Builders Association Gets a Second Life
In order to revive the faltering association, the Modular Home Builders Association launched a “Modular Home of the Month” initiative that has helped both grow its membership and promote the industry.
Several years ago, the Modular Home Builders Association launched its “Modular Home of the Month” initiative, which has not only attracted and retained a new segment of members, but it has also been a great marketing tool for MHBA and the industry.
Here’s how it works: Modular home builders submit applications with different homes they’ve recently built, and then MHBA decides which one to feature that month—giving preference to its member home builders and those who use member manufacturers, while also trying to spotlight different styles of modular homes.
The monthly winner gets featured on the website, in press releases, and in social media posts. At the end of the year, MHBA does a “peoples’ choice” award for the Modular Home of the Year, and that winner will get even more good PR. “We try and sell it as, ‘This is the cheapest marketing you’re going to get,’” said Tom Hardiman, executive director of MHBA and principal at Hardiman-Williams.
This one initiative has helped MHBA attract a new segment of members, namely home builders, rather than just the manufacturers it used to serve. It’s also provided education to the greater public on what a modular home is and helped to spotlight some of its member companies. But more than that, it’s helped the association come back after the brink of death.
Back in 2012, when Hardiman-Williams LLC stepped in and took over the Modular Building Systems Association, the AMC had its work cut out for it. It was at the height of the recession for home builders, and the association had just three members left. Basically, it was about to shut down operations.
Hardiman remembers telling the those remaining on the association board: “Just give it to us: We’ll work on commission only when we sell a membership, and that’s how we’ll get paid. And if we don’t, there’s no skin off your nose.”
Some of the immediate actions included rebranding the organization, renaming it the Modular Home Builders Association, and rewriting the bylaws. But Hardiman quickly realized that in order to appeal to a new segment of members, MHBA needed to offer them what they wanted, too. Previously, the association had a heavy focus on advocacy, related to lobbying on building codes and regulations that would make life easier for manufacturers.
“That wasn’t super appealing to the builders,” Hardiman said. “They wanted more PR, more promotion, and the chance to show off their homes they built to their customers, so we really changed the whole focus of the organization.”
So, instead of MHBA having an internal government affairs and regulatory focus, it turned its attention to educating homeowners on the benefits of having a modular home.
In all of this, Hardiman said his biggest takeaway is to think like your members.
“If you were in their shoes, would you join this group and participate?” he said. “We have a bit of an obsession with trying to stay relevant and provide a real return on investment for our members.”
February's Modular Home of the Month, according to the Modular Home Builders Association. (Handout photo)