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Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Martinez

41 The Fundamental Change in Consumer Behavior - Meredith Oliver

The Fundamental  Change in Consumer Behavior - Meredith Oliver

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Production by: Josh Williamson and KT Maschler 

Editing by: KT Maschler 

On this week's episode of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Greg and Kevin had the opportunity to chat with Meredith Oliver, Chief Digital Marketing Strategist of Meredith Communications. They discuss making data-driven marketing decisions, how customers have fundamentally changed from the COVID-19 pandemic, and so much more.

Meredith has 18 years of digital marketing experience including website design, SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (paid search engine marketing), social media marketing, content marketing, and blogging experience. She specializes in home builder marketing and is a MIRM (Master in Residential Marketing) and an MCSP (Master Certified Sales Professional). Meredith holds a Master’s Degree in Communication Technology from Rollins College, and she is an internationally known sales and marketing keynote speaker. She is also the author of three books: Click Power (out of print), FANtastic Marketing, and FANtastic Selling.

Meredith leads a team of eight to deliver FANtastic digital marketing solutions for home builders at Meredith Communications. Her team specializes in homebuilder marketing and is celebrating 18 years of delivering digital marketing solutions such as website design/development, search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (SEM), content marketing, and social media marketing (paid and organic).

Show Notes

Guest Links:


We have a favor to ask; if you enjoy the podcast, please take a minute to rate it on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to the show. A quick rating and short review help others discover the podcast.

Production by: Josh Williamson and KT Maschler 

Editing by: KT Maschler 

Transcript

Greg Bray:  [00:00:00] Hello everybody. And welcome 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: We are thrilled today to be joined by the one and only the super deluxe famous wonderful Meredith Oliver. Welcome, Meredith.

Meredith Oliver: I'm so glad to be here. Super deluxe famous only in her own mind. Of course. Right.

Greg Bray: Well, I mean, Meredith, I feel likenwe don't [00:01:00] even need to do the introduction part, but maybe just in case somebody hasn't met you yet or heard of you or something, why don't you give us a little bit of that.

Kevin Weitzel: Who doesn't know Meredith? 

Meredith Oliver: I don't know. Maybe I should be teaching classes on personal branding instead of Home Builder Marketing. Right. Yeah. So in case you're not familiar, I am Meredith Oliver from Meredith Communications, we're out of Raleigh, North Carolina, I'm in my 20th year of home builder marketing services.

So, you know, like these guys, we help home builders get their message out and sell more homes, mostly using digital marketing. We love what we do. We're a small, but mighty team of creative people who are passionate about it, and wouldn't do anything else. Even if we have the chance, this is what we do.

This is what we love. 

Kevin Weitzel: So Meredith, when I owned a bicycle store, one of my customers and our corporate colors were orange and blue, very, very bright orange and one of my customers was Kevin Brogan. He was the former center for the Miami [00:02:00] Dolphins. And when I went to go give him a shirt, cause I wanted, this rockstar, this giant beast of a man to wear my shirt, he goes, can't do it.

I'm like why? He goes, Can't do it. I went to Vanderbilt and I'll never wear orange. He looks over at his two daughters that were just little pipsqueaks at the time. And he goes girls, what color does daddy not allow in the house? They go orange. And, I noticed that you went to Rollins College and the University of Central Florida.

And excuse me, for being a layperson on knowing whether either one of those two or one of those kinds of schools where you don't wear certain colors in the house, but are either one of those two schools that's. 

Meredith Oliver: Yeah. Yeah. So, we are big college football fans in this house, Alan and I both, Alan's my husband.

He's also my business partner, AKA he's known as operations, I'm known as talent. This is how we worked together all these years. And I'm serious. Our friends, our family, our [00:03:00] clients, they all refer to us this way. So operations and I are both from Florida. But we're from different schools in Florida. So he's actually from Miami he's always wearing orange.

Kevin, always he's always got on orange because he is a Miami Hurricane football fan, like to the bone, right. I happen to be a Florida Gator football fan. Because my family is all from the Gainesville, Florida area. Now I didn't get to go to school there because I was a scholarship kid who had to put myself through school and I got a scholarship.

I got a full ride to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, go Knights, which was an awesome and a great place to go. I had to go where I had a place, you know, I had a free ride to go. 

Kevin Weitzel: You have to follow the money. Right. 

Meredith Oliver: I had [00:04:00] to follow the money, even in college. I had been an entrepreneur since day one. So I actually graduated from college with money in the bank.

They paid me to go to college and I had money left over because I went to college where it was cheaper than what they paid me to go. That's where communications was born. 

Greg Bray:  And this is how we solved the student debt problem in America. 

Meredith Oliver: Right. So I'm a Gator fan, but of course, I'm also a UCF fan. And then. Several years later when it came to do my graduate work, I did go to Rollins college to do my graduate work.

This is where the crazy story of all the beauty pageants came into play because I never ever did those as a kid. And I had no desire to do them and I had no interest in it, but I did have a talent for singing. Somebody recognized that and said, Hey, if you were to enter these Miss America beauty pageants, where 40% of the score is [00:05:00] talent competition we think you'd win because of this opera singing talent you've got, and you could pay for this master's degree. So I paid for a master's degree at Rollins college through the Miss America pageant system and that's how I got a free graduate degree. So that's how Rollins college happened.

That's how I got a degree in communication technology, which is how I ended up running a digital marketing business that gets us to present day. 

Greg Bray: Yeah. 

Kevin Weitzel: So there's another organization you're very heavily involved with and that's the NAHB. And for those who don't know, you have a treasure trove of initials after your name?

There's MIRM there's NSMC there's NCH. BA what are all these things stand for? 

Meredith Oliver: Yeah, and I don't know what colors those are either

orange or blue or black or gold or white you're supposed to do. I just [00:06:00] know when you go to get your ribbons at the ribbon desk. You know, when we used to leave our homes and go places in person, we're ribbons. I ended up with a bunch of ribbons, but yeah, I do. I have a MIRM which is master's in residential marketing.

It's the highest marketing resignation you can receive in our industry, a master's, certified sales professional, same thing on the sales side. It just says that I've taken a lot of the education courses over the years in sales and marketing, primarily. There are lots of them in other disciplines in our industry.

I haven't done green building or code requirements or yeah, a lot of cool stuff I hadn't done, obviously, but if it was sales or marketing related, I tried to take it, absorb it, and then become an instructor to offer, to be able to teach those courses. So whatever I've done over the years, I've always tried to get really involved, [00:07:00] whether it was in college or in the pageants or at any HB or whatever, because it's the relationships in our business that really make it something right.

It's not just a transaction. 

Kevin Weitzel: So even though electrical panels, aren't probably on the docket for your future here. Obviously you do recommend taking the NAHB, education series that are out there.

Meredith Oliver:  100%. Oh yeah, and they've thought they've moved a lot of them to online.

 I think that any amount of education that you can absorb,vnot only will it be what you get out of the instruction book.You know, I did a, basically, a digital marketing master's degree when late nineties, early 2000, there isn't hardly any of that factual knowledge of still applies to what I do today.

The whole thing is turned over. How many times since then, right Greg? It's not even the same [00:08:00] content, but how I learn to learn. How I learned to work on a team, how I learned to give a presentation, how the, the critical thinking skills, the connections that I made, all of it is because I attended that master's degree program.

So it's not just the actual factual knowledge that you get out of doing education. 

Greg Bray: I think Kevin I've noticed we've had several guests over the last little while that have some singing skills in their background, I'm thinking somewhere, once we can get everybody together, again, we'll have to do like a, a little choir special for everyone, or maybe next year we'll do a holiday Christmas Carol special or something. 

Meredith Oliver: I would love it

Greg Bray: Don't know if we can do that on zoom though.  

Meredith Oliver: I don't think that will work.

Greg Bray: We'll have to see how that works out. But for Meredith, how do you go from singing your way through college in communications to actually specializing in the builder industry?

What made you [00:09:00] decide that that was where you wanted to apply your knowledge? 

Meredith Oliver: Yeah. So hearing him at Rollins college in this, Corporate Communication Technology program, trying to find a path for myself. Cause I was kind of lost., my goal was to be Miss America because she was a highly paid spokesperson professional speaker.

That was the reason I was there. I didn't care anything about the beauty pageant side of it. I did that. Didn't dream it didn't happen and I didn't know what I was doing. So I entered this college graduate program and one of the students in the program was the director of communications for the Orlando Home Builders Association.

She was pregnant with her first child. We built a relationship and she said, you know, I've decided I'm not going back to work full time and you are my replacement. My boss just doesn't know it yet. And she said you're coming to lunch with me and my boss. I'm going to help him understand you are my replacement.

And she helped me get my job. My [00:10:00] first job in the home building industry as director of communications at the Orlando Home Builders Association. Then, you know, I just began that I began a path in our industry and I nobody's been able to get rid of me since 

Greg Bray: Well it's always so interesting to look back at some of those decision points right.

In our careers and the way that, maybe we had some people that have always known what they wanted to do and others, it just kind of some opportunities show up and then you take advantage and go forward. I think that's awesome. I think it's awesome. 

Meredith Oliver: I mean, I loved the people of our industry.

 I remember my first day on the job at the Home Builders Association was a membership meeting. It was like a Monday, and that Monday night was the GMM, the general membership meeting, their monthly meeting, and it was networking and everybody had a beer and they were talking and they were friendly and I've seen her [00:11:00] ongoing.

They call this work? This looks like the greatest funniest thing ever and these are beautiful new homes they're talking about. They were building a charity home at that time and I was going to head up that project and do the PR work for it. I just remember thinking, this is cool. I could do this, there's way worse opportunities than this.

So I was in, I was hooked. 

Greg Bray: So Meredith, one of the things that you've done more recently this year is you started, I believe what you're calling the Builder Town Hall. Tell us just a little bit more about what that is for those who may not have heard about it and how they can participate. 

Meredith Oliver: Yeah.

So I think we're all a little zoomed out of the traditional webinar format. I mean, there's still a place for them, I'm not knocking it. It's great. But I wanted to offer a place for, especially during this very challenging time of business, where there [00:12:00] was no playbook, there was no guidebook. I was kind of laughing at different entities, putting out the COVID business playbook.

I don't have one, and if you think you just wrote one, nobody knows what they're doing. You are full of it. I found that very amusing. I'm like, wow, that takes some confidence right there. but anyway, so I kind of feel like none of us knew what we were doing, but did the world need another webinar?

Traditional webinar? No, but what maybe we did need was a place of community. Where we could come together using a platform like zoom and have a conversation. And it started out as a weekly conversation, anybody and everybody in the industry, you just have to be in the home building industry is welcome to attend.

It's now a monthly conversation because I did weekly for so many weeks in a row. It is hard to put on a weekly one-hour conversation. That is interesting because it was [00:13:00] basically like programming a one-hour live television show every week. It was a lot. So we did it for 12, 13 weeks in a row. And then I was like, Oh, my word, this is a lot.

So I pulled back to monthly. So now it's a monthly one-hour zoom meeting anybody and everybody in the industry's welcome. You don't have to be in sales and marketing, although we tend to attract mostly sales and marketing professionals, but anybody is welcome. You can work for a builder or work for an associate type of business mortgage, whatever title.

We don't care. But if you want to just talk about what's happening right now, we've got a new shelter in place orders. We don't know what to do. Okay. Let's talk about it. So it's just meant to be kind of free-flowing conversation in real-time. No slides, just kind of offering support to people as we navigate our way through unprecedented time [00:14:00] of business in our industry.

Kevin Weitzel: Well, I've attended them and I love the fact that it is Fluff. There's a lot of these ones where you go on to them and it's kumbaya and then it's, let's all brag about each other. And yours is really kind of hits home to the issues that everybody's having right now.

And, you know, I do value your opinion. You are a multi-book author, you know, we've got fantastic selling and got fantastic marketing. I know there's one that you told me that you said it's just outdated, so don't buy it. What was that? 

Meredith Oliver: Plexus Power. Yeah, 

Meredith Oliver: I retired. I've updated it so many times as I went to try to do it again.

And I was like, I can't even, I just need to start over. So I was going to do it this year. Yeah, it was, I have a whole nother new book plan for this year. Then I ended up shelving it because it seemed like builder town hall was where my focus and my energy was really needed. Like people [00:15:00] needed my help in real-time.

They didn't need a book a year from now. Right. You know? So it was like, all right, take the time. I would have carved out every week to get a chapter done and produce this one-hour live zoom. I think the interesting thing about Builder Town Hall, and you can find it. If you're interested, if you're listening and you haven't participated, just go to Facebook type in Builder Town Hall, you'll find our Facebook group.

I'll approve you to join the group. And that's where we post the zoom link. So you can sign up and get, get into the meetings. But the thing about it is I try to feature. Real people working in the industry in the field. It's not just a lot of us consultant people. I mean, I do use a lot of us, so you guys have all been on it and I use us, but I also try to talk to a lot of salespeople, marketing people, online sales counselors, builder owners.

So that it feels very authentic and I'm hopefully elevating voices [00:16:00] that are not necessarily always heard from. Cause we kinda hear from the same few of us a lot and I'm sick of us.

I'm tired of us a little bit, a little.

Greg Bray: Well, I just want to go on record Meredith. With kudos for making it happen, because I think, your efforts there in a time, especially at the beginning, back in late March, early April, when you kind of kicked it off, was, was so generous to give that time to everybody.

And I'm thrilled that it's continued and still has, you know, folks coming and value there because there's some good stuff. There's been some really good stuff.

Meredith Oliver: Yeah, I enjoy doing it. It's hard. I'm not going to kid you. It's hard to do live as you. Well, as you guys know, from doing your life, digital summit that you do, it is hard.

When you've got several hundred people watching and you just pray your internet, [00:17:00] doesn't go down and your guests show up. I mean, I basically am programming like a live stream internet show. You know, for the hour and it's challenging, but I enjoy doing it and the value seems to be there.

So we'll keep going. And when people stop watching, we'll stop there.

Greg Bray: There is that nice little feedback loop, right? Is anybody watching you today then? I guess we'll see what happens, 

Meredith Oliver: I really, I regretted so strongly my reaction to 2008. Ish. I reacted with fear. I reacted to slowly. I saw and I know you guys can relate to this because you're so analytics and data-driven, and I think that's why we get along so well.

And we share clients and we enjoy working together is because just like you guys that we saw in the data and analytics leading into 08 that the [00:18:00] numbers weren't good and things were changing, but I didn't take enough of a leadership role with my clients at that time to prepare them to. I just reacted personally with a lot of fear and kind of shut down and it led to several very difficult years personally, professionally the whole way around.

And I just thought, you know, if I go through a Black Swan type business, and then again, this isn't how I want to handle this, and now, of course, my hope was to not have to live up to that promise. I mean, really it wasn't 2008 and not people seriously. 

Greg Bray: I admit to having some of those flashbacks in March as well, and trying to keep the PTSD reactions from overwhelming a little bit, you know?

Meredith Oliver: Yeah. And that's where I just said to myself, I can't, [00:19:00] no, I'm not doing this again. So when I felt it creeping up, I just said to myself, What can you do? What do you have? What are the skills you have? What is the talent that you have? How could it be in a format? Like I said, the world doesn't need another webinar at the moment.

They don't need more slide decks right now. What do they need? They need reassurance and calm, they need ideas. So as I started to get that, have to flush that out over a weekend. You know, and what they need more than anything was somebody to take action and to take a leadership step forward, you know?

And that's like, Kevin, like your military background. That's what I think they teach you. Right? I mean, I don't have that background like you do, but I think that's kind of what they teach you is to like find the path and move it forward. 

Kevin Weitzel: Absolutely. I'm actually glad that you said to take action because what I see a lot, I don't worry about five to go [00:20:00] up against X, Y, or Z out there.

I really don't. It doesn't bother me. You know, competition is competition. That's just the way it is. But what does bother me is when I'm having to go up against. Fear of change, fear of implementation, fear of the pain that you have to the temporary pain to see the light that you're going to get at the end of that tunnel.

And that is what I really appreciate about you just saying, taking action, because a lot of builders, they're afraid to take action and they're afraid to implement, and that's really what it comes down to. You have to be able to take action, implement. Otherwise, you can never hit that battleground. If you don't have your guns ready.

Meredith Oliver: Yeah. And I think that's one of the things that as an industry, we can be the proudest of this past year. I saw a lot of action taking. I stepped up to create a silly, virtual event where people could get together, but I watched builders recreate how they sell homes through virtual selling and completely update their virtual media with tools like yours and [00:21:00] enhance their websites with tools like that Greg offers and that we offer. I mean, I watched people reinvent themselves, from the toes up and it was inspiring to watch it kept me going. So it was like we got in this loop of kind of inspiring each other.

And I think that was cool. 

Kevin Weitzel: And go ahead. 

Meredith Oliver: I was going to say if I have a fear of anything coming into 2021 is that I I'm a little worn out to be perfectly honest. this has been a hard year. I mean, it's been inspiring. It's been good. We've made it, we did it, but the pace of this, the amount of homes we've ended up selling, that requires some of the rest of us who support all of you by the way has been.

Right. So I'm a little exhausted. I think we all are, we've kind of hit a second wave. We've got some more shelter in place [00:22:00] orders happening. I don't know, we're just, we don't have the fresh legs. We had that when we started. So if anything coming into 2021, I'm just kinda like, alright, where do we find kind of like a B12 shot

to kind of get through this next push, if you will. And I don't know if it's a fear, but it's a concern or it's a thought that I'm having, or, it's something a problem I'm thinking of. How do I find a solution for, or offer something on? I don't know if you guys see that or a thought of that yourself?

Greg Bray: No, I mean, Meredith, I think one of the things that I see happening now, maybe we can talk about for just a second is, just from a marketing standpoint, the risk of complacency. Because the sales have been so good, you know, and right now it looks like that's going to continue for a little bit longer.

 I feel like it's about to come crashing down with these interest rates and the shortages and inventory. And [00:23:00] some of these things that are propping it up a little bit. What do you say to builders who like, you know,. I'm too busy to invest in the market. I'm too busy to redo the website.

I'm too busy to add the stuff. I don't need it because I'm selling just fine. You know, what kinds of thoughts do you have to some of those I've heard them I've I felt them out there. Maybe you have or haven't, but, any reactions to that? 

Meredith Oliver: Well, my take is that we are ice skating on a very thin sheet of glass that could take a hard left turn and crack at any moment.

And that sounds a little doomsday stage, but honestly, I am enjoying all of our success. I am thrilled for it, but we've got election instability and uncertainty, which could unravel itself at any second. Then if the stock market reacts to that and 401ks [00:24:00] begin to react to that, depending on what COVID does.

And shelter in place and unemployment begins to react to that. If we don't get another stimulus package, again, those things begin to impact people's ability to qualify for housing. I kind of believe that our economic situation is that very thin sheet of glass that we're currently skating on. So people who immediately need housing.

Yes. We're going to sell housing to them because there's such low inventory, but the rest of the demand that we typically would sell to right. I don't know, we could take a hard left turn yet and it could slow quite a bit still. We don't know. So there's absolutely zero reasons to take the foot off the marketing gas.

At this juncture, because we don't know what this year is going to look like in terms of an economic [00:25:00] forecast. at the same time, it could all stabilize great, the ice thickens and harden into a nice thick plane. The stock market levels out, and nothing happens to the 401's were in awesome shape.

And we really boom through this year like never before. That's a possibility too. We don't know. We really don't know. 

Kevin Weitzel: Pretty cool though, is that you know, I'm kind of known for making fun of the home building industry because we are slow to adopt technology. We really are. I mean, it's just the way it is.

However, what I've seen, it's given me just a glimpse of happiness and joy that is taken away from some of this mental fatigue. We're all dealing with this year. I'm now seeing more and more builders that are innovating and changing the way they do things, implementing new technology, buy now buttons, those kinds of things, to where the point where the point I'm going with this is that it's kind of funny that instead of us looking at other industries, I caught Matt Riley.

Do you [00:26:00] look at hitting your social media posts saying that, man, how frustrating is it when I'm on the Sony website or whatever website he was on trying to get this PlayStation do dad? And he goes, it was painful because the website of this major, major company was garbage. And it wasn't Sony, just so I don't get any kind of bad slack.

Greg Bray: There goes our sponsorship.

Kevin Weitzel: Buying something Sony, just say, how frustrating was that? Their website? So lackluster and for once we actually have burrs that are sitting in existence now, 

which is awesome. 

Meredith Oliver: Yes they are. And that's what I'm saying that's what's been inspiring. So to Greg's question, don't stop now. Don't, why would you stop?

You've made so many important strides forward, keep going. All of those improvements that you've made only further streamline you [00:27:00] so that your cost per lead goes down cost per sale revenues up, right? Like all of that impacts bottom line. So we've got to keep going with it. Also keeping in mind that this whole scenario has gone on so long that it has fundamentally transformed consumer behavior.

This was not a 15-day event that we are all just going to go back to whatever. it's a little scary to think about how much this has probably impacted our kids long-term. Like my 12 year old who's old enough to really get what's happened and how this is going to impact him and how he does things and thinks about things.

I really think I'm just not gonna think about that. Cause it's significant. This has not been a small thing.  

Greg Bray: So we can't go back.

Meredith Oliver:  That's obvious. We can only go forward, we don't know what it looks like, but if anything, what we do [00:28:00] know is we can handle it because boy did we this year, boy, did we.

Greg Bray: So Meredith as you think about the people that are okay, I'm not going to take the foot off the gas. I want to continue to drive new leads and everything else. What are some of the mistakes that you're seeing them make as they're running too fast? Maybe they're not paying close enough attention.

What are some things that maybe jump out to you from a mistake standpoint? 

Meredith Oliver: One of the biggest things I'm working on right now with a number of folks is their online sales counselors got so inundated. When this all occurred, because if you think about the buyer journey I tended to like, whether you think of it as a funnel or you think of it as a linear line, or what are like mental picture?

You like the middle of the funnel. This is where the OSC is bridging the gap [00:29:00] between the online and in-person experience. Right. And that's the part that got so impacted by the closings and the shelter in place orders and all of that. Right? So the OSC is became, So paramount and important that they became inundated with phone calls and live chats and text messages to the point that they really could barely keep up with the volume that they've been handling.

So we're seeing a lot of folks where, unfortunately, the online sales counselors aren't able to do the ongoing follow-up. They're just taking the leads, either get an appointment or you don't. Then next, Do you want an appointment or not next you want an appointment, excuse me, or not. And the whole point of the online sales counselor has been lead nurturing for those ongoing periods of time.

Some of that has completely dropped off  due to nobody's fault. It's just, they need more of [00:30:00] them. So I talk about plugging the leaks in your OSC bucket. You know, I think it's time to get a really good look at your OSC program. Do you have any leaks in your lead bucket of where do you need another one?

You probably do, I mean, you're probably understaffed there. If you've only got one, if you got two, you maybe need three. 

Greg Bray: I think that's a real insight there Meredith, because so many people we've talked about, do you have an OSC one, right? It's been just this single position.

Now it's a team, right? It needs to become a team. Just like you have a sales team. I mean, I guess there are some builders, a certain size, they only have one sales person, but most of the time. So now this idea that the OSC now becomes a team function where there is some, training and mentoring and finding new folks and figuring out exactly how they interact and [00:31:00] process needs to be improved.

As soon as you go from one person to two right now, you got to have a process. You can't just make it up as you go. And all these types of things that happen. 

Meredith Oliver: So these folks are working seven days a week, 10 hours a day, fielding hundreds of leads of the month. It's not sustainable. What's going to happen is you're only going to respond initially one time, maybe twice, either they make an appointment or they don't, and then they nothing happens.

And that defeats the entire point of the process. So OSC, circle back, and these folks don't want to raise their hand and say they need help. because it makes it feel like they're not doing a good job. Maybe it impacts compensation but there's ways to structure it where it doesn't have to impact their compensation and it doesn't make it does it.

It's not an indictment that they're doing a poor job, but they need help. [00:32:00] And you, as the leader needs to be there too. To recognize that in a positive way and give them the support that they need. 

Kevin Weitzel: So the automobile industry, and I can fall back on this because it's my area of expertise. When they rent, installing online sales counselors 15 years ago, you know, it was a rapid influx of that necessity.

And what they found was that it was a ramp-up of touch to close deal. Right now they're hovering at 85 plus percent of any sale they have on the floor was touched by their online sales counselor. So what we're seeing on the automobile side is that for every sales person to have on the floor, they have 90% online sales counselors.

So if you've got 10 salespeople, you need to have nine online sales counselors. Now, granted we have a slightly different business model than the automobile industry, but if you think about this one right now, most home builders are using their online sales counselor as a yes/no filter. That's all they're using it for just like you suggested [00:33:00] with a yes/no filter appointment, no appointment, but what they're missing out on radically missing out on is the maybe filter.

If you're not cultivating those maybes into yeses, then they're definitely being automatically plopped right in the no bucket. 

Meredith Oliver: So the number that we quote for the contribution of what we call the online sales division, Which is generally one person in the company to total sales for mature online sales programs.

So that would be a program that's at least one year old is 40% at least. So you can have one person, the online sales division of one person contributing 40% of total sales. Now we have programs that are currently running that are many years old that have had lots of training and coaching that have two and three online sales [00:34:00] counselors.

That are contributing 60% of total sales. I mean, the number goes up from there. I'm talking, that's a minimum number at 40%. So there we get absolutely benchmark what you're seeing over in the auto industry, in our industry. And it is possible for a very small portion of your sales team, the online portion to contribute a large part of your sales.

Greg Bray: And it's those buyers for six to nine months from now that you know that we're going to miss out on, 

Meredith Oliver:  Yeah. This is your pipeline, right, of your future sales, I'm always asked this, you know, or is this where these people going to buy anyway, maybe if they could have, if somebody picked up the phone at the model home and they got their question answered, if somebody returned their email from the sales office, or the design [00:35:00] center, and they got their question answered.

If somebody had been able to be available on live chat from the sales office model home, and we all know things, most of those was no, no, and no. And now because we're indicting the salesperson or saying they're doing a poor job, not at all. What would we have them do? Ignore the person that is standing in front of them and say, I'm sorry. I can not talk to you right now because I need to follow up with someone over email that I haven't heard from in two weeks. That would be so rude, right? Oh no, I can not pick up the phone that is ringing right now and speak to that person because I need to call this person back that I haven't talked to in a week.

No, it doesn't work, right. It doesn't work. So it's not an indictment of our onsite salespeople. It's just, a different role, but I'm telling you, your online sales counselors are drowning and they need help. 

[00:36:00] Greg Bray: It all connects back to the fact that the buyers are spending more time on the website to start with, and that's why they're going through the online sales counselor.

They're not just looking for the address and driving by, they're doing a little more research there. They're narrowing their choices and options before they reach out to have that conversation because of where we're at right now. I agree with you Meredith, I think it's changed behavior for the future where it's not going to go back the way it was.

This is the new way. 

Meredith Oliver: One of the big conversations we had on town hall. And I think why people find that that event valuable is when one of our meetings we brainstormed, I don't know, like 30 different questions it's somebody could now have in a COVID economy about a model home that you wouldn't have had pre-COVID.

Like, what do I have to wear a face mask? Will you have on a face mask? How many people will be in the home? Like there are so many questions I have about, is it open? [00:37:00] Is it only for an appointment? I just there's so much. I need to know before I just show up anywhere anymore. That has to do with COVID much less all the stuff I'd like to know about your HOA fees and is this homesite available.

Can I have a pool? Can I build this home? I mean, much less anything about your homes and all of this. I'd like to know before I waste one single moment of my precious time. So that's where we tripled the workload of the OCS. 

Kevin Weitzel: I think the one place that this is not going to change in a way I say not, I'm seeing this word very loosely, but in custom home builders, you know, if I'm buying a production home, I want these conveniences.

I want to know all the information upfront. If I'm over in Kansas and I'm going to visit, you know, Gary Star at Star Homes, and I'm going to have them build me a $5 million mansion because I've earned it and I deserve it. Well, then dark two-ten. I want to have that champagne treatment. When I walk into their office, I want to shake hands with the guy that has his name on the sign.

You know, [00:38:00] there is the difference and that is the market that really can stick to the here's, how we build houses. Here's how we sell houses. I get it. But if you're in the production world and you're not. If you haven't got a kick in the pants that says that you need to have a quality website that is engaging, you have to have digital tools on there that function. You have to have an online sales counselor, an online sales process that is inviting and easy to use. You're not gonna be around five years, 

Meredith Oliver: Five years. You have to move faster. You have to answer questions and move faster. When you're going to build a $5 million custom home.

Right. It is reasonable to expect that is going to take some time. Now you don't have all day. You don't have a reasonable amount of time. I mean, our custom builders will tell you people still want fast communication. They want quick answers. Trust me, you don't have a limited amount of time, but there is an expectation that that is going to take some time to complete.

But in [00:39:00] another world, you don't have a nanosecond to spare. 

Greg Bray: Well, Meredith, I knew this was going to happen. There's so much more we could talk about and I want to be so respectful of your time because you've been so generous with us today. Maybe we'll have to have like a 10 part series or something.

We'll have to figure to that out. Is there any type of last advice or something that you just wanted to share today as we kind of wrap up here?

Meredith Oliver: Yeah. Well, I want to encourage everyone when you're listening to trust your numbers, trust your data, trust your analytics.

You know, when Greg is sending you your website, your Google Analytics numbers. When Kevin sending you your interactive media numbers. Take a minute to actually look at that stuff, review, and trust what you're looking at. You're looking at the top of the funnel activity, and as long as you've still got good [00:40:00] top of the funnel activity year over year, even if it's a little slower month over a month than it was if you're over year, it's still trending up, then you've still got a pipeline.

So that's where we got to figure out where the leaks are in the journey, in the sales process, and plug those if you're not getting sales on the end, you know, at the end of the process but. The numbers will tell you, and we'll diagnose for you exactly what you need to do, and you can trust them and don't make the mistakes I've made in the past.

I'm a lot more confident in what I look at now. I rely on it and it definitely keeps me on the path, and, and our clients going, okay, we got this, we can handle this. We know what we're doing. 

Greg Bray: I love that. I love the whole idea of data [00:41:00] driven marketing decisions, and we get busy.

We don't look at the data we have, it takes time to look at that, but it's well worth it. It makes a difference. It's real, you know, it can help you see things that are going in the wrong direction soon enough to make a change or, help you, channel that budget in the right way to when it's not infinite.

If you've got an infinite budget, please call. But for those of you who don't, you know, let's try to maximize how you use it. 

Meredith Oliver: It's not that you have to get mired down in it and look at pages. Get yourself one page. kind of hot sheet or executive-level overview of some top-line, most important numbers, and routinely consistently keep your eye on those.

And if you do that, you're going to be just fine. 

Greg Bray: Well Meredith, for those who are listening, who want to connect with you, reach out, continue the conversation. What's the best way for them to get ahold of you? 

[00:42:00] Meredith Oliver: You can find us at meredithcommunications.com and find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. Again, we'd love to have you at Builder Town Hall.

Go to facebook.com forward slash buildertownhall.  You want to send me an email meredith@creatingwow.com. 

Greg Bray: Well, thank you again, Meredith so much. We really appreciate your time today, 

We love working with you. We really do. We trust both of your implicitly. We refer back and forth to you. We're like-minded we were pleased to have you at the Home Builder Summit and, we're, you know, good.

It's good to have good partners in the industry that you trust and enjoy working with. So we're glad to do it. 

Kevin Weitzel: Meredith, I'm going to put you on the spot. I want an answer. 

Meredith Oliver: Okay.

Kevin Weitzel: Can we have you back for another round two of Meredith Oliver Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. 

Meredith Oliver: Make me talk more about home builders and marketing.

Twist my arm. My favorite two topics [00:43:00] of course, happy to do it 

Greg Bray: Well, thank you everybody for listening today. Please join us again next time on the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine. 

Kevin Weitzel: I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse. Thank you. 

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