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Style or Substance? Lesson from Most Hated in America – Monday Morning Manufactured Home Sales, Marketing Meeting

by L.A. “Tony” Kovach

tony kovach 2 50Buckle up for what may be the most important topic so far this year, for this session of the Monday Morning Manufactured Home Sales and Marketing Meeting about “Style or Substance.”  Executive summary? 

Style matters, but properly understood, the industry evidence demonstrates that substance is proven to matter more.  The “most hated” is part of the proof, but all of it will matter to bottom-line focused executives, investors, sales/marketing pros, and owners.

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A few quick examples will tee up the topic.

We get data, research as well as traffic reports from third parties and from our own servers.  That data tells us a lot about the manufactured home industry in general. That data and report don’t have – or need – your name, but they give us a variety of insights that are useful.

We also get – and welcome – comments and questions from readers across the spectrum.  Then, there are real–world client experiences. That combination of data, feedback and experience are powerful.

Some calls, messages, questions, and comments are sincere, others have an agenda. It’s part of life, it is whatever it is.

9 ½ years ago, when we launched what we call today MHProNews, the industry was at a low ebb. What was needed by most pros then, is different than what is needed by firms of all sizes today.

Then, the industry’s professionals needed to get back a measure of self-confidence and hope in the future.  Then, some fact-based ‘cheer leading’ was more important.

In 2009, the industry had hit its historic low point, having essentially collapsed. What do you call it when you go from 372,000+ shipments in 1998, to under 50,000 in 2009?

We won’t go deeply today into the pivotal years of 2003 or 2009. The year 2003 was when Berkshire Hathaway entered the manufactured housing industry, and 2009 was the year that 21st Mortgage issued their lettersto independents that for some time restricted their credit to those buying Clayton Homes products.

When credit was tight, the result was predictable. It tipped a number of businesses, out of business2 and grew Clayton’s footprint in the process.

We will only say today what Warren Buffett does.  Namely that the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Or what MHI award winning industry veteran Marty Lavin says, pay more attention to what people do than what they say, and follow the money.

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Examples of Style

There is style. We give credit where its due. Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) events have some style. Their emails have a style. Their website has a style. Their video promotions of Clayton, Next Step and two other brands have a style.

We won’t say there’s no substance to the above; but we’ll note that the information MHI often provides their readers is arguably tweaked (spun?) to suit their purpose.

Their own association members have contested some of the data that they put forth as fact.3  What MHI said the year before on advertorials on cost savings for manufactured homes was contradicted the next year by data on their website.  What’s up with that?

Rephrasing, you have to be an expert that closely falls the details to spot inconsistent and inaccurate MHI information.

MHI Style? Yes. But their traffic reports per third party Alexa – and Amazon brand – says they have a sky-high bounce rate4.  For non-techies, a high bounce rate means people see what they see, and then leave.  MHI averages one page per visit, says Alexa. By the way, in fairness their traffic is probably a bit more than that, but because of fractional rounding, Alexa may make it look a touch lower than it is.  MHI video views are low too.

We could say something similar about style with respect to the industry’s giant, Clayton Homes. There is a massive amount of “Made” (their marketing agency) style.

Clayton, per Alexa4, has about double the engagement of MHI. But that’s still low compared to conventional housing.

That fact-driven report, with much more, is linked here5.

The point for manufactured home marketers and sellers?

Style is nice, but online, people vote with time and page-views.  You don’t get lower than 1 page view per visit, which is what MHI is rated by Alexa.  The page views are about double that for giant and high-budget Clayton Homes.

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Facts matter.  As nice as style is, style alone isn’t king.  Recall that we’ve previously documented that Clayton’s total sales are growing at a slower percentage pace than the industry at large is.  Interesting, isn’t it?

What does this mean to a marketer?  That the giants aren’t invincible. David slew Goliath.  But David had the right strategy.  David used rock-hard substance, delivered with precision.

More Evidence of Substance over Style

MHProNews is not without its own style. But if you scratch past the surface, there’s meat on the bones here.  Thus our page views and engagements are about 6 times higher, per Webalizer, than MHI gets per Alexa. By the way, that makes our engagement about double what a mainstream news site averages. All that tells us the content – the substance – here is what professionals crave.

We’re evidence and fact driven.  But what do actual readers say?

Here’s an example from yesterday from an award-winning manufactured housing industry veteran reader, who said:

I do stay away from politics… great way to make enemies.  However you need to speak your mind when asked and whatever you say you should believe in.   You are to be admired for taking a stance and position and backing it up.  One sided is not the way to go.  Good for you!”

Here’s what a Clayton content marketing manager said in late 2017:

As a thought leader in the manufactured housing industry, I would like to ask for permission to hyperlink to and properly cite content on your website. Here at Clayton, we enjoy and appreciate all of the content that the Manufactured Home Living News has to offer.” 6

BTW, if this was about bragging, we’d stop here.  The point is that content – substance – matters.  There’s more needed to create clarity.

Substance matters to everyone, certainly it matters to your target audience.  Clayton understands that, and one reason we get feedback from top people in the industry as well as from other size levels in the business is precisely because the content – the substance – created here on MHProNews or on MHLivingNews matter.

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Those two messages from industry pros are just 2 of thousands of examples of how substance triumphs over style, but let’s show you more and how this can apply to your business and location.

We have detractors. Guess what? The industry has boat loads of detractors!

Who has more experience at dealing with detractors in a way that is measurably effective? If data matters, the MH professional audience votes for us hands down over what MHI and their surrogates put out.  The facts matter.  Substance matters. If we need a little thicker skin now that 2 years ago, it is what it is.

The Lesson from the Most Hated Man in America 

Opinions are a dime a dozen.

The truth can be staring someone in the face, and because we all have free will, we can opt to ignore that truth. To understand – really, truly understand – manufactured housing (or any other issue) Inside and Out, one must be evidence and fact driven.

Opinions may be interesting, or even exciting.  But facts and results are what thinking people want.  Businesses care about bottom lines, not hype.

There’s also an absolute need to invest the time needed to get the facts right.

It is no secret we editorially disagree with Warren Buffett’s politics, for example. But there’s no denying Mr. Buffett’s business success. What does he teach you or me? Plenty, if you pay attention, read, watch and listen.

One, Buffett reads. He’s not about surface issues. He wants to understand.

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Warren Buffett didn’t say it, but another successful business guru did. Don’t be superficial. Dig deeply for the facts.  Be open to something new.  Do you want to understand something enough to benefit from it? There is no substitute to investing the time needed. Buffett says he reads 5 to 6 hours a day. Wow…but look were that got him.

Buffett bets only on things he believes are a high probability of succeeding.

My fellow professionals, Buffett bet billions on manufactured housing because he believes in it. During a growing affordable housing crisis manufactured homes are a “no-brainer.”

But Buffett is also – arguably – monopolistic. He’s not your friend, he’s your competitor.

The same is true for Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg, or other mega giants.  They are your or someone’s competition. That “Moat” principle of Buffett’s (see videos on the page, linked here7– is deemed by others as a monopolistic principle* that’s proven to work.  That moat and the related principles create a trend line.

Or a Clayton manager messaged me, “what’s wrong with crushing your competition?”  That’s what Buffett’s moat, capital and other policies can yield, crushing the competition.

That Berkshire trend-line will crush you or almost any business in a field that Buffett operates in, given enough time. Keep in mind that MHI is a nonprofit Buffett tool.   That MHI tool is arguably working precisely as they want it to. The proof is that those key salaried staff got raises and bonuses9.  Bonuses, for what?  Did Preserving Access get passed?  Did MHI try to get Pam Danner out at HUD?  MHI’s own EVP said no.10

If I was wrong on MHI working just as the Buffett/Berkshire brands want it to, then surely Tim Williams and Kevin Clayton would have fired people at MHI by now, for failure to deliver on their promises to the industry at large. We’ll say “alleged” on all of this, so that we don’t get a letter from them or MHI.

Then, we’ll point you to the linked evidence.

Spend enough time with an open mind, you’ll see the truth for yourself.  The facts and evidence matter.

Who’s the most hated man in America? Easy. The President of the United States (POTUS), Donald J. Trump. He’s upsetting several apple carts. He’s not playing by their politically correct rules. Mr. Trump is despised by numbers, but the evidence suggests that he is loved by even more than the many who’ve been convinced to hate him.

Style? Yes, POTUS has one, though his style may not be your style.

Substance? Yes. Don’t believe those trying to convince you that he’s brainless, because it demonstrably false. Agree or disagree with POTUS, like or dislike Mr. Trump’s manners or style.  But even some of the president’s detractors are starting to admit that he’s driven more positive national and international change in 15 months than some presidents did in 8 years.

Controversial Style, yes. But that Style has Substance.

We at MHProNews are controversial only because people got locked into certain habits.

Mr. Buffett has said it. He counts on habits controlling you. He doesn’t have to know you, he knows the raw data and the history.

To win in manufactured housing today, you need the right plan. Yes, style matters.

Substance properly presented matters more.

The audience here at MHProNews dwarfs MHI’s. See the proof at the link above or below. Our audience is bigger than a year ago, not by a little, but by a lot.  Their ‘negative whispers’ campaign hasn’t blunted our audience.

In a sense, we had no choice to pivot on style at MHProNews, because if Goliath is going after you, you have to fight back (yes, they started it). We’ve always believed in principles and evidence. But we determined it was better to change the style somewhat – towards more fact-checking – plus a sharper focus on research and results.

You and thousands of others that come here daily have responded. Thank you.

The president is followed by most everyone in politics, many in business and economics. They’re reading the tea leaves.

The same is true on MHProNews.  MHI, Knoxville, all of the major hubs of the industry from FL to MI, IL, TX or CA and other markets and magnets check in. We know because they tell us, but even if they didn’t say a word, geo-data tells us too.  Again, we don’t see you, but we do have data on where the readers come from.

All of this matters to marketers.

POTUS and Manufactured Housing Profits

Every rally POTUS Trump holds, combined with the data of those who support him on air or cable, is all that you, I – or anyone with common sense – needs to know as to his honest ‘poll’ numbers.

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and a host of others all dominate or have an edge in their space and time slots.  Why?  Because more want that content – that substance – over the style of the others. What more needs be said about the president’s popularity?

In MHVille, we have the audience.  The third party data doesn’t lie.

In MHVille, we have the secret sauce that’s proven to attract and close more business.  That Clayton marketing exec knows it, and others do too.

Look again at the facts, which a competitor’s buddy suggested that we do. Glad he did. We’re not afraid of the facts.

Fear or Complacency Can Be Lethal 

Don’t be afraid, or complacent.

If you’re an independent and you are complacent, the Berkshire Hathaway trend lines will kill you’re business, given enough time. Buffett’s is betting billions on it.  Don’t forget, Buffett’s in more than just manufactured home production, home or floorplan lending, and retail.  They are in community lending. They are in insurance.  They are in components and supplies. What aren’t they in?

Don’t say communities, because there is talk…

…and plenty of action tied to communities.

So, if you are willing to listen and learn something new to grow your business and secure your future and that of your kids or corporate successors – and you aren’t afraid of a little controversy – call or message us.  You can call or message me personally.

The facts don’t lie.

Growth rates for clients that start and stick with our process generate some 250 percent to 800 percent more sales.  250-800% growth is proof.  There are those who start and don’t follow through. Quitters don’t grow (duh).  So please don’t be one of those quitters.  We tell clients up front, before we charge a dime, that  change is necessary. We don’t know what change will be needed at your location(s) until we see it first hand.  That’s part of the magic.

Odds are, you’re doing most things right.  But if you aren’t outselling real estate or conventional housing in your market, then you aren’t doing all that you can. Don’t bother calling me if you aren’t willing and eager to learn and make honest, ethical fact-based changes which will attract better qualified buyers who will be happy with their homes.

Style is nice and useful.  But Substance, Facts and Performance all Matter More.

B2B, B2C, or both, call or message to learn more. The facts don’t lie. ##  (Manufactured housing related marketing & sales news, analysis, and commentary.)

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(Third-party images are provided under fair use guidelines.)

Footnotes and References:

Only footnote 6 above isn’t hot-linked.  That info, is found below.

6: We italicized Manufactured Home Living News for clarity, but in the original message the same words were not in italics.  Here’s the screen capture

By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – Masthead commentary, for MHProNews.com.

Tony is the multiple award-winning managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.

Office 863-213-4090 |Connect on LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach

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