The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast enjoyed having Ben Keal of Private Communities on the show. Ben has excellent knowledge of the home builder industry and digital marketing, especially when it comes to lead generation. He explains the benefits of understanding your lead attribution to achieve better ROI.
Ben leads a sales team focused on winning new clients and maintaining a strong relationship with existing customers. He works with national developers and home builders to identify new communities that will benefit from Private Communities while making sure that active communities produce ROI. Private Communities works with developers, builders, home-owners associations, and real estate agencies that need to generate leads and awareness for their respective communities.
On the show, Ben discusses methods to fill your sales funnel with qualified leads and the importance of nurturing leads, especially since home buyers have a long sales cycle. During the podcast, he highlights the importance of the omnichannel measurement vs. antidotal feedback and the common mistake of last-touch attribution.
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Editing by: KT Maschler
[00:00:00]Greg Bray: Well. Hello everybody, and welcome back to this next episode of the homebuilder digital marketing podcast. I'm your host, Greg Bray, and I'm joined with my host, Kevin Weitzel.
Kevin Weitzel: Of Outhouse, Hello everybody.
Greg Bray: Hey, Kevin. Glad to be with you again. And we're really excited today to have with us Ben Keal from Private Communities.
Uh, Ben works with national developers and home builders to, to help them identify communities that can benefit from their lead generation tools and helps make sure that they're [00:01:00] getting a good ROI on their lead generation efforts. You know, cause Private Communities works with developers, builders, homeowners associations, and real estate agencies that are looking to generate more leads. So, Ben, welcome.
Ben Keal: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
Greg Bray: So, Ben, just tell us a little bit more about yourself. Just give us that quick introduction of who you are and kind of, uh, what you do every day.
Ben Keal: Gotcha. Well, I'm the director of sales and operations for PCR is our logo, but represents Private Communities Registry. I help manage the day to day operation of sales and the business, and, uh, I'm heavily engaged in the customer retention side of our business, engaging with our clients, maintaining relationships.
Greg Bray: Well, then tell us just a little bit more there about what is Private Communities and, and what do you do for builders today?
Ben Keal: Fair enough. Uh, private communities.com is a website. That's been around since 1996, helping connect consumers who are doing keyword searches for lifestyle and amenitized communities, and then driving those, uh, those opportunities [00:02:00] to the communities that are paying for advertising to showcase our site.
Uh, so simply put, we're a portal site, third party site, and, uh, we're part of the efforts to help generate that pipeline of consumers to turn into sales.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, we're all looking for more sales. That's why we're here, isn't it?
Ben Keal: Absolutely.
Kevin Weitzel: So you, you sell just to make sure I understand what you're talking about is your typical route or your purpose to help find, and you're your ring leader. You're bringing in those clients for the builders.
Ben Keal: Absolutely. So, so if you think about the journey of a consumer, let's say a, you've got a 55 plus consumer looking for their next stage in life, and then maybe they like the Margaritaville product by Mento. They start keyword searching, but maybe their keyword searching for pickleball communities in Florida, or they're looking for golf communities and coastal South Carolina, typically we're optimized to help pull in the traffic on page one of Google.
So. Being in front of those those audiences [00:03:00], they then have the opportunity to use our site as a resource to research the communities in those areas. And then we help match those consumers with a, with a call to action on our site, which is a lead form. And then we send that lead form real-time to the sales teams associated with those communities.
Kevin Weitzel: So you're obviously catering to not a first-time buyer. You're looking more like, like me, for an example. I'm a 49-year-old 12 handicap golfer. I've done okay in life. I'm not rich, but I've done okay, and I'm looking for, uh, a nice semi-private or private community to live in that that's, I would look out for your, your website to search.
Ben Keal: Absolutely. So if you, if you typed in golf communities, Arizona, if you typed in golf communities, Florida, odds are you're probably gonna find PrivateCommunities.com on page one of Google in some capacity. We may also have some PPC ads to help pull in that traffic in certain areas. And yeah, that's exactly what we're doing.
We're helping guide you down the path of your dream journey for the next golf community purchase.
Greg Bray: Now [00:04:00] that Kevin, I got to go back to this 12 handicap. Really? Okay. All right. Okay.
Kevin Weitzel: Prior to my back surgery. I was a pretty avid golfer.
Greg Bray: That's impressive. I use 12 golf balls per hole. That's, that's my score. That's how that's how good I am with golf. So
Ben Keal: I drive the car.
Kevin Weitzel: Right. So Ben, just because we always like to talk shop, but I like to interrupt things. Give us a little bit about you.
What makes you tick, what are your, what are your isms, your things that you do on your private time when you're not working for Private Communities?
Ben Keal: I am a Florida guy, born and bred. I love boating. Being outdoors. I have, I have four sons, two biological and two-step, but they're all my, my heart and soul.
My wife and I love to entertain and cook. I'm an avid, home chef if you will. And a, at the end of the day. You know, I try to make sure that I, I, I build a team of people around me who have likeminded. And, uh, and it, that's like most people in this world I work to provide for my [00:05:00] family and, and these challenging times. I'm working from home like most other people. And, and that's, that's me.
Kevin Weitzel: So are you using all clad? What's your, uh, what's your pan of choice.
Ben Keal: My, my pan of choice is typically cast iron for my grill cause I'm a big griller. And, uh, I like to make a lot of sauces. And my wife is from South America, from Columbia, so I make a lot of chimney juries and salsas and things like that. So yeah,
Kevin Weitzel: You said boating, is that powered or wind?
Ben Keal: Powered. I'm a, I'm a, I love the fish. We, uh, I have a 19-foot center console to get out in the ocean, fish and, and, uh, enjoy the sunshine. And if the fish aren't biting, you take it to a sandbar and have a couple beers. And that's, that's life on a Saturday.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Awesome. Well, Ben, how did you get more into the the real estate and home homebuilder world? What was your journey there?
Ben Keal: Uh, I had a 10-year career, uh, here in Vero Beach, Florida, with a company called construction data company. Uh, they've gone through a couple of name changes, but at the end of the day, it was a [00:06:00] construction information resource that helped, connect, project information with builders, looking for schools and restaurants, hospitality, whatever, their, their key industry.
And, uh, I started out in sales, moved into sales management, and then my last role with that company I was director of retention, managing about $20 million of annual revenue for that business. And so since it was a renewal based business, just like selling advertising, it was a natural fit, and I was recruited to, uh, help out the team, the private community.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Awesome. So you've been doing this for a little while then, which is great!
Ben Keal: I've been with PCR since 2012 and on the backside of the, again, the ugly word, but the recession and a, it was an interesting time to watch. Decisions being made on how to start marketing again and jumping back into the pool. And there were a lot of builders who are anxious within up demand, so it was just a natural fit.
Greg Bray: So I know one of the things that you guys do at PCR and, and I think [00:07:00] an area where you can, you have so much to offer is you do a lot of that, that research and kind of survey type of work around your target audience, those lifestyle buyers that you're trying to attract. What, what are some of the, what are some of the insights that you've seen recently or trends with that particular group that, you know, our, our listeners might be interested in?
Ben Keal: Well, considering our demographic, where we're, we're touching the nerve of the, of the, basically the 55 plus baby boomer buyer for the most part. Our audience segmentation, typically you're looking at 75% of our audience is a, call it 45 to 65 plus. And within those cohorts, there's a lot of information that we're trying to find out, their stages of life.
So majority of people are looking for active lifestyle and healthy lifestyle. Those are all common knowledge. But we've also seen some trends around rental properties for the 55 plus buyer. There's a lot of information being shared at IBS this last year about the solo buyer and what are they looking [00:08:00] for and how do you, uh, address their needs.
Uh, and then last but not least, we're also looking in since we've been around since, uh, since 1996 and we still have a lot of dedicated users, believe it or not, that we can track way back into the late nineties who are still engaging into our newsletters. So they're probably moving onto the next stage of their life.
So senior living, assisted living, independent living, how, how can we adapt and offer them some solutions there? So those are the trends we're watching the rental, the solo buyer, and the senior living. In addition to that, you know, that robust 55 plus buyer who wants to, uh, play golf, play pickleball and things like that.
Greg Bray: Yeah, I've, I've heard that pickleball is really growing and that's a real new, popular, uh, sport there for folks. So I haven't, I haven't tried it yet, but I've, I've heard of it, so I have to get into that a little bit. Okay. So these, you, you know, we're, we're in the middle of this really unusual time right now with, with this whole COVID-19 virus and, and, and things. Are you seeing any [00:09:00] impacts, yet as far as, you know, web traffic or, or interest, or anything that seems to be related to to some of the challenges going on globally?
Ben Keal: Uh, absolutely. I mean, again, the demographic who needs to take the most care is obviously a senior, and that is a big segment of our site traffic. We have seen a site slow down. I doubt anyone can honestly be out there and say that they're not unless you're selling toilet paper, But, uh, the, the point of this is, is that the consumer, um, has plenty of time on their hands. And what we're seeing trending is, even though the site traffic is down, the time on site and page views are up.
So I think it's a more, a more focused shopper. Um, they're taking their time, and they're also consuming our newsletters a lot more. We've seen an increase in engagement on our newsletters and dedicated sends. We have some additional spin that communities can, uh, pay for. To be in front of a, uh, a [00:10:00] dedicated list.
And so, so we're taking that opportunity to educate our clients that if they're, they're sending out emails that are helpful and informational, um, it's a good time to do so. We see real opportunity in in focusing in on the people that are raising their hands.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, Ben, I have a question for you. And now realizing that your end results, uh, audiences, that lifestyle buyer, but for the builder, the or the communities that you're serving. Uh, and I don't want to put you on the spot for any hard stats or thing, but your services, do they see a realize increase in sales or increase in, viable leads coming in from your channel?
Ben Keal: Yes. In a interesting way of looking at it. Um, I've, I've heard others use this term, you know, you don't plant a tree for shade tomorrow. you need to build that longterm sales pipeline. So since we are top of that funnel, because they're searching, what I tried to say is consumers find our site. Are looking for the community first.
When they find [00:11:00] the right geography and the right amenities and the right price point, then they'll move down that sales funnel into that sales pipeline to a transactional point. So do we convert leads to sales? Yes. But it's an 18-month buying cycle in the industry standard based on our company and some of our friendly competitors that we've shared data with.
Uh, so if you think of an 18-month buying cycle right now is not the time to panic. If you are selling the lifestyle, it now is the time to identify best choices and your best resources to continue to fill that funnel because 18 months from now, I assure you there will be buyers and ready to go.
Greg Bray: No, that's, that's awesome.
And it kinda ties in, um, Ben, when you, when you talk with builders who are thinking about using any type of third party kind of listing site, what are some of the the concerns they have about whether they should make that type of investment and how do you kind of resolve those concerns.
Ben Keal: Well, if you look at their overall marketing spend, I mean, they're, they're definitely doing their [00:12:00] own PPC. They're spending their own money with Google, and if they're using an ad agency or not, they're also spending money on sponsored ads with Facebook. Facebook is the new silver bullet lately. And again, it's a very viable, we use it, so, so I'm not, I'm not putting them down. But when you look at the omnichannel approach to marketing to a specific buyer, uh, I would say that you need to track the leads in your CRM effectively with multiple lead source codes. Because again, if you really think about the customer journey, it is not a one touchpoint. Um, I've heard as many as 54 touchpoints from the cradle to grave. Maybe that's not the best example, but the life cycle, the sales cycle, uh, of the, of the buyer journey.
And so. We know that we're just a piece of that and a piece of that important puzzle. I would also recommend that if you have the opportunity to work with a third-party source or any source, funnel that data into your CRM with [00:13:00] an automated tool, if possible, a lead feed an API, because data in data out, if you, if you mismanage your data and you're not tracking it appropriately, you're not going to be able to measure it.
Greg Bray: So I've definitely seen just in, in our work with our clients that that there's a huge range of how much people even pay attention to that data. You know, what, whether they're tracking it, whether they even look at it. I mean, how, how do you advise, you know, builders from a tracking standpoint as far as what they should be doing and how important that is.
Ben Keal: It's a it's a catch 22, so I'll just say it in a general term. We work with regions, mostly in Sunbelt areas, so those are our hottest markets. And we deal with a lot of the largest national home builders. And it is absolutely amazing to talk to a marketing director, marketing manager for a national home builder, and they never look at their Google analytics.
They never have access to know what their regional site traffic looks [00:14:00] like, what their referral sources are doing. Because again, we're not only generating leads, we're also allowing our traffic, the traffic to leave our site to go directly to the client's website. So there's a real value to that.
It's about taking control of your management of your market and understanding that there's a value to the lead itself. There's a value to the referral traffic, and there's a value to know if that lead source is contributing. Across the board from the beginning to the end. Most communities, uh, and, and builders and developers, they measure it by the last touch, the last touch, turn into a sale as opposed to how did we start communicating to this email or to this person's email?
What was the first, and what were the most effective touchpoints along that path? So I would say, yeah, if you're dealing with builders, it's the haves and have nots. Those that understand the omnichannel and those understand how to measure effectiveness of the marketing campaigns [00:15:00] and those that rely on anecdotal feedback from their sales teams. And that's probably the biggest mistake I think I hear.
Greg Bray: So just just trusting too much that because they walked in today, there are walk-in lead, right. Instead of the fact that they've done a lot of other research and other places. First,
Ben Keal: My favorite story is the example of a sales rep who gave feedback to their marketing team that they just sold someone who stopped by because they were having a brew and barbecue event. They stopped by, had some barbecue, had a beer, decided to take a look at a model, and bought on the spot. The interesting thing was that was in Texas, and the people were on vacation from Wisconsin. They had been searching for months and months and months before they decided there to schedule their trip.
So again, if you're not measuring the beginning of that life cycle and just assuming because you had flags out front and a sunshiny day with a hosted event, that that's, that's what turned that couple [00:16:00] into a sale.
Greg Bray: Yeah. That's, um, that's a great, great story. Thanks for sharing.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, not only that but how do they find out about the barbecue and brew?
You know, there was some marketing effort that went on there and yeah, you're, you're exactly right with those touchpoints, you know, it's actually funny that you mentioned, you know, that those touchpoints and you know, the various steps in the chain. How big is your team there at, uh, at private communities? Because you really do sound like a solid leader.
Ben Keal: Uh, we are lean and mean. We have six total full-time employees because we're web-based, we're not really hosting events. We're not face to face with anyone. We can manage all of these processes with our CRM. Uh, we could manage our customer base. So, so we have a two-sided equation to our business.
We have the people, we're trying to win their business as advertisers. You're generating revenue for our, for our business model. And then we have the consumers we're trying to attract to bring them into our site, which are part of our value proposition. So it's, there's a B2B segment, and there's also the big B2C segment, which is our value.
Greg Bray: So [00:17:00] Ben, when we talk about this idea of, of lead attribution and you know, not just giving the last touch to credit, but, but earlier on, are there specific metrics that you recommend that these VPs of marketing should be looking at, to, to kind of help them better see what's really happening.
Ben Keal: Uh, first, again, first and foremost, I, you know, the the introduction in the last few years of these, internet, home coordinators, internet, home consultants, internet sales consultants, whatever their title might be, regionally, they're triaging leads.
So what I would say is. If you have those steps in place and you're gathering the data, identifying the hottest leads, putting that data into the pipeline. And then again, using the word triage in this time of day is kind of interesting, but you're, you're, you're looking for the hottest leads moving through down the sales funnel, putting them in front of the sales teams on-site as opposed to expecting your sales teams on-site to measure the effectiveness of your leads.
Cause that's, that's it. That's probably a bad [00:18:00] choice. Measuring KPIs on your referral traffic. Greg, I know your company does a lot of this guidance, but again, time on site, page views, uh, conversions to goals on your, on your Google analytics, those are, those are so valuable. But then again, making sure that you have data in properly into your CRM is probably, again, my biggest recommendation.
Greg Bray: Absolutely. No, it's, it's, it is, it is amazing how many folks are not really even paying attention, and there's so much data available, um, that that can be added and tracked and understood. You know, one of the disconnects I still am struggling with is in, just in general, in our industry, is as we talk about the fact that 90 plus percent.
Start with their, their buyer journey with online searches and activity. But then we see numbers that say, well, 20 30% of sales come from online leads, and, and somewhere it's like, how can 90% start and, and only 20% be [00:19:00] online leads? Uh, I mean, that just doesn't quite make sense to me. So, so I think in general, we've got a, a, an attribution issue. In the industry of how we track leads and, and how we give credit, um, for, for that process.
Ben Keal: I'll tell you if I can interject this. Uh, one of the things that, that is amazing. We, we, we lost a builder client in a region, I'll not say the name or the region, but, but they were two communities and, tried to follow up to say, look, can we talk about performance?
Can you share with me performance on your referral traffic, on the leads we're generating? Where are you in the sales funnel? They finally decided not to continue, and I was persistent enough to get a a conversation. There were 28 qualified leads for one community and 24 for the other within a 12-month cycle.
I wanted to drill into that. What is a qualified lead in the eyes of the person that I'm speaking to? It turns out that language for that particular market and that particular builder or actual site [00:20:00] visits. So, so just think of the path here. The journey, the consumer fills out a form on a website like PrivateCommunities.com they're nurtured to the point of the, where they actually show up from a another state to that community sales center.
There were 28 in one community, 24 and another, but because there were no sales, that builder decided that our service wasn't viable. Point is this, it's not a third party sites job to sell. It's, it's their job to drive qualified opportunities to those sales teams and for those marketing managers to help guide them down the path of the sales funnel.
If you receive 28 opportunities at your doorstep and 24 and another, and your sales team could not convert those leads. That's where the disconnect lies when it comes to measuring real success with your lead sources, whether you're using a site like ours or not if they're a direct lead to your site or to your sales team through [00:21:00] one of your partners and your sales teams have a zero closing ratio. I think it's important for those sales managers to understand that this was successful. There was a disconnect on your sales side.
Greg Bray: Well, Ben, I, I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more. We've got to, we've got to understand and have the right expectations and the right measurement there. So, Kevin, did you have something else you wanted to add?
Kevin Weitzel: Ben actually touched on it. Uh, you know, me coming from the motorcycle and automobile industry and bicycle industry, um, you know, I used to run in that a lot where they would be, you know, a new new salesman, hot to trot on the sales floor that says, I sold these people.
As you know. My first, you know, beginning to end deal. And it's like you go check the CRM and they've checked the website. They've they've made a online application, you know, the whole thing, they've gone through the whole process, and you know, just because they walk in, that's the deal. And, and I see home builders with the same thing.
It's very shortsighted, and it really does come down to what Ben said, which is that last touch they're looking at. Okay. They came in on our home tour, uh, [00:22:00] promotion that we had. So, therefore, that's the winning, winning Mark when in all reality, they found out about it from the website. You know.
Ben Keal: Absolutely. One of the cha, one of the things that we've recently implemented, if I'm allowed to touch on this one, and I share, I think I shared it with you recently, Greg, We take our database every quarter, and we run all of the people who fill out their name and address on our site. So we have a validated address and a name and an email address.
We run it through what's called the national change of address. And with that, we can see that someone made a move according to the United States postal service. Interesting enough. Once we have that data, it's in a basic Excel or CSV spreadsheet. You can take that data, drop it into a mapping software. I use map line.
It's fairly easy to use, and you can drop pins on a map. I then take the pins of all of my current and previous clients, and I can see clusters. Then I can manually go [00:23:00] in and just drop into a name, cross-reference it, and quickly identify that. Twenty-four months ago, Joe Smith from Schenectady, New York, filled out a request for the XYZ community.
Two years later, he's living in said community. The problem is, again, on that omnichannel, it is very difficult for them to see. The forest for the trees. So I would highly suggest, uh, if you'd like to learn more about that, I could share this with you, and you can share it with all of your folks. But at the end of the day, it's a very easy process.
What I see the value where I see a value with this for the builders, they could do this themselves, and it's very inexpensive, and it's very easy to do. Imagine taking a pipeline of 20,000 people that you've generated. And then pinning those for yourself. And what if as a sales manager, you realize that X percentage of those people who visited your community bought right next door?
I think there's a, there's a learning opportunity. I think it's more of a carrot, not the stick. And it's a real opportunity for sales [00:24:00] managers to identify the pipeline of people who purchase it in their immediate area. Why were they not able to secure that business.
Greg Bray: I think that's just an amazing use of data and understanding, you know, because cause being able to just get their new address from the mail forward and then see where they live today.
And has it changed from when they reached out to you? Um, yeah. Are they in one of your communities, or are they in the the neighboring competitor's community next door? That's a. That that would be pretty eye-opening, um, data. So, um, Ben, maybe, we need to get together after and just figure out how to package that up for people and start selling that. Cause that sounds pretty powerful to me.
Ben Keal: It's, it's one thing to say that we have data that suggests that we have leads that converted to sales. It's another thing to put a map in front of a marketer. And sales managers say, here are all the people who used our site, who ended up in your community. It's a, it's a powerful tool for us from a retention perspective, but more so to show that there was a return on their investment.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, Ben, we really [00:25:00] appreciate your time today. You know, we're, we're kind of getting near the end here, so we want to give you a chance here. If you, if you just had one piece of advice to give to builders, you know, to leave them with today, that you know, and it can be a restate of something you've already said, if that's it, but if you, that, that one kind of nugget of wisdom, what, what would it be you want to share.
Ben Keal: Well, we're, we're in pretty challenging times right now. I think we're all a little nervous and trying to forecast what the future holds and, and there's, there's a lot of uncertainty. I I will give you this certainty. If you're walking through fire, don't stop walking. That's all we need. We need everybody to pay attention that there will be a funnel that we need to fill up tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
Uh, there will be a continued need to market, and don't panic. Uh, make sure that you continue to spend some money even in this time. And again, think about the captive audience we have in this world right now. Everybody's using the computer and a lot of different ways, and their cell phones take advantage of that opportunity and and hope [00:26:00] everyone stays safe.
Greg Bray: Well, Ben, thanks so much. If people want to learn more, uh, about private communities or want to follow up with you and, and, and just talk some more, how can they get hold of you?
Ben Keal: Uh, feel free to find us on our website, private communities.com. That's private communities, plural.com. Uh, my name is Ben Keel. My email is simple.
It's firstname.lastname@example.org, and all of our contact information is on that site.
Greg Bray: Awesome. We'll drop that in the show notes as well so people can find it there. Um, make sure they can, can connect it to you. Well, thank you so much for your time and for sharing some of your wisdom with us today. I think there's been some, some great topics and things we've hit on, and hopefully, folks will will be able to use that too, to improve their businesses and, and drive more leads.
Ben Keal: Absolutely. Thanks for the help. Thanks for the opportunity, and it was a pleasure meeting both of you. here virtually,
Kevin Weitzel: thanks for joining us, Ben keel of private communities.com. I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse.
Greg Bray: I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine. Join us next time on the Homebuilder Digital Marketing Podcast. [00:27:00]