Homebuyer Journey Map Series: Inspiration & Discovery Phase

Published January 27, 2021
Last updated February 2, 2021

Mapping out your customer journey is a valuable step towards understanding your homebuyers’ thoughts, actions, and objections, so you make their experience with your business better.

If you haven’t had a chance to read our article Homebuilder’s Guide to Creating an Effective Customer Journey Map, we recommend starting there to learn the basics of journey mapping.

In this article series, we’ll be diving deeper into each phase of the homebuyer journey, offering tips to successfully put yourself into the buyer’s shoes and draw critical insights.

Inspiration and Discovery Phase

One of the easiest ways to understand a customer’s thought process when they first discover you is to shadow one or a few target customers. Find people who don’t work for your business that can offer a completely transparent and unbiased account of their experience as they go through the process of learning about your company in search of a homebuilder.

An easy way to find a few participants is to ask your online audience and offer some sort of gift in return. Remember, this is a huge service to your business so make it worthwhile. 

Tips for nailing the inspiration and discovery phase of homebuying

First impressions will make or break a homebuilder, so let’s walk through each step of the first phase of the homebuying journey and discuss why it’s important and how to enhance it for your potential buyers.

Online research

The first phase of the homebuyer journey is all about research. Potential buyers are just starting to gather information about the homebuying process and figure out if building a home is the right choice for them. They may not know who you are just yet, so you want to make sure they come across you on social media and in local Google search.

Here are a few tips to figure out what your audience is searching for so you can optimize your online presence:

  • Have your trial customer do a google search, writing down the terms they searched for and which terms your company showed in search results for.
  • Use the Google Trends tool to find out what terms homebuyers are searching.
  • Use Answer the Public to search terms and find out what questions people are asking about it on search engines.
  • Search trending topics for your audience on social media to learn what they’re engaging with and searching for.

Knowing what your audience is looking for online will help you tailor your content and SEO to those keywords and phrases, ensuring you show up in those search results.

Location search is specific to Google local search. When a customer searches for “homebuilders near me,” a similar phrase, or your company name specifically, you want to show up on that first page of Google results. Check to see if your company shows up in local listings and make sure it shows up in the top results when searched by name.

If your company website isn’t showing up you have a problem and should check to make sure your Google My Business listing is up and running and there are no other issues with your website domain. You can also optimize your Google My Business listing to improve your online presence.

Agent or no agent

The only way to find out if your target audience prefers to use an agent or not is to ask! If you don’t have any customer feedback in your database on this topic the best thing to do is run a poll on social media and find out the preference in your specific market.

If market research indicates your target buyers lean towards using a real estate agent, then it’s a good idea to build a partnership with realtors in your area. Maybe this means paying real estate commissions for buyers, listing your new homes for sale through the MLS system, or even contracting realtors to list and sell your homes. 

If market data shows your buyers like to leave agents out of the process, then it would benefit your business to have a skilled set of in-house salespeople to work with them.

New home or resale

The resale market is a builder’s biggest competition. In fact, 64% of homebuyers consider building a new home, but only 9% actually go through with it. It’s crucial for you to understand the key motivators for your target buyers to choose a resale over new construction. These might include:

  • Quicker closing date
  • No stressful decor decisions
  • Landscaping already done
  • Finished basements
  • Established neighborhoods
  • Lower cost

It’s also important to understand the motivations buyers have for building new, particularly in today’s market where cleanliness, multipurpose spaces, and comfort are key:

  • Everything new and clean
  • All products new under warranty
  • Personalization to fit needs and preferences

The motivators of buying resale are the fears of building new. Knowing why your target customers are worried to build helps you develop strategies to overcome those objections while accentuating the positive motivators of building new.

Brand awareness

Brand awareness refers to what your customers find when they search for you. Have your trial customer click on your website and social media sites and make notes of their first impression. Was the website easy to navigate? Did it clearly define who you are and what you do? Was contact information visible? Did you have a nice gallery of example homes to look through? Were your social profiles complete, professional, and on-brand? Did they find relevant and engaging content?

The second a potential buyer comes to your website or social media pages you want them to be instantly intrigued to learn more about your company. If your website is outdated, cluttered, or even a few seconds too slow to load it can turn away a lot of people. Today’s buyers want builders who are modernized and provide convenient experiences.

Read More: Housing Professional’s Guide to Making a Website Mobile-Friendly

Related: Guide to Facebook Business Page Best Practices for Housing Professionals

Drive communities/development areas

You might not think about this step, but driving through your communities is a huge part of the discovery journey. When a potential buyer deliberately visits or stumbles upon one of your communities what do they see?

Undeveloped areas, unlike established neighborhoods, don’t have amenities like schools, parks, stores, or restaurants already built, which makes it more difficult for a homebuyer to imagine what a community will look like once complete. This is why having an “informative marketing trail” is key to helping homebuyers visualize the area they may call home.

An informative marketing trail includes materials like “coming soon” signage, master plans for schools, shopping centers, and parks. As simple as it may seem, the more information you can provide at your development site, the better chances you have of attracting potential buyers. And don’t forget to cater to buyers who may be driving your communities at night after work. Make sure signs are large and lit so they can clearly see what features would be available to them. If the area doesn’t have power, solar lighting is a great option.

To ensure you have enough visual assets in your community, have your target customer drive around one and voice record what they see or don’t see; bringing up concerns or positives, and explaining their overall experience.

Model room or sales office visit

The last touchpoint of the inspiration and discovery phase is the model office or sales office visit. At this point, the homebuyer is starting to move into the decision making phase and is looking for information about your company by interacting with your staff and viewing model homes or show floors in-person.

To understand initial buyer reactions and thoughts at this step have your trial customer follow your current protocol for office or showroom visits, without alerting staff of who they are, and report back about their entire experience. 

This should include their impression of staff, the physical appearance of the space, how they were treated, what kind of information they received, among other things that might be more specific to your company. Getting a real customer in the door is a big step – you don’t want anything to off-put them or turn them away. After one bad experience over 50% of customers will never do business with a company again, and chances are even slimmer a homebuyer will return after a poor experience with your sales team regarding their biggest investment.

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