Evaluating and Refining the Marketing Plan

Four Evaluation Methods

Evaluation strategies help you reinvest in strategies that are working and refine or discard strategies that aren’t. You will probably want to include more than one evaluation method in your overall strategy. Here are four common ones that you may find appropriate:

1.  Phone Logs

A phone log is a record of how each customer heard about you or what prompted them to contact you at that moment. It could be as simple as a pad of paper your receptionist keeps, on which s(he) records each caller. If that caller is asking about your homes for sale, the receptionist should also ask and record how that caller heard about your homes. You might also incorporate this function into your customer tracking software if you have it. You should also ask your real estate agent to keep a log about inquiries on your homes for sale.

Be sure you make it someone’s responsibility to tabulate the responses at least every two to four weeks so that your marketing and sales team can analyze them.

The information you collect might lead you to adjust your approach. For example, if you find that only 1 percent of your inquiries heard about you from a billboard, you may want to discontinue that strategy. You should consider also the quality of inquiries you get from each source – if you get 25 inquiries from a newspaper ad, but none of them is eligible or qualified, your message may be misleading or the audience for that media type may not be a good match.

2.  Customer Surveys or Interviews

A survey or interviews with your first buyers may help you find out more about the common characteristics of people who like your product, information that you could use to refine your marketing messages or strategies. Did they all choose one particular style of home rather than another type you are offering? What about it was appealing – is there anything you can still do to make the other homes more similar to the most popular type? Did all the early buyers hear about you through the same marketing strategy? Do they all have friends or family in the neighborhood? These kinds of questions might help you discover in more detail which product benefits hold particular appeal and which marketing strategies are most effective.

3.  Pipeline Tracking

If you develop a pipeline schedule as suggested in Chapter 5: Setting the Marketing and Sales Goal(s), you can track how many actual customers you have in each stage and compare it to what you projected. If potential buyers are dropping out at a significant number at any particular point in the process, you should consider carefully why it is occurring so you can address it.

Many developers use days-on-market as the quick, overview metric to track effectiveness of marketing and sales efforts – the total number of days between listing the property and closing the sale, compared to what they projected in their pipeline or other marketing schedule.  However, you will need to track a finer detail of steps in order to diagnose problems as quickly as possible.  If you wait until the projected sale date has passed before assessing progress, you won’t be in a position to correct problems and adjust strategies until after you’ve begun incurring holding costs that were not budgeted for.

Customer Tracking Systems

Customer tracking software – often called CRM or Customer Relationship Management software - can help you set up the milestones of your marketing and sales pipeline and enable all staff who interact with potential buyers to track where they are in the process.  You can then watch through reports or online trackers to see how the actual pipeline compares to your projections.  Community Housing Works, a nonprofit developer in San Diego, uses Salesforce, a web-based CRM system, to track marketing and sales by their in-house real estate brokerage, Community Housing Realty.  The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority uses Quickbase, a web-based project management database.

Your real estate agent will likely have access to a proprietary CRM system or an off-the-shelf system they’ve customized for their needs.  Talk to them about what they will track and whether it’s possible to meet both your needs by sharing data or adding steps from the marketing process they may not currently track to their system. 

For very early steps in the marketing process, such as website hits or visitors to a booth at an event, you may not be able to track individual customers, but it will still be valuable to understand the volume of “exposures” you are getting with each marketing tool so that you know which is getting attention and the extent to which that attention is from qualified potential buyers.  For example, you can compare the number of unique hits on your website to the number of potential buyers who called you and reported that they heard about you in a web search, to ascertain a response rate. 

It’s very likely that your projections will not perfectly predict every stage of the pipeline, particularly if this is your first housing development project. If the deviation from your projections is small and you feel confident in reaching your goals, you may only use this information to refine your predictions for the next properties coming online and make slight adjustments to marketing, such as an additional open house, an extra week of radio ads, etc.

4.  Marketing and Sales Team Reviews

While homes are on the market, have your marketing and sales team meet at least every other week to review the status of properties and any potential buyers, financing problems, marketing results, etc. This concentrated attention from a diverse group of people can make a real difference in noticing problems and patterns quickly and making adjustments as soon as possible.

For example, one nonprofit had hundreds of people turn out for a bus tour of their homes, but virtually none of the participants could qualify for a mortgage. This could be interpreted as a product problem (no accessible financing was available) or a strategy problem (failure in targeting qualified buyers), or a message problem (not enough information given for people to screen themselves out if they weren’t qualified). Whichever it is, your team should find out and adjust the marketing and sales plan to better align it with your goals. Consider the following questions as you discuss the results of your evaluation:

  1. At what point in your projected pipeline did your results fail to meet expectations?
  2. What strategy did you use?
  3. What data are you tracking that could further illuminate how the strategy did or did not work?
  4. Was the problem related to the product (house, neighborhood, financing), the price, the promotion or the place (system through which customers must work to access the home)?
  5. How will you adjust your strategy?