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138 Giving Social Media a More Personal Touch - Gail Bonnstetter

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Gail Bonnstetter of Carpenter Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how to bring a more personal approach to social media posts that don't have to be perfect.

Home builders can utilize various social media platforms for different purposes. Gail explains, “Whatever platform I'm using, LinkedIn especially as we're focused on right now, is more about educating people what we have, but also just letting them have a little personal feel as well.”

There might be some hesitancy to show the more personal side, but Gail says, “…people like to see just people that aren't trying to be scripted or perfect.”

Gail's advice is, “…I just think anybody that's out there, because almost everybody is doing social media, is to just be yourself. Don't worry about if you make a goof...The truth is, none of us are perfect and people are gonna accept you just to be human. Just do your best, have fun, and I really think that's pretty much the name of the game.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about creating social media posts that are personal.

About the Guest:

Gail was born and raised on a hog farm in Iowa, and she is proud of it. Growing up on a farm embedded strong work ethics into the woman she is today. She believes being from the Midwest has given her a naturally kind heart with genuine empathy for people. She moved from Iowa in December 2011 to Oviedo, Florida. She has been in sales and marketing all her life; however, her first job when she arrived in Florida was through a temp company and with a new home builder. She has been in the industry ever since.

Covid pushed her to get my real estate license because she was so bored and that stepping stone now has her in the present of being so grateful for Larry Thompson and his belief in her because of his experience with her when we both worked for DR Horton. Now she can proudly say that she is the  VP of Sales and Marketing for his wonderful company, Carpenter Homes, in Tampa, Florida.

Sometimes we wonder why sometimes painful things happen in our lives, then as time goes on we realize, “oh……….that’s why!”


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 OutHouse.

Greg Bray: And we're excited to welcome to the show today, Gail Bonnstetter. Gail is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Carpenter Homes. Welcome, Gail. Thanks for joining us today.

Gail Bonnstetter: Thank you so much. I'm honored to be here.

Greg Bray: Well, Gail, let's start off by just having you share a little bit about yourself and introduce yourself to our listeners today.

Gail Bonnstetter: So, I am a hog farmer's daughter from Iowa, born and raised in northern [00:01:00] Iowa, and I have been in Florida since 2011, and my first job here in Florida was actually with a new home builder, and that is what introduced me to this whole wonderful profession that I'm currently in.

Greg Bray: A hog farmer's daughter, I don't know that I hear that very often.

Gail Bonnstetter: Proud of it. That's why I have to tell you.

Kevin Weitzel: And normally we'll ask some interesting about your past that nobody knows about, but hog farmer. That's right up there. You already stumped the question asker.

Gail Bonnstetter: You know, when I was kind of reflecting on things last night, and I did see one of those questions as you had me practicing maybe knowing what you were gonna ask. And the one thing that a lot of people don't know about me is in 2000 I was in a bodybuilding contest, the NANBF, Natural Body Building Contest, and I won Miss Iowa in 2000 as a bodybuilder. So, there you go. There's my little tidbit of unknown information for some.

Kevin Weitzel: That is cool.

Greg Bray: What made you want to enter a contest like that?

Gail Bonnstetter: Physical fitness [00:02:00] has always been a part of my life. It's a great stress reliever. Those endorphins bring me up. If I don't work out, I'm one of those people that are wired that if I don't work out, I feel lethargic. I have no energy. So, I have to get to the gym and do that just to, honestly, keep going every day. So, I had a gentleman at the gym say, Gail, you're genetically made. You need to try this. All I could picture was those great big women that you see in the magazine. You know, those big muscle-bound women, and I thought, you know, I don't wanna quite look like that, but I really learned.

It was very interesting that eating regimen and the workout regimen, how your body can transform into this different being. It was quite interesting. It was very painful, and I like to drink Tito's and eat nachos, and that's not something that I would ever wanna do over again, but it's something that I did. I overcame, I won, and I hung my hat up as a winner and don't plan on ever doing it again.

Kevin Weitzel: Wait, so lemme get this straight. Because I too eat [00:03:00] and drink of various concoctions, but I've been developing this, it's not really called a six-pack, what is it called a pony keg?

Gail Bonnstetter: Yeah.

Kevin Weitzel: I don't think my regiment matches what you were doing.

Gail Bonnstetter: Well, lemme tell ya. Anybody that has a six-pack is not enjoying life. They are not eating nachos and they are not drinking Tito's. So, I feel sorry for those beings that are that lean and that put together because life is not fun.

Greg Bray: I'm going to go with the, I'm more into enjoying life. Yeah. That's for sure.

Well, tell us a little bit more then how you ended up in home building. You mentioned that first job in Florida, but what was kind of the path from there?

Gail Bonnstetter: Do you know, I really believe it was a godsend. So, when I moved to Florida, it was after my three sons were grown and my last one was in college. I came to Florida unemployed. Something I've never done in my life, but my path led me here. I bet I put out 200 resumes. I'm not exaggerating. I tried to go into offices and hand deliver my resume [00:04:00] because I felt I can project a professional woman and I love the gift of gab. I was getting stopped at the door every time. So, I finally went to a temp agency and I told them, I said, I don't care what I'm doing. Just get me in the door to a strong company and I will prove myself.

So, I had an interview with DR Horton. I thought I was going to interview for an admin assistant position and it ended up being a marketing coordinator position, and it absolutely was the most perfect fit. I'm so grateful to DR Horton for giving me a chance to be in this environment because I have done nothing but grow since I started with them. And what I learned with them, and what's really, really interesting is how my whole life circled back because the owner of my company, Larry Thompson, I met him at DR Horton, and now I work for him.

So, it's just really interesting how God's path works. I [00:05:00] always thoroughly believe, and I will always believe, that people cross your paths for a reason. It might be a positive reason, it might be a negative reason, but here I am. Moved to Tampa to work for Larry Thompson for Carpenter Homes, and I could not be happier.

Greg Bray: That's a great story, Gail. Well, tell us more about Carpenter Homes, where you guys build, what types of buyers are you working with.

Gail Bonnstetter: So, Carpenter Homes is a scattered lot builder. So, we don't build in big, huge communities like you'll see some of the larger new home builders. We build on scattered lots throughout the state of Florida. We literally build in Palm Coast. We build in Palm Bay. We've built in Tampa. We're in Southwest Florida, in Lee and Charlotte County. We literally are all over the state.

We build homes from a little under 1400 square feet, three bedroom, two bath, all the way up to 2660 square feet, and that's four bath, four bed [00:06:00] with a flex, so it could be five bed and three bath. These homes are just incredible, and we just started building duplexes as well.

Palm Coast, we're building duplexes. Duplexes are a really interesting product because you not only find, we have a daughter who is moving her elderly parents in next to her in one of our homeowners that are gonna soon be moving in, and then we have investors that are also interested in the duplexes to rent them out. So, it's really a neat product and I cannot wait to see the first finished one. I think it's just gonna be amazing.

Greg Bray: So, with your scattered lots, how many of those are people coming to you with land already wanting you to build versus you guys are buying the land, building the home, and then putting it on the market?

Gail Bonnstetter: So, interesting that you would ask that, Greg, because we are currently looking into doing an on-your-lot program because that definitely is a need. We have people, quite often honestly, in all areas of the state, say, I have the land. [00:07:00] I just want somebody to build a house on my land, and so we are looking into that at this very moment.

We'll probably launch it first in Palm Bay and then spread out from there. We have a list probably of 20 plus people, just in the last few months, that have requested to have our home built on their lot. So, it definitely is a need and definitely something we will be doing in the future.

Greg Bray: So, you talk about scattered lots all over Florida. Florida's a large state, lot of spread out geography. That strikes me as a rather interesting sales and marketing challenge to be able to get that message out across such a broad area where you don't have the big community with the sign and everything that everybody's driving by and can see. You just have these kind of individual homes in different places. So take us through that a little bit and tell us why I'm wrong or, yes, that is unique and that's why we're so excited about what we do.

Kevin Weitzel: Tell why I'm wrong.

Gail Bonnstetter: You know, I'll tell you what. It can be challenging, but it's also [00:08:00] exciting because the demographics can be so different. We have four new home stores. That's something that's really unique to the new home builder world. We do not have a model home. Carpenter Homes has these high-tech, really contemporary, cool-looking storefronts in public town centers.

We have one in Palm Coast, one in Palm Bay, one in North Fort Myers, and one in Port Charlotte. So, when somebody comes into our store, whether it be a realtor with a buyer, they can come into our store. We have a huge 55- inch screen where we can show them the floor plans. We can literally pull up the house that they're interested in and start showing them what design features we have in the home.

For instance, it's this color, granite or quartz. It's this type of flooring. You have 36-, 42-inch cabinets. This is the color they are. These are the schemes that we've chosen. They literally can see the home [00:09:00] evolving in front of their eyes, and the home may only be at block. So, it's really a cool technology, and not only that, our stores are in a public area. So, there's a lot of traffic, which I think is a positive thing as well because, you know, when you're in those communities, even though you have the big signs and you have that type of driven traffic, sometimes people don't even know you're there if you're back in a gated community or something.

So, I think it's really positive that we do have these storefronts in the public town centers because it allows people that are going to get some groceries an opportunity to recognize who we are, what we do, and they can come in and ask questions and actually see the technology that we provide.

Kevin Weitzel: When you're talking about, you know, having a big sign in a community, yadda, yadda, but I've known some people that they're so fearful that they can't buy a home, that they just avoid those like the plague. Do you find that you can educate, and or do you have a product that suits the [00:10:00] first-time buyer, you know, in that price point savvy market? Do you find that that mall location allows you to expand that reach?

Gail Bonnstetter: Absolutely, and I can give you a perfect example. I was in Palm Coast. I travel to all of our locations and support the agents that we have. I had this young couple come in. They were very honest and genuine, telling me their situation. Their credit score wasn't the greatest. You know, they really would like to own a home and the fears that they had, and I can always use myself as an example.

So, I was so scared to buy my first home because I've always lived on a salary that was in a comfort zone, but yet I never had a nest egg. I could never, you know, have that nest egg to sit on to have that extra monies on the side, and so it terrified me to have a home and to know if something broke, I had to pay for it, or whatever the case may be. So, when I talk to a first-time [00:11:00] homeowner that they're kind of clueless on what is out there. They're clueless on there's many, many programs out there that help the first-time buyer.

I mean, now we have the Hometown Heroes. Which, my goodness, when you read the list of all the people that fit the role of a Hometown Hero. It's just not the firemen and the policemen and the doctors and the nurses. It's a huge list of people that you wouldn't even consider would be a Hometown Hero, but they truly are, and they're recognized in this program. So, there's just so many different things out there for people that have rented all their life. They have nothing to show for it.

And in all honesty, my personal situation was, I was paying more in rent than I paid on my mortgage, and so I really try to explain to people to research to see what's out there for them. We have three preferred lenders that we utilize. I offer them the opportunity to reach out to one of those [00:12:00] three to just understand what's available to them.

So, I absolutely think Carpenter Homes has something for everyone. As we know, the market has really shifted here and there in the last couple of years. The pandemic really, really changed the world forever, in my opinion. Our first year open, most of our homes were sold virtually. We did not have a home in the ground. We did not have something for people to walk. They literally were buying our homes virtually. The way that we set up our storefronts now is pretty much the same way. Now granted, we have homes that we're building, homes that they can walk through now, homes that are under construction.

Normally, any home that's completed, closes and is sold. We don't have anything sitting out there. It's just a different world now, and I really truly believe that we build such a variety of plans and sizes that [00:13:00] our goal is to be able to meet every single person that really wants home ownerships needs, and we do everything in our power to help them.

Greg Bray: So, Gail, tell us a little bit more about the storefront concept compared to, you know, maybe how some other builders more traditionally have done that. Because it sounds like you've strategically chosen the locations for these on purpose to attract the walk by potential customer. Is that a fair understanding?

Gail Bonnstetter: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Greg Bray: Tell us more about where that strategy kind of evolved and came from.

Gail Bonnstetter: When Larry and Ron were starting up this company that was just kind of a vision that they had, to think outside the box a little bit. I will be honest with you, I think there's positives and negatives about not having a model home. I think the positives is just the environment that we're in. Again, you have all the public traffic because public town centers have numerous different kinds of vendors, you know, and companies within. [00:14:00] So, you have a wide variety and diverse group of people that are coming and going there. But we do get asked, do you have a model home we can walk? Can we see a home that you build?

That's one obstacle that we have to overcome because a lot of times we have to say, well, we don't have a model home, but come in and we're gonna have you go through our virtual tour, or you're gonna be able to see what our homes are. You know, the green certifications and why they're green certified, and how we can't even get a CO if it's not green certified and we pass all the tests. So, that's kind of how we overcome that.

I really do believe there are positives and negatives about not having a model home, but I think it really leans more toward the positive when we offer everything that we offer within our storefronts, and the traffic, and the diverse of people that are walking that maybe wouldn't have even thought about home ownership, and when they see us and we welcome them in, they at least get educated if nothing else.

Greg Bray: It's [00:15:00] interesting to hear you describe the fact that a lot of what you're doing is using technology that some builders may be put out on the website and just kind of let people self-serve, but you're using that technology more in a guided sales situation. Is that something that you feel is better to show them and lead them through the tour versus them doing it on their own, or do you let them do both?

Gail Bonnstetter: You know what? They can actually do both because we have this technology on our website as well. But I think what's really unique in our storefronts is yes, they can look at all the visuals and the visualizer and everything that we offer them technology side, but we also have the tangible things there. We have the flooring, we have the granite and quarts, we have the hardware for the cabinets. They get to actually feel and touch as well as visualize everything that we're showing them that's in the home. So, I think it's double the pleasure. I think it's really a positive experience for anybody that comes into our storefronts to have both.

Greg Bray: [00:16:00] Tell us a little bit more then about how you decide which technologies you guys want to use and have available.

Gail Bonnstetter: So, when you say technology, I want clarification there. So, are you asking about the way we're marketing technology-wise? Is that what you're asking?

Greg Bray: More about the technologies you're using to show the home as far as the tours and some of those tools that you've selected.

Gail Bonnstetter: The company that created our website, they have created everything within our marketing expansion when it comes to the visualizer and all of that. Let's say, for instance, the virtual tour. The virtual tour is our floor plan in a technology base, right? Trust me, I was a part of creating the spreadsheets and every single aspect of what's inside a home, and it was a nightmare. Larry and I worked hours and hours and hours and hours and hours on it when I first started to get this all put together, and there's always changes.

Either a company goes out of business that we're utilizing as a vendor [00:17:00] or colors changed. We have an amazing designer on staff now, and she can do a hundred times better than what I was attempting to do to design these homes. I have okay, taste, she has off-the-chart, phenomenal ideas and design concepts that I would've never have thought of. So, it's an interesting whole concept.

So, the visualizer actually provides a visual concept, but then we have the tangible things as well. So, they can either go on the website at their house, or they can be in the store. They can visualize on the screen, they can feel in touch in the store.

So, I think it's really a win-win for everybody because then they get a good feel of the quality that we put inside our homes. Larry would have it no other way than to have the best of the best, and that's something that I really respect about him. I just think it's, some people aren't comfortable coming into a public place. They're more comfortable being at home doing it [00:18:00] themselves, but we give them the option to do either.

Kevin Weitzel: So, you're using both a virtual design center and a physical, maybe not necessarily a full-blown design center, but at least having design samples so you can showcase that.

Gail Bonnstetter: Absolutely, yes.

Greg Bray: So, Gail, one of the reasons that I reached out to you to have you on the show is because I've seen some of your LinkedIn activity. You're very active there. Tell us a little more about how LinkedIn is working for you guys and the types of activities you do there versus maybe some other social media platforms.

Gail Bonnstetter: So, LinkedIn is primary professionals. Professionals, obviously, that I focus on are people in the real estate world, because without realtors we wouldn't have sales. So, predominantly most of our buyers. Yeah. I know that's surprising to Kevin. Most of our buyers have a realtor that's assisting them and so we are highly respected with the realtors, and we try to keep a very positive partnership with them.

Something that was a [00:19:00] little disappointing that I heard through the grapevine, I literally did a TikTok on this. I put an MLS listing in, and the minute I hit submit, my phone would ring. I'm not kidding you. It was almost that quickly. People started may be taking advantage of that, and Carpenter Homes never once decreased the commissions that they give to the realtors. Our co-brokes are 3%. They were always 3%. Larry would never think to take that from the people that are working so hard to bring the buyers to purchase our homes.

Greg Bray: So, LinkedIn then is definitely a realtor strategy for you?

Gail Bonnstetter: It is, and it's also an educator because professionals are still people and people buy houses. My kind of vision is people like to see just people that aren't trying to be scripted or perfect. [00:20:00] I'm real quirky. I love to make people laugh and smile. I am so passionate about what I do, and I have such high, high respect for Larry. I am probably one of few people that can say I really love doing what I do.

Whether it be me being silly, putting my rubber boots on, walking on a lot, or just being out there and showing my agents and having a good time because I truly believe, unless I won the lottery, I'm gonna be working to survive until I can retire. Right? So, if you cannot have fun and work at the same time, it's a bummer.

So, I try to use LinkedIn primarily just to educate what homes we have, but to also have people have a little fun, enjoy what I'm doing, enjoy what I'm promoting, and hopefully, they can feel the passion that I have for this company. I could not project that I [00:21:00] truly am so honored to be representing this company. I couldn't fake that. I won't fake that, but it's the honest-to-God truth. Whatever platform I'm using, LinkedIn especially as we're focused on right now, is more about educating people what we have, but also just letting them have a little personal feel as well.

Greg Bray: Tell us a little more about TikTok 'cause you mentioned you did a TikTok.

Kevin Weitzel: I heard that too, Greg.

Greg Bray: You heard that too?

Kevin Weitzel: I heard it too.

Greg Bray: Yeah. It wasn't just me. So, a lot of builders I think are still trying to understand TikTok and decide what they do there and how they engage. So, what kinds of things are you doing?

Gail Bonnstetter: So, I can tell you I kind of have been coached honestly by an IT professional that TikTok is probably not the best platform for new home builders. TikTok is something that you have to, you know, constant, constant, constant, constant to even have an [00:22:00] impact. So, pretty much what I do is just silly, goofy, funny things and you know, if I'm on-site somewhere, I'm going to tag Carpenter Homes, so I have that connection there. But in all honesty, TikTok is more me, again, just projecting my passion for what I do and represent the company when it's company representable, or I just do my silly eighties dance to Footloose. You know, it's quite a range of things that I do.

Kevin Weitzel: I'm glad we only used the audio because I know for a fact that when you said silly goofy things, Greg's eyes popped right over to my image. I know for a fact it did. He's like, silly, goofy. There you go. Boom. Kevin, you got a new platform.

Gail Bonnstetter: Oh, shoot.

Greg Bray: Because I've never seen Kevin do anything like, say, talk to a cookie or something like that.

Kevin Weitzel: What?

Greg Bray: He never does anything that others might consider silly. I think that's [00:23:00] great how genuine you're trying to be. It sounds like there's not some, you know, 24-month marketing strategy that on December 2nd we're gonna put this video out. It's like Hey, this is what I'm thinking about today. This is where I'm at, and this is what I'm gonna just say hi and be me, and you know what? Come and love it.

Gail Bonnstetter: That pretty much is it in a nutshell, honestly. Now, we do focus on, for instance, right now we have a move-in ready home in DeLand and one in Palm Bay. This is a first for us because we've always had our homes, like I said when they're sold, they close, and again, it's a little bit of the market shift right now.

I think people are a little bit concerned about the economy. They see 6% interest being high when some of us that are seasoned have seen it almost 20%. We're a little bit spoiled when it comes to having that 2% for so long. The market shifted a little bit, but I'm confident that these homes will sell.

When I'm out [00:24:00] and about, if I'm in the field, I'm gonna take a video when I'm at these homes because they're just so beautiful, and get it out there and let people see them and hope that maybe that homeowner, that that's the perfect home for them, and they're gonna give us a call and we're gonna give 'em a tour and the rest is history.

Greg Bray: So, Gail, when you look back, and I love the word seasoned, that's a great word, the things that you know now, what's something that you know now that you go, man, if I had known this a few years ago, it would've made such a difference. Anything come to mind to share?

Gail Bonnstetter: Ooh, that's a tough one for me. I could take that in a few different directions, but I think one thing that's really, really important, at least to me personally, is to be appreciated for what I do because I have that farm girl mentality. I am a very loyal, dedicated employee, and to know that I'm appreciated, which I absolutely know that I am. Not to accept anything, but that.

To work hard and know that you're [00:25:00] appreciated is to the utmost important, at least in my eyes. That's why, again, I love what I do because Larry is just the most incredible person to work for, and I am very, very grateful and I bust my hind end for him and I always will, and for this company. So, that's one thing that I will never accept again, is to work really hard the way I work and not be appreciated.

Greg Bray: For everyone who's listening, who wants to come work for Larry now, what's the way for, no.

Gail Bonnstetter: I'm not, I'm telling you, I could talk about him all day. I have such respect for him. He's an amazing person. Really wonderful boss.

Kevin Weitzel: You just described how I talk about Greg every day.

Greg Bray: Except I'm not your boss, Kevin.

Kevin Weitzel: It was more for fun, but yes.

Greg Bray: Well, Gail, just a couple more questions here. Where do you go for new ideas and for inspiration in your marketing?

Gail Bonnstetter: I really watch what the new home builders are doing and look at their posts, and I also try to[00:26:00] educate myself more through webinars or different things that are offered maybe through the MLS or through just outside third-party companies. I think it's always good to continue to grow your knowledge and there's always new and great ideas out there. You just have to look for them, research them, and try to educate yourself.

Greg Bray: Any last thoughts or pieces of advice that you wanted to share with the audience today before we wrap up?

Gail Bonnstetter: No, I just think anybody that's out there, because almost everybody is doing social media, is to just be yourself. Don't worry about if you make a goof. Sometimes I listen and I'll probably listen to this podcast and say, Oh my God, I can't believe I said that. When I talk to text, I will see sometimes how I grammatically make an error when I'm speaking and I think, Oh my gosh, that's how I really talk, and that's what I say.

The truth is, none of us are perfect and people are gonna accept you just to be human. Just do your best, [00:27:00] have fun, and I really think that's pretty much the name of the game. Nobody expects you to have all the knowledge. Don't be afraid to say, I don't know, I'll find out.

As a leader, I think something that I really, really am passionate about is growing the people I work with. I don't care if I have to go and scrub one of my sales team's toilet because they have somebody coming in. I think being a team player and being a leader that wants to build up the people that they work with is key to success. If you're in it for yourself, you're gonna fail. Again, my personal opinion, but I love the people I work with, and there isn't anything I wouldn't do for any of them.

Greg Bray: Well, that message has come through loud and clear, I think, in our conversation today. So, thank you for being so authentic and genuine. Well, Gail, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?

Gail Bonnstetter: So, I'll [00:28:00] give you my email address is G, and then my last name is Bonnstetter, B O N N S T E T T E R, @carpenterhomes.com. If you wanna call me (515) 689-7198. That is my Carpenter Homes number, and I will be more than happy to assist you in any way that I can. We have homes that we're selling. We have relationships that we need to build with realtors that are out there and if there's homeowners out there or people that wanna be a homeowner, I'm here to help you as well. We have the tools to help you, and I would be more than happy to do that.

Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thank you, Gail, so much for spending some time with us today, 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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