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This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Taylor Burtner of Manuel Builders joins Greg and Kevin to discuss why the fundamental purpose of home building is about connecting with people and impacting their lives through home ownership.
Having a good Return on Investment is important to any home builder, but there are unique ways to determine what a successful ROI is. Taylor explains, “I think you gotta look at ROI two different ways, right? So, there's a quantifiable dollar amount that you can look at on ROI. That's the return from a business standpoint, but there's a return from who we are and what we do. That's a whole different thing. I would agree with you to that level is that you can make a financial impact in one area from a business standpoint, but when you make an impact on people's lives.”
The main motivation for home builders should not just be on selling homes, but on positively affecting people’s lives. Taylor says, “That's kind of the whole focus of our sales team is you're not selling houses, you're literally changing people's lives whenever you meet with them. It's not about getting people into their next home. It's about getting people into the home that they're gonna bring their first kid home in, or it's meeting with somebody that this is the last home that these people are ever gonna live in. It's about what we can do to better somebody's life, not just selling them a house.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the value of putting people first when selling homes.
About the Guest:
Taylor is the Sales and Marketing Director at Manuel Homes. He has been part of almost every stage of the new home building industry, from electrical work to a superintendent, the warranty department, to sales, and now leadership. He knows from experience all about what works and what doesn't, and now focuses on building the best client experience possible alongside an amazing team.
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 want to give a special thank you, before we start, to today's episode sponsor NterNow. Make sure you learn more at nternow.com.
And today on the show, we'd like to welcome Taylor Burtner. Taylor is the Sales and Marketing Director at Manuel Builders. Welcome, Taylor. Thanks for joining us.
Taylor Burtner: Thank y'all for having me, guys.
Greg Bray: Well, Taylor, let's start off, just help us get to know you a little bit and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah. [00:01:00] So, I am, like you said, Sales and Marketing Director for Manuel Builders. We're a new residential home builder in south Louisiana. I've been in construction, gosh, 12 years now, and I've done a little bit of everything. You know, I was an electrician's helper when I first started in construction. And then I was a superintendent. I ran our warranty department and then I jumped into sales before getting into my role now. So, I've done a little bit of everything when it comes to construction.
Kevin Weitzel: So, 12 years. That's the business side of you, but our listening audience has to learn something personal about you, nonhomebuilder related, they'll learn only on our podcast.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah. So, a couple of things. One, I've been married for, let me see if I can get this right, 11, going on 12 years now. I have three kids. I have an eight-year-old. I have a four-and-a-half-year-old, and I have a two-and-a-half-year-old, two girls, and a boy. And the boy, people can't see this video, but the boy is the reason why my hair is falling out because he is the caboose for sure.
Couple of things that people may not know about [00:02:00] me. I was actually a youth pastor for a little while. I did that part-time. So, that was kind of cool. You work with clients and you have that counseling feel with clients. So, it all feeds into the business side of this. The other really cool thing is that our oldest, we actually adopted. We couldn't have kids and we got her when she was four months old and she's been with us ever since. The crazy thing is that she is a carbon copy of me and it's scary.
My wife gets a little overwhelmed sometimes when there's four of me in the same house and her, but that was a really cool experience for us to be able to adopt her and to see that she has the same mannerisms as me. She's got the same reactions as me. Like, for somebody that didn't come from me, it's really cool that her and I are as close as we are
Kevin Weitzel: And we don't use video. We're a podcast, you know, audio only, but you've got a mad beard. If you could shave that middle section, you could have the maddest, coolest chops on the planet brother.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah. No, this beard, that's where all of the sales power comes from.
Kevin Weitzel: Ah, it's a Sampson [00:03:00] Beard.
Taylor Burtner: It's from the beard. So, if I shave it off, I'll never sell anything again.
Kevin Weitzel: I got you.
Greg Bray: Oh, Taylor, that's awesome. Especially the stuff with the family. That's great. Fascinating to hear that you started out exploring being an electrician, and now kind of work through all these different parts of the business and end up in sales and marketing. When did you kind of decide that you wanted to kind of veer in some of these different directions? Or did it just happen by accident?
Taylor Burtner: Yeah. No, I mean that was something that kind of just got decided for me, you know, right outta high school. My parents were paying for my college and my dad was in the oil field and he got laid off. So, they couldn't pay for my college anymore, so I had to go work. So, I went and I worked for a friend of mine at an electrical company and I learned a lot and then got to the point where I had an opportunity to leave that company and go and work for a very custom home builder as a superintendent, and I learned a lot there.
Manuel Builders built a house for a family that the dad and the kids got in a really bad car accident and the dad was paralyzed from the waist down and they lost their oldest daughter [00:04:00] in the car accident. My company actually built a house and gave it to them for free, and I watched that happen at our church and I knew that I had to work for this company when that happened.
So, I applied in the lowest position that I could get into, which at the time was our warranty department. Our culture really sets us apart at this company, and we can talk a little more about that if you guys want, but the culture really sets us apart. It's a place where mistakes can happen and if you see something, you say something, and if you want it bad enough, you can progress really quickly in this company. That all comes from our owners, so.
Greg Bray: That's an amazing story.
Kevin Weitzel: You're gonna tell me that in an industry where we have, I don't know, 20, 30 different contractors assembling a series of disconnected parts, that mistakes can happen. No.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, no. You didn't know that construction wasn't perfect?
Kevin Weitzel: I didn't know that. Alright.
Greg Bray: Well, Taylor, you've given us a little hint into Manuel Builders, but tell us a little more about the area you serve, the type of homes you're building, and which customers you work with.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so [00:05:00] we actually have three build zones right now. Our home office is in Lafayette, Louisiana, and then we have markets in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is closer to the Texas line, and then we're in Baton Rouge, which is the state capital. So, we've got all three of those markets. Lafayette, we started here 50, I think 58 years ago, our owner started the company and we've kind of grown from there.
Average price of our home is probably 315 right now, and we do probably 300 homes a year. We do both community and custom. So, we have neighborhoods where we build these houses. We do specs, and we do pre-sold where people can pick their lot, pick their plan, colors and selections, and that kind of thing. The majority of our business right now is on that custom side where people have their own property. We kind of help them from the ground up of designing the floor plan, putting everything in it, and then getting it built.
Greg Bray: In your role now at sales and marketing, how much of what you do day-to-day is sales versus marketing? Because it's kind of a split role and sometimes those things [00:06:00] don't always overlap as nicely as we might want them to.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, I think sometimes I get home and my wife asks me the same question and I can't really answer because on a daily basis, it could be a hundred percent sales or it could be just putting out fires anywhere and everywhere. So, realistically, I mean, I guess everybody would say this, but I have one of the most phenomenal teams I can imagine.
You know, our sales team is the most tenured team in the company. So, everybody's been here at least five and a half years. They've been selling for that long. So, there's not a whole lot that I've gotta do with them other than talk about goals and then client issues or working through specific options, things like that.
The girl that runs our marketing department, she actually worked for a car dealership for a long time and ran marketing there. So, she knows the SEO, the SEM. I pretty much just sit there and let her tell me what needs to happen and I say yes or no. She is way smarter than me whenever it comes to the marketing aspect of it.
Greg Bray: Well, you sound like you're in a great spot right now cause there's a lot of builders [00:07:00] who have sales teams that have only been around for two to three years who haven't known anything other than the crazy market of a couple of years ago and that are really struggling right now. Are you seeing the tenure of your team be a real advantage as the market's kind of shifted over the last six to nine months?
Taylor Burtner: Absolutely. We've felt a few different kinds of markets. Nobody on the team was here in 2008 whenever the market really crashed, but whenever we came in, it wasn't slow, but it wasn't like it's been last two years. The last two years, I mean, everybody kind of just pinned their ears back and held on. Now, it's like we took a little bit of a dip. We saw some sales drop, we saw construction costs go up, interest rates went up, everything that is out of our control.
But in that season where things were out of our control, we really focused on our behaviors and how can we get better in this season. We have a phenomenal OSC on staff now, online sales counselor, where she is qualifying clients the right way before they come in and meet with our sales teams. Last month, we actually had a conversion rate [00:08:00] of 50% with the clients that came in. That's an unheard of conversion rate whenever it comes to new home sales. So, for that team to convert at that level, I mean they're just incredible. I can't say enough good things about them.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, I know price ranges vary around the country, but with your average price that you've stated, are you in the mix of the homes, or are you on more of the catering to affordability?
Taylor Burtner: Yes and no. So, we've got some base price plans where it's the 1500, 1700, probably 2200-square foot homes. That's kind of our bread and butter. And then clients can do whatever they want and add on top of that. So, you can add a hundred thousand dollars or so in options if we're adding a garage or driveways or freestanding tubs or all the pretty stuff. We have a very niche market where we're the customizable builder, but we can also give you those really nice things in that price point. We've kind of found that niche in there.
Greg Bray: So, when you're having these meetings with your really smart marketing person [00:09:00] who's telling you what you're supposed to be doing? What is it that she's asking for the most? What's the focus that you guys are looking at from your marketing today?
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so she actually just ran a new program with SEM and SEO with our digital marketer. She's done a lot with very little over the last two years to the point that she was spending like a couple of hundred dollars on social posts where she wasn't really marketing a whole lot. She was just putting a little bit into it and she said, you know, if we could spend a little more on these things, I really think it would blow up.
And we were like, look, you tell us a dollar amount, and she did, and she got that dollar amount, and the next month, we had a gross of 18 sales. She knows what she's doing when it comes to marketing. So, we give her that money, she does her thing, and then the OSC qualifies and the salespeople sell. I feel like I'm in a really good spot with the team that I have.
Kevin Weitzel: So, does Allison run the concepts past you, or is there just a trust that she knows what she's doing, you don't have to oversee anything? How does that work? [00:10:00]
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so when I came in with marketing, she was kind of doing a lot of it already and she gave me the rundown and we work very, very closely together. She sits directly behind me, so we talk on a daily basis, to the point that there's not a whole lot that I question that she would do, and there's some things that I would make a decision of, we should do this or we shouldn't do this.
There's some things that we know that there's not gonna be an ROI on, but one of our core values is community. So, we wanna be able to be in the community even though we know we're not gonna get a return on it. She knows kind of what I would say yes to and what I wouldn't when it comes to those things. So, there's not a whole lot that I have to decide on, but the big thing she does come and she's like, what do you think of this? And I'll give her my opinion. Ultimately, it's her decision.
The way that our company functions is that every person in this company has been given a piece of real estate. It's your role to take the job that you've been given and your section of the company and make it your business under the umbrella of Manuel [00:11:00] Builders. And I've really adopted that on my team. And whenever you give people the autonomy with that accountability, it's insane what they can do. And I don't think a whole lot of people build their businesses that way.
Greg Bray: You know, sometimes I've heard it called an ownership mindset, right? Trying to give them ownership and you talked about making it their own little company or their own little business within the business.
Taylor Burtner: That's right, that's right.
Kevin Weitzel: So, Taylor, recently you just spoke at IBS. What was your topic on?
Taylor Burtner: So, I spoke with a few different people. It was Craig Neal. It was Ingrid Prince, and it was Jessi Kelly who were all very high up in sales in their own companies. So, the topic was, people over production and how to make your business growth pop. The whole idea there is talking about how whenever you create an environment for people to really thrive in what they're passionate about that production comes out of it. It's not always about numbers, it's about our people.
And so, it's focusing less on what they can do for you and focusing more on what you can do for [00:12:00] them. Help them to build their own business under the umbrella of your business, and then they start to produce at a high level because they feel fulfilled in what they're doing. That when they feel fulfilled in what they do, They produce a lot better. You know, so it's not our job to make them feel fulfilled, it's our job to create an environment where they can be fulfilled.
Kevin Weitzel: That's my exact philosophy that I've had the entire time I've been in sales my entire life. I walk in the door at any job with the mindset that I'm an independent contractor that just happens to be compensated by my efforts from that company.
Taylor Burtner: That's right. [00:13:00]
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Taylor, I think it's also great, you mentioned some social media efforts and then you knew how many sales we're connected to that. I don't think everybody else knows how many sales are connected to some of those things. So, what are you guys doing to help kind of match back the efforts to particular sales or to connect that from a measuring standpoint?
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so we were actually in that boat of people that did not know the answers to that [00:14:00] less than a year ago. We all got around a table, our CFO, our CEO, Allison in marketing, we all got around a table and said, we have to be able to understand the money that we're spending, what return we're getting on it.
We kind of redefined the way that we look at our client base. So, we look at our clients as traffic, which is anybody and everybody that comes to us with some sort of construction question. Not do you sell Crocs or anything? Like if it's construction, then they're gonna be traffic. And then we have a lead bucket, which is people that were actively trying to get in to meet with us.
And then we have, we call it our first face-to-face. So, this is the first contact with a salesperson in the building to try and get the client a price. And then from there would be the conversion to the sale. That's our in-house process with the client. So, whenever we redefined what bucket all of our clients fit into, it was a lot easier to quantify. Okay, these people are coming from this area.
And then [00:15:00] also, she's done some really great things with QR codes where when we have an event, she sets up a specific QR code where when somebody scans that she knows, okay, this was from that event. Or, we have different phone numbers for all of our markets, and each thing that we market on, she sets up a different phone number. So, if we have a billboard, she knows that when people call from this phone number, it's from that billboard. So, it's all the data pieces that we need to be able to make decisions of where to put certain money that she's set up everything to be able to funnel in that data. And it makes it really easy for us because she's done all of that.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, are you using a call service like CallRail or something similar that allows you to track that data and punch that into your CRM?
Taylor Burtner: We are. We're using CallRail and then we use Salesforce for our CRM. So, our OSC gets everything on that CallRail. She takes all of our social leads, and she's funneling everything into Salesforce and kicking it to the salespeople.
Greg Bray: Taylor, I gotta compliment you because I don't think you know how unique you are in being able to do that, [00:16:00], especially a builder your size. You know, maybe one of the giant folks with the huge budgets out there do some of this stuff, but there's a lot of people who cannot track anything from a sales level back to a specific marketing activity. And just using different phone numbers, different URLs with QR codes and everything, it's not that hard is it, to get some of that data if you just set up the tools, right? I don't wanna minimize what you've done because lots of people struggle to do it, but it didn't take you like a year to figure it all out once you decided to make it happen.
Taylor Burtner: Well, and that's the thing is what I said earlier of letting people have their own section of real estate. If I'm the one in the seat making all these decisions, there's no way that we would have all those answers because I'm not thinking about things that way. I'm just saying we need sales. That means that we need to post stuff on social, and Allison's there saying, No, we have to understand where it comes from. And then once you understand where it comes from, it's way easier for you to make that decision.
That's why at this company, we pride ourselves on hiring very, very, very smart people and [00:17:00] allowing a space for them to speak up in meetings and say, Hey, I have this idea. I think this could work. Whether we go with it or not, it's a safe enough place where they're gonna take ownership of that and bring stuff to the table, and then that makes everybody better.
Greg Bray: So, Taylor, you mentioned because you track so well, you're now also able to say, okay, we're gonna do some things that we know we won't get an ROI on. You talked about your community involvement. What's an example of some of the things you guys are doing in the community where you're not worried about the return? It's just part of being a good citizen, so to speak.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so we've done a lot of things with local schools. We do a career day every now and then with these schools where one of our superintendents went into an elementary school a couple of weeks ago, and they brought some little popsicle sticks and let all the kids build a little house. So, we had one of our architects draw a little plan up for 'em with these popsicle picks and how to build the house, and the superintendent taught 'em how to build this house. So, that was pretty cool.
And then The University of Louisiana is a local [00:18:00] college that we have here, Ragin' Cajuns. And we have a program with them where at every athletic event, they choose student-athletes and they call 'em the program builders. So, it's three student-athletes at each of these games that represent community, integrity, and excellence, which are our core values. So, these student-athletes are put up on the board, you know, the jumbotron or whatever, as the community builders brought to you by Manuel Builders. So, it's very difficult to quantify an ROI whenever it's at a stadium with 60,000 people, but people now know, oh, okay, these student-athletes are doing these really great things, but Manuel Builders is the one that's sponsoring it because Manuel Builders also does these really great things in the community.
And then another thing that's really cool is last year, we actually partnered with a bunch of our trades and vendors and we built a house, and we raffled that house off and all the proceeds went to local schools. So, we made a ton of money and donated a ton of money to schools [00:19:00] so that they could, you know, get laptops and get things that the teachers need and all that kind of stuff. So, that was really cool to be a part of.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm gonna argue against your statement that it doesn't have ROI because think about this, just consider your tenure there at the company at Manuel Builders. You said that you saw them build and give away a home to a family that was absolutely obliterated and just devastated, and you knew that you needed to be part of that company. Do you know how much you've contributed to that company and the benefit they've gained from that? That's ROI, my friend.
Taylor Burtner: I think you gotta look at ROI two different ways, right? So, there's a quantifiable dollar amount that you can look at on ROI. That's the return from a business standpoint, but there's a return from who we are and what we do. That's a whole different thing. I would agree with you to that level is that you can make a financial impact in one area from a business standpoint, but when you make an impact on people's lives.
That's kind of the whole focus of our sales team is you're not selling houses, you're literally changing [00:20:00] people's lives whenever you meet with them. It's not about getting people into their next home. It's about getting people into the home that they're gonna bring their first kid home in, or it's meeting with somebody that this is the last home that these people are ever gonna live in. It's about what we can do to better somebody's life, not just selling them a house.
And that's another reason why I really love this company, and I love, Greg and Missy Manuel are owners and they drive that point home. That's the cool thing about culture, right? It has to live in the lower levels, but it all starts at the top. And Greg and Missy live and breathe culture for our community and for our clients, and you can see that in every aspect of the business.
Greg Bray: Taylor, it is coming through loud and clear in your own way that you refer to it, and you can feel that. And it's like, man, are you guys hiring in the warranty department? Because maybe I can come.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, I get super passionate and I get loud and the Cajun accent comes out a little bit.
Greg Bray: No, [00:21:00] it's awesome, and I think that when you really believe it, it just comes out, right? It's not selling anymore when you really feel it when you're really sincerely trying to help people and provide something as wonderful as a new home for them. You don't have to sell anymore when people can feel that kind of genuineness that just comes through.
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, it's internalized and then it just overflows.
Greg Bray: That's awesome. So, when you think, Taylor, back to the time where you said, gosh, I want to be part of this company, what advice would you to somebody else who's out there who's thinking, man, I wanna be like Taylor when I grow up, trying to get started in this industry? Any thoughts?
Taylor Burtner: Yeah, so this is actually one of the things that I was wrestling with when preparing our speech for IBS is we live in a culture right now that is such an entrepreneur mindset, right? You can go online and you can make a living with TikTok. So, it's difficult to say, why would I want to go and work for somebody when I could do [00:22:00] my own thing? And my thought would be, if you want to get into this industry, this is a very difficult industry. And people in the South would understand that the oil field is a very difficult industry, right? There's difficult industries everywhere.
But if you can find a niche that you really care about, that you're really passionate about, and what I would say is, figure out what you're passionate about because you're not gonna be passionate about construction. You're just not. There's nothing fancy, there's nothing sexy about construction. You're not gonna be passionate about it, but you could be passionate about people. And if you're passionate about people, then your clients are gonna go with it, your employees are gonna go with it.
So, what I would say is that figure out what you're passionate about, and then take a leap. Find somebody that cares about what you care about that are burdened with what you are burdened with, and then take a leap. Because that's all I did. I couldn't even find a place on our website to fill out an application. I literally found the one email address on the website that I could [00:23:00] find, and she's my division president now. I found her email address on the website and sent her my resume, and that's how I got on in the warranty department. There was no application. I just reached out.
If there's somebody that you admire or that you aspire to be, just reach out to 'em. There's tons of people that you could reach out to that their passion is people and they'd be more than happy to talk to you, but people don't think that we can just reach out and talk to somebody. The worst they could say is, No.
Greg Bray: It's true. And you also, as you do that, I guess my thought would be you do have to be genuine. You can't make it sound like you just want something. Because those people, they get reached out to probably more than once. And sometimes you gotta do a little bit to try and stand out and make it clear.
Taylor Burtner: Be a little persistent.
Greg Bray: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, Taylor, we appreciate your time today, and just as we wrap up do you have any last thoughts of advice that you wanted to share and get out there in the world while we got a minute?
Taylor Burtner: No. I think I probably rambled enough for you guys.
Greg Bray: Well then, let me ask this one thing. If you've got that salesperson [00:24:00] who is really trying to adjust or adapt to the new market today, what would you share with them, the ones who have only seen, you know, the last couple of years in their career to help them kind of adjust and readapt to what's going on today?
Taylor Burtner: Yeah. So, this has been my MO for the last two years and you guys will probably know this phrase that I'm about to say, but a really, really good friend of mine and a mentor of mine says that you need to focus on betterment over achievement, right? So it's not about how many houses you can sell over the next couple of months it's how good can you make your process. How much better can you make yourself?
Because you're gonna sell. In this market, it's just a little more difficult. And if you just focus on selling, you're gonna get down on yourself whenever you have months when you only have one sale. But if you better your process, at some point when this market comes back, you're gonna be one of the salespeople that are still around when everybody else bailed because they couldn't make sales.
And at that point, you're gonna be [00:25:00] selling 15, 20 houses a month and you're gonna go, Man, where was this when I was selling one? But it's cause you took the time to make your process better. That's my whole thing is how can I be better than I was yesterday, every single day?
Kevin Weitzel: That sounds like a very tall person said that quote.
Taylor Burtner: A very tall person. Very deep voice. Yeah. That would be him.
Greg Bray: Who rhymes with add. I went blank on a thing to rhyme with, so oh, well.
Taylor Burtner: You can't rhyme his last name. I can't even pronounce his last name.
Greg Bray: No, we love Chad. He's a great guy. He's really motivating, so it's terrific. Well, Taylor, if somebody wants to reach out and get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to connect?
Taylor Burtner: Absolutely. So, best way would probably be email. So Taylor, TA Y L O R dot Burtner, B U R T N E R at Manuel Builders, M A N U E L dot com is my direct email address. So, if somebody wants to reach out, I'm always here to help.
Greg Bray: All right, we'll drop that in the show notes for everybody too so they can find that easy. Thank you again, Taylor, for spending time with us today, [00:26:00], and thank you to our episode sponsor NternNow. Make sure you check out nternnow.com and learn more about what they've got to offer. 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.