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On the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast this week, we welcomed Beth Byrd of Beacon Homes for an in-depth conversation focusing on how home buyers want to shop. Greg, Kevin, and Beth also discuss the benefit of looking outside the home builder industry for marketing inspiration.
As the Director of Sales & Marketing for Beacon Homes, Beth Byrd oversees the sales, marketing, and selections teams in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. With twenty-two years of experience in a wide variety of positions in the design and construction industry in California and Oklahoma, she brings front-line experience to each team she manages. In Beth's seven years with Beacon, the company has quadrupled its sales volume. Being part of such exponential growth has allowed her to implement new processes, systems, and training working hand in hand with some of the best minds in our industry. In 2018, Beth launched Beacon's online sales program which now accounts for nearly 50% of company sales. When she is not working, Beth enjoys spending time with her husband and their blended family of five boys.
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're excited today to welcome to the show Beth Byrd, the director of sales and marketing for Beacon Homes. Welcome Beth. Thanks for joining.
Beth Byrd: Thank you for having me.
Greg Bray: Well, we really appreciate you spending a little bit of time with us today and for those who haven't had a chance to meet you, why don't we start out with a quick introduction? Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you've been doing.
Beth Byrd: Sure. So I've been with Beacon for about seven and a half years.
The only builder [00:01:00] I've worked with in this industry, but my background is in design and I've sold parts and pieces of the house before this is a been a dream come true really a culmination of all the different things I've done in the past, kind of come into one place. So I live in Tulsa, but I manage our teams in Oklahoma City and in the Tulsa Metro, the design marketing and sales team.
Kevin Weitzel: Terrific. That's all business Beth. What's the personal Beth you've given me a tidbit of something crazy interesting that nobody will know about you unless they listen to this podcast.
Beth Byrd: Okay. I love alternative rock and roll to the point that my youngest son is actually named after a band.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh get out of town. That's awesome.
Beth Byrd: Yeah.
Greg Bray: Well, we have to ask which band.
Beth Byrd: Yeah, it's Cage the Elephant, his middle name is not elephant.
Greg Bray: I'm glad you didn't name him elephant. That probably wouldn't have gone over very well in middle school. So, you know, Beth, tell us a little bit more about [00:02:00] Beacon Homes and kind of where you guys are building the type of buyer that you are working with. And a little bit more about the product you have.
Beth Byrd: Sure. So we are we're selling about a hundred homes a year right now. When I started with Beacon, it was about 20. So we are on a growth trajectory and we typically are serving a buyer that's focused more on quality than quantity, and we hit several segments of the market. Typically our smaller product is either a younger professional or a divorcing, or a downsizer. And then our larger homes are the move up families.
Kevin Weitzel: So when you say quality versus quantity, obviously a hundred homes a year, that's respectable and I know in your market and that Oklahoma market is crazy competitive. You have, I think 350 home plus builders just in that Norman, Edmond, Tulsa, Oklahoma City market, which that's a lot.
Yes. What do you mean, could you further define quality versus quantity?
Beth Byrd: Yeah, [00:03:00] absolutely. We're not the least expensive builder in the market price per square foot is something we all hate, but it's very commonly talked about in our market as much as I try to avoid it. And so we are not the low price per square foot builder, where the one that the client who cares about the behind the wall stuff and how the home is built, they are the ones that really resonate with our product.
Greg Bray: So Beth, you mentioned that that working for a builder for you is kind of a combination of some dreams. Tell us a little bit more about your path of coming from outside the industry and getting into home building.
Beth Byrd: Yeah. Sure. So when I was 18, my family moved from Massachusetts to California. And as a California resident, I would get a huge discount going to a state school.
So I decided to take a year, a gap year to establish residency before I went to school. And my dad noticed an ad in the paper for a job that mentioned design. And that was something that I was kind of interested in as a hobby. So I called and I got the job. It was in a flooring store. And I [00:04:00] spent the next five years actually selling flooring.
I would measure my own jobs and estimate them and sell them and manage the whole job. I loved it. And while I was doing that, I went to design school. I studied at the Design Institute of San Diego and I was a design school dropout. I never finished college something. I actually don't regret. Because I was so busy working in the real world and getting the job experience.
So I did that. Then I stayed home for a few years as a mom when I was having my babies. And then when I came back to the workforce, I worked for a large local furniture company doing their displays in their showroom. And this is what I think kind of interesting part of the story.
There's a woman named Kelly Clements and she was actually on HGTV Design Star as a regular season and the all star season. And she and I had become friends. We lived on the same street and I reached out to her because I was ready to do something a little bit more. And she was doing Beacons design work at the time
[00:05:00] and she was getting too busy to handle it. And she said, I want you to call these guys. They need a new sales person. They needed designer, you can do both. So I called them and that's how it all got started.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thanks. That's, definitely a little bit of a different path but hey, if you understand the flooring piece, that probably gives you a little bit of a different insight than maybe some of the others that work in your space.
So Beth, tell us a little bit about you mentioned going from 20 a year to a hundred a year over the last what'd you say seven years, I think you said you know, as far as homes being built and delivered, how have you seen kind of the marketing both from, a team standpoint, as well as kind of the expectations and requirements evolve over that time with that growth.
Beth Byrd: It's changed so much. So when we started, if something happened on the website, it was because I changed it. If something happened on Facebook, it was because I put it there. I [00:06:00] made my own signs on canva. I mean, anything that was marketing was just a DIY doing the best I could with what I had. And we're in a very different place now, you know, so it's changed a lot.
We work with an outside partner that does a lot of our marketing. I also have a marketing coordinator, our OSC Cori Masters, who is amazing. She does our OSC and our marketing, along with me. And so we've really changed our team structure and we've gone from DIY everything to a lot of great technology solutions and products and a lot of digital marketing that I couldn't even have dreamt of seven years ago.
Greg Bray: So when you're looking at that, you know, you've got this background of doing it yourself, which I know probably makes you inclined to just try to do it yourself. When something new comes up, how do you kind of decide whether to do it yourself or to bring in a partner or to maybe hire new staff? What are, [00:07:00] some of the things you look for to help you make those decisions?
Beth Byrd: So I'm glad to hand it off to somebody else. I'll be the first to tell you it's not my strong suit. I may have strong opinions or goals that I pass along to the people doing the work, but I know that there are people who can do it a lot better than I can. So really I think that the unique advantage for me is that starting with Beacon in the early days and having to do everything along the way, I have a little bit more understanding of.
The day-to-day work that has to be done, but also the goals we're trying to achieve. And so I'm trying to always balance what what's the end goal here and how do we make sense of that in a way that's practical for the people actually doing the work.
Greg Bray: Okay. So then you've got several folks in-house, but also some partners and agencies.
How does that split between kind of digital versus the more traditional marketing activities and how have you seen that evolve over the last few years?
Beth Byrd: So we're almost completely digital. [00:08:00] The only things I have that are non-digital would be the referral program activities that we're doing through the salespeople and in the communities one or two signage opportunities that were very specific targets to our market and you know, maybe an occasional parade of homes event, but everything else is digital for us.
And that we actually have. Been there most of my time at Beacon, we did very little traditional advertising, even in the early days in terms of print or radio, we've kind of done digital from the beginning.
Greg Bray: Well, that seems to be kind of unique to have been doing it that long. What do you think helped you make that decision?
A few years ago, I know lots of people have made a change over the last year, year and a half. But what five, six years ago, had you already that embedded on an all digital focus?
Beth Byrd: You know, I think when I came in, I had watched what was happening at the furniture store I was working in.
It was actually a very large, very successful business. And I watched what they were doing with [00:09:00] online advertising and I evaluated the shopping behaviors of myself. Right shopping on Amazon. I had owned a bookstore previously and sort of everything had gone to online and it just made sense that it was kind of old-school to step into a new business and look at old ways of advertising.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, what's intriguing to me is that, cause I, obviously I had to sell my services to builders big and small. And what I constantly hear from those builders that are net 20, 30, 40 homes a year that they can't afford to implement stuff. You know, I can actually give your company a lot of big old kudos, because you were an early adopter of, I believe it's rendering houses app.
So you're on online app, which at the time you brought those on you probably only doing 30, 40 homes a year. So what was it that made you take that leap of faith to jump into that tech product and implement a company? What, and how did you get the buy-in from the owners to back that.
Beth Byrd: Well, I've been fortunate that our [00:10:00] owners are very much on board with technology and have been right behind me.
I don't have to drag them along. They're excited about it. And I think for me, it was focusing on how do people want to shop, how do I want to shop? And it actually seemed more affordable when I would have people from a magazine, a local magazine, trying to get me to buy an ad or a billboard or newspaper.
The cost of that versus doing a Facebook ad, even though I didn't know exactly how to do it, I could justify a Facebook campaign to my boss. I couldn't justify that really expensive magazine ads. So I guess it's sort of the flip for me, it felt more achievable, more attainable to do the digital marketing.
And we did jump onto rendering house really early. It's one of my favorite tools we have I think it's been. Everything I've done has been building towards how do we work smarter, not harder. How do we set ourselves up on this growth trajectory? And if I want to get to her upselling several homes a [00:11:00] year, I can't do it with old school methods.
I've got to be thinking about how am I going to operate down the road, not how am I operating right now?
Greg Bray: Yeah. So when you look at that Beth, let's unpack that a little bit more. What are the obstacles that are in the way between where you are today and where you want to go that you're working to overcome, without getting in the weeds, but what are you kind of seeing as those obstacles that you're working on?
Beth Byrd: Yeah, I think for me, it's really figuring out how to get the technologies to work together and how to evaluate which products speak to each other the best. Right now we're in the process of implementing an online design center and we're also on kind of the tail end of an ERP implementation.
And so how do I pick products that are going to talk to each other? So we're not doing double work. That that's been a challenge for us. You know, for example, with our website, we're about to launch a new website, our last website, it was very costly [00:12:00] to make it talk to Zillow. And so we had to update our website and we had to update Zillow now is a lot of work for somebody to manage.
So yeah. Looking forward. I'm trying to evaluate ways that we can eliminate duplicated work and that we can get the APIs to do the work for us in a much smarter way.
Kevin Weitzel: Are you sure you don't have like a doctorates from, what is the Design Institute of San Diego? Because what's ridiculous is you are literally preaching not only to the choir cause I'm wearing a long flowing robes today, but you're preaching.
Exactly what we tell builders all the time that it's about integration. It's about the implementation, proper rollout and even APIs. I mean, you know, how many builders I talked to that when I say an API integration they look at me like I'm from Mars. You know, what does an API? I'm like, man, you got to step into the century.
Greg Bray: Will Kevin, what is an API for those who are listening?
Kevin Weitzel: It's a [00:13:00] translator that allows one platform to talk to another platform.
Greg Bray: Very well said, I'm impressed. And yes, Beth, the fact that you can spell API is very impressive. So that's terrific. And honestly, I think you've identified one of those key challenges that a lot of builders probably haven't even put a name to yet, and that is this data management requirement, right? You have all this information. It has to be in these different systems and you've got to keep it current and it's ridiculous to have to do it manually multiple times over and over and over again, whether that's in your purchasing system, whether that's on the website, whether that's sending it to places like Zillow or other similar services It is, there's a huge data management need out there.
And even the ERP systems, a lot of them manage parts, but they don't necessarily manage all of it. And that's something that, that a Blue Tangerine we've been talking a lot about is how do we make that easier for our clients to work on too. So I appreciate you [00:14:00] identifying that as one of those challenges, that's terrific.
Any others beyond data management that come to mind that,you're working on.
Beth Byrd: You know, I think in growth mode, the challenge is always figuring out the spend. What makes sense? How do we work towards where we want to be, but how do we afford it right now with where we are? So that's just a constant day to day balance of evaluating.
What are the right and what are the wrong decisions for that? You know, like with the online design center, I've been wanting to have a great brick and mortar design center for a long time we have a trade that has a great showroom that we use for our client meetings. And I made the difficult decision to continue to put that on hold and to move forward with the online design center instead.
And so it's balancing priorities. And for me, digital is going to win out all day, every day over the things that are tangible.
Greg Bray: So Beth types of reactions are you getting from customers [00:15:00] and prospective buyers to, to some of these choices that you're making and how much is that influencing your, your directions that you're going.
Beth Byrd: It's influencing it a lot. Honestly, I think a lot of home buyers are shocked when they shop for a home at how little technology there is in that shopping process, because we can go on Amazon and yesterday I had delivered a vacuum filter in one day and needed a new vacuum filter. I looked around and there were options clicked by now. And it showed up at my front door and there were more pictures and specs on that product than there is for most, any home that you're buying, which is like a million times more money
Kevin Weitzel: Amazon right now this very second, if you look up and I forget the name of that fancy blender that they have on there, but it's been around forever.
But I'm not a cook. They have like 27 picture images of that blender plus the whole spec list and it's 250 bucks, whereas you can be buying a house for three, four, five, $600,000 and have four pictures of the front of the home, you know, or maybe a [00:16:00] rendering or two. So I'm right there with you.
Beth Byrd: It is shocking. Yeah. So I'm trying to focus on how do we make our process makes sense for our customer who just expects that and it's overwhelming, there's so many parts and pieces to building a home are not just one blender. There are a lot of different things that go into it. So it makes it complicated.
And I don't think the buyers appreciate how complicated it is to put together these tools, but it's totally worth it.
Greg Bray: So Beth, have you seen your customers expectations change even more over the last year with some of the impacts of the pandemic and, and kind of more of a shot from home mentality?
Beth Byrd: Absolutely. And you know, the most unexpected area that I've seen that change for us has been relocations from other parts of the country. I've never seen more people moving to Oklahoma in my seven years at beacon. It's insane how many people are coming from out of state. And so they really rely on the technology.
They may [00:17:00] have flown here for a day or two to look at homes. Besides that they've got to rely on zoom to have their design meetings and to continue conversations from when they were in person. And so those tools have been so much more important, helping people who can't physically be here.
Greg Bray: Are you guys exploring or looking towards that, that full kind of buy online process at some point in the future?
Where does that kind of sit on your radar?
Beth Byrd: For not actually, I, and I'll credit Cori for that. She may not like the credit for it, but she has worked at other large builders that do that. And her experience was not positive. she felt like buyers felt let down by that process because it's really challenging for sure.
All the things that need to happen in the backend to happen in a buy online buy now. And you're going to set people up for disappointment in their expectations. And I think that we've come a long way in terms of [00:18:00] shortening the conversation when the customer's in front of a sales person and educating them ahead of time.
But there's so many details that still just need to be communicated human to human. I think the other piece that I have seen over the years and continue to find, is true is that people don't always understand what they need. Or what they want, they think they do. And then when they get in front of a really gifted and talented sales person who can listen to their needs and really present good solutions, they're typically going to have a far better result than if they DIY it.
And so, you know, I don't know tools, right? I don't know much about buying a power tool. I just pick one out of Amazon or Home Depot. I'm probably not going to get the best power tool for my needs, but if I went into the store and talk to a sales person who listens and says, Oh, you just need to do a little home project.
Don't spend your money on this one. You need this drill right here. I'm going to [00:19:00] get the right thing for me. And, and I guess that's kind of a silly example, but I feel the same way about homes. I think that there's always going to be this piece as much as we want it to be buy online, where when you're making an investment of several hundred thousand dollars, you need to take the time to make sure that your needs are really being evaluated and the proper solutions are being presented.
And I just, as much as I'm a believer in technology, I think a computer can't do that in the same way that a human being.
Kevin Weitzel: Can I kind of share that opinion to a certain degree. I find that if your business model is selling a first time, Low end back home in a certain area that is just popular. You can get away with clicking that button and making the process because you know what you're getting, you're getting an apartment that is a single family.
Home is really what you're getting. But when you're talking about a premium product that has infinite and excellent customer service and excellent materials [00:20:00] and better construction overall, you know, that that has a story that needs to be told that clicking a button doesn't do.
Beth Byrd: Completely.
Greg Bray: And I think, Beth you're also highlighting something that I've been talking to some of our clients and other builders about is this idea that sometimes the concept of buy online, we envision it as completely self-service and it doesn't necessarily have to be right.
There's parts of the process that could be online. Right. But you still need the guidance of an expert. You still need someone to talk to someone to ask those questions about and get that feedback to make sure you're in the right product and getting the right, the right location, the right home, the right features and functions that you need there.
And so I do think that that perception that it means that they have to do it all by themselves. I disagree with that too. When we talk about buying a home online, for sure. So Beth, as you look ahead, are there trends in your market, are there trends kind of in your [00:21:00] kind of vision of how you want to position Beacon Homes going forward, that you're kind of watching and anticipating that you're getting ready for now?
Beth Byrd: Yeah, I would say one of the big things that we've done this year, that we're really excited about that we'll continue to expand on is our design collections. We've curated collections for people because it's very overwhelming for a buyer to come in and try to put together the pink colors and the faucets and all of those things.
Right. Kevin, I'm sure that you can identify with that.
Kevin Weitzel: Hey, Hey, I look like a Neanderthal, but why are you pointing to me for?
Beth Byrd: I think that's what I've heard from everybody I've talked to about this. Oh my gosh. Yes. If I had to go and pick out of that big paint deck, which color I wanted and is it going to look good with that faucet and that countertop?
And so using creative ways to tell the story to the customer of what their home could look like makes it a lot less scary. And so we were trying to find different ways to do that. And it also makes it [00:22:00] easier for the salespeople to say Mr and Mrs. Customer, I know that you're a little bit overwhelmed about building a home.
Let me show you some pictures and help you understand what your options are going to look like? Because many times the clients are afraid. Well, when I get to the design center, I'm going to have to spend $50,000 more to get the house that I like or all my finishes going to be things that I can afford.
And so how do we create tools to make them feel comfortable and confident at the front end of the sale? That this is achievable for them.
Kevin Weitzel: I am the stereotypical person that will criticize any architectural structure, any home based on my perception of is that good, is that bad all day long. And I'm pretty good at it.
Again, self admitted. I'm very, very good at, yes, that's good. Here's that's bad. However, put me in front of a fancy digital visualizer where I can pick the different stuff and pick the tile and pick all this stuff. It looks like a kindergartener's crayon a drawing most of the time I'm done with it.
It's horrible. I don't know how to [00:23:00] do it. So yeah, you're right. It is definitely something that needs to be part of a handhold process. In most cases.
Greg Bray: In packages or something, that the car industry has learned, you know, how to use for a long time, and they don't give you every possible option.
You get, you know, A, B and C and they're designed to go together. And sometimes you have to buy the other one because it's got the one thing you want and you don't necessarily love that. But hey, we've gotten used to that.
Kevin Weitzel: That's why all cars have, I don't care what brand you buy. They have an LX V and LXi, uh, XLT.
They've got all these different letter combinations. Those are just combos. You're being sold, prepackaged, curated collections of, of widgets.
Beth Byrd: Yeah, that's right. That's why stitch fix is so popular or the meal prep kits, because people don't want to have to shop for the individual parts and pieces themselves.
They're busy. They want easy, but they want good. And so really focusing on someone who has the talent to put those things [00:24:00] together, presenting easy solutions to the home buyer makes it a much less daunting process.
Greg Bray: For sure. I think you've identified a real key customer experience opportunity there that not everybody's paying attention to.
So I think that's great. Well, Beth, we want to be respectful and mindful of your time. So as we of kind of wrap up just a few more questions you know, are there places that you go for inspiration and for new ideas and, and what would some of those be if you're willing to share.
Beth Byrd: Yeah. So I will say I am a bit of a, a home builder education nerd.
I listened to all kinds of podcasts, adore IBS. I would says I had mixed feelings about the digital experience because on the one hand, I miss getting to see everybody face to face and interact and network. But I love that suddenly I didn't have to pick between two education events that happened at the same time.
I could listen to them all. So I just try to soak up as much as I can from people who have been there before [00:25:00] me. And really that's how I got to where I am. I'm just listening to other people who were experts in their field. Like you all.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, we're in that group. She can say it. You all, so that is definitely you and I both are in there.
So just out of curiosity top of mind who's your go-to people, you know, who do you need to go to a, for a regular basis for I need some new information. Who am I going to.
Beth Byrd: Yeah. So we work with Matt Riley. He's one of our consultants, we're clients at Group Two. And so Matt and I are talking constantly.
So he's kind of been my personal mentor in the industry. Most of what I've learned somehow is tied to Matt. So I've got to give him a lot of credit. But all, all the other big names I listened to you guys, Meredith Oliver, Jeff Shore from the sales side the guys at Do You Convert you know, Mike Lyon.
Not far from me here in Tulsa and then have really tried to focus outside of our industry. I focus on from a design perspective, I follow a lot of [00:26:00] designers, bloggers influencers in the home design world. And I try to keep my eyes on what are they talking about? What are the trends in customer shopping and design in home experience?
How are people using their homes? And I try to use that to help me make better decisions about what we're doing at Beacon.
Greg Bray: No, that's a great list you just rattled off. So there's some amazing ideas and smart people on that list. So, well chosen. So Beth, as we kinda wrap up, here's your big chance?
Do you have any grand thoughts of advice or little nuggets, even of advice that you'd like to leave with our listeners today?
Beth Byrd: I think for me, the thing that I keep coming back to is being authentically you as an individual and as a builder, I think in my earlier days, it was easy to get distracted by what the competitors were doing.
And we always want to be aware of the competitors because that's important to be strategic in your business, but [00:27:00] just knowing who you are as a company. And speaking to that, speaking to the heart of who you are and being authentically you is always going to be much more effective than if you're constantly looking over your shoulder at the other guy.
Greg Bray: Love it, love it. Well, thanks so much, Beth. If somebody is listening and wants to connect with you and have a conversation, what's the best way for them to get in touch.
Beth Byrd: Sure. Anybody is free to email me through my Beacon email, which I'll be glad to share with you all. I'm also I, I kind of joke that I want to be Martha Stewart when I grow up.
So on Facebook and Instagram, if you want to follow and learn how to make gravy or the muffins I make a new muffin recipe every Sunday morning or how I cleaned my oven door. You can follow me there.
Kevin Weitzel: Nope. On that subject, because I am interested in that. Can you make anything now? Is this all like typical, like you got to put some butter in there and you know, whatever that Paula lady has got to put butter in there, or is this something for us?
Gravity challenged people that would help me in [00:28:00] my shedding of set pounds.
Beth Byrd: It's mostly not healthy, but I will say there's some of each, because I love my sweets. But it's all about balance. So I also drink a green smoothie for breakfast every morning, and I eat a salad for lunch most days so that I can eat all the sweets and junk that I want the rest of the time.
Kevin Weitzel: I don't want to point out that the first two items that you mentioned were gravy and muffins.
Beth Byrd: Yes. Important things.
Kevin Weitzel: Very,
Beth Byrd: yes.
Greg Bray: Well, that sounds delicious. I'm hungry now. So Beth, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. It was great to get to know you a little better and to learn more about, about your experiences and Beacon Homes.
So thanks for joining us.
Beth Byrd: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.
Greg Bray: 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.