The ICREATE Framework for Selling Off Plan

4th Jul 2017

When it comes to selling new developments off plan, the technology available to developers is advancing rapidly, with tools like virtual reality (VR) and interactive apps presenting new ways of presenting and sharing your vision. But despite an overall willingness to embrace new technology in their property marketing, developers are facing a dilemma.

All these new and wonderful ways to spend lots of money…
….But is it worth the expense?
….Do I really need it?
….Will it actually work?

The reality is, new technology won’t sell your new developments off plan. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t entice your buyers to make an investment. Not unless you have first taken the time to understand how people make decisions, and made sure you’re actually providing everything they need in order to do so.


You see, there are some things that change quickly – new technology for visualising proposed developments, the internet, social media, and the way customers want to interact with us. But then there are some things that don’t change, and never will. Basic marketing fundamentals. The way we, as human beings, make decisions, the way we rationalise those decisions. Basic human psychology does not change. In the end, we still make our decisions in much the same way that human beings always have.


You might be surprised at the extent to which we rely on our feelings when we make a decision – any decision. Dr Andrew King is a behavioural ecologist at Swansea University, and his research demonstrates that although humans have developed the ability to rationalise and weigh up complex issues in order to make choices, most of the time, we don’t use that ability. When it comes down to it, subconsciously, we’re simple in the way we come to a decision, we’re selfish, and we’re “hungover”. By that, he means we’re still using the parts of the brain that have evolved very slowly – the parts of the brain that seek pleasure, fear change, and whose primary objective is to keep us safe.

We like to think of ourselves as highly rational creatures, and we like to think that our decisions are based on weighing up complicated factors and figuring out the best option. But actually, we are more dependent than we may care to admit on how we feel.

So how does someone need to feel, in order to make a decision to buy in to your new development? Buying off plan is a leap of faith – there’s no building to look at, no bricks and mortar. You’re really asking people to buy the promise of a new property, rather than an actual, physical building.


The ICREATE framework is a system for understanding how people make a decision to buy new property – it’s a list of the 7 interlocking ‘states of mind’ that your buyers need to experience from you. The ICREATE framework provides a solid foundation for any property marketing campaign, because it starts with understand your buyer, and meeting their needs in the decision making process.

We are predisposed to fear change and to want to stay safe, within our comfort zones. Only when we begin to imagine something better than what we have now, are we inspired to make a change in our lives. We are drawn to want to fulfill our potential – that’s why visions of the future are so compelling. How can you spark peoples’ imaginations?

Buying ‘off plan’ is a leap of faith, and we’re inherently afraid of making a wrong move. Your buyers need to feel certain about what they’re getting, in order to feel safe. This is a challenge for developers because there’s no physical building for buyers to look at – only promises of what could be. What can you do to provide that level of certainty in your product?

Despite the fact that it’s our feelings that ultimately lead us to make a decision, we generally don’t like to admit that to ourselves. It’s therefore essential that we can rationalise an emotional decision by listing all the ‘objective’ information, the hard facts of the case. How can you prove it’s a great investment and a sensible decision. Why here, why now?

E is for EMOTION
Emotional engagement is the process of assigning meaning to something, so that it goes from being something ‘blah’ to something relevant and meaningful. All too often, property marketing materials are totally ‘blah’ – too generic, too dispassionate, or too cliched to mean anything. What hooks can you provide for your buyers’ emotional engagement?

One of our psychological needs is for self-esteem – we want a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of prestige. Owning property is major symbol of achievement. We want our properties to reflect our career success, and to make us feel good about ourselves. That’s why successful property marketing speaks to the aspirations of buyers.

T is for TRUST
However excited we may feel, and even when everything looks great on paper, when it comes to signing on the dotted line there’s always that moment when we think, do I trust you, is this safe? Can your buyers trust you? How can you demonstrate that you’re credible, professional, reliable and honest – and that you’re not going anywhere?

Sales expert Brian Tracy has claimed that as much as 50% of any sale is a “transfer of enthusiasm” from the seller, to the buyer. The essence of enthusiasm is energy – and energy is the motivation to act. So without enthusiasm there will be no sale. How can you transfer your enthusiasm to your prospective buyer? How do you motivate buyers to take the next step?

You can see that in trying to understand what people need in order to make a decision, we have effectively created a list of the responses you are seeking to evoke in your audience. These are the responses that your marketing materials need to focus on, if you are to be successful in selling off plan.

The ICREATE framework provides a clear set of goals for all your property marketing efforts, by starting right at the beginning, with fundamental human psychology. With the things that don’t change.

Based on this understanding, you’re far better equipped to answer the questions that we asked right at the beginning, about how you should spend your marketing budget, and which technologies you should leverage – whether they are new innovations, like virtual reality, or old favourites, like print. And when you do decide to spend money on something, you now know what it needs to achieve for you – you know how you need to work it.

If you’re planning a new development and hoping to sell off plan, our Property Marketing Toolbox is a free ebook that provides a full run-down of the technologies – new and old – that are available to you. From printed brochures, to social media, to VR, to signage – this no-nonsense guide will help you make informed decisions about how and where to spend your marketing budget – based on the ICREATE property marketing framework. If you’d like to receive a copy by email, please enter your details below.

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