In this week's episode, Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel share the Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit panel session featuring, Chris Hartley, Ashely De Young-Seibert & Michelle Smallwood. The always entertaining Kevin Weitzel serves as the moderator. This episode lets you see how other home builders are putting their marketing and digital technologies to use. Sales and marketing and best-practice strategies can change quickly, so hear valuable experiences from your home builder sales and marketing peers. In an unprecedented time, learn what's working (and what's not working) to meet today's challenges.
Ashely De Young-Seibert with De Young Properties
Ashely De Young-Seibert with De Young Properties
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Editing by: KT Maschler
[00:00:00]Greg Bray: Hello everybody. And welcome back to another 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 today we're doing something a little bit different. We recently had the Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit, a virtual series.
And on that, we had a, an exciting session that we wanted to share with you today. Mostly because Kevin thought it was the best one.
Kevin Weitzel: I thought it was definitely the best one, you know, mainly because I got to hear my own melodious voice for the [00:01:00] rest of the day. No just kidding? Uh, no, actually, because it was just really action packed.
We had three fantastic guests, you know, I had Michelle Smallwood of a Holiday Builders down in Florida. Um, and then on top of that, you know, everybody knows Chris Hartley over at K Hovnanian and then, Ashley De Young out of, uh, out of, uh, California with the Young Properties, it was amazing.
Just so many highlights and tidbits and nuggets of knowledge that they passed out. It was amazing. So I would definitely recommend listening in.
Greg Bray: Yeah. So here you go. Without further ado, let's, uh, let you tune into our builder panel from the digital marketing summit.
Kevin Weitzel: . So let me introduce who we have today. number one, I'm Kevin, with Outhouse. I am merely here to be a moderator.
I have a series of questions that I want to ask these experts, and I think you guys will all enjoy the answers that are there. but we have, Chris Hartley with K Hovnanian homes. He's out of the Dallas Fort worth market. we have Michelle Smallwood with Holiday Builders, and then we also have Ashley De
Young of Young Properties. [00:02:00] Good morning,
Ashely De Young Seibert: good morning.
Kevin Weitzel: So that was just my, just a general introduction of but if I can get you to take a quick, just a quick second to tell us a little about a bit about yourself, Michelle, if you could go first.
Michelle Smallwood: I'm Michelle Smallwood. I run sales and marketing for Holiday Builders.
We are a, largest regional builder in Florida and just kind of over the border into Alabama. and we build kind of up and down the East and West coast of Florida and then the Florida panhandle. And, I've been with Holiday for a little over 13 years.
Kevin Weitzel: And, how many homes do you build a year?
Michelle Smallwood: roughly just under 2000.
Kevin Weitzel: Ooh, that's a good chunk. and are there any noteworthy differentiations between Holiday Builders and your competitors in the area?
Michelle Smallwood: well of course we think there are, we are a hundred percent employee owned. And I will tell you what we as a group, keep each other honest [00:03:00] and hold each other accountable.
and you know, customer service and, and I realized probably everybody on this call feels this way. but customer service is a passion of ours, every single person in the company. It is made or broken by our customer service scores, our customer satisfaction scores. and that's a big deal for us.
And if somebody is not happy when they close, they get a lot of attention, not just from my department, but our, area directors and division president and our regional president. So it's. Everybody goes on blast. If someone's not happy, because we want to know what broke in our process.
Kevin Weitzel: Ashley.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Hey there.
Yeah. So, I'm the vice president of marketing for my family's home building company. We build just a little bit less than Michelle. we're more around [00:04:00] like a hundred homes or more a year. we're in the central valley in California. So I'm currently building in Clovis, California. We build single family homes ranging from 1900 to 3,900 square feet.
primarily second time buyers or move down, but occasionally first-time buyers. and something like that differentiates us from our competitors. we're very innovative and energy efficient. So we build zero energy homes, and we've built the first zero energy community in the central valley. And then.
later on, we built the largest zero energy community. So all the homes, you know, had the potential to produce as much as they consume. So, yeah, that's one thing. And I think we're also, as a family company been around for 45 years, we have a passion for giving back. And so we do the St. Jude Dream Home and Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
Those are two fun things that are kind of like a side passion project that we love doing each year.
Kevin Weitzel: That's fantastic.
[00:05:00] So Chris is, VP of marketing with K. Hovnanian Homes over in Dallas Fort Worth market.
Chris, if you could just do a quick little brief intro of a little bit about you, that would be fantastic.
Chris Hartley: Yeah. So actually I'm VP of sales that's okay. I was a, no worries. I was a former VP of sales and marketing for a. A small local home builder in DFW that we grew to be fairly large. And then we sold off to a large public.
And then about seven months ago, I made the switch from that public to K Hovnanian Homes here in DFW, where I just hold the title of VP of sales. So although I still love and adore everything marketing, I have one general focus now. but it is interesting when you, when you separate the two to realize a major, major way that one does not survive without the other.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, with your transition from company A over there to, K Hov. What are the biggest changes that you saw where you didn't have to wear both hats?
Chris Hartley: You know, I would say the biggest change in regards to [00:06:00] just having to be concentrated on sales is that, and my VP of marketing, because I do have a very good VP of marketing here at K. Hov, I'm kind of a control freak.
And so I realized that when you have to let it go to just focus on one thing and focus on the partnership within the organization there, and then realizing that. When you operate very different than the, than the two that are on this call with me, when you operate a large national, top 10 national, you know, that ship moves very, very slow.
So if you don't have those things already in place, which we did before, when we were the small local builder, kind of like the young, you can make movements and changes a heck of a lot faster, like Holiday, where they have a lot of things already in place here. It was very much a reactive. course of, of matrix that we had to navigate through and we're getting there, you know, unfortunately here in Texas, I would probably say out of all the States, Texas probably avoid acknowledging COVID more than others.
And so we do operate business [00:07:00] a little bit more than a little bit more usual than most, But there are still things, obviously that are in place from a national standpoint, that we have to adhere to, to make sure that the safety is still being followed and we're still reaching out and doing the touchless appointments so on and so forth.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, you know, in the military they say it's, easier to steal or steer a PT boat in an instant steer battleship. So I wholeheartedly get what you're talking about with the scale of being able to pivot, based on the scale of the, the builder themselves.
one reason why we actually targeted you three, is because there's a lot of companies that use the, we value customer service, you know, in their lip service, but rarely do people truly put it into action and I would applaud all three of your companies that you truly do put that into action.
So, so that's fantastic. So let's go ahead and tackle the one ugly subject that nobody really wants to talk about. Everybody's tired of hearing about it. what have you changed with this current market climate? obviously with COVID the way it is. What have you had to reset reboot re-push and let's [00:08:00] start with Michelle.
Michelle Smallwood: well, it's, it's been a little bit of Mr. Toad's wild ride, at first, you know, really end of March, April and may. we thank God. had the foresight to start photographing all of our spec homes at the beginning of the year. So we had spec homes photographed. We had, had just started getting Matterport tours of all of these homes.
And we had just started doing some virtual staging, which is not quite augmented reality, but, you know, having furniture. Placed in photographs of homes. so fortunately we had that going for us already, but now all of a sudden you're kind of mobilizing and getting everyone to start utilizing those resources we have available.
And as a, as a home builder, one of the other things, it was a huge deal for us is how do you hug your [00:09:00] backlog? I mean, you had the backlog of homes of people purchased homes, they're excited, and then everything stops. So we had to figure out a way to reach out to all those people and remind them why they chose us and how we were going to be with them through the process.
And it was all going to be fine. And we thank God we're considered an essential business in Florida, so we could continue building. but hugging our backlog was as important as procuring new sales. And we actually had, our first completely virtual sale in April, where we had buyers from California, who we took on virtual tours and did the Matterport, and, you know, did the WhatsApp and the FaceTime, and they bought a home and they've closed and they're happy.
And it's great.
Kevin Weitzel: I'll give you a quick break and we're going to hear from Ashley about the various things they've [00:10:00] had to do, or didn't have to do some things were already in place, in dealing with COVID.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah. So like Michelle said, we had our first ever in our company's history, virtual grand opening, in March and it literally happened the week. Everything was shelter in place. So it was a little nerve wracking at first. But, our team, our sales team was amazing. When we told them we were switching everything to virtual, they were like, we're all here for it.
And what can we do? And they all work together so well. I was really impressed with how quickly they jumped on it and just how willing they were to do it. But, yeah, so we, we definitely, have done now a lot of virtual grand openings in the past couple of months. And the first one was for our Ridgeview community.
And, it was the final phase in the community. And so there was a long list of people waiting for that final phase. And, what I think really stood out was the home sites were larger. It was a great location. So people [00:11:00] were really just waiting for that grand opening. and. So I think, luckily the technology for us, like as being an innovative builder, it wasn't that difficult to switch everything to become virtual.
I think the one thing that we definitely are dabbling in that's new is the whole unattended access being we've used enter now, locks, And just also switching our design process to being a digital appointment and sending them things in advance virtually. so that, that has been something interesting that, maybe we weren't expecting or, had much experience in, but doing the grand openings virtual, I feel like we're kind of getting it down now and it's been easier every time.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, Chris, what about the Dallas Fort Worth? I know, you know, just in the news, we see that Texas. didn't quite have as many issues with COVID, whether it be real or not. but, did you already have all the tools in place or were you scrambling at all to get some of these, digital content in place to be able to do things [00:12:00] virtually or was everything kind of already hunky Dory?
Chris Hartley: You know, so what's interesting is that I was actually making the transition in the myth of. really when everything started to shut down. So when they started to become, more aware of what was going on in the industry, you know, the, the former place we had over 50 locks from inner now, already ready.
And in our hands, we had every single floor plan photographed. We had what we call, real-time video. So it was, you know, the gentlemen would put on a Hollywood type movie camera, right. A segway through the house. And so you can see it. We had the Matterport. We were really ready to go. And that came from the fact that we were a small private before had those tools in place.
You know, just basically implemented onto the large one. When I came over to the new place here at K Hovnanian, we did switch over to, or we did implement you to her. And that was, you know, again, when you're implementing something to a 400 unit home builder and you implement it onto a 10,000 unit home builder, it takes a little bit longer, you know, you're not just going to put [00:13:00] all 15 divisions, let them all test one.
And so it does take a little bit longer. So I would say. Here locally. Very, very fortunate. Our fiscal year ends in October. We did 676 homes in DFW. Very fortunate that we were here in our location because that did carry us. whereas I know other parts of the country, I know a lot of people in other parts of the country, you know, they're very much on lockdown and we're very much still taking appointments.
And again, obviously with masks and precautions, but, it, it wasn't as severe here.
Kevin Weitzel: So talking about steering a battleship Michelle, being a, a co-owner, if you will, of a employment loan company, what's goes into the decision-making factor on implementing tech. And I mean, do you get any certain, like a veto vote over everybody else because of your position in the company?
Michelle Smallwood: No. No, because everybody in the company has a stake in it. but really at the end of the day, it is simply not [00:14:00] practical to manage by committee. It's just not, and, and it's not effective. So we hire the best people we can for the job, and they have the responsibility to make that work. Now that doesn't mean that I don't consult my team.
I mean, they're all a lot smarter than I am. so, you know, we're always talking, the purchasing folks are always talking and, and we meet as a group, as senior managers, but everybody's responsible for going to do their own job. So we don't manage by committee and. You know, if anybody feels passionate about something, of course people stop and listen.
I mean, one of the mantras at Holiday Builders is you check your ego at the door. So what one of my line people has to say is as valuable as something [00:15:00] that, you know, head of operations may have to say, because they have in the field may have a different perspective. So there's that. But at the end of the day, we hired the best people to do the job and, and they're on the hook to execute.
Kevin Weitzel: So with communities. And builders wanting to sell through the communities. You know, sometimes the community can be on the market. On average, typically a typical community across the country is 18 months, that it takes to close out a typical community and it's plus or minus, depending on the number of lots and how efficient your construction process is, et cetera.
but a lot of builders would love to sell through entire communities in four months, even better. A lot of builders would love to sell through entire communities in four weeks. How about four days or even better, actually four hours. Can you please expand? On how you sold an entire community virtually in four [00:16:00] hours
Ashely De Young Seibert: to clarify it is one phase.
It was one phase of the community, not the entire community, but yeah, our legacy square community we launched in the end of June. And it's now sold out. It's sold out, October 3rd. So June end of June to October 3rd, the entire community sold out. But yeah, the first phase. Well, one of the phases sold a hundred percent within four hours.
It was crazy. Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: How do you handle all that influx? I mean, how did you have just a whole team and you got Ryan over there just scrambling on phones and computers and
Ashely De Young Seibert: definitely. Yeah. Yeah. So as a family company, my brothers and I work with alongside our parents too. So, yeah, my brothers are, I, I we're all on the phone.
we're on the phone with our sales team, who's out at models. and now that they're all virtual, I'm just. You know, from home, you know, handling everything remotely, that day of the grand opening and, yeah, it, it it's crazy scene. You know, we do a virtual line [00:17:00] now instead of a line outside the models.
And it's just crazy seeing the leads come in and the people actually sign up right at the time of the line being available. and it just shows that, you know, we really are building in the best possible areas that we could and. You know, school districts and I mean, every, everything has a part in it. so yeah, I think the communication within our team has just gotten better and better each phase and each new communities.
So that's definitely been helpful too.
Kevin Weitzel: So when you have to switch, and this is actually more toward Michelle, because I know for a fact, because we had a previous chat about this, when you actually put into place a plan. You know, when that John just like Eric screen showed where that giant wrecking ball comes into kind of wreck your plan when you build a community and your major focus is going to be on active adult.
And now you have a bunch of millennials come in and take over or vice versa. You have to flip the switch. How do you adjust your marketing plan to accommodate that change? Oh,
Michelle Smallwood: well, you [00:18:00] know, that's an interesting question. Cause we, we launched a new product. in March of last year, and it's called HB Value Homes and it is our entry-level, entry level home.
I mean, we started in our scattered lot area with three floor plans and one elevation each, and we thought, ah, these are all going to be bought by entry level. First-time home buyers. Now, the first time home buyers did show up, but then we also had the people from New Jersey who wanted to come down, have a second home in Florida that wasn't expensive, that they could lock up and go head up North every summer.
And, we, we had to be flexible and we. Started looking at, okay, well we're not advertising and all the right places we need to not only have [00:19:00] our millennial first-time home buyer, but we also need to start advertising in areas where, you know, people that, that are active adult or not necessarily active adult, but, you know, possibly in that.
Getting ready to retire age or what have you. And, and we had to be really flexible and we changed up our Google pay-per-click and, looked at, you know, what other online resources we were using to advertise. I'm not a huge print fan, so we don't do very much of that at all. but we adjusted all of those too.
Kind of switch up our buyer profile. So it's it's yes, it's these folks who are the millennials, but it also, we need to target both. so,
Kevin Weitzel: so quick follow-up to that. Did you have to adjust your marketing spend at all or divert the focus more toward digital
Michelle Smallwood: you know [00:20:00] what we, when, when COVID hit, we re I really took that opportunity to say everything digital.
Everything digital, because I have been wanting that for a while and, you know, everybody's got their own perspective, like I say. but that was a huge opportunity for us to go okay. Digital, digital, digital. And so, yeah, we redeploy, we didn't necessarily expand the budget. We redeployed what we had maybe expanded it a little bit, but mostly just kind of adjusted what we had.
And, targeted a couple of different groups and then you see what's working. What's not, I mean, a lot of marketing is trial and error almost, you know, test, see what works, what works, keep doing what doesn't work, jettison and move on.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, it's funny you say the, trial and error. I know for a fact that K. Hov has done a lot of trial and error over the years.
So Chris, even though you're relatively [00:21:00] new with that team, what seven, eight months or so. I know that the DFW market is rather diverse. Have you seen a change in the, the client that's coming? That is your typical client at K Hov? No,
Chris Hartley: I mean, I think the biggest change and probably this is probably true across the entire country is, you know, DFW will do 43,000 permits just this year alone.
So it's one of the largest, if not the largest in the entire country. And when the last time we did this many permits, our average sales price was under 200,000. So most of the countries, like that's just absolutely crazy for us. Now, our average sales price is 375 across our market. And so a first time buyer here in DFW, and again, probably like most of the country is right around 350 to 400,000.
And so as you're targeting these buyers, what are you. What are you focusing on? What are they looking for? One thing that we have done drastically is change a lot of the floor plans that we're offering. And a lot of the ways that we market the spaces within our home, from the way that we do our presentations with our interior designers to, you know, [00:22:00] offering extra bedrooms for school space, whether it be home offices or a gym or whatever that may be really focusing on the fact that the floor plan today is more.
Moldable to the lifestyle that you need. And we are molding and offering structural options that will really fit more buyers that walked through the door, then targeting, so to speak just one particular demographic. Hmm.
Kevin Weitzel: That makes a lot of sense. So with the, with the market changing the way it is and you know, everything going digital, what tech do you absolutely.
Can you not live without Chris? What, what, what are some of the things like if you had your top three tools that you have in your toolbox? What are you not letting the brass take away from you?
Chris Hartley: And this I'm gonna have to use from former place, just because I had more control over their Atlas RTX and down, just a better way to communicate with the chat bot and follow up.
The second one that I would say would be 149 Photo, and not just because they're a sponsor, I'm a huge believer in this and you [00:23:00] know, so much so that I have a good friend of mine who has 126 homes and self and backlog. And he was going and photographing all of his humps and stuff. And I'm like, this is just absolutely crazy.
You know, there's a company that does this and what's your taking your time away to do this. You would be selling so many more home. I mean, today's day and age. People expect that. And you know, I have a investment property, so to speak that has that same thing where I get weekly updates on those photos that is just absolutely game changing.
And then I would say absolutely your CRM, if you are not utilizing that to it. most stability then you're just, you're failing all over the place from, you know, utilizing it for the follow-up utilizing it for the contract reporting, you name it, you got to live and die by the CRM because in today's day and age, you've got to pivot on a dime.
And if you're starting to see a trend, you need to move a lot quicker than, than historically what we've seen.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. And your CRM could definitely allow for that. Ashley, what about you? What are the three pieces of tech that you will not let anybody take away from you?
Ashely De Young Seibert: I [00:24:00] definitely love Matterport Tours and we've had an in-house videographer and photographer.
It just is what works for our company being a smaller local company. so that person has been with us for eight years, that position. And so being able to like, you know, Chris was mentioning photograph any home as soon as we need to video tour the home. Like I mentioned the Matterport. and then I think my new favorite thing is the unattended access.
So, right now, like most builders we're prob I mean, we are sold out of all of our spec homes, so I can't even test using other companies, but, we definitely liked the option of the enter now, and unattended access. So I feel like those are probably my favorite things.
Kevin Weitzel: Michelle, anything you want to add to that? They already took a lot.
Michelle Smallwood: I'm kind of right with there with Ashley and Chris, our, our, CRM. We are chasing that down and I'll tell you we've gotten tighter and tighter with it since COVID because. [00:25:00] All eyes are on our Sierra and we have our, a pipeline call once a week. And we're all looking at, you know, who's coming, who's going, what ratings we have out there.
So I would say the CRM, we are, launching. Atlas RTX with our new website in about a week and a half. So I'm hoping that's one of the ones that I can't live without. I think so far based on what I've seen, that's going to be, a good game changer for us. And I also agree with Ashley. I think that Matterport Tours are, really kind of.
Buyer changing or prospect changing because they can walk through a space that is just possibly unreachable for them. They are either in New Jersey and can't get down to see us, or they are just being more cautious and don't want to go out and about. and I, and I think that's a big driver for us as well.
Kevin Weitzel: So I want to do just a quick, [00:26:00] now that we're talking about tech, I want to do just a quick, rapid fire to see what you guys have all implemented. And Chris, since you are a video list, let me just have you say yes to any of these. Okay. Obviously let's go first with CRM. Just show of hands, Ashley or Michelle.
All right. an ERP and estimation tool.
Erik Martinez: Yes. Okay.
Chris Hartley: Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: Real time chat
Chris Hartley: now,
Kevin Weitzel: not yet a chat bot,
a online contracting.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah.
Michelle Smallwood: We use, online. They can do, do their deposit online as well.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay.
Chris Hartley: We do have that. Also.
Kevin Weitzel: I've got to follow up on that one too, but, touchless buying process,
Ashely De Young Seibert: docusign
Kevin Weitzel: and I know you do the whole process with you can be really, it touches on, I know Michelle has to, okay. How I'm pretty sure you guys do too.
Chris Hartley: We do
Kevin Weitzel: interactive floor [00:27:00] plans.
Interactive site plan. So real-time status updates, not giving it to the graphics person to have them update it and then give it to the website person to have it brought back up online interactive site plans. Yes. Okay. virtual tours, Matterport. I know that all of you guys do the Matterports, when you do your virtual tours are either or let's go with rendered or animated virtual, tours
Ashely De Young Seibert: For photos, we have renderings of homes that we haven't had built.
We don't have video or virtual tours that are rendered.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay. And typically, and just to define that, that's basically, if you don't have a model or a physical building to take a Matterport camera and then go in and do a video of a it's where you have the model built rendered, and then a virtual pathway through it, whether it be animated or rendered.
So, visualizers either exterior or interior.
Chris Hartley: Not all, not all divisions,
Kevin Weitzel: OSC program, online sales [00:28:00] counselors.
Yeah. All right.
So you have one Michelle, how many of you guys have one?
Michelle Smallwood: He just started, he just started about a week ago. So we're very excited.
Kevin Weitzel: And, Chris, I know that had several year divisions. Do you do all the divisions of K. Hov Having OSC?
Chris Hartley: We do. Yeah. We operate off of a call center actually in Phoenix. So yeah, it's a very, very big deal for us.
Kevin Weitzel: And maybe they'll stop by have pizza with them. Who knows.
Chris Hartley: There you go.
Kevin Weitzel: didn't have a Follow up on, the doggone it, I lost my arm. What's that
Ashely De Young Seibert: reservation check part.
Kevin Weitzel: Yes, that's exactly it. Yeah.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Well, yeah, so for us, we don't actually have that.
So I'm very curious to hear from them what they're doing
Michelle Smallwood: we actually just have a program to do an ACH through, the bank that we use for, you know, Holiday Builders, other [00:29:00] line of credit and that kind of stuff. And it's a link on our website and they can just click the link. And put in their name and their banking information.
They get a response back saying, thank you. Your deposit has been received. And they email that to us. And we include that with the contract or the, you know, lot holder. What have you, it's been working well, we've been doing it for about 10 months now. I guess.
Ashely De Young Seibert: That's awesome.
Kevin Weitzel: Scary than trying to get that poor Prince out of prison in Nigeria.
Because there is not any, it's not fun. So websites don't last forever. We all know that the content can get stale and stuff, but, does your marketing team manage the website content? And if so, how often do you read and how often do you revamp your entire website, Michelle?
Michelle Smallwood: Well, we are actually in the.
Process of doing that right now, we had, we have two [00:30:00] websites. We have one for Holiday Builders and one for HB Value. the HB Value new site launched, at the end of August, the Holiday Builder site will probably launch I'm thinking the week of November 30th, and our other websites three years old.
And we knew at the time when we, contracted the website that is out there today, we said, I budgeted two to three years from now. We're going to need a new website because it's, you know, website technology is no different than cell phone technology or anything else. It's I don't want to say it's obsolete by the time it's launched, but.
It changes very, very quickly and you just got to roll with it. And I would say two to three years is a shelf life for a, a website.
Kevin Weitzel: Ashley.....
Ashely De Young Seibert: we are actually doing the same thing. We're redoing our website right now. and I [00:31:00] agree about every two to three years, I. I do kind of feel like a revamp or just redesign, maybe looking at that more once a year.
just cause everything's changing so fast, but, we're we cannot wait for a new website. I think what what's different for us as a, as a local builder, we only have seven floor plans and we build all seven at every community. They're all at the same community. And so the way our site was set up, now.
It's kind of confusing if you're used to using Zillow, things like that, where it's. You know, they've got the map and you've got this list view. so I think it'll be helpful for us to switch because of that, that people who are maybe not from the area can kind of see it more on the map and see that list and be able to filter through floor plans.
Even though currently we only have seven plans and that they're available at each community. So we're excited for the new website to see how that goes. But yeah, I agree. Every two years, at least.
[00:32:00] Chris Hartley: Yeah. So former place, we had two brands and we were in existence for seven years before we sold. And we redid the website four times.
So that is a belief that you're, you're redoing that at most or maximum year you're lasting two years before you have a refresh. And just like the two gals that said, you, you have to do this. I mean, it's, it's the lifeblood of your first impression and it's just so simple. Yes. They're not cheap. But neither is building a model and we know the effects of that.
And if your, your website needs to be, just spot on, it needs to be user-friendly. If you're not doing heat mapping, if you're not doing mystery, shopping on your own website, if you're not doing all of these tools that are available to see if your website. Is utilized to the best of its ability. Then you're failing big time.
And I do have to say, most national home builders do not have websites that are as good as what they probably should be. And I love watching the, the small to mid-sized builders because they are able to try this technology and move it at a [00:33:00] fairly quick pace, to see how they can engage better for us larger.
You know, home builders. It does take a little bit of time because we do have so many communities, so many different divisions that you're having to change all around. And it's just like, it takes again, just takes a little bit longer to move the big ship.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, yeah. I, I wanted to actually ask that question to Greg, but I didn't want a completely biased answer and believe it or not.
And you guys actually surprised me with your answers. I was thinking, you know, that three to four year range and you guys are giving me one to three year range, really. I mean, that's, that's much more, often than I would have even imagined myself. So that's actually a breath of fresh air that you guys are actually seeing that, that you need to stay relevant because websites do change the way people search changes.
You know, we, we're not retail, so we don't have the luxury of just saying, what's Amazon doing, let's copy it. You know, we don't have that luxury. We have to reinvent ourselves and figure things out. So let's go back in a way back time machine. And I'm going to start with Chris.
Chris, if you went back to day one, when you first started, what advice would you give to yourself [00:34:00] as a marketing or a sales manager?
Chris Hartley: Oh, my God, you know, so 2003, and I have a picture of myself when I first started, it's kind of funny. I had highlights in my hair and everything. So, I would say, you know, more and more on a networking scale is get involved in the industry as much as you can get to know other people throughout the country.
Getting involved with them. Ashley's brother is actually a good friend of mine and did the Jeff Shore Leadership Council together. There's not a week that goes by that I don't talk to five or six people within my group. And if you're not well networked throughout the country, you're missing out on opportunities to learn new ways of doing business.
And, you know, we still often get stuck on our own little world and our own little market when the answer could be as easy as just making a phone call to a friend in California or North Carolina or whatever it may be. So get the chance and get the opportunity to meet people across the country sooner rather than later.
And it'll change your whole career.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. Michelle,
Michelle Smallwood: I agree with Chris. That's great. I would also, say you've got to be flexible. [00:35:00] Our business changes so rapidly sometimes. And to your point, the way people search for homes, the way buyers see us, the way we engage them, that all happened so quickly.
And, you know, I think my younger self would probably be pretty rigid and say, here's my plan. And. Sometimes you gotta go, you know what? That was your plan last week today, it's not your plan anymore. We made a new plan. So I think flexibility is key to getting it right, because it's so much of test and, and, you know, kind of test and dump what works and do more or dump what doesn't work and do more of what works.
Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. Don't dump. It works. Ashley and just so you know, all the people that are out there watching this thing and listening in [00:36:00] today, we will get to all your individual questions. w we're just almost done with my string here, and then we'll jump right into your questions, just so you know, Ashley.
I know that you're still a little pinch green, but what advice would you give to somebody just starting today?
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah. I think they covered a lot of really great things. I think I'd add. what we've kind of talked about is just, don't forget the basics. If you don't have a functioning website, a functional product.
in a desirable location, it's, it's going to be harder to sell in those communities and to customers. And I think I would also, if I could look back, I would research the companies that I was going to be partnering with way more. And probably like Chris is saying connect with other. Professionals in the industry to see who, who else is out there before working with a company.
and then I would also love to have some sort of mentor that would have helped with analyzing the, the market research and the reporting so that you could [00:37:00] really. You know, make those, those decisions based on true facts and the data. So, and I think the last thing is CRM. I wish we had switched our CRM a long time ago, having a really awesome CRM is so important.
Like both of them have mentioned. checking in on the, who are the rankings and who's out there, who's under construction right now, connecting with them weekly. It's so important. And especially right now. And so I think that those are some things that I've been thinking about lately
Kevin Weitzel: on a scale of one to 10.
And I'm going to start with Chris. If we went to a national lockdown today, how poised are you as a company to be able to service your clients? To keep the boots on the ground and keep running and selling homes. Where are you at on a 1 to 10 ? One being ill-prepared 10 being bring it on,
Chris Hartley: say eight.
Kevin Weitzel: That's a good answer.
I love it, Michelle.
Michelle Smallwood: I was going to say eight [00:38:00] as well. We, we did it and we're more prepared now than we were six months ago.
Ashely De Young Seibert: I hate to repeat them, but I literally had eight written down on mine too, but there's definitely room for improvement though. I think our, our touchless could just, it could be way better.
We could think about it more. So I do want to improve that. It's not just DocuSign. I want to think of more things so
Chris Hartley: the craziest thing about the market that we're in today is. You know, for those of us who have been in this industry for a while.
So I've been doing this since 2003. I lived through the recession in Arizona and one of the hardest hit places is we always thought, you know, once we came out of the recession, we thought we were going to be ready for the next recession, but nobody in a million years thought they would be ready for what happened.
And so I remember doing many webinars, it was almost like a one a day. I was on talking about how we're going to keep our mindset positive. How are we going to focus on the technology? I'm going to focus on our people. To keep the industry going to today where we can't even keep up. It's just incredible that [00:39:00] we got very blessed as, as, as we did, you know, blessed is an interesting word, but you know, we are very fortunate to be in the industry that we are.
But I think if any of us can learn something today, it's that. You, you may think you're ready for anything, but we definitely should now be ready for anything. And anything means like, just wipe out everything you possibly thought was, was going to happen. And let's just build it from the ground up and be ready because things will eventually slow down again.
And the builders that are going to survive are the ones that actually took something out of this and learned from it and are continue to move forward. They're the accelerators. They're not the adapters in the avoiders
Kevin Weitzel: great.
Greg Bray: All right Kevin,
we got all kinds of questions popping in here from our, from our, viewing audience.
Shall we say? So, are you guys ready? Cause Kevin was going easy on you. So, so here come the home. All right. We'll start with an easy one though. Michelle, someone wanted to know the, the product that you were using for the online deposits. as far as connecting to them
[00:40:00] Michelle Smallwood: bank with a Fifth, Third, and it's just Fifth Thirds. ACH program. And, and it literally took them about two weeks to program, a little thing that said Holiday Builders and put in the information that we needed. And then we just loaded the link on the website. I mean, it was that easy.
Greg Bray: Okay. So is something that your bank is providing.
Michelle Smallwood: Okay. Are you guys are banking check with them because all the banks have an ACH, program these days.
Ashely De Young Seibert: This is awesome. I'm really excited to look into that because we were literally mailing customers envelopes to go drop their check off at a title company. So I'm
Michelle Smallwood: initially we only had a few users of that and we said, you guys, you need to tell people, this is how we take deposit. And now most of our deposits come that way and it makes it so much easier for accounting as [00:41:00] well.
Because the money just shows up. It's great.
Greg Bray: And if anybody has other money, they need to just show up. I can help you
Michelle Smallwood: exactly. I'll
Greg Bray: take that too. All right. So here's, here's a, a question, about engagement. So, the, the question is I'm gonna try and summarize this here, but, but looking to find ways to engage buyers while they're waiting for their meetings, with the architecture with designers, Between their pre-construction meeting too.
And all of these different weight points because the timelines are longer now. So how do we, how do we keep these buyers engaged? Chris, you want to go first on that one?
Chris Hartley: I think once the physical construction of the home starts, you know, not just because they're a sponsor, but I'm a huge believer. And at 149 Photo is so easy because you know, you're literally getting weekly updates on the home, the realtor, the prospect, whomever it is, and then you can easily share it too.
The other thing is. you know, looking at other builders and shopping your competition at a highly [00:42:00] encourage you to shop your competition, thoroughly mystery shop, whatever it may be, look and see what they're doing. That may be a little bit more unique and follow the customer mapping journey. Better than you ever have.
You know, utilizing video is a huge thing. I mean, video is so easy today, but, you know, are you having, are you having a video that has somebody on there that's less than two minutes that says, Hey, you know, I understand that right now. You're probably getting a little antsy. That's normal. Here's, here's some of the things that you should think about and just kind of give a list of things or run certain contests or running videos of why people love living in this community, or what did they realize was their favorite part of living here or their home or whatever it is, as long as you're constantly engaging with them.
Not having it be long, drawn out processes before they ever hear back from you again,
Greg Bray: Ashley, what, what would you, suggest for trying to keep that engagement going?
Ashely De Young Seibert: I think everything that Chris just said was really spot on. one thing that we also do is some drone videography of our home sites. And so [00:43:00] if that customer maybe purchase a home site and just wants to keep looking at it again, like you could just do some drone footage and show whether it has a cool view or the size of it.
and then maybe showing, like, bringing them back to your website too. Like we have the online kitchen changer or, we also have with Outhouse, our interactive floor plans and. Saving the furniture. And then we also added every single photo of our elevations on the exterior tab. And so that's kind of our way of doing an interactive exterior, where they click through each one and they could see the colors change.
And so, I think just continually using the stuff that you already have and bringing it back to them and reminding them that they have it.
Kevin Weitzel: And one little disclaimer, because you just mentioned that, is that because their market, their homes are pre platted in most, if not all cases, it's not like where, when you build a Mississippi and you can paint your house, Pepto, Bismal pink and blueberry shutters, none of that stuff.
So the visualizer, it takes on a different role [00:44:00] in that, on the West Coast side of the, of the country that pre-planning really does eliminate that necessity for that added cost.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah,
Greg Bray: Michelle, anything to add on keeping them engaged during long wait times between stages,
Michelle Smallwood: you know, Greg, we, you know, you're from Florida, so, you know, we're, we are experienced yet.
That is our daily life here. and we've implemented a program where we are contacting the buyer once a week. If nothing else to say, Hey, we know you don't see. Construction starting on your home, but here are all the things that are going on in the background. We want you to know this part's done. We've moved to this step where we're doing this work so that there's some kind of understanding that we haven't just taken their money and are sitting for 90 days or 120 days.
and just helping people through that process. [00:45:00] Seems to have improved the situation for us. And I, I try and encourage, the sales team and they've done a great job at it to send out video emails. and they're not kind of the, Preplanned videos that I think Chris was talking about, but they're the real live Hey buyer, this is why you purchased from Holiday Builders.
And for me, and let me tell you what's going on and it takes no time at all. To record one of those. But gosh, the feeling of it is very different than an email that comes out that says, and we want to let you know when you've completed your drawings and it's gone on to this department and this is what's going to happen next.
I mean, it is a different feel.
Kevin Weitzel: So actually that brings up an interesting point. We know that statistically speaking, that buyers buy into all the digital implementations you put out there, you put IP's in your website, you get a larger, [00:46:00] amount of time spent on your page. You get much more engagement, but here's the crux of it.
How do you get, what have you found to be successful to get your sales team, to buy into the technology that you've spent money on? And let's start with Michelle, since you, since you just basically
Michelle Smallwood: start that. you know,
Kevin Weitzel: that
Michelle Smallwood: was a lot of what I spent my time on in the end of March and all of April, to just say you guys, here's where we are.
And I literally use the technology with them every day and I would send them videos and I did a screen share so they could see my, my talking head and my screen. And this is how you do it and this, and. You know, I challenge them. I you know, I said, you guys want Starbucks gift card, send me a video email.
I want to see your video email. And as elementary is that may sound, I have to tell you, the first [00:47:00] video email I got was from the person I least expected to send me a video email. And he was like, you know what, Michelle, if you can do this, I can do this. You showed me how to do it. I can make it happen. And you know, it was, we were spaghetti on the wall actually in April to see, you know, you're trying everything to make sure that the people you already have stay engaged and the people who are looking can continue to have the holiday builders under consideration and.
Kind of leading by example, I guess, to help our team a lot, I think, cause I, you know what, I'm not above making a fool of myself when I'm video.
I'll do it.
Kevin Weitzel: I definitely do it. Ashley. You have a smaller, more pivotable pivoting team. how do you get your, your sales teams to buy [00:48:00] into the, I mean, you guys spend good money on tech.
So how do you get them to buy in? What are your expectations?
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah, so we definitely encourage video email, and I think we deal with the same thing that every builder's probably dealing with. Sometimes you got to. Excite the sales team to really want to do things. And, so we recently actually I think last month did a competition and our sales team is very competitive.
Most salespeople are competitive. And so we did a competition with them. So that's a, maybe a fun idea to spruce things up and, you know, give away something that's exciting that they all want. And, so there was like, I think the most creative video email to a lead. and then the most improved on how many they sent.
So that that's kind of how we did that. And, it went really well, but I think we have to keep, promoting doing these video emails and connecting with the buyers, even if it's just, you know, something small to update them on.
Kevin Weitzel: So contests [00:49:00] bribery, leading by example, Chris, let's say you.
Chris Hartley: Yeah. I mean, I love all of those things and it's always been a really big deal.
Technology is always at the forefront in my mind. But when you're bringing out in you're initiating certain things, I'm always a huge believer that you do not initiate it with the entire team. You pick a small amount of all stars to test pilot. It understand where it's right and where it's wrong, have them be successful with it.
And then when the others on the team start to see that there's something special out there that they don't have. Then they start to want it and they start to ask for it. And then next thing you know, you have the entire buy-in of your entire sales team because they decided to buy into it. And when somebody decides to buy into something, rather than you pushing upon them, you're going to be far more successful.
And I love bribery. I love contests. I love shaming people if they don't do something. I mean, all of those things are effective, but you, as a leader, need to make sure that you are utilizing the tools as well. You can not be one of those people that comes in and says, well, you know, I [00:50:00] know that we bought this for you.
I don't really know how to use it myself, but you need to ask somebody and figure it out. Like you need to, you yourself need to be the pioneer in the technology. And if they have a question for it, you need to be the
Greg Bray: All right. So Ashley another, another question, I think this was for, you wanted some more details on how the virtual grand opening kind of worked and what you set up there.
Just a little bit more detail.
Ashely De Young Seibert: Yeah.
So we do a preview night before the actual grand opening. And then, and that's. Online, we use Facebook and we premiere a video on Facebook. and then for our grand opening, we, do the same thing. We premiere a video on Facebook and like I mentioned, then there's a virtual line that they sign up for and it's all in, first come first serve to the most qualified buyer and they have to answer some questions to.
See where they are at on the qualified status. And then they also let us know what home sites, you know, their favorite three home sites they're interested in. And that's kind of how I, in an overview, how it works. But if [00:51:00] anyone wants to talk to me, you can email me and, you know, we could talk separately too about virtual grand openings.
Greg Bray: Terrific. So, so here's, here's a question that I have, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take, you know, host privilege. And as my question before everybody else's right. so what is one marketing event or technique or campaign or a website feature? Something that, that you saw somebody else do where you just went? Wow. We've got to do that, Chris.
Chris Hartley: Oh man. You know, there's, there's so many things when you look at it, there's a really phenomenal, company here in DFW called Rumor. And they paired up with an entire development where they required every builder in there to utilize their program. And it was really. Pushing forward.
These color packages, interior color packages to where you click the button and the entire kitchen would change your places inside the room would change. you know, I believe strongly and there's other organizations that companies that do that, that are on this, that's the direction people want to go.
People want to be able to see touch and feel it [00:52:00] immediately. And I think anytime you can get people, instant gratification, you're winning.
Greg Bray: All right, Michelle, what made you go? Wow, we've got to, we've got to do this.
Michelle Smallwood: Okay. We, honestly have been a little bit in the dark ages as it pertains to, that and, online sales consultant and all of that.
And the chat bot seemed to me most recently to be the wow of, we have got to do that because that is going to make a material difference in what goes on. At Holiday Builders and the leads that come in and, and how we can manage the leads. And, and for me, getting leads through the website is generally the most cost effective way to do it right.
Rather than through Zillow or whatever. So that's, that was the biggest thing for me. And although it's not new, it's new for us.
Greg Bray: Sure. All right. Ashley, anything that made you say, wow, we need to try that or do [00:53:00] that.
Ashely De Young Seibert: what comes to mind is since we're doing a new website right now, we've been looking at almost like every builder's website in America.
And, some of the ones that are always so fun to look at is one is which, CBH Homes. I, I think that their website's always fun and has a cookie spin to it. And so I definitely liked the feature that they had of like how many times this community has been viewed, or this floor plan has been viewed in the last 48.
48 hours. So just like fun things like that. They're also doing the buy online button. so that's very intriguing to us to see if we want to implement that and how we would make that happen. And, for other inspiration, I mean, I'm definitely looking at Zillow as well and how their sites functions and, trying to really make sure that we provide an easy platform for customers.
Kevin Weitzel: It's funny, you mentioned Zillow because, they are notorious for real-time AB testing and you can actually see it when you log on from one day to another to another, and you can actually [00:54:00] see their AB testing in progress. It's kind of, kind of cool. And, Michelle, you actually brought up something kind of interesting too, as well.
And that was about, you know, seeing those implementations feeling like you're in the dark ages or that you had been in the dark ages. And, and I appreciate the honesty and just the forthcoming of that, of that. self-assessment but what would you place as far as importance on being prepared and just constantly looking at ways to improve engagement, improve efficiencies, you know, Obviously it's important, but, is it, has you, have you changed your focus a little bit toward that direction of making sure?
Michelle Smallwood: I think it's critical. again, the technology's changing so quickly, buyer's perspective is changing quickly and, you know, demands of a buyer. I mean, back in probably 2008. Having granite countertops in an entry-level home was just not a [00:55:00] important thing. Now buyers expect that. so looking at all of those things is I think critical.
I mean, we're, we're constantly looking at and changing our standard features as well as. how, how we're marketing things. We, one of the changes we made, earlier this year is if we have a plan that can be a den office or a bedroom, well, we used to default it to a bedroom and the dead office was the option.
Well, now it's reversed. So now the den office is the standard and the bedroom is the option because what does everybody need right now? They need a place to work from home. So, and that includes things like looking at, the website and, you know, my next big thing I want to do is interactive floor plans, but we have to get the website [00:56:00] launched first and then, and then.
Greg Bray: We were all speaking, speaking, speaking of next year, Michelle. So our last, our last question, because we're just about out of time, but last question, looking ahead, 20, 21 optimistic or pessimistic
Michelle Smallwood: Optimistic,
all the way.
Greg Bray: Okay. Michelle's optimistic.
Ashely De Young Sei