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This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Danielle Davis of McStain Neighborhoods joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how providing information creates transparency, trust, and authentic engagement with home buyers.
Potential home buyers expect more information in the initial stages of the home buying journey than they have previously. Danielle says, “I also think that the consumer has shifted. They want all of the information right away, all the time in this day and age…so we just put it all out there, everything that someone wants to know, or maybe not everything. The majority of things that people want to know about our homes, about, you know, our process, that kind of thing. We put it all out there. There's no, you don't have to contact us for pricing, any of that. We just put it out there for people to be able to do their research prior to coming to see us.”
Providing that information digitally creates trust between the home buyer and the home builder. Danielle explains, “So, we rely really heavily on digital methods for people to be able to, you know, understand what our process looks like to come in fully armed with, here's what our upgrade costs are. It's not something that you see commonplace in our market, but that's okay. That doesn't really matter to us. And it really has helped quite a bit with building the trust factor with our consumer because they feel very strongly that we're transparent with everything that we do.”
Offering valuable information to prospective home buyers also leads to deeper engagement with the home builder. Danielle says, “So, you know, it's easy for us to see, and I think that also lends our website to having a higher level of engagement because otherwise, it's a little bit of a dead end. You go on, you look at the floor plans, you get an idea of base pricing, and then where do you go from there? But because we're a little bit more transparent, we tend to see higher average times on our website.”
Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more about how offering information to possible home buyers can create genuine trust, transparency, and engagement.
About the Guest:
When asked what led Danielle to real estate, her response has been, “I sometimes wonder if real estate is built into my DNA.” Danielle’s dad owned a building company, where she worked from the age of 15 until she went to college. Drawn by her love of helping people, she pursued her Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan.
After she graduated, it only made sense to combine her passion for helping people with her real estate background. She started her career working for two wonderful, reputable builders. In 2008, she wanted to expand her real estate career and went on to the world of resale where she quickly became one of the top-producing agents in Colorado. A few years later she started her own real estate company which has become one of the top-producing boutique real estate companies in the Denver-Metro area.
In 2018 she was approached by McStain Neighborhoods to take on a leadership position and become head of Sales and Marketing. Seeing the opportunity to return to new construction and be in a position to create positive change, she accepted the poison. She’s now worked at McStain for three years and has played a huge role in shaping the culture, the homes, and the neighborhoods they build.
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: We want to give a quick special thank you to today's episode sponsor NterNow. Be sure to learn more at nternow.com. That's N T E R N O W dot com.
And we are excited today to have joining us on the show, Danielle Davis. Danielle is the VP of Sales and Marketing at McStain Neighborhoods. Welcome, Danielle. Thanks for joining us today.
Danielle Davis: Thank you very much. Thanks so much for having me.
Greg Bray: Let's start out by just having you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you.
Danielle Davis: Sure. Well, it's redundant at this point, but I am Danielle Davis, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at McStain [00:01:00] Neighborhoods. Yeah, let's see. I guess I've been doing this role with them for about five years. I'm actually, what we call at McStain, a Be Backer. I originally worked for McStain in about 2007. So, I've been in their orbit now for some time, but I've been in my role here working for them again for about five years.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, that's the business you, I need to know something personal about you that our listeners will learn exclusively on our podcast. What do we got?
Danielle Davis: I'm afraid it's not particularly exciting, but I love standup paddle boarding. We're sort of moving out of that season at the moment, which makes me sad, but I'm looking forward to warmer weather and being able to get back out on a lake and do it again.
Kevin Weitzel: Oddly enough, I have a connection to that.
Danielle Davis: Yeah?
Kevin Weitzel: On my multiple trips to Hawaii, I have tried standup paddle boarding. And I have a mad case of vertigo because I'm a cancer survivor. I had brain cancer about 20 years ago, and I cannot balance on a standup paddle [00:02:00] board at all. I can do the little circus board that they put on a little round cylinder. I can do those all day long, but for some reason, when I get on a standup paddleboard, my brain can't detect and I'm leaning one way or the other, and I just fall over and over and over again to the point where I'm just quitting. I will never be able to do stand-up paddle boards. I will live vicariously through you.
Danielle Davis: Yeah, no, balance is critical and you know, I can imagine that would be particularly challenging on an ocean.
Greg Bray: Well, Kevin, just for the record, I have no such excuse and I can't stand up, so I do sit down paddle boarding and we call it a canoe or a kayak, but anyway. So, that's great, Danielle. Well, tell us a little bit more about how you decided to get into home building and how your career came in that direction.
Danielle Davis: Sure. So, I sort of feel like I didn't have much of a choice. I was sort of born into it. Both my grandfather and my father owned home building companies. So, the extent of our holiday conversations were about spec homes and [00:03:00] walking through them and doing frame walks. So, as a child, growing up, construction was just sort of in my orbit. As I got into college, I really started to gravitate towards the way that people work, you know, psychology and social work. I got an undergraduate degree in psychology, and then went on to get my master's degree in social work.
Kevin Weitzel: Where from? Do you mind me asking? Cause my daughter's into that.
Danielle Davis: Sure. So, I got my graduate degree at University of Michigan. Go blue for sure. I shopped around and they were the number one school at the time for a social work degree, and I figured, oh, great. That'll get me in the door instantly the moment I graduate, to any job I want. Well, then I graduated and I found out that not only did it get me in the door to any job, it got me in the door to no jobs in social work. So, I decided, all right. I might as well pick where I want to live and reevaluate where I want to be and what I want to do.
So, I moved out to Colorado, no job, no real [00:04:00] intention of what I would do, and I fell back on what I knew, which was working for a builder. I decided that it would be a good fit for me to go into sales. Actually, surprisingly, I ended up using my social work degree every single day, and that seemed like the perfect solution for me, and that's what I've done ever since about 2006.
Kevin Weitzel: Selfishly, I have to put a little side note in here.
Danielle Davis: Sure.
Kevin Weitzel: Hey, Skylar, did you hear that? She didn't use her degree, that she paid lots of money for in the field that she wanted to go in. She just gets to use those skill sets. All right. There we go. Sorry.
Greg Bray: Kevin's parental moment is over.
Danielle Davis: Yeah. Right, right. I feel your pain, for sure. So, does my dad.
Greg Bray: But the reality is learning how people think and react and, you know, move through their decision-making processes and everything else is all about what sales and marketing is, right? I mean, there's a lot of overlap with psychology and social work.
Danielle Davis: There's an incredible amount of overlap. I mean, really understanding that new home sales and sales in general, because I [00:05:00] actually I'm jumping around a little bit, but I own a small resale company. So, before joining McStain as VP of Sales and Marketing, I was running my own real estate company.
And it's one of those things that you really have to understand that you're dealing in life changes, and these are big moments for folks, and so you really have to meet them where they're at. I think that my degree helped me in every aspect of my real estate life.
Greg Bray: Well, tell us a little bit more about McStain Neighborhoods, the kind of homes you guys are building, and the areas you serve.
Danielle Davis: That's a good question. So, McStain Neighborhoods is a small local builder. We've been around since 1966. At our ethos is building sustainable, beautiful, healthy homes for folks. These are structures that are going to stand for a hundred years or more, and we want to make sure that they're healthy both for the planet and for the people that purchase them.
And so, you know, kind of goes back a little bit to my social work degree is that I feel like it's the best of both worlds. We do good [00:06:00] and that matters to me. So, it's a really good home for me. You know, I really think that we create raving fans with our customers because of the work that we do.
Greg Bray: How do you feel that message resonates with the buyer audience compared to, other builders who may not be focused on that quite so much?
Danielle Davis: Sure. It's been a transition over the last couple years and let me explain why. We've had a following for a long time for people who are sustainable-minded. That's important to them, and essentially they want to vote with their dollars, right? They want to know that the house that they're buying is healthy and sustainable, but as we've gone through COVID, health has really risen to the top of what people are paying attention to.
It's sort of a combination between making sure that their home is healthy and good indoor air quality, and wanting to have something that's weatherproof, outside environment proof, and those are the things that have driven people to us lately. And I suppose it's a different buyer than [00:07:00] your typical big builder in that we're not a builder that just goes for the lowest price per square foot. We put extra care, thought, quality, and energy into these homes and in return, get folks that follow us and believe in what we do.
Kevin Weitzel: Am I reading through the lines properly when, I'm assuming that, when you say that you're not looking for the lowest price, but you're also not necessarily looking at being that high, super duper luxury with like top-end finishes? You're looking more at the sustainability and making sure that envelope is a clean envelope. Is that a correct statement?
Danielle Davis: It's a little of both. So, we have things that sort of run the gamut anywhere from first-time home buyers to we do have luxury products. When you come to McStain, it's different than maybe going to a larger public builder. If you built a completely standard home, you would still be really happy with the finishes.
We don't nickel and dime. The price that you come and see on the piece of paper includes things that you would not see at other [00:08:00] builders, metal railing, hardwood flooring through main levels, a lot of nice upgrades. So, beyond just the sustainability, we're really trying to meet consumers where they're at, you know?
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. That's awesome.
Greg Bray: So, Danielle, when you talk about having such a unique and special message that's kind of different from a lot of your competitors as far as the kind of features and elements that you're highlighting in the homes, how do you start to communicate that, especially in a digital way as they're looking at your website or some of your other advertising that kind of catches the eye and says, oh, this is something I should pay attention to?
Danielle Davis: That's a really good question. A big portion of what we do that might be slightly different from other builders is we have a huge portion of education because we do things differently than a lot of builders do. And so even people who are familiar with construction, need some additional education about how our homes are different than what you could find on the market. So, a big portion of what we do is education. I also think that the [00:09:00] consumer has shifted. They want all of the information right away, all the time in this day and age.
Kevin Weitzel: No.
Danielle Davis: Yeah, I know, right? Willing to wait for nothing. Yeah, so we just put it all out there, everything that someone wants to know or maybe not everything. The majority of things that people want to know about our homes, about, you know, our process, that kind of thing. We put it all out there. There's no, you don't have to contact us for pricing, any of that. We just put it out there for people to be able to do their research prior to coming to see us.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, what I'm hearing is that there's a lot of focus on the education portion of it and not so much about what we do that is different or better than our competition. So, it's almost like you throw the competition story out the window, and you concentrate your efforts on making sure that you're differentiating factors are just sales, upsells, if you will, into why your product is better.
Danielle Davis: Yeah, I mean, ultimately a house is a house, and people are gonna buy where they wanna live, but if they have a couple of different choices [00:10:00] in one neighborhood, which happens more and more nowadays with the way that we're all buying land from developers and some of that. It's just sort of, Hey, when you buy from us, here's how we're different, and if you ultimately buy down the street, that's fine too, but understand the differentiating factors.
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When you were talking about the transparency of providing all the information, has that been an evolution in your company as far as, was there pushback when you said, Hey, I want to give more about this or that, or has everybody been, yeah, throw it all out there. Let's get it out. How'd that go?
Danielle Davis: It hasn't exactly been easy. I shook a lot of things up when I first started at McStain in my current role.
Kevin Weitzel: Yes.
Danielle Davis: But, yeah, but they sort of assumed that that would happen. So, it's been one of those things that I think begrudgingly, they went along with me and just said, all right, we're gonna give it a shot if you think this is the right way to go.
So, I started working with a group in Europe to actually take our plans and animate them, for lack of a better [00:11:00] term, and now we have a tool on our website. And this happened just prior to COVID, so my timing happened to be perfect. But we have a build your house online tool where people can go, they can select their floor plan, and then they can go throughout the building process and select all of the different options, see what the pricing is, and then have the final purchase price at their fingertips before they even walk through the door.
So, we rely really heavily on digital methods for people to be able to, you know, understand what our process looks like to come in fully armed with, here's what our upgrade costs are. It's not something that you see commonplace in our market, but that's okay. That doesn't really matter to us. And it really has helped quite a bit with building the trust factor with our consumer because they feel very strongly that we're transparent with everything that we do.
And so they come in already feeling like there's not like this, oh, poker face. I'm not gonna tell you whether I like this. I'm not gonna ask you about [00:12:00] these questions because they've already done all the research that they need to do. And so then it's like, oh, hey, you know, if I don't add this option for this much, how much can I spend at the design center here? They're just different lines of questions than you would get if you just put the basics out there.
Greg Bray: I think that is definitely a trend that we're seeing all over the place. Obviously, consumers want their information. They want it now, and there seems to be some struggle sometimes with how much do we tell, how much do we wait until they come to see the salesperson. For someone who is, you know, maybe having that fight with their management, any tips for how you sell that idea to those who are maybe a little hesitant to put all the information out there?
Danielle Davis: Well, here's what I'll say is that it's been a smashing success. You know, so you can certainly use us as a success story. I think that there was a lot of trepidation about the idea of putting all of our option pricing out there and some of that stuff. But what we found is that one of the [00:13:00] bigger pushback things that we find on the sales floor is like, I see the base price, but how much is this house going to cost me when all is said and done? They have a much better idea about that.
So, if they've taken the time to go through our website and to see, okay, here's some things I'd like to add to the home, and here's a ballpark of what the house will actually be priced at. They feel much more comfortable with the initial conversation when they're out on site. It's that, okay, I have a pretty good handle on what this will ultimately cost me, and that at the end of the day, that's a good thing for us and a good thing for them.
Greg Bray: So, Danielle, have you found that your sales team likes the fact that these buyers are coming in more educated and with more information at their fingertips? Or are they feeling threatened by the fact that maybe they don't get to answer as many questions as they used to?
Danielle Davis: Sure. That's a good question. No, I think they really appreciate the fact that they've got highly qualified prospects walking through the door. It's one of those things that [00:14:00] they're not gonna spend a bunch of time with someone who, ultimately, oh, I can't really spend anymore than base price.
Again, the great thing about our product is that we try to make our standards so nice that even if they can only afford the base price, they're feeling really good about that. Our sales staff, I think they really see it as a huge positive because so much of the questions and conversation has already been answered prior to this person walking through the door.
Greg Bray: It is interesting how once they get the idea they seem to embrace it, but somehow earlier on, some of them seem to be a little threatened by it. You mentioned it's been a smashing success. Are there particular tools that you've been using to measure some of the feedback, or analytics that you're watching closely that help you decide that it's working?
Danielle Davis: That's a good question. Well, obviously, we do a lot of data analytics overall. One of the ways that we know that tool is working so well is not only from feedback on site, because people come in with their printouts and, you know, there I'm going back and forth about the metal [00:15:00] rail or whatever the case may be.
We look at the back end of our website, Google Analytics, just to see where are people spending their time when they're on our website. You see time and time again that yes, they spend time going through some of the floor plans and a lot of them spend a decent amount of time sort of understanding who is McStain and why are they different. But beyond that, the place where people are really spending their time is on building a house and seeing what that would cost them.
So, you know, it's easy for us to see, and I think that also lends our website to having a higher level of engagement because otherwise, it's a little bit of a dead end. You go on, you look at the floor plans, you get an idea of base pricing, and then where do you go from there? But because we're a little bit more transparent, we tend to see higher average times on our website. And that's all measured through Google Analytics.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, Danielle, it's actually funny that you mentioned that because, you know, obviously we invented the interactive floor plan. You know what a lot of people don't realize is even in spec homes when you don't have choices of structural options, [00:16:00] people still spend a ton of time on there. They wanna see how the floor plan's laid out, they wanna see where things can go. They wanna envision that on their own. So, having something like even as simple as a furniture plan or a space planning tool could make a huge difference.
Danielle Davis: I agree wholeheartedly with that, Kevin.
Greg Bray: Danielle, as you have been pushing the company forward, what are some of the things that you're looking ahead towards that you're like, okay, now I can't wait until we get to do X or Y, which is kind of next, without giving away like the super deep secrets or whatever?
Danielle Davis: No, that's great. Well, this is going to sound like a shameless plug and I promise that it's not, but one of my favorite things that we just started this year is Blue Tangerine. That's been an incredible tool for us. And I hate to say that out loud because I don't want my competition to be using you guys.
Greg Bray: Oh wow.
Danielle Davis: But I've really enjoyed our partnership and I think, you know, for me personally, It's just been so cool to see the things that you guys can do. And we just [00:17:00] had a long meeting Wednesday, and I was making them define what a walk-in was and some of that stuff because it's so interesting to see where people are originating from and how they ultimately make it to us.
Being able to measure consumer behavior from that level has been not only cool, but your team has been so great to work with in terms of making changes all the time. You know, we make little minute changes. We meet, we talk about, you know, what's working, what's not, and each little tweak makes it better and better, and it's something that honestly, I'm excited about. I think it's a great technology and so I sing your guys' praises.
Greg Bray: Wow. Well, we're on a podcast, but I'm blushing. Well, thank you. Thank you,
Kevin Weitzel: Greg, I wanna know, are they geofencing my house to find the perfect client to buy their places?
Greg Bray: I cannot confirm or deny.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, okay.
Greg Bray: Thank you, Danielle. That was very kind. Tell us something, Danielle, that you wish you had known a few years ago about digital marketing, that you've learned now, but gosh if I'd only known this five years ago, it would've made all [00:18:00] the difference.
Danielle Davis: Sure. Well, this is a hard question to answer considering things are changing so quickly. It's hard to keep up in the marketplace it almost feels. You know, I'm sort of an obsessive reader. I'm always darting in one direction or the next, but one thing that I think I would've said to myself many years ago is really engage in social media.
I think that's been a good outlet for our consumers who like to follow us because of that educational piece that we talk about. You know, we've really gotten engaged in doing videos and some reels that people are really enjoying seeing. You know, whether it's a walkthrough of a finished spec or watching a foundation be poured or someone installing an ERB, which is a fresh air intake system. Those kinds of things.
We get a lot of engagement there and I'm sort of surprised by it, but ultimately I'm glad that it works. That probably would've been my advice is, engage authentically through social media with your audience instead of the move-in ready house. I mean, we do some of that, but have a [00:19:00] deeper level of engagement and I think you get a better following.
Greg Bray: When you talk about authentic help us understand a little bit more about what you mean by that when you say engage more authentically.
Danielle Davis: Sure. So, we try to get everybody in our company engaged in the social media aspect. So, our marketing coordinator spends one day a week out in the field going and actually taking some time to record something that's happening on-site. Sometimes it's something like, oh, this spec turned out really well and it's got beautiful finishes, and then you're gonna walk through it.
But the other times it's her engaging with the construction staff and saying, what is it that you're doing? What does booming trusses mean? Those kinds of things. Just sort of assuming that people are genuinely interested in the process. I guess not talking down to your audience. I think that's one thing that I've always been a firm believer in is don't talk down to your audience. Just assume that they can understand all of the concepts that you're trying to convey to them.
Greg Bray: Don't talk down to the audience. That's a great piece of advice. That's a great [00:20:00] one-liner. Sometimes we forget how much jargon and lingo and industry-specific concepts there are that people who don't buy a house every day don't really understand. So, looking at your social media, is there one platform that you just love more than the others, or are you guys all over the place there?
Danielle Davis: We're a little all over the place. I would say, our marketing coordinator is a young woman and probably her favorite is Instagram. I don't know if that's because it's familiarity or if that's just her favorite place to go. Conversely, we do pretty well across all the platforms. I don't know that there's necessarily something that sticks out wildly as performing better. I mean, sometimes our click-through rates are better depending on whatever advertisement we're running, but it's pretty standard across all of the platforms for the most part.
Greg Bray: So, Danielle, where do you go for inspiration and new ideas? What are some of your sources?
Danielle Davis: Where do I go for inspiration and new ideas?
One of the things I would say [00:21:00] is that this is where I lean a little bit on my resale business. I get my agents together and I go back to hearing what buyers are talking about. So, right now we're all talking about interest rates. You know, and that's one of the things that, okay, well interest rates are either stopping people from buying right now, or they're anticipating that interest rates will be lower in the future. As a builder, then I can use that information and say, okay, well if people are really nervous about interest rates and that's what's affecting affordability, I can buy down interest rates.
But secondarily, I can have the conversation with folks about maybe now is the right time to buy because I can buy your interest rate down lower than what you'll ultimately see in the spring, potentially. You probably have a little bit more bargaining power now than you will if interest rates do drop in the spring and the buyer demand comes back full force like we assume it could.
So, those are the kind of things that I try to do, is have my finger on the [00:22:00] pulse of what the buyer's mentality is so that we can speak directly to the fears, the concerns, and also talk about the things that are exciting and the long-term investment of home ownership, some of those things.
Greg Bray: We really appreciate the time you spent with us today and sharing. Do you have any last words of marketing advice that you'd like to share with our audience today?
Danielle Davis: Last words. I guess just use Blue Tangerine. I think they're pretty awesome.
Greg Bray: Oh, wow. Okay. Okay. That I, I did not pay for that. I gotta go on record, so.
Danielle Davis: I really do. I have to say I am a huge fan. It's been new to us this year and I would say that's probably my favorite new addition to our digital marketing platform.
Greg Bray: Awesome.
Kevin Weitzel: That's not a first of people complimenting your company, but that is a first of somebody saying it's the best thing we've done in a long while. That's pretty cool.
Danielle Davis: It is. It is. It's been really fun and very insightful. I love the analytics that come out of it.
Greg Bray: Well, awesome. So, glad to [00:23:00] hear that. So, glad to hear that. Well, Danielle, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Danielle Davis: Email email@example.com.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you again for your time today, and thank you to our episode sponsor of NterNow. Make sure you learn more at nternow.com. 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 OutHouse. Thank you.