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Changes and Manufactured Housing

June 29th, 2011 No comments

“And all the changes keep on changin
and the good old days, you know they’re gone.
And only wise men, and some newborn fools
say that they know what’s going on.”

~ Harry Chapin, Changes

“Then you better start swimming
or you’ll sink like a stone.
For the times, they are a-changin’”

~ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-changin’

Let’s face it, folks. The manufactured housing business as you once knew it is relic of the past. A memory, often cherished, but meaningless in today’s world.

The rapid pace of change in our industry and economy, and even our place in the world has left many of us stunned and disbelieving.

But change doesn’t stop because we can’t keep up with it. Those who fail to adapt to change will be swept away.

About the only thing we can guarantee is that the speed at which change comes at us will only tend to accelerate.

In turbulent times, when the earth seems to shift under your feet and you can’t seem to find an anchor to hold on to, you ned a source of information and interaction that can help you keep up with the changes going on around you.

Your state association is one example. State associations are doing their best to keep up and keep you informed. Make sure your membership is up-to-date and remember that for your association to best serve you, you need to be an active member.

Another great way to keep up is through MHMSM.com. At MHMSM.com, some of the most respected voices in the industry can be accessed as nowhere else. As an interactive media, MHMSM.com gives you the opportunity to actively participate in the debate.

As old doors close, new ones open. Will you be there to see what is behind those new doors?

To quote Bob Dylan again,

“Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Selling with a Blog, Part II

June 26th, 2011 No comments

Selling with a BlogLast Thursday, I posted a video from WordPress.tv, Selling with a Blog that featured Howard Howell’s presentation at WordCamp Seattle 2011. In it, Howard gives his reasons why he thinks using a blog to sell whatever it is you sell is a good idea.

I agree with Howard that using a blog to sell whatever is a great idea, but just how do you apply it to selling homes off a retail lot or in a land lease community?

Basically, the same way you’d use it to sell pizza, cars, site-built homes, widgets or anything else you can think of.

The most basic rules of selling haven’t changed. But the method of getting prospects into your location to begin the selling process has. Some time-honored methods, such as newspaper advertising, Yellow pages ads and such just aren’t working in most markets anymore and their continued decline is assured.

While smart businesses continue to use legacy marketing methods for as long as their return exceeds their cost, now is the time to begin looking at the ways marketing to prospects will be done now and in the future.

Old-style websites were static and were updated rarely, if at all. That type of website is still useful for organization static data, such as image galleries, product information, floorplans, feature lists, etc.

But without a dynamic, relationship-building component, it won’t be nearly as effective as it could be.

And that relationship-building component, while composed of several items, finds its anchor in a dynamic, ever-changing website known as a blog. I’ve defined what a blog is several times before, but for the benefit of those who’ve missed it. I’ll define it again:

A blog (short for weblog) is a series of web posts (articles) arranged in reverse chronological order. That’s it – it’s that simple.

But in that definition is the secret of a blog’s success as a lead generation tool.

The simple fact that you need to keep your blog updated on a regular basis gives you that many more opportunities to strike a chord with a segment of your readers. And the more of those chords you strike with potential customers, the better your chances of making a sale.

So what do you write about? I’ve covered this in previous posts, but it bears repeating. If you’re blogging for a community, write about everything that happens in and around that community.

Profile residents who do something special, feature residents hobbies or their efforts to improve their homesites, review area restaurants, community events, etc. Use your imagination and you’ll never run out of ideas.

Be sure to link your blog to you Twitter and Facebook accounts, place some videos on YouTube and use them in your blog posts, place ads for available homes or homesites on Craigslist with a link back to your website.

And this goes for retailers as well – every home in your community or on your lot should be photographed and posted to your blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. When you sell a home, photograph the happy new owners with or in their new home.

Get releases from everyone in those photographs and use them.

Never miss an opportunity to tell your own story over and over again until it becomes an expectation. You’re the best at what you do, right? If you are, let the world know. If you’re not, find something else to do.

Selling with a Blog

June 22nd, 2011 No comments

Howard Howell, that Sales Guy, speaking at WordCamp Seattle 2011.

Updating Browser Software for Your Own Security

June 19th, 2011 No comments

Updates, updates, updates. If you’re like me, your computer is forever nagging you to update this or that program and it always seems to popup at an inopportune time.

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer, IE

One thing that came up at WordPress Columbus yesterday is that with the coming version3.2 or WordPress, support for Internet Explorer (IE) v6 will be dropped. Dropping support for IE 7 is in the works for a future upgrade.

Why? At this point, IE 6 and to a lesser degree IE 7 are older browsers that give web developers problems and lack features common to more modern browsers. There comes a point where supporting legacy applications is no longer viable.

Sometimes updates get skipped. That wouldn’t be that bad a thing except that some updates are designed to plug security holes in previous versions and ignoring them leaves you open to attack.

This can be an issue with any type or program, but web browses can present security as well as other issues if left un-upgraded.

One example of this would be Internet Explore (IE) 6. Microsoft has logged several security holes in IE 6, yet IE 6 users still comprise 47% of IE users on my site today.

Well, here’s a tool that will help you determine if you are using the latest version of your favorite browser and, if you are not, provides a link for you to download and install the latest version.

Browse Happy. Online. Worry Free. Upgrade Your Browser Today.

Just click here to go to the Browse Happy website and find out the status of your copy of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.

Then you can breathe a bit easier when you are surfing the web.

Also, newer versions of browser software often have exciting new features and can run much faster than older versions. So there are many reasons to upgrade your web browser software.

Do it now!

Purple Cows and Manufactured Housing

June 15th, 2011 No comments

Suzanne Felber "Purple Cow" home

Photo by Lisa Stewart

My last post, A Manufactured Housing Image-Building Campaign Can Start Locally and Now!, spoke about the possibility of starting a long-awaited image building campaign for the manufactured housing industry right now on a local level. Shawn Cisco commented with his observation that the expectation of a national TV campaign. like the “Go RVing” campaign was an outdated notion.

Shawn cited the book “The Purple Cow” by Seth Godin as a source of 21st Century marketing information and speculated that a national TV campaign would be doomed to failure. I believe he was 100% right with that observation.

The famous “Go RVing” campaign continues to serve that industry today. But that brand was made during the hey-day of television advertising, a media that is slipping in influence almost as fast as newspaper advertising.

Even Mr. Godin’s book is now behind the curve in several ways, mostly doe the rapid pace of change in how people receive information. But the underlying premise of the book – to create an exceptional business model based on a superior idea – is as valid as ever.

And the businesses he cites as examples, including Apple, JetBlue, Dutch Boy, etc. continue to dominate innovation in their industries, joined by relative newcomers, such as Facebook.

the Economist logoIn this week’s Economist, an article on the 100th birthday of IBM talks about how Big Blue’s longevity (despite a few “near death” experiences) owes much more to it’s philosophy of “the big idea” rather than “the product.” The article further discusses likely candidates in the technology quarter to eventually celebrate 100th anniversaries, such as Apple, Facebook, etc. because they adhere to the same basic philosophy.

The idea is to take an existing idea or product, wrap it in a simple and elegant package with “Wow!” features and sell it at a premium price. There are several home manufacturers doing this right now.

But this alone doesn’t generate the kind of uniqueness that Seth Godin talks about as being necessary for success in today’s world.

For instance, there are now about a million foreclosed homes on the market and more are coming. These homes are selling for considerably less than the average market price which in turn has retreated by a third in the past few years.

Much of the “pent-up demand” for homes is likely to be absorbed by these homes over the next several years.

So how does a home manufacturer convince the public that buying a brand new, Energy Star-rated, manufactured home is a better idea than buying one of these foreclosures with all of their “deferred maintenance” issues?

What is the “Wow!” factor that will set one manufacturer on the road to dominance in the industry?

What is the “purple cow” that will create the demand for the product and what will replace that “purple cow” when it turns brown and fades into the pack of ineffective features and techniques that we all know so well?

The manufacturer who solves these has a bright future.

The same holds for communities and retail operations. What makes YOUR service or community unique or special? Is it so special that it makes your business stand head and shoulders above your competition? Is it engrained in the DNA of your business or just tacked on?

Think about it. You may have to begin again from scratch, sitting down and pretending that today is the first day you’ve been in business. What do you do, starting today to build your business knowing that most of yesterday’s marketing methods no longer work very well?

Some of you will find the answers and will be around for years to come. Some of you won’t. It’s up to you.