This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Greg Fuson of Pacific Coast Builders Conference joins Greg and Kevin to discuss the opportunities PCBC offers home builder industry attendees.
One of the focuses of PCBC is the education offered by experts in other fields besides home building. Greg explains, “So, one of the things that's always been a hallmark of PCBC is we are very intentional about putting together a mix of content that is industry-specific and very relevant to the business model of our customers, but not solely devoted to home building topics. We very carefully curate a program that is going to address the critical needs of the home builder and the best practices and the emerging trends that you should be aware of, and also bring in voices from people who are outside the industry who are going to give you a perspective on your world that you wouldn't necessarily see when we are all very nose down, focused on the urgent day-to-day, that's a reality that we all need to face.”
Three main aspects are central to PCBC’s purpose. Greg says, “…we are very deliberate in creating relevant experiences for the entirety of the home building industry. So, PCBC's tagline is the Art, Science + Business of Housing, and we really believe that all three of those need to be ingredients in the equation in order for successful communities to come out of the ground. And the event itself is designed to deliver on all of those different elements.”
PCBC comprises a vast array of subjects related to home building. Greg says, “So, we will have program content that is targeted to the many different disciplines of a home building company. There are design trends, there's marketing, and consumer insights. There is business and strategy and leadership, capital markets, land acquisition and development, construction and operational excellence, et cetera, et cetera. The audience tends to be more senior level in managerial, and that's one of the strong suits, I think, to the networking experience, is that the people that you're connecting with are thought leaders and are experienced and are driving new, emerging, leading thought.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how attending PCBC can benefit home builders.
About the Guest:
Greg Fuson has been designing and delivering high-level conferences for over twenty years. He is team lead for PCBC's annual event, with particular focus on the Leader-to-Leader Forum, innovation showcases, keynotes, and strategic partnerships. In 2016, citing his ability to "[energize] the industry with a think tank environment to be a catalyst for new ideas," Builder Magazine named him one of 100 innovators who are shaping the future of housing.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to welcome to the show Greg Fuson, who is the VP of Events and Experience at PCBC. Welcome, Greg. Thanks for joining us today.
Greg Fuson: Thanks for having me.
Greg Bray: I just also have to say that it's a thrill to have another Greg on the show. We gotta stick together. It's just gonna be fun.
Kevin Weitzel: Just a moment of clarification, how will I determine which Greg I'm actually talking with? Or is just everything I say, Mr. [00:01:00] Fuson, will be directed to you. I will not talk to Greg Bray in this episode. I won't do it. I refuse.
Greg Bray: We'll figure it out and we'll let the, uh, magic of the listeners understand who's talking to who. All right. But hey, let's dive in. Greg, tell us a little bit about yourself and give us that quick introduction so folks get to know you better.
Greg Fuson: Absolutely. So, I have been designing conferences and events for about 25 years. Along the way, I have become very intentional about making those events experiential for people. And that's rooted in the belief that when you engage someone's emotions when you do more than just talk at them, learning becomes stickier. We are more likely to retain things when we have been engaged with laughter, and surprise and entertainment, and all the things that make something memorable. So, that's kind of at the heart of what I do.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm sure we're gonna get into a little bit more on how you became what you are, but before [00:02:00] we get into following up on that, we need to know something personal about you that is not business related.
Greg Fuson: So, here's what I would say. I am a movie nerd. I watch a movie and/or a TV show series almost every night of the year. During the pandemic when COVID shut down the conference that I had been working on, we pivoted and made a documentary film.
Kevin Weitzel: What? That's super cool.
Greg Bray: And it ties into your whole thing about experiences and storytelling and everything else too, right? To be able to connect into the whole film and TV industry I expect.
Greg Fuson: Oh, very much so. I mean, this was the problem or the pain point, or the challenge, the seemingly insurmountable challenge that ultimately got us around to the documentary idea. Which was we had been running this conference. COVID made it impossible to meet. The logical, natural next step was to take the content that would've been delivered [00:03:00] in person and do it over Zoom.
And yet, so much of that particular event was rooted in experiential things, what it meant to be unique, engaging spaces with unique, engaging people. And you took those two things away, and what was left was the program content by itself, and it didn't feel like it would live up to the promise that we had made for people.
And so in wrestling with that is what finally got us around to the realization that the idea behind the event itself was not to be a delivery vehicle of information. It was to engage people's emotions and therefore make them more receptive to change. A Zoom delivery of a presentation was never gonna achieve that, but the storytelling that goes into documentary film could. Then it became obvious that was the thing to do.
Greg Bray: That makes a lot of sense. So, Greg, you've done different kinds of events. How did you get connected with the home building industry specifically and get into our [00:04:00] industry's events?
Greg Fuson: Yeah. So, that really rolled out straight out of college. I would say that it's something that happened in a very accidental way that turned out to be serendipitous. So, honestly, it was the first job offer that came along when I was deep in debt. I came to find shortly after diving into it was that there is, first of all, something uniquely compelling about the home building industry, right? The product itself is inherently special, emotional, meaningful to people. You don't have to invent desire for home and community, right? You just need to tap into those things and get them right. And so the idea of working with this particular industry as opposed to something else that was less personal, less human, less engaging, really pulled me in.
And then for the world of conferences and events overall, what I quickly found out is that there was this really cool left brain, right brain aspect to the [00:05:00] work in that it starts out as something ephemeral, right? A conference doesn't exist, it's just an idea. It's a concept. So, it's the starting out with nothing but ideas and themes, wanting to find the commonality between and among those themes and weave them together in a meaningful way, and then eventually having to turn that into a deliverable event where it becomes operations and logistics.
At some point in that process, there's a marriage of the two. There's a handoff and that has to be done artfully. And that was what was so interesting about the work is over the course of a year, it was never only one thing or only the other thing, it was the two of them and the challenge of making them work together.
Greg Bray: I love the line you said there about we do not have to create the desire for home and community, we just have to tap into it. That's pretty profound, Greg. I don't know if you meant it to be profound or not but I think there's a lot there for all of our listeners, regardless of whether they're doing events or more traditional marketing and home sales and things there but [00:06:00] there is an innate desire within all of us to have a special place to live, and that's just part of what we want for the most part. So, I think that's pretty insightful.
But before we go deeper into event planning, let's understand specifically what is PCBC for those who aren't familiar with it, haven't been before. Pacific Coast Builders Conference, right? That's what we're talking about as far as the acronym. Make sure I got that right. Correct me if I'm wrong there, but tell us a little bit about the event and what's been involved in that over the years.
Greg Fuson: Absolutely. So, the Pacific Coast Builders Conference was originally launched in 1959. Long history there. The event has grown and receded and grown and receded with the housing market. Which you know all too well can be very cyclical, but has evolved many times over the years. Specifically, it has grown to reach an audience that goes beyond just the Pacific Coast states and has added on a large trade show component to [00:07:00] where it is bigger than just an educational conference.
Those two factors, pointing us towards adopting the acronym of PCBC more so than the fully spelled-out name, which is why to some people's frustration, you will only ever see the initials. But yes, that's the history behind the event.
We meet once a year. We are the annual event for the California Building Industry Association. We have been rooted in California since the beginning in 1959 and has moved to different locations within the state, but always grounded in the California market. The California challenges, the need to be creative and innovative to produce housing in the most restrictive regulatory environment in the country, the audience that we serve reflects that.
So, they tend to be home building companies, community developers, architectural firms, and the related [00:08:00] marketing and advertising and capital sources, building and operating at community scale. What that involves, in addition to drawing larger volume companies, is I think shaping more of a community mindset and looking at the entire fabric of everything that goes into a successful community. And so it's residential first and foremost. But it's also with a mind towards the mixed-use opportunities and the things that all need to add together to make for magical places.
Greg Bray: My experience has been that I have noticed that PCBC is rather California-focused. Is it a place for builders from other parts of the country to still come? Or is it really so California-focused that it doesn't make sense for someone from Michigan to show up?
Greg Fuson: I think it makes perfect sense for people from other markets to be coming out to California. First and foremost, it's not content that is [00:09:00] California-specific. It is content that is rooted in the challenges that are faced here. Many of which, by the way, are probably migrating to other parts of the country as well. So, what shows up here in restriction is probably coming to you before too long. It is certainly gonna be relevant to anyone who builds, as I said, at community scale.
So, production home building, and the challenges of supply chain. I don't need to tell your listeners all that it entails, and I'm more of a generalist than a subject matter expert. The challenges that we all face in designing and developing communities that engage people, that make them feel special there, that make them want to live there. What's playing out here is gonna be translatable to any community anywhere else in the country.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, just like fashion tends to start in the West Coast and move its way, migrate its way across the country, those regulations are there as a way to make a better building [00:10:00] environment. Yes. Nobody wants regulations. Nobody wants the government to tell 'em what they can or can't do, but they're there for safety. They're there for avoiding lawsuits. They're there for conformity of HOAs. They're there for a lot of different reasons and like it or not, that is the starting point and it will migrate eastward, you know, as things go because that's just a necessity that our society, especially our rapidly growing society, is creating.
Greg Bray: Kevin, I'm confused. I thought fashion started at your house and then migrated.
Kevin Weitzel: No. Fashion dies at my house. It's dead at my house. I have no fashion sense whatsoever. I wear the same shirt over and over and over again, just in different colors. Yeah, it's pretty sad actually.
Greg Bray: Greg, we know that there's been a push this year to let the world know that PCBC's a little different. Something new is going on. Probably coming out of some COVID, you know, get back to it type of initiative. So, help us understand, how's that experience evolving and changing and why it's gonna be even better this year.
Greg Fuson: For starters, we are in a whole new location for PCBC. We will be in Anaheim this [00:11:00] year, May 24th and 25th. The event has been for most of its 60-plus years in San Francisco, which has been a great home to us. There is something fresh and energizing about being in a new location. And also specifically, so much of the residential design and development innovation has been coming out of Orange County for many years that we felt like it was appropriate to put the event there. It's PCBC holding all of its same values and aspirations in a new location with an opportunity to now showcase some very specific local housing tours that we never had access to when we were in the Bay Area.
Greg Bray: So, you talked about the idea that it's an experience that goes beyond just the content delivery, the presentations, and the speakers. How do you guys go about finding speakers and presenters that then fit into that concept? Because quite often a lot of events are much more, I [00:12:00] think, focused around I'm gonna teach something for an hour, right, or 30 minutes or whatever the time slot is, and that's left up to the individual presenters as to what they bring to do that. So, tell us a little more about how you put all that programming together and what you're looking for to make that work well.
Greg Fuson: So, one of the things that's always been a hallmark of PCBC is we are very intentional about putting together a mix of content that is industry-specific and very relevant to the business model of our customers, but not solely devoted to home building topics. We very carefully curate a program that is going to address the critical needs of the home builder and the best practices and the emerging trends that you should be aware of and also bring in voices from people who are outside the industry who are going to give you a perspective on your world that you wouldn't necessarily see when we are all very nose down, [00:13:00] focused on the urgent day-to-day, that's a reality that we all need to face.
We incorporate speakers who are outside the industry, who are going to shake up your perspective in a way that we think of as an exercise in lateral thinking, and that is you're gonna hear a point of view from someone who isn't necessarily grounded in your day-to-day and therefore is going to see the problem or the challenge from a slightly different perspective.
Greg Bray: That is a great insight for all of us from just an educational standpoint. Whether it's, you know, at a specific event or just when we're looking around for ideas, is do we get a little too much group think because we only look at how other builders are doing it, and get stuck in this kind of imitation. I don't wanna say copying, right? But this imitation of each other, and then we all start to do it the same way just because, instead of maybe looking outside a little bit more to see what other sources bring us some of those good ideas. Is there a particular place you go looking for those ideas, or do they come to you? How does that work?
Greg Fuson: The [00:14:00] process of being a curator is those things are all around you, everywhere you go, every day. So, while PCBC is an annual event and it's on an annual production cycle, the ideas in the inspiration are coming you never know when. I hold them up every time one arrives. Depending on where we are in the planning cycle, I can either use it now or I can hold it off for a future event. But it is this ongoing exercise of how do I bring new perspectives, new ideas to this audience and tie them in a relevant, meaningful way.
So, I'll give you a couple of examples that we're excited about for this year's show. Kyle Scheele is an author and a business consultant and a proponent of and an instigator of what he calls crazy ideas, and is really an exercise in applying some of the more out-there ideas to the challenges that you're currently working on because they will generate new [00:15:00] ways of finding solutions to the problems that are very entrenched. Sometimes it's silliness just for silliness’ sake, but sometimes that silliness is gonna get you to a place that you wouldn't have otherwise. He's a very dynamic and engaging speaker. We're excited about him.
Another I would cite is Liz Bohannon. She is the founder of a social entrepreneurial company called Sseko Designs, which she launched with zero experience in business startups, zero experience in retail, or fashion. What she discovered through that process, in making it highly successful, is that her status as a beginner was exactly what she needed to find the map to success that made it all work. That it was specifically because she was a beginner and she didn't have an entrenched way of looking at things that allowed her to instead substitute tenacity and pluck, as she calls it, and bring a beginner's [00:16:00] mindset to a set of problems that she didn't even know what the problems were at the time. So, her book is called Beginner's Pluck, and her whole message is around why bringing a newcomer's point of view to something will help you see solutions that you wouldn't have otherwise.
Greg Bray: Kevin and I have been working on an event that we've hosted, The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit. One of the things that I learned as we work through that is how much work it really takes behind the scenes. We're way smaller than what you guys are doing. So, Greg, I don't think everybody really understands how much work goes into putting something like this together. Give us just that little behind-the-curtain peak at some of the things that go on. I mean, you've already talked about finding the right content, and you know, you've got venues. And then you've talked about home tours and putting those together and you know, all kinds of things that go on. But just give us a little taste, if you can, of some of the scale of effort that goes into an event like this.
Greg Fuson: Yeah. So, there's kind of a joke among event organizers [00:17:00] where the question is how long does it take to pull something like this off? And the answer is, how much time do you have? You can do it in a matter of weeks. Or, in my experience, it's really more like an 18-month cycle. Because at any given time, as you are working on the current event, you've got eyes and ears and feelers out there for what's happening in the industry, what's achievable for now, and what might go into a longer-term plan.
So, that as we're sitting here and it's at the end of March and we have an event coming up at the end of May, we're well into planning, not well into, but we're on our way towards planning the 2024 event as we're wrapping up logistics for 2023. So, it does require a certain openness to thinking on your feet at all times, thinking about the here and now, but also being able to identify and begin to mold ideas for the near future.[00:18:00]
Greg Bray: Which roles at a builder's organization would be the right attendees for PCBC? Is this top-level executives? Is this the marketing teams, you know, more of the construction superintendent type folks? Which audience are you really inviting and expecting to attend?
Greg Fuson: That is a great question. While I don't want to say that we are all things to all people. I will answer your question by saying that we are very deliberate in creating relevant experiences for the entirety of the home building industry. So, PCBC's tagline is the Art, Science + Business of Housing, and we really believe that all three of those need to be ingredients in the equation in order for successful communities to come out of the ground. And the event itself is designed to deliver on all of those different elements.
So, we will have program content that is targeted to the many different disciplines of a home building company. There are design [00:19:00] trends, there's marketing and consumer insights. There is business and strategy and leadership, capital markets, land acquisition and development, construction and operational excellence, et cetera, et cetera. The audience tends to be more senior level in managerial, and that's one of the strong suits, I think, to the networking experience, is that the people that you're connecting with are thought leaders and are experienced and are driving new, emerging, leading thought.
And there is also an exhibit floor component to all of this that is going to show you new innovation in building materials and systems and technologies. If you're on the product side, if you're on the purchasing side, there's an entire floor full of companies with solutions that your company can incorporate.
Kevin Weitzel: Not only that but at PCBC, I wanna say three, possibly four [00:20:00] years ago, KitchenAid had the coolest, most awesome tchotchkes they've ever handed out in the history of all tchotchke handouts. They gave way these super cool spatula spoons that I still use in my kitchen today.
Greg Fuson: Well, let's be real. These are some of the real perks.
Kevin Weitzel: It is.
Greg Fuson: You know, you make the case to your employer of all the different things that you're gonna bring back. It's the cool swag.
Kevin Weitzel: Swag rocks, right?
Greg Bray: Now you know the secret to Kevin's heart.
Kevin Weitzel: It is. Well, also they moved it to Anaheim, which is great for me because being in Phoenix, I'm just gonna make a nice, you know, scenic convertible drive down to Anaheim. It's what? Five and a half, six hours from my house. It's gonna be a drive. I'm gonna love it.
Greg Fuson: And for anyone who is coming in from out of state and is thinking about maybe making this a business leisure, sort of family, blur the lines a little bit. I hear there's a pretty good theme park nearby as well.
Greg Bray: I've heard that too. But they are not receiving any free promotion from us, so we're not gonna say their name. Greg, a slightly [00:21:00] different angle on some of this. As you have learned about experiences and events and bringing people together, what kinds of tips might you have for a builder who's trying to maybe do their own small event? Maybe to bring realtors over for an open house, or some other way to engage with their buyers with some type of a, you know, social type thing to get 'em into the model home or something like that. Any tips of what makes an experience a little more engaging and things that you see people, you know, leave out?
Greg Fuson: So, I'm gonna point out, as I mentioned before, that I am not a builder. I have not worked on the home builder side of this. I am a generalist to the industry. The thought that I'm having in response to your question is not builder specific, but I think is going to cross over to anyone who is looking to engage people around an in-person experience.
My observation is that people are most closely drawn [00:22:00] to a brand or an offering or an individual that exhibits both purpose and personality. So, purpose is you stand for something that is more than just making a buck. Personality is you are willing and able to articulate those values in a way that lets people understand who you are and whether or not they click with you. I would say that is true for a builder and a community, perhaps even more so as it is for just about any other business endeavor.
Greg Bray: I love that. And maybe that's why Kevin and I do so well together. I'm purpose, he's personality, and there we go. So, we got both.
Greg Fuson: You need him both.
Kevin Weitzel: So, Greg, I'm not a sports guy at all. Not even close, but I have been following this team called the Savannah Bananas. They roll out a completely different baseball game as what the MLB rolls out. And I'm curious what your thoughts are on that being that you're always trying to [00:23:00] reinvent new ways to get people to want to engage with, be interested in, and come to an event. What are your thoughts on the Savannah Bananas and how they're trying to change and basically disrupt how baseball is played?
Greg Fuson: First of all, a huge baseball fan. Our family is full of baseball fans. We love the Savannah Bananas. We share their video content, constantly passing it around on our family chat. I love what they're doing. The Savannah Bananas are not major league baseball and they never will be, and they are understanding where there is an opportunity. They are personality magnified a thousandfold. I think that what they're so good at is understanding who they are and who they're not, and there's sort of this willingness to fully own their identity in silliness and entertainment and fun and all of the things that make it so neat and exciting and runs counter to traditional [00:24:00] baseball. Which I happen to love, but for a lot of people, they find it slow and stodgy.
Kevin Weitzel: No. No.
Greg Fuson: I know. Imagine. But I think that's a brilliant twist on taking something that could be a weakness for one segment of the audience and turning it into a complete strength.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm asking that question specifically because in the home building industry, as we alluded to before, that a lot of home builders, no fault of their own, tend to do what their families have always done or what their companies have always done, or what their competitors do. We need to do something similar to them versus thinking outside the box like the Savannah Bananas did and said, Hey, we're gonna do this entertainment baseball versus just a standard baseball game. I'm wondering if home builders could look at that as an example of how they can change their messaging, their communities, you know, just the way that they're selling themselves to their potential buyers. Is that something that you see the industry possibly needing or leaning toward?
Greg Fuson: I think it's a whole lot easier when you are smaller. I think [00:25:00] about what we're trying to accomplish at PCBC at its size, and the concepts still work, but the reality is you need to serve up something that is relevant and palatable, in our case, to several thousand people. Versus a smaller event for two or 300 that can be highly specialized, can really go into a narrow segment, and can really drill down. And this is where we go back to the purpose side of it. The more defined you can be, the more you can understand and respond to the unique values of a segment of the audience, the more deeply you can engage them and really have them deeply bought into what you're doing and why you're doing it.
To try and bring this back to your question about home builders. There are tremendous advantages to size and scale, right? And then there are also things that are off the table when you are trying to feed a machine that is that large and reach an [00:26:00] audience that is that wide. That's why I say the smaller builder, the more tailored experience, the more you can really own what's unique and quirky and potentially polarizing about what you do. You're going to turn away a segment of audience, perhaps the largest segment of the audience, and you're going to more deeply connect with the smaller percentage who really dig what you're doing.
Greg Bray: I love that. Kevin, that was a great example of something outside the industry. And Greg, the idea that we can't just copy the big national builders if we're a small builder because we can't do what they can do. We don't have those budgets, we don't have that reach, we don't have that name recognition, but we've got something different that we can put in front of potential buyers. I just love that idea to lean into it. Say, yeah, we're not that. We're something different, and this is why it's different and this is where it's gonna be better for you, and here's some things we can do that they can't do because of size. I think that's a great insight. I love it.[00:27:00]
Kevin Weitzel: I know Greg loves to close with a bit of advice, or you know, a takeaway. That's Greg. He's Johnny on the spot to making sure that everything stays regimented and proper. I wanna do a quick rapid fire with you. Three quick questions, top of mind, whatever comes to plate. All right? And they're gonna be in this order and then just answer 'em in the same order. Number one, besides the San Francisco Giants, best baseball team in the MLB? Number two, best Coen film because you're a film addict? And three, the series that people absolutely have to load up on their TV next to watch? Go.
Greg Fuson: Okay. So, I am a Northern California-born and bred resident. Giant's fan all the way. So, you're putting me in a unique challenge here.
Kevin Weitzel: Giants don't exist. Besides the Giants, they don't exist. They just got eliminated from the MLB. They're now forced to play against the Savannah Bandanas for the rest of their existence. The team that you're gonna go to next?
Greg Fuson: Okay, so I'm gonna answer your question this way and say that I am a [00:28:00] lifelong baseball fan and geographically I root for the Giants. So, with my appreciation for the game and the history, I'm going to say the New York Yankees because of how much they have meant to the sport, love them or hate them, for decades. That's my answer.
Kevin Weitzel: Coen film?
Greg Fuson: Raising Arizona.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, that's my favorite too. Although, I'm a Lebowski fan myself. But yes, Raising Arizona is definitely it. And number three series that people absolutely have to load up on their TV right now?
Greg Fuson: Well, come on. The debut of the final season was just last night. I am a huge Succession fan. I can tell you many, many reasons why. My short version to anyone who isn't currently watching it is this is a series about obscenely wealthy, morally despicable individuals, and yet in spite of that, the show draws you in and gets you deeply hooked on these [00:29:00] weird, highly questionable individuals.
Kevin Weitzel: Yes.
Greg Fuson: All of whom are lying to each other all the time. And so you have to pay attention to the nonverbal cues to understand what people are driving at.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, these are insights that I don't think we've had in most of our episodes, so thank you, Greg. This is awesome. If somebody wants to get registered for PCBC, what's the best way for them to still connect and get ready for the show?
Greg Fuson: Yes. So, pcbc.com is our website. Got all the information about our program content, our keynote speakers, the exhibit floor. That's where you get registered. Anyone who wants to reach out to me for more information, it's really easy to remember, firstname.lastname@example.org is my email. Happy to hear from you.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you. [00:30:00]