Stuart Platt, a managing partner at Outhouse, spent some time with the Home Builder Digital Marketing hosts discussing some incredibly substantial topics to benefit home builders.
Stuart speaks of the importance of creating an emotional connection on the website. With interactive website tools outlined in the podcast, you can create an engaging experience that allows your home-buyer prospects the freedom to “play” on your website. Website engagement leads to longer onsite times and encourages a connection to your brand and promotes the fantasy of owning the home. This progression, of course, yields to more sales. Stuart also talks about his path into architecture and the home builder industry that started with his childhood home that was designed by famous architect Will Bruder.
Stuart Platt, one of the founders of Outhouse, has over 20 years' experience in residential architecture with an emphasis on digital marketing in the production home building industry. Outhouse developed the first interactive floor plan platform for home builders, and it remains the single most innovative buyer engagement tool today. Stuart's company also offers architectural services, 3D modeling, virtual reality, graphic design, interactive sales office kiosks and more.
Stuart's company offers FREE Buyer Engagement Consultations, teaching home builders the most effective digital tools and techniques to keep buyers on (and returning to) your website, resulting in higher home sale conversion rates.
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Production by: Josh Williams and KT Maschler
Editing by: KT Maschler
[00:00:00]Greg Bray: Well. Hey everybody, this is Greg from Blue Tangerine, and welcome to another version of the Homebuilder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm joined, of course, with Kevin Weitzel, Kevin say hello,
Kevin Weitzel: howdy duty.
Greg Bray: And today we're really excited about our guests. We're interviewing today, Stuart Platt, the managing partner of Outhouse and Stewart.
Welcome, and thanks so much for taking time to be with us today.
Stuart Platt: Hi everybody. Thanks Greg and Kevin. I'm happy to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, Stuart, why don't you just give us that, that quick [00:01:00] introduction, you know, who you are, what a, what kind of your role is today? And tell us just a little bit about, uh, outhouse as well.
Stuart Platt: yeah, definitely my, again, my name is Stuart Platt. I'm the managing partner here at Outhouse. Uh, and Outhouse is one of the companies that works primarily for the production home building industry.
We, offer architectural CAD drafting services to, uh, 3-D modeling rendering, animation, virtual reality. Oh, I've got a lot of really cool interactive online interactive marketing tools, interactive floor plans, site plans. Uh, we also have a graphics team. We, uh, will fabricate and print and install sales office displays for home builders.
And we've got a full, commercial press room here, for all of your printing needs. Our builder's printing needs to, it's, uh, quite a menu of things we've got here. It's a lot of fun.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, Stuart, you say sales offices display. Are those just like the pictures and stuff in the sales office or flyers? What is it?
Stuart Platt: Yeah, all of the above. Really. You walk into a, [00:02:00] any sales office, usually a model home or or something. And, uh, anything that's up on the walls with floor plans and elevations, we, uh, design and fabricate and install those along with all of the paper handouts that, uh, you would give a home buyer of the mini four plans, price, feature sheets, stuff like that.
Greg Bray: So you are talking about a lot, a lot of different things there. I mean that that's just a huge variety of services.
How did you kind of get started with all that? What's your personal background? Which ones did you do first?
Stuart Platt: Well, yeah, it is. It's definitely a lot of stuff. We're, we're the only company in the nation that provides all these things, especially under one roof.
Uh, personally, my background is in architecture. you know, 20 some years ago I had started a CAD drafting service for, the residential industry and, met up with a couple of partners who did graphic design. And, another partner who did 3-D modeling and animation. And we found that, uh, we shared some of the same, homebuilder builder clients, so [00:03:00] decided that, Hey, this looks like an opportunity to work together here.
So a year or two later and along comes Outhouse and, you know, kind of the 20 years later, the rest is history. It's been a quite the ride.
Greg Bray: Was architecture something that you always wanted to do or how'd you kind of get interested in that?
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, I'm not an architect. Uh, I growing up, but it's pretty cool.
I, I grew up in a Will Bruder house. He's a pretty fairly famous architect, does some really unique stuff in, in, uh, across the nation. In residential and commercial architecture. I, I suggest if you are into architecture, especially unique architects or just Google, Will Bruder. Uh, and then on top of that, Google, the Platte residents will Bruder or Platt residents.
This is the house that I grew up in. Very unique, uh, very cool. And, that's kinda what inspired me to get into architecture. and then through my life and schooling, I kinda discovered that uh. Uh, my favorite part of architecture was actually drafting, [00:04:00] didn't really like all the rest of the architect's jobs.
So, it turned into basically me, uh, drafting for architectural firms and, uh, eventually starting my own, CAD service and, you know, coming into Outhouse as it is now.
Kevin Weitzel: Now when you first started drafting, you know, we're going way back here, but, uh, way, way back. Uh, but when you first started your, your passion in a gift of drafting, if you will, was it always computerized or did you learn with hand drafting first and.
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, when I was going to school, it was pretty much transitioning from a hand to CAD. So in school, I learned hand drafting and CAD. Uh, but my first job was 100% CAD. So really since, since I've made it a career, it's always been an AutoCAD and everything that comes with that.
Kevin Weitzel: Did you find that there was any kind of growth curve when you did start drafting professionally for home builders? Uh, getting them to transition from hand-drawn to digital?
Stuart Platt: You know, most had already made the transition, and we're talking to the, you know, early by [00:05:00] early to mid-nineties here, and, uh, or the, yeah, mid-nineties or so. So, you know, there really were only a few, Architects and builders that we're still doing it in by hand, but like everything else, you know, it was just a matter of time before, you know, if you, if you weren't drafting in CAD, you really weren't going to be in the industry much longer.
So that's kind of what, as we've seen it.
Greg Bray: So as you, as you kind of think back on that transition, you've gone from CAD to now, you know, interactive floor plans and some of those tools that are, you know, and tours and, and all of the amazing things that we can do on the computer. Now, how, how was that transition, you know, tell us a little bit more about the early days of the interactive floor plan.
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, in regards to the architectural side, we've, we've watched and we're continuing to watch, uh, how things are trans, converting from CAD, you know, from hand drafting to CAD and now into the BIM rabbit modeling and stuff. Uh, in regards to the digital marketing side, which I've quickly [00:06:00] become an expert in over the years, you know, we developed the very first interactive floor plan, uh, for home builders.
You know. 16, 17 years ago, it feels like, and you know, in that time, we've watched definitely how the builders have gone from just the static plans on a website. Um, moving into a flash-based interactive floor plan, moving into HTML five. now you're seeing it even starting to mix in with virtual reality and stuff like that.
And augmented reality, it's, it's a pretty cool evolution, uh, how things have gone, uh, throughout, throughout the industry. And, you know, we've, we've been kind of cutting edge, uh, ever since. And, uh, yeah, it's amazing looking at the interactive tools that we have to take today compared to just a couple of years ago, and especially 10 years ago.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, it's actually funny. Um, I actually heard you and Greg speak at an event, I don't remember where it was, and he was, Kansas city might've been IBS. I don't remember where it [00:07:00] was, but, uh, uh, you were talking about the emotions of, uh, you know, emotional, creating an emotional connection and, you know, how does that tie in with the interactive floor plans.
Stuart Platt: It's, we're in an industry now where, uh, you know, I think it's best said that, uh, having an interactive and engaging website is no longer revolutionary. This is one of those evolutions. It's become expected. and you know, when you think about it. of the things I really like is catching someone's attention is easy.
Keeping their interest is harder. Uh, and you know, using these interactive tools is a really good way to keep their, keep their interest, and keep them on your website. so in doing that, you know, what we've kind of found as a kind of as a sidebar to all of the interactive tools, is that the longer that people are on your website.
And the more tools that you give them to play with, and I use that wordplay. The more of an emotional connection we've found they've built. Uh, which is exactly what you want because you [00:08:00] know, people buy, people make purchases off of emotion, even the largest purchases from cars to home. You'd be surprised how much of that is an emotional purchase and more so than just a, you know, data-driven.
We call them emotional motivators, uh, if you've got some of these tools that capture a trigger, these emotional motivators, uh, there are psychological triggers that home buyers connect with. One good example is freedom. You know, if you can give, an experience on your website that, allows your buyers to act more independently and without obligations or restrictions, you know.
Interactive floor plans are probably the best tool out there. It allows them to visualize. Are home and even furnish the home. and, you know, pick colors off of the elevation and, and stuff like that. But, you know, freedom encourages that creativity. creativity encourages fantasy where it gets them, fantasizing about living in that home.
And that encourages the [00:09:00] emotions, which of course, in motion encourage these purchases.
Greg Bray: So Stuart, you know, I remember the first time that you and I started talking about kind of emotional motivators cause it was a little bit new to me back when, when you first kind of introduced me to it and, and I remember kind of you say, Oh, an emotional connection.
When I think of emotion, someone's emotional because they're upset or they're crying or whatever. Right? And that's not really what we're talking about here is that you know, you, you kind of gave some examples. It's more about the difference between. How I feel about a purchase versus kind of more of that logical, mathematical, Oh, well it's this many dollars per square foot and it's going to have this many bedrooms and it's going to have, you know, this feature and that feature.
Right. So can you kind of, you know, maybe take us through a little bit more. Are there any other of those motivators that, that we did to kind of help understand what you meant by emotional connection?
Stuart Platt: Yeah, absolutely. You know, you think about it, it's, it really comes down to when a buyer, imagine the home buyer getting on the internet for the first time to start researching a [00:10:00] house, a builder where they're going to live and stuff.
They're in this mindset of research. They're basically, they've, they've got their list of things that they need to check the boxes off and you know, they're, they're kind of just thinking data, data, data. And when they come onto a website, yeah. A home builders website and find out, okay, yeah, this is where this is the area I want to live in.
This is the the floor plan that I like. This is the price range that I'm in. You know, once they have that basic information, what do they do. Next thing they do is like, okay, they hit the back button back to Google and go onto the next builder and start checking those boxes off again. But if you have a website that is engaging and sticky and keeps them on with you. you know, give them these tools that, give them a little emotional buy and give them freedom. Uh, freedom is one trigger. Excitement is another one. I get them excited about the home that they're looking at. give them a feeling of, ownership.
You know, if they're able to, you know, [00:11:00] look at these homes and. you know, save a plan that kind of builds ownership into it. Also, being able to, a really strong tool is, furniture plans, allowing them to, put a bed, a queen-size bed, and a guest bedroom to see how that's going to work. Uh, that also triggers another emotional motivator called, you know, for security.
You're answering some of these questions for them early in the process of how furniture is gonna fit.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, Stuart, actually you just, I'm glad you just mentioned that furniture planner. A full disclosure, I bought a Mary Kay home and I actually use your interactive floor plan tool, and my daughter was playing with the furniture planner and actually laid out her entire bedroom.
So if you're talking about an emotional connection, try telling a high school age daughter that she doesn't get to decorate that particular bedroom ever because we're not going to actually buy that house. Well, I'll tell you what. There was some solid engagement going on. It was nuts.
Greg Bray: when you look around at, at what these, most builders are doing that don't use these tools, right.
They're, they're really missing out on a huge opportunity. You don't, you think too because it's really now [00:12:00] it's just facts and figures and we're not even connecting at all with that emotional side of the whole process.
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, if you're a builder or if you're a home buyer, imagine you come to a website and it does not have these, engaging tools.
It's just basically giving them the data they, how they would need, and then they move on. Then the second builder, they come to imagine this one has all of those engaging tools that keep them on there for, you know, three, five, 10 times longer than normal. How do you think that buyer's going to feel about that very first builder that they've visited there?
You know, they probably gonna forget them altogether. So, you know, as a builder out there, you got to ask yourself, you know, which, which kind of website do I have? You know, it's like trying to engage people, or is that going to, you know, bore them.
Greg Bray: So there's a lot of different tools that you talked about. We've talked a lot about kind of the interactive floor plan, but, but do some of these other tools, like, the virtual tours and things, do they also have the same power of the [00:13:00] emotional engagement or do you feel like that's more just the floorplan opportunity.
Stuart Platt: You know, I always recommend the interactive floor plans because those tend to hit the most emotional motivators on the list.
But you have to, there are a lot of different tools out there from the floor plans to site plans to the vacinity maps. You've got the Matterport tours, and then, you know, the virtual reality. you've got the augmented reality. I mean, there's just a ton of different. Ways and routes you can go. So you know, you've got to work with your team as a builder.
And figure out which of these tools are going to be the most effective. Uh, cause some builders that maybe they don't have lot of options if any at all. Or if you know your multifamily, stuff like that, you know, maybe maybe one tool isn't going to work as well as the other. So you really got to kind of pick and choose.
I recommend not picking all of them, but just be smart about the ones you are picking and using.
Greg Bray: Do you have any kind [00:14:00] of general guidelines or rule of thumb of what kind of engagement improvements you've seen, from, from some builders who have been engaged with these tools. Any, any kind of stats you can give us. Since we're now, we're emotionally connected, but now we want some numbers.
Stuart Platt: now you're catching me off guard. I don't necessarily, off the top of my head, I don't know. And you know, fortunately, there are actual numbers on this, you know, some of them that I can think of is that, uh, like I said before, the longer.
And the studies show this a longer a buyer is on your website, the more likely they are to visit your community or to reach out and contact you or or to buy a home. when you have the right tools on your website, uh, you know, uh, and I'll use interactive floor plans again. there, there are the studies and white papers that show that a builder can go from an average of about two minutes per visitor to five minutes to six minutes.
We've even seen some people that get so involved, uh, you know, designing [00:15:00] their homes and furnishing it that they can spend half an hour or more just playing on a single floor plan. you know, once you have a connection like that, or once you have people spending that investing that kind of time into your floor plans and website, you know, that they've got, they've built more than just a research-driven, uh, connection with you. It's, it's become emotional. And that's really when you know, you've got them.
Greg Bray: Do you have Stuart? Any um, experiences? You know, there's a lot is going on in our world right now that's kinda changing the way that, that potentially people are going to start looking at homes, you know? Um. Just if they're doing more of that from home, maybe not as comfortable going in to talk to a salesperson's face to face, who knows how this is going to evolve, but, but can, is there any examples or, or how could a salesperson potentially use these tools, to help with that emotional connection, even if the buyer isn't the one doing it initially on the website?
Any, any thoughts there?
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, and you're [00:16:00] right. This, this is a changing world, especially with things that are going on around the planet right now. Uh, but, uh, you know, if you look at yesterday, you know, the way people the way back home by alert buyers were researching. And finding builders as they would typically, whether they would find them online first and then they would go to their community or finally reach out and contact them.
That was really yesterday. Today, more and more home buyers are starting and finishing their research online on the website. they're really not even giving if they don't find. Exactly what they need on that first visit of theirs. They're not even giving the homebuilder a chance to expand or go, you know, speak further with them.
They are in and out of there. So, you know, that's probably one of the biggest changes I've seen.
Kevin Weitzel: So basically what you're saying is that like, you know, unlike me, so many people are adept to shopping online like Amazon and some of the other websites that are out there. You're saying that they're [00:17:00] pretty much just expecting this technology more so than just hoping that it's there.
Stuart Platt: Yeah, that's exactly right. You know, you're seeing, there's always a transition from, you know, what's, how things were done yesterday to Dow. They are being done today. and, you know, I would say, you know, it wasn't not, it wasn't long ago that, or actually it was, you know, it's probably over a year, two, three years ago that we started seeing that, uh, more and more people are starting and finishing their research online instead of giving, uh, you know, the builders a chance, you know, to contact them with more, for more information.
and with that said, you know, we're kind of in the infancy of it, but, you know, don't ignore what's coming up tomorrow. Homebuyers are going to be researching and purchasing their homes online. so, you know, that role of that salesperson, uh, is, is, is changing.
Uh, you know, I don't, I'm not going to say it's going away, but it's definitely changing. Uh, but today it's, it's more important than ever that your, you better have a website that will [00:18:00] engage these buyers so that they'll keep an interest in you over your competitors.
Greg Bray: Now, have you seen any differences at all?
And again, I don't want to hit you up for hard numbers here, but you know, maybe generationally with the comfort on some of these tools, you know, is there a difference between millennials and boomers, you know, and, and their willingness to engage, or do you find that it kind of crosses all demographics?
Stuart Platt: It definitely crosses all demographics.
The biggest difference. Yeah. Whether you're a boomer or gen X millennial. They all appreciate working on, you know, having these interactive platforms to work on. especially now that the become, the user interface has become so easy getting, you know, they don't need to be taught how to use these things.
It's, it's pretty, pretty, you know, just simple to jump in and start. The difference that I have seen is that, uh, the younger a person is. The more that they are insisting that it works on their mobile [00:19:00] devices, the older generations, they're still kind of laptops and desktops. uh, you know, if your demographic, if your buyers are going to be on the gen X and millennial side of things, you're going to want to make darn sure that these things work on all devices.
Kevin Weitzel: It's, you know, a Stuart, actually I was talking with, um, I don't remember his name. I think it was Jim over from Outhouse as well, but he was actually saying that there's a difference between even virtual reality platforms. So when you have a, there's almost a gap. So that 50 plus age demographic tends to gravitate toward the guided pathway, virtual realities, like an animated tour.
Whereas that. 40 and below, uh, tend to gravitate toward, um, the user-controlled like Matterports and, and a rendered, uh, point to point type of virtual tours. Is that true?
Stuart Platt: Yeah, I definitely think there's some truth to that. And it goes back to, you know, picking the right tools. If you're a builder and you're doing retirement developments, you know, have [00:20:00] your animations in there.
Uh, but if you are looking for the millennials, then, you know, get those Matterport tours in there. Get those VR experiences where they can actually, walkthrough like a video game, you know, point to point room to room and, and, you know, check out what they want to see.
Greg Bray: Stuart, are these tools useful for, for someone who's a custom builder who will quote, do anything you want?
Can they still find, a place to get this kind of engagement, even though it's not their kind of predefined plan that they're selling?
Stuart Platt: Yeah, definitely, you know, custom builders, people still, whether you have options or not, or if it's a spec home, people will want to see how their furniture works. and you know, custom builders, you're gonna lean more towards the animations and, and maybe the virtual reality aspect of, of things.
You know, people aren't going to be picking. Uh, you know, different floor plans and options. So, yeah, it's, it really is a matter of just going down the risk list and picking the right [00:21:00] things.
Kevin Weitzel: So, Hey, I'm looking at the event calendar here and I'm seeing that you and Greg actually will both be speaking together. I'm just looking here. I see two specifically. One is the 21st-century builder's expo that's in Charlotte, 15th through the 17th of September. what, what's the topic going to be there?
Stuart Platt: Yeah, definitely. And I know Greg can expand on this too, but, we're going to be talking together. I am going to be focusing really heavily on, what we were already talking about a little bit, which is the emotional motivators, those triggers that, uh, home buyers connect with you and to help, pull the feelings out.
You get them loving you and you know, they're yours.
And I was also pretty excited about the build or marketing expo, or the builder marketing summit that was gonna be taking place in Tempe. Uh, but due to the, obviously the current situation with the virus and everything else. So that got postponed. But I just found out that you guys have moved that too, October 29th.
Greg Bray: Yeah, I'm, I'm totally excited about that too, you know, and, and talking [00:22:00] with Stuart on this, I think, Stuart, you've really opened my eyes to the power of this, uh, emotion, emotional connection concept. And, and so I'm going to be adding a little bit about just more general web design elements that trigger emotions and things.
You know, the the simplest one, have you ever looked at a website and go, that's ugly? You know, that's an emotional response, isn't it? You know, just to say that something's ugly. Um, you know, there's, that's not factual and you can't measure that with numbers, right? So it's, you know, that that website's ugly.
That's an emotional response. So how do we deal with that? How do we improve that? And then so we can use these tools to connect even deeper into why they want to buy. I think it's, I think it's fascinating to study human nature and, and why they want to buy.
Stuart Platt: Yeah, I'd agree with you. And yeah, in these times, especially, you know, it's unfortunate, but necessary that we have to postpone the summit, uh, because a lot of what we were talking about is probably more relevant than ever right now in regards to, you know, that, digital [00:23:00] marketing, that's exactly what, we're experts in.
And. That's what the builders are probably going to be needing the most. right now
Kevin Weitzel: Stuart. Uh, I've, I had the luxury of knowing you for years, and I know that you are an absolute animal lover. Is that your only passion? What, what passion do you have in life?
Stuart Platt: Yeah. course everyone's got their hobbies and interests list. Uh, I definitely am a dog person. Like you said, I've done that for years.
I believe strongly in the, in the rescues and, even volunteer for the main society for awhile. you know, I was also, uh, I think travel, uh, is at the top of my list, travel with the family. A little tough to do right now. Have to cancel a cruise I had coming up in June, but that's definitely for the better too.
Uh, but, uh, yeah, you know, beyond that, uh, I think it really comes down to just trying to better myself and working on self-improvement for myself and those around me. And, uh, you know, that usually starts for me in regards to surrounding myself with some, some great [00:24:00] people. Uh, you know, people you respect and admire you.
If you want to improve something about yourself, you surrounded yourself with people that you want to emulate. So. yeah. But, uh, otherwise, you know, I'm creeping up on 50 years old. So a lot of the, uh, you know, hobbies that people do have now, no longer into base jumping or anything like that. So, uh, keeping it a little more safe.
Kevin Weitzel: Awesome. That's awesome.
Greg Bray: we'll Stuart, we're just about out of time here. We really appreciate your time. What, what's your, what's your big, farewell piece of advice? What would you tell builders that you haven't had a chance to say or maybe encapsulate it and just that Pearl of wisdom for us?
Stuart Platt: Yeah. You know, um, I think I'd boil it down to two words, which is get sticky. I guess I'll explain that a little bit for more, but, you, you need to keep these people on your website. so you gotta make your website sticky and you got to get out there and find out what all of the tools are that are available.
Uh, talked about a lot of them today, but there are others [00:25:00] too. and then pick the ones that are going to work best to get the attention of the buyers, that demographic that you're looking to get the attention of, uh, the most. So get sticky, everybody.
Greg Bray: That's awesome. So, Stuart, if people want to, you know, connect with you, talk with you sometime, how can they get in touch with you?
What's the best way?
Stuart Platt: Uh, sure. You know, Go to the website, outhouse.net. simply there you can find our contact information and also anybody can email me directly. StuartP@outhouse.net. That's S, T, U, A, R, T, uh, with a P. and
Greg Bray: we'll, uh, we'll put some contact information in our show notes as well. when we, when we publish this episode so people can, can have that, uh, opportunity to connect with you.
thanks so much, Stuart. This has been great. I think this is great information. You know, people are looking for how this works and they want to make those connections, and you've given some great insights, so we really appreciate your time.
Stuart Platt: My pleasure. Thanks guys.