This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Chris Ashley of Hakes Brothers joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how a top-notch website can help home builder digital marketers generate more quality leads.
The most important responsibility home builder digital marketers have is lead generation. Chris says, “For me, as a marketing person, my job at the end of the day is I have to produce leads. Period. My role is to produce leads for either my online sales team or in some cases the sales team direct. But for me, it's all about generating leads.”
As most home buyers begin their search for homes online, the best place to capture potential customers is through an exceptional home builder website. Chris explains, “So, I start with the website, and I want the website to be a one-stop shop. If anybody has any information or any questions or anything on Hakes Brothers, that website needs to give them everything they need because you know what? I know that there's thousands of buyers out there that are judging Hakes Brothers based on what they see online. There's so much that they're learning about us and finding out about us on our site before they even call us before they even show up to our model. So, I like to focus on the website.”
Digital marketers must evaluate metrics regularly to understand the quality of those leads, detect marketing effectiveness, and optimize future spend. Chris says, “The one thing I will say is, measure, track, and report…Measuring weekly, I can diagnose problems quicker. Like I said, if something breaks, I don't learn about it three months or three weeks later, I learn about it that week. Then I could jump in and say, Hey, listen, something's off…So, measure weekly, pay attention, look for patterns. You've got to know your leads and you need to know everything about those leads. One, that's going to inform your spend, your future spend. And then two, it's just going to help you down the road and it's going to inform decisions. For me, it's been able to diagnose problems before they get out of hand.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn how an outstanding website can help home builder digital marketers produce more valuable leads.
About the Guest:
Chris is an innovative homebuilding marketing executive with over 24 years of homebuilding marketing experience and 20 years of experience leading and directing creative homebuilding marketing teams. In his time, he has been a part of a homebuilding team that won the NHQ Gold National Housing Quality Award in 2019, and in 2020 that team was also recognized as Builder of the Year by ProBuilder Magazine.
He was recently recognized as Marketing Professional of the Year by the Home Builders Association of Greater Charlotte. He has received multiple NAHB Marketing Awards and many Homebuilding Marketing MAME Awards.
He is an academically trained graphic designer with extensive expertise in graphic design, digital media, email marketing, SEO, advertising, print ads, website design, content creation, and print and direct mail campaigns.
He has recently relocated from Charlotte, NC to Las Cruces, NM to take a new marketing position with Hakes Brothers Homes. He and his family are excited to start this new chapter.
Episode #177: Chris Ashley
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 Zonda Livabl.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to welcome to the show, Chris Ashley. Chris is the VP of Marketing at Hakes Brothers. Welcome, Chris. Thanks for joining us.
Chris Ashley: Thank you so much, Greg, Kevin. I'm a huge fan of the podcast. I was so thrilled when you guys asked me to join. I'm very excited. So, how are you guys doing?
Greg Bray: Oh, we're so excited to hear somebody tell us that they actually listened to it. It's, you know.[00:01:00]
Kevin Weitzel: We have an official listener, Greg.
Chris Ashley: I am a subscriber and a weekly listener every single week.
Greg Bray: Well, Chris, why don't we start out by getting to know you a little bit, give us that quick background about yourself.
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, I have been in the home building industry now, I had to do the math, but a little over 25 years now. So, I've been doing home building marketing for 25 years. Nineteen of those years, I've been leading home building marketing teams. I've been in this game a really long time. I've been in it through ups and downs, turnarounds, all kinds of stuff, but it's my life. It's my heart. It's my passion. And as I think about it, it's really kind of been ingrained in me since I was a little child, and just didn't realize it. So, that's me in a nutshell.
Kevin Weitzel: So, 25 years. Now, just to do the math, just back of the napkin kind of stuff here. That means you've been in the home building industry for approximately 10%, just a little under 10% of the history of our country.
Chris Ashley: You know, I never thought about that.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah, it's crazy. When you start thinking about how age and [00:02:00] as you age, you become a larger percentage of the history of the country. Anyway, so getting down to brass tax. Before we get into the home building, and you've got a very storied past. Please divulge us with some personal information about yourself that people will learn about on our podcast.
Chris Ashley: I've got a couple of things. You know, I could throw out there that I used to play in a rock band. When I first started my career, I was a bass player for a rock band in Indianapolis. But you know what? That was so long ago. When I got married, got kids, I just, I had to hang it up. I just didn't have time. Lately, honestly, and this is a guilty pleasure. My parents know this about me, and my wife knows this about me, but I am a collector. I am a collector of some odd things.
So, I am a sneaker collector. I'm a vintage Air Jordan fan, original colors only, OG Air Jordans. I'm a vintage toy collector. A big part of my toy collection, and this is my guilty pleasure, is wrestling [00:03:00] figures, vintage wrestling figures. And I think this all came about around the pandemic, right? You know, with the pandemic everybody was getting, nostalgic. For whatever reason, whatever the pandemic did to us, it made me go back to my childhood.
It just so happens my parents came to visit. They brought me a big storage crate and they said, Chris, we've had this in our attic forever. We want you to have it. And I'm like, oh, great. What is this? Like a letter jacket, a class, like what is this? I popped it open and it was my entire collection of the old Hulk Hogan wrestling figures, you know, the big rubber ones. This is my other guilty pleasure. I am a huge Hulk-a-maniac. So, my collection is, I love to collect old vintage Hulk Hogan memorabilia, figures, toys, you name it. I even dressed up as Hulk Hogan for Halloween. So, I am a huge Hulk-a-maniac, and I'm not ashamed to admit that.
Greg Bray: Now, just to clarify, [00:04:00] you dressed up when you were a kid or last year for Halloween?
Chris Ashley: I would love to say I was a kid, but it was last year.
Greg Bray: All right.
Chris Ashley: I have the photo documentation to prove it.
Kevin Weitzel: I have to see this picture. You have to email me this picture one of these days.
Chris Ashley: I will. I will send that right after we're done here. I proudly displayed it on my profile and then I took it down after a little while.
Kevin Weitzel: Those collections could be valuable, Greg. I actually had all of the original Star Wars all the way through Return the Jedi. When I got to Return the Jedi, they were all original in the packaging cuz I was too old to play with them, but I wanted to keep collecting them. When we moved out to Arizona, my mother was dirt, dirt poor. So, to help out the family, I sold my entire collection to a guy. And this guy was happier, he was giddy. I had variations of Boba Fett. I mean, you name it, I had it.
I sold to this guy and he said, what if I just buy them all? I was like, buy them all? Okay. And he goes, I'll give you 50 cents a piece. And I was like, done. You know, I was a starving kid, you know, living in a single-mother household where I was like, dude, this is great. I'm gonna get, I don't know, [00:05:00] $85 outta this deal. This is gonna be awesome. Come to find out they were worth, I was sickened. I went into a classic toy store and I was absolutely sick to death, like pit in the stomach ill, because of how much that collection that I sold was worth. A hundred percent of the Return of Jedi, including the mail-offs, original in packaging.
Chris Ashley: Now, did you have the carrying case that was like the Darth Vader head?
Kevin Weitzel: I had the Darth Vader carrying case. Yep.
Chris Ashley: Okay, yeah, I've got that here.
Kevin Weitzel: I didn't have any vehicles though, cuz again, we were poor. My mom, it was a treat just to get the action figures, so.
Chris Ashley: Yeah. Yep. So, I've still got all my Star Wars. I've got a few of the vehicles, and then I recently got, again, from my folks, my original GI Joes, the little GI Joes. The thing is though, you don't realize that little rubber band-like brakes. So, I've got all these parts. I've got legs, I've got torsos, I've got arms that I just need to assemble back, and I found on Amazon all the replacement parts. So, that's gonna be my project over the next couple of months, just restoring all those. I'm a big toy [00:06:00] nerd with stuff like that, so.
Kevin Weitzel: Chris, I gotta be honest with you, you know what I'm, I'm feeling Greg just itching. He's gonna get us back on the home building track right now. It's coming. It's coming.
Chris Ashley: Okay. All right. What? This isn't a wrestling podcast, a figure podcast, a toy podcast?
Greg Bray: I just want to thank our sponsor today, Mattel, for being with us.
Chris Ashley: There you go. Guys, if you ever need a spinoff, I've gotcha. I could do that home building slash toy spinoff.
Greg Bray: Yeah.
Chris Ashley: Uh, no problem.
Greg Bray: All right. Well, Chris, let's, do it right now, the transition, right? How did you go from wrestling collector to wanting to be in the home building industry?
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, thank you, and you know, I was thinking about this. I didn't realize home building has just kind of been in my mind ever since I was a little kid. I grew up very artistic. So, I was always drawing as a kid. I would draw sneakers, I would draw Looney Tunes characters, and I would draw floor plans. That's no joke. I would sit there with my friends in fourth or fifth grade, we would just have notebooks and [00:07:00] notebooks of floor plans. We called them mansions at the time, but we would draw out, sketch out floor plans, right?
So, I'm like, okay, cool. I like to draw. I decided when I graduated high school, I wanted to go be an artist. Actually, I went to school to be a fine art. So, I wanted to paint, draw. About halfway through my college career, I'm like, you know what? I don't think I'm gonna make much money doing this. I love to do it, but I pivoted in school to become a graphic designer. So, that's ultimately what I graduated with. My first job outta school, I got a job with a sign company in Carmel, Indiana, and they created signs specifically just for home builders. So, I'm like, okay, cool. Didn't think much of it at the time.
Long story short, I run across someone I've known throughout my entire life and he asked me what I was doing. I said, Hey, I'm working for a sign company. We specialize in signs for home builders. He said, really? We have a graphic designer for our company that just left. Would you be interested to come and [00:08:00] join our home builder as the graphic designer? I'm like, I need a job that's gonna pay me a little bit more. Absolutely. And that's how I was introduced to officially the home building business, and I've been doing it ever since. That's how I got started, and that was 25 years ago.
Kevin Weitzel: Gateway Drug, for sure.
Chris Ashley: It was, it was. But I love it. It's such a competitive business. Like I said, there's so many rewards. There's ups, there's downs. I can't imagine doing anything else. You know, in marketing, I get the ability to still be creative. I love what I do, and I really have to remind myself even when it gets tough, I get to do the fun stuff, right? I get to do the creative, the marketing stuff. I just love it. I love it. It's my passion. It's my heart. It's just what I do.
Greg Bray: Well, Chris, tell us a little bit more about Hakes Brothers. Help us understand what buyers they're serving and what areas that they're building in.
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, Hakes Brothers, we build new homes in the New Mexico region, specifically Las [00:09:00] Cruces and Albuquerque. We also build in the state of Texas in El Paso, San Antonio. And we are going to be expanding into McAllen, Texas. And then just recently we opened up a new market in Kansas City. So, our models are almost complete in Kansas City, and we will be building in both the Kansas side and the Missouri side of Kansas City.
Our buyers, we have kind of a range. We've got definitely product that speaks to new home buyers, move-up buyers. We also, in New Mexico and in parts of Texas that we're in, we actually get a lot of retirees as well. So, really that's kind of our bread and butter market. That's where we try and focus. We try and look at ourselves as more of a step above your typical production house. We consider ourselves a semi-custom builder, meaning you can go in and, yes, we will kind of get you the base plan, but if you have custom options that you wanna do, we can do pretty much anything that the client wants to do.
Greg Bray: So, Chris, let's talk a little more about the marketing side. You talked about coming from [00:10:00] a design background and some of the more artistic side. But tell us more about how you guys are using digital as part of your whole process and what you're doing to try and enhance that home buying experience with digital.
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, fundamentally, a big part of my marketing plan of attack is always gonna be the website, right? And my goal with the website is it's highly interactive. So, we're using things, which you guys are very familiar with, interactive floor plans, interactive site plans, video. Video to me is the key. It's what your buyers want to look at today, you know, especially as this younger generation of buyers come up. If you don't have video, you're missing out.
Everybody does everything on YouTube, right? You could do anything on YouTube from fixing your faucet to looking for vintage toys, you know, restoring vintage toys, restoring GI Joe's. It's in my browser, trust me. But no, no, no. But anyway, videos are key for me, virtual tours.[00:11:00] So, I start with the website, and I want the website to be a one-stop shop. If anybody has any information or any questions or anything on Hakes Brothers, that website needs to give them everything they need because you know what?
I know that there's thousands of buyers out there that are judging Hakes Brothers based on what they see online. There's so much that they're learning about us and finding out about us on our site before they even call us before they even show up to our model. So, I like to focus on the website. Of course, we're doing all the other digital marketing tactics. We're doing SEO, we're doing paid Google, we're doing social media. But to me, website, particularly video, is one of those areas that are just key for me. You have to have that video content. If you're gonna compete in today's market, your video has to be top-notch, and you have to have plenty of it.
Greg Bray: [00:12:00] Hey everybody, this is Greg from Blue Tangerine and I just wanted to take a quick break to make sure you know about the upcoming Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit that Blue Tangerine is hosting together with OutHouse, October 18th and 19th in Denver, Colorado.
This is gonna be an amazing event full of digital marketing insights, knowledge, best practices, and most importantly, some fun. So, be sure that you get registered today and come hang out with us, an amazing team of speakers and presenters that are gonna be together. Again, that's October 18th and 19th in Denver, and you can learn more and get registered at buildermarketingsummit.com. We'll see you there.
Let's peel back that video a little bit further there. When you talk about having video, what are the topics or the focus areas that you look at cuz you just don't want any old video, right? You've got something in your mind when you say that. So, what is it that you guys are working on with your video and what's the focus there?
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, I break it out into a couple of things. Obviously, there's home tours, right? That's kind of the [00:13:00] given. You have your model home. You open up your model home, you shoot your model home. Now you wanna shoot it in a couple different formats, right? So, you typically shoot your model home vertically and horizontally. But then there's a couple of additional things you could do video-wise. I like to do community introductions, and most will just kind of do the drone flyovers. That's all good. That's fine. But I also like the personal aspect.
I like to introduce a host to the video or somebody, a personality to speak to the neighborhood, and then to do kind of an overview video of the neighborhood, but have a little bit of personality in there as well. That's community intros, community videos. You know, if you have a location that has particular amenities, you would shoot those amenities. What else? You could do, I like to do video testimonials. I mean, to me right now, customer testimonials are so valuable.
Honestly, the one thing I found, we've [00:14:00] paid agencies before a lot of money to do polished customer testimonial videos. What we found is actually the ones that perform the best are the old, simple, organic ones that somebody shoots on their phone. Those testimonials, actually you get a lot more out of because they feel more genuine. They don't feel polished like scripted, or kind of phony. It's those customer testimonials shot on a phone that are so easy to get. You just have to ask for them. But those to me, are the ones that have been the most valuable throughout the years.
Kevin Weitzel: You definitely don't want it to look like they're at gunpoint. Like, we will not give you your keys until you give us a positive review.
Chris Ashley: You know, it as a viewer. You know, when it's like, that is just a little too perfect.
Kevin Weitzel: When it's canned. Yeah.
Chris Ashley: Exactly, and sometimes the best ones are the ones that are genuine. You know, you hear noise in the background or the phone's a little shaky, or it's a little off-key. That kind of thing, to [00:15:00] me, it's just more genuine and I think that that really is, especially for testimonials, that really comes across in the message.
Greg Bray: Now, are you asking your sales team to take care of that process or is that part of the marketing team or who actually executes that?
Chris Ashley: Yeah, sure. To me, it's kind of a multi-pronged attack, right? So, if you have third-party survey software, obviously you're kind of scanning that testimonials, programs, the surveys that come in and you're looking for ones that you're like, you know what? That's really cool. And it kind of comes across in their comments. So, if I see something as a marketing person, I'll flag that and say, Hey, I'd love to make contact with that buyer.
Obviously, the easiest one is when they're there in front of the salesperson or they're there in front of your closing coordinator at the closing table. Buyers are ecstatic when they're at the closing table, right? They're excited. When they write a contract, they're excited. So, you have the salesperson ask for it, [00:16:00] and then when they're at the closing table. Those are kind of the two high points.
It's the in-between that could go up and down, or you don't want to catch them too late after contract because maybe the warranty had an issue or something. They're just not as excited. Particularly with customer testimonials, get them at their high points because you're typically going to get better responses because they're so excited at that point.
Greg Bray: So, when you get those, and sorry just to drill into the details.
Chris Ashley: Sure.
Greg Bray: But I think this is something that a lot of builders are not doing, and I think there is some real authenticity and some real connection that a video testimonial can do on your site that you don't get from the little John and Mary had a great experience in text. You can make that up, right? Nobody believes that anymore. But the videos have that connection.
So, you're at the closing table, they're excited, everything else. Do you say, can I ask you a few questions, and you actually give them some questions or you just leave it open-ended, tell us about your experience? How do you guys start that process? Because some people freeze as soon [00:17:00] as you hold the camera up. How do you get them past that, I have to be formal, I'm on camera now, what do I say?
Chris Ashley: If you do it on the sales level, by that point, they've written the sales contracts, so the sales advisor actually has a pretty good relationship rapport, so it's a lot easier at that point. To me, if you're at the closing table though, it would just be a simple thing of like, Hey, would you be okay if we just captured a quick testimonial? Can I film it on my phone really quick? Just what do you feel about your home? What are you most excited? If there's kids present, Hey, you know, what are you looking for to most in your new room? Things like that.
Just ask simple questions. It doesn't have to be super formal, super stiff. It's just the more organic you can get, the better. Most of the time people are pretty excited to do that. Just don't make it too businessy. Try and make it as personal as possible. Yeah. You want that personality to come across and you want it to be organic and you want it to be friendly. [00:18:00] Now, obviously, if you film someone and they're a little stiff, we don't always have to use that, or we can edit it on the back end, but.
Greg Bray: So, one more logistical question.
Chris Ashley: Sure.
Greg Bray: Do you get them to sign anything before you put it out, like on your website? Do you go that far with like a release form?
Chris Ashley: You can, depending on, yeah, or you could ask them kind of ahead of time. Like, Hey, would you be okay if we used it here on your site? You can gauge the way somebody feels like that. Some people will just flat-out say, ah, I'm not really comfortable with that, or I get a little nervous. Okay, cool. If you sense somebody's kind of like, eh, I don't know, or a little skeptical, have that signed release. I would say it's probably always a good practice to kind of have that ready anyway.
It's the formal ones that you do with agencies where they have shoots and all that, that's where typically people just aren't as comfortable. Most of the time, you are okay to just kind of do a quick organic shot. You know, in the days of social media now [00:19:00] everybody is filming themselves doing stories, doing reels.
Kevin Weitzel: You can try this one. This one is absolutely free. You can take ownership of it if you like it. Have you ever tried, and this is something new, just going in with a spotlight, like a real intense, like a million candle power spotlight while they're sleeping? Like you have to break into the house, of course, but then what you do is you just surprise them. You're just like, Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, how are you enjoying this good night's sleep you're getting in this quality Hakes Brother's home?
Chris Ashley: You know what? I love the idea. And to me, the tagline is, surprise! Did you realize all of the money you could save buying a Hakes Brothers home? Surprise. To me, surprising them out of bed, how real of a response would that be? I love it. Actually, you know what? I'm gonna capture that right now.
Kevin Weitzel: You can jot it down cause nobody else is doing it. Come on, Chris.
Chris Ashley: Hey, do I need to give you a cutback on some of that idea? I'll share that.
Kevin Weitzel: No.
Chris Ashley: Okay. All right.
Greg Bray: Kevin's generous that way. He just shares. Here's another idea. Have you ever thought about having them talk to a cookie about their home? Cuz Kevin, he kind of pioneered [00:20:00] that one as well with some videos where he talks to a cookie.
Kevin Weitzel: I do talk to a cookie.
Chris Ashley: I do as well, Kevin. Along with toy collecting, guilty pleasure is talking to cookies. I gotta admit I do the same thing.
Greg Bray: All right, moving on. Chris, tell us a little bit more about your team, because obviously, just the video alone sounds like a lot of work, right? You just described like a job for somebody collating all this stuff and putting it all together and everything else. So, how have you structured your team and what roles do you have on that team?
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, you know, I've been leading teams a long time and generally team structure tends to go with how the market is performing. So, when the markets are tight, your teams tend to be a little lean, on the lean side. Right? And by lean I mean like, hey, I'm kind of a one-stop shop of marketing. In the more fruitful years, typically you don't have a videographer on staff, but you need access [00:21:00] to really good videographers and more than one.
So, for example, you know, you may have one videographer that really is good at shooting spaces in homes. Then you may have one videographer who actually is really good with shooting people or, you know, can help guide people. If your videographer has kind of a stiff personality, maybe they're not the best to work with people. So, I always recommend you have multiple videographers that you can pull at any time because some are really good, some are expensive, some are not so expensive.
So, on my team, I like to have a videographer when I need them. They don't necessarily have to be on staff but I need somebody that I can trust to shoot good quality video, good at editing, and really knows the end product. Hey, I want to use this video here. So, they're gonna edit, they're gonna produce, they're gonna shoot it for ultimately how I'm gonna use it on the back end.
Now, team-wise though, I always like to [00:22:00] have a graphic designer on hand, or in some cases, like right now at Hakes, I'm doing the graphic design because I can. But to me, a fundamental marketing team, you need a graphic designer who can execute everything you need graphically.
I always like to have on hand too a digital marketing specialist who can take care of social media, can kind of run point on social media, run point on all your digital tactics, can work hand in hand with your, if you use a digital agency. You need a digital person and you need a graphic person as well. Everything else, you can either sub out or you can have again, in the case of video, we would just use a videographer as like a contractor.
Kevin Weitzel: So, do you find it difficult being that you are so well versed in graphic design, having subordinates, I mean, do you ever just look over 'em, go, no, that's garbage? Where'd you go, Purdue?
Chris Ashley: I gotta be honest. Yes, yes. There are times. I've been very fortunate that the graphic [00:23:00] designers I've had on my team, we've had great rapport. We had great chemistry. I kind of knew a little bit where I could step in and where I could let them just kind of riff a little bit. But I have found, Kevin, because I kind of have that background, it's really hard talking to a graphic designer or an artist and giving them feedback if you don't really have the background in it.
So, for example, you know what looks good? Well, it's very subjective. Art is very subjective. So, imagine I've got no experience on what they're doing, but I go into a graphic designer. I was like, yeah, I just don't really like it. I don't really like it. That's hard for an artist to take. I found, because I've got that background, my graphic team kind of trusts where I'm coming from. And I'm not criticizing everything, I'm not picking apart everything, but I know what to look for. Generally, that's been pretty well received just because they trust my background in that.
Greg Bray: I agree, Chris, that giving [00:24:00] feedback on art is actually tricky and takes some practice. I'm a computer guy. Don't ask me to draw anything. I mean, I can't even get the stick figures to be balanced. It's like that bad. But when I like look at a website design, I had to practice, what is it that really feels off to me. And I have to use words like, that feels crowded, that feels busy. You know, I can't just say, I don't like it because then they don't know what to do. You have to find some ways to communicate that in a more, yes, it's subjective and what's crowded to me, or busy to me may not be to somebody else. And it's difficult and I still struggle with that communication often. Yeah.
Chris Ashley: And to me, this is one of those opportunities for synergy. Here's the tension I've always found between creative and, for example, web programming. When you're dealing with programmers, they have to do things a certain way. But then when you're dealing with creative, they're like, well, I need it to look a certain way. It's gotta be this color, it's gotta be this font, blah, blah, blah, blah, [00:25:00] blah. The tension comes and like, well, we can't do that. Or, yes, we can do that, but it's not gonna function well.
So, to me, the magic kind of is in the middle. You take that creative vision, you plug them into a programmer, and those two have to work well together. It's gotta be a give-and-take too. It just can't be one-sided. You know, I've been in situations where the creative dictated everything on the site, and the site ultimately was a failure because it didn't function properly. Yeah, it looked great. But who cares if it doesn't function?
But then I've also had sites that were super technical, slick, but just as a user, I'm like, ah, it's just kind of ugly. I don't really like it. So again, it's that push and pull, but both teams kind of have to say, listen, our goal at the end of the day is we want a great-looking site that functions really, really well. We're gonna put these two partners together. It's your role and it's your job to make sure that we meet in the middle, and that we have a site that looks [00:26:00] great and that functions even better.
Greg Bray: It's hard, Chris. So, how do you advise that person in your role who's trying to bring them together? How do you take that first step to say, okay, people, let's play nice? Well, tell them to play nice when he's wrong, he's making it ugly, or he's wrong, he's not letting me do what I need to do. How do you start to bridge that gap?
Chris Ashley: Well, I mean, if you're the leader, it's a balance. You've gotta have a relationship with both parties. So, if you're the leader and you've got both of these kind of entities kind of at odds, creative versus programming, you gotta kind of know the strengths of each before you go into it. So, for example, if I'm going into the creative team and I just know this about them, they're gonna want it this way. They always like to do this. This so happens to be the font they always want to use or whatever. You kind of know the personalities going into it. You've gotta navigate that and you've gotta say, listen guys, at the end of the day, our goal as an organization is to produce a website.
Now, [00:27:00] me, as a leader, my most important thing is generating leads, right? So, I can always go back to the programmer on the website and say, Hey guys, listen, at the end of the day, this website has to produce leads, it has to be user-friendly, and it has to be easy to navigate. So, I kind of keep the teams focused on that.
If I sense a little dust-up, I'll take both those teams aside. I'll take them both. We'll sit down, okay guys, where are we hitting a roadblock? What is stopping progress on this? And then we'll just spend some time and just kind of dive in on that. But it's on me as the leader. Ultimately, that decision lies with me. And you've gotta decide which way you're gonna go in that battle, or that struggle.
Greg Bray: So, Chris, where do you go for inspiration on your designs and your ideas, and how do you try to differentiate yourself from other builders and just not look like everybody else out there when you're working on that?
Chris Ashley: I kind of come from the creative spin. I want a site that looks better. I'm [00:28:00] super competitive. I'm very competitive, and I want my site to be better than every builder out there. So, I do spend a lot of time looking at other builder sites. The key to me is also, I want the best functioning site out there. And the way you get there is not necessarily talking to the programmer. It's, can I put myself in a buyer's shoes?
If I'm a buyer and I'm on a site, does this site work well? Do I like it? You know, take notes. Does it feel good? Is it easy to navigate? Are there problems with it? You gotta put yourself in the buyer's shoes. So, I actually do a lot of homework on the backend. Just make notes. I pay attention. I go through builder sites. I carve out time every week to just pick a builder. Doesn't even have to be in my market.
You know, I've been fortunate enough, I've worked in a lot of different cities. I've worked in a lot of different markets. I know people all over the home [00:29:00] building region, and I just go look at sites. You know, I scour articles. I look online. I listen to podcasts. This podcast for one. No, I listened to other builders that you have on, and I was like, you know what? I wanna go check that out. I want to go look. And when I'm looking at it, I'm trying to point out what's one thing that I could pull from this site that I could add that could make my site better.
You can't just live in a world where you're like, you know what? I've got the best of the best. We're selling really well, we're having a great year, we've got all the answers. No, no, no, no. There's so much you can learn from other builders. There's not one single builder that's doing everything right. But you try and look at other builders and just pick out one thing that could help benefit you, that you could add to your arsenal. Home building is one of those industries where everybody tends to look for that magic bullet, right? There seems to be a lot of copying between builders.
I like to tell this story. So, I've dealt with home building signage my entire career. Are you guys familiar with the little weekend [00:30:00] signs that are up on the weekends? The little bootleg signs is what most builders call them. But it's so funny. One builder will put up a sign. Then the next week, the next builder has put up two signs. Then the original builder has put up three signs, and before you know it, the cities are so upset because there's 97 and a half signs on that particular corner.
Builders are competitive by nature. Everybody's looking for an edge. Everybody's looking for a way, it's competitive enough, everybody wants to be ahead of one another. That's not a bad thing. It's actually really good because you can really learn some things from every builder you come in contact with. So, that's the way I like to approach it. It's not always gonna be fruitful. But if you go into it looking for, Hey, what's one thing that I can find that's a really good idea? And give credit to that builder. That builder did a really good job on that. So you know, hey, I think that could be very beneficial for our business.
Greg Bray: Well, Chris, it's been a great [00:31:00] conversation. We've learned a lot from you today As we kind of wrap up, what's one last piece of advice that you'd like to leave with our listeners today about their marketing?
Chris Ashley: Sure. I've heard it say keep the main thing the main thing. It's a great saying. For me as a marketing person, my job at the end of the day is I have to produce leads. Period. My role is to produce leads for either my online sales team or in some cases the sales team direct. But for me, it's all about generating leads. The one thing I will say is, measure, track, and report. Don't do it one time a month.
Most teams will say, Hey, we've got our monthly reports for May. Here's how we did in May. That to me is great, but the problem is something could have broken the second week of May, and you don't realize it until the very end of May. So, for me, one thing that's always been beneficial is I look at leads every single [00:32:00] Monday morning. So, when I come in every Monday morning, I look at the leads that were generated last week. It's very, very important that, let's say I generated 200 leads last week. I need to know where every single one of those 200 leads came from, and I need to know that weekly.
Measuring weekly, I can diagnose problems quicker. Like I said, if something breaks, I don't learn about it three months or three weeks later, I learn about it that week. Then I could jump in and say, Hey, listen, something's off. Generally, Zillow will send me x number of leads. Wait, last week they sent me seven. And that's just not right. So, measure weekly, pay attention, look for patterns.
You've got to know your leads and you need to know everything about those leads. One, that's gonna inform your spend, your future spend. And then two, it's just going to help you down the road and it's gonna inform decisions. For me, [00:33:00] it's been able to diagnose problems before they get outta hand.
Greg Bray: Great advice. Yeah. It's totally true that things can break the day after the last time you checked, right?
Chris Ashley: Yes.
Greg Bray: And until you check again, you wouldn't even know. We've seen that happen with people's contact forms on websites where nobody realized that it's going to the old person's email and nobody's paying attention to that box, or, or nobody realized that whatever that last little tweak was, broke it.
Chris Ashley: You know, it's so busy, it's so hectic, it's so chaotic. You've gotta take care of this and this and this, but pay attention to things as they happen. Mistakes happen, right? But generally, you'll get a clue. Like, oh, trust your gut. Something feels off with that. And if you feel that, dig into it because generally there is something wrong.
Greg Bray: Well Chris, thanks again for spending time with us. If people wanna reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Chris Ashley: Sure. So, I am on LinkedIn. My handle is Chris Ashley Marketing on LinkedIn. I'm also on Instagram, but there's pictures of the kids. But no, if you wanna talk home building [00:34:00] marketing or just marketing in general, LinkedIn's always the place to get me. My kids are very cute by the way.
Greg Bray: Well, thanks, Chris, and thank you, everybody, for listening today to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with Zonda Livabl.