In real estate, a “sea of sameness” exists that engulfs the majority of brands. From real estate companies to master-planned communities to apartment complexes, there is a lot of branding overlap that makes it difficult for consumers to differentiate one brand from another. But, this industry-wide ubiquitous branding opens the opportunity for other brands to rise above the noise and connect with more consumers on a deeper level. For Hillwood Communities, that meant telling unique brand stories for multiple communities beneath one parent company.
Analyze each community individually, and define their brand’s differentiators
Perform detailed market research to discover how each brand stands apart from the real estate market as a whole
Develop branded material for each of Hillwood’s communities that can be used across mediums for various marketing goals
Tell distinct stories for each development that will better resonate with target consumers
Navigating The Sea of Sameness
There’s a widespread marketing problem – the sea of sameness – that affects a variety of industries, but it is particularly prevalent in real estate. The sea of sameness occurs when marketers and brands capitalize on similar strategies and KPIs, resulting in identical tones, marketing approaches, and even branding aesthetics. This ultimately dilutes a brand’s market impact, and waters-down the effectiveness of marketing strategy. This market saturation makes it incredibly hard for brands to create real connections with the consumers they serve and hurts their ability to build long-term relationships with consumers.
Strategizing Brand Differentiators
The sea of sameness isn’t all bad, though, and gives willing brands a clear opportunity to use distinctive branding and different marketing tactics to overcome the ubiquity afflicting their competition. For Hillwood, we treated each individual community as its own entity and branded around what makes each community a unique and identifiable neighborhood.
Union Park is an active community that features an onsite elementary school and expansive green spaces. We wanted the community’s energy to shine through, so we used bright, vibrant colors, and highlighted some of the young residents having fun at the park, which better connects to the young family demographics at Union Park. The energy pops off the page, and the brand lives up to the tagline “live a vibrant life.”
Wolf Ranch is situated in the Texas Hill Country and offers a scenic, relaxing way of life hidden along Georgetown’s San Gabriel River. The residents of Wolf Ranch seek escape and adventure, so the brand had the opportunity to really lean into that with messaging and creative. We chose “the hill country is calling” as a tagline, warm, natural colors, and stunning photography of the community and the surrounding Hill Country in the brochure to mimic the nature surrounding Wolf Ranch.
Bluewood is a community in every sense of the word, where residents come together to form real connections and friendships. The community offers an abundance of features such as a community pool, trails, and an on-site elementary, all within a very attainable price point that appeals to Millennial and first-time homebuyers. To brand Bluewood, we chose bright, bold colors that help communicate the community’s exuberant energy. We brought through some of the blue colors used throughout the development and chose the tagline, “a community without compromise” to better highlight all the offerings at an affordable price.
Each specific brand identity is built with identifiable marks that express the community’s individuality. That same individuality allows the brand marks to be fluid and flexible, and useful on a variety of mediums. From brochures to websites and outdoor signage, the brand is clearly communicated and identifiable. By making that connection, we’re able to help spread broader awareness of Hillwood Communities’ developments, and more meaningfully connect with a larger audience of potential home buyers.
Created a full brand platform and messaging pillars for each community
Full asset creation and ability to utilize assets across platforms
Created a unified brand message, look and feel for each brand
Some campaigns are planned well in advance, which provides ample time to uncover strategic ideas and develop tactical solutions. However, certain campaigns operate under more confined deadlines, which necessitates expedited action to get to market quickly. No matter the planning time available, our goal at Schaefer is always the same— meet our client’s goals and provide a positive impact on their business.
Station House is a luxury, multi-family development in Frisco, Texas. Their team approached Schaefer with a unique situation: they needed to drive 60 new leases in just around 90 days in order to capitalize on peak leasing season. In addition to more residents, Station House needed to generate more brand awareness with their target consumers, young professionals working in the Frisco area.
Beyond the marketing goals, there were some interesting challenges facing our team as we approached this opportunity. Construction crews surrounded most of the major entry points into Station House, which made it difficult for potential residents to enter; there was limited visibility from the tollway, hurting their curb-appeal to traffic passing by; potential residents had to drive by major competition on their way to Station House; and, the amount of construction made prospective residents unsure if Station House was even open.
Between lofty marketing goals under a tight deadline, and the factors affecting local brand visibility, our team had plenty of challenges to navigate as we began strategizing.
Generate 60 new leases to meet occupancy goals in a tight window – 90 days
Increase brand awareness among target audience
Station House needed a way to entice potential residents with their beautiful amenities and overall space, despite the temporary challenges with their location. Based on time and budget constraints, we chose to evaluate Station House’s existing marketing assets and make strategic recommendations about how to better leverage them to help the Station House rise above the competition in a crowded market.
In addition to photography assets, we identified an existing drone flyover video that would allow us to show off the complex, and its close proximity to dining and entertainment, unconstrained by the surrounding construction by leveraging an aerial view.
We leveraged the flyover video in rotation with other assets in a variety of channels, including Paid Social, Display and Paid Search to spread awareness about Station House, and all that it has to offer residents in Frisco. We geotargeted strategic locations near Station House to capture the attention of young professionals in the area. In addition, we leveraged Facebook lead generation ads to expedite the process for connecting with a leasing agent. We also leveraged an offer message to incentivize web conversions.
As our campaign unfolded and the numbers began coming in, it was clear that our team had crafted a winning strategy for Station House.
Video Credit: Station House
Netted 68 new leases
Improved occupancy to 96% leased space
Increased website sessions 2X YOY during campaign period
Generated over 250 form fills
Produced over 900 phone calls through Google search ads
Provided clear strategy and exceeded predicted results
Make Life Better
It was a pleasure to work with the team at Station House, and we thoroughly enjoyed putting together a comprehensive campaign that was driven by a tight window of performance. It is such a treat to shape the fabric of neighborhoods by helping people find a spot to call their home, and turning prospects into residents.
Real estate developers and home builders have historically allocated a large majority of their marketing resources to traditional advertising methods. However, digital marketing strategies have unique advantages over traditional advertising methods that can greatly improve the effectiveness and ROI of real estate marketing efforts. We partnered with Hillwood Communities, one of the nation’s largest independent real estate development firms, to shift their focus from traditional advertising methods and refocus their marketing resources for a comprehensive integrated strategy that earned higher, more measurable returns.
Evolve traditional marketing strategy into one with more measurable results to drive increased home sales for each Hillwood Community
Broaden the tools of the marketing strategy to include fully integrated digital platforms
In the process, educate the client on the strategic advantages of full-funnel digital marketing efforts in real estate through compelling data points
Map key tactics and touchpoints with the consumer and realtor journey to move beyond awareness and drive action while chronicling engagement
Education and Action
Prior to shifting to a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, it was important to educate our client on the improved transparency and the bottom-line benefits of a focused digital approach. Fortunately, the team at Hillwood Communities was actively interested in learning about digital strategies and how marketing performance and measurement can be improved via a strong digital program. Through collaborative dialogue, we worked together to find strategic ways to pair their business intelligence with our digital marketing strategy and measurement plan.
Incorporating a Prospect Funnel
Hillwood’s prior marketing efforts were heavily focused on traditional awareness tactics, but lacked a lower-funnel, nurture and conversion strategy. Traditional advertising methods do an excellent job of generating awareness, but they are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to a full-funnel strategy. Without the inclusion of digital tactics, it’s more difficult to drive measurable action and clear results. Digital strategies can provide insightful data for ongoing optimization against both short-term and long-term marketing goals.
At the foundation of our recommended strategy was the introduction of a comprehensive prospect funnel that outlined each stage of the buyer journey with corresponding media and messaging tactics. From there, we established key performance indicators and goal metrics at each level of the digital funnel. From awareness to conversion, we set clear goals for the ongoing measurement of the health and effectiveness of our digital marketing strategy.
A Refreshed Digital Strategy
We began Hillwood’s marketing strategy evolution with prospecting tactics at the awareness level such as display media, paid social, streaming radio, and prospecting emails. From there, we moved down to the buyer research/consideration stage of the funnel, including tactics like retargeting, paid search, and real estate search engine advertising. At the lowest level of the funnel, we focused on action-oriented tactics such as geofencing and personalized content delivery.
This comprehensive approach gave us a detailed look at the buyer’s journey through the funnel while empowering us with the real-time ability to alter the strategy at each level for improved returns.
The effectiveness of a marketing plan boils down to the final results. Therefore, it was critically important to develop a measurement plan that accounted for data capture through the point of each home sale. We partnered closely with Hillwood’s business intelligence team to sync marketing and sales data. As a result, we were able to establish buyer match-backs, measured as any buyer who has made a sale and can be linked back to marketing engagement through CRM data collection. Aside from total home sales, buyer match-backs became the most essential data point for measuring the effectiveness and ROI of our strategy.
2019 Full-Year Results:
135 match-backs collected, and $42 million in match-back revenue measured, across 9 communities
Lead goals were exceeded for all communities
Directly informed 113 home sales, verified through detailed consumer and realtor match back data
Influenced more than 45 million dollars in sales prior to purchase
Home sales goals were met or exceeded by the majority of communities, despite fluctuations in the market
Use of data to develop full buyer journey maps, from first engagement to sale
More efficient and cost-effective prospect targeting
Through strategy, results, testing and some mitigated risk we were able to shift Hillwood’s marketing strategy into a predominantly digital-driven, measurable marketing strategy that moved them away from the historically traditional plan. This new effort optimized their marketing efforts and has resulted in increased home sales and revenue that can be directly tied to marketing.
As one of the nation’s largest independent real estate development firms, Hillwood Communities has spent 30 years creating community through master-planned developments. Hillwood Communities continues to raise the bar in terms of quality, innovation, and the unmistakable sense of community that sets each property apart.
So, when Hillwood tasked Schaefer with creating a new website for their Union Park community, we needed to build a website that communicated the excitement and energy of the community in order to convert visitors into Union Park homeowners.
Educate prospective homeowners about Union Park
Improve website functionality to encourage more user interaction
Increase qualified lead collection through the website to grow the Union Park marketing database
Encourage foot traffic to model homes at Union Park
Strategy & Execution
Our strategic imperative was to evaluate Union Park’s existing website and streamline the information to more accurately represent the community under the tagline “Live a Vibrant Life.”
Our team utilized existing user data from two of Hillwood’s other community websites to craft high-level strategic conclusions that informed how we built the Union Park website. We used sophisticated web tools to identify user engagement patterns through on-site heat mapping, screen recordings, and behavioral pattern flow.
The Union Park website was integrated with home inventory feed to give site visitors real-time information about available homes. We added a testimonial portal that gave prospective homebuyers insight into the active lifestyle and community that powers Union Park. We incorporated a live social feed that gives visitors up-to-date information about what’s happening around Union Park, and we added a Google Maps integration that empowers people to easily find Union Park on desktop or mobile.
Furthermore, we continued to optimize and improve the website based on reporting and detailed analysis. One core improvement that we made was building a chatbot to automate conversations with prospective home buyers, deliver relevant content, and collect qualified leads to pass along to the builders. The chatbot also helps direct users to specific pages of interest to help create a frictionless consumer journey.
We designed the website to have user-friendly functionality that encourages engagement but also helps the consumer effortlessly move through the home-buying journey.
Since the new website launched:
Average website session duration has increased by 30%
Union Park website form fills have increased by almost 4X
PDF downloads have increased by more than 20X
Pageviews have increased by 15%
High-quality foot traffic has increased to the community.
Make Life Better
Creating communities doesn’t happen overnight – it can take years of strategy and ongoing marketing efforts to cultivate the right audience to buy into a new development and call that space “home.” As a result of creating Union Park’s new website with improved functionality, we were able to connect the community with more qualified leads in a much shorter period of time.
Earning highly qualified leads is critical to the success of a conversion-based digital campaign, and Schaefer Advertising employs a blend of intelligent thinking and data tools to develop strategic campaigns that yield highly qualified leads that meet our client’s business objectives.
Pomona – by Hillwood Communities – is a master-planned community in Manvel, TX, located just south of Houston. To meet their sales goals, Pomona depends on driving awareness and conversion in order to build foot traffic to their community, and ultimately close home sales. In 2019, Schaefer Advertising leveraged very specific and unique tactics to create a full-funnel digital marketing strategy for the community.
To begin the marketing planning process, the Schaefer team carefully scrutinized data related to Pomona’s key target audiences by evaluating the current homebuyer segment against prospective homebuyers. This information provided us “look-a-like” profiles that we applied to our targeting criteria, enabling us to get very specific demographics, psychographics and geographical insights. As a result of this granular audience definition, we were able to identify that many of Pomona’s homebuyers were employed at the Texas Medical Center, located just 15 miles from the community.
With this knowledge, the Schaefer team developed a very targeted GeoFencing campaign as a tactic within the integrated digital strategy.
Move high-value prospects through the lead funnel by:
Building brand awareness for Pomona among a very specific subset of the medical community within the Texas Medical Center
Capturing a strategic audience group to retarget with outbound marketing efforts
Driving qualified leads from the medical community to model homes within Pomona
Closing home sales in Pomona
The Strategy – Hyper-Targeted Geofencing
GeoFencing is a targeted digital strategy that specifically serves display ad units to users who have entered a digitally fenced area. In order to structure a GeoFencing campaign, a virtual fence is mobilized around the targeted area to capture prospects and then deploy ads. A corresponding conversion zone is also established, allowing advertisers to track prospects from the GeoFence to the conversion zone. At Schaefer, we utilize variations of GeoFencing strategies across verticals to satisfy numerous goals such as driving event ticket sales or, in this case, selling homes.
For Pomona, our team devised a GeoFencing strategy focused on capturing highly qualified prospects at the Texas Medical Center. We identified five key parking garages used by medical professionals that mirrored a large portion of the current residents of Pomona. Additionally, we eliminated patient traffic in order to maximize the media spend on the most qualified prospects. After outlining our geographic target area, we developed specific ad creative to target those audiences, with messaging focused on proximity between home and work – “Pomona, just minutes from the Texas Medical Center.”
First GeoFencing campaign delivered 245,000 impressions and 18 conversions of highly qualified leads.
Second GeoFencing campaign delivered 335,000 impressions and 40 conversions of highly qualified leads.
The entire campaign delivered 580,000 impressions and a total of 58 conversions.
Making Life Better
A community is made up of far more than just buildings and geography. It’s about the people that say hello to each other every day, the experiences they share and the memories they make as neighbors. All of this turns a collection of buildings into a living, breathing community. We are proud to partner with Hillwood Communities, and help shape the fabric of their neighborhoods by delivering their message to the right audiences, and filling their communities with vibrant people.