Few people know the complexity of website development and digital marketing along with the home builder industry like Greg Bray. What really makes Greg special is his ability to translate arduous technical topics to businesspeople. As President of the 25-person agency Blue Tangerine, Greg uses digital marketing to help home builders grow sales.
He's always had a knack for both business and computers. When Greg was 12 years old, his mother decided to take a programming class. He tagged along and was quickly helping her and the other adult students with their assignments.
Greg began developing home builders and eCommerce websites in late 1999 and has been hooked ever since. In 2006, as VP of Operations for eCalton, Greg purchased the company and achieved his dream of owning his own business, renaming it Blue Tangerine Solutions. BTS built great websites, but Greg learned that to grow sales, you also need to drive traffic to the site. In 2014, he partnered with Erik Martinez's agency, Triad Analytics, to expand the agency’s marketing services. In 2017, the companies merged and became today’s Blue Tangerine.
Blue Tangerine is a digital marketing and website development agency that specializes in helping home builders grow their sales. They achieve that goal by helping you build a better website and drive more qualified traffic to the site. Greg considers it a privilege to lead this growing team of talented professionals.
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Episode 1: Meet Your Host: Greg Bray
[00:00:00]Kevin Weitzel: Hello there. Welcome to our first edition of Homebuilder Digital Marketing Podcast. Normally you would have an introduction from both Greg Bray of Blue Tangerine and Kevin Wietzel. That's myself out of Outhouse. However, today we are going to be getting down and personal with Greg Bray of Blue Tangerine.
So Greg, how are ya?
Greg Bray: Hey, this is terrific. I'm excited. Kevin. This is going to be fun.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh yeah, absolutely. So first and foremost, the name Blue Tangerine. I need to know where that comes from.
Greg Bray: You [00:01:00] know, I actually get asked that a lot, Kevin, cause it's kind of a different name, and it's not nearly as exciting.
You know, we talk, sometimes we need to make up a better story, but at the end of the day, when we were starting the company, it's all about a name that's not taken right. That's available. And especially in the internet world, you've got to have a domain name that exists. And all the good ones are taken, let's admit it.
So we were in a brainstorming session throwing things around, and one of the guys, Chad on our team just kind of says, you know, we're just going to have to pick two words that don't go together like blue and tangerine. That was the example that he just picked out of the air.
So, we experimented, you know, with the purple onion and the red monkey and some of these crazy things, and just kept coming back to Blue Tangerine. We're headquartered in Florida, so it's got a little Florida field with some fruit in there, you know, some citrus and it's been a good name for us.
You know, people remember You don't necessarily know what we do on, you know, the first time you hear it. But, once you know us, you remember, and it's fun.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. So before we get into a little bit about Blue Tangerine, let me just find out a little bit more about you, yourself.
Number one, a couple of key questions. What was your first computer?
You know, as somebody that's into building websites, I'd have to know what was your [00:02:00] absolute first computer, and when?
Greg Bray: You know, I'm, my dad back in the 80s was, you know, kind of a tech geek, and he brought home. Gosh, I'm trying to remember because it, you know, I had friends that had like the TRS 80, but I never had one of those.
He brought some IBM compatible generic brand computer home. And we, we're pretty excited about it though, because it had the monochrome, you know. Green and black screen and, and the two floppy drives, and not even a hard disc drive at that point. So, yeah, it's, it's been a long time.
I've been doing this and computers have sure changed a lot.
Kevin Weitzel: So outside of having the first computer, where did you get that initial spark of passion for. The tech world, if you will.
Greg Bray: You know, my mom, when we got that computer, she thought she had to become a programmer to learn how to use it. So she took this adult education class to go learn the basic language, for those who remember that, that was one of the early ones.
And I just tagged along, you know, I was, uh, 11, 12 years old, somewhere in there, and it was one of his night school [00:03:00] things at the local high school and went, and I just kind of listening in and it just clicked for me. And it turned out that I ended up almost becoming the unofficial TA for this class and helping all these people with their assignments, and nobody had a computer at home to go actually do real homework. So they had to do it in class. But I, you know, I was the one they were asking, I wasn't even officially enrolled. I hadn't paid to be there, you know, I was just kind of listen in and, and it really was just one of those things that clicked for me and, really, has been a part of my life ever since.
Kevin Weitzel: That is awesome. So on a personal level, you know, every time we run into each other at IBS or various conferences that around there, you know, I always see you in running shoes. You walk ridiculously fast. And you know, I'm a rather portly guy, so I have a hard time keeping up yet. But, uh, are you in the running?
What what's the personal world?
Greg Bray: You know, I'm going, to be honest, I hate running. I despise running, but I've got, I need better arch support than the typical dress shoe. So that's what it comes down to. That, and keeping my back in good shape, you know, better. But I do walk a lot. I do like to walk a lot.
That's kinda my exercise a lot of time on the treadmill. Things just to, you know, get that step counter gotta hit the goals right. And getting break
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, absolutely!
Greg Bray: that [00:04:00] break that 10,000 every day. But, uh. I, you know, I'm just trying to look good, man. That's it.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm feeling yah, I'm feeling yah. I've just tried to develop my one ab, you know, not abs. I'm not greedy. Just one ab would be fine. What about family life? Uh. Wife, kids, step-cousins?
Greg Bray: Yeah. No, I've been, been married for over 25 years now. To my sweetheart, you know, I'm going strong there. I love her to death. She's amazingly supportive and, and my life. And the reason I worked so hard to do what I do is just to make her smile, right.
Um, six kids, which is a little different. You know, keeping, keeping up with all of that. That's a. That's why she does such a great job. And that's why I worked so hard. It's four of them are in college now, so, now we got some tuition bills we're working on, but it's terrific. I will say unequivocally that all the joy in life comes in the family.
So that's where I try to spend the time when I can.
Kevin Weitzel: That definitely has its own little group of rewards that are so much more enriching than, you know, being in a racketball or golf or whatever, running a 10 K.
Along the lines of education, meaning you have kids in college, you obviously have a degree in some [00:05:00] sort of computer background.
Greg Bray: Yeah, so I got my bachelor's in computer science. Back then there weren't; there's like 20 different degrees now in computers you can choose from. And that was kind of the only one. And then I got a master's in business. And for me, Kevin, it's always been this balance of technology and business.
And, even when I was studying computers, I recognized that where I wanted to, I didn't want to go work at Microsoft and, right. You know, like the next Microsoft word program. That wasn't what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was. Apply technology to solve business problems. So I took, I took the electives about database management.
I took the electives about networking. I took, you know, in my master's program and the business program. I specialize in the management information systems track and trying to understand computers as business tools. And that's really, I think, the area that. , where I've found kind of a niche there to help translate, cause I can speak both languages.
You know, anybody who's tried to communicate to the it department, you know, no offense to our it listeners out there. Okay, because we need you, and you do great things. But sometimes you think differently. Then the business people [00:06:00] do, and the goals are a little bit different. , and the business objective may not be perfect code.
It may be about getting the thing done today so we can get it out there and take it to market. That's a big part of my role is kind of bridging that gap between those two and kind of understanding the business needs and how the technology can apply.
Absolutely. And a matter of fact, I'm going to have a followup question about that, shortly after I get through a couple of other questions that are kind of, that I need to know that everybody is really kind of wants to know.
I don't know that everybody wants to know. Kevin, but we will take your word for it.
Kevin Weitzel: Alright. So you said you're based out of Florida.
Greg Bray: Correct.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay. Do you have other offices around the country?
Greg Bray: Yeah, Blue Tangerines headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, but we've got an office in Lawrence, Kansas as well. And then we also have about a third of our team that's remote.
It lets us tap into talent that doesn't want to move, you know, for family reasons or whatever personal situation they're in, and let's get the best and brightest. And of course, cause we work with people all over the country. It also frankly helps us be more effective that way because we learn how to use these remote tools just internally to be able to screen share and email [00:07:00] and phone, and manage projects, that way so that we don't have to be down the street from the clients that we're working with every day.
Kevin Weitzel: When did you found Blue Tangerine? And do you have any partners?
Greg Bray: Yeah, so I got into kind of the web development, back in 95 actually, when I got out of, undergrad and while I did my masters, but then where I really got into the client-side and worked on my first home builder website in 99.
At that point, the company was, was called E Calton. and, over time, kind of rode the wave there and became VP of operations. And in 2006, the owner there had been a builder, and he decided he wanted to get back into the building and really didn't want to mess with the technology piece anymore.
And so ended up having some conversations and decided to buy the company from him. So in 2006, we bought out the company that I had been working for and brought the internet piece with it, and he went off to build homes. He'd been doing that anyway. And, really because of that, that's why we focused on the builder industry.
It was kind of that connection there, and that understanding he was able to share with us at that time. And then I met Eric Martinez through a joint client, and he's now my, my current business partner. And as we [00:08:00] came together, we'd been doing a lot of development and recognize that builders and others also needed the marketing piece.
It wasn't enough just to have a great website. You had to have the tools to drive traffic to the website, to optimize that website to get the leads right. It's all about the leads. And Eric, it came from the marketing world, and he was needing help with development. I've said sometimes, you know, chocolate met peanut butter, you know, kind of thing, and, and people roll their eyes when I say that, especially the young ones, like, what's he talking about? It's like, you know, to go buy a Reese's cup. Right? But then it became obvious that we had some needs that worked well there. And we started partnering on some projects in more depth. And eventually, in early 2017, we brought his agency and mine together. And, that's what Blue Tangerine is today.
And so now we're beyond just the web development, but also have that full digital marketing set of services to go with it.
Kevin Weitzel: So I want to back up just one split second here. There was a pretty significant thing that happened in that. 2010 ish range. So you mean to tell me that you took the leap of faith, purchase your company outright [00:09:00] in 2006, and then the housing market took out a little tiny itty bitty stumble
Greg Bray: Oh, man. Now you're going to bring up my PTSD issues cause that was rough. And for us, it started in 2007. So, you know, you buy a company, you're excited. Right? I was pumped. We were going to rock the world. We were going to quadruple every month, you know, it was going to be crazy. Amazing. And yeah, 2007, the end of 2007 because the builders led the decline. Right. If you remember that.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely.
Greg Bray: Everybody else had a bad time. 2008, 2009, but the builders were, were big into it in 2007. And people going out of business not paying their bills. And we had to, we had to lay off a bunch of our staff. The people that stayed took 30% pay cuts.
I mean, it was, it was a rough time. We learned a lot. It has changed the way I do business forever as far as how I manage things. Because I, you know, I didn't recognize what was happening as soon as I should have. And, funded some things in a way that I probably shouldn't have done and, you know, had to pay for that for a few years to clean that mess up.
But yeah, that was rough. But we're still here, and we learned a lot and, it's part of the business, and you know what? Those things are gonna happen again, and we gotta be ready for him. [00:10:00] Um, you know, kind of as the future, you know, cycles happen.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. And I don't want to stroke your ego here, but a Blue Tangerine actually has a very good reputation in the home building industry for website creation. Obviously, you're going to have some wins. You're gonna have some losses, some lumps, some lessons learned. Do you have a specific website or a builder that you built a website for that might not be the star-spangled banner of websites, but the one that you have the most pride in creating?
Greg Bray: You know, probably the one that we're, I'm proudest of is the one that we did for century communities.
They are, you know, now a top 10 builder. When we started working with them, they weren't yet, and I'd love to say this because of us that they are now, but no, that's probably not fair. But that was a project because of its size, that. Um, was really a great accomplishment for us, to be able to do that because typically builders their size have kind of a, an in house team and don't outsource those things the way that they chose to be with us.
So, so pretty excited about them. But, you know, I love every site we do because of the fulfillment of saying, Hey. I built something, or my team [00:11:00] built something. I don't build as much as I used to, and it's now being used. It sometimes goes in the wild, right? So it's out there. People are interacting with it; it's working for their business; it's helping things improve and grow. And that is really fulfilling for me.
Kevin Weitzel: And I don't want to have you call out any horror stories or bad experiences, but just. Out of the blue. What are some dos and don'ts? You know, like even lessons that you've learned building websites for different builders?
Greg Bray: I think the biggest thing that I get concerned about is people that they know they need it, but they're so scared to move forward on.
They're so scared of making a mistake. So then they sit. And they let it sit, and they sit, and they don't make a decision. I mean, we've had prospective clients come back, 12, 18 months after we did a proposal saying, you know, now we think we might want to do this now, man. Do you know the last opportunity you've had by not improving your online presence?
You know, for the last 12 or 18 months, you would have paid for this website ten times over with the improvement in your business. But they have trouble seeing it. They have trouble [00:12:00] connecting to it, and I got to do a better job at communicating that. I'm sure. , but that's the ones that, that concerned me the most is just that missed opportunity out there.
Kevin Weitzel: So on the hierarchy of websites, you've got these free websites that be, personally, I consider junk, but obviously they're out there, and they're free. You've got the WIC stuff where you can kind of DIY your own website. What differentiates. You know, hiring a company like Blue Tangerine to build a website versus some of the offshore low-end stuff that's out there that's free to relatively free.
What's the difference between the two?
Greg Bray: Yeah, the biggest difference is that you're getting a guide. To help you with that process. You know, do it yourself means you got to do it by yourself. Do it with us. You don't have to do it by yourself. You you have someone who can guide you and help you become the rock star hero of putting together this amazing website.
You know, even Luke Skywalker needed Yoda, right? To save the world. So, it's the kind of thing that a guide who has experience in your industry. Someone who understands what's working for others can bring that to bear. Yes, there's a cost to that. But there's a cost to not having it as well, and doing things that you don't know how to do. If [00:13:00] you're really good at building homes or selling homes, you don't have to be a website expert; you need to be doing what you're best at every day and let somebody who can bring to bear that other expertise, solve that for you so you can be more effective.
Kevin Weitzel: I heard this quote, I overheard it, and it almost made me cringe. But there is a certain level of truth to it when I overheard the client asking the salesperson what does it cost, you know, for what he's doing? And his response was, and this is part that kind of makes, gets you like cringy, crawly skin kind of listening over here in this.
But, he said. Is it a question of what it costs, or how much is it costing you not having this? So in all reality, I actually appreciate what you said about the, yes, there's a cost to it, but how much does it benefit you once it's implemented in place, in the streamlining of the process of getting those leads in your inbox and getting those leads directly into your CRM and having an easy flow and easy to follow website.
So, yeah, there's a cost to it, but. It cost you a lot more lost sales to not have it in place.
Greg Bray: And those costs are kind of hidden right there. Hard to quantify sometimes. And there's some trust [00:14:00] involved in that. And because, you know, wouldn't it be great if we could take both paths simultaneously and see which one was better?
You know, kind of with, but you have to pick one. You have to pick one. And often, inertia is powerful, and it's easier to do nothing. And people sometimes don't realize that that is a choice that you've picked to do nothing. You know, I believe in moving forward, I believe that we take risks so we can learn, even if it doesn't go well.
We learned something. And that can help us with our next decision. And we also have to remember, Hey, it's a website. maybe it's 10,000, maybe it's $50,000 or $2,000, whatever it is. But that's just money. And you can try again if it's not working and you can do other things with it.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. And, and I apologize that I didn't ask you this earlier, but you have, you know, your Kansas contingency. You have your Melbourne, Florida, do you outsource any of the workers that all done in house?
Greg Bray: So we we are all in the house with our employees.
We do have a few freelancers that we tap into from time to time for certain tasks. And some contractors that we built, but we are not shipping work overseas. We've looked into that in the past, and the communication challenges there and the quality is, has always been a concern. So yeah, we [00:15:00] want to control that quality.
We want to make sure that, that our whole team understands the goals and understands the market that we're trying to serve and is ready to do the best job possible.
Kevin Weitzel: And I have a little bit of a loaded question, and obviously it'd be in that you'd do the majority of your work in the home building industry, and you've done some e-commerce, and apparently you've done something back in college, a little side job that you had there.
With all the technology that's out there. What's to keep a homebuilder from not having the entire process on their website. You know, from not only showing the digital assets and the product visualizations but even, you know, sourcing their funding or contracting.
I mean, is there going to be a day and age where somebody could literally be handed a key at their home once they've. Taking care of the entire transaction online. Is that something that Blue Tangerine can help with?.
Greg Bray: I think absolutely, yes. That day is coming, and there are certain builders that are already experimenting and doing parts and pieces of that. For people who go, Oh, I would never do that. You're right. You might not, not everybody will. But I'll tell you what my kids and their addiction to their phones and their [00:16:00] addiction to screens and technology. And, when I see their peers and their unwillingness to talk to people face to face you know, and and these kinds of things, there will be a segment of the market that will be very comfortable, especially as the virtual tours and virtual reality and things continue to improve and become more realistic so that we can, you know, stand in the room at our decks to our own desk as opposed to actually having to go visit.
All kinds of things that are coming. Definitely see a day where some portion will be completely online, and things are moving in that direction now.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, I am an old fashioned old soul that loathes, companies like the one that rhymes with Mozhan and, I don't do any of that stuff online. But for the people that are worried about this technology coming toward the home building industry, I think they're fooling themselves if they don't.
Consider that that's a that's an absolute reality because of look at all the shopping malls across the country that are shuttered because of so many people that have moved to that online-only shopping experience.
Greg Bray: And it's about convenience. It's about meeting your customers where they are in the buyer journey and the way they want to do it.
So you have to [00:17:00] understand what they want and figure out how to be the one that provides it or somebody else will.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree. Well, Greg, I do appreciate your time 100%, and I look forward to doing more podcasts with you in the future with us co-hosting the podcast. Is there anything you want to leave us with, what I always like to leave people with is a little free bit of advice.
Is there anything that you would, that you would recommend to home builders out there? Either one with a website or considering to build a website? Just that little tidbit of guidance that you would give them.
Greg Bray: I think the the key point for those who are out there is we need to start understanding that that the website is a strategic business asset. When you simply, and not just this expense or this, I have to have one because everybody else does. Or as soon as we change our mindset. A lot of things change if this is a strategic business asset than it needs to have a return and it needs to be able to pay for itself, and we need to be investing in it so that we get that return and we need to be improving it all the time so that we continue to grow that return.
And, and when it's just this expense out there that we update every so [00:18:00] often and you just really don't pay attention to and don't use. It's never going to achieve its full potential. I really think if there's one thing that I could get people to understand, let's change the mindset.
When I see companies that do do that, what they're doing online is dramatically different from those who don't, and how they use their website as part of their business is dramatically different. And it's all about that mindset. This is a strategic business asset that can become my best salesperson, can become my best lead generator.
Can do all of those roles. Not that the others aren't needed, you know, it's not going to replace all your salespeople by any means, but support them in that whole process. So I think that would be my one take away from today is, let's ponder that attitude and view of, where that fits in our strategy.
Kevin Weitzel: I love it. Well, Greg, again, thank you for your time today. I'm Kevin Wietzel with the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast.
Greg Bray: And Kevin, I am so excited to be doing this with you. You know I know we're just getting started. People are going to love the things we're going to have. And, again, I'm Greg Bray, and I'm excited to be part of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast with you.