What’s Fit to Print? Print Ads and Collateral for Today’s Homebuilder

Before the tsunami-like surge of the Web, homebuilders spent a large portion of their advertising budget on print—both ads and collateral materials. But that seems ancient compared to our 21st century culture of online searching.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ research, 90% of homebuyers use the Internet in their home search. Compare that to 27% who look at newspaper ads and 18% who browse through home books or magazines. While it’s sad to see the decline of print media, you shouldn’t be throwing your marketing dollars in a direction that delivers a much lower ROI than online advertising.

When you’re evaluating your advertising options, you need to consider the cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions. With subscriptions and readership down, paid advertising is declining. So, how does this media stay afloat? The print ad rates go up. So, you’re spending more money to reach fewer people.

Let’s look at this example:
A half-page ad in a home book might cost $1,100 for one month. The ad rep tells you that they print 50,000 copies. That doesn’t matter. How many copies are actually picked up and read versus left on the rack and discarded? Let’s say that 50% are picked up by homebuyers—and that’s generous. More than half of those free publications that are picked up generate no interest whatsoever—the browser is killing time in a restaurant or in line at the grocery store. So, of the 25,000 “readers”, maybe 1,000 are actually looking for a home. Maybe. And how many are truly looking for a new home or a homebuilder? Even fewer. You’ve paid $1,100 to reach 25,000 readers, not buyers. Your CPM is $44.00.

Now, look at Zillow or Trulia, two of the top referral sites for homebuilders. You can pay $500 to advertise on the site for one month, but you’re hitting a market of active homebuyers. Remember, 90% of them are searching here, versus 18% who are looking in those home magazines. Your CPM is not only much lower, but the conversion rate is much higher—two numbers you need to be looking at!

Now, look at your collateral materials. There was a time when you invested tens of thousands of dollars in creating a beautiful, glossy brochure. You handed it out wherever you could. How many do you think ended up in the trash?

Today’s buyers don’t want clutter. They carry around a smartphone or tablet so they can have everything they need at their fingertips. They will look at your website, and download floorplans, elevations, and price lists. When they email you asking for a brochure, they expect a pdf, not something snail-mailed.

Don’t hand them paper. You’ll appear out of touch with the digital age. Sure, keep some on hand for those people who rebuff technology, but save the money and the trees by limiting your print advertising expenses.

How have you changed your approach to print advertising and collateral since digital technology has become so dominant? I’m interested in your experience, so please share!

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