Top Builder Hits ‘Home’ Run with MarketingPilot Overseeing $5 Million in Marketing Initiatives

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At any given time, the 15 people in the marketing department at Florida-based Transeastern Homes are juggling over 100 different promotional efforts to help the company drive nearly $500 million in annual sales at multiple residential developments across the state. In 2003 the team brought MarketingPilot software on board to centrally store, track and cross-reference all campaign data and creative assets for easy administration and analysis. Within months, the system had also begun to help Transeastern save money, negotiate better deals with vendors, and fine-tune strategy to maximize results.

Transeastern has been building homes in Florida since 1986, but a growth spurt in 2002 triggered a seven-fold jump in the number of residential communities in the company’s portfolio and a corresponding expansion of the marketing team from two people to 15. The marketing budget ballooned almost overnight to $5 million, and the team had hundreds of initiatives ranging from ads and websites to broker open houses, golf tournaments and Fourth of July fireworks festivals to execute every year. “When we were smaller, we could keep track of everything using paper files, Microsoft Outlook calendars and Excel spreadsheets, but even then some important items never made it into the folders, and doing things like comparing vendor costs took a lot of time,” said Joel Lazar, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “With our growth, it was clear we needed a better system.”

Lazar went hunting for an affordable, easy-to-use, Windows-based project management tool with marketing-specific fields and functions that could be deployed out of the box without customization. After evaluating several solutions, he selected MarketingPilot and had the Interbase Professional Edition installed on key workstations for roughly $2,500 per user, including media buying capabilities. Now Transeastern can store marketing plans, job data, timelines, tasks, contacts, media buys, logos, ads, expenses, results, 800 numbers and URLs used in each campaign and much more in a single integrated database with a clearly labeled tab-style interface for easy filing, retrieval and drill-down. There is no need to log expenses in a separate application, sort through multiple spreadsheets to find needed information, or email graphic files back and forth. Everything is just a few clicks away.

For Transeastern, marketing efforts for each new residential development begin even before the first spade of dirt is turned, and MarketingPilot gets into the act almost immediately. As soon as Lazar and event/advertising coordinator Susan Leszczynski have assembled a marketing plan based on the budget and opening date provided by the firm’s executive team, Leszczynski inputs each activity into the system under the appropriate category such as “Job” or “Media,” breaks it down into a series of tasks, and assigns those tasks to specific individuals. Every print or online ad, TV or radio spot, brochure, direct mail piece, email blast, sign, billboard, website, special event or other project in the pipeline is tracked in MarketingPilot from conception to completion. Each user can see his or her tasks at a glance, and managers can check task status by user or project at any time.

As expenses come in, they are entered into MarketingPilot and linked directly to jobs, vendors, media buys and so on. With a few clicks, managers can not only determine actual spending on a given job or campaign, but also compare charges for anything from a 3x5 postcard or billboard to a 3D animation or TV advertorial from different vendors in different markets. Total ad purchases, total spending with a particular media outlet or vendor, all expenses associated with promoting a particular community, and more can be calculated with equal ease. “In the past, it might have taken an hour to do this kind of analysis, and that’s assuming we had the necessary information. Often we did not,” Lazar noted. “MarketingPilot makes it easy to capture the data and gives us the answers we’re looking for in seconds.”

Six-Month ROI

With the meticulous expense tracking provided by the MarketingPilot system, Transeastern has been able to achieve significant savings on purchases ranging from printing to billboards by using previous costs as guidance in vendor selection and negotiation. Lazar estimates the system has also saved at least two full-time employees by enabling his current staff to work more efficiently, and it is helping the team refine marketing strategy by showing what worked — and what didn’t — in each campaign. “With MarketingPilot, I can instantly see whether our home sales in a given community were what we expected, how I spent my budget, and whether spending more or less might have changed the outcome,” Lazar said. “It helps me think strategically to maximize our performance.”

In fact, Lazar says, MarketingPilot paid for itself in six months in direct cost savings alone. For any marketer, that kind of savings really hits home.

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Chris Rodgers