies one of the biggest problems facing modular home manufacturers... exposure!  It was an email from a member of a factory management team in response to an article I wrote a while back announcing a multifamily project.  It seems that nobody was supposed to know about it and the writer wanted to know how I found out.  It was very easy.  I read about it in my newspaper. 

The surprising thing about this is that almost every factory has something going on that is newsworthy but finding out about it is super hard.  I can hear the factory owners telling their people not to tell anyone that they just landed a 400 unit modular complex because they fear that other factories will try to go after the developer for their next project.  In the meantime, thousands of potential new home buyers never get to hear that the project came on budget, delivered on time and was LEED certified.  How could they?

No press releases are sent out.  And even if they are, they are mostly ignored by the recipients because they are shameless attempts at free advertising.  The words are "press release" not "advertising release."   I get about 3-5 a month and I never use them for that very reason.  Make it something I can print without the factory name in every sentence and I will.

Some factories are starting to rely on FaceBook, Twitter and LinkIn to get the word out.  That might work for the people that "like" you but what about the people that have no idea who you are or what you build?  The reason for being on these social media sites is to help drive traffic to the company's website.

However, those websites, for the most part, are so boring that going there is agony for prospective new homebuyers.  No news about the factory's latest project, latest floorplans, latest options or promotions.  Let's see, is there any better way to kill enthusiasm than to have a boring website?  The website with the same information that was there 3 years ago.

How do factories begin to solve the problem of no exposure to the home buying public?  It begins with a well thought-out marketing plan that includes better Press Releases, improving websites and learning how to use social media.  However, before any of that happens, the factory owners have to realize that marketing efforts and sales efforts are two different things and begin to make marketing an integral part of their business plan.

Every week I send out emails to most factory owners and management begging for news to put on Modular Home Builder and every week those pleas are ignored.  Tell me, what other site brings builders, manufacturers and prospective new home buyers together better than this one?  

Years ago when I was a sales rep, one of my builders only advertised in a little newspaper that served an area 40 miles from his office.  When I asked why he did that he answered, "because they were cheaper."  That's what I'm seeing today with most factories and builders.  What a shame.


Jimmy Sidwell said...

Coach, it's not that they ignore marketing it's that they don't know what it is. Most of the people running modular factories came up through the ranks and only know the production side of the business. Those big investment groups like HIG that are buying up modular factories do know what marketing is and will slowly but surely drive the other, non-educated factories out of business.
When housing starts to come back, modular's share will climb thanks to those big guns from the investment companies and their marketing plans.

Anonymous said...

Great article!! I understand the paranoia on some level. It’s a fear of losing clients. Paranoia argues that your clients don’t know any of your competitors and vice versa. Shhhhh! Keep it quiet!

But it’s also ridiculous argument. Cause your clients can find another company that does the same thing as you do with two clicks of their mouse.

So one has to suck it up, be brave, realize that your competitors are going to be watching what you do anyway (or not), then shout about every one of your accomplishments to the heavens.

The other thing I noticed in the mod industry? Manufacturers are put off by the term “marketing.” They see that as a loss of $. Not an opportunity to earn more, to grow their leads & prospects. Perhaps it’s an extension of the factory setting, they come at marketing from a right brain, engineering point of view. They want to appeal to the right side of the brain, “we’re better way to build because of XYZ facts”, which is all good and true. But the home buyer (the woman) wants emotion, left brain (the home buying experience is a rich source of all good emotions), backed up with facts. And emotion portion makes factory owners uncomfortable, they don’t see the point, they only see right brain side. The woman doesn’t care about the factory line or its advantages. They want to know they will be happy, safe and secure in their new home, that it’s a good financial move, etc.

Back in the day when Jerry Rouleau launched Jan's House of Hope, only the modular company that built the home contributed to the cause—Customized Structures RIP. The rest of the modular industry sat on their hands. Bear in mind, it was on the national news for weeks running. Not one friggin penny from the mods.

Anonymous said...

Ford advertises their cars everywhere but only sells them through a dealer network. Both sides win.

I Googled modular homes and the only thing close to an advertisement were links to the factory websites. So I looked on a few of them for the names of their builders. Only one had them on their website.

Just like Anonymous said...Shhhh! Keep it quiet!

How many cars would Ford sell without the national advertising it provides for its dealers? I'll bet a lot less than they do with advertising. And they've done marketing research about what car buyers are looking for instead of keeping 30 year old floorplans on their sites like the modular companies do.

As long as the modular factory people think that market research and marketing is a total waste of money they will languish at the bottom of the housing pile.

Maybe the good old boys should sell their factories to the new players and go play golf with each other and talk about the good old days.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but only conveys a portion of the marketing issue. It appears many in this industry associate sales and marketing together, whereas in nearly any other industry they are clearly different. As a manufacturer, our job is to drive traffic to our builders, who actually sell the house. We do promote online, create outstanding lit, participate in co-op programs, are investing substantial money in new online efforts, train builders regularly, etc. Yet - we don't sell a single house - only the builder can. We try to represent ourselves as an excellent choice (or subcontractor) for the public. I get concerned when I see the weight of this issue - which is real - shifted too much towards the factory. I would be thrilled to do even more, but that comes with a cost and a commitment. We are willing to take the cost, but often the commitment from the builder disappears as soon as they take that customer and quote 3 factories for the lowest price.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:00AM. I agree that some factories do a lot for their builders including all the things you mentioned. I also agree that spending the time, effort and money on these things and then having the builder shop your quote to other factories is prevalent in the industry.

There are two more things that have to be considered. First, sales reps do not keep reinforcing their factory's efforts. They don't follow up on the builder's marketing and sales efforts. If Ford, as another person said, only did what you suggest your factory does and doesn't hold the dealer to buying from them exclusively, then what should Ford expect. Every car dealer would shop the prospect to all the car builders until they got the lowest price. Ford would never let that happen.

Secondly, Coach is right in saying that we as an industry don't do enough to market ourselves. Why would a home buyer look at another factory's product if they went to the home builder wanting your home because they trusted what you build. We deserve to be shopped because we encourage the builder to do it.

Marketing ourselves to the home buyer backed up with strong builder alliance would help ensure that when the buyer was ready, the exclusive builder would get the lead and the sale.