These 37 Hard-Charging Tactics Will Have You Doing Victory Laps
Perhaps you bought and built your own log home and found it so rewarding that you want to pursue this as a career. Or maybe you’re a longtime custom home builder looking for a more lucrative niche market. Or perhaps you’re tired of building cookie-cutter homes in subdivisions for poor profit margins and now you want to create homes that are more artistic and compelling.
Whatever the reason, you want in on the more than $4 billion market (see sidebar on page 23) that is the log home industry. But the first trap many would-be log home dealers fall into is that they think they need to be perfectly established before they sell their first log home.
“Many times, they spend too much time building their model home and not enough time selling,” says Jerry Rouleau of J. Rouleau & Associates (Terryville, CT), a frequent consultant to the log home industry. “In fact, they should start selling homes long before their model is up and operating.” That’s why we’ve compiled these recommendations from marketing expert Jerry Rouleau on ways you can fast track your log home building business.
1. Log Business Basics
Create your business name and then register a Web site domain name, print business cards and stationery, register the business with local authorities, secure business liability insurance and obtain a phone line (even if it’s just a cellphone to start).
2. Choose A Producer
Veteran log home builders recommend choosing your manufacturer carefully, which means the company should offer skills and services to augment and complement your own.
3. Pick Your Path
How much you earn in the log industry will depend on what course you pursue in the industry and the programs offered by your producer. Your role could be a combination of the following:
- Dealers or distributors: Sell log home packages on a commission basis, but do not typically build the homes.
- Builders or framers: Construct the shell of the home, earning $8 to $10 per sq.ft., depending on the complexity of the home’s design.
- Turnkey builders: Perform finishing work; you can expect to earn higher margins, an average of 15% of the home’s assessed value.
4. Reach For The “R” Zone
Introduce yourself to the major realtors in your area and prepare to offer them commissions.
5. Create 16-Month Business Plan
This plan should include projected sales, needed income and operating expenses, as well as all the key activities and programs you will participate in.
6. Be Honest
Consider yourself an ambassador for the log home industry.
7. Choose Partners Carefully
Many husband and wife teams find success in the log home industryâbut it doesn’t work for all couples. Can you work together effectively or will it stress an already fragile bond?
8. Arrange Financing
Now’s the time to visit area lending institutions to introduce your business and establish personal contacts. Also visit, call or e-mail national lenders that target the log home industry.
9. Join Local Home Builders’ Association
Your local association will provide you with a wealth of operating wisdom, as well as networking opportunities and some political muscle. Also consider joining the Building Systems Councils of the NAHB, which has recently launched a separate council for individual systems builders. For details, call 800-368-5242, ext. 8576.
10. Get Informed
Get thee to your local magazine rack and pick up Log Home Living Magazine, Log Home Design Ideas and Timber Frame Homes magazine. Need still more resources? Check out the Log Home Living Bookstore, available online at www.loghomeliving.com, the largest library of log- and timber-related materials in the world.
11. Get Set For Shows & Fairs
Decide which shows and home buying fairs you will exhibit at over the course of the next six to 12 months. Then, reserve a display booth to exhibit with on those dates.
12. Decide On Model Location
A model home or storefront on a well-trafficked highway can make or break your business. Secure rights to the land, either through a purchase or lease.
13. Launch Your Public Relations Campaign
Plan at least one press release per month for the next 16 months. You’ll need an angle or an event for each, as well as a talented writer to create them and a media distribution list. Your first press release should be on your company’s start-up.
14. Design, Order Your Model Home
Determine the best price-point model home in your market and then start designing your model home. Going with a stock plan (instead of a custom design) will save you money. Once you have the design in hand, secure building cost estimates for all phases of construction.
15. Install Electrical & Sign At Building Site
Once you have power, install lights to shine on a sign that says, “Coming Soon! [Company Name Log Homes!] Call [phone number] for Details!”
16. Plan Sign & Landscaping, Order Foundation
Order a permanent sign for the model home and partner with a local landscaping service in exchange for free advertising in your model home. Get excavation started for the foundation and select a foundation subcontractor.
17. Visit Competition
Yes, you could mystery shop them, but see tip number 6 (Be Honest). Besides, they may be offering a completely different log home than you and they may send you some customers who prefer your log profile or species.
18. Launch Lead Management
Purchase a computer and software for lead management, and then use it. Gather leads from your producer for your area and enter them into your management system. Start calling and verifying each lead’s contact information, as well as when and where they will be building.
19. Signage On Vehicles
Have signage created for all your vehicles.
20. Plan Buying Seminar
Plan a free log home buying seminar to be held at the local library (or similar venue) 30 to 45 days prior to the arrival of your model home log package. Do a postcard mailing announcing it to everyone in your lead management system.
21. Develop “Pre-Construction Special”
Develop and promote a pre-construction special in which any customer who orders a home before your model home package arrives gets a free upgrade. Do a press release and postcard mailer on the program.
22. Merchandising Strategy
Develop a merchandising strategy for your model home. Make sure a designer oversees placement and installation.
23. Promote Buyer Seminar
Purchase between four and seven ads in area newspapers to promote a consumer buying seminar. Send out a press release.
24. Conduct Buyer Seminar
Explain the basics of log home buying, which you’ve gleaned from tip number 10 (Get Informed). During the seminar, promote the pre-construction special, your future model home and the upcoming log raising at the site.
25. Rent Trailer Or RV For Building Site
Once the foundation is in place, rent a construction trailer or an upscale recreational vehicle and have it set up on the building site as your temporary office.
26. Develop, Promote Construction Seminar
Similar to the buying seminar, except this seminar covers construction techniques. Promote it the same way with press releases, advertisements, mailers and announcements in the local paper’s calendar of events.
27. Seek Out Radio
Seek out a local radio program to do a remote broadcast from your building site on the day of the log raising.
28. Install Sign
Install your permanent sign at your model home site. Make sure it is lit during drive time.
29. Exhibit At Show
Exhibit at a local home buyer fair. While you’re there, promote your pre-construction special and local log raising.
30. Hold Log Raising
Promote the event with press releases, advertisements, mailers and announcements in local calendar of events.
31. Before Grand Opening Of Model Home
Your model must be completely furnished, decorated and merchandised before the grand opening. Install “New Model Home” flags on the perimeter of the property. Install an FM transmitter (sometimes called a talking model home) and prepare a recorded message, so visitors during off hours can get information about you and your business.
32. Organize Cleaning Crew
Keep the model home sparkling with a cleaning crew between each event.
33. Benefit Community
Coordinate and conduct a special fund raiser for an area nonprofit organization as part of the grand opening. Alert the media to this event through press releases. Hold the event the same week as the grand opening.
34. VIP Parade
Plan a VIP open house of local dignitaries on the Friday before the Saturday grand opening and invite the press. Send VIP invites to key businesspeople, town officials, financial professionals, subcontractors, realtors, etc.
35. Grand Opening Strategy
Send an invitation to all the leads in your database, send out a news release regarding the grand opening, and develop and promote a grand opening special for all orders placed within 30 days.
36. After Grand Opening
Post photos of the log raising and grand opening on your Web site. Plan a new ad campaign for 60 days after the grand opening, and a consumer seminar 90 days after.
37. Onward & Upward
Keep doing steps 1 through 36âand don’t forget to ask for the saleâand soon you’ll be doing victory laps at your next builder/dealer meeting. To get started, contact the log home producers listed in our Callbook.