Effective marketing techniques

KEY LEARNING POINTS

  • Some marketing techniques are more cost effective than others; among the most successful are media coverage, project websites/social media, database marketing, events/open days and site signage. Multi-purpose information packs may also be needed
  • On larger projects a Plot Shop or ‘Inspirational’ brochure may be worth considering
  • Estate agents can also be appointed to manage the marketing of developments
  • Realistic budgets need to be set – a rule of thumb is £3,000 to £5,000 per plot. This can be recovered from the sale of the plots

TYPICAL MARKETING BUDGETS

Marketing budgets will vary widely from project to project. International experience suggests that a realistic budget for the effective marketing of plots ranges from £3,000 to £5,000 per plot – so for a ten home project you might want to allocate £30,000 to £50,000; for a 40 home scheme you could

set aside a marketing budget of £120,000 to £200,000. Although this may seem high these costs can be fully recovered from the sale of plots.

For larger developments some savings may be possible due to economies of scale, but broadly the same mix of marketing techniques should be employed. As part of larger initiatives it could also be worth setting up a dedicated ‘Plot Shop’.  Briefing Note Setting up a ‘Plot Shop’ provides further advice.

Local authorities may also wish to club together to organise the marketing of developments across a wider area. See Briefing Note Resource implications and organisational options, which sets out some examples of this.

Engaging with the local media

Proactive engagement with the local media is one of the most effective techniques to market and promote a local development, provided it’s done well. There are numerous timely opportunities when the local newspapers, radio and regional TV companies might be prepared to give your project air time. The media is nearly always interested in initiatives that help people to build a home for themselves, particularly if it is an initiative that is being promoted by the public sector.

To do this effectively you will need to get someone involved that really understands how the media works – so ideally your in-house press office team. Alternatively you could commission specialist PR support. Be warned though that independent PR’s often charge high fees, so set out to find someone that’s really well connected locally and has modest overheads (and modest fees to match). Be wary of large corporate PR firms that offer to do the whole job for you – they can quickly spend tens of thousands of pounds on a range of promotional activities that are not essential to your project or initiative. What you’re after here is help with media relations - not the full spectrum of PR services.

What sort of things get the media's attention?

  • Tell them about your plans at timely intervals – for example when the project is initially launched, when a demand Register is set up or a survey is to be conducted, when planning permission is granted, when the plots go on sale, when work begins on preparing the site or when construction starts on the first homes

About

This is one of many Briefing Notes that explain resourcing, planning, land, finance, demand, marketing, consumer support and various technical issues. To see the full range of guidance click here.

Definitions

For the purposes of this Toolkit made the following definitions-

NOTE

This Briefing Note will be revised when the Regulations to support the commencement of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 and the Government’s Right to Build policy are finalised.

Top Tip

Typical marketing costs

Although it costs between £3,000 and £5,000 per plot to successfully market a development, these costs can be recovered from the sales. Councils can collaborate across a wider area to market opportunities more cost effectively

Top Tip

Media interest

here are many ways you can attract the media to cover your development or initiative. This can be a very cost effective way of generating enquiries

A photo opportunity for the press with purchasers signing up to buy plots in Amsterdam
  • Invite the media to meet with you (and perhaps your council leader or local MP, if they are supportive) for one-to-one briefing sessions to talk them through the initiative
  • Set up opportunities for the media to interview some of the potential private homebuilders
People in this queue in Holland being interviewed on the local TV news station
  • Prepare strong visual material – for example artists impressions showing what the development will look like, aerial photographs of the site, pictures of the team involved or simple plans illustrating the proposed layout. Images of people queuing to reserve their plots have proven to be very powerful in the Netherlands, and are likely to have similar media appeal here (and could get picked up by regional TV)
Queues of potential private homebuilders always attract media attention
  • Be available to engage with the media – don't evade them. Provide key contact details and be available to engage in a timely manner. Be prepared to write letters to the Editor to promote your project or initiative
  • Produce a simple PR Background Pack with helpful facts and figures, supportive quotes from local councillors and (if possible) TV celebrities. Include within it high quality images

A typical smaller development may take three years from inception to construction, and over this timeframe you should aim to maximise the coverage. On average you may need someone devoting one or two days a month to the promotion (though there will be some periods when very little happens, and other times when the work will be much more intensive).

If you have to buy-in PR support aim to pay no more than £200-£300 a day, so over a three year period, a budget for this element might be around £15,000 to £20,000.

Project websites and social media

These are essential and can be quickly assembled at modest cost. Some examples are: -

For a small-scale development the key to a successful website is clarity, simplicity and good imagery. Don’t make it over complicated and avoid paying costly fees to website development companies to add features that are not needed. A sensible budget for a simple website could be £1,000 - 2,000, covering set up and hosting for three years. If in-house services are employed these costs can be significantly reduced.

The use of a Facebook page and a Twitter account to promote your development or initiative alongside a website is also recommended. You may want to invest in a small advertising promotion using Facebook, allocating a modest budget every so often to target local people.

Top Tip

Hiring in PR help

PR’s often charge high fees, so set out to find someone that’s really well connected locally and has modest overheads (and modest fees to match)

Database marketing

Most local authorities should soon have a demand Register (see Briefing Note Registers and assessing demand) that records all the people that want to build their own home in your area. This information is priceless, so make the most of it.

You may also be able to access or acquire contact details of people that want to build in your area. Potential sources for this include: -

  • The Self Build Portal (which has a “Need–A-Plot” feature that records the details of people looking for land in a given area)
  • Buildstore’s Custom Build Register
  • The organisers of local homebuilding shows, or the publishers of the various self build magazines

Armed with this data use all the obvious social media channels, or e-mail people to inform them about your project, invite them to visit your dedicated website, or to attend an event.

The main cost here is in time – so recognise this and allocate an hour or two at regular intervals to ensure you send something out to those on your lists.

Local councils could consider producing a newsletter that is e-mailed to everyone on the Register every quarter, or whenever there is a timely marketing opportunity. A sensible budget to deliver this would be a few hundred pounds a year.

Top Tip

Make the most of your Register

The contact details of the people listed on a demand Register are priceless – be sure to communicate with them

Events and open days

There are a number of opportunities to organise events as part of the marketing of any development. For example you could have an “Information evening” for people who are interested, or who are on a council’s Register. Or you could get the leader of the council, the local MP or a suitable celebrity to formally launch the initiative, cut a tape, dig the first hole, or unveil an opening plaque.

A ground breaking ceremony for the Villas at Higuera, in the city of San Luis Obispo, California

Other ideas include holding a networking event for local businesses that are keen to support the project, burying a time capsule on the site (and organising a competition to suggest things to put in the capsule), or a competition to decorate any site hoardings that may be needed.

The small municipality of Halle in Germany worked with a range of local partners to promote its 90 plot private homebuilding project at Weidenkamp – one event they organised was an exhibition for local people staged in the local bank

For an information event you will need to assemble printed material beforehand – such as a folder, plans, artists impressions and reservation forms. It’s important that you present a polished, professional front if you really want to convince people to invest their life savings in your development.

This gigantic spade is used to launch sites in Amsterdam. It creates a powerful photo opportunity at events for the media (even when very little has been built on site), and it has become the recognisable ‘brand’ for the various private homebuilding initiatives in the city

For most projects you might organise two or three informal information sessions for would-be buyers in the early stages, and possibly two or three other events aimed at generating media coverage. A lot of time is needed to arrange events – identifying and getting people along, sourcing and booking a venue, producing good graphics panels, information sheets and forms, organising the media to attend, taking care of any health and safety issues - it all adds up. 

A budget of around £1,000 per event might be a rough rule of thumb, though you could obviously spend a lot more.

Top Tip

Events

These can be staged to generate media coverage, to provide information to would-be purchasers or to develop a network of local suppliers that are keen to work with private homebuilders

Multi-purpose information packs and leaflets

A simple promotional leaflet or a multi-purpose ‘pack’ of some sort may be needed. Typically this could be a four-page wallet-type multi-functional folder, with individual sheets then inserted into it. 

The folder or leaflet could explain the concept in broad terms. Separate sheets could then describe in more detail what types of plots are available. You may also need a simple plan, a price list, and any other information a potential buyer will need. If Plot Passports are available these could also be included along with draft contracts of sale and a reservation form.

A typical multi-functional A4 folder from Almere that is used to enclose Plot Passports, draft contracts and other technical material

Putting together all this information is time consuming, and the cost of getting the artwork prepared and the printing can add up. It is usually more cost effective to just get the folder professionally printed and to then produce the individual sheets yourself – provided they are done to a template design that looks smart and professional. The cost of printing will depend on the number you require, paper thicknesses and a host of other variables. It would be sensible to print plenty of the multi-functional folders run off at the start (for example 500-1,000 depending on the size of the site) as it is much more expensive to print them in small batches. The various inserts can be produced on a good photocopier/printer as and when they are needed.

‘Inspiration’ brochures

Some developments invest in an ‘inspiration’ brochure – a document that really ‘sells the dream’ and shows persuasive images of happy families in their new homes, and numerous examples of the sort of properties, plans and house types that could potentially be built. These are costly to produce and on smaller developments they are not essential. 

The bigger the brochure the more expensive it will be. The examples shown here were produced for large developments in The Netherlands, and some of the documents extend to 150 pages. The cost of producing these could be tens of thousands of pounds. 

 
Amsterdam’s Inspiration Book is more than 60 pages log and features dozens of examples of the sort of homes people could build or commission
The Inspiration Book produced by the tea in The Hague extends to more than 80 pages and show a wide range of potential house types, all with plans and costs
 

Site signage

Every development should be well signed – take a look at what private housebuilders do outside their developments and make sure yours match up.

Signs are not cheap to produce, though prices have come down in recent years. Make your sign ‘sells the dream’ and ensure it has all the key information on it – contact details, prices, key dates etc.

A sensible budget for designing and producing a 4m x 2m sign, including securely mounting it on site would be £1,000 to £2,000. There are a number of companies that produce quite cost effective standard sized signs that you can find online.

Remember too that you may need to apply for advertisement consent to display an advertisement, depending on its size and location (and how long it will be displayed).

Typical site signage promoting a new self build phase in Almere

Top Tip

Site signage

Bold images showing what the development will look like, clear plans and indicative prices are the key ingredients of most site signs. They should also have contact details or web addresses for further information

Signage for a serviced plots development in Newcastle
Signage for a custom build development near Doncaster
 
Two collective projects in Amsterdam – both employ strong images and direct potential purchasers to their websites
 
Signs need to be solidly anchored, and may require planning permission
Local signage to explain a new release of 55 plots in Almere
 

Contingency

Any marketing budget should include a contingency to cover expenses such as the production of artist’s impressions (these can easily cost £1,000+), photography, travel expenses and a host of other additional costs that will not be identified at the start of the project or initiative. A contingency of at least 10 per cent (ideally 20 per cent) is recommended.

What might a typical marketing budget look like?

For a 30 home development a typical marketing budget is outlined below: -

  • Engaging with the local media £20,000
  • Project website £2,000
  • Social media and database marketing £5,000
  • Events and open days £11,000
  • Leaflets that clearly explain the opportunities on each plot £20,000
  • ‘Inspiration’ brochures that show what could be built not needed
  • Site signage £3,000
  • Your time (and your team) £20,000
  • Contingency £20,000

TOTAL £101,000

(This equates to about £3,350 per plot)

Although these costs may seem high, marketing is an essential part of the sales process; and the costs can be recovered from the sale of plots.

Top Tip

Draw up a realistic budget

Prepare a marketing budget and stick to it. Avoid spending money on marketing materials or costly PR consultants you may not need. But don’t cut corners – everything you produce must have a professional polish to it

Top Tip

Estate agents

Many smaller developers use estate agents to co-ordinate the marketing of private homebuilding projects

Further Reading

The following case studies offer useful insight into the issues discussed in this Briefing Note:

CREDITS

The NaCSBA Research & Development Programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and aims to promote the self-build and custom build sector as an affordable route into housing for a greater number of people in the UK.

For further information, please visit:

www.nacsba.org.uk or www.selfbuildportal.org.uk