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

52 Striving to Innovate the Home Buyer Experience - Sarah Titus

Striving to Innovate the Home Buyer Experience - Sarah Titus

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Production by: Josh Williamson and KT Maschler 

Editing by: KT Maschler 

This week on the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Greg and Kevin had the opportunity to discuss innovating the home buying experience with Sarah Titus from Eastbrook Homes. Sarah provides a lot of takeaways, including insight from a focus group, and she reveals some behind-the-scenes coordination of a creative video series.

Sarah is currently the Marketing Manager for Eastbrook Homes managing the website, branding, advertising, and social media needs of the company. With over 12 years of event management and design experience and her passion is expanding, building a company or project in creative and efficient ways.

Throughout her experiences, she has shown her abilities to be an effective worker and designer. She has mastered abilities such as problem solving under pressure, managing tasks and projects that need attention, and giving her all to bettering the company or project she is engaged in. She finds joy in working closely with community leaders and support staff, expanding events through advertising and design, and tackling the next big challenge.


Greg Bray:  [00:00:00]Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine, 

Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse.

 Greg Bray: And we are thrilled today to welcome to the show. Sarah Titus, the marketing manager at Eastbrook Homes. Welcome Sarah. Thanks for joining us.

Sarah Titus : Thanks for having me. 

Greg Bray: Well, Sarah, for those of us who don't know you really well, why don't you give us that quick introduction, help us get to know you a little bit. 

Sarah Titus : Sure. So I am, I was new to the industry about six years ago. Moved to the Grand Rapids, started with Eastbrook [00:01:00] six years ago as a marketing person and him now the marketing manager.

Went to school at Michigan State, got my degree in graphic design with a specialization in advertising. Lots of experience in event coordinating. I've been part of coordinating big music festivals week on music festivals. I was a wedding coordinator before I came to Eastbrook Homes.

So I like to say, I'm in the experience business. And all that kind of led me to eventually be here at Eastbrook Homes. And it's been a great fun journey. I didn't know anything about home building when I started. So it's been all a learning curve for the last six years and we've had a lot of fun with it and yeah, 

Kevin Weitzel: wait a minute.

You've become successful in the world of marketing and the home building industry with no background in home building? That's unheard of absolutely insane. Hey, so that's the business side of Sarah. Let's hear, some personal, some juicy about you that people will only know based on listening to this podcast.

Like me, I'm a [00:02:00] wineo. I'm a huge one. I'm originally from Michigan. And I actually spent a little time growing brown grapes in Lawton, Michigan of all places. Nothing fancy, just supplying wineries there and in the Southeastern part of Michigan. But let's hear something about you. 

Sarah Titus : Yeah. Uh, so I I've always liked wine.

But I, you know, you start out at the lower end, so, you know, college, it's the box of Franzia and you slowly move up. My job out of college was at a winery up in traverse city and that's where I was the wedding coordinator. It was at Chacone Vineyard and Winery. And I knew nothing about wine. My boss, Tony Chacone was like, you cannot drink that here.

You need to try to drink good wine. So he started sending me home with a bottle of wine and telling me what to make for dinner. That was my foray into learning wine was sending me home with bottles of wine and telling me what to drink, what to eat with it. See if I could capture out of it.

And so I've become a little wine geek, so I love wine. I totally understand that. I will drink pretty much anything, not a fan of [00:03:00] sweet wine. So I made it all the way over from Franzia red Zinfandel or white Zinfandel all the way over to that mall, a strong mall back.

Kevin Weitzel: then, you know, that's funny cause being from Michigan I've spent a lot of time up in Traverse City, but for hockey, not for wine, you know, when I was a kid that was obviously we grew the grapes that I was too young to drink it but, that's actually pretty cool. So there are some nice wineries up there and a lot of people don't know that some great wine comes out of Michigan.

Sarah Titus : Correct? Yes. There really is. And you know, if you're going in looking for it to be something you might not be happy, but go in and expect it to be Michigan. I mean, Michigan has her own unique flare at everything. So there are phenomenal wines up there all around. Yeah, Michigan, but you know, we've gotten for a lot of years, well, we don't do good reds, but reds take a long time.

The red grapes need to mature. Those vines need to mature. So yeah, you know, come back. if you thought you had wine from Michigan and you weren't happy come back and try it again. Cause it gets better every year. They try new [00:04:00] things, new blends, new varietals. It's great. I love the wine scene in Michigan.

Kevin Weitzel: On this episode of digital marketing wine cast 

Sarah Titus : guess so. You take the wine tour here. I can go all day. 

Greg Bray: Well, the Michigan tourism Bureau, thanks you for your plug, right? 

Sarah Titus : So yes, exactly. I hope, I should ask for like a deal out of that. 

Greg Bray: Exactly. Well Sarah what made you kind of make the jump into home building, what really kind of made you decide that was something you wanted to try and learn about since you hadn't done it before?

Sarah Titus : Well, I needed a job. I had moved down to Grand Rapids. My husband had got a job or his job promoted him down to a position in Grand Rapids area. So we picked up and moved from Traverse City to Grand Rapids. So I was doing the job hunt thing, found some things, but I didn't think I wanted to [00:05:00] stay in that kind of hospitality industry.

I wanted to try something different and really was open to anything. So I actually got to here through an employment agency. I kind of filled out a couple applications. They brought me in for an interview and they're like, I think you'd be perfect for this job we have right now.

And it happened to be Eastbrook Homes. I didn't know where I was interviewing when I walked in the door, they just told me to address and to ask for Bob. And so I got there and asked for Bob and I quickly learned where I was and what I was doing. And it was actually quite kismet because when I was at Michigan state, I actually did two years in interior design before I moved over to graphic design.

So when I realized that this was home building, he took me down to the design center they have there. And I was just, I knew I wanted to be there cause I love home. I love everything about home and I can get just as nerdy about houses as I can about wine. 

Kevin Weitzel: If Bob Sorenson only knew [00:06:00] the rockstar that he was hiring that day?

Sarah Titus : Yes. Oh, he wanted me pretty bad. I left and I think he sent me an offer within an hour. He'd sent back an offer, so I didn't know what I was in for, but he knew that I had potential. So yes, Bob, but I made sure he didn't let me go

Greg Bray: Now for those listeners who are early in their careers. Is this an interview process that you would recommend going in not knowing who it is you're actually meeting with and what you're interviewing for, or is this maybe a more unique situation?

Sarah Titus : I think it kind of depends on what they're looking for. So they hadn't had a marketing person in a little while. Like they'd had someone kind of helping with marketing or, you know, she was a marketing coordinator. I think there were marketing administrator and then they were working with an ad agency for a really long time.

So they were just kind of coming out of that. You know, 29 of 2009, a slump of kind of getting people back in deciding to hire in certain positions. The girl that had had my position had just [00:07:00] left. And so they knew they needed someone. I don't think they ever knew that I was going to grow into this position.

It was not what they hired me for. They hired me as just a design or as a marketing administrator, I think he called it. I just, I really did take the position and grow with it just like Eastbrook did. So Eastbrook has grown immensely in the last six years. The other woman who was helping with marketing at the time has, is now our full-time online sales.

So she was doing a little bit of marketing, a little bit of online sales, and now she's full, online sales. So it is definitely different. We just grow up and it that's fun. I like to change things up. I like to grow. I like to try new things. I will say really enjoy change. So if you don't like change this probably isn't the industry. I've learned things change a lot.

Things get complicated. They're fun though. I like change. I like complicated. I like fun. 

Kevin Weitzel: So two things. Number one. You said just a marketing assistant or whatever, you [00:08:00] know, those marketing assistants make the world go round. There is no such thing as just an anything. Every job is important. Every position is important because if they're not there stuff doesn't get done.

Sarah Titus : Right. And I don't know that I knew what I was committing to when I took that in my mind, I was like marketing. I didn't have really any experience in that, but Bob liked that I went to design school that I had been working in the wine industry. He's a big wine person. So we connected on that level.

He's a Michigan fan. I was a Michigan State fan, so we had a rivalry. We had a connection over wine and he felt like the things I loved about wedding coordinating and the things I loved about festival coordinating, or the same kinds of emotional connections that I was going to need to make in this industry.

So I don't know that I went in with a marketing experience per se, but I had the advertising drive. I had the design drive and I had the experience drive and he liked my personality. He thought I would [00:09:00] be good for a good fit in that position as well. 

Kevin Weitzel: So for people that don't know Eastbrook Homes, can you tell us just a little bit about what Eastbrook is. I know you service Western Michigan, but you know, is it just Grand Rapids, surrounding?

Have you expanded? How many homes you guys build a year? What's your target audience? 

How does that work? 

Sarah Titus : Yeah, so we are in the West Michigan area. So if you know Michigan we're about Holland. So all along the lake shore, Holland to White Hall, all the way north and Rockford, Byron Center, Hudsonville, Lowell, the West Michigan area of around Grand Rapids.

And then we're actually in central Michigan Lansing area. So the greater Lansing area, Grand Ledge, Dewit areas. And then we have a community in Auburn, Alabama as well. Long story. 

Greg Bray: You're building all over Michigan and a community in Alabama. Did I understand that?

Sarah Titus: Well we did a couple.[00:10:00]

Greg Bray: All right, sorry to interrupt, please continue, please. I just want to make sure. 

Sarah Titus : Yeah, you're fine. It's our Eastbrook Homes southern division. So it is very different, that totally different home plans. Totally different process, totally different everything, but in the Michigan divisions, it is all the same.

So we build, we are a semi-custom builders. So we take a plan, you choose from pre priced options. We have hundreds of pre price options per plan and you work with a designer or you select those, and then we build you that home. So we have a library of. 50 plus home plans. We've got a close, this summer we'll be back at 50 communities.

We're about 40 right now. We've sold out to quite a few in the last six months. We range the threshold as far as condos to town homes, single family, move up homes, first time homes, kind of everything and hitting all of those different metrics.

Greg Bray: That sounds like a lot's going on.

Like you said, a lot of growth and everything there [00:11:00] too. So, so tell us how from just the marketing team perspective, how that growth has impacted your role. Has evolved and changed. How has the team as a whole evolved and changed over that time? 

Sarah Titus : Yeah. So, as I mentioned, it was myself and Susan who were in the marketing department at the time.

And we were using an advertising agency for most of the other items. Susan has then became our full-time online sales consultant. Then about two years into the position, I kind of transitioned more into that marketing manager role. We stopped working with the advertising agency.

I kind of had pitched to Bob that I wanted to work more with specific vendors versus working with one company that could do everything. I wanted to work with specific companies that could do a specific thing. And so he said, well, that's going to be managing more people. And it is, but I wanted specific things out of them.

I didn't want someone who could do everything I wanted. The best people to do individual things. So we kind of [00:12:00] transitioned to that. And then, about two years in, we hired, Marissa, who is our content queen. She came in as a marketing assistant as a marketing manager. She came on as our marketing assistant and then she has also grown into being our content wizard.

She is amazing at it and really took over blogs, social media, outreach content on our website, landing pages, anything creative content wise is something she's running with. And then I really helped with all those vendors. So keeping we've got, I think seven that we work with. So we have a website company, we've got a photography company we work with. We work with Outhouse, little name drop there for you, Kevin, and few video companies.

So that's where this other project came in is a videographer, an animation artist, a graphic designer. So I kind of, because I'm in the art scene, a [00:13:00] graphic design background. I know a lot of individual freelancers in the area, so that's kind of who I started reaching out to, or I would meet them at an event or a networking thing and kind of be like, I have a project and I think you'd be really great at it.

So kind of using those tools that I had in my toolkit. 

Greg Bray: So Sarah, I think that's really interesting that you said you didn't want a one single shop that could do everything you wanted to go after individual experts. What was the challenge with the one single shop that said they could do everything that made you kind of decide to change direction?

Sarah Titus : Yeah, it's really, I like to push the bones. So when we were looking at a new website, for instance, we redesigned our website in 2016 and looking around at different companies, the ones that do everything. And so this isn't meant as an offense to anyone, but the people who do everything, I couldn't get them to push as far as I wanted to.

So I had some big ideas I wanted and I didn't want what they've done in the past [00:14:00] to cloud their judgment of what they could do in the future. And so when I was looking at having a great website, it didn't want to look at it in terms of home building. I wanted to look at it in terms of a great website that was for a home builder.

So I found that a lot of the industry and I listen to all the podcasts, follow all the people in the industry. I try to do a lot of that and really immerse myself in it. And I think coming in was one of the things I noticed was that if, one builder does something, the other builder does something, which is great.

And we do that all the time, but to push the bones, you've got to get outside of the home building industry too. And so, because I know other industries like graphic design, like the art scene, some of the digital agencies out there could do really cool things that maybe they did for a clothing company.

Or maybe they did for an experience, another experience company or an event company. So I wanted to get outside of just home [00:15:00] building and look at our homes in a different light.

Kevin Weitzel:  So you didn't want the same old template that every single home builder uses. What? That's revolutionary,

Greg Bray: Speaking of revolutionary, Sarah, one of the reasons that we wanted to talk to you today is because of the video series that you guys have done. I guess, primarily for your option selection process, you may have others that I'm not aware of that's the one that I was looking at that Kevin shared with me. Tell us a little bit about that, because I'm really impressed with what you guys have done there.

I think it's pretty revolutionary, so to speak. So tell us a little bit more about what that is for those who haven't seen it yet and kind of what went into putting that together. 

Sarah Titus : Yeah so it kind of, I mean, obviously as all things right now came up because of COVID, we usually do, and our design center, we called it preview night.

So every buyer who was under contract had to come to our studio, they'd get a tour around, by a designer. We'd have eight couples [00:16:00] come through, they'd get a tour of the different options, the different selections, and the kind of an overview of the process is about two hours long. It was just a lot of information.

It was hard to keep them engaged. We'd wanted to change it for years. You just didn't have that. You always have something else. We always have other things we're living in the whirlwind of our regular jobs. So it is hard to be revolutionary in those things. And it's hard to take an idea and choose to focus on it.

So it did come about a little bit because of COVID. So originally in March, April, our CEO said, you know, we need to find a way to do preview night virtually. And we did, we made some videos. Just rough and tumble with a cell phone, following someone around and making videos one long video.

And we knew it wasn't good enough, but it was what we have in the moment. And then summer was crazy, cause I'm sure everyone listening to this will know a summer was very busy and then fall came around and we hadn't done anything [00:17:00] still. I connected our director of interior design with the videographer that I use and kind of said.

You know, he's a great project manager, reach out to him. He'll help you put together what you need. And it just didn't go anywhere. They were busy, we were busy. and so November hit and it became a, Oh, we need to do this now. And our CEO, you know, reached out to me and was like, I want this now. And, You say, okay.

And you find ways to make that happen. Some of it was okay, well, we've got to spend this much money. We knew we wanted it to be good. So if marketing was going to handle it, I had some kind of criteria. Is it needed to be well-produced. We wanted it to be like really well done. And so they had said multiple times on the phone videos.

Well, they're not that good. We kept saying, well, yeah, we're not videographers, we're marketing people. We can help you get good videos, but we don't make that. We're not the expert at this. So it's, again, going to that previous thing of finding the best person for the job.

[00:18:00] It's not always me. I will find the best person for the job, but I'm not going to go video it and I'm not going to edit it. It won't be as good as we need it to be. And the storytelling was going to be important. So this is a lot of information that we require our customers to learn and it needed to be engaging.

Nobody wants to read through a book, nobody wants to watch through 45 minutes of video, but we needed them to, so we had to find a unique way of doing it. So that's where this video series came from. It was a six week project.

Greg Bray: That's fast to me. 

Sarah Titus : It is preface that a lot of the things, if you, so when you click through it, there are additional resources on that.

We did all those already. So we do a blog every week. So those blog posts existed. We already had our feature gallery set up the way that it is there. We have what we call Eastbrook University. So where we have like flyers or blogs that we dive into like a spotlight on our cabinet. Or a [00:19:00] spotlight on our smart home features.

So we had all the content already that from a marketing perspective. So we just kind of repurpose that into being used for the buyer on this page and then the videos we wanted to become evergreen. So, whereas you normally in the tour would say, and here we have Shaw carpet or we've got Doll tile. We didn't want to say that because we didn't know what, you know, you don't know in this market right now, if you will still have that come, you know, three months from now, or if that color you showed will be relevant.

So we wanted to make sure it also stay really timeless. And so we worked with the videographer, we scripted it all out. That's the most important part. I mean, it was a lot of upfront work and that's, I think the hardest thing for everyone in our departments and in the director of our interior design, who is in the video, all the videos, you know, she's busy, she's got a full-time job.

She doesn't have hours to spend writing a script, but it was important that we did it that way. And it was important that we get it done. In that [00:20:00] timeline, the timeline was requested for, by our CEO. So we had to fit that timeline because our buyers were being disserviced at the moment. We knew that we weren't helping them by not providing them this information.

So we needed to find a solution and it needed to be done quick. So it became that priority. So other things fall by the wayside so that you can get this done. But it was yeah, like 40 to 60% of our weeks were focused on writing the script, planning the website. I had the web developer on one hand building out the website while we were writing the script on the other.

We didn't have a video, she just trusts us. We have a very good relationship with them and she knew what we're going for. And we said kind of just go build it like this, and we'll get you the videos when we get them done. We're in the process of writing a script. I knew I wanted the full transcript on there because not everyone wants to watch a video.

My husband would rather read it. So he was like a text to find where he wants to, you know, save or copy and paste it out. So [00:21:00] we have the full transcript on there, which required us to have a really well done script. And it also helped the videography itself, go faster. So when you're shooting those scenes, I mean, we had six, seven takes on some of those it's a lot, but it was really important.

So that it was smooth. That was something that, and our director of interior design was like, I didn't realize how much work this is going to be. I mean, this is a lot of work and just a lot of, I mean, you'll see she uses her hands in there. And so she's an actress at the same time and she got done and she's like, My shoulders hurt.

My whole body hurts and it's like, it's amazing. Like amazing. I just smiled for nine hours. Like my face hurts and how much work goes into videos is it's a lot. And so there was, I think, a new found understanding inside of our company of like, okay, Sarah was serious. It really is a big project. It can't just be done on a phone.

And then when they saw it, they were all happy. I mean they were ecstatic. It turned out great. And. [00:22:00] was just something we had to, we had just had to get it done. And when Marissa and I decided we had to get something done, we do, we're very strict with ourselves on that. 

Greg Bray: So, yeah. Sarah, tell us just again for those who haven't seen it, how many videos there are, and kind of how long they are, some of those details, just to help us visualize what we're talking about.


Sarah Titus : So as I kinda mentioned, you know, some people thought it was okay, it's like a 45 minute video, which is about how much time the video is actually take. But we knew he didn't want to have anyone sit down and watch 45 minutes of a video. Nobody would do that. I wouldn't do that. So we broke it up into sections and that's really how the preview night went.

So you look in the kitchen section, we have a design center set up with vignettes of different parts of a home. So we did kitchens. And then you do bathrooms and really, as most people will know it, once you figure those two things out, you really know most of it. I mean, a lot of your selections are determined in that kitchen phase first.

So that's the longest one. It's 10 minutes. Most of the rest of them are three to five [00:23:00] minutes. So then you have one on bathrooms. You have one in flooring, interior details, exterior's there are nine total videos. One introduction in one conclusion and then the one, and then everything else in between.

Nine sections about 48 minutes in total, but we're working on now, the drip campaign that we can then send to our buyers to make sure to watch section one, watch section two watch so we can send these out. And while they're waiting to get into the design center, so you can take it in a digestible format, you can sit down and watch three minutes about bathrooms, read a couple articles and then come back four days later and watch interior details.

You don't have to soak it all in, in two hours. Like we used to do in the preview night. And if you go, What was she talking about with the crown molding? You can go back and look and you can search the transcript, if it was a PC we're looking for, instead of just looking through the [00:24:00] video.

So there are a lot of those different things that we did take into consideration when going through this process, both with our developer having really great user experience, suggestions, the videographer having great script suggestions. It's the strength of your partners really? And that none of them had done anything like this. It goes again to that I didn't want vendors that had done something before. Cause I didn't want what you've done before to buy us what I want you to do now. So it's important. And I think we were able to all push ourselves outside of that comfort zone outside of what has been done and do what needed to be done.

Kevin Weitzel: Just like we have a buy now button and everybody's kind of trying to head toward, did you set from the onset? Did you have a goal that you could replace the physical design center with the video campaign and utilize that as part of the process to do everything from the comfort of somebody's home. 

Sarah Titus : Kind of, we knew that someone wanted that [00:25:00] to be a goal and we knew that it was out there and, you know, we don't know how long COVID will be here, or even if it's gone, whether people will want to come in and physically see the studio.

So we knew that it had to be able to do that. We think once we can have people back in the studio, we'll offer what we can thinking are going to be like open houses, where you could sign up in comments. You could still come in and touch and feel the samples, because I think that part is always going to be missing in a virtual format.

And I don't think you can discount that. I do believe virtual can do a lot of things. We do have to get them in person at some point. So it was going to try to do both things, but I wanted it to make sure that it did the informing piece really well. And that was the most important part, it couldn't be virtual, but it also will be great secondary information.

If we go back to having people in the studio, they can follow up. I know if I go through a presentation, I don't remember everything you just said, so it's at least something great. You can refer back to it's [00:26:00] something our sales agents can remind people of and you can, and it's looking back, it's not having to remember everything all the time.

Kevin Weitzel: So hopefully when you can incorporate more of that, in-person endeavor, will you be incorporating large goblets of wine into that process? 

Sarah Titus : We do try to make our preview night very fun. So we did, we usually have wine in the studio. And so if someone comes in and wants a glass of wine, we will usually pour them a glass of wine.

Greg Bray: So, Sarah, I think it's interesting how you focus this on trying to replace an education piece. That was part of your process that wouldn't work anymore because you couldn't be in person. Have you seen some benefits though for those before they buy from having this content out there?

Because I know, and I'm going to butcher the numbers, so I won't try, but one of the Zillow reports talked about. One of the [00:27:00] reasons that folks that consider new construction, but then ended up buying resales. One of those is they're concerned about the process of buying a new home. And this is a big piece.

Option selection is a huge piece of that process, right. And something that can be intimidating and a little overwhelming for some people. And so I am curious whether having this before they've bought it before just going, Oh, now I understand where I'm headed on this journey. Any, any thoughts on that? 

Sarah Titus : I actually had quite a few discussions before of this kind of, is it hidden?

Is it only buyers? Is it also prospects? And we did determine that we wanted it to be available. We weren't going to necessarily. We weren't going to put any pay walls. We're not going to, you don't have to enter your email. It's not a lead capture. It's just peer information. It's pure transparency, which is really what buyers want.

I mean, it is amazing to me how much content we can put out there and how much more they still want, because at the end of the day, [00:28:00] if we're making this big purchase, they do want more information and it's scary. And I think that's why Zillow's information is so important because. I don't want to agree to even sit down with you.

If I think that I'm going to feel confused, under underrepresented, under served, or just out of my depth, nobody wants to feel that way. No one wants to feel uncomfortable. I think the more comfortable you can make things the more ready they're going to be to sign. And so, it's only been out for a month.

It is something that we're working towards. It is on our website. It's under Eastbrook University. So it is out there. We did launch it. Cause that was another thing it's like, do we launch it? What about all the buyers that sign three months ago? You know what I feel for them that we didn't have this great resource three months ago and we do now and now you're going to go, Oh, I wish I could have changed.

But the reality is you're always going to launch something and someone missed out. I built five years ago and I didn't have this cool resource. So you're [00:29:00] always going to have that, but it was really important that it is out there for that decision making stage. That that is a really hard stage. And I don't think you can give them enough information. I don't think there is enough answers that you can provide them. So if you think you're done with content, you're not, you're never done with content. We release a blog every single week, and we've got to 

Kevin Weitzel: Please say that again. Sarah please say that agin.

Sarah Titus : You are never done content, never done with content, always necessary.

Kevin Weitzel: Boom! You heard it here first folks. Well, let me ask you here's here's what I think is really amazing is that that video series is well produced as it was, is still so simple. Matter of fact, you could even run this tagline if you want so simple that a U of M graduate can use it that easy. It's that easy.

Sarah Titus : We'll, use that in Lansing area. That's a good one for our Lansing area.

Kevin Weitzel: It is so easy a UM grad could use it. Yeah. I'm telling you,

[00:30:00] Sarah Titus : well, we wanted it to be relatable. We wanted it to feel like she was talking to you, like you were getting a personal tour is real. I mean, that was what we always wanted with preview night, though. It was hard with your, you know, you're mashed in there with eight other couples and you all have questions, but you don't want to be that person that raises your hand.

Cause you're all like bored and you kind of want to know what your answers are, but you don't really want anyone else to know what your questions are. So this was supposed to, you know, we wanted it to feel personal. We wanted it to feel easy to understand. And I would say from the script perspective I went through and bullet pointed everything.

I went through all of our documents, all of our features, everything, and just bullet pointed things I thought were important. Marissa, then crafted it into it into perfection. Cause that's what she does, where she makes everything sound a lot better than what I started with. Right. And then we send it to Anne to say, make sure that this all sounds correct.

Make sure it's right. We don't want to say anything that's wrong, but we didn't go to the designers first and say, [00:31:00] Hey, write this thing for us. It's not what they want to do. They're not going to want to do it. They are busy trying to serve our buyers and it shouldn't be led by marketing who should be taking that on and leading that charge.

We all have enough things to do. Luckily right now we don't need a lot of traffic. We're actually focusing most of 2021 on our buyer journey, helping our buyers be happier because that's our best marketing. I don't need to go find more people right now. The market's doing that for me.

I need to make sure those people that come in are happy, served, informed, excited throughout this really long process that it's going to take because of just where we're at today. I mean, it's not going to be what it was a year ago and that's a reality. So we should. We should lean into that and just work to make it better and not expect it's going to get better.

Just make it better. 

Kevin Weitzel: That was actually music to my ears. So you are basically saying that yes, leads are flowing, like the wines of Italy, the leads are [00:32:00] flowing. You don't have to worry about that capacity. You're still wanting to strive to improve. Process, you're wanting to strive to improve the experience that people have.

You're not just saying, Hey, everything's great and gravy, we don't have to do anything. Let's just kind of cash these checks as they come in. Right? Yeah. 

Sarah Titus : Yeah. and not to say anyone's doing that, but I would say marketing has. Okay, well, not me, don't send me mean tweets. So I think it's important that marketing look at the driving force of that is if you know how to make people buy, you should know how to make people happy.

You should know how to communicate. All of those things are in line and marketing comes from a place of empathy. At least I believe it should. Marketing is empathy. I am trying to help someone get that home that they want. I'm not trying to convince anyone to buy a home that doesn't want a home. They're not going to buy one.

It's not worth your energy. And so once they've made that decision, now I have to market to them that it's still the right [00:33:00] decision. I mean, this is a huge purchase. They're going to be living in it for years, decades, maybe. Right? And we need to make sure that they feel excited about that for the next home that they want, or their friend wants a home, or, you know, it's, long-term marketing.

They might not want a home today. We can't maybe sell you one today, but we may want to in 10 years, or two years, or sell to your friend, or we want you to be educated and informed and confident in your home purchase decision, whether it's with us or not. Yet, we hope you come back if you didn't, but it's kind of marketing for the customer versus marketing for the company.

That's really what we're focusing on. 

Greg Bray: I love this idea, Sarah, that marketing isn't just about the lead generation. Yeah, that it goes so far beyond that, you even recognize that you have a role to play in keeping the person who's already bought. They're already committed. Right.

They've signed the dotted line. You've got them. Right, and you haven't forgotten [00:34:00] the fact that that's not the end of their journey like it is with so many other products, right. Homes take some time, especially when the inventory is all dried up, it takes even longer.

The role for marketing to make a difference in keeping people engaged and happy. And I mean, there's ups and downs in that journey anyway. Right. There's emotional highs and then there's these, what's taking so long. Why is that crooked, you know, moments, but you can help with all of that with your marketing as well.

And with the end result being what a great referral and a happy customer, possibly a repeat customer in a few years, you know? Um, so that's terrific insight. Thanks for sharing that. Well, we want to be mindful of your time Sarah you've shared a lot with us and I think my biggest takeaway is the fact that there's a little video, that's only two minutes. It doesn't mean only took two minutes to make it right. It took longer to take 

Sarah Titus : It definitely be the [00:35:00] tagline on all of that marketing likes to put in that we've got a magic button. Our CEO tells me all the time, I've got a magic button.

I can get him to traffic. If he needs traffic, I can do this if I miss that. But it takes time. Yes, I can do this. And it is, you can think it's magic, but it is going to take money and it's going to take time. 

Greg Bray: So kind of looking ahead, what, over the next few years, what are things that you're looking at or watching, you know, that you're starting to prepare for, or get ready for now?

Sarah Titus : Yeah, really, this has spurred us into wanting to do this in other sections of our process. So the design experience and the closing experience are the two high points of anxiety in this process. And so looking at, okay, now, if we've not, not fixed it or made it perfect by any means, but this idea is this same idea we want to apply to when you're closing on your home.

So right now we do what we call the homeowner orientation. And I mean, we say celebration, but [00:36:00] it's an orientation. We're going to show it, walk you around your house, going to take three hours. Your construction manager is going to show you everything in your house and you're not going to remember any of it.

And then you're going to be sitting there a week later and go, how do I live here? What is this house? Where is the furnace filter? Do I need to change it? Yes, we give them a book. They don't want to read the book. Let's all be honest. They're not going to read the book. We'll still give them the book and we'll tell them to read the book, but how to do the same thing with that process.

So how to live in your home, maintenance information, orientation, you know, get understanding the different pieces processes of your house and how you live in it, because that's the next step is customer service. We already sold you the home. We have a one-year warranty at Eastbrook, but they're still gonna come to us in five years, if there's something wrong and you're never going to not get them to do it.

And you really probably don't want them to, I don't necessarily want them to go somewhere to another builder and complaint or to go to social media and complain. [00:37:00] Let's be honest. So, you know, trying to provide them as much insight as you can. And we really learned that that's what they needed.

Because we did a focus group. So we're working on redeveloping, our website right now, and our website company, push for a focus group. They said, we're only going to be able to build a website that's right. For your customers. If we talk to your customers and our sales agents have ideas.

Our CEO has ideas, our vice versa of sales and marketing has ideas. You know, the closing department has ideas. Everyone has ideas of what the website should be, but that it's not for them. It's for the buyers. And so we did a focus group and we sent out an email, you know, just a general email.

We're going to do a focus group to all of our customers, and focus group for any website. We'll, you know, if you're interested in, we got like 30 replies overnight. We were like, Oh cool. We only were hoping for like five, so we got 30. And then of course, you know, I had to figure out timing. We sent out a couple of questionnaires, found the right time.

And we [00:38:00] did, it was a blind focus group. So we weren't part of it. And you really ran it as a real focus group. The website management company did it. We don't know who these people were that actually committed to it, but so we got honest feedback, which I think was really insightful and really helpful.

And these were the two pain points that they addressed was the design experience. I didn't know you had a beam, a mantle. Okay. Well, you could say, well, was in the documentation within your selection service. It was it, which is true. It's not to say that they're wrong. It's just, they didn't know.

So how can we find better ways to inform them? And then the end is they feel like you're handed them the keys and you left, which you did because that's how it works, but how do we help serve them afterwards in that's where that second part comes in is now you have to live in this big home that you spent lots of money on and in the furnace is making a weird noise or like you see some humidity on your windows or some condensation.

I, where do I go? I'm going to go to Google. [00:39:00] You know, I'm going to go Google. I have condensation my windows, what do I do? We want to be that resource. We want to be their Google so that we can try to answer those questions and provide that feedback so that we know they're living in their house in the best possible way that we could see for them.

So that's the next step we knew we had got from our customers. Those are the two highest anxiety pressure points. The two scariest parts in that as closing, you know, the homeowner orientation and closing usually happened on the same day. It's a lot, it's a lot of scary items. I have to give you how much money when you need, what for me?

So it's really looking at your customer and saying, where were you stressed and finding a way to help them be less stressed. Next time they're not going to never be stressed. We're not going to fix the stress. We just want to help lower that stress or be a resource in that stress. 

Greg Bray: Oh, that's that's terrific.

And I also think it's interesting that your focus group started out being about how do we make a better website, but what you discovered was more about customer journey. It implications right now. Yes. The website can [00:40:00] help address those and should help address those. But it wasn't like, Oh, we think the search link needs to be on the left instead of the right.

I mean, that, wasn't the kind of feedback you were getting from people at all right. Or why is the logo purple instead of green? You know, I don't know, 

Sarah Titus : We went into it not knowing that, I mean, we had specific questions and you know, our web developers said, well, they didn't stay on topic, but I got lots of really good content for you.

And so, and that's where we decided the new website will have a homeowner's corner where we can put all this stuff for the homeowners where you can go back as an e-sport homeowner and kind of, cause she came to us and said, these homeowners, some of them have built four homes with you. You have like a cult following there.

She said, well, they could say that you did something wrong in the same breath. That they say that they love their home. So even if they're saying, I see I couldn't stand the design center rock, but I love my home. Okay. So let's work through that. They're obviously something to work on, but it doesn't mean that they're mad.

So it's [00:41:00] taking those surveys and taking that feedback with empathy in that they were stressed. Maybe it wasn't exactly what they wanted. And maybe that person was never going to be happy. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they're wrong. It's just how they felt. You can't tell someone they didn't feel something.

You can say that you did everything you can, but you could probably do more too. So I guess that's how we looked at. It was, this was nothing about our website, but we found lots of other things we can work on and maybe make our website help all those things now and try to speak to the customer instead.

Greg Bray: Yeah. Amazing. What happens when you actually asked the customers what they think? So Sarah, any last piece of advice you want to share with our listeners today, before we kind of wrap up. 

Sarah Titus :  I mean, I guess we talked about it a little bit in the beginning, but like when you're first in this, I cannot say that in six years, I knew I would be here talking to you and talking to Kevin Oakley a couple of weeks ago.

Like, I didn't think I would be here and it's not like this. Isn't what I was striving for, but great things happen when you push yourself, I would say, and that you can learn as much as you choose to [00:42:00] learn. So just like we want our buyers to go watch all our videos and read all of our articles and, and then apply all of that, doing the same in our everyday lives, I think is how we all get better.

And in looking at a project and taking someone's comment, like a sales agent saying, well, I really don't like, you know, this button instead of saying. Well, that's the button I picked, which is sometimes what I wanted to say or a too bad, or you're not the customer asking a different question as to, well, why don't you like that button?

Do you want it to be purple? Oh no, you don't like that. It says quick. Okay. What don't you like about quick? You know, like, so diving in deeper and being curious is what my husband would say all the time. He always said people just need to be more curious. Less frustrated, less defensive, just more curious.

Everyone's coming from a different point in their lives, different point of view. And we all need to be a little more curious. It's how you have more fun. It's how you get farther. It's how you [00:43:00] journey and a more unique way. 

Greg Bray: Thank you, Sarah. That's terrific advice. Really appreciate that and thank you so much for joining us today.

You've really shared a lot of special insights on how you guys have been doing things. Some things that I don't think everybody's else is doing so we can learn from it and maybe see a few more people talking to their customers and making some helpful information sources for them as well.

If people want to, you know, reach out and learn more and talk to you, what's the best way for them to connect. 

Sarah Titus : Yeah, you can reach out and you can get me and Marissa at marketing@eastbrookhomes.com. You can add me on LinkedIn. I'm available and would love, I love to brainstorm with people, so everyone's got cool ideas that we can share amongst each other.

So, yeah, share away. 

Greg Bray: Terrific. Thanks so much again for being with us and thanks everybody for listening today to the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast.

 I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine 

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

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