Sunday, February 23, 2014

Modular Factories Never Ask “Who is my customer?”

In all the years I’ve been associated with the modular home industry, I can’t think of any factory’s management or owners ever wanting to learn the demographics of the buyer of their homes.

Some of you have done some research by asking a couple your authorized home builders and many look at your Google Analytics to see who is visiting your website but other than that there is nobody doing any real research.

There is one company that is really zeroing in on who buys their homes…Blu Homes. If any factory has made an effort to match Maura and Bill’s marketing machine, I haven’t found it. They have millions of dollars to spend on marketing and I doubt they would ever share that information with the other children. I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of their meetings about the demographics. It would be an eye-opener for other factory owners and management.

Every factory has a group of builders that buy from them. Of that group, the 75/25 Rule is very evident. If a factory has 20 active buyers, only 5 of them do about 75% of the business. I am not counting special projects that may push the factory to build 100 modules for one buyer but rather the single family home builder.

Start with the factory salesperson. He or she knows their builder but I doubt they have sat with the builder while talking with prospective home buyer for that first meeting. They don’t hear the wants and needs of the prospect. They never learn the pain the home buyer is trying to solve. Rarely do they ever learn the ages of the buyers, whether they have children, their income or what brought them to the builder. These are important questions.

Don’t kid yourself, the log home industry and the manufactured housing industries know these numbers and use them to market directly to their target markets.

Now we move on to the factory management. Only the Sales Manager gives a rat’s butt about the home buyer and that is just to learn the name attached to a house plan. Their concern is whether the deposit has been paid and when it can go to the production line. If a special project of 140 modules is headed to the line before the single family home, they try to find a way to placate the builder and let him be the one to give the bad news to the buyer that their home will be another 6 weeks.

Builder loyalty goes out the window when a project is on the line. One factory owner last year sent out a letter to every single one of his builders apologizing for making this big ass mistake. That owner did one of the classiest things anyone could do for their builders and they have since become even more loyal customers. My hat’s off to him.

None of this however addresses the need for the factory to learn who is actually buying their homes. Factories take a shotgun approach to getting their name out there by using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Email. All these things are good but they don’t tell anyone at the factory who is buying their homes.

Factories need to ask the builders. They need to find out why the buyer chose that particular builder to talk with. Did the buyer hear about the builder from the factories marketing efforts, a local home show, the builder’s website or maybe it was a referral.

I had one factory owner tell me that he has a couple thousand “Likes” on the factory’s Facebook page. I asked how many of them turned into home buyers that bought a home from his factory. All I got was the deer in headlights stare. He had absolutely no idea because he never thought to find out. DUH!

New home buyers don’t stand out like giraffes. They tend to blend into the crowd like a single penguin among thousands. What builders and factory owners need to do is find the penguin that is ready to move away from the others and build his own nest. You can’t do that without information.

I know that Blu Homes won’t share their marketing strategy with anyone else and I can’t blame them but the industry has to begin finding out why people have bought modular homes like Blu has and that will begin giving us the beginning of a plan to attract the penguins to our industry.

If there was one thing that a group like the Modular Home Builder Association could do to help builders attract new buyers, it would be to identify those who has bought our homes in the past and develop a marketing plan to attract new home buyers.


Anonymous said...


A while back you asked why our industry can only capture 3% of the new home market. This article describes exactly why we can't capture more than 3%. It is painfully obvious.

Anonymous said...


Although the factories may play a role in seeking these demographics I am willing to bet the builders don't know or collect that data. Actually I will bet there are no builders that seek to influence factory designs based on this type of data -
Masters on main; Split designs; Aging in Place; Home size; Room Flow

Maybe the manufacturers could chime in

Builder Bob said...

Builders may not be writing down the details of how and why their clients buy from them but they know the answers. You can't work with someone on the most important thing they will ever build and not learn just about everything there is to know about them.
Coach is saying that nobody from the factory ever asks them.

Anonymous said...

Gary, what is up with you giving a high five to Blu Homes? Are they paying you off?

Anonymous said...

Builder Bob:
"don't ask; don't tell" is gone. I acknowledge that producers may not ask but are builders telling and influencing designs at the manufacturer. Blu developed a plan and marketed to that demographic - Clayton choose another demographic and got endorsed by "Si". Successful builders focus on a market segment and serve it well. Unfortunately most builders fire shotguns looking for market share instead of rifles at a target demographic.

Anonymous said...


You're missing something big when you compare Blu's marketing / sales effort to the "old" modular way of doing business. Blu sells direct to the customer. They don't have "dealers". They offer complete homes from the factory. They understand the customer because they work with the customer. I think if our industry is going to break 3% then this is the new model. Look to Europe where modular or offsite built housing accounts for a large percentage of all construction. All of the companies act as homebuilders. They work direct with the customer. No third party sitting in the middle.