This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Beth Russell of Stylecraft joins Greg and Kevin to discuss understanding and serving specific home buyers.
Each new home buyer needs to feel that their specific home buying journey is important to the builder. Beth says, “We love to tug on the heartstrings of folks. We know this is an emotional buying process. We know that their journey is the most important. Their experience is the most important. So, regardless of who they are, and the reason why they're moving, as long as we bring them to the center of it then we're going to serve that well, and we're going to be able to be the builder for them.”
The digital experience can be very effective in creating a good home buyer journey, but it isn’t everything if it doesn’t positively assist the home buyer. Beth explains, “you can have all these cool tools. You can have all of these fun trinkets that people can play with, but if it's not easy for them and it's not serving their journey and what they want, then what's the purpose?”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn how to provide an effective and positive journey to specific home buyers.
About the Guest:
Beth Russell joined Stylecraft in August 2016 as a Sales Executive. At the time, Stylecraft did not have an internal marketing department. In 2017, she was officially promoted to the role of Marketing Manager and assumed responsibility of internal marketing operations. A year later, she was named Director of Marketing as the department began to grow. In 2020, Beth was named in Pro Builder Magazine's Forty Under 40 class. In December of 2021, she received the Silver Award from NAHB's the Nationals for Marketing Professional of the Year. Beth earned a Bachelor's Degree in Family Science from the University of Maryland and has moved all over the United States due to her husband's active duty military career. She and her family currently reside in Maryland.
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: And we are excited today to welcome to the show Beth Russell. Beth is a Director of Marketing with Stylecraft. Welcome, Beth. Thanks for joining us.
Beth Russell: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Greg Bray: So, Beth, let's just start off and help people get to know you a little bit better and tell us a bit about yourself.
Beth Russell: Sure. Well, as you said I'm Beth Russell. I'm with Stylecraft. We're a Texas-based builder, but I actually do not live in Texas. I live in [00:01:00] Maryland with my husband who I've been married to for 10 years now and our two adorable children who are crazy and keep me very busy and our dogs whom are chaotic and a bunch of jerks, but man we love them.
Kevin Weitzel: The military? You're in the military, right? Or your husband's in the military?
Beth Russell: Husband's in the military.
Kevin Weitzel: All right. So, that's an interesting fact, but we're going to get into how you got into the home building industry, but I need to know something secret, top-secret, about you that people only learn about on our podcast.
Beth Russell: Here's the thing, Kevin. I'm actually quite boring, and I'm also an open book. Like, you ask me a question, I'm going to answer it, or I'll just spew out a bunch of random things about my life. So, I feel like to know me is to actually know me and know everything about me, and like I said, I'm very boring. So, in terms of interesting facts, it's probably something that's about 10 years old now, but I have two championship rings from college, both of which were acquired for doing nothing [00:02:00] remotely athletic.
Kevin Weitzel: Like debate or something like that or what?
Beth Russell: No, not that nerdy. Although, there are nerdy aspects to what I was doing, but I think maybe for what they're for is even more surprising, but I manage the wrestling team in college, and so I got all the perks of being an athlete, but I was what I called a fathlete, a fake athlete, and I didn't actually have to have any athletic skills. I followed the boys around everywhere. You know, it was really fun to be quite honest.
I love the sport. I'm very passionate about the sport. Always have been, and so I did everything, looking back at it now, it actually ties into my marketing career and I just didn't realize it back then, but I did everything from scorekeeping and data-keeping.
I got my first experience at a CRM by keeping a database of all our recruits and tracking all of our actions with our recruits. You know, this is way back before social media was big. Facebook had just become a thing, and [00:03:00] we were doing direct mail advertisements to our recruits. That was a big part of what I did with the coaches. I traveled around with the guys. I took pictures for them on my little Canon Cyber-shot.
Kevin Weitzel: Nice.
Beth Russell: Big camera from the early two-thousands. Took pictures of them and shared them on Facebook cause that was like the only social platform at the time, and yeah, it was a really, it was a really good time, and what's cool about the rings itself is that they're somewhat of a relic now because it was before the University of Maryland transferred out of the ACC and went into the Big 10, and thus how we actually had championship rings at the time, but their ACC championship rings.
Kevin Weitzel: Nice.
Greg Bray: Very cool. I did wrestling in high school and I went to a college meet once and I was this is a whole different kind of wrestling. So, not my thing at that level, but yeah, it's a fun sport.
Beth Russell: It's, ah, it's amazing. I could go on about it and I'm not into it as much as I used to. We used to watch the tournament every single year. I would make my husband watch [00:04:00] it, but I've been to the NCAA tournament twice and it is, it's so cool. It's so much fun.
Kevin Weitzel: So, I used to race bicycles professionally and even during high school, when I was in high school, I was literally standing next to my buddy who was making fun of the wrestlers, and I keep in mind, I'm wearing my full regalia, cycling shorts, jersey, the whole works, and he's like, look at those wrestlers. Idiots. They're wearing all those spandex and stuff, and I'm like, dude, I'm right here. I'm standing right here. I'm also wearing spandex. Come on now.
Beth Russell: Do you see me? I look awesome.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. It's like, you've got to know your audience when you're making fun of somebody else here, you know. Plus, those guys will pummel ya.
Greg Bray: I was going to say of all the people to make fun of, I'm not sure the wrestling team is the right one.
Kevin Weitzel: I know it wasn't the right one. Yeah,
Greg Bray: All right, Beth. Well, how do you go from wrestling to selling homes? What's the leap?
Beth Russell: Accidentally, to be quite honest. My journey is a long one, but I feel as though it's somewhat interesting. My background, I have no formal education in marketing, [00:05:00] in graphic design, in business. None of it. My goal was to become a licensed clinical social worker, and I wanted to work with children and families and be a therapist. That was 100% the path I was on.
In my collegiate career, I was a, it's called a family science major at Maryland, which is basically the broke version of a social work major because their program was not accredited. So, you got to fill your coursework with electives and I just filled mine with soc and psych.
I was super passionate about the way people think, what triggers them, their actions, the decisions, how families work, the dynamics of relationships, all of that, and particularly all of the research that had been done on the matter. So, naturally, I got a strong background in understanding statistics and understanding how to do analytics and how research is performed. Which then, out of college, led me to my first glimpse into marketing, [00:06:00] which was working for a pharmaceutical market research firm.
So, what we did was perform market research for pharmaceutical marketing campaigns, and again, this is pre-social media pre-streaming platforms. This is back when we used to get our DVDs in the mail from Netflix. Okay. So, commercials were very big especially, I mean, they still are in the medical field, but especially back then. We would test commercials. We would test collateral material for the market reps that would go into the doctors' offices. We would test print advertisements or magazines and there was this one campaign that we worked on that kind of sparked something for me.
Marketing had never been on my radar like I said, and I didn't even know what it entailed. I didn't know it was a possibility, and then we were working on this campaign. For people who don't know much about pharmaceutical marketing, if you're listening to a drug commercial, what is [00:07:00] something that sticks out during it?
Greg Bray: Half of it is disclaimers.
Kevin Weitzel: All the bad stuff that's going to happen to you when you take this drug.
Beth Russell: Exactly you're going to die. So, legally they have to include that, and legally there's a certain percentage of time that they're allotted for actual marketing and they have to fill the rest of the time with the disclaimer, and it has to be like 75 percent, 25 percent. You know, like, it's a legal amount of time, and then during that period that they're talking about the disclaimer portion of the drug, they also have to have very minimal things happening on screen.
That's why, if you notice on the commercials, it's usually the boring part of the commercial, where people are just walking around, smiling, waving, having a cup of coffee, living their life, and it's because legally, they have to do that. It has to be boring. So, during this particular campaign, we were working not only in the commercial but the branding of the drug and the branding portion I just fell in love with. I loved the idea of constructing the brand, getting feedback from the people of [00:08:00] what the colors meant to them and how the design of the logo sparked certain emotions and made them think certain things, and all of a sudden, I was like, wo, this is cool. All that psych stuff with coming back into play.
During that portion of the commercial, there was a moment where the doctor character pulls down a screen and the patient is just watching the doctor, and at the time of testing, the screen was just blank and I remember speaking with my boss during the reporting period where we present our recommendations and our reporting, and I said, well, there's a missed opportunity there.
Why don't they put this logo, this awesome logo they just created and we just tested, on the screen cause it's not distracting, but it'll increase brand awareness, and it's a brand new drug and it's a cool logo. Let's just put it on the screen. It also fills a white space there, and so we put that in our recommendations, and a couple of months later when the commercial went live, pulled down the screen [00:09:00] and the logo was on the screen, and I was like, I did that. That is so cool. That is my idea that's now being seen by millions of people and no one else would think twice about it, but I'm sitting there like freaking out and nerding out over the fact that my little tiny idea was now live to millions of people.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, what's funny, Beth, is that you actually said, and not to interrupt you, but you actually said something very thought-provoking. You said that while you went to school to study psychology, family dynamics, how the family interacts with stuff, you're literally studying what we sell to. You know, so you have to know what the psychology is behind why we do certain things in marketing campaigns and who we're trying to reach out to and how we reach out to X, Y, or Z in a family to get them interested in a community.
Beth Russell: Yeah, I think that's ultimately what led me to this path, because like I said, that moment doing pharmaceutical marketing is what sparked my interest in marketing and made me think, oh, this is something I could potentially do down the road. [00:10:00] Then once we had moved a few times and then ultimately into North Carolina and I pursued a position as an online marketing coordinator for a master planned community.
We had a team of realtors and we sold new home construction in this gorgeous master planned community in North Carolina, and it was all different types of builders. It was large production builders, small production builders, and then custom home builders all within North Carolina. I started watching this unfold, this journey of these families, and families that I connected to because they were military families purchasing a home and I just fell in love with it, and I started seeing like their emotions, their love of what was happening and that emotional tug. Perhaps my background in families, like you said, just painted the full picture for me, and I was like, okay, this is where I belong. I need to stay in new construction and I need to just figure out where I belong in this space.
Greg Bray: So, tell us a little bit more about Stylecraft then Beth, and [00:11:00] where you build and the types of families and buyers that you're trying to influence and serve.
Beth Russell: Sure. Well, we, like I said, we're based in Texas. We're born and raised in Bryan College Station, family-owned. Even though we only build in Texas, it equates more so to like a tri-state area because we are talking about Texas.
So, Bryan College Station, we're in Waco, Fort Hood area, and then we have a few communities north of Houston and a few sprinkled around the southern area of Houston. We, predominantly, do single-family homes. We have dabbled in some townhomes and some duplexes as well, but like I said, our makeup right now is mostly single-family.
Our market itself, we have a strong military buyer market. A lot of first-time home buyers also connected to the military in that sense. We also get a lot of transplants because it is Texas and everyone's fleeing to Texas, and then you have empty nesters, the people that are trying to kind of move down into something a little bit [00:12:00] smaller and just want something a little bit more easy to maintain, but mostly military and first-time home buyers.
Greg Bray: So, I can imagine then that the psychology, if we could tap into that background, of those different buyer groups can be pretty different. An empty nester is very different from a first-time buyer, and of course, military families have very different needs and expectations, I think too. So, how then do you serve those different demographics and still kind of have your message resonate?
Beth Russell: That's a really interesting question. Interestingly enough, I haven't found it to be too different, but I think it's because I focus on the core of what they're trying to do. They're trying to find something that fits their family. So, it really comes down to showcasing the experience that we offer because we are a family-owned business. We love to tug on the heartstrings of folks. We know this is an emotional buying process. We know that their [00:13:00] journey is the most important. Their experience is the most important. So, regardless of who they are, and the reason why they're moving, as long as we bring them to the center of it then we're going to serve that well, and we're going to be able to be the builder for them.
Obviously, in the military market time is of the essence, and so getting the information, educating them. A lot of military buyers, they don't really know how to navigate the purchasing a home scenario because we are forced to rent oftentimes, or maybe they've always lived on base, and so it's always just been kind of handled for them in that regard, and so home owning is a very scary world for them. There's a lot more education involved, a lot more care involved in that approach.
And then for the folks that are just empty nesters and looking for something a little bit more convenient, you kind of have to dive a little bit more into the facts and the benefits, and the included [00:14:00] features, and why you should come to us instead of them, and what makes us different and what makes us better, and so there's a little bit different type of education involved there. Ultimately, the end goal is the education, making them a star, and pulling on those emotional reasons as to why they're moving in the first place.
Kevin Weitzel: I have a friend that's in a, in the Air Force. IT, I do call it the Chair Force, but no, he's in friend of the Air Force and he lived out here, was a station out here in Luke Air Force Base for three years, and then got rotated to another duty station. He made over 200 grand just on the equity in his home in the three years that he was stationed here. He goes, man, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. This is it was awesome.
Beth Russell: Yeah. I have friends that purchase a home at every single station they go to, and you can't see my map behind me, but it actually tracks our moves. Like, my daughter is seven years old and by the time she was five, she had lived in five different states. So, we only own two properties. We are one of the crazy people that did not sell our Texas property in this market, but we have kept it and it's been a nice [00:15:00] investment for us.
I used to sell with Stylecraft. I don't know if you know that, but I actually, when I first started with Stylecraft, I sold with them for a year. I was one of their onsite sales executives, and I worked directly with the military families, and I feel like one of the reasons why I was so successful was because I had an intimate understanding of their journey.
You know, when we were getting into those conversations of rent versus buy, I was there as like a tangible human being that could completely relate with their experience and educate them in the benefit of purchasing now versus just waiting until you're retired and you're ready for your forever home.
Greg Bray: It is probably something that a lot of military buyers miss out on is that chance to build equity over time, because they feel so transient and temporary. Often people say, well, if you're going to be in less than three years, it's not really worth it because you're just going to pay nothing but interest on that loan and all these kinds of things. So, it really is probably a different kind of decision for them. I would imagine.
Beth Russell: Yeah. It's super scary. We purchased our home here. We live in Maryland. We live in my hometown. [00:16:00] So, we were blessed enough to be stationed here, and we decided we would just roll the dice and like, okay, this is a great time to purchase because ultimately we would love to be back here at some point in our life, and so let's just see what happens. There's a chance where we could be here longer than X amount of time and ultimately ended up that we're only going to be here a year. We purchased a home.
So, it is scary and it is a risk. It always is, and so I think the biggest fear for military families is just that we have no control over our lives. We have no control over when the next move will come, or where it will be, or if there's going to be a deployment. All of those things come in where there's, so little control over so many aspects of our life that what we can control, we try to. So, we don't want to risk in purchasing a home because there's less control there. Whereas if we just rent, then it's a little bit safer. Or if we just live on post, it's a little bit safer and there's [00:17:00] nothing wrong with that.
People don't realize the amount, like even though the Army moves you each and every time, and I feel like I'm going on a tangent now, but even then the Army moves each and every time, you lose thousands of dollars, every single move. It is very difficult for these families to create a nest egg. It is very difficult for these families to have financial freedom and to create a savings account that they can, accrue that money needed for a down payment. Which is why the VA loan is so essential.
Additionally, many of the spouses don't have opportunities to work. They don't have opportunities to build a steady career because they are moving so often. I am so thankful for my opportunity that I've had with Stylecraft and the fact that we've been able to move and I've been able to keep my position, but I'm not the commonality here. That's not what's typically happening, and so that military buyer is a very different buyer journey than people probably really realize. There's a lot of nuances that go into it. A lot of [00:18:00] layers, you have to peel back, if you will.
Greg Bray: Well, let's go into that cause I think we've tapped into, an expertise here that not everybody has. When you look at your competitors that are trying to serve these same military buyers, what do you see that they are doing wrong that you guys are really capitalizing on in that messaging or helping with that journey?
Beth Russell: I think part of it is understanding the layers because I think military buyers get a bad rap. I think that people assume, and they're not wrong in the assumption because facts are facts, that they don't have the money for a down payment. You know, that is oftentimes the case and it's not through fault of their own. A lot of times it's just the reality of the nature of this nomadic lifestyle if you will.
One thing that kind of drives me crazy, people think they want a military discount. It's true. We all love a military discount. I love being able to get 5, 10% off at Lowes. Like, sweet, but ultimately they want to make sure that they're being taken care of because this is a very [00:19:00] scary and risky situation for them. It's the first time they're experiencing it. Maybe the first time they've had the opportunity to purchase a home and so offering a discount, but then not being there to hold them through the journey and educate them is where a lot of people go wrong.
A lot of times, like people, will walk in the door, I'm taking this back to my selling experience because that's where I feel like I was most hands-on with it, but a lot of times they would walk in the door and be like, well, do you have any military incentives, and I'd be like, no, but I'm a military spouse. I'm part of a military family and let me tell you why that's not important. Let me tell you why that's actually doing you a disservice.
Kevin Weitzel: It's not important.
Beth Russell: Yeah. It's not at all. I don't want to sound like I'm speaking bad on people and their approaches, so I want to approach this gingerly, but we're not selling a sweater. We're not selling a car. We're selling a home and the biggest investment that these people ever make in their lives. I [00:20:00] approached it with you don't want that to be discounted because you don't want to find out that your neighbor got a bigger discount on the same floor plan. You don't want to find out that they bought on a weekend that was a special weekend and paid $10,000 less than you did because now they have more equity than you and that hurts you long-term.
You know, it was just about the education portion of it. What it means financially for them, what it could open up for them and their family long-term, and I kept a tab on the resale market of our homes to be quite honest. I would let them know how quickly my homes were renting in my neighborhood when they did move. I would let them know how quickly they were selling in my neighborhood, even if it was resale and not my new construction because that's important to them. That's going to give them a sense of security and safety of okay, this risk isn't as big as I thought it was going to be. Maybe there is something here that we can pursue that would be financially good for us [00:21:00] long-term.
Greg Bray: So, Beth, do you see with the military buyer, an increased need for the digital tools so they can do more remotely before they can come and visit because they're not local per se, or is that not as critical for them, or any more or less than any other buyer?
Beth Russell: Yes and no. I think ultimately communication is key and understanding and patience is key. Entering into COVID we had a little bit of an advantage where our team was already used to selling to people via FaceTime and Zoom, or just through phone calls and emails because the reality of that military buyer and any transplant buyer is that they're out of state and maybe they can't fly into Texas and see this home in person.
So, we had a little bit of that experience in our back pocket, which served us well. We don't have a ton of digital tools in terms of the buyer experience. We don't have interactive floor plans because we don't have many options in our floor plans and so the interactive aspect is kind of [00:22:00] null and void organically.
We do have exterior tools that they can play with, and that is certainly helpful in their experience, but ultimately I think what it came down to is the experience and the guidance and the communication that we offered them, and the understanding of oh, that's no problem. You don't need to come here. Let me go out and take pictures for you and send all these pictures. Let me take a video. Let me do all these things for you to make this decision easier.
I think that's what's interesting about the direction that a lot of people are going right now is the buzzword is the buy online and buy now button and how do we recreate the Tesla experience. As someone who just purchased a Tesla, I didn't really like the experience. Like, I missed going to the dealership and getting in the car and driving it and understanding how it worked before I purchased it and I have bought a house completely sight unseen from the state of Arizona. [00:23:00] Purchased a house in Texas completely sight-unseen, but during the car experience, it was so new to me that I missed that communication with someone to tell me how this works and to answer my questions. They weren't really answering my questions. I remember showing up at the dealership to pick up our Tesla and they were looking at us like we should know what to do, and I was like, what do you want me to do?
Greg Bray: Where's the on button, right?.
Kevin Weitzel: No. No. No. Greg. I know exactly where you're coming from this cause the reason why I use a droid to this day is because when Apple smartphones first came out, everybody's like Apple. Got to have an Apple. Oh, look at this, and they all had matching white cases and it was all about how fancy it was and it was this weird, like psycho club that everybody's joining into. No offense, Beth, now that you're a Tesla owner, but Tesla people tend to be the same way.
Beth Russell: Oh yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: You're like I've got a Tesla and it has this amount of charging and I can fire up a barbecue with it and yada, yada, yada. I could drive myself to church if I was drunk if I wanted to. So, I'm totally with you that they are accustomed to people coming in and knowing [00:24:00] more about the car than probably what the salesman does sometimes.
Beth Russell: Yeah. No, I agree. I'm kind of going back a little bit, but that's part of the reason why I was a wrestling manager in college that I wanted to be different. I wanted to do something different and I wanted to do something that just made me happy. It's the same thing of like, you can have all these cool tools. You can have all of these fun trinkets that people can play with, but if it's not easy for them and it's not serving their journey and what they want, then what's the purpose?
Greg Bray: I'm just pausing while we absorb that. That was profound. That was good. That was really good. It's about the buyers, right? We sometimes get distracted by the shiny objects. Now granted, hopefully, we use the shiny objects to serve the buyers, but if we aren't, you're absolutely right. We have to serve the buyers.
Beth Russell: I went on a rant on this at IBS slightly. It was very short, but it was like how I kicked off my time at IBS this year, but basically what's the point of having a chat box if you're not doing it right. People don't want to talk [00:25:00] to a robot. They don't want that experience of you driving to a car dealership and the car salesman showing up at your door like, hi, talk to me. Like a chat box that's popping up in the screen being like, hi, I'm here. I'm here. I equate it to that same sort of like pushy experience.
They want to be in the driver's seat. They are used to now, especially like the growth of Ecommerce and the learning all the things that they learned during the COVID error of relying on everything online. They're used to being in the driver's seat. So, let them be in the driver's seat. Don't force something, and don't give them experience that they don't want. Let them tell you what they want and what they're looking for.
Greg Bray: What are you hearing them ask for Beth? What are your buyers telling you they want?
Beth Russell: Help a lot of times. It's overwhelming. It's a scary time to be purchasing a home. Anytime is a scary time to be purchasing a home, but right now it's even more [00:26:00] uneasy because of the demands of the market, and they're hearing all of these scary stories of everything and, you know, our process right now is inventory only. So, we are pricing out each and every home individually, and so it's really difficult for them to be like, what do you mean you don't know what this is going to cost? You can make that less scary by holding their hand and saying, we're going to help you through this and we are going to guide you through this process, and we're going to tell you why, and we're going to make this less scary for you.
I think I keep saying that over and over again, but ultimately it comes down to communication. It comes down to just to helping them and be a resource to them, and I think that's what makes people in any aspect of life, successful. Things are less scary when you're not doing it by yourself. So, don't force them to do it by themselves unless they want to.
Greg Bray: It's about giving them choices, right? It's critical, I think, from your psychology points there, that people are different in what they want to do and how much they want to interact and [00:27:00] when in the process they want to interact. I'm perfectly fine talking to the salesperson once I get to a certain point, but if I'm not there yet, I don't want it. I need to do my part where I don't feel pressured until I'm to the point where it's okay, I have my information now, so I can make sure I can tell if they're blowing smoke or not and can understand my choices and now I want to hear them explain to me why this, that, or the other, answer my questions.
Beth Russell: Yeah, and what's interesting about that now, Greg, is right now we don't have the ability to offer them as much choices as we used to. So, what's interesting is you have people calling in that are like, I don't want to go onsite and visit onsite unless you have a home and a price, but that's too late with this market right now. That's too late.
So, we have to get them in the door sooner, but how do you get them in the door sooner with still being that person that's not pushing them? So, that's something that we work a lot on directly with my online sales team of how do [00:28:00] you get these people who are hesitant to make that first step without the information, or who don't want to speak with an onsite salesperson until they're ready? How do you get them ready?
So, there's a lot of times where you just have to restructure and tweak that verbiage and your communication of just how it's serving them. Again, full circle, it's just all about them. So, if we can get you onsite first, this is how it serves your journey. This is how it serves your home buying process and give value to them and they'll be more receptive to go down that funnel with you.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, I can't help but to think that there's somebody in a less booming market, the joys that we have in Arizona and Texas and Florida and the Carolinas, and even Georgia for that matter, you know, where homes are just, they're sold before you even build them. You've had to flip a switch to we can only sell what we actually have built. It's past slab. It's already past framing. I mean, we're literally putting a sign out in front and it's already getting sold that day. I wonder if there's [00:29:00] anybody in like that Nebraska, Iowa market, that's just that's not a real problem.
Beth Russell: Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: They're just like, why are they complaining that that's a problem. This insane. Yeah.
Beth Russell: I mean, it's like a lucky world problem, right? We had over 7,500 leads last year and we run lean. We have a three-person team. So, it's a good problem to have when you have that many leads, but it's still a problem we have to navigate. We're also navigating that at 45% of our original approved budget. We're doing things that we've never had to do before, and even though it's a great situation, it still causes problems.
Kevin Weitzel: Did you say, let me make sure I heard that you said three on your team?
Beth Russell: Yeah. I have three online sales team members and then it's just me and someone else running marketing.
Kevin Weitzel: Wow. That is lean.
Beth Russell: We closed over a thousand homes last year.
Greg Bray: Well, you're doing something right.
Beth Russell: It's interesting. It's certainly interesting. I surround myself with people that are smarter than me, and that's the only way that we're [00:30:00] able to navigate it. My team's awesome, man. They're a dream team.
Kevin Weitzel: Nice.
Greg Bray: Well, Beth, you've been very generous with your time with us today. Just a couple more questions here. What are you looking ahead and seeing coming that you're getting ready for?
Beth Russell: I'm really focused right now on what it means for our company and our growth. We are growing so fast. When I first started in 2016 and I first started selling and then I started in marketing for us. We didn't have an internal marketing department. We built it in 2017. We did, I think maybe six, 700 homes maybe, and now like I said, we're over a thousand and the demands that come with that from my department's perspective.
So, I'm really focused on how I can make my department stronger, how we can grow the company moving forward. I'm so passionate about our company. I love our company and who I work for and who I get to work with every day and so [00:31:00] any way that I can help serve them and make them better, or help serve our growth is a huge focus of mine. In that, of course, is how do we serve our buyers and our customers and the communities that we build in, and that's not just serving them during their journey, but after their journey and how do we give back to those communities that we're in?
So, right now we're working on redeveloping our website because our website no longer serves the growth that we've had and so we're going to launch a new website and make that even more so customer-focused. We have a lot of exciting plans there, and then internally, just how can I continue to grow my team and make them be who they want to be and make sure that they're continuing to grow as well.
Greg Bray: Well, Beth, any last words of advice that you didn't get a chance to share that you want to put out there to the world?
Beth Russell: I said it at IBS this year, but make a friend. Make friends in this industry because I think another reason why I fell in love with what I do is because of the people I've met along the [00:32:00] way. I have some fantastic peers in this industry that I lean heavily on for ideas and for collaboration, and there's no competition, there's no animosity. There's just this beautiful world of sharing and support. Don't be scared to contact somebody. I'll be your friend. If you need a friend, I'll be your friend. I might not respond very well at times, but it's just because my children are by my side and they need me too. You know, lean on the people around you. Surround yourself with people that are better and you don't need to be an innovator, you just need to be passionate.
Greg Bray: Well, Beth, if anybody wants to become your friend, what's the best way for them to reach out and connect with you.
Beth Russell: You can find me on LinkedIn and I'm not on there as often as I probably should be, but you can also email me at erussell, two S's and two L's at Stylecraft.com
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for sharing with us today, Beth. We really appreciate your time and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. [00:33:00] I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.