It’s all about relationships.
When it comes to builders there’s not much separates one from the another. Distinguishing yourself from the masses is the challenge Sam Hudson, the Marketing Director of Morrison Homes faces on a daily basis.
“There are a lot of great builders in this city that build a quality product. To say that we’re the only builder that builds a quality home through a quality experience would be untrue.”
To tackle this challenge head on Hudson looked to the past for inspiration. It turns out what separates Morrison from their competition is one of the principles they were founded on.
“I think the philosophy of always attending to the needs of the customers has been one of our colours of the brand.” explains Hudson. “And, one of the competitive advantages that we have.”
Humble Beginnings Focusing On One Principle
In 1961 Frank Morrison, a carpenter and a cabinet maker, witnessed the economic challenges first hand as some of the trades weren’t being paid. It was from that experience that pushed him to take a risk and Morrison Homes was born.
Since then, Al Morrison took over in the ’80s, and the company has seen consistent growth and success throughout. Morrison Homes is a large volume home builder that builds roughly 300 homes per year. Operating in Edmonton and Calgary their expertise runs from building multi-family homes to multi-million dollar estate homes on waterfront property.
“He (Frank Morrison) started on a very simple philosophy of putting customers first.”
It was out of this customer centric approach Morrison has built their reputation. Meeting the customer’s needs above everything else is where you’ll find the true value of the company.
The result of taking on a customer first philosophy drives their business through word-of-mouth marketing. Morrison puts an emphasis on providing a great experience for the customers who in turn really notice the effort.
This customer first focus has led to Morrison Homes receiving the Houzz Customer Satisfaction Award along with12 Builder of the Year at the SAM Awards (10 of them being consecutive), the J.D. Power and Associates Builder of Excellence and numerous customer choice awards.
“To us, what is more satisfying is winning the Customer Satisfaction Awards.”
Focusing in on customer satisfaction is done by getting customer insight through the use of customer satisfaction surveys. Surveying throughout the building process has really helped them better serve and meet their customer’s needs.
“In Edmonton, we won Best Customer Experience two years in a row, and also our multi-family team won Best Customer Experience. To us, it’s just a proof point on that brand philosophy of putting the customers first.”
Through Deloitte, Morrison Homes were also named Best Managed Companies eight years in a row. This success and all the awards can only be accomplished by the people that work within the business.
“The culture is very team-oriented. We’re a family-based business, and so we strive for excellence, but we also don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think that’s really been a characteristic that Al Morrison has instilled within the organization.
“It keeps us humble but also really drives and motivates us to improve and to be better.”
Hudson understands it all goes back to the importance they place on relationships. While working with the various trade partners, suppliers, developers and customers cultivating positive relationships is one of Morrison’s core values.
“Building relationships is at the heart of our business.”
Success, however, in any business can only be achieved by how healthy your company culture is. Morrison strives to have a strong bond with all of their staff and internal teams. This directly helps them deliver a quality product and experience.
Like anything else in life nothing happens overnight. Lessons always present themselves and those companies that separate from their competition are the ones who learn from those lessons. Hudson is no exception as he has picked up a few things along the way to help Morrison build their brand.
Separating From The Competition
“When I first started, what I realized first about Morrison was there was such a compelling story and the challenge was to tell that story in the marketplace in a way that was meaningful and believable.”
Differentiating yourself in an industry where every company is saying the same thing is the marketing problem that Hudson faces. Hudson knows the message can’t stray from the main point of ‘building quality homes” but it still had to be distinctive enough to stand out.
“That message needed to be communicated in a more compelling and truthful, believable way. That meant looking at the brand.”
After conducting some research with their current customers, prospective customers as well as their internal staff, they were able to come up with not only a brand promise but the best way to position it.
The extended research paid off as the results led to Morrison laying a foundation for their brand that is based around the customer. Understanding what the customer expects and is saying about the company, combined with staff member thoughts gave way to a better message.
Morrison’s brand communication became more specific rather than the same generic message that is prevalent in their competitor’s messaging.
The true team environment shines through the marketing department as they all want to help build a better brand and make sure they’re all on the same page to do that. At the beginning of every week they make a point to talk about the marketing goals and how to best achieve them.
As well as, meeting semi-annually for a “marketing summit meeting” where they’ll discuss and brainstorm ideas that will help move Morrison Homes forward.
Thriving Throughout The Roller-Coaster Ride
In his six years of being with Morrison Homes, Hudson has saw the company experience the highs and lows of the market including the financial meltdown, the housing crisis that specifically affected Calgary and a recent energy crisis.
“I think our ability to weather those storms has been a great achievement for the company. We’ve remained profitable in all of those years, the ups and the downs.”
The company’s reputation along with forward thinking throughout has really been important through those tough times. An example of this is when their marketing team invested in online strategies that resulted in an increase of Morrison’s lead generation by 300%.
“It goes back to the relationships, because having those strong relationships with all of our developer partners and ensuring that we have the land positions to help us through those bad times has been a real saving grace for us.”
In the days where everyone is looking for the next trend or trick to grow their business Morrison relies on the factors that have gotten them this far. They understand that providing positive experiences for their customers and building long lasting relationships is the most powerful branding strategy.
Instead of focusing their efforts on the same marketing tactics as their competitors they rely on cultivating emotional bonds with their customer. This will inherently create a deeper attachment to the Morrison brand and develop lifelong fans of the company.
When looking towards the future Hudson has a bright outlook but understands it’s still an industry with challenges. At any moment an interior or exterior event can happen that will impact the company.
It’s important to be prepared to pivot and always remember where your success comes from. He knows things will always change like building practices, the home building experience and the buyer expectations.
“As long as we stay true to our values, I think we’ll be able to capitalize on all of those opportunities.”