A Suite Retreat

There are advantages to working with all forms of housing – I get to see the best of all worlds. There are things that site-built homes do well, there is the efficiency of factory built and modular gives you the best of all types of construction. With all of the changes going on in our industry I’m always looking for a company to refer people to, and today I had the chance to find out what Champion Homes of Texas is up to.

The first thing that impressed me is that when you call their office a real person picks up the phone. I hate the “for xyx dial 123” answering systems -by the time I get through to someone I forgot why I called! They seem very in tune to customer service and these little touches can make all the difference.I went out to their Burleson Texas plant to see what was new, and I can’t give away all of the details but there are very exciting times ahead for Champion. They have great people in place that are going to take the company to the head of the class. Their customers love them, they understand and listen to their buyers and they have done some very innovative concepts, including the “Suite Retreat“. Everyone talks about doing a luxurious spa bath, but Champion is delivering it. With a fireplace, glass surround shower, and plantation shutters being included, this is a room that has the “wow” feature that customers are looking for. I got to merchandise a few homes with this retreat for Young’s Factory Built Homes and they are even more beautiful in person.

If you are looking for a new approach to modular housing, check out what Champion has to offer – you won’t be disappointed – tell them the Lifestylist sent you!

Building a Community

As an industry we have done a remarkable job of designing a product that consumers need, but what I am seeing is most consumers don’t know we offer that product. The stereotypes of “trailers”, “mobile homes” and “sales lots” drive away many people who could really benefit from what we do. This includes everything from the most affordable housing to amazing estates we all would love to live in. There has always been a lot of talk about doing an image campaign (and the cost) but maybe this is an idea who’s time has come by taking a different approach.

I’ve never been very good at doing what everyone else does – that’s why I became a Lifestylist instead of a traditional designer or merchandiser. Consumers want more than just a decorated house – they want a home that reflects their lifestyle. This takes a little more time and research but it shouldn’t cost anymore – it might even cost less. I also really believe in spreading the word about the great things my clients are doing as well as talking about trends and ideas that can help everyone. I don’t charge my clients for this –  I consider it a service and part of my cost of doing business. I also go to trade shows, events and do work in the site built industry so I can bring back more than “what we’ve always done” as an industry.

This week I got invited to a meeting of the Social Media Club of Dallas. In a few hours I met some amazing new people who I was able to share the message of factory built housing to and they shared with me the importance of social media. Social media by definition is the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications. These include Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, FourSquare and blogs. For $20 (which included dinner) I learned what to expect from these groups and how to make them work for myself and my clients. They shared case studies that had mind boggling results.

What really made an impression is how easy and cost effective it could be if the members of our community came together and started using social media to promote our industry. There would be minimal or no cost and think about what could happen if every person who benefits from being in our industry got on Facebook or Twitter and started telling the world what a great product we provide. Is this the ultimate answer to change our image? With technology changing as quickly as it does it might be the solution we have been looking for. At least we would be doing something and getting our community connected.

Tony Kovach has done an amazing job in a short period of time sharing the message and bringing the community together with his Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management site. It is always full of great information and he is always updating what is there and keeping the message current. And I think his idea of having a Virtual Louisville Show is right on trend. I attended most of our traditional shows for the past 8 years and the last two have been painful as far as attendance and sales. We designed some beautiful homes but it was like having a party and no one came. What a great opportunity for the factory built industry with a virtual show to take back our place in the market as an innovative, cost effective and green way to build. I know I’ll be attending this virtual show and will also be tweeting and blogging about it.

Let’s get this party started and get connected. You can find me at:

Twitter: @homeideafactory
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/LifestylistDesign/104907317529?ref=search&sid=1370651794.2078388608..1 (or search LifestylistDesign)
Blog: www.aboutmodularhousing.com

See you at the show!

Falling In Love

Using color is one of the least expensive, most terrifying but also most rewarding ways to change a room. When I’m designing a new model home most builders will encourage me to use memorable colors, but when they first paint the room and see it without any accessories or furniture I often get a call wondering if they have the right information.

These rooms are a perfect example. You can imagine the call the builder got from the superintendent the first time they saw these! This is a model for Canoa Homes in Tucson, and they trusted me enough to wait and see what happened. This is also a great example of designing for your buyer, not yourself – we were targeting families with school age children. A Lifestylist targets in on what the buyer is really looking for, even when they may not realize it themselves.Once we had a few families go through the home we found that almost every female from 2 – 50 wanted that room with those paint colors. It was something the buyer might not have been brave enough to try on their own, but when they saw it completed they loved it.

This is also a great example of Partnership Merchandising. The Home Idea Factory had a great relationship with Home Interiors and Gifts – a direct sell company that we had done styling and product development with. Many of the accessories and “wallies” – the decals on the bath wall – we theirs and we identified them as such so buyers could reproduce what they saw in the room at a price they could afford. The bedding was from Bombay and the furniture from Ashley so all could be bought at local stores or from a Home Interiors and Gifts consultant.

Let your child have a say in what they want their room to look like. It might not be a color you would chose or a style you would like but by letting them be a part of the decorating decision they’ll take ownership of their decisions and be even more proud fo what they accomplished.

Night Lights

What a crazy week in Dallas! This town is all about the NBA All Star Game which is this weekend, but mother nature decided to steal the show and dusted us with over a ft. of snow!

The is the largest amount we ever had so we decided to take advantage of it and declared a snow day. The Lifestylists were all out playing in it trying to outdo each other with snowball fights and snow sculptures and when it got dark out I realized I had the opportunity of a lifetime to get some really unique shots of the Home Idea Factory. Fortunately I share the factory with the very talented Lisa Stewart of L.a.S. Photography and we headed out to see what we could find. After she used her magic and skills I love what we ended up with, and to me these really capture the personality of what The Home Idea Factory is all about – Your Life. Your Style. Your Way.

Customers for Life

One of the benefits of living in Dallas is being able to see some great entrepreneurs at work and experience what has made them successful first hand. Being able to ride horses side by side with Norman Brinker and to be able to learn from him was a gift I’ll never forget. After attending the IBS show I started thinking about what clients are looking for in their customer experience.

Someone who understands what customers want is Carl Sewell of the Sewell Auto Dealers. Even though he isn’t in the housing business his sound philosophy applies to any business model. To learn more about what has made him so successful, pick up a copy of his book, “Customers for Life”. Even if you aren’t looking for a car, you need to experience one of their dealerships if you get a chance. Every location is spotless – from the grass by the curb to repair bays – there’s not a candy wrapper or empty water bottle in sight. There are no cases of “it’s not my job” – everyone pitches in. Sewell not only takes great care of his customers to earn their loyalty, he is that way to his team members as well, and it shows. These are people who love their jobs and share their enthusiasm with everyone around them.

It’s also about being a resource and helping, not selling the client. No one wants to feel like they are being forced into making a decision or buying something, but if you are the person who can give them the resources to make their own educated decisions you will definitely earn a Customer For Life.

The Home Idea Factory and Lifestylist Design are true believers in this philosophy – we have one client that we have been working with for almost 20 years! We believe in only working with a few clients so we can give them our undivided attention and become a vital part of their team. We also don’t believe on settling for “doing things the way they have always been done.” As a Lifestylist understanding the buyer’s lifestyle is an important part of what we do, and when you walk our model homes or see our decors and designs you can see the difference. We are one of the few design companies that works with site builders as well as modular, prefab and manufactured housing builders giving us a unique insight into the housing industry.

Are you ready to make a change to increase sales and profits? We would like to partner with one more builder or manufacturer that we can share our successes with. If you think your company might be a good fit, please contact us at: answers@lifestylist.com We’ll even bring you your own copy of Customers For Life to help you learn more about this great concept.

Memorable Model Homes

Noted designer and retailer Alexander Julian made the following observation:
“We have to be creative about getting people into our homes and stores now. In deciding if what you offer turns them on, consumers look you over for an average of 15 seconds. In that time, you need to rock ‘em and sock‘em and give them something that moves them. And you can’t do that with anything but product that is visually stimulating and exciting.”

With the contraction of the economy, everyone is on a budget and there is a lot more thought and time spent on how they are going to spend every hard earned dollar. Consumers visiting an average of 30 model homes before they even begin to think about making a decision. What makes your models memorable and brings them back to your sales center/ community? One of the favorite models Lifestylist Design worked on was the Purple Cow model and campaign with Patriot Homes. Tying into Seth Godin’s Purple Cow book by building and merchandising something remarkable, we created a home and marketing campaign people still talk about, as well as winning a marketing award at the Nationals.

Making a model memorable doesn’t have to be extreme or expensive – it just needs to be well thought out. Highlighting a local non-profit can bring interest into your home. Doing a room that displays materials from the local Boy Scout troop, a gymnastics team or the aquatic center that is part of the planned community you are building in can give the buyer a memory point to make them remember your model above the rest.

Housing Trends Story in Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management

This year has started off as a busy editorial one -we had our Design Trends article published, then our answers to the Design Trends 2010 survey, and now we will have a new article published as of Wednesday on merchandising your model homes! There’s lots of information that can help the smallest to the largest builder, retailer, and developer – be sure to check it out. Lifestylist Suzanne Felber loves sharing all of the things she see when she travels across the country so be sure to check in often and see what’s new.