Potton’s Self Build Academy® gives away hard-earned knowledge and expertise to self-build enthusiasts – for free. Marketing manager Fae Perkins explains how an innovative, free-thinking approach can benefit your business, and its customers
For most of us, protecting our possessions comes naturally. If a stranger in the street asked to borrow your iPad or drive your car, you’d politely – or maybe not politely – tell them no. But there’s a growing trend for businesses to dish out valuable knowledge and expertise for nothing.
It’s an innovative way of marketing yourself – and one that self-build experts Potton are particularly passionate about.
It’s Potton’s business to design bespoke homes for self builders. It’s a challenging arena to be in, with the UK lagging behind the rest of Europe in its number of self builders. It’s in Potton’s interest to sell the self-build process to more and more people and dispel the myths that shows like Grand Designs often purvey – that it’s an option only for the elite, or an emotional rollercoaster that you have to be brave to ride.
Information and Inspiration
Potton had this objective in mind when they set up their Self Build Academy®. It was created to offer education, information and inspiration to aspiring self builders across the UK. It brought together a unique range of workshops, events and seminars, each providing potential self builders with the knowledge and confidence to pursue their dream. And they decided to run a large number of them for free.
On the surface, it might sound like bad business to give away your time and knowledge for no fee. But according to Potton’s marketing manager Fae Perkins, it’s a reliable way of building long-lasting relationships with a committed community of self-build enthusiasts.
“The objectives of the academy are to increase enquiry levels, position Potton as a one-stop shop for self builders, deliver consistent and valuable content, and offer support through education at each stage of a customer’s project,” said Fae.
“The way we see it is that by offering complimentary information and education we are building trust with our potential customer base. It would be pretty unlikely that many people would work with us through the academy, then decide to self build with another company they know little about. If they did, we’d have done a poor job through our courses, in reality!
“It goes back to the old ‘know, like and trust’ theory. We aim to impart our knowledge in the hope of encouraging people to pursue self build and ensuring they do it right with Potton.”
The Self Build Academy® contains four core workshops and seminars, each targeted at different stages of the build process. Together, they guide self builders all the way through the process of building their dream home and help them develop the skills needed to successfully complete their project.
On top of that, Potton hosts networking events and pop-up shows to allow people to meet like-minded self builders and visit live sites across the UK. More than 1,000 people came through the academy last year and Fae thinks numbers in 2015 will far exceed this.
Finding Land and Moving Forward
“What the academy does well is aid customers in moving from one milestone to the next,” she says. “For those who would love to self build but have not found a plot, we educate them in how to do it successfully, allowing them to find land and move forward.
“For those who have placed their frame order, but are perhaps apprehensive about moving forward, we offer a seminar on preparing for frame delivery, where they also meet their dedicated Potton contracts manager, who can answer any questions and give them the confidence to progress. The academy acts as a general comforting catalyst for those going through the self-build process.”
As we touched on before, it also gives Potton the opportunity to present an honest image of self building, which rarely squares up with the image of high drama and emotion that, let’s be honest, we love to see on TV, but really don’t want to experience ourselves.
Sexed-Up Disaster Stories
“TV shows love to ‘sex-up’ self build by portraying disaster stories, diminished budgets or nightmare project management,” says Fae. “It creates viewer excitement, so they’re less likely to show a flawless build. In reality, yes, things do go wrong, but nothing that can’t be fixed. We have lots of top tips on the Self Build Academy® website – one explains the importance of planning and making decisions at the early stage, to avoid costly amendments on site.”
Potton’s free spirit has brought lots of benefits to the business, including building greater trust in the brand and creating new business leads.
“People generally trust brands that are transparent and give value for money, and we achieve both through the academy,” says Fae. “We want to portray to our future customers that we are experts in our field, so we have no problem standing in front of a room full of people and covering topics such as energy efficiency, scaffolding requirements or why you should opt for timber frame as a structure.”
Bring Your Dream to Life
“We’re also fortunate to have four, soon to be five, fully furnished show homes at our Self Build Show Centre in St Neots. This is a real asset to our brand and allows people to visit the properties and imagine what it would be like to live in one. I think when you’re investing such a large amount of money, the biggest purchase of your life, it’s definitely important to see, feel and experience the end product.
“The academy also does a good job at bringing new people to Potton’s door. Prospects feel comfortable in the academy space as it’s not a sales one. It’s hard for us to accurately measure the results, but we know it’s working hard for the business.”
Innovative Marketing Solution
Overall, Fae feels offering free training is a sound marketing solution in today’s multi-media marketplace.
“We welcome all self builders to the academy, not just those building with Potton, so it may put our brand in front of someone who hadn’t heard of us,” she says. “If they then decide to build with us, or come to us for their next build then the academy has done its job.
“The academy has definitely forced us into creating much more worthy content. We still have a way to go, but have populated the academy website with blogs, top tips and resources. I think it has also played a part in strengthening our place in the self-build market, enhancing our position as market leaders and experts. We are fortunate to have a staff team with a vast amount of experience and knowledge, and we are capitalising on this and sharing it.”
“People generally trust brands that are transparent and give value for money, and we achieve both through the academy.”
If you’d like further information on the courses and events offered through the Self Build Academy, visit www.selfbuildacademy.co.uk