This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Kellie Little of FieldStone Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how home builders can keep digital marketing fresh by learning and implementing new technology.
Humans are crucial when it comes to guiding, supporting, and educating home buyers. However, technology should also be an integral part of the home buying process. Kellie says, “…there are a lot of buyers out there that need someone that they can ask questions to, they need a wise guide. They need to know that they have someone that they can go to, and they know you're an expert, you will help them through this process. So, I actually think that there's a real need for people, but I think there's a real need for technology and that we need to know the right time for the right solution within the home buying process as well as once they're under contract and past closing.”
Because digital tools are becoming increasingly essential when purchasing a home, home builder digital marketers should constantly educate themselves on new technology. Kellie explains, “But I think the interesting thing about being in IT is that what you do isn't just what's on the market right now, but it's an overall awareness of emerging technology and learning how to incorporate that into your business. So, sometimes we see technology just in the moment, but it's really a much bigger picture than that, how you're going to use new and emerging technology to benefit your marketing strategy and get to more home buyers to increase your effective use of dollars.”
Home builder digital marketing can be challenging, but it is important to keep strategies relevant with new technology. Kellie says, “…the market can be difficult sometimes, but I think the key to marketing is just to keep it fresh. Let's have a little bit of fun here, but we're here to provide real solutions for real home buyers. It's a great place for us to be where we get to tell these fun stories and share the opportunity to have a new home.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how new technology can improve home builder digital marketing efforts.
About the Guest:
Kellie Little is a passionate sales and marketing guru in the Utah market with over 30 years of experience. As a professional sales and marketing strategist, her insights are key to unlocking success in the Utah real estate market.
She joined the amazing team at FieldStone Homes as the VP of Marketing in 2020. She is thrilled to promote such a successful brand and culture. FieldStone Homes is known for their award-winning building solutions for all types of home buyers in awesome communities across the Wasatch Front.
Kellie founded the marketing agency Zebra Herds and offered solid strategies to help Utah companies, including local home builders, promote their message in a better and more powerful way.
As the VP of marketing for EDGEHomes, Kellie led a team to grow the company from 280 home sales her first year to over 1100 homes within five years. EDGEhomes was recognized as the fastest-growing home builder in the U.S. prior to the sale of the company.
Kellie is an expert in both sales and marketing which played into the success of her brokerage CapStone Real Estate. She and her husband, Lerron, founded CapStone Real Estate to represent home builders in Utah in 2000. Their teams sold thousands of homes and were known as the local experts in all things new construction. Kellie realized her strength in marketing was the key to selling so she played a dual role. Kellie and Lerron loved working together and were recognized together as “Realtor of the Year” by The Utah County Association of Realtors in 2004.
Kellie is also committed to community service and has served as the UVU Wolverine Club President, BYU Cougar House Board Member, Board Member of the Utah County Association of Realtors, Utah Association Chairperson and Freedom Festival Balloon Committee among many other exciting endeavors.
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 and Livabl.
Greg Bray: And we are excited to have joining us today, Kellie Little. Kellie is the VP of Marketing at Fieldstone Homes. Thanks for being with us today.
Kellie Little: Hey, thanks for letting me join you guys.
Greg Bray: Well, Kellie, let's start off by helping folks get to know you a little bit. Give us a little bit of that background and some of the things you've been working on.
Kellie Little: Oh, I appreciate the opportunity to be here first of all. You know, my background has been in marketing for a number of years. [00:01:00] I won't tell you how many decades, but I will say that I'm highly passionate about marketing. I've done it for a number of years. Started in IT and then transitioned over into real estate. Absolutely love new construction. And I've done pretty much everything you can do in the real estate market, but marketing is my passion. So, here I am.
Kevin Weitzel: All right. That's the business side of you. And before we take a deeper dive into that, we need to know some interesting factoid about yourself that has zero to do with work, zero to do with the home building industry, something about you that our listeners can learn about.
Kellie Little: Okay, so something about me is I love gardening, being outdoors. You know, marketing can be a stressful job if you're doing it the right way, and just putting my hands in the dirt and enjoying the outdoors. I live in Utah. What better way than to be out in the yard gardening and I have a really fun perennial garden? So, there you go. That's what I do for relaxation as well as rejuvenation.
Kevin Weitzel: I love it.
Greg Bray: Now, Utah has been known to be a desert. Do you grow cactus or do you guys [00:02:00] actually have a good irrigation system?
Kellie Little: Okay, we have sprinklers for sure and we need them because it is dry here. It is like a desert, but it's also beautiful. Like our growing season is shorter than some states, but from May until September, it's absolutely beautiful. And we don't have a lot of humidity, so we have lots of options on cool flowers. So, I have a great time spending time outdoors and dragging the whole family out there with me.
Greg Bray: Now see Kevin's in Arizona, and they grow rocks in their garden, I think.
Kevin Weitzel: Rocks and snakes.
Kellie Little: You're having a lot of fun, then.
Kevin Weitzel: That's all I have.
Greg Bray: Well, Kellie, tell us a little bit more about how you got started in the home building industry and what kind of led you to be doing what you're doing today.
Kellie Little: You know, my first experience in the home building industry is I was working for an IT company in marketing. And there was a builder that I knew and he called me up out of the blue and he said, look, your husband's an agent. I want you to come in and do the cool marketing you do in this segment, which is in the real estate world that you're already doing in the IT [00:03:00] industry. What do you think? I said I think that sounds awesome.
And I didn't have to get on a plane anymore and travel for IT, and I was really excited about the opportunity. So, I told him I was in, I'd give it a shot. And at the time I was expecting my second child. When I saw what it was like to be in a model home, instead of traveling the world, I'm like, I love everything about this. I always enjoyed decorating, having events, and all those things. So, I just dove right into the industry and loved it from the very first day.
Greg Bray: Well, tell us, Kellie, a little bit more about Fieldstone Homes, the type of buyers that you guys are targeting, and where you're building today.
Kellie Little: Yeah, it's a great question. So, Fieldstone Homes, we have had other regions that we have sold it in the past, but right now we are focused in Utah. We're expanding right now to southern Utah, and we're also in Idaho. The mix of our homebuyers is interesting because we don't just have one type of product that we just build everywhere. So, we will look at each purchase [00:04:00] of land in a unique way, and then we come to market with a solution that fits that product with the land.
So, we are constantly having new architectural ideas and rebuilding our brand in different segments. But our primary focus is we do single-family and townhomes. You'll see us all over the Wasatch front very heavy in this area from Park City down to Southern Utah County, Layton, and those types of areas within Utah, and now in St. George.
Greg Bray: You talk about customizing your offering to the land. How does that work from a marketing perspective of keeping kind of that cohesive brand and view to the buyers out there? Is it hard or is it easy to kind of have it be different in each community like that?
Kellie Little: Well, it's exciting because we have new things to offer and we can pick up new home buyers and segments that we might not have been able to market to in the past. So, that can be very exciting. Having a new product is a fun way to market your brand and increase [00:05:00] that awareness and in different areas. But there are also big challenges that come with that because everything has to be redone or invented as you go into that new area.
So yeah, there are definitely challenges with it. But overall we've been successful because we've been able to introduce awesome architecture and great ways to market to specific target markets and hit more demographics so that we don't get stuck in a single market. And that's been very helpful for us overall right now.
Greg Bray: To drill down in that just a little bit more, when you guys are looking at, we want to customize something or come up with something new, do you start with, we want something for this type of buyer, or do you go with we want this type of product or home, and then we're going to find the buyer that fits right in that type of home? Which way do you guys kind of start that process?
Kellie Little: It really does depend on the community that we're going to be building, and that starts with the land buy [00:06:00] because everything is driven by land initially. So, we have to see what is available in land, what can we realistically purchase, and what solution are we going to come up with to fit that based on the current market and opportunity. So, we have to pair those perfectly., And that can be a challenge sometimes.
But the cool thing about that is that we do have to start with the land, but then we can go and take what we have there and come up with a solution based on our demographics. So, without the land, we can't do anything. So, it always starts there, but then we go and find out what buyer do we want to target for this land, come up with the best possible solution of what product will sell and be successful in that area for homebuyers. What do they really want? Because ultimately, we're here to sell homes and we're here to take care of our customers.
Greg Bray: So, you mentioned that you've got a background in IT before you kind of got into real estate and home building. How does that influence your attraction to using technology in the sales and marketing [00:07:00] process? Do you feel like you're more comfortable with technology maybe than some others might be, or is just the technology is everywhere and everybody wants it regardless?
Kellie Little: Well, I think that the more you're involved with technology, the more awareness that you have. And so, yes, you definitely want to integrate that. But I think the interesting thing about being in IT is that what you do isn't just what's on the market right now, but it's an overall awareness of emerging technology and learning how to incorporate that into your business. So, sometimes we see technology just in the moment, but it's really a much bigger picture than that, how you're going to use new and emerging technology to benefit your marketing strategy and get to more home buyers to increase your effective use of dollars.
Greg Bray: That begs the question, what's the new thing that you're watching that you haven't used yet? What's out there that you're like going, oh, we're paying attention to this?
Kellie Little: Well, that's a great question. Right now, personally, I'm watching AI to see how we're all going to be using this [00:08:00] technology in many facets of marketing as well as pretty much all business. And you can see right now there are a lot of little ideas that are popping up, big ways that we can possibly use it. But I think that as we're reviewing this today, we're going to see some big changes in the future. And in some ways, I think we'll see some that we don't expect as well.
So, we might think AI is going to solve all of our problems, but I see it as another tool on the tool belt that we can use, but it's not going to go out and solve everyone's problems. I've heard some people say that. Oh, AI is just going to do everything. AI is not going to do everything for us, but it can help enhance what we currently have to offer. Learning those things and then using them effectively is going to be different, I believe, for each marketer on those tools and how they can use those tools.
Greg Bray: Yeah. Those who are thinking it's going to do their job for them to the point where they won't have a job. I mean, that's one of the fears that some people have. It's like, well, my job's going to go away. Well, the people who don't learn how [00:09:00] to use it, their jobs might go away because they're going to need to figure it out. But that's great. Any, key experiments that you've already kind of played with at all, or anything to share there on the AI front?
Kellie Little: Not yet. Not to really dive into where I can tell you for sure this is what direction we need to go with it. So, I think that we're going to continue trying some things and I'll keep you posted on that.
Greg Bray: Well, are there some key technologies that you already have implemented that you guys are really excited about how they have improved the customer's home buying experience and some of the experiences you've had trying to use technology to make it easier for your buyers?
Kellie Little: Well, I think there are quite a few things that we are doing, but a couple that are more recent is making sure that we have an outstanding chabot, using things like UTours that can allow the home buyer to have better access. Because we do have a sales team, but they're not going to be there from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Also, we're not open 7 days a week. I know some builders are, but we are not. So, UTours have been highly effective use for [00:10:00] our home buyers to get in.
And what's interesting is that some of those homebuyers, once they're under contract as well, they don't even always want to call up their agent and say, hey, can I come in and show my friends and my family? But I noticed a lot of them will go to UTour repeatedly. I think that's very cool because as they go to UTours, there's no pressure. They're there to give a tour of their future home. I think it's a really cool thing for them to do that.
We're also looking at other things. Just the way we use our CRM. I think that's also critical because that technology is constantly changing as well, and the way it's going to be using AI is going to impact how we work with our homebuyers. Just some of the streamlined systems that are out there are really critical on top of mind right now.
Kevin Weitzel: Kellie, one little, just brief note here, a little side hustle. Don't go trying to steal my job at UTour, because I sell UTour product being that Zonda acquired them. You just gave a glowing review of it, and if you steal all my thunder, what am I gonna come to the [00:11:00] table with?
Kellie Little: Hey, I thought that's why I was here, Kevin, to let them know how awesome you are.
Greg Bray: Well, I think what you just described though, Kellie, is really interesting that you've got buyers doing their own like open house hosting without wanting, you know, support from the sales team to show their friends and family, Hey, this is the house we're looking at or we've already bought. That's a different little use case that I haven't really heard people talk about before.
Kellie Little: Exactly. Talk about referrals, right?
Kevin Weitzel: Given the interactive floor plans, the site plans, you know, showing real-time availability, UTours, being able to walk in and out of your home at any given time that you want to, do you ever foresee an opportunity where, especially in spec builds, where we wouldn't necessarily need even a salesperson, let alone a realtor?
Kellie Little: To have someone there that can help you navigate, I think is very important. But I do think that we sometimes put it all into like one basket instead of separating those out. I think having a person there to help you with this big purchase and to navigate is really critical. There are [00:12:00] some people that are confident in the home buying process. And I wouldn't give you an exact percentage, but we all know that that's how it is. There are some that walk in, they're comfortable, they've studied online, they've gone out and looked at lots of model homes. They're like, I'm comfortable, I can make this decision.
And then there are a lot of buyers out there that they need someone that they can ask questions to, they need a wise guide. They need to know that they have someone that they can go to, and they know you're an expert, you will help them through this process. So, I actually think that there's a real need for people, but I think there's a real need for technology and that we need to know the right time for the right solution within the home buying process as well as once they're under contract and past closing.
Greg Bray: So, Kellie, as you are looking at all these different technologies, you're trying to decide what to implement, what not, marketing has had more and more demands put on it, how do you go about vetting and deciding when you're going to outsource, which partners you want to work with, what do you want to hire and keep in-house? What are some of the processes you go through to make those decisions? [00:13:00]
Kellie Little: You know, this sounds really cliche, but I love the aha moments. When I hear about something, I'm like, Oh, I love that idea, and I know that people are going to love that idea. Those are the ones we need to look at incorporating. Because we know that people will be inspired by them. Being inspired in the process, I think, is getting harder and harder, and that's where we need amazing salespeople that can talk to a home buyer, get them excited about the process.
So, it's not just feeding up information. If we're just going to serve up information, that's not exciting unless we have incredible information to serve up. But it can get a little bit dummied down. When you've got the people and you've got all the information that's going out there, how we're serving up that information, I think, is what makes the difference.
Greg Bray: So, when you are then evaluating all that, what are some of the success metrics that you use to say, Oh, this is working or this isn't? How do you measure success?
Kellie Little: Well, I do what some other people do in marketing. I look to see what others are doing. I mean, where is success in the market that we're missing? So, I think that's an important part. That's where you come [00:14:00] into play is I want to talk to people that are experts in their area and they understand what they have to offer. We need to listen and say, is that something that will benefit our homebuyers? Will it streamline the process? What's the ROI? I think it is so difficult right now. ROI is really interesting for us.
We use a lot of tools that help us to evaluate things once it's in-house. Like we use Domo. A lot of builders are using Domo. But we can't use Domo until we've used something, right? So, we have to start using that. But I think that's why a marketing person is needed, and they need to understand the needs in the industry, and they also need to have a vision of what can be. Because when you have a vision of what you can do in marketing, and you get excited about that and then you can inspire others, that's where the homebuyers are going to come into play and say, Oh, wow, I love this.
But I think that we have also the common sense factor that comes into play and all of [00:15:00] this as marketers, and that's where experience can really help and make a difference. I've been doing marketing for a very long time. I love, like I said, my aha moments because I know that others are going to love that too. So, I think we have to also look at instinct and common sense, and then look at numbers of success within the industry already, draw on that, and then let's put that to work.
Let's use those ideas. Not everything is going to be successful and that is okay, but let's not leave something on the table that we should try just because we're not sure and we're thinking this could be really great and this could make a difference. Try things, try new things, and then put them through your system. And maybe it doesn't work and you drop it the next year, but I'm open to a lot of new things.
Greg Bray: You mentioned experience. What are some of the things that you see the new kids coming out of school and trying to get marketing jobs, what are some of the things that your experience says, Hey guys, you should focus here versus there? Or what type of advice would you give to that new marketing [00:16:00] associate who's just getting started?
Kellie Little: Yeah. You know, I just met with someone not long ago. She's up at the U and she's been studying marketing. Her dad's a realtor and he used to work with my brokerage. He was one of my agents in new construction. And he's like, Hey, will you meet with my daughter 'cause she would love to work in the building industry in marketing. And I'm like, absolutely. And, you know, as I talked to her, we went through all the different scenarios and the different things that we do. And I talked to her about how important digital is. You need to be camera-ready. You need to be comfortable to get messaging out there in front of others, just using that type of experience.
But it all ties back to, I think, passion, passion for what we do. That sounds really simple, but I think there are a lot of technologies that come and go and there are a lot of other things. But you need to have passion for what you do in marketing because it's a difficult job if you do it the right way. It's fast-paced. It's intense. You're doing a lot of events. You're doing a lot of different things, and every day [00:17:00] you are a problem solver. And so, that's what I talked to her about is just going after the passion. You got to love it because they're going to be some dark days, but it's a really fun job.
Keep it fresh, keep things real, and get ready to go to work. Really embrace technology out there. And these young people, they really do already. They're ready. I mean, they're ready to come in. But one thing that I see is the lack of passion when I worked with a few people, when they come in at first. They're not passionate about pushing over and pushing through. They like to go around.
The best marketers that I've seen out there, and this is for people coming into the market as well, is that don't take the easy path. I think sometimes in marketing, because we have many options and we can do it a lot of different ways, sometimes the best way to do it is through it and not around, and don't try to simplify things. Go through the roadblocks. You will stand out if you do those things that are the hardest to do.
I see some marketers, they just dummy things down, scale back because that's all that their CEO [00:18:00] requires. Or maybe they're like, well, that's all we really need to do. But let's take it up a notch. Let's make marketing what it was intended to be and really knock it out of the park. So, I think marketing is very exciting, but I do think sometimes we leave things on the table and we shouldn't.
Greg Bray: Well, Kellie, I know our listeners can't see it, but behind you on your wall, you've got a sign that says Think Bold. It sounds like that might be a core value maybe it Fieldstone Homes. Is that something that's just yours, or is that something larger at the company, this idea of thinking bold?
Kellie Little: Yeah, it is something that's within our entire company, but it stemmed from the marketing team because it's all about that mentality, right? We want people to think bold. Let's try some things. Let's do some things. Let's be bold in our approach, bold in our design, and bold in how we are helping a home buyer through this process. Take it up to that next level. So, yeah, we do Think Bold at Fieldstone Homes.
And we have a new theme that we're just introducing. You'll see that out there as well, and it's called, [00:19:00] It's Time. We believe it's time to buy a new home. I know some people, they question, is it time? Well, I believe it's time to buy a new home. When you look at everything that's in the market today, it is still time to buy a new home. So, we're really focused right now on It's Time.
But these are things that we do bring into our company, we push out to realtors and push out to home buyers, and we have fun with messaging. And that's one of the things that you asked earlier that brings all of our messaging together for different communities. When you have a theme and you bring the whole team, the whole company, and our buyers on this journey together with the theme, it can be really fun. And that's one of them is Think Bold.
Greg Bray: No, I love the way that you can use something like that. And again, like I say, tie it across different types of communities, different types of buyers, but they can still think of your brand in that way, regardless of where they sit on whether they're a townhome or, you know, single-family home or whatnot, that they're looking to buy.
Kevin Weitzel: But have you ever thought about spinning it? Like, maybe just arbitrarily doing some Facebook ads with [00:20:00] competitors' names that say, Think Mold? Have you ever thought about that?
Kellie Little: That's marketing genius or failure. I don't know which one that is.
Greg Bray: Kevin offers this advice free of charge to all of our listeners today.
Kevin Weitzel: Free of charge. That's right.
Greg Bray: Now we're going to watch for the Think Mold, with the resale home.
Kevin Weitzel: It's not with Think Mold, but Think Old. Do you really want that old house that's going to be falling apart? Yeah.
Kellie Little: Yeah.
Greg Bray: Kellie, what are some places you go to look for new ideas, other than listening to Kevin?
Kellie Little: He is brilliant, you know. Of course, I listen to Kevin. Yeah. Oh dear. You know, I think ideas for marketing are all around us because they're driven by people. We're selling homes here. That's a fun business to be in. It really is so fun. But at the end of the day, we're helping people with the solution of something that they need. So, I think it's actually in the people. I mean, you look at people and you're like, what do they need? What do they need to hear? What inspires them? You work with people and you're like, wow, this is something that would help them.
[00:21:00] And then you pair that with, when you're on the Internet and you see this cool idea or something pops up or you're at retail stores, and we don't need to get a lot of into this because we're talking more digital today, but I do believe that retail stores and retail storefronts have a lot to do with how we put our product out there.
And that approach can be online as well as walk-in. We can get great ideas from big retailers. They are working with millions of people. Look at some of their solutions. So there's a lot to gain out there from organizations that meet just the basic needs of humans. I think there's a lot to learn from those types of companies, and I watch them quite closely.
Greg Bray: Well, Kellie, we do appreciate your time today and you sharing so freely. Any last words of advice to our marketing audience out there today that you wanted to share?
Kellie Little: The only advice and I'm sure that I would love to hear from others as well is the market can be difficult sometimes, but I think the key to marketing is just to keep it fresh. Let's have a little bit of fun here, but we're here to [00:22:00] provide real solutions for real home buyers. It's a great place for us to be where we get to tell these fun stories and share the opportunity to have a new home. There's no place I'd rather be.
I mean, it's just a great, great industry that we're in and we're helping people with something they absolutely need and that they absolutely want. And the way that we serve up that solution, it matters. So, I think that as an industry, every one of us, the messaging, I think we need to be optimistic and be positive in the market we're in today because it is a great time to buy a new home. And I think as we all continue to push that out there, that we do have the opportunity to help people embrace the idea of buying a new home.
Greg Bray: There is not enough optimism in the world today. So, we could all help make it a more optimistic place. Thank you. For sure.
Kellie Little: And think bold. Think bold and think optimistic, and I think that we're going to get them. So, [00:23:00] that's what we're doing over at Fieldstone Homes.
Greg Bray: Well, Kellie, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Kellie Little: Oh, just send me an email or feel free to text me, but reach out. I love to talk with other marketers. So, I really enjoy that aspect of what we can do. And my email is Kellie, K E L L I E L for Little. So kelliel@ fieldstonehomes. com.
Greg Bray: And we'll drop that in the show notes for everybody as well. Well, thanks so much again, Kellie, for being 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 Zonda and Livabl. [00:24:00]