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Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Digital Marketing Podcast Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel

135 High-Level Digital Marketing is an Art - Bradley Davis

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Bradley Davis of Woodbridge Pacific Group joins Greg and Kevin to discuss why high-level digital marketing is not just about looking at the data, it also involves creativity, skill, and listening to your gut.

Successful digital marketing requires analyzing the data. Bradley says, “Certainly, we dive down granular and figure out, okay, this campaign's not working, that campaign is, and we shift budgets accordingly, but really high-level, I don't think it's so much about measuring, looking at a report and letting you make a huge decision. It's about figuring out what buyers are looking for, how to get them to sales in the smoothest way possible.”

Digital marketing also requires using insights and instincts. Bradley explains, “I think really high-level stuff is not about numbers or data found on reports…marketing is also an art. There's a lot of things that are just I'm running off of my gut, or like we feel like the market's changing and so we need to invest in something new.

Perfection is not required for effective digital marketing. Bradley says, “Sometimes we don't nail it a hundred percent on the head, but that's the nice thing about digital marketing is you can change up your message and imagery fairly quick, pretty easy.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the art of digital marketing.

About the Guest:

Bradley Davis is the Marketing Director at Woodbridge Pacific Group (WPG), a home builder located in Orange County, California. He joined WPG in 2014 as Senior Marketing Coordinator and was promoted in 2016 to Marketing Manager, overseeing the company’s online presence, including its website, listing sites, and digital ad campaigns. In 2020, after managing the transition of WPG’s CRM system for the sales and marketing departments to Salesforce, he was promoted to Marketing Director to work more closely with the executive team and oversee all consumer-facing marketing communication and creative content. Bradley managed WPG’s corporate rebranding efforts in 2021, and coordinated WPG’s marketing for the builder’s first expansion outside California, in Boise, Idaho.

Bradley is a member of Professional Builder’s 40 under 40 class of 2022, and a graduate of California State University Fullerton, where he holds a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. His family includes Brittany, his wife of 4 years, and Kennedy, their newborn daughter.


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 Bradley Davis, who is the Marketing Director at Woodbridge Pacific Group. Welcome, Bradley. Thanks for joining us today.

Bradley Davis: Thanks, Greg. Thanks, Kevin. Happy to be here.

Greg Bray: Well, Bradley. We wanna start out by getting to know you a little bit. So, tell us a little bit about yourself. Introduce yourself to us.

Bradley Davis: Yeah, I am Bradley Davis. I am the Marketing Director at Woodbridge [00:01:00] Pacific Group. We're a privately held builder/developer located in Orange County, California.

Kevin Weitzel: Man, way to polish that toward just work. Number one, Greg. He was in the Pro Builder Forty Under 40, and two, my next question is always tell us something personal about yourself that we'll learn about you only on this podcast that our listening audience doesn't know about you.

Bradley Davis: All right. I knew you were gonna ask this. This is the question I did know about. I have a canned answer on this one. You know, like the Coachella Music Festival, happens every year?

Kevin Weitzel: Yes.

Bradley Davis: So, I have been like 15 years running now because I won a contest that allows me to go every single year. I get a VIP wristband every single year for free for the rest of my life.

Greg Bray: Wow.

Kevin Weitzel: What?

Bradley Davis: Yeah.

Kevin Weitzel: How did I not know about this number one, and number two, why am I not invited as your plus one?

Bradley Davis: I don't get a plus one. That's the downside. It's just me. I basically won the [00:02:00] lottery.

Kevin Weitzel: I'm envious. Yeah. That's amazing.

Bradley Davis: Yeah.

Greg Bray: And so you have plans to take advantage of that every year for the rest of your life?

Bradley Davis: Every year. Going to Coachella is like my Christmas, and it's like the thing I look most forward to every single year. It's a blast.

Kevin Weitzel: That it is. What about your family life?

Bradley Davis: Have a wife of four years, Brittany, and we just welcomed to the world our daughter Kennedy, who joined us just a couple of months ago.

Kevin Weitzel: Congratulations.

Greg Bray: Congratulations.

Bradley Davis: Yeah. Being a dad is the coolest.

Greg Bray: It changes everything.

Bradley Davis: It does. You could say that again but in the best way. Yeah. It's remarkable.

Greg Bray: Well, Bradley, tell us a little bit more about your journey into home building, because it's not everybody who's Forty Under 40 qualified. So, what kind of got you started in this industry?

Bradley Davis: Out of college, I got hired as a marketing coordinator at a property development company. Mostly did like luxury high-end apartments. [00:03:00] I worked there for a couple of years, and then I got connected to Karen Spargo, who has been working out here in the Southern California new home industry for a very long time. She was working for Woodbridge and she said, Hey, I'm looking to hire someone to work under me. That opportunity, I couldn't pass it up 'cause she's been in the industry for a very long time. To be able to learn from her and just soak in all that knowledge was amazing, and that's how I transitioned over to new homes, and that was in 2014. So, I've been in the new home industry for eight years now, and it's been a blast.

Kevin Weitzel: I love picking the brains of veterans in the industry. Love it because so many different perspectives. You never went through the housing crash?

Bradley Davis: I was not part of this industry during the housing crash.

Kevin Weitzel: So, you never experienced the wonderous world of everybody panicking, and half the builders closing. It's nuts. Yeah. So, it is a whole different perspective.

Bradley Davis: That was actually one of the questions I asked in my interview with Karen was like, Hey, there was this [00:04:00] really big crash, and like, half of these companies went under. Why should I devote my time here? Well, we made it through the crash, and here's why, and it was convincing enough for me to make a switch. I was quite skeptical to join the new home industry to be completely honest.

Greg Bray: Although, that's a pretty real badge to say we made it through. The ones who could say that that really means something, for sure. Well, tell us a little bit more about Woodbridge Pacific Group, and what you guys are working on, and the kind of buyers that you guys are working with.

Bradley Davis: Yeah, we are located in Orange County and we build primarily in Southern and central California. Then we recently, just last year, expanded for the first time out of state into the Boise market. So, we're in California and Boise right now. As far as product goes, we're not like, oh, we build move-up homes or first-time homes, nothing like that.

Our team looks for unique opportunities or situations that maybe a lot of other builders just don't wanna put the [00:05:00] time into, and maybe in markets that a lot of builders don't feel comfortable entering. So, for example, we work in the California desert. We've been very successful out there, but it comes with its own challenges working in the desert. Like today, it's probably 110 degrees out there. So, it's markets like that where we see opportunities for us to take advantage of the market.

Kevin Weitzel: So, you mean to tell me you build in the desert, the low desert, high desert, like Palm Springs, Yucca, Twentynine Palms area?

Bradley Davis: We focus on the Coachella Valley. So, the Palm Springs area. Yeah.

Kevin Weitzel: You said you want interesting. You could build me a mid-century modern ranch with a moat and a drawbridge?

Bradley Davis: The moat would be problematic.

Kevin Weitzel: I'm just kidding. I just kidding.

Bradley Davis: We do build mid-century homes though, mid-century inspired homes in the Palm Springs area. That has been some of our most successful projects. In fact, a few years ago our project, Sky in Palm Springs, won basically every award we entered, including National's Residential Community of the Year. [00:06:00] Very, very, very successful project. Yeah. Extremely cool architecture. Just remarkable architecture.

Greg Bray: And just because Kevin, we are responsible with our water usage. That would be a ditch, not a moat, right? It would just be empty. It would be, it would be dry, right?

Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. Actually, and it wouldn't be a mid-century modern ranch. For me, it would just be a trailer on a random lot with a ditch.

Bradley Davis: There you go. I appreciate you thinking about our water usage though.

Kevin Weitzel: It's very important.

Greg Bray: So Bradley, Southern California, and Boise are not exactly the same from my perspective. All right. I'm just going out on a limb here. So, from a marketing perspective, how do you manage different messaging, different demographics, different focus across, you know, such a different geographical divide?

Bradley Davis: Yeah, it's not too dissimilar from just even within Southern California. The homes that we're building in the desert, the neighborhood brands that we create, are very different than something in [00:07:00] San Diego or Orange county or in Bakersfield. It depends not just on location, but product type.

We might have product type that would cater more toward a family or a product type that might be more like singles or newly marrieds. It doesn't matter. Every single neighborhood will adjust the branding and messaging to focus on who we think the buyer will be. So, whether it's submarkets within Southern California or going all the way multiple states over, the goal is still the same. It's to create messaging that applies to who we think the buyer is.

Kevin Weitzel: How often do you hit a bullseye with that messaging? This is kind of a loaded question because we interviewed Michelle Smallwood and she kind of opened up the kimono a little bit about one of the projects they did with Holiday Builders, and she said that they had gone gangbusters trying to send the messaging to millennials and then active adults actually wound up buying up almost the entire community. Have you guys found a market where you've tried to make a certain outreach and then had the exact opposite effect?

Bradley Davis: [00:08:00] Maybe not the exact opposite, but definitely, where we thought, the buyer here is gonna skew a little younger and it actually did not. It skewed a little older. Exactly what you were saying, like millennials, first-time buyers, but we're seeing people who are retiring and move downs. Yeah. Sometimes we don't nail it a hundred percent on the head, but that's the nice thing about digital marketing is you can change up your message and imagery fairly quick, pretty easy.

Greg Bray: That's a great comment Bradley, 'cause I think we forget that sometimes that it is all about learning and changing and pivoting and adjusting. Isn't it with digital? Do you guys have a formal process for that or is it more of a, oh, you know what maybe we should try something different today?

Bradley Davis: We definitely have a process for when we are launching a new neighborhood in how we go about learning who the buyer will be and why we pick specific imagery based on product type, geography, things like that. Certainly, especially when [00:09:00] we first open and start selling, we pay really close attention asking the sales teams who's buying, who's coming into the sales office. Just so we can, early on in the life cycle of the neighborhood, make any of those adjustments that we need to.

Greg Bray: How have you guys chosen to structure your marketing team with the different areas? Are you all headquartered together or are you spread out with people, you know, on the ground in the different areas? How does the team look?

Bradley Davis: I was the marketing department for a really long time. It was me. Now I have a marketing coordinator. His name is Jacob. He works on our whole portfolio, but he lives in Boise, Idaho. So, I have some boots on the ground there, but it's just him and me. Everything else, I outsource. I have about a million different agencies that do work for us.

Greg Bray: A million that's a lot of agencies.

Bradley Davis: Maybe not a million, but quite a few, and I work very closely with them. I consider them part of our marketing team.

Greg Bray: At what point was there a kind of decision made of, we want to stay [00:10:00] small in-house and use partners and agencies versus trying to build that in-house team larger? What's kind of your thoughts behind that strategy?

Bradley Davis: When I came to Woodbridge, that was the way it was structured. The reasoning is because when we have new projects, we can apply those costs for agencies to a neighborhood. We run very thin at Woodbridge. We work very hard. We do not overstaff, and so we keep overhead low and then apply all the costs that we can to specific neighborhoods.

Greg Bray: That's a great way to look at it. I've had conversations with builders before where the idea of budgeting on a per community or even a per home basis with the marketing, so that now your budget kind of adjusts automatically based on the size of the community, or where it is in the life cycle, is something that I'm not sure everybody does that. Some people do a little more global and then they, have this big pot that they have to, or maybe a small pot, that they have to work with. That's interesting. With those [00:11:00] agencies, how much of that is, digitally focused versus more traditional advertising and marketing activities?

Bradley Davis: I'll say 95% digital.

Greg Bray: Okay. You still got, you still got a sign somewhere, right?

Bradley Davis: Yeah. We have signage. We still do print brochures. We still print brochures for our sales offices, but gosh, that's about it. Everything else we've just shifted so hard to digital.

Greg Bray: Which channel do you find to be the one that you're getting the most engagement in as far as is it social media? Is it like Google Ads or other types of activities? What's working for?

Bradley Davis: Gosh, how should I put this? I am a zealot for Zillow. I love Zillow. Zillow gives us really great, really high-quality traffic. Outside of our industry, like if you just asked anyone, what would you do if you were gonna lurk for a new home? Every single person, the first thing they're gonna do is go to Zillow. I made the decision very early on that Zillow was going to be one of the most important pieces of our digital advertising. They have worked wonders for us.

Greg Bray: Do you [00:12:00] find yourself having to optimize to try and compete within Zillow's platform at all? Or is it still open enough that you can get the placements that you want pretty easily?

Bradley Davis: Certainly their advertising options are something we take advantage of, and I think they're very strong and very targeted in a great way, and I've never had to worry about oh, are we getting enough impressions or clicks or conversions from it? Simply having the listings on the platform and having control over the listings on the platform, I think, is invaluable because people will find you if you have the product that they're looking for in the location they're looking for, and so you need to be there at the place that people are looking.

Kevin Weitzel: Location location, location.

Bradley Davis: All about location. It's product and location. Product and place.

Greg Bray: You know, you mentioned that your buyers that you've talked to, that going to Zillow is one of their first steps in their process. Have you seen that evolve and change at all, or has it been that way [00:13:00] for a while for you now? Where you think that that's where they've been, or do you think more and more of them are going there as they evolve in their search?

Bradley Davis: Ooh. I'm preaching to the choir here. I know this. It's not like just Zillow, right? No buyer takes one just a clean path through your campaigns or through your advertising channels. They're touching everything a hundred times. They're gonna see your Google Ads. They're gonna go to your Facebook page. They might see your Facebook ads. They're gonna check Zillow. They're gonna look on your website, obviously. I don't know, Zillow is just one of the many pieces that people are touching. It's just probably the one that, I think maybe, is most undervalued by other digital marketers in the new home industry.

Greg Bray: Is there one of those platforms or opportunities over the last little while that you didn't think was gonna work well, that really surprised you? Some campaign that you put out there and you're like, oh, well, let's just give it a shot, and then wow, that really worked? Any type of campaign that you [00:14:00] guys were experimenting with and trying out?

Bradley Davis: One of the benefits of having multiple agencies work for you is that they will throw out ideas that are sometimes very progressive and very creative and very unique. It's my job to say yes or no to them. I do try to give them some freedom and be open to their suggestions, even if it makes it uncomfortable. They aren't so in the weeds as I am for our organization. I work so closely with them, but they're just far enough outside of the forest to be able to sometimes see a bigger picture than I can. I do lean on them to come up with those creative solutions sometimes I don't feel are going to be as successful as I think.

Greg Bray: But it's interesting what you said in that, just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn't necessarily make it a right or wrong thing to try. How do you consciously overcome that I'm gonna call it a bias, right? Because, oh, I'm not sure it makes me uncomfortable. I wouldn't wanna try, you know. How do you get past that as [00:15:00] being the one who has to give the go, no go decision, so to speak, right on whether you wanna try something?

Bradley Davis: Yeah, I think it is a quality and a trait that's necessary to be a quality marketer. Well, in our section of the industry, especially you can't just keep doing things the way they were.

Kevin Weitzel: Whoa, whoa.

Bradley Davis: You have to keep evolving or else you'd be spending $10,000 on a single-page newspaper ad, right?

Kevin Weitzel: Bradley, for our listeners in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, the Carolinas, can you say that one more time, please?

Bradley Davis: Oh, no, I don't wanna offend the entirety of the Midwest.

Kevin Weitzel: I'm just kidding, but seriously, could you say that again? 'Cause, that was very important.

Bradley Davis: We have to keep evolving. We cannot keep doing things the way they were. It's absolutely essential that we keep changing, and trying to push our industry forward and in keeping up with different technology.

Kevin Weitzel: Let me ask you this because being that I sell [00:16:00] to marketers, you know, myself, with our goods, our digital goods. I, over the last year and a half or so, get pushback of, well, we're selling home so fast. We don't need to spend money on marketing. What is your philosophy on that?

Bradley Davis: Oh, my gosh, dude. Oh my gosh. Kevin.

Kevin Weitzel: Please give, well, it sounds like you're about to give me the right answer.

Bradley Davis: You know, when times are great marketing had nothing to do with it, and let's kill their budget, and then the second, the market turns it's Hey, why don't we have any traffic?

Kevin Weitzel: Right.

Greg Bray: Oh, and let's kill their budget.

Bradley Davis: Yeah, the budget that we chopped in half, you have to still work with the half chopped budget.

Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. You need to work with that.

Bradley Davis: Yeah. Being in marketing is really fun. I love working in marketing. I would not change it for the world. Sometimes it's hard though. Expectations from stakeholders can be a little challenging, for sure.

Greg Bray: Man, Kevin, you hit a sore spot with that one.

Kevin Weitzel: No, you know, it, it's just funny that how often that happens, where you think that, oh times are good, we don't need to spend money on marketing, but that's when you need to, not double down, but [00:17:00] you need to maintain that focus because when the time goes back out, you don't wanna be caught out there with no new bunnies in the, to pull out of a hat. You don't wanna be that guy.

Bradley Davis: I agree, and definitely during the two-year boom that we had. Don't get me wrong, I cut my ad spend significantly. I had one sales team that was like, please, I beg of you, stop sending us new leads, and so we did, but I didn't just stop spending the money. I shifted it to other things that I think have a long-term play. I knew like this can't last forever. The market's going to change and I'm going to instead invest in content that can be useful for when the market does change, and sure enough, look where we are now. You know, it's been valuable resources to have.

Greg Bray: I think that's a fabulous insight, and it's too bad we didn't have you on a year and a half ago to tell everybody that. It's not about spending more or less, it's about the focus of where you're spending. It's about the choice of which tactic or which strategy you're pursuing, and so if I don't need instant leads, maybe I scale [00:18:00] back on some of the advertising, like in Google or Facebook or whatnot, and spend it on writing and content or SEO or things that are gonna have a longer shelf life that are gonna pay dividends later when I need to shift that money back.

So, I'm gonna assume, Bradley, that you're seeing a shift back away from some of those things now, and there might be a little bit more of the, we could use a couple more leads this week. If you don't mind.

Bradley Davis: Yeah, no question. Being able to invest in things that would help us in the future, it's invaluable. We're a very small builder. I've been trying to get an online sales counselor for a very, very long time, and about five months ago, I walked to my CEO's office and I said I would like to hire an OSC because I think the market's going to change this year.

Fortunately, two things happened. One is he agreed, and then two, I was able to outsource it because like I mentioned earlier, I out outsource all my work. So, shout out to Shared Drive. I know you guys are buddies with. They swooped in and helped [00:19:00] us set up an OSC program, and now we've got that up and running and the market shift and timing could not have been better.

Greg Bray: And I'm gonna assume that it wasn't like a one-week project to get that up and running?

Bradley Davis: No.

Greg Bray: So, for the people who were still waiting and now are trying to start that right now, you've still got a little bit of a curve to climb here to get that fully operational.

Bradley Davis: Exactly. Yeah.

Greg Bray: Kudos to you for having a little vision there. That's awesome.

Bradley Davis: Thank you.

Greg Bray: So, as you're looking at the different opportunities and trying to make those decisions about where to invest, where not. What are some of the key metrics that you watch that help you evaluate your various opportunities for your investment on your marketing stuff?

Bradley Davis: That's an interesting question. I think really high-level stuff is not about numbers or data found on reports. When I first entered the marketing world, like outta school, I was like, oh, it's all about the numbers and which program is the most effective, but one thing I learned from working under Karen Spargo [00:20:00] was marketing is also an art. There's a lot of things that are just I'm running off of my gut, or like we feel like the market's changing and so we need to invest in something new.

Certainly, we dive down granular and figure out, okay, this campaign's not working, that campaign is, and we shift budgets accordingly, but really high-level, I don't think it's so much about measuring, looking at a report, and letting you make a huge decision. It's about figuring out what buyers are looking for, how to get them to sales in the smoothest way possible.

Kevin, I'll preach to the choir here. I can't measure an ROI on renderings, or on virtual tours. I can't measure it, but there are tools that are absolutely essential and I must have them in order to be successful in 2022.

Kevin Weitzel: Fact, Kansas City.

Bradley Davis: Take that Midwest.

Kevin Weitzel: Take that Midwest.

Greg Bray: Man, you guys stop offending our listeners.

Kevin Weitzel: [00:21:00] I know we gotta, we're just tea, we're just picking.

Bradley Davis: I'm sorry fly over states.

Greg Bray: Oh man. Well, Bradley, is there a place though? So, so we got the Bradley-gut-o-meter here that's telling us where to go with our marketing. You've gotta have some inputs though, that you're watching, or things that you're paying attention to. What are some of those things that you keep an eye on? You know, maybe it's trends, or even outside the industry, that kind of helps feed those decisions.

Bradley Davis: Yeah. There's certainly in the industry, a lot of podcasts like your guys' listen to, and I try to follow different thought leaders that work in the marketing space, specifically in new homes, but not just new homes, but other industries as well. So, we can see, what type of things other people are working on.

Tuning into people who have sometimes contrarian opinions Can be extremely helpful. People who aren't just saying the same thing, but people who are willing to push a little bit back on maybe what the trends are, I think are very valuable to listen to. [00:22:00] So yeah, people like you guys. Shout out, 'cause I get to listen to all these other marketing professionals and I always get at least one tidbit that I can take home and create some action on.

Kevin Weitzel: The one I got from this one is that Greg, you came up with a new hashtag, Bradley-gut-o-meter.

Bradley Davis: There we go.

Greg Bray: Well, I was just gonna say, and, and he just called you contrarian, I think.

Kevin Weitzel: A little bit.

Bradley Davis: He just attacked all of the Midwest states.

Kevin Weitzel: I didn't mean to you though. It wasn't intentional. I'm actually from the Midwest, so it's not like, you know, I just know my people. Brad. So no, what it comes down to is that I've always lived on, from an employment status, I've always considered myself to be an entrepreneurial spirit, but that's compensated by the company that I work for. In addition to that, with that mindset, I always think outside of the box. I don't like to just go with, here's how we do things. Why do we do it that way? You know, cause it seems inefficient. Let's improve it. I've always done that my entire life, and I think that's one of the areas that I found success in was just thinking outside of the box instead of just droning on along with this [00:23:00] why we do things this way, here's how it is.

Bradley Davis: Right.

Kevin Weitzel: The report says, this is what we need to do,

Bradley Davis: Yeah. When everyone's moving in one way, in one direction, it creates opportunity if you move in a different one. Definitely.

Greg Bray: Bradley, we do appreciate you sharing your time with us today. Any last words of advice or thoughts you'd like to share with the audience before we wrap?

Bradley Davis: I'll say this. I am surrounded by an amazing team internally and externally. I work with amazing people. When I won the Forty Under 40 Award for 2022, I felt entirely inadequate to receive that award because I'm merely a product of the excellent people that I've surrounded myself with.

Kevin Weitzel: Do not sell yourself short, sir. You are part of that team. You're an integral part of that team and you share in their success.

Bradley Davis: Sure. Yeah, for sure, but I think surrounding yourself with brilliant minds is the path to success.

Kevin Weitzel: So, basically what you're saying is Karen surrounded herself with a Bradley. [00:24:00] Is that what you're saying?

Bradley Davis: Oh man. Now you flipped it on me.

Kevin Weitzel: Boom. I just used your words on you, man.

Bradley Davis: There we go.

Kevin Weitzel: You said it. I'm just basking in it.

Bradley Davis: I'm trying to play the humble card and then you just reverse UNOed me.

Greg Bray: Well Bradley. If somebody wants to reach out and get in touch, what's the best way for them to connect with you?

Bradley Davis: You can reach me on LinkedIn, Bradley Davis, Woodbridge Pacific Group. If you're connected to Greg or Kevin, then you will probably find me when you search it.

Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing Bradley, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.

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