The Art & Science of marketing Manufactured Homes. Retailers, sales people community operators and managers share experiences.
Carl Davidson


Post by Carl Davidson » Thu May 20, 2004 7:20 pm


By: Carl Davidson

I have the good fortune to work in several industries and I have noticed that some things are missing in ours. These things are tools you need to make the money you deserve. In my opinion, all of us, the manufacturers, the associations and the dealers are to blame. I realize this is controversial and I would be interested in your comments. Email me at [email protected] or call me at 800-941-0068. Let's take a look at some of the areas that in my opinion are mysteriously missing and what you can do about it.

What Some Manufacturers Are Missing
This is a strange industry. Most manufacturers consider the dealer the end user. This is not as true in most other fields where everyone acknowledges that the customer is the end user. For example, if you buy an IBM computer and it breaks, you call IBM for support, not the place where you bought it. Oddly, many homke manufacturers consider their warranty arrangements to be with the dealer, not the end user. They set the policy with the dealer, they expect the dealer to absorb a lot of travel etc. This is far different from many industries. This puts a lot of financial pressure on good, ethical dealers and sets the industry up for the reputation we get when some dealers fail to live up to their responsibilities. I am surprised that dealers expect so little from the manufactures they represent.

This is one of very few industries where the manufacturers do not provide financing. Look at the slump we just came through. It was mostly caused by finance companies cutting down on their acceptance. In other industries, the manufacturers own the finance companies and use this to smooth out the bumps for their dealers. For example, after 911, most experts predicted big drops in auto sales, so every car company ordered their finance companies to finance cars at 0% interest. This has resulted in boom years and big profits for the dealers. The manufacturers made up their financial losses by raising car prices, but the point is that the sales continued and dealers survived and potential catastrophe. In our industry, most manufacturers see financing as your problem! They may make deals with outside finance companies for you but that's about it. Just imagine where the auto industry would be if they did the same.

In other industries, the manufacturers dictate the level of customer satisfaction. Again, in autos, customers are surveyed at regular intervals to see if they are satisfied with the product, with the dealer and with the service. Dealers must achieve certain levels of customer satisfaction to earn money and to stay dealers. We are missing the boat in this area. I bought a manufactured home a few years ago and was never contacted by the manufacturer or dealer ever again.

In automobiles, the manufacturers insist on certain levels of training for all personnel. I trained Volvo dealers for several years. Every member of every dealers' staff had to attend and pass training every year to be certified. Dealers who had all their staff certified got big rebates from the manufacturer and this more than paid for the training. Our industry sees this as your problem and that is why our industry has a far lower level of staff training.

Finally, in other industries, the manufacturers lead the way in financial areas too. They make sure you will make a profit. For example, GM has a specific chart of accounts and accounting systems that all dealers must use. This standardization allows dealers to form groups to learn from each other. It also allows the manufacturer to detect dealer problems before they arise and help solve them before they create a black eye for the industry. Why is all this missing from our industry?

What The Associations Are Missing
It isn't all the manufacturers. The dealer associations in our industry do a great job in a fairly narrow field but are missing some areas the dealers need help with. The associations need the financial support of the manufacturers and we must realize that those who pay the piper call the tune. In our industries the association serve the manufacturers as much or more than they do the dealers.

I believe that the associations do a great job with lobbying and laws but many dealers feel there are areas where help is needed. For example, you would think that the associations would be leading the charge to get the manufacturers to take responsibility in some of the areas above. They might also use your group purchasing power to help you in areas you need.

One reason many dealers have trouble recruiting good quality sales and service candidates is that they don't offer group health and insurance benefits. I believe an association should help make these benefits affordable and available to dealers through group buying power. This is just one area.

Since almost all dealers do not have enough great sales staff, you might think the associations would offer deals on recruiting and training sales teams. Not just a web page with job postings but a serious recruiting program. Perhaps they could offer deals on financing or merchant accounts or office supplies or many other things. I agree that lobbying Washington is useful but there are many areas where the associations are lax and the dealers really need help.

What The Dealers Are Missing
Why has this happened in our industry and not in others? Ignorance and low expectations. Let me explain.

Raise your expectations. You are not alone. Your business should be a partnership of yourself, your manufacturer and your association. Make a list of all your problems and see who might help you solve those challenges. Then expect them to help you.

Next, subscribe to the trade journals of sister industries to learn what is going on. You might subscribe to (and read) Automotive News or journals for the real estate industry or the log home industry or many others. See what manufacturers and associations do in those industries and how it relates to you.

Read!!! I am often shocked at how little many dealers read. How can you stay on top if you have no new knowledge or inspiration? For example, today I went to and keyed in 4 topics I feel you should be constantly reading if you really want to get ahead. The results of 2 minutes of searching gave me 24,456 books on manufactured homes, 23,962 on financing homes, 70,949 on selling homes and 2507 on finding prospects for homes. I am not saying they are all great books and would make your fortune but if you have read none of them, you have to ask yourself how you expect to stay on top of a rapidly changing industry in a rapidly changing world.

You might also contact associations in other industries and see what they offer members. I think you will be surprised.

If you consider that there is something missing, some of our recent woes may be caused not by financial conditions but by accepting too little from the manufacturers, from the associations and from ourselves.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Share your thoughts in the open form below.

Carl Davidson is the president of Sales & Management Solutions. More than 7,000 companies in 7 countries use his video sales & management training cassettes. He also performs live as a speaker/entertainer and seminar leader. For more information, call 800-941-0068 or visit .



Post by rmurray » Sat May 22, 2004 4:50 am

You have hit the nail on the head in a number of areas...

One of the biggest is the manufacturers perception of the customer...It has always amased me...Ask any manufacturer who his/her customers are...Joe Smith Manufactured Homes...ABC Manufactured Homes..on and on...Never Mike FamilyProvider..Mary Homeowner...There is no focus on customer satisfaction..except making sure the dealer is happy..You are a little wrong when you say there is no CSI studies...there is..manufacturers are always asking the dealer about his level of satifaction..

I know you want to compare to other industries...but they are totally different..candidly many years ago our industry was similar to would sell a home..they would finance for a few years..they would trade up in a few years..It was very concievable to sell 1 person many homes over time...never as often as autos..but was possible...Now..with 30 year sell them now..and never again..Few dealers and manufacturers can look ahead the 5 to 10 years for a potential resale..Most new auto buyers families will buy autos every 2 years..An auto customer at an early age can be scores of sales over a lifetime..This is why auto manufacturers spend so much marketing to young buyers..My 20 something college educated kids get all kinds of incentive to buy from all the major manufacturers..Not to mention the advertising..You will not see me in an auto ad..

I am in full agreement with your observations of the associations...Dealer services are lacking..Some state associations seem to be happy offering a high cost convention once a get dealers together...lately few dealers are attending...cost benefit is not there..

The bright spot is that some of the corporate retail sales organizations are starting to fill the bill...Training is required and useful..(maybe it is more important for us old salts than for new folks)...For many years our industry has begged to be part of the housing business...We are now..we are advisors...home consultants..We now must mature to fill the bill..

I know you do not like to talk about ethics...but it is part of the problem..How many dealers started land/home when traditional home only lenders decided to verify mortgage finance is drying up now....Seems everyone thinks modular homes will be the saviour of our industry..Will they be the next financial disaster??

The good news is..the weakest dealers are all gone...more yet to come..the weakest manufacturers are gone..there has been some consolidation which will strengthen the industry...In some corners of the industry..there is some consideration for customer satisfaction...

Keep up the good work..



Post by dave » Sat May 22, 2004 2:41 pm

The biggest problems this industry faces in my opinion are image and perception.The sales center that I work at sales high end homes and the way we have our lot arranged promotes these homes and attracts high end customers.

Still everyday I have to bite my tongue as I hear " we just want to look at your trailers", "are your trailers open", "were interested in a mobilehome", and so on!

I sell homes period! I am proud to sell them.They are a great very affordable option to site-built housing.I don't sell nor do my customers live in shantys,huts,shacks,shelters,or trailers.

Why do so many people still see our product as trailers aside from the early days of our business when we actually did sell travel trailers?

Because our industry allows their dealers to market their product like trailers!We've got to stop kidding ourselves.Yes many of these dealers and manufacturers are gone but the damage that they have done still lingers on.In fact in some ways its worse because recently repo lots have sprung up everywhere like mushrooms and most of these lots do nothing to promote a professional image of our industry.Thankfully the repo glut is coming to an end.

We all know what I'm talking about.Rows of shabby looking sales lots with half set-up homes,weathered osb or blackboard falling off the ends,torn bottom board hanging down from the bottom, wobbly steps without rails, set too short for safe entry, salesman hanging off the railing of the office porch perched as if ready to pounce on their next victim.

Where are the manufacturers that think enough of their product to demand that it be promoted in a way that enhances instead of destroys its image.



Post by dave » Sat May 22, 2004 3:13 pm

As Mr. Davidson so properly suggests, it is time for dialog.It is time for us as an industry to realize we are our own worst enemy.Search around the internet.Everywhere you look that negative image comes out to remind you of the tremendous job ahead of us.People need our homes.People desire our homes.And we do everything we can to scare them off.

We sell HOUSING! Few if any material things that we purchase in our lifetime have the impact that our housing choice has on our lives.This impact alone demands that as an industry we not only have durable products, backed by workable warranties, serviced in a timely manner by experienced service technicians, but that we market these products in a way that the homeowner will be proud to say I live in a manufactured home.Manufactured homes are not a consulation because its all we can afford.In many cases purchasing a manufactured home is the smartest way to invest our money

It is time as an industry to admit that changing our image as percieved by the public is job #1.Telling the public that hud standards insure that the purchaser gets a durable product that will last a lifetime is not going to cut it.We know better.We need professional ethical sales persons that are strong enough to sell with the truth.Salespersons that care for their customers enough to help educate them about features that will make their future home durable ,safe, and comfortable.We need salespersons that are not trained to make a sale regardless of whether it is in the best interest of the customer,but to sell the customer what is in their best interest.



Post by Ronald » Sun May 23, 2004 3:09 pm

I agree with everything Mr. Davidson has to say, except he started in the middle of the dealer problem and not at the beginning. I am a dealer and have been for 12 years. I have sold at least 12 brands of homes during that time and not once was I ever asked by the manufacturer to provice a financial statement, description of facilities or credit consent to check our background. The only requisite was if I could afford or had floorplan to buy one or two homes. Then I was a dealer. In the automotive business it is very hard to get a dealer franchise and you must meet very strict requirements as to service, parts, net worth and etc. In this industry if you have any kind of lot, grass, gravel or whatever, you can be a dealer. Most dealers have no set up crews (I do) no service (I do) and some I know of don't even have a hex head screw driver on their premises, maybe a flat blade and a pair of pliers, that is their equipment and service. I have at least $200,000 invested in totersa nd set up equipment. I also have another $200,000 invested in sales office, sales lot etc. I know I am not the only one and by far do not have the most invested. However, some dealers only have a months rent for a lot, use a display home for office and they compete with dealers who have large investments and do good set up and service. These are usually the unscrupulous dealers who do the "phantom down payments" etc. because they have very little to lose.



Post by dan » Sun May 23, 2004 4:05 pm

Many of the items Carl brought up are true.

The sad part is that we all know what the problems are, but no one segment of the industry is willing to stand up and

For example, if you speak with manufacturers, or service people or anyone who deals with customer problems in our industry they will tell you that, the biggest single area that causes problems with homes is incorrect installation. But, today, many retailers use sub-contractors to do set up of the home, which means that the person setting the home has no real relationship with the manufacturer of the home. Many a set up person today doesn't even realize that homes comes with set up instructions, let alone use them. Manufacturers know this, but few have addressed this problem.

As for state associations, every state is different so some associatons are more involved in training than others but, I know that some have offered sales training and it has met with resounding non interest.

Although some retailers believe in a well trained staff, just as many don't. Lots of retailers think of sales staff as disposable as the customers they sell. There are buyers groups, but many of those are more interested in holding manufacturers feet to the fire on re baits not better training or higher standards.

The comparison between our industry and the auto industry is valid. Years ago a friend of mine observed that people got into the home business because somebody had already taken the Ford franchise. Today most of our retailers still follow the business and display model set by car dealers. Years ago, the auto business didn't have the same care and respect for customers that it shows today. Auto makers now demand those who sell their product maintain a certain standard. Those standards are not just dictated by sales levels but customer service and professionalism in sales and display. We haven't kept pace or cared to notice.

If you talk to some manufacturers they will tell you that if they set standards for service and professionalism, they might lose a good portion of their dealer base. Because there is always someone willing to sell anyone a product.

Our biggest problem, we talk endlessly about convincing the world we don't sell “trailers”, it seems we need to convince some of our own of the same thing.

Eric S

Re: industry goals and strategies

Post by Eric S » Mon May 31, 2004 5:51 pm

I am a manufactured home salesperson. Sales is a misnomer though, as I consider my job more in the arena of helping people to get into a manufactured home, arranging financing, arranging setup and delivery, assisting with goal setting, and squelching false expectations, which seem to come up fairly frequently.

Most people walking in call manufactured homes "modulars" or "mobiles". There is very little or nothing happening in the way of education of the public in terms of what makes a manufactured home different or better than a site built home by either manufacturers, retailers or associations. That ends up being my job too.

The industry is also missing the boat in my view when they do not pick up and carry cutting edge technologies such as; instant on gas water heaters that vent through the wall, roll down exterior shutters, passive solar water heating, composting toilets, photovoltaic roof tiles, and more. People are getting these things in site built homes. States give up to 50% rebates for some of these things.

There is very little I can sell as advantages over site built homes, except for price. There should be a lot of advantages offered, with plenty of choices. I realize that this is partially a HUD problem, but that is another issue. Why is HUD not picking up the ball and running with it in order to advance energy saving, cutting edge technologies?

I am about to graduate with a Master Of Science in Management, and I see plenty that could be done in this industry, but it is not being done.... Why not? The lack of doing is causing a loss of total market share, pure and simple. This loss should be reversed, by all reasonable logic. Manufactured homes by and large are better, less expensive and easier to do. Why are they losing market share? They should be gaining market share in the double digits every year.

Something is very seriously wrong in this industry and the causes have mostly been identified, but little is being done to change anything. The lack of marketing is a large part of the problem too. The auto industry markets very aggressively.

How often do you see ads for cars and their many benefits every hour on every TV channel? When was the last time you remember seeing an ad about any manufactured home, or any of their benefits?

I am in the industry and I cannot remember ever seeing an ad for a manufactured home, period. That is really sad. Even site builders know better. They market aggressively in many ways. They are stealing away market share that rightfully belongs to the manufactured housing industry. I was told that this is because there are too many big egos in this industry. Is this really true? Is it so bad that everyone is out just for themselves and to heck with the whole industry? I see a few manufacturers cutting an edge, but the rest of the industry is fighting them, instead of supporting them and doing the same thing. That is sad as well....

In addition, manufacturers and dealers lack creativity and imagination. Why not create city infill models? Why not create self sufficient models for way out in the country where no utilities exist. Why not create units for military housing worldwide? Why not create stacked units, or condo units, or apartments, or dual UBC/HUD code models?

There is plenty of room for affordable housing solutions, marketed in creative ways, such as the Co-Housing model, just as one example. There is a waiting list for every one of these Co Housing communities. Why not adopt some of their secrets and run with them?

The answers are out there, but someone has to lead the charge, and then it is up to the rest of them to duplicate the success.


Re: industry goals and strategies

Post by Rita » Sun Jun 20, 2004 11:06 am

I have just read your messages and wonder if you all got together and came up with some strategies, or were you just venting? I may be too late for any of you to see this, but your topic was an interesting one.


Re: industry goals and strategies

Post by David » Fri Sep 03, 2004 3:56 pm

I too wonder when someone will stand up and take the lead? I have only been in the business less than a year so would not know where to start but surely someone does????


Re: industry goals and strategies

Post by Tracy » Mon Sep 12, 2005 12:51 am

I think many people have great visions of what they would change, but when you think about how huge this industry really is, you soon stop and think "How much can I really do in just my own little world" Honestly!

Whether it be factory, dealer, or contractor it seems to be like talking to a brick wall whenever a person goes forward with good ideas. My ears keep hearing the same thing over and over. "We make money, you have a job, so don’t rock the boat"

This is pretty much what I see on a daily basis as a small business owner working for a couple of manufacturers.

I feel the homeowner paid hard earned money for a quality home, whether it is a small single wide home or top of the line. They purchased what they could afford. They walked away after the purchase with a handshake and a smile, everyone was a winner. A few months later you find a homeowner that wants to send the home back and swears never to buy that brand of home or purchase from that specific dealer again. What happened? What went so terribly wrong that this was allowed?

In 14 years of service to the manufactured housing community I have never been called, or invited to a conference where they actually want to know problem areas once the home leaves. Nor have I ever been asked "What could we be doing better as a builder".

I think a good start in this problem Carl Davidson posted called
THERE'S SOMETHING MISSING IN OUR INDUSTRY, I would like to sum it up in just 3 words. "Lack Of Communication"

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