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Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Digital Marketing Podcast Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel

24 Importance of Truly Understanding the Buyer's Needs - Dana Kovach

Importance of Truly Understanding the Buyer's Needs - Dana Kovach

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Production by: Josh Williamson and KT Maschler 

Editing by: KT Maschler 


Greg and Kevin were proud to welcome Dana Kovach, owner of Kovach Marketing to the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. Dana is known for being a leading figure in the Orange County advertising and marketing community for more than 30 years, spearheading the development of her agency, Kovach Marketing, into one of the most respected and successful firms in the industry. Listen as they sit down to talk about the importance of branding, the importance of truly getting to know your target segment and potential home buyer in today’s world. Dana also shares how to get builders to reveal the purpose or inspiration behind each community to find the right target buyer's and so much more.

Not only is Dana known for her expertise in the marketing world, but she is also known for her passion and support for many charities encouraging them to find their identity/brand and share their vision. She has been heavily involved with organizations such as Impact Giving Now, Families Forward, and HomeAid.

The Kovach Marketing team has built a thriving business upon extensive experience and inspired thinking, and continuing to expand its marketing and branding expertise in an ever-changing digital world.  They are known for a highly effective strategy that they call “creative intelligence”—a special process of understanding the customer at a nuanced level and allowing that insight to drive the creative expression. Kovach Marketing specializes in the ability to listen to their customers, a passion for excellence, and making a difference, as well as a focus on dimensional corporate marketing and product branding. 



[00:00:00]Greg Bray: Hello everybody. And welcome back to another exciting episode of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine

Kevin Weitzel:  and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse

Greg Bray:  and we are thrilled today to be joined by Dana Kovach. Dana is the owner of Kovach Marketing. Welcome, Dana. 

Dana Kovach: Thank you. I'm pleased to be here today.

Greg Bray: Well, we really appreciate you taking the time to join us and share some of your nuggets of wisdom today. But Dana, for those who don't know you haven't met you yet. Why don't you give us that quick introduction? [00:01:00] Who is Dana? 

Dana Kovach: Oh my goodness. Um, that's I live here in Newport beach. I grew up here and then went to school in Colorado.

So I am a CU buff. And when I came back, lived in LA for a little bit and came back to Newport and jumped into the building industry. 

Kevin Weitzel: So with that education, what brought you back or brought you to the home building industry specifically?

Dana Kovach: Well, um, I was very fortunate. Um, my studies in school, uh, again, we're in the marketing side. I had an emphasis in marketing in the business school and I came back and at one of my last classes was all about research and I fell in love with it. So when I came back, I was looking for employment and found a job with the Los Angeles Times.

And so I joined their consumer research team and in those days it wasn't all about digital. It was actually speaking with customers and [00:02:00] writing reports as to, you know, the number of people and who they are reading the LA Times. And Oh, by the way, those same people are drinking Yuban coffee. So, you know, that was, that was my introduction into, uh, tying our research tools into business, into marketing and sales tactics.

And so from there, um, I lasted in LA for about a year. Loved it, loved the energy, but just couldn't make it home. So I came back to Newport. And so coming back here again, you know, back in the day where you're on, uh, searching for new jobs, there was a job in the research department for a full-service real estate firm.

And that from a had many disciplines that had architecture and had a mortgage at escrow, but it had the research side of things, which I was fortunate enough to find myself in working with some of the leaders of in today's industry. Um, [00:03:00] but most importantly it was, it was such an amazing education for me because I was in the field.

I was talking to the salespeople. I was talking to the builders. I was talking to the buyers. And I had the opportunity to work on masterplan communities and the planning and the product spectrum all the way down to the merchandising of individual bottles. So, um, it, I mean, it was an amazing education.

And with that, as someone who owned a marketing firm here in Newport, It had an emphasis in the industry found me, found me working on a Saturday and said, how would you like to come over here? So that was a that's a quick summary of the steps that I took and how I ended up here. 

Greg Bray: No, thanks for sharing that.

So, so Dana, for those, um, who already do know you, what's something that most of them still don't know about you. We're looking for one of those secrets that you [00:04:00] just don't tell everybody. So now you're gonna tell everybody, 

Dana Kovach: so I have to laugh a little bit because, um, I am a bit of an open book, you know, in most situations we'll have conversations about the highs and the lows, the thrills and such, but I don't think most people know that I actually am a, uh, we'll call an amateur artist and writer.

So, uh, in. Back in the day when I was studying, I thought that was the direction I would be taking is actually in the arts and, uh, writing and such. And this, the steps that I did end up taking and going down the past this path, I was able to apply that love to what I do today without actually being it.

But I am an artist behind the scenes, not spending enough time on it by any means, but, uh, 

Greg Bray: And what's your, what's your tool of choice? I mean, are you paint or are pencil or ink or what, when you say artists, [00:05:00] what do you do use? 

Dana Kovach: I love to paint with acrylics they're a little more forgiving, but I also like to write and, uh, pros and such.

Um, so, uh, depending on the day, depending on what's happening in life and the moment that strikes me, we'll go down those two roads. 

Greg Bray: No that's terrific. Thanks for, thanks for opening up and sharing. 

Dana Kovach: Yeah, I won't share my art, but that is what I do. 

Kevin Weitzel: I'm still a big fan of the whole Bob Ross thing. 

 I love that he does happy little trees and it's so relaxing to watch this, watch this program so 

Dana Kovach: it is a kick to watch those. mine is a little bit more abstract every day. Even look back to the days at school where I'd be up till two and three in the morning, just losing myself in my paints.

And it is very therapeutic as well as a rewarding though. 

Greg Bray: So Dana, tell us a little bit more than about [00:06:00] your agency today. What, what kinds of services does Kovach Marketing provide and who do you serve? 

Dana Kovach: Well, Kovach Marketing is actually a full-service marketing firm, but we have an emphasis in Branding, whether it's branding corporations or it's branding and individual community.

And at times we step out of the building industry and we've worked in sports and foods and fashion and had the opportunity to brand different programs and different products. Um, Some of which I see on the shelves of Trader Joe's today, it's, it's really, uh, gratifying and, um, brings a smile to my face because of the the process we went through.

But you know, the services, whether it's designing strategic marketing plans or it's helping with the video project right now, we're in the midst of working on a video series that captures the entire process of building a home. And, um, that has, you know, as you all know many, many [00:07:00] steps to it. So it's been fun to work with the team and to design and to, um, envision what that might be and how it will be used.

And then, um, from the digital perspective, we have the tremendous opportunity to very effective digital plans for clients and, uh, whether it be online execution or it's behind the scenes strategies that, that too is a service that we have embraced with great enthusiasm and having a lot of fun working with that and operating it to our clients.

Greg Bray: Oh, thanks. So I know you talked about, um, you know, kind of where you got your start was in that research, um, piece of, of marketing, understanding customer and, and that particular direction. And I believe from what I understand, that's still one of your, you know, areas of differentiation, something that [00:08:00] your agency does really well is helping people understand that, tell us a little bit more about, you know, how you start a process like that. If I, if I'm a builder, I want to understand my customer, what do I even do to begin that kind of a process? 

Dana Kovach: Well, truly it's based in curiosity, it's based in having robust conversations and those conversations can take place in many different ways.

Uh, so, you know, when we are brought into a new community or new project. And we're talking with the builders and they're showing us their floor plans. For example, we're hit pause for a moment and say who was this designed for? And who is this buyer? And how are they living? What are their pain points?

What are they looking for? You know? So we get the builder to start talking to start, uh, Revealing what the inspiration was behind that [00:09:00] particular community, that particular design and the research that we now bring that over as we're talking with our builders, our clients, and say, you know, have you thought about this? I mean, think about where we are right now. After these 90 days, what is most important to the buyer?

Are you incorporating that in your home? Is it about wellness? Are you taking extra steps to make sure that the air is purified, that you know, the outdoor deliveries have an access point? I mean, there's so many different questions that, you know, the steps we take is just to make sure that we have our finger on the pulse of the market, and we know how to decipher by buyer profile uh, by area, by product type that we know how to bring all of that in and deliver that to our [00:10:00] clients as we're talking, because the more that we talk with our clients, the more conversation we have about their vision and what they're developing, the more likely our communications, our different tools will be effective.

And, um, so that's where you start. You must start with knowledge and we call it creative intelligence as we move forward. But you it's important to start with knowledge and not be not falling a formulaic approach. 

Kevin Weitzel: So that brings me into kind of a two parter. Do you find that regionally or by state that a varies your approach as to how you want to tackle builder a versus builder  B versus builder C and then the followup is, is that, and you've pretty much answered it with not falling formula A, but what do you do when builder X comes to you and says, Hey, I see that builder Z over here is doing this.

We need something like that. [00:11:00] Do you just right off the bat discourage it, or do you just say, well, why do you want a copy of that? And then try to understand what their, where their fear their motivation is. 

Dana Kovach: Uh, great question. Great question, Kevin. Uh, because, you know, we have seen that over the years. It's that wow look how successful they are. Look what they're doing. We should just be, you know, let's be sure we're doing that. Absolutely. We can learn from everyone that's in the market today. And actively marketing and enjoying success using various tools. 100%. That's the beauty of this industry. There's so much for us to learn from every day from each other.

But as Michelle Smallwood had mentioned on one of your earlier podcasts, everyone's unique and it's important to understand. What your unique point is? What, what are you offering that the guy next door is not offering because that's [00:12:00] what your buyers are looking for. They're looking for what makes them whole, what is the home that they're searching for?

So, um, we don't discourage them to learn from what's out there and what's being done, but we do encourage them to identify. What makes them unique and why does it matter to the buyer? 

Greg Bray: And do you find Dana that, that builders, um, understand why they need to be doing this? Or do you have to educate them?

Because they think they've already done it and you're going, you guys haven't even scratched the surface yet. 

Dana Kovach: Yeah. Uh, they absolutely do understand the why of it. I mean, they're, they're running their business. They have their performance. They have their projections thing there. They know the why. Um, and they know what can happen if you don't ask the right questions going into this.

And so it [00:13:00] incredibly, innovative, insightful industry, And they do understand, you know, why I'm asking the questions, they don't just brush, brush us off and say, Oh, come on. Just do it this way. Cause it's, as you all know, it's easy to step back and say, well, the last community we developed, we were selling, you know, six homes a month and we were very happy with it.

Let's just do that again over here. So let's again, reflect back on the last 90 days. What has happened over the last 90 days, we have been locked down. We've been learning a lot about our homes and what they do and don't provide us. So my next home that I'm going to be looking for is going to address some of those pain points.

And so what you built, you know, which actually was on, you know, the design boards. A year and a half, two years ago, what you [00:14:00] built and sold successfully six months ago needs to be different. It needs to have evolved to what the needs are today. And I, you know, I'm not the builder, I'm not the architect, but we do pay attention to what the home buyers are looking for.

We do pay attention to what our community is saying. And that needs to inform all these decisions going forward. 

Kevin Weitzel: So that message needs to differentiate, um, based on not just what the builder can do. I mean, cause they're basically building a series of rooms that are interconnected and climate-controlled on some sort of foundation.

That's really what they're doing, but. If you're in Boulder, you need to make sure that your client has a storage for their toys. Cause they tend to have bicycles and kayaks and you need to know that community. So yeah, there is, there's a big, giant learning curve. You have to know your client and who your buyer is, not just who you want to sell to, but who the actual group of buyers [00:15:00] would be.

Dana Kovach: Well, getting back to your question about regional differences, that is incredibly important, especially as a California firm, stepping into Colorado, stepping into Nevada, stepping into Arizona, um, you know, everyone is very proud of where they come from and where they call home. And they feel that their differences are just that they are differences and there's differences for a reason and such.

So we need again to sit down and, and talk with them and,  we need to listen. We need to talk about, so why, why do you have the mudroom? Why do you have that here? Why do you have a Butler pantry here? What is it that your, how are your buyers living and entertaining that is different than a coastal community?

You know, what, what is it that, um, we can highlight and what makes you different than, you know, the [00:16:00] company down the street? So it does vary. It varies quite a bit. I mean, it was really fun for me when I first started working in Colorado to learn the difference in architecture and architectural details.

Um, for example, tile roofs are not encouraged in Colorado because of the weight of the snow in the winter. And I'm like, what makes complete sense would I have ever thought about it before? Probably not, but all of a sudden I'm like seeing this. And so little side story. I was doing some work for someone in Colorado Springs several, several years ago, rebranding their company.

And, uh, I get to stay at the  Broadmore estates. Uh, I, um, drove through and I see this Mediterranean tile, roof home in the midst of this neighborhood. And I'm like, who, how did that happen? How did that [00:17:00] happen? That so does not belong here.

And yet it happened because no one was really paying attention or asking. And they were only reacting from their own place of taste and not the market's place of taste. So. 

Greg Bray: That's a good, that's a great story. Um, Dana, have you maybe to put you on the spot, have you ever had, um, the experience where you do the research, you think, you know, the customer, then you go to market and you suddenly discover that you know, there's this whole other customer you didn't even know about that is actually responding and connecting in and interested, um, and, and kind of how that then impacted, you know, phase two, if you will, or, or going forward.

Dana Kovach: Well, absolutely. Greg, um, with each opportunity, you don't know, you don't have all the answers, you do, your homework, you, you research the market, you [00:18:00] learn about the buyers. You, learn more, as much as you possibly can about the product. What these designs are, you bring it all together and you come to the market.

And, uh, example is a community that we've been marketing in Northern California, where the thought was that it was going to be primarily a young family buyer. Well, the schools were not in place as early as expected the parks were not open as early as expected. So all the amenities that were pertaining to that particular buyer profile weren't there.

And at that time, we were starting to see more of a move down buyer come in because the family buyer just wasn't as comfortable now that's changed with time. The parks are in and such, but during that period, we needed to pivot a little bit. We needed to, you know, look at where we were [00:19:00] speaking and what we were delivering.

It not only changed my buyer profile, but it also changed by area. We felt that originally we were going to pull from a more local market and we needed to expand our reach and go even further, um, to attract the right buyer in a similar situation down here on, on the coast. It happened again where the idea was that we were going to were marketing a luxury, move-up product in, Seal Beach and felt that we were going to not only draw from the Seal Beach market, but also from Huntington Beach itself. And so we thought we would pull from the South up into this community. And yet in the end we found that we were pulling from further North.

So the key here is that you know, you walk in, you have your strategy, but your strategy needs and I, I encourage all of our clients and all of our team members [00:20:00] make sure as you're developing your strategy, that it's very fluid. It needs to be, uh, able to move with each lesson you learn. What are we seeing?

How are things changing? Who's coming into the market. They may not have been in the market when you first were there. So you need to be fluid and change your strategy, change your choices much like, you know, the whole keyword process, online keyword research, you are constantly looking at that and making your adjustments.

So it's the same kind of theory. 

Kevin Weitzel: Wait, you don't just set 10 keywords and just hope for the best. When you throw all those words at the wall that they're going to stick and be relevant 24 seven.

Dana Kovach: Well some do you know, it's so funny though. With that said, it seems so obvious, right? Keep your eye on it. See what's moving, make sure your design and your [00:21:00] strategy, and everything is able to move with that. But if you don't have the discipline to constantly and consistently watch and evaluate, you will miss that.

And all of a sudden there's 60 days that go by that you missed this whole change that should have taken place. So not only should it remain fluid, it should be a consistent, um, review. And analysis as you go through 

Greg Bray: Dana, when you're, when you're doing that review and analysis, are there any key metrics that you particularly like to look for when you're trying to say, are we, are we on point or do we need to be looking at, at some adjustments?

Any, anything other than we're not selling anything? I think that's the big one, but you know, is there, is there anything else beyond that, that you kind of are looking for that says, Hey, this is working or it's not. 

Dana Kovach: Right. Absolutely. but it's the engagement. because like Kevin, you were talking earlier about [00:22:00] the length of time that the sale will actually take place.

You know, if we're talking about a new home, or we're talking about a product, you know, it, you have to look at the sales cycle for those. Um, you also need to look at the closing window. So for example, if you start to market a community in the preview stage before you have models, and then you have your models, and then you have a projected closing date, you need to take that into consideration and layer it against the interest and engagement, at that particular community, so that your timing you're in step. And so Greg, what we look for is the momentum that's building. And we look for the, uh, actual engagement with each marketing tool, whether it [00:23:00] be retargeting banners or whether it's email communication, or most importantly, the activity that's taking place on our websites, you know, are people actually arriving where we're directing them and how long are they staying there demonstrating their level of interest?

Uh, we have the various tours now the interactive floor plans online, all these tools that are extremely important today, now that everyone is getting much more comfortable with that whole concept of evaluating and choosing their new home online. We need to be paying attention to how we're delivering them.

How's it funneling in? And then again, how much time are they spending? I mean, for me, you know, if we had a 20% click-through on a certain tool and we got into the landing page, if they're not staying there, if they're not engaging there, then was that a successful [00:24:00] campaign? Or wasn't it, you know, we got the eyeballs, but did they engage?

Did they go any further? So it's those types of metrics we try and keep our, um, our sights on. But, um, when we do have the ability to schedule appointments, at the sales offices and then, of course, open the doors and actually be able to have, you know, the drop in traffic again. we'll be watching that.

We'll be, we'll be measuring. How is it translating on the ground? Overtime traditionally, what we would do is just watch our traffic and our conversion to sales. And then again, the cans that may happen because too much time goes by on a particular community. So I'm speaking to you all about what's the sales teams monitor.

Um, it's important that we are tagged into that, or else what we're doing may not have the [00:25:00] value that it should. And then in other cases, we may find that. This particular strategy, this tactic was extremely effective. Let's refund all those dollars that we're using in these other channels to this and see what happens.

Let's test that. Let's take it away from, I mean, back in the day we used it tease because our sales teams would come in and say, Oh yeah, it was drive by traffic. It was just drive-by traffic. We got, and we're like, okay. So I think what we're going to do is we're going to turn off this, this, and this and see if it affects the traffic levels.

And then all of a sudden it's like, well, wait a minute, you can't do that. Well, that's, what's so important, right. Is having those open candid conversations and testing as you're going through. But from the getting back to the question that you asked, you know, it is all about engagement and [00:26:00] activation and the sale.

Greg Bray: I love, I love the idea of testing though. I don't know. I, I'm not sure we can ever do enough testing, but yet. I think people sometimes shy away from the cost of testing. Cause they feel like, well, we just need to know what to do and go do it. And it applies to all aspects of marketing, whether, you know what, whether it's creative, whether it's a particular ad campaign, whether it's online or offline, you know, trying to figure out what's working sometimes digital testing is a little bit easier to get the metrics compared to some of the other avenues.

So it's got a little bit of an advantage there, but, um, but just remembering that. Hey, you can always make it better if you just, if you just try some things and experiment a little bit, and even setting aside part of the budget as a testing budget per say, or, you know, trying to make it more formal instead of just an accident, 

Dana Kovach: a hundred percent, 100%. I agree with you that if we could, as a firm, as a marketing firm, we can [00:27:00] educate our clients to understand the value of that testing and how it impacts the overall success of a community. You know, that's the goal because I think the testing, again, things have been changing so quickly.

The learning curves are straight up. They're not, there's no curve in them anymore they are just straight up. Um, so if we, if we have that ability to continually test the effectiveness of the different tools that are available to us, we can only get better. And that means we can carry that knowledge and those learnings to the next community and to the next community.

So that, as a collaborative team, we're all growing. And I was just having a conversation about all the virtual tools that are available to us. The online appointments, the video conferencing, the [00:28:00] interactive, the, um, the actual tours of the homes, all of this. Okay. These are all tools that we've been talking about for quite some time.

And I mean years and you've been rolling them out and talking to your clients about the value of them. But as you mentioned, Greg budget sometimes gets in the way, embracing the technology or having the time to basing embrace a technology, gets in the way. So all of a sudden here we were March 15th.

And we needed a new solution and yet all those tools were right there available for us to tap into. So here we are, we know this is not going to change. And I don't mean the pandemic. I mean, the use of these tools and leveraging them, it's only going to get better, but [00:29:00] what, what can we do to jump ahead of that fact and start to develop what will be the new platform. What, what is it that we can do to help our customers get even more comfortable and more engaged in online in choosing their new home? I mean, that's the bigger question that is here today. It's not how we're going to employ the tools that are already available.

It's what, it's the next tool? 

Kevin Weitzel: I'd love to answer that question. However, I'd be giving away valuable outhouse secrets

Dana Kovach: Oh come on, Kevin. 

Kevin Weitzel: So I'm going to go ahead and just let that be learned by customers that reach out for outhouse service, 

Dana Kovach: because I know I just know it, but there's that new tool out there. Just waiting for someone to snatch it up right?

Kevin Weitzel: It's a shameless plug. You gotta do it sometimes. 

Greg Bray: Shameless plug alert. Okay. All right. Well, Dana, we want to be mindful of your time. You've shared so much with [00:30:00] us already today, but I'm just, I'm just a couple more questions I'm curious about. Are there any common mistakes that you see people making out there, especially builders, maybe the ones that pull you in later in the process where they tried something and it didn't work.

And now they've said Dana, come save us. You know, um, what, what are some of the mistakes that you've seen that they make out there that maybe you can save somebody else from making. 

Dana Kovach: Well, like again, um, I don't think there's anything that's common, um, about the mistakes that are made. Uh, and to be honest with you, you know, to even refer to them as mistakes, I think it's, um, more about navigating, and understanding basically understanding the waters that you are navigating and they do change so much.

So, you know, If I were to say, you know, some of the mistakes that we see have nothing to do with, um, you know, that message, but everything to do [00:31:00] with understanding what the buyer's looking for and what they can afford. I mean, as, as everyone knows, there is a, there is a lack of affordability. There's a lack of attainable housing and if you're, if you're entering a market where that's a, there's a real need for it yet you're entering the market with a move up luxury product, you know, they're there is a disconnect. The disconnect can be seen as to who is in that market and what are they looking for?

Um, but the common mistake I think is just not understanding. If, again, I don't want to say it's a common mistake. Um, it's just not understanding who their buyer is really understanding them. I mean, it's a kick for me, just talking with my nieces and nephews and their friends and how they're living today and what's important to them. And you know, some of 'em, you know, is just [00:32:00] starting families and others are had postponed, you know, getting married to a little later in their years and their business is all about, um, being remote their business as being independent. And you might not see that there's an as big a population of those individuals unless you're out there talking unless you're out there and really digging in and understanding your market.

Greg Bray: Oh, thank you. So any, any last pieces of advice that you want to leave with our listeners today? 

Dana Kovach: Mmm, yes. Always remain curious. Always remain curious and, you know, just know that with every conversation, there's something new to be learned and don't rely on the lessons of the past. Definitely fold them into what your strategy is today, but [00:33:00] just be out there listening and be curious.

Greg Bray:  Oh, that's terrific. I love it. I love it. Dana. If somebody wants to learn more about you or Kovach Marketing, what's the best way for them to get in touch? 

Dana Kovach: You can always email me at dana@kovachmarketing.com or go to the website. 

Greg Bray: and we'll put that email in the show notes as well. So for you and linked to the website there too. Dana, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate what we've learned from you and everybody listening. If you're, if you're liking what you're hearing, please go leave a review for us on your favorite podcast platform and join us again next time on the Home Build Digital Marketing Podcast.

I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse. Thank you. 

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