This July, National Log Homes Open House month might look a little different. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, log-home companies have had to re-approach their open house process with new health and safety protocols in mind, and broaden their education and outreach through online tours, social media seminars and more.
Although most had a number of virtual assets already in place, including online tours and marketing materials, companies are using them to engage with customers in new ways. Many of these companies are seeing traffic increase on their sites by as much as 600%. These assets also afford customers greater flexibility to explore their options.
“The tours allow the sales staff to take someone on a tour instantly and not have to make appointments to get into different homes,” shared Mark Elliott, vice president of Coventry Log Homes. “Because it is available 24/7, our customers are spending time really looking at the details inside the home as they can stay as long as they want.”
“While no media will ever replace a face-to-face meeting, these tools yielded educational opportunities and ways to engage our clients during the isolation,” added Bobbi Landis, marketing manager for Timberhaven Log and Timber Homes. “As a result, we were able to keep them informed and their projects on track.”
Open houses have not been the only customer outreach practice impacted; log and timber home show events — a frequent customer traffic source in the fall and spring seasons — were canceled as well. By taking many education programs online, companies could engage and educate customers on the log-home buying process through multiple platforms — and reach an even broader audience in the process.
“We usually have anywhere between 80-140 people attend the live event. For the online series, we had over 350 sign up,” noted Josh Beasley, president at Honest Abe Log Homes, Inc., regarding the online series the company launched in April. “Those would be individual contacts, so it would be like having 850+ people at a live event. That was very encouraging.”
The company opted not to do a live virtual event to allow users to watch the videos when they were available, while others are exploring streaming options to allow real-time questions from prospective customers. Golden Eagle Log Homes, for example, launched its first virtual log and timber home show through YouTube on June 24.
“The Virtual Log and Timber Home Show was an effort to bring the environment of a home show into the viewer’s living room virtually,” stated Golden Eagle Log Homes’ Shon Flaherty. “This way they get to have real-time interaction with several members of our staff and get instant responses to their questions.”
Companies have been impressed with the feedback they’ve received from such events as well. Satterwhite Log Homes, which soft launched a virtual seminar to test out the option, noted that customer retention was particularly strong for the two-day event, with most attendees staying the entire time.
Virtual events and assets will continue to play a vital role in log-home company operations — both externally and internally, as sales reps connect with customers and other team members, and virtual tours and seminars become even more commonplace.
“I believe online resources like this will continue to grow in popularity, particularly because most folks are now more comfortable with the tools' accessibility, flexibility and functionality,” Landis observed.
Expect to see more online events as companies explore what platforms and formats work best for engaging their audiences.