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This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Carol Horton of Kindred Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss the value marketing mistakes can offer when they lead to opportunities, change, and growth.
Digital marketing is not an exact science, so things won’t always go as planned. Carol says, “…I also fully believe that mistakes are learning opportunities and you shouldn't be ashamed of them. So, I'm willing to be like, okay, that didn't work out, but now we learned and you can learn from it and see how you could reposition a different way and hopefully get an answer to some questions. So, I say just rip the bandaid off and pick one area that you want to work on and go for it, and it'll usually lead you down the path of other areas that you need to do.”
The fear of imperfection should not impede digital marketing progress. Improvement can start with just one step. Carol explains, “Pick one that you think would be viable and then see where it leads you to other opportunities to improve and change in the company. And don't be afraid if it's a mistake. I know sometimes it can be significant cost, but you need to be open and honest…Just say, Hey, I wanna try this. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I do feel like it's gonna get us somewhere. And make sure they understand the possibility of it may not be a right fit for us, but it can give us some answers somewhere else.”
Support and education are important factors in the digital marketing journey. Carol says, “Don't be afraid of change and ask questions…Find people in the industry that can help you answer those unknown questions that you have. Because, like I said, knowledge is power and the more knowledge that you have about something the more power you have and make the decision whether it's good for your company or not. Go for it.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how mistakes can lead to much better digital marketing.
About the Guest:
Carol Horton is the Chief Marketing Officer at Kindred Homes located in Dallas, TX. She has a wealth of experience in the home building marketing field and a comprehensive background in business. She has a proven successful career of achievements in challenging markets and turnaround scenarios.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everyone 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 a special thank you to today's episode sponsor of NterNow. Learn more at nternow.com.
Today we'd like to welcome to the show, Carol Horton. Carol is the CMO at Kindred Homes. Thanks for joining us, Carol.
Carol Horton: Oh, thank you. I'm so glad to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, Carol, let's start off by getting to know you a little bit. Give us that quick introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Carol Horton: Well, as you said, I'm Chief Marketing Officer at Kindred [00:01:00] Homes, and I oversee all marketing and sales things related at our company. I'm also a part owner, so it gives me a unique perspective. I'm passionate about customer service and ensuring that every product and every home that we deliver to our buyers are up to their standards. That's kind of the gist of it. I have a background in business. Graduated from University of Oklahoma, and I'm also a mom of three kids that are older now, so I have a little bit more time. But, as you know, parenting never stops.
Kevin Weitzel: University of Oklahoma. Those are like the Mavericks or something like that. What do they call them on down there?
Carol Horton: The Sooners.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, Sooners.
Carol Horton: The Sooners.
Kevin Weitzel: That's right. Alright. So, outside of the home building industry, we always wanna know something personal about you that is not home building related. What do you got for us?
Carol Horton: Okay. Okay. So. I have joined the pickleball craze. I'm playing pickleball, right? I mean, now I think it's gonna become like a professional sport here soon, which still is crazy to me. I started playing tennis years and years ago. I still love tennis. Tuesdays are my night. I go out and [00:02:00] hit, but pickleball is fun and it's really a growing trend. So, I'm kind of on that bandwagon and learning more and more about that.
Greg Bray: It's fun. Our family has just started getting into that a little bit too. We actually got a little net for the driveway. Now, our driveway's not quite regulation size, so we have some special house rules like when the grass cuts in and, but it's a lot of fun to go spend an hour in the driveway hitting the ball back and forth. It's a lot of fun.
Carol Horton: Oh yeah, yeah. That's how I started was driveway pickleball. It's a gateway drug.
Greg Bray: Yeah. It's a gateway drug.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm at a loss because I always thought it was a way to repurpose tennis courts for seniors that couldn't run around anymore. That's not what it is.
Carol Horton: Well, I mean, yes. But no, it's turned into this serious thing now, and I hope it doesn't lose that fun factor because one great thing I like about it is I can go play with friends that have never played, and everyone can have fun and laugh. It's really easy to pick up and start playing. But now, I'm [00:03:00] watching some of these videos online and it's crazy. I'm like, how are they doing that with the pickleball? You know, I don't understand how they hit it so hard and all that good stuff, but maybe when I retire from Kindred, you'll see me on the pickleball circuit. Who knows?
Kevin Weitzel: On the pickleball pro circuit. Yeah. There you go.
Greg Bray: Yeah. So, Kevin, to your point though, when we were kind of shopping for our stuff, I saw there's a special attachment to the paddle that you can stick on the end that's got a ball suction cup so you can pick up the ball without bending over. To certain folks that may be an issue to be able to pick up the ball without bending over. So, there's some of that in the pickleball world.
Kevin Weitzel: That's what I'm talking about.
Greg Bray: Enough about pickleball, Carol. Tell us a little bit about how you got into home building as a career. You know, you mentioned studying business in general. How did that become a home builder and sales and marketing focus for you?
Carol Horton: Well, a lot of it I married into it, but oddly enough, when I was at the University of Oklahoma, within my business major, which I love business. I honestly think [00:04:00] every person should have at least a minor in business cause it teaches you so much about life in general too, about just managing your own personal finances.
But I was always interested in design and construction and I actually was gonna do the joint construction science BBA program at OU. I started doing it and time ran out, money ran out for school, so I ended up just getting a minor in construction science. So, I had that background. However, when I graduated, my very first job outta college was property tax consulting. So, I was kind of somewhat in the real estate industry.
Then I moved into relocation, and then I got kind of tired of that, and I kind of diverged for a little bit. But then after I got married, I kind of was taken into the fold, if you will, inside home building. And obviously, my family is a pioneer in it. They're part of the Dr. Horton family and now they've separated out and Kindred Homes is their own complete entity, my little small unit of the family.
Greg Bray: So, tell us a little [00:05:00] more about Kindred Homes then. Where do you guys build? What type of buyer are you trying to serve?
Carol Horton: So, Kindred Homes is very unique. We're a fairly small builder. We build in Texas. We're in the Dallas Fort Worth area home market, and also the San Antonio, Austin Market. I did say San Antonio, Austin. I'm seeing that more and more now. that that's gonna become its own MSA together, kinda like Dallas Fort Worth. So, we build in both those. So, we're like that farther north San Antonio, Southern Austin, New Braunfels, Seguin. Those type areas we're first-time buyers, very entry-level, but we also have a full custom product and we do a build on your lot programs. So, we can actually cater to almost any buyer. We have homes starting in the 300s to in the millions. It's just kind of where you're at in your point in life and what you're ready to buy, and we can make it happen for you.
Kevin Weitzel: Wait a minute, there's million-dollar homes in Texas? Because every time I'm always looking, I'm always amazed at how inexpensive homes are in Texas.
Carol Horton: Yeah. Believe it or not, [00:06:00] there are. Most of those you'll find, tend to be on larger acreages, that they're further out. Or if you're closer into the inner cities of Dallas Fort Worth, you'll see the price point going up.
Kevin Weitzel: Complete with indoor pickleball courts?
Carol Horton: Uh, indoor pickleball courts? No, we haven't been able to figure that cost basis out.
Kevin Weitzel: Not yet.
Carol Horton: Not yet, but maybe, maybe an outdoor pickleball court or community pickleball court.
Greg Bray: So, Carol, with that wide range of buyer demographic and price point that you guys are serving, do you see differences in, especially from a digital interaction, are the first-time buyers spending more time digitally versus maybe those who are looking for something more expensive or custom, or is it kind of all across the board?
Carol Horton: I'm finding today, the pandemic obviously shoved home buying into this digital era a lot faster than we were wanting to acquire it. I'm finding that it's not a huge differential on the different demographics. They all start the buyer journey, it seems like [00:07:00] online. I would say, probably 95 to 99% of our buyers are finding us online first. I consider that, you know, an entry into the digital world. They want to look and consume and see what we have and see the pictures of the homes we've built and make some decisions before they head out to our models a lot of times. So, I'm not really seeing a big difference.
Now, maybe the way they communicate with us after they've come to us might be slightly different. Generally, most of the time when you're in a higher price point, you have someone that's usually in a little bit older category, and so they may still like face-to-face or phone calls. The younger buyers tend to be your entry-level. They just wanna text you. They want everything done online. Just DocuSign it to me. I don't wanna come in. Send me a picture. So, there are a little bit differences there. You have to meet your buyers where they're at in the funnel a lot of times and, you know, they come in at all different points now.
Greg Bray: It's always interesting to me to see if there are [00:08:00] demographic differences or not. We did some research last year that we're in the process of getting ready to publish, but we were surprised how little difference there was in age, in the way that people interacted online. There were other groupings that kind of came out of it but age was not one of the drivers, primarily, of whether they were interested in interacting with us online versus in person.
Carol Horton: I truly believe, I mean, everyone's gotten fairly comfortable. I think knowledge is power. I always say that, and buyers in general want to have knowledge because they feel like if they come to the model with it, they have power. So, they go and they do their research and they spend time online finding out what competitors have so they can come and try to negotiate, right? Whether they do it in person or via phone or text message or however. I agree with that. So, I think it doesn't matter the age range. Everyone's really comfortable with the internet now. You know, my 80-year-old aunt, she's on the internet every day, right? My Gen Z kids that all they do is TikTok, [00:09:00] so.
Kevin Weitzel: I can tell you this, that when it comes to virtual tours, this is about six-year-old data, that there was a breaking point at about 45 years of age, that older than 45 preferred the video-style animation virtual tours. Versus 45 and below tended to gravitate toward the user-controlled versions that function more like a Matterport. But that's six years ago, and those people have aged now another four or five years, technologies have changed, and now we're seeing about a 90/10 split between, 10% being the animated style and 90% being the virtual user control rendered versions.
Carol Horton: I a hundred percent agree with that. The Millennials are now older, right? And it's kind of interesting hearing them and their perspective now the Gen Zs and it's kind of like how I'm a Gen X, you guys maybe, how the Gen X was feeling about Millennials when they were younger. So, it is crazy to think about the shift, the Millennials being older and the Millennials were the [00:10:00] initial ones that were so into the technology and communicating differently.
I still think they're gonna be the largest buying segment for us for a while. They've been through the wringer on home buying a little bit. If you think about the 08 crisis. They were coming outta college and they were supposed to be buying their first-time homes. They couldn't get jobs so forth cause the 08 crisis. A lot of them were able to get stuff during the pandemic, but a lot of them were just priced out or things just went so fast and there just wasn't enough supply. And now they're caught with their pants down a little bit with high-interest rates. So, I know they're a little frustrated, and I think that's why they want to come fully loaded with knowledge so they can really feel like they have power to negotiate right now to get the best deal.
Greg Bray: So, when we talk about some of these technologies, Carol, which ones have you guys found most effective as you try to enhance that home buying experience? What have you been focused on in those digital technologies?
Carol Horton: I started with a chatbot online, and I would say that interactive chatbot[00:11:00] has been fantastic for us. It's a lead generation. Obviously, when people come into your website and they can look all day long, but if you can't follow up with them, it's kind of like, oh. It doesn't really convert into anything tangible.
And when we added the chatbot online, it allowed us to capture and submit more information. Generally, a lot of those people will eventually put their information in and request more. This chatbot can answer questions intuitively. It's really crazy. Another great thing is it gives people the power to do it in their native language and it translates immediately for them.
Kevin Weitzel: Like over 180 languages. Are you talking about AtlasRTX?
Carol Horton: Yes. AtlasRTX. They've been a great partner with us. When I came on full-time with Kindred Homes. It was actually, we were building under the brand, Endeavor Wall Homes. We acquired the company, my family, back in 2009. So, we bought the company out of bankruptcy during the 08 crisis. And I was not at that time involved doing any work at the [00:12:00] company. And then we had a separation with partners in 2017, 2018, and my husband brought me in to revamp the company's marketing wise and rebrand it. We had to go through a name change.
So, when I got in and I started looking around, I was like, holy cow, this is super antiquated. We're really behind. It's like selling homes in 1995. So, I knew we needed to catch up, but I had decided at that point, I wanted to get us ahead of the curve. I just looked at every possibility out there, and boy was I glad. By late 2019, I had put in place AtlasRTX. I had done some virtual tours, the animated virtual tours, and they were the Matterport-type situations. We were ready. I launched an OSC program in the fall of 2019. So, when obviously March of 2020 came around, it was easier for us to shift than a lot of smaller builders.
Greg Bray: So, Carol, that's a lot of heavy lifting though, to get all those parts and pieces, especially when you're sitting there looking and saying, Hey, we're behind. What kind of advice would you give to that CMO [00:13:00] out there who's looking at their stuff going, we're behind and I don't know where to start, or how do I even begin to tackle this process?
Carol Horton: That's a really hard question because it's very hard to be like, where do you start? I am kind of a headfirst person. I'm like, okay, let's just do it, but I also fully believe that mistakes are learning opportunities and you shouldn't be ashamed of them. So, I'm willing to be like, okay, that didn't work out, but now we learned and you can learn from it and see how you could reposition a different way and hopefully get an answer to some questions. So, I say just rip the bandaid off and pick one area that you want to work on and go for it, and it'll usually lead you down the path of other areas that you need to do.
So, when we started the chatbot and we started AtlasRTX, it led me on, Hey, I really need an OSC cause we didn't have that program. We were generating more business and it was bringing in more leads. I needed someone to control that funnel at the website level. It led me down the path of different things that I needed to do. I also [00:14:00] additionally added in Zillow, I believe like late 2019. It may have been early. And so Zillow was bringing so much more traffic to the website and I needed to engage them a little bit more. And that led me down the path of I'm gonna try to do the virtual tours. They let me down that path to get the virtual tours.
Pick one that you think would be viable and then see where it leads you to other opportunities to improve and change in the company. And don't be afraid if it's a mistake. I know sometimes it can be significant cost, but you need to be open and honest. I'm in a situation a little bit differently cause I'm a part owner, so I don't really have a boss above me to be like, you lost a bunch of money.
So, I would have that open and honest conversation if you were in a different situation than me and you feel that fear of losing the company money. Just say, Hey, I wanna try this. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I do feel like it's gonna get us somewhere. And make sure they understand the possibility of it may not be a right fit for us, but it can give us some answers somewhere else.
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Kevin Weitzel: Well, outta curiosity, when you were looking [00:15:00] at adding an OSC, did you consider, like is that an in-house position or did you outsource that? You don't have to answer if you don't want to.
Carol Horton: I made this an in-house position initially and I had someone inside the company that was very good at this. This was a former realtor and was training to be a salesperson and she was great with marketing as well, and so it just kind of was a natural transition. I was having her help me with some marketing things as I was reforming the marketing department, actually creating a whole marketing department. When I came in, there really wasn't a marketing department so I brought her in and she was great and she was with us until the spring, this last spring. I've had some turnover, like a lot of people in 2021 and 2022.
I have someone in place, but I have been looking at some alternatives to outsourcing it, so you just have a little bit more coverage. It's really hard. Like I said, we're a smaller builder and I think every builder should have an OSC, but I don't really have the budget to have two OSCs. Everyone needs a day [00:16:00] off, a two day off, a vacation. So, it's really hard when you just have one person. My last employee that I mentioned that I started as the OSC, she was one of those workaholics. Even though she said she was taking vacation, she was still checking messages and phone calls.
Greg Bray: You got spoiled. Yeah.
Carol Horton: Yes, I was so spoiled. Yeah, so now I'm looking at some, you know, opportunities outside. I believe SharedDrive is someone you may have heard of before. I've been talking with them. They've been really great to work with. So, hopefully that's something that I can collaborate on this year with them. And increase that lead generation and getting appointments and getting people in the door. Cause as we know, we're in a slow down a little bit. As you guys are probably aware, we're not in another 2008, 2009 situation. But I think you're gonna have to fight a little bit harder for sales.
Greg Bray: Definitely. Well, Carol, let's step back to that. You talked about coming in and there was no marketing department and you had to create and build that. So again this journey you've been on I think can help so many others who may be [00:17:00] at different stages of that. Where did you start there? It's like, all right, I need to build this. What do I wanna have in-house? What do I want to outsource? Which skillsets? Because you can't have one person who knows everything anymore. That's just asking too much. So, tell us a little bit about that process you went through.
Carol Horton: Well, I always say, this is my favorite saying it's like I was drinking from the fire hose, you know? It was just like, oh, I don't even know where to start. I was revamping product line as well. A fun fact. When I came in, we had, I believe it was 44 tiles in our level-one selections, 44 tiles. I was like, in level one? I'm like, why would they ever get level two? You're getting no upgrade. There were things like that. I was trying to do that.
And this is where as a business owner, it's really hard just to get myopic and just focus on marketing cause you're in there and you're like, wait, how do I put together a design brochure when there's 44 level-one tiles? It was a huge challenge for me to kind of segment and decide. I knew immediately I needed a new website So, I [00:18:00] started there and then I realized, okay if I'm getting a new website, I need some help creating the graphics and the content and things like that.
So, first thing I did was hire graphic designer. And I know a lot of home builders would be like, really? Do you need that in-house? But for me, it really paid off because I knew I was going through a rebranding and I was gonna have to revamp every sign, every piece of marketing collateral that we had out there. I needed a new logo, new color, everything. While I was in the process of hiring a graphic designer, I did outsource. I got a firm to help with the rebrand and getting the names together and getting the brand package together, so I could at least have a voice and a design aesthetic together. So, when the graphic designers started, I could say, this is how you need to start. This is the way we're going, the color palette. So, I didn't have one person just arbitrarily deciding all that for me.
That is the most important thing when you're going through a rebranding, I think, is ensuring brand integrity. It's really hard in home building because your [00:19:00] employees are so segmented out in different communities. And you can't really see what they're doing unless you're out there driving. And a lot of times, you know, geographic, it's really hard to go to every single neighborhood. So, I have to rely on my salespeople to present the brand correctly.
What my graphic designer does, is more like brand manager graphic design. They help, you know, review all the materials and make sure no one else is creating their own content, flyers, things like that with incorrect information or branding on there. I'm a true believer in that. And your brand is your biggest identity for your company.
Greg Bray: You know, you really don't want individual folks running amuck with that. For sure. You can make a mess really quick if you're not careful.
Carol Horton: Yeah. And that's what was happening when I came on board. And it was really hard. It's hard to take that away from your salespeople. So, when I came on board, all the salespeople were allowed to do their own social media, set up their own Facebook pages. So, we had probably 30 Facebook pages set up for Endeavor Wall Homes, and the content that was on it was [00:20:00] scary at best. So, when I reigned that back in they were not happy about it. But I think now, we still have some of our same folks from back then.
Obviously when management changes and ownership changes, people leave. So, we did have a few turnover, but our salespeople for the most part have stayed. They're like, oh, you're so right and we're glad that you're doing this now, and it's, you know, a lot more effective when you do it from a single source, social media advertising definitely than when you spread it out. And that's what I tried to convey to them. And that's where, hey, you're good at selling. You sell and let me market for you so that you can have more people to sell to.
Greg Bray: You mentioned social media and consolidating all of that. What's working for you today? Which platforms are you kind of focused on and what are you kind of looking towards maybe experimenting with in the future?
Carol Horton: So, of course, Facebook. It's like the gold standard now. It's kind of crazy to me, but it's tried and true. You still get a lot of, you know, hits off that, a lot of impressions.[00:21:00] I'm not big on impressions. I mean, I wanna see a conversion. I wanna see lead generation. But we're still seeing quite a bit of traffic back to the website from Facebook. Instagram, it's kind of hard cause some of that's muddled inside of Instagram. I do feel like Instagram is our bigger segment now where we're getting a little bit more reach. I'm noticing more and more likes and follows on Instagram versus Facebook now, which is great.
When I took over like I said, I consolidated down and I ended up doing it by division. So, I had a Facebook page per division and then at corporate level. However, recently, as I had some turnover, I needed to outsource. So, I hired Group Two to help me and now we've consolidated our social media into just one account, and it's been great and we're getting a lot more traction and it's a little easier to manage the advertising. So, I would say that's a key. Don't try to make it too complicated, just keep it simple, stupid, and it usually works better.
I'm super on board with TikTok. I love TikTok. [00:22:00] I can spend endless hours on it. I have to moderate myself. I have a timer on my phone immediately. It's 30 minutes a day is all I can be on there. I know there's some trepidation there with a whole China issue. I'm not real sure about that. I'm not real sure how I feel on that, on the political side of it. I do think there's a lot of people on the platform and it's a great place to find people, and people are consuming vast amounts of content on there. So, why not get in front of 'em that way?
And if they'll consume our content that way and click on it and click on our profile, click a link, why not be there at this point? So, that is my goal of 2023, is to figure out how to get on TikTok, get our reach there. I have been trying to do an ad on TikTok. I haven't figured it out, but I haven't had a ton of time to mess with it. And Group Two is not doing that just yet, so.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, that's where I'm at with TikTok because I see plenty of people falling downstairs, dressing up like cartoon characters, dancing and playing pranks at each other, but I really don't see a vehicle or a pathway, [00:23:00] maybe I lack the creativity, but I don't see a pathway forward to that being an advertisement platform, a place where you can send out a message outside of just, Hey, watch this guy. Look at, he's gonna fall down these stairs. This is great.
Carol Horton: You're right on that. You obviously aren't spending as much time on TikTok as I am cause I do get ads.
Kevin Weitzel: I had to delete it from my phone cause I was spending way too much time on it.
Carol Horton: So, I'll say I've seen a big shift in the last year. So, a year ago, hardly any type of advertisements at all. Now I'm starting to see a little bit more promoted content. So, it's promoted content more. So, what you're wanting to do is create videos, walkthrough videos of your homes, and it could be under construction homes, it could be models. I've been doing the TikTok videos either on my phone or I hire some college kids to do some kind of intern work for me over the holiday breaks or in the summer, and they'll go out and do walkthrough videos.
I'm trying to leverage some power is getting some of the younger kids that are in college still, that they're making their own TikToks, and I know how to do this. There's a videos editor called [00:24:00] CapCut, and you can put together really cool fun videos with fun transitions and it really draws people in and gets 'em to stay on the video longer. The longer the people view it, the more it's gonna end up being referred out to other people on their for you page, the FYP, right? And so then you get more and more eyes on it and likes, and then it just spreads. It's gonna be more brand awareness, I think, for a long time than have someone click on the website and then they're gonna go to the model the next day. But who knows?
Kevin Weitzel: Have you considered getting multiple college students that happen to have a contest against each other and the winner that gets the most likes and clicks throughs is the one that gets paid? The other three or four of 'em don't. And then they can be like, hi, I'm Susie and I'm doing the pizza dance in this beautiful Kindred Homes kitchen. Check out this appliance set that comes with it. Boom. You know, one of those?
Carol Horton: I know. That's a great idea. I think you're gonna be my new recruiter, my new HR person.
Greg Bray: Kevin, Kevin just became a TikTok consultant. There you go.
Carol Horton: Yes, you did. Look at that. You can add that to your resume. It's ever-changing, but think about when [00:25:00] Facebook first came out. I mean, did you really think 20 years ago we would be advertising on Facebook? I didn't. I never would've thought this would be a platform to reach out to people and market and let alone sell 'em a house. Or think about on Instagram. It's oh, look at that cute sweater. I'll click and I'll shop. I mean, now it's just shop right inside Instagram. You never even have to leave Instagram, and you can buy a plethora of things. So why not, eventually, Hey, lemme sell you a house on Instagram or through TikTok?
Greg Bray: And at the end of the day, advertisers drive it too with ideas and testing and see what works and what doesn't, and what do people react to.
Carol Horton: Yeah. Another little business thing about me. My mom, single mom, school teacher. Initially taught music strings, so she was an orchestra teacher. When she got divorced, she realized, I can't support my kids on this. So, she went back and learned, this is in the eighties, started learning, teaching herself, coding. I was young, so she started teaching me, I was coding DOSH, you know, fifth grade. So, I'm a huge tech nerd. So, I'm willing to try out anything tech-wise. I'm like, well, let's just try it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't [00:26:00] work.
You know, a lot of times I look at it, I'm like, I'm spending $20,000 a year on a billboard, and I don't really know what kind of traction that's getting me. At least on TikTok, I can see likes, views, clickthroughs and I can have some tangible information. So, I figure there's worse things I could waste money on marketing-wise than an intern putting some TikTok videos out there and seeing what's happening.
Greg Bray: So, beyond experimenting with TikTok, Carol, are there other technical or technology things that you're watching or kind of, Ooh, I can't wait till we can try this, that you're looking forward to?
Carol Horton: Well, that's a good question. Not right now on my radar. I know at one point I used Roomored and I did the virtual tours, and it just, well, the pandemic came and why it was a great selling tool at one point, it was very expensive at that time. We were hosting and we just didn't really need it as a tool because we had more buyers than we had product to sell at that time. So there is that huge shift. You go into the pandemic and we're scared to death that we were gonna [00:27:00] have another 08 problem and then we're like, oh wait, we're gonna be the darlings of the pandemic. You know, sales were just off the charts and then it became that supply chain constraint and we had to slow everything down. And I'm like, I don't even really wanna market to anyone. I don't want any more people getting mad that they can't buy anything or we won't sell them a house.
Kevin Weitzel: You can get them a house in 2025.
Carol Horton: Yeah, exactly. You know, we had to stop dirt sales for us so we could be able to control that cost. For the vast majority of our contracts that we took in 2020, 2021, we never went back to our buyers with a price increase. By the end of 2021, we had opened up dirt sales again, and then we got caught in a lumber crush. At that point we did, but we had told them upfront that might happen, and it was just a handful. We had to at that point, cause we had just had lost so much money on some of our contracts in 2021. But we wanted to do right by our buyers as much as we could as well.
As we go forward over the next few years, I think the virtual reality type, interactive things where people can walk through homes. [00:28:00] As you said, like in a Matterport, I think is gonna be big because those millennial buyers, and then as the Gen Z buyers come in, that's where I think you're gonna need that for them. They may not ever even want to go walk through a house physically. They may just wanna put their goggles on and be in the Metaverse. You're welcome. I gave them a plug, but I don't know if I believe in this Metaverse.
I mean, my age may be getting the best of me. But, I do have a 16-year-old and so she is tried and true Gen Z and I have two older ones, so 21 and 19. Even, I see a big difference between my two older ones and my younger one and how they wanna interact with friends. You know, my younger one, it's almost in the virtual world. I'm like, go, you have a license and a car, leave the house. The effects of the pandemic and being shoved into a virtual world is gonna be far-reaching for them for a very long time.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, that brings up an interesting question, and well, not interesting. It's interesting to me. I don't know about our listening audience, but do you see designs of homes needing to change to accommodate this newer, [00:29:00] younger generation that really doesn't care about these giant expansive homes anymore? They want simple knockdown, basic homes.
Carol Horton: Yeah, that's a good question. I haven't really given that much thought. I mean, the trend going into the pandemic was smaller, more urban type living where you have a little bit more collaborative type spaces with your community. And then we went way back, everyone was kind of moving back out to the suburbs. They wanted all this space. That's a good question. I mean, it very well could end up changing. I think you're gonna see they're gonna want more of these gaming, and it's not all gaming, but I think they're gonna want dedicated spaces to their computer, virtual world type room where they aren't trying to walk around their living room furniture with their goggles on. A padded wall room may be for these kids. Some days, I think that might be good for my 21-year-old son.
Greg Bray: Sometimes for me, I need a padded room, but. Well, Carol, thank you so much for spending so much time with us today. Do you have any last words of marketing [00:30:00] advice to those folks in your shoes out there that you're like, gosh, how can I help them? What do you wanna share?
Carol Horton: Don't be afraid of change and ask questions. If you're not really like a true expert and you're not sure, anyone could reach out to me if you're thinking about AtlasRTX or a chatbot of any sort. Find people in the industry that can help you answer those unknown questions that you have. Because, like I said, knowledge is power and the more knowledge that you have about something the more power you have and make the decision whether it's good for your company or not. Go for it.
Greg Bray: Well, Carol, if somebody does want to connect with you and reach out, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Carol Horton: Easiest thing to do is find me on LinkedIn. I'm on there. Just search me, Carol Horton. I'm, pretty easy to find. There's a few other Carol Hortons out there, but I have a red blazer on in my pictures if that helps visually. Or you can just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Bray: Awesome. We'll put some links in the show notes as well for that. Well, thank you very much, Carol, for spending time with us today, and thank you everybody for listening. And also a special thank you to our episode sponsor of NterNow. Thank you for listening to The Home Builder Digital [00:31:00] Marketing podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.