This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Katlyn Slocum of Katlyn Slocum Design joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how strategy-driven websites will help home builders turn more visitors into leads and turn more qualified leads into customers.
Often the first interaction a potential home buyer has with a home builder is their website. If a home builder hasn’t invested in a quality website, it can negatively impact business. Katlyn says, “It's kind of like our human nature to just assume what you put out, you should expect to get back. So, if you put out a lackluster thrown-together website, not ill-intentioned at all, just might not have time or whatever it is. But actually, having a bad website design can do more harm than good for your business. Especially if you're a luxury home builder, but your website looks like crap, people aren't going to get it. They're not gonna put that much money forward if you don't take the time and effort to show up professionally…It's your first impression. You don't get a second shot at a first impression.”
While a home builder website needs to be attractive, it must also be informative and functional. Katlyn explains, “You don't want to just have something sit there that looks nice. If it just looks nice, it's like a picture on your wall. It's not serving your business any purpose other than just existing. It should work towards an end goal. And so, I'm all for a website looking stunning. That's still important. The visuals are obviously still important. But you can have a stunning website that doesn't have a great user experience or doesn't help you get to the end goals that you want. So, I like to converge the two.”
Websites often fall under a home builder digital marketing team, but they also need to be employed more fully in sales. Katlyn says, “I don't even lump websites in with like marketing so much. There's an element to websites that are marketing but shifting the focus to using your website as a sales tool, as part of the sales process. It doesn't have to remain the reality that your website is just sitting there and you're not generating quality inquiries from it, that it actually can convert. You're spending all this time on ads and social media and whatever you're doing to market to get people to your website. They don't have to be going to your website and it is a leaky bucket with all of them just dropping through the cracks. You can actually build it in a way that's converting those into genuine inquiries.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how effective home builder websites can increase sales opportunities.
About the Guest:
Growing up in a blue-collar household, Katlyn Slocum saw firsthand the guts, grit, and gumption that went into running the family business every day. Witnessing their passion fueled her to discover her own passion— helping tradesmen scale their businesses with strategy-driven websites. Today, Katlyn works with custom home builders and remodelers to craft websites that serve as a powerful sales tool for her clients. She lives with her husband Brandon and two children just outside of Cincinnati, OH.
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're excited today to welcome to the show, Katlyn Slocum. Katlyn is the Creative Director of Katlyn Slocum Design. Thanks for joining us today.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah, thank you. It's awesome to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, Katlyn, let's just start off and get to know you a little bit. Give us that quick background. Tell us about yourself.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. So, like you mentioned, I'm the owner of Katlyn Slocum Design. I started my website design business about five years ago out of [00:01:00] necessity after the startup I worked for went out of business and I was in the midst of having two toddlers. But no, it's been super exciting. I was born and raised in Minnesota. Recently, actually, moved from the Northwest where my husband was from and we are settled outside of Cincinnati, Ohio now. But yeah, I have a five-year-old, a four-year-old, and my husband's an electrician, and we're just living life and enjoying it.
Kevin Weitzel: So, a follow-up question number one, is there a WKRP in Cincinnati? That's a rhetorical question. And number two, please tell us something about you, personal, that has nothing to do with work or the home building industry.
Katlyn Slocum: Great. Yeah, I play violin and I'm a singer. My first degree that I was going after was actually in music. So, I have a large musical background and it's still one of my passions. But yeah, me and my husband just like also going out and trying new food. I love margaritas and tacos. Got married in Mexico. So, just like to kick back and relax and have a good time, eat good food, [00:02:00] and yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: That's cool. And, Greg, little factoid, did you know that there actually is a difference between a violin and a fiddle? A lot of people don't know this.
Greg Bray: I think I knew that, but I couldn't tell you what it was.
Kevin Weitzel: The difference is the number of teeth of the person playing the said instrument.
Katlyn Slocum: I was like, I don't play the fiddle guys, I have all my teeth.
Kevin Weitzel: If you have four or less teeth, it's called a fiddle.
Katlyn Slocum: I like that.
Greg Bray: Well, Katlyn, tell us a little bit more about how you got into the web design business and how you made that your career focus right now.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. So, I graduated with a degree in business and marketing, and not long after that, I had started working for a marketing startup company in Vancouver, Washington. I worked for them for about two years, and I was pregnant with my second son when the company went out of business. My husband and I were still like newlyweds on our second child. We definitely needed two incomes to make ends meet. So, I immediately started looking for other remote jobs where I could be at home with my kids, but still have a [00:03:00] career.
This is pre-COVID, so it was hard for me to actually find something. I applied for several, wasn't getting hired. I'm getting closer and closer to my due date and we're really needing me to have a job. A family friend of mine owned his own consulting company in the wastewater industry. And he had went to a conference and came back and said, Hey, I need help with my social media. Kind of reached out to me and he's like, I'll pay you to do this. I know you went to school for this.
And so I began working for him. I worked for him for the next couple of years doing copywriting and editing documents and working on his Wix website, which I had no idea how to do. And he's just like, Hey, you're young, you'll figure it out. Kind of just like, didn't have time for it and just gave me some work and money to get me by. He was super sweet.
I'm a creative at heart. As I was doing that, I realized the only part of all the services I was offering that I liked was the website design. I loved the creativity that came with that. And so, I took the money that he was paying me and just fully invested into learning more about website design. [00:04:00] He's the one who encouraged me to start my own business and see where it went. So, I started freelancing. I put my small amount of money I was getting paid to taking website design courses, SEO courses, and just really throwing myself into that world.
And after a couple of years of freelancing and kind of building up my portfolio, working on different platforms, and finding out who I liked working with, what platform I liked working on, I started niching my business more and more. I was in web design. I had decided very early on that I wanted to work with blue-collar industries because my whole family ran businesses in the trades. So, I just focused in there.
The first couple of years after my official business launch, I actually had more SEO business than I did with web design. And I got really good at that, was getting great results for my clients. But it still, being the creative that I am, it was a little too technical and mind-numbingly boring. I liked that I got results for my clients, but I was just done. [00:05:00] And so again, I took more courses and just really dove more and more into web design and began offering that as basically my only service.
Fast forward to today, I work with custom home builders, architects, interior designers. That's kind of my niche. It's been awesome. My business has grown a lot, even in just the last year. Mostly attributed to website strategy and really focusing on getting results through design rather than it just being like a pretty site, like actually getting my client's results.
Greg Bray: So, one of the things that I saw, Katlyn, that you've published, I believe it was on your website or you made the statement somewhere, which is even more interesting based on the history that you just shared, right? But you said what matters more than how your website looks is how it works.
And you're telling me you feel that way, even though you come from a creative background and a design background and care about how it looks, right? Because often it's us computer guys that are going, wait a minute. There's more than just making it [00:06:00] pretty that matters on a good website, right? So, how have you come to kind of embrace that view that, hey, it's not just about making it pretty?
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah, I think when I was freelancing, it was nice getting feedback of like, Oh, I love my new site. It's beautiful. Like, they were making comments about design. It didn't settle right with me that something that I did, didn't directly benefit their businesses that I knew of. Where I was getting that with the SEO side, where I could see like a client that I got to the first page of Google. I could see their analytics. I could see their calls increasing, their business growing. So, I wasn't fulfilled quite there.
But about two years ago, I had went to a web design summit. It was an online summit and there was a gal there who was talking about this thing called website strategy. Which again, I'm self-taught. I completely built this business from scratch and not having a background in this, and I was like, what's website strategy? And she was able to show real numbers for the clients [00:07:00] that she worked with.
She worked with like product-based businesses. So, she's like, I was able to increase, you know, this online store's sales by X amount. You know, they made this much more in revenue. And she was giving real concrete numbers of how her strategy-driven approach to their design was actually helping her client's businesses grow. And that builds like amazing testimonials and case studies because that's the end goal, right?
You don't want to just have something sit there that looks nice. If it, just looks nice, it's like a picture on your wall. It's not serving your business any purpose other than just existing. It should work towards an end goal. And so I'm all for a website looking stunning. That's still important. The visuals are obviously still important. But you can have a stunning website that doesn't have a great user experience or doesn't help you get to the end goals that you want. So, I like to converge the two.
A lot of businesses want all the bells and whistles, or they want their website to look like a competitor's website, but maybe your goals are different than what your competitors are. So, your website needs to be built [00:08:00] to meet your unique goals and objectives. All businesses are different in what they're wanting to achieve. So, I like to bring the two together. It should look beautiful and stunning and have that visual appeal, but the main focus should be results. That's what I care about a lot more than having all the fancy schmancy bells and whistles sites.
Kevin Weitzel: I don't know if I necessarily agree with you, Katlyn, because every employer I've always had has said, you know, Kevin, here's what we need out of you. We just need you to sit there and look pretty. That's all they've ever demanded out of me. And luckily I was able to fulfill that need.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. I'm glad.
Greg Bray: Before video calls, right, Kevin? That was...
Kevin Weitzel: The video killed the radio star, right?
Greg Bray: Well, Katlyn, I think that you're really nailing something that so many folks, they seem to not think through all the time. It's like, well, what's it going to look like, what's it going to look like, what's it going to look like is where so many people start. And we need to take a step back. It's like, well, gosh, what's it supposed to do? Where are we going to [00:09:00] find these visitors? How do we make sure it's the right ones? How do we connect with them? How do we get them to fill out the contact form or give us a call or do all these things? And yes, it can't be like your third grader did it, right? Okay.
Katlyn Slocum: For sure.
Greg Bray: You need to put that professional view out there. When you take that message to your clients, especially those who might be a little bit smaller, you know, a lot of custom builders are a little bit smaller companies, do you feel like that resonates or do you get some pushback, or maybe not quite a recognition of what you're trying to say?
Katlyn Slocum: I've gotten on several consult calls and I asked them what's working with your website, what's not working. Are you getting inquiries? What's your traffic like? Generally, they don't know the answer to the traffic question, but they can tell me right up front, oh, we don't get inquiries. If you're in that space where maybe most of the time they have their first website, and they're not getting results, I think that people kind of think that's just how it is type of thing. They're super busy in their businesses. I mean, they're wearing lots of hats.
But [00:10:00] my whole message is, I want them to know that there is a different reality. I don't even lump websites in with like marketing so much. There's an element to websites that are marketing but shifting the focus to using your website as a sales tool, as part of the sales process. It doesn't have to remain the reality that your website is just sitting there and you're not generating quality inquiries from it, that it actually can convert. You're spending all this time on ads and social media and whatever you're doing to market to get people to your website. They don't have to be going to your website and it is a leaky bucket with all of them just dropping through the cracks. You can actually build it in a way that's converting those into genuine inquiries.
It's hard when they haven't had that to see any other reality. So, they're looking at all these other channels, and they're focusing a lot on marketing. Maybe their marketing is great, and it's just the website portion that's going to capture these leads, that it's just like the missing dimension, if that makes sense.
So, a lot of the times, I don't even think it's something that [00:11:00] people think about. I understand that too. A lot of times a lot of these businesses run off referrals and they are super booked out. So, I just think it's something that's missed or kind of falls between the cracks because it becomes their reality and they don't really think anything of it or that it could be different.
Greg Bray: I call that the self-fulfilling prophecy trap, right? It's like, oh, I don't get any website leads, so websites don't work, so I shouldn't invest in my website. Therefore, I continue to not get any website leads, and therefore, I think that websites don't work. But here's the big message everybody that's listening, Websites drive sales if they're done properly. So if your website is not, it's not that websites don't work in general. It's just your website that doesn't work.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah.
Greg Bray: Right. So, Katlyn, you mentioned the referral business. And a lot of the folks in trades and custom builders and such, they are very word-of-mouth referral-based in their whole sales programs and everything else. When you are talking to them about the role of the website in a referral-type scenario, what are some of the [00:12:00] things that you kind of bring up that maybe they aren't thinking about?
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. So, again, I've had many, many clients who have even come to me to build a website cause they don't have one. They're like, listen, we're great. We're booked solid. We have a steady pipeline of inquiries. We know we need a website because we need to put our portfolio of work out there and like establish our brand presence and things like that, but they're still not thinking of their website as a means of getting more jobs because they have referrals. But just because somebody's referred you does not mean that the sale is instantly going to happen. I have that in my business. Like people are referred to me all the time. It doesn't just mean they're automatically going to sign up to work with me.
So, what you need to think about is your website is another opportunity to build more trust, to build your reputation because even if it's a referral, they're going to go look you up. They're not just going to say, oh, hey, give me their number. I mean, they might sometimes, but especially in custom homes, renovations where people are spending hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars with you, they're going to look up your [00:13:00] business online. They're going to check out your website portfolio. They're going to look at your reviews, case studies. They're going to go to all those extra touch points to see who you are and if you're a good fit for them.
Your messaging really needs to be tuned in on your website, where those referrals are going to land on your site and you're immediately speaking to them to what their pain points are, guiding them through the process, and getting them to actually take that extra step to work with you.
Referrals are great, but there's a process that buyers go through before they actually reach out to do work with you. Especially in construction, where people are spending a lot of money. Your website is another touch point for them, where you can build more of your authority, build more trust, and it's super important.
I had a commercial concrete company, who he does commercial bids all the time. Somebody referred his business to this big company that had this big concrete project, and the first thing he asked him was, do you have a website? And we had just built his website. Like they had a website for like a month. [00:14:00] So, sent him to the new website. He ended up winning the bid for like a six-figure commercial concrete project solely based on the website.
If he wouldn't have had it, and this is what the guy who hired him said, it was because I could see that you do this grand scale work. I could actually visually see it on your website. That you have the capability, the equipment, the team to do this job, that's why you won the bid. So, without that presence, even from a referral, they would have lost out on a six-figure job. So, it's still super important.
Greg Bray: You should have charged him more.
Katlyn Slocum: Right.
Greg Bray: That's the beauty of these types of projects though, right? Selling a home is not a trivial purchase. You only have to sell a few more homes to really cover the investment in setting this stuff up. It just doesn't take that much on all these types of marketing assets and opportunities because the purchase of what it is that's being sold is so large.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: Wasn't it Don Dykstra that said, his best experiment is one home. If it's worth one home, then it's [00:15:00] worth repeating.
Greg Bray: Yeah. That was Don from Bloomfield Homes I think is who you're talking about there. Right, Kevin? They've got the one more home rule they called it. If we can sell one more home, then we should try this thing, if we think we can sell one more.
Katlyn Slocum: Exactly. Yeah. Cause even if you got one more home a year, it makes up for the investment that you just made, and you're going to be selling more than one home a year. So, that's how I look at it too. That's a great motto for that company. If they'll sell one more home, it's worth it. You know? Yeah.
Greg Bray: And I think going along with that is on the whole referral front, the people that get referred and then don't call us, we have no way of tracking. Right? The ones who went and looked and said, nah, they don't look like they've got what it takes, or I don't see the kind of project that I'm thinking about doing here or whatever.
Or you know what? We instinctively judge people based on website design, even when they might build incredibly beautiful homes. It's like this emotional, weird thing that I can't explain why that people think because I don't know how to build a website, I don't know how to build a [00:16:00] house. But it's true. That if this website looks like junk, well, they don't care enough to spend on this, then what else are they cutting corners on?
Katlyn Slocum: It's kind of like our human nature to just assume what you put out, you should expect to get back. So, if you put out a lackluster thrown thrown-together website, not ill-intentioned at all, just might not have time or whatever it is. But actually having a bad website design can do more harm than good for your business. Especially if you're a luxury home builder, but your website looks like crap, people aren't going to get it. They're not gonna put that much money forward if you don't take the time and effort to show up professionally. It's like going to an interview in like ripped jeans. It's your first impression. You don't get a second shot at a first impression.
Kevin Weitzel: I can totally relate to this. Katlyn, you probably don't know this, but I'm gravity-challenged because I eat a lot. And I can totally relate to what you two are saying in the fact that when I go to a nice restaurant, I don't want to see a shrink-fit, dog-eared, [00:17:00] stained menu at a nice restaurant. It could be the nicest restaurant on the planet, and there's a reason why nice restaurants will pay money for the leather attache that holds the menu of the evening. It could even be printed out that day. It's just that last little step of the spit and polish that really just dials it in.
Katlyn Slocum: Yes.
Kevin Weitzel: But that leads me to my question. And my question is, is that how do you take something so unbeautiful like plumbing, like if you do a website for a plumbing company, I mean, everything's, number one, it's behind the drywall.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: Number two, it's either copper pipe or it's, you know, L bends and you know, those little blue and red pipes with the little shrink-fit fittings. What is it you show on something like that to make somebody be more compelled to do business with plumber A versus plumber B?
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. I think that's where branding photography can actually have a huge impact. People that are going to a plumbing website, they know what you do, they know there's pipes and there's tools. And If you don't have images, you kind of go to those default stock images, right? And it is hard to make a website look pretty with all of those. But I've [00:18:00] seen companies invest in brand photography and showing behind-the-scenes photos, high quality, nice like the colors are with their branding.
Behind-the-scenes photos of their team working. Show the people who work in the company, have your team together or your business front or whatever it be, but have it professionally done because that makes all the difference in how your website looks is the quality of your images. And people like putting faces to names too. And they like to see, okay, who is coming to my house? Oh, this Jim guy right here on the website. Like this is the guy who's coming to my house. So, investing and getting professional photos done of your team, and then some behind-the-scenes stuff goes a long way in the website design and really amplifying how that looks.
Greg Bray: So, Katlyn, based on, you know, some of your experience with these builders and trades, a lot of them just only have so many hours in a day and a new website just getting it done is hard just to find the [00:19:00] time. What are some of your suggestions for how you find the time? I mean, obviously, they're not like doing the coding themselves and the design work, you know, they're going to need a partner to help with that, but they're still heavy lifting on their part to kind of get it over. So, what are your thoughts on how to make that easier or better?
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. I try, when I work with my clients, to handhold them through that process the best I can. But my advice, number one is to, if you're planning on revamping your website or creating a custom site, get started two to three months at least getting the content together before your design day. So, if you're thinking of a website now, or like six months from now, in three months at least, you need to reach out and start like getting things together. Give yourself time. I call it their homework. The most time-consuming, heavy-lifting work is to get all the material together. A lot of times they don't think about how much actually goes into that, especially if they don't have a lot of content on their website.
My second tip is outsource if you can because it makes a huge difference, [00:20:00] outsource to a professional copywriter. I will add to that by I love StoryBrand-certified guides. These are copywriters who are really tuned into how to write a marketing message and strategize about who their ideal client is and they write solely directly towards that. If you can outsource your copywriting, it's going to take a huge load off your plate.
There's a lot of business owners, especially builders because they do look at their competitors and they can go to somebody and say, Oh, well, we do a lot better than this competitor because X, Y, Z, like we're doing this better, we have a better process. They know what they want to say in their head, but putting that on paper in written form is a totally different ballgame.
So, when you can work with a professional copywriter strategist, they can pull all of that from you. They can know what makes you different, they can know who your ideal clients are. And then leave them to do what their job is and what they're really good at, and it's putting that into like word gold.[00:21:00] And then when you have all those materials together to give to your designer, it'll go so much more seamlessly and smoothly. But yeah, give yourself time. If you can invest in a professional copywriter. That's honestly the bulk of it.
If you're having to sit at home late at night after you've worked and try to like write content for your website, it is going to make you pull your hair out because you don't necessarily know what you want to say or how to say it. Maybe you're really good at writing, but you're not effective in reaching the right people in the right way. Those are my two biggest tips.
I have a StoryBrand coach and guide that I partner with on web projects, and when people invest in using him alongside the design, it makes a huge difference in the results they get from their website. The words that you put on your website really do matter.
Kevin Weitzel: Let me ask you this because I've always had the luxury of having a little living thesaurus when my mother was around and then, you know, I've got Sue Publicover, which I'll reach out to her if I ever need help with some kind of wordsmithing, Stuart Platt for wordsmithing. I've always had these [00:22:00] little people in my little circle. What are your opinions on ChatGPT? Should home builders rely on ChatGPT instead of a copywriter or in conjunction with it?
Katlyn Slocum: I'm still experimenting with ChatGPT in my own business. I would still always go for a human being to actually have like the back-and-forth. You can put prompts into ChatGPT. Like, you know, say this thing in this way or write this for X, Y, Z, but I think that there's a lot of value in having the back and forth between two human beings. That just cannot be achieved, at least the way that you want it, by just using ChatGPT prompts to get your copy.
That being said, I haven't dove into the AI stuff yet. I'm very novice. I just know the results and the greatness I've seen from working with professional copywriters, and what they do works. I like the human-to-human interaction, and I trust their [00:23:00] skillset. But that being said, I mean, there are advantages to ChatGPT. I think you can use them for a lot of prompts for blog posts and social media captions and things like that. There is a benefit, but being able to strategize with somebody back and forth, bounce ideas off of each other, and consult, I think is really valuable in the process of putting your messaging together.
Greg Bray: To follow up on that, Katlyn, first of all, for those who are not familiar with StoryBrand, it comes from a book, Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. Great book about how to write marketing messages and connect with the audience. So highly, highly recommend that if you're interested in getting more into marketing writing and connecting, or if you want somebody else to do it for you, then that's a whole nother opportunity. But just for those who may not have been familiar with it. It's a great book.
Katlyn Slocum: Read the book. It's amazing. Yeah. And Marketing Made Simple is another book by him that is super helpful for any type of business.
Greg Bray: Yeah. And on the AI stuff, I've found that it can really help when you're just staring at the blank screen because you can just type a few bullets or ideas and then get a couple of paragraphs you can [00:24:00] start to work with. Right. But it's not there yet for the final product, but it does help maybe jumpstart the brainstorming process a little bit, which is great.
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. Absolutely.
Greg Bray: Well, Katlyn, we really appreciate your time today and want to be respectful of that. Just a couple more questions. So, if there's just one mistake, when you look at like custom builders websites, for example, if there's just one common mistake you see all the time, is there anything that jumps out at you, like stop doing this people?
Katlyn Slocum: Or start doing? Yeah.
Greg Bray: Or start doing, yes.
Katlyn Slocum: So, this is a seemingly small thing that makes a huge difference, but have really clear call to actions on your website. I think for custom builders, you have very visual sites, you have your portfolio, you have these beautiful homes that you've built or renovated, but a lot of builder sites that I see, they're just a portfolio. They're just pictures. It's almost like an album. So, having clear call-to-action buttons and guiding people to your contact page to inquire is really important.
And I'm shocked sometimes at how little [00:25:00] of that I see, I don't even see buttons to go to a contact page. It's not very clear. So, you get people on there just scrolling portfolio images forever cause they're not guided to go anywhere else. So, start making those call-to-action buttons very clear and get them to your contact page. You want to guide people through your website to an action you want them to take. You don't want them just to sit there, scroll through stuff and then leave. So, I think that's one thing that I see a lot that I think a lot of people could benefit from doing.
Greg Bray: Great, great insight. Well, as we wrap up, any last words of advice that you want to share today or get out there to the world?
Katlyn Slocum: I guess just back to the StoryBrand thing. If you are struggling with how to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, I highly recommend either reading that book or talking to a StoryBrand certified copywriter. And you can sometimes just get strategy coaching sessions with them and they can help you bring clarity to what sets you apart and how to market your ideal audience. It really does make a huge impact when it comes to connecting with potential clients and [00:26:00] landing more jobs. So, messaging is huge. That's what I would say.
Greg Bray: Well, Katlyn, thanks again. And if someone wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Katlyn Slocum: Yeah. You can go to my website, katlynslocumdesign.com, and contact me from my contact page or reach out to me on Instagram @katlynslocumdesign.
Greg Bray: Thanks 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.