This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki of tst ink joins Greg and Kevin to talk about the results of the American At Home Study, and to discuss the importance of letting your human show in the customer experience.
It’s quite simple for builders to make the customer experience better. Teri explains, “Honestly, I think we overcomplicate it. I mean, we're all humans, right? We're also all shoppers. We all have experiences. We all know when there's good experiences and there are bad experiences. So, think like a customer. I mean, do you want to be batched and blasted with emails that are irrelevant to you? Do you want to fill out a whole bunch of data on a contact form to receive a generic form letter back? Or as you say, worse yet, no answer? I mean, I would say let your human show. Think about it as a person and think about the person at the end of what you're doing.”
Digital is still integral during the customer journey and should not be disregarded. Teri says, “We should absolutely not forget the digital. We should learn to be more forgiving. We should learn to collect the data we need to collect and create experiences that are driven by what our customers tell us they want. I'm going to say it again. Let your human show. It's not one or the other. It's the full suite, the full experience. That's just so important to remember that it's not just one thing.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the America At Home Study and how humanness can improve the customer experience.
About the Guest:
Teri embraces a “how might we” curiosity about the little things that matter most to people and collaborates with developers, builders, and entrepreneurs to turn those observations into places and experiences that make the world a better place.
Teri has brought to life some of the most valuable and recognized brands in resort and community development. She spent 10 years as Chief Marketing Officer for Newland, and was the architect of the Newland brand, and its application in more than 40 communities in 14 states, where she also led new community start-up, opening 11 new communities in 4 years. Previously, her brand design agency in Canada handled all of Intrawest Corporation’s vacation ownership resort launches in 3 countries. Today her company, tst ink (www.tst-ink.com) works with some of the most innovative community developers, homebuilders, and entrepreneurs to identify deep customer insights and create places and brands people connect with and experiences that matter.
Her work has been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and many other industry publications. She was named “one of the most influential women in homebuilding" by BUILDER Magazine and was inducted into the William S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence in 2015, the second woman ever to earn this honor. Teri writes regularly for the National Association of Home Builders’ Best in American Living and is a frequent speaker on consumer insights and brand experience design. She spearheaded the America At Home Study (https://americaathomestudy.com/) at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to understand changes in consumer behavior, and home and product preferences as a result of the pandemic, which may have lasting impacts on home and community design.
Teri serves as Co-chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Wellness Communities & Real Estate Initiative, and Assistant Chair of Urban Land Institute's Residential Neighborhood Development Council. She is a Teaching Assistant at Northwestern University (Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications), a member of Garman Homes’ Advisory Board, and the Founder of Philosophers Café 101, a public forum for engaging conversation and exchanging ideas. She has an M.Sc. (honors) in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University, a B.A. in Communications and Sociology from Simon Fraser University, and studied Journalism at Carleton University.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: We're excited today to welcome to the show Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki. She is the Principal and Storyteller at tst ink. Welcome, Teri. Thanks for joining us.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Thanks guys. Glad to be here and happy Friday.
Greg Bray: Well, Teri, we're excited to have you, but we'd like to get to know you a little bit better first. So, why don't we start off with that introduction and help us learn a little bit about you?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. So, originally from Vancouver, Canada. I've lived in [00:01:00] this US market for about 17 years now. I'm based in San Diego, California. I like to kind of refer to myself as both a sociologist and a writer, and I get the pleasure to apply both of those skillsets and both of those sort of filters and lenses on the world to help create homes and communities that hopefully one day make the world a better place.
Kevin Weitzel: Man, that is juicy. However, we need to know something that is unrelated to home building and storytelling. Something personal about you that people will learn on this podcast.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Whoa, unrelated to home building and storytelling. Well, I'm a published poet, but I guess that's kind of related to storytelling. I'm an avid road biker and have ridden in the MS 150 twice. I make sure that I move my body every day for at least 30 minutes, which is how I help to work off the stress and the tension that comes with living in the world we live in today. So, how's that?
Kevin Weitzel: I'm a former professional cyclist, so I got to know,
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Oh, cool.
Kevin Weitzel: Shimano, Sram, or Campagnolo?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Shimano [00:02:00] specialized. Yeah, there you go.
Kevin Weitzel: That's the wrong answer. It's always Campagnolo. Just know that, even if you're lying to somebody, it's always Campagnolo.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: And pinarello. Okay. You got me.
Kevin Weitzel: Yes.
Greg Bray: I don't even know how to spell those words.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, Hey, you said my name., right. That's the first part. So, we're off to a good start, Greg.
Greg Bray: Well, Teri, tell us a little bit more about how you got into home-building because when you say, you know, sociology and poetry and all these things, it just doesn't sound like home building. So what's that connection?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. That's a great question. So, I actually fell into it, sort of happenstance. When I was based in Vancouver, I had a marketing and advertising agency for a little over a decade and our core client was actually Intrawest Development Corporation. You all may know them as the developer of some of the preeminent ski and golf resorts across North America.
I actually worked at Intrawest up in Whistler at Blackcomb Mountain as the Director of Marketing there for a number of years, and left that role and set up an advertising and marketing business where we were actually engaged to help them launch resort club locations in three different countries. [00:03:00] So, we would go in and work with the development team and create the physicality of the brand on the vacation resort club in Mexico, in Zihuatanejo Mexico. We would go in and we would name the restaurant, determine the paper that the menu was printed on, determine the name of different amenities around the community and so on and bring to life the customer experience of those resorts.
After working with Intrawest for about 10 years, they were going through an internal rebranding process, and this is how it all started. I attended an American Marketing Association conference in San Francisco and met the then National Marketing Manager for a company called Newland Communities, which at the time was going through acquiring its largest competitor to become the largest privately-held developer of master-planned communities in the US.
They were going through a rebranding, and this particular person asked my agency to come down and to speak with Newland about potentially helping them redefine their brand internally and externally as they absorbed their biggest competitor. We did that for about two years. After collaborating as an agency/client relationship for two [00:04:00] years, they made me an offer to come move to San Diego, come in-house and take on the role of their chief marketing officer. So, I did that for nearly 11 years, and that's really how I ended up in community development is through that experience.
Kevin Weitzel: I listened to all that, but you've got a backup to one very important fact that you just said in there. The city that you mentioned in Mexico, wasn't just a made-up place in Shawshank Redemption.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: No. It's real. It's real Playa la Ropa Zihuatanejo baby. It's real.
Kevin Weitzel: That's super cool.
Greg Bray: Now I have a really important question. Can you still get discounts to all these resort places that you used to work for and can you get them for us?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, I can get you better than discounts. I actually have a lifetime membership at Club Intrawest, so we can talk offline about that, guys.
Greg Bray: Oh. Oh, This podcast just got a lot more interesting.
Kevin Weitzel: On next month's podcast it'll be about Greg and Kevin's wild adventure in where? Mexico.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: So, let me give you the selection. You can go to Whistler. You can go to Vancouver. You can go to [00:05:00] Palm Desert. You can go to Zihuatanejo. You can go to Tremblant in Quebec and see the fall colors, and I can keep going from there. San Destin, Florida, you pick.
Greg Bray: Wow.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm never going to Whistler again, and I'll tell you why.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Okay.
Kevin Weitzel: Back when I was cycling, I went up there with your national Canadian, not your, you're American now, or dual citizenship or whatever, but your Canadian national mountain bike champion, Andreas Hestler, and Johnny Fokkema, worked me over on a massive bicycle ride in Whistler. I ran out of air. I ran out of effort and I ran out of any will to live. I'm never going back there again.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: The ski part of Whistler too is fun. So, people don't often know this, but you can take Vail Mountain and stack it two and a half times on top of itself, and then you're at the vertical drop of Whistler Blackcomb. It's the largest vertical drop in North America. Canadians are a little bit more humble and mellow about it. You don't hear that very often.
Greg Bray: That's amazing. That's interesting stuff. Teri, tell us just a little bit more about what you're doing today at tst ink and the types of services you offer.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. I like to say that we work at the intersection of [00:06:00] marketing and community development. So, what that means is we really have a pathological curiosity almost, about the little things that matter to people and matter most to them and then we work together with really innovative developers, home builders, and oftentimes as well, entrepreneurs and related spaces, to turn those observations into places and experiences that really create a better quality of life for people. So, you can call me a marketer or you can call me kind of a community vision development individual. It's kind of the intersection of both of those places and bringing a consumer insights marketing lens to how developers and home builders can create better places is what we do.
Greg Bray: I have to ask just another more detailed question. When people say a company name and say the word inc. usually, they're thinking Inc. as an incorporated, but you've got ink. What's the story behind the name using the ink there?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. Well, story is story, right? So, ink is like ink and a pen and I think [00:07:00] that in order to engage with people in ways that mean more and have a bigger emotional impact on how they live their lives. It's really about those little moments and having empathy for each other and understanding how we tell stories in more powerful ways. So, I think it's both an homage to, you know, my roots in writing and recognition for the fact that it's about being innovative and creative, but from the consumer's perspective first. So, it's all about how we tell our stories in home and community development in a manner that connects with the stories and the things that matter most to our customers.
Greg Bray: So, Teri, one of the things that I know you were involved with over the last year or so is something called The America at Home Study, and I know that some other folks, I think the folks at Garman Homes helped with that and I know there were a few others, but tell us a little bit more about what that was and what you guys were trying to do with that study.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. Thanks, Greg. That's a great question. So, I'll take you all back to, it was March 31, 2020, and we were a couple of weeks into the national stay-at-home orders. My largest client at the time had just [00:08:00] called me and said, we're putting all the work on hold for at least four months. Everything we were watching in the news media was all about doom and gloom and death and destruction and the fact that COVID and the pandemic would end forever hospitality, tourism, travel. The effect it was having on small business, food and beverage outlets, local, small communities.
But it occurred to me as I stood at the stove that day, literally making my lunch and wondering inside what will I be doing to make a living in the next year because it looked to me at that point in time from that vantage point that everything we knew was changing. So, it occurred to me that all this narrative, all this conversation happening in the news media was about everything else except for home, and yet every single one of us was living our life from home.
So, I endeavored to ask the question. I reached out to a friend and colleague, my consumer research strategist named Belinda Sward, and then Nancy Keenan, who's the CEO and President at Dahlin Architecture Group, and the three of us developed and self-funded the American Home Study, which was actually done in two waves. The first wave was [00:09:00] an April. The second wave was October, November of 2020 because we naively thought that would give us a pre- and post-pandemic look. Clearly, we were not out of the pandemic in fall of 2020, but what we really tried to do, Greg was ask questions in the moment about how people's lives in their homes and communities were changing because of life from home.
So, what kinds of things weren't working, what things do they wish they had, what did community mean to them today in different ways, and at the end of it all, we had 7,000 unique responses from a series of renters, owners. We could slice and dice the data by region, by different sort of demographic cohort, and then we stepped back and said, wow, this is pretty rich stuff and we knew we were the only group in the nation who went out at that point in time and actually asked that primary research, asked those questions.
So, we reached out to Alaina Money-Garman at Garman Homes and her team, and said, how about we take this study information off the shelf and make it something richer and more giving back to the industry than just another research report. We then engaged in a series of [00:10:00] planning workshops, all virtually because we were living through the pandemic, to design, conceive of, and create a concept home that Garman Homes built in Chatham Park, North Carolina, related to the study findings.
Greg Bray: No, I've seen some of those reports and I think that data is fascinating, and of course, there's a lot there that we could never get into today that you guys learned, but if there were just maybe one or two big takeaways, more specifically related to kind of the digital marketing, you know, online pieces, one or two top takeaways in that area?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Yeah. Yeah. We actually expanded the second study, Greg, to ask a couple more questions around exactly that and also around health and wellness and what we learned regarding shopping and purchasing behavior. We gave them choices about how they shop and then how they ultimately purchase their home. Sixty percent said, they drive around and check out the community on their own. Sixty-four percent said they do all their research online.
So, what I want to point out there is that it isn't all digital, right? We're dealing with the physical space here and we learned [00:11:00] the two were really pretty closely compared in terms of the level of importance of how people shop. We also learned that the information center or the welcome center slash sales center was really falling off in favor and less than 30% of people said they use that as part of their decision tree.
You know, no surprise, I think probably to most of you and to your listeners, is that previous homeowners, so people who had already purchased the home before were more likely to say they would do it again all digitally. Which tells us that they were comfortable with the experience, understood the level of complexity, and felt they were more equipped to do that.
Renters versus homeowners were not as inclined to be as comfortable with the digital experience. So, I think that's something for your listeners to think about, especially when you're talking to potentially first-time buyers. How do you make such a complicated experience make more sense online if somebody hasn't had personal experience with it, and then the differences we learned by generation were the things that you would expect? So, 70% of the two younger cohorts, the Millennials, and Gen X were more comfortable doing things all exclusively online, and that wasn't the case [00:12:00] for the older Boomer audience. That number was closer to 29%.
Kevin Weitzel: Let me ask you this cause I've always wondered this because I see people buy things online that it's instant regret almost soon as they get it. You know, they see it. It's a bobble and it's gone. How fair is the comparison when we look at home buying that you can digitally sell a story and powder puff it a lot more than the harsh realities of in real life that they can see the imperfections of some of the finish work or they can see that maybe a wall isn't perfectly plumb? I mean, granted that's the nature of the beast, but in a digital world, everything's perfect and fluffy. Do you find that that is a differentiator and the fact that people when they do see the physical world, part of it, can use that as an elimination factor?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: That's an awesome question, and I actually haven't considered that or thought about that before. What I do consider though, and think about when I look at home shopping versus shopping for any other commodity or any other service, is that you're not just buying the home, right? You're buying the community around the home. [00:13:00] So, there are different types of buyers and we're all wired different ways, but when you look at considering a highly emotionally charged purchase that's as expensive as a home, we know that we use four different styles of research. One's called seek, explore, organize, and reflect, and they relate to, you know, emotional and rational choices.
Whether you want to be guided and have answers given to you for questions you may have in your mind, or whether you want to be left alone to explore, and I think the thing about buying a home is that you've got to walk around and say, where's the nearest veterinary clinic? Where's my kid going to go to swimming lessons? What's my commute going to feel like, and it's very hard to show something that complex, I think, without having an experience physically on the ground, in the community.
Kevin Weitzel: Well to that same point, you know how many home builders are showing that they're building their homes within a half a mile of a landfill or right around the corner from the strip club and a row of pawnshops. They don't show that stuff, and on the digital world, you're seeing this look at this beautiful community evergreen lawns where it's always beautiful and you can raise your family here.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Yeah, [00:14:00] conversely to that as well. How many home builders actually show the great school that your home is next to, or, you know, the great easy trails to walk to? I mean, there's some good stuff too, right, and I think that the storytelling is just not done very well.
Greg Bray: So, Kevin, are you suggesting though that the digital renderings just need to have crooked walls now to be more realistic?
Kevin Weitzel: No, but, you know, what's funny because you can really see in the digital world that everything's perfect.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: It is.
Kevin Weitzel: You can make everything perfect. The beds are all made. Nothing has dust on it, but guess what? When you go to model homes, if they've been there in a while, there's going to be some dust. Unless they're going through there and cleaning the place up.
And isn't that the same as their social-mediated world though, right?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: I think people are wise to that. I'm really glad you raised that point and I have not thought about it before, but I think people are wise to that and getting wiser and they know that what they're seeing is not really what it is.
Kevin Weitzel: But they sold millions of slop chops, and that thing's a hunk of junk.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: That's right.
Kevin Weitzel: Because they made it all look pretty and fluffy on the commercial.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: I love it.
Greg Bray: So, Teri, one of the pieces of data that, that [00:15:00] I think is really interesting that you mentioned as well, is the difference in people's comfort when they've purchased a home before versus the ones who haven't. I'm not sure I've heard anybody else split the demographic in that way before, and this idea of being more comfortable with the process and the experience and all of that, making a difference in how much I am willing to engage digitally versus not. I think that's a real unique way to split this that maybe we aren't all looking at very often.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, and it's a nugget, right? I mean, if you are a home builder who's dealing with first-time buyers, whether they're young first-time buyers, and we also know there's a giant cohort of older consumers who've not purchased a home before for a number of different reasons, whatever that may be. But if you're dealing with that kind of buyer, I think the task is to think, what is it that they need to know? What's their experience need to be? How do we help them through that process? How do we make them more comfortable, and boy, I tell you there's some huge white space out there for anybody to take the time to step back and actually do that and tell that story. No one's doing that. [00:16:00]
Kevin Weitzel: So, am I hearing you correctly, that the not my first rodeo people that have purchased before, because they've already taken the lumps and gone through the process physically that the online experience is a little easier for them to swallow than somebody who's maybe never purchased a home at all?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: You are. You're absolutely hearing that correctly. The way we asked the question was we asked about different styles of shopping and purchasing a home. So, everything from doing it completely all physically. Driving around, seeing the community, making your purchase physically in the community, working with a real estate professional, doing your research online, but then, you know, going back and actually completing the sale in-person or doing all your research online and completing the sale completely digitally. The group that was most comfortable with that last type of journey, the fully digital experience, was the Gen X previous home buyer. By far. Seven thousand people.
Greg Bray: I think it's fascinating, and thank you for putting the investment in the effort into creating that data. I assume we'll be able to maybe give folks some links to where they can learn more about that later to see some of the specifics, but [00:17:00] Teri, let's pivot just a little bit then into the idea of this experience because you're talking about how there's the gap in people not really telling that story or guiding the customer through the process. What should they be doing? How do we tell that story better and guide them through that process?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. Well, I think it comes right down to what we call customer experience or how we think about it, or how we conceive of it. At its very simplest level, customer experience is the actions that your brand takes to do two things: alleviate the pains and amplify the gains for your customer. That's it. It's that simple. It's not about telling your story in ways that talk about you. It's about telling your story from the perspective of what does that particular customer care about and need to know? How can I eliminate their pains and amplify their gains? That's the goal.
Greg Bray: And are builders paying attention to this in your opinion, or is this something that, that is secondary for a lot of them?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: I think it's very secondary. I think we, as an industry, tend to be much more [00:18:00] focused on our product. And on the nuts and bolts of that and less focused on how the people at the end of our experience feel about it.
Kevin Weitzel: Did you hear that? That sound of when we do these podcasts, that sound of all the heads that snapped at the screen to pay attention, to listen to what your answer was when Greg asked that question because that is the sound I just heard around the world from hundreds of listeners, maybe thousands. Who Knows?
Greg Bray: Or two. I don't know.
Kevin Weitzel: Maybe Greg's nephews.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, if it's only Greg's nephews, that's great and let's go forth and prosper and they can help make the world a better place. It's all good. It's important, and I'll give you a for instance, right? So, when I sign up on a home builders website in Market X, for a home in a very specific community. The best way to turn me off is to start batch and blasting me with emails for every other market that's anywhere near what I just told you I was interested in. That is the absolute fastest way to just turn me off, and even more so, [00:19:00] make me tell your story from a stage on a national audience.
Greg Bray: I sense some personal experience in some of this, Teri.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: The builder will remain nameless.
Greg Bray: Now on the flip side, we also have these builders who get this lead on the website and never send a single email or even acknowledge that they've gotten it at all, and that's another experience, right? Hello, anybody there kind of experience. So, then how should builders even begin to approach, all right. I want to make my customer experience better? What do I do? Where do I start?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: It's very simple. Honestly. I think we overcomplicate it. I mean, we're all humans, right? We're also all shoppers. We all have experiences. We all know when there's good experiences and there are bad experiences. So, think like a customer. I mean, do you want to be batched and blasted with emails that are irrelevant to you? Do you want to fill out a whole bunch of data on a contact form to receive a generic form letter back? Or as you say, worse yet, no answer? I mean, I would say let your human show. Think about it as a person and think about the person at the end of what you're doing.
I think so many times we create [00:20:00] systems and processes and things internally to satisfy our internal needs, and they're all valid. I mean, they are all valid. I sat on the investment committee at Newland and we had certain ways we had to report data. We had quarterly reports. All that's very valid, but strip that away and the mechanics and the administration piece of running your business internally, for whatever you need to do to meet your business plan, shouldn't affect the way you deliver your customer experience externally. So, I would say the best way to do it is very simple. Start from the outside in. What's the best experience I've had recently, and how can I create that in my business for my customers?
Greg Bray: I'm loving the phrase, let your human show. That's a great one.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: There's an author, His name is as crazy as mine. His name is Rishid Tobaccowala. It's the name. His book is called Restoring the Soul of Business and the subtext is called Staying Human in the Age of Data, and what he says, one of the phrases in the book that has stuck with me and I've actually written it in my idea book and I refer to it very often. I think it's really important.
Like, I really want to put a pause on this and I want everybody to hear the words I'm going to say. They're not my words, they're [00:21:00] his. Things that can't be digitized are soon to become more and more valuable. In an age of data, when we forget the human and we're all about efficiency, speed, lower cost of entry, we forget the human. So, how can you create and deliver a digital experience that has the human baked right into it? You treat people like humans. Things that don't feel like they're digitized and canned are going to get greater value from all of us as we continue to move through this crazy world.
Kevin Weitzel: And there's some things you can attempt to digitize. I am a world-renowned, and everybody knows it, hugger. COVID killed my soul to the very marrow of my core. When I could hug, and I'm still selective in who I hug anymore. I mean, I'll hug anybody that needs a hug, but I'm selective, and the fact that what you just said rang so true because certain things have that tacked on us that touch and feel that you have to have. You can talk about the sexiness of a sixties, you know sports [00:22:00] car, but until you physically see one in person and just see, just drink it in, it's not the same as looking at a picture of it.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: And, you know, we're sensory beings, right? I mean, I'm all about it. We designed an entire concept home totally virtually. We found new ways to demonstrate the floorplan of the home and all the insides were brought to life, but the smell of the leather on that 1964 Porsche 911, the sound of that engine, the feeling of that steering wheel in your hand when the engine in the back kicks in and you take off. You can't give me that through a flat-screen. You just can't. You can't give me that through VR either.
Kevin Weitzel: No.
Greg Bray: So, should we just forget the digital then, Teri?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: We should absolutely not forget the digital. We should learn to be more forgiving. We should learn to collect the data we need to collect and create experiences that are driven by what our customers tell us they want. I'm going to say it again. Let your human show. It's not one or the other. It's the full suite, the full experience. That's just so important to remember that it's not just one thing.
Kevin [00:23:00] Oakley talks about this, and he's such a genius in this space, that every stage is so important, research, shopping, and purchase, and they're all done digitally and in-person. Those things need to work together and need to collaborate. We need to think about the experience we're creating in both.
Greg Bray: So, you talked about the idea of not being personal enough or paying attention enough in the kind of initial responses. Are there other places further down in the customer experience in that journey where you also see builders tripping over themselves and making some key mistakes?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Yeah. I think we're still, to a large extent, wedded to the past sort of funnel approach. You know, or the marketing construct of awareness, interest, desire, and action. So, I, as the builder, am going to create this amazing ad campaign or this great event to generate awareness, and then they're going to be interested in what I have to sell. Which is going to spark their desire, and then they're gonna go take action, but what we know to be true, and we think that's a three- to six-month journey. We, being, home builders. We think that's a three- to six-month journey and it's fairly linear and all [00:24:00] the things we do can affect the next stage on that path, but that's not the case.
What we know to be true is everybody's moment zero was driven by something different. In our current world, it can take from one day to go through that entire process to three to five years, and it's a circuitous route. Things happen, things change. So, we have to be nimble. We have to listen with all eyes and all ears. All cylinders need to be awake so that we can create an experience that really meets the customer where they need to be met. Again, two things, how can you eliminate their pains and how can you help amplify their gains?
Greg Bray: So, where is it going to go in the future, Teri? What are you thinking that is going to change or evolve in this buyer experience?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, I hope it changes and evolves because buyers are changing and evolving and humans are changing and evolving and I'll tell you how I think that is happening, and then I think it's incumbent upon home builders and community developers to catch up and change as well.
We all, every one of us, have expectations of personalization. You expect that if you [00:25:00] tell me something about you, I'm going to respond, recognizing that you've told me that and that I know what your needs are. We have the expectation that everything is on-demand. We have the expectation for experiences that are perfectly curated, that meet me where they need to meet, and we're all suffering from time famine. All of us are. So, those are the changes that are happening.
So, if I'm a home builder, how might I address those needs? How can you take a giant engine that's a manufacturing engine and needs to pump out volume to do what you need to do? Speaking in the largest home builder sense, but even smaller regionals or local builders, how can you take the systems and processes that you operate through every day and find a way to deliver that personalization? Find a way to do it in a way that, maybe there are different options, there's different portals, different ways to enter into conversations with you. Not everyone wants the same thing. We all have different expectations.
Greg Bray: So, we have to get more personal, and in order to do that, we may need more technology to help us?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: We may need more [00:26:00] technology, but I think more than that, actually, Greg, we need more critical thinking. I think we have a lot of technology now. We have a lot of data now, but I don't know that we're all thinking super critically about what we learned and what it tells us. I think that's important.
It's like any research report, right? When you engage in a research study, you get the data back, and sure, you can spew out the stats, right? Like, I gave you some stats earlier from our study, but if I don't know the context for those stats or what the impact is of those stats and that data on how I operate my business, it's useless. So, I would caution us to say, go out and invest in a ton of new technologies, start creating more ways to capture data, if, when you really are honest today and look under the hood of how you're operating your company now, you're not thinking critically and using those insights. It's only gonna make things worse.
Greg Bray: I love it. I love it. Wow, Teri, I think we could keep this conversation going for a long time, but we want to be respectful of your time, but a few more questions though. Kevin, did you have one?
Kevin Weitzel: I've just got a comment, but I'm going to save until the end. I'm going to save it until the end.
Greg Bray: So, as you are trying to find inspiration, Teri, and looking for [00:27:00] insights into where to go next, what are some of the sources that you recommend people watch or look to for ideas?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Yeah. I love that question. I'm a voracious reader. So, I'll give you a couple of recommendations of a couple of the best books I think are out there right now that are addressing exactly this issue, and one of them is a book called The Power of Moments written by Chip and Dan Heath, and one of the things that they say in the book is imagine if you paid off your mortgage. You were happy and successful enough to pay off your home mortgage. Rather than the bank charging you a title transfer fee, what if they sent you a pizza and a bottle of champagne? So, that's a really great book.
The other one is called Rare Breed. It's a new one. It's by two women named Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger, and they really talk about how to be audacious, how to plug into your emotions, and how to really connect with people in a bigger, meaningful way.
So, I think what I would say is I would just challenge and invite everybody to say, you know, you're all humans. You're all really smart and really intuitive, and you all really care and have big hearts. I know that because this is [00:28:00] an industry full of people who devote their lives to creating places where life happens.
So, engage with those nuggets. Talk about the insights. Be aware of a little observations. Walking down the street. The everyday moments that you experienced that are fantastic, and then ask yourself, how might we take those elements and those things we've learned and infuse that magic and joy and beauty into how you operate your business and how you engage with your customers. That's what I would say.
Greg Bray: I love the reminder that we're about creating people's homes. Sometimes we become so in the day-to-day, right? Heads down, whether that's marketing or production or whatnot, and we have to step back and remember why people want these products, right? Why people want to live, where they want to live, and what they're trying to accomplish, and if we lose sight of that, sometimes it does get in the way of letting your human show, right?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: It does.
Kevin Weitzel: What you value in a home is different than what I value in a home, but, being able to match that story for the type of client you looking for. I get it.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well said.[00:29:00]
Greg Bray: Well, Teri, any last words of advice? I feel like you've given us so many, it's unfair to ask you for any more, but any last thoughts here as we wrap up?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Yeah, I guess I would offer too, and the first relates to what I said a moment ago, and that is just to stay curious. Honor your curiosity and stay curious, and then the last one is, don't be afraid to talk to your customers and really listen to what they say.
You know, the study that we founded, The American Home Study, I said it earlier, we self-funded that. To research and to talk to 7,000 people was not an expensive endeavor, and I think sometimes people hear the words, consumer research, and they get afraid and they think, oh, it's just a giant report. It's going to cost us $50,000 and won't get any value out of it. It's not that difficult. It's not that cumbersome, and if you're curious and you phrase up the right questions and then really listen deeply to the answers, I believe that's the way that we will all become better community creators, developers, marketers, and frankly, just human beings in the process.
Kevin Weitzel: So, after our interviews, Teri, we always just do a quick little recap and we[00:30:00] compliment the podcast interviewee, and we say, hey, that was a great session and stuff. I'm going to go officially on the air and say live, instead of just afterwards with just us girls talking. I want to say that tst, that you are one of the top five interviews we've ever had on the podcast and my absolute personal favorite.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Aaaah.
Kevin Weitzel: And it hasn't even aired yet.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Wow. You just made my week. Thank you so much. I'm just me. I'm just me.
Kevin Weitzel: For two reasons. One is you are so sharp. Your reputation proceeds you way before we ever had you on the invite list, but on top of that, your advice, your knowledge, what you're giving away on this podcast today is so, I don't even have the words for it. You'd probably be able to help me cause you're much more read than I am, but it covers so many other industries versus just home building industries.
You know, I'm going to recommend that all my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn, that they listen to this podcast episode because there's so much, especially on this marketing side, that people [00:31:00] really need to buy into because I think that so many industries have jumped the shark. They've gone to this, let's just commoditize everything. Let's make it really easy. Let's put a buy now button on it and make it so we're the same as everybody else, but you can compare us digitally. I truly do believe that we've lost sight of the human factor. So, I applaud you and I thank you for being on today.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Well, thanks, Kevin, and let me take it one step further. Why don't we invite a select group of people that are important to you and important to you, Greg, to a coffee talk? Why don't we have a conversation and debate it and talk about it? Let's just do that. The people that you want to send the podcast to, bring them to a webinar. Let's just talk.
Greg Bray: Awesome idea. Well, Teri again, thank you so much for sharing today. It has been a great conversation. I've enjoyed it as well. If somebody wants to connect with you and learn more, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki: Sure. Thank you. Great question. Well, I am the only Slavik-Tsuyuki on the planet, so if you can actually spell it, you can find me at LinkedIn very easily.
You can also email me directly and I would welcome it at any time and it's T E R I at T S T [00:32:00] hyphen ink.com, and Greg and Kevin, if folks are interested in The American home study, it's very simple. It's just that URL is exactly as it reads. It's americaathomestudy.com.
So, I've loved our conversation today. You guys are super inspiring and I applaud you for bringing this format and this forum to our industry. It's much needed. Let's go forth and prosper.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you again, Teri, so much for joining us, and thank you everybody for listening today to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: from Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.