In this week’s episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Melissa Galland of Ginn Group strikes gold when she joins Greg and Kevin to discuss the key elements of home builder brand experience.
Melissa shares that brand experience starts with the hiring process and employees. She says, “Everyone start with your team. That is number one. Start with a survey of your team members. Step back and look what the employee experience is like, because you can hire people, you can spend a lot of money to fix customer experience, but if your team isn't happy, if they aren't feeling empowered and inspired, they're not going to deliver. People can do it for a dollar for only so long."
Melissa believes that brand experience is about the alignment of marketing messaging, customer experience, employee experience, and the final product. She asserts, “I think it'll be different for every brand, but as soon as you decide to care about it and look into it, day one, it's already better. I think that's the thing is really, how do you get on board and collaborate cross-departmentally and not just keep that as a marketing message? As a marketer go out in the field and are the things that you're saying to the customer at the beginning of the journey, true at the end? If they're not, how do you feel about that and how do you fix it? Is that changing your marketing message or is that collaborating with other divisions of your organization to make a change?”
If you are looking to make your home builder brand experience gold, don’t miss out on this episode with Melissa.
About the Guest:
Melissa Galland is a leader of brand and revenue strategies within the new home construction and real estate industry. Over the past twenty-plus years, Melissa has had the privilege of driving results as an agency consultant for various builders before going in-house with Lennar, Adair Homes, and now Ginn Group as the Director of Brand Strategy and Experience.
With a deep-rooted passion for the industry and homeownership, Melissa is currently the Co-Chair for the Portland Metropolitan PWB, a board member for the HBA's Home Builders Foundation, and the BIA's Building Futures Foundation scholarship committee. Additionally, as part of her role at Ginn Group, Melissa will work with Ginn Gives on impacting the affordability crisis.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Homebuilder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: We are excited today to welcome Melissa Galland. Melissa is the Director of Brand Strategy and Experience with the Ginn Group. Welcome Melissa. Thanks for joining us.
Melissa Galland: Thanks for having me.
Greg Bray: Well, Melissa, for those who haven't had a chance to meet you yet, why don't you introduce yourself and help us get to know you a little bit better.
Melissa Galland: Thank you. My name, as you said, is Melissa Galland. Like many of the women born [00:01:00] in the mid to late seventies, very common name.
I'm a West Coast native. Have barely left the West Coast. Love it here. I have a daughter who's nearly an adult. Been married for more than half my life. Regardless of title, I've spent my entire career in revenue growth. That's when I was working for my mom, like in the mid-nineties and officially started my career in sales and marketing about 20 years ago.
Kevin Weitzel: So you're a mom. You're a kick-ass director. We need to hear something personal about you that people are only going to learn about on this podcast.
Melissa Galland: Sure. So most people who've spent very much time with me, probably know more about me than they want to because I'm a pretty open book, but something that always surprises people to learn about me is that I'm painfully shy, like it hurts me.
In school, if the teacher would call on me, I couldn't speak. I would just giggle until she called on the next kid, but luckily [00:02:00] I'm extremely competitive and my desire to be the best in class or kind of improve my career has helped me get out of that. Plus, I've always had best friends who are just the opposite of shy, who would drag me around. Eventually, you kind of get used to being around people, but still it's a little traumatic for me sometimes.
Greg Bray: Well, hopefully today's experience, won't be too painful, but Melissa that does seem kind of different in the sense of sales and marketing and those types of fields don't usually attract the super shy ones. Kevin, right?
Kevin Weitzel: I know that's why I came into this field, because I'm super shy too.
Greg Bray: So, how did you kind of make that leap and decide to make that your career?
Melissa Galland: I don't know if I chose it. I think it just chose me. Like I said, I've been a little obsessed with revenue growth.
My mom had a store when I was a kid and it's just like, how do we change this to make more money? Oh, mom, if we buy these different cups for the pop, [00:03:00] we can make more money and just kind of always figuring out that next solution. That's really what marketing is. If you're not involved in sales, if you haven't had experience on the sales side, it really can hinder your ability to be a great marketer.
I think my competitive nature is part of what has driven me to be in sales because there isn't really anything more competitive in sales, so I love being part of that and finding ways to improve and grow in that area.
Greg Bray: What kind of store did your mom have?
Melissa Galland: Yeah. When I was in middle school, my mom had a convenience store, in a very small town, so it was also like has where people stopped for breakfast. It was the very first place I met my husband, actually.
Kevin Weitzel: What? That's cool.
Melissa Galland: He was coming in to get breakfast.
Kevin Weitzel: So like a high school sweetheart? A junior high sweetheart?
Melissa Galland: I was in high school. Yeah.
Greg Bray: Well, tell us a little bit more about how you then got into home building specifically.
Melissa Galland: Well, I grew up visiting my dad and uncles on the job site. Never in a million years thought this was the industry for me, [00:04:00] but whether I wanted it or not on the agency side, I got kind of thrown in working with realtors and builders back in 2000.
I was working for a web development company and they said, oh, you get to work with all the realtors and builders. So, I had 20 websites that I was managing and mostly realtors, and so kind of teaching them how to use their website and just constantly been kind of thrown into the industry in that way. Then I realized, I love it. I love it so much, and I love being part of helping people find their dream. I love being part of one of the few truly creative industries that like we build stuff. How cool is that? We build homes. How cool is that?
Kevin Weitzel: Well, speaking of building stuff? It sounds like you didn't follow any specific blueprint in life to get to where you are. Full disclosure, I stole that from your LinkedIn profile.
Melissa Galland: I did not, I did not. I had a long and windy journey and I'm still on [00:05:00] it.
Greg Bray: So Melissa, tell us a little bit about Ginn Group and what you're doing there and the kinds of things you guys are working on.
Melissa Galland: Well, full disclosure. I am fairly new to the team at Ginn, but I am so thrilled to be part of this company. Ginn group is a company that believes in building something more. When I saw that on their website, actually an industry friend had pressured me, like, you need to apply to work here.
You belong at Ginn group. I was like, no. I look and I'm like, oh, maybe. I start reading about their obsession with finding the missing middle and making a difference in community, and I said, I want to be a part of that. I get there and I realized, this is not for PR. This is not for hype. This is a company that truly cares about their people, the community, and we want to build something and be a little better every day.
Currently on the for profit side, we're focusing on build for rent and multifamily, which is exciting. I think Ginn group is very unique in their ability to pivot to what the [00:06:00] market needs. Previously we built in communities and the for sale homes, just like every other home builder, but as a company, we do a really good job at analyzing the trends and what is truly needed in the community to make a difference.
That's what Ginn Group really does, and if Ginn Group can't do it on the for profit side, there's Ginn Gives that is really focused on giving back to the community and finding a way to uplift those who need it most.
Kevin Weitzel: So, they have another division of the company called Ginn Gives?
Melissa Galland: Yes.
Kevin Weitzel: That's pretty cool.
Melissa Galland: It's amazing.
Greg Bray: What's one of the big initiatives on the Ginn Gives side, before we talk more about other stuff, let's hear a little bit about that.
Melissa Galland: Sure. Well, one of the early projects, we recently were at the ribbon cutting for a community called Fruit Valley Terrace, which along with several other groups, took this parcel of land that was deemed unlivable, unbuildable, and created this pod-style living for [00:07:00] people to go from homelessness to housed.
They now have fully functioning homes. That is super unique because they don't live there for free. They pay a manageable rent. They're solar powered. They're really building their future there, cause we did everything to keep the costs low while they live there, so that they can build and move on to their next phase of life.
Kevin Weitzel: So it's a springboard, if you will, but is it a kept down low rent just to allow them to be able to springboard or is it actually, do they get ownership and then they use that as a way to catapult on the next thing?
Melissa Galland: Yeah. So they can actually have ownership of these homes.
Greg Bray: Really?
Melissa Galland: Yeah. It's really amazing. Now Ginn Group is even working on affordable housing community in Vancouver, in the central area where it's needed most. This will be more of a traditional apartment complex, but really kind of building something that is both beautiful and attainable in a time when that is more needed than ever.
Greg Bray: Very nice. [00:08:00] Thanks for sharing that. That's great to know. All right. Well, Melissa, we wanted to pick on you a little bit more because of some of your experiences related to brand and customer experience. I know we were having a quick chat before we started, the definitions, I guess, between customer experience and brand experience and some of that. So, tell us how you define those terms.
Melissa Galland: First of all, I would say, this is actually another cool thing about Ginn Group is, I don't think there's anybody else who has the job title I have. I don't know that brand experience, the way I passionately talk about it, is something a lot of people consider to be a thing. Again, I'm a marketer and a competitive sales person, and I like to grow revenue.
So, I'm not completely altruistic all the time, right, but through my years of just digging through the data and understanding what is needed, I was like, we have to do better at customer experience. I became obsessed with that. Took a full on course. Got certified as a CX champion. Did customer journey [00:09:00] mapping at the builder I was working for.
Really looking for ways to improve customer experience. Because I like people and I want them to have a good experience, but because I know as a marketer and as a sales driven person, that the happier they are throughout that experience, the more they're going to buy. The more they're going to tell their friends to come back and buy from my company.
Through that, I realized customer experience is great, and I'm so thrilled that our industry has shifted and is focused more on customer experience than we ever have been before, but it's more than that. We have to look at the whole brand experience and that starts from the first marketing message a customer sees, but really like from how you write your job posting to hire a person.
What that hiring process is like, and then when they get onboarded, and then how they then treat your customers. So, it starts with an employee experience, and the [00:10:00] tools we give our team members, and it goes beyond like how we treat the customers, what gifts we're giving them and how we communicate with them, to the product that we're creating.
Does that align with what the marketing message said? So, kind of bringing all aspects of the whole brand together and thinking about that experience as a brand. What is that like for a customer? That's what I get really excited to talk about.
Kevin Weitzel: You brought up something super, super interesting to me and that's customer retention and referrals. Do you have a matrix that you follow or keep track of to know what your retention level is and, you know, repeat buyers, and how those referrals are coming in? And if so, are you ahead of the curve with Ginn or behind the curve or is it one of those goals that we want to be in this zone and this is where we want be?
Melissa Galland: Yeah, so with Ginn, and my role being just a baby role, it's something we're working to implement and we're looking to do, but I have been part of that where [00:11:00] we've used the different survey companies and there are so many out there that are great, and what I would say is it can't even just be one thing, right?
You can have avid surveys, which is amazing, and it's going to give you a ton of detail, but you also have to talk to your team members. You have to go and scour social media and know what people are saying, because a good survey response is only going to give you I think they say 50, 60% is great.
So, what are the other people saying, and finding that message and really reaching out to the current. Pick a target group of customers and call them and check in with them and visit them and find out what their journey's like and do that on a regular basis.
Greg Bray: Melissa, do you think that it's typical for the marketing department to be involved in writing job postings?
Melissa Galland: I think it should be.
Greg Bray: Because I'm still spinning on that one [00:12:00] going, I have never thought of a job posting as a marketing event or exercise, but I can totally see where you're going with that, and how it's all about getting the right people all aligned with your vision of what you want your company to be and how you want people to view you and see you.
Yeah. There's people that see you there and it's about attracting those right people. I think that's a great little insight. Of course, all the marketing people are going, I have enough to do already Greg, don't give me something else to do.
Melissa Galland: But the marketing people who are looking at the data and they know what happens when we have a bad hire are like, oh my gosh, thank you.
Yes, please let me write that because I don't want to deal with the social media backlash of you hiring someone that's not a culture fit, that's not going to deliver our brand promise. Guarantee it.
Kevin Weitzel: So, is everything internal or do you partner with outside agencies, and if so, how does the culture fit weigh into your decision to work with a company versus another company?
Melissa Galland: Right. Well, absolutely. I think the more siloed we become, the [00:13:00] harder it is for us to know what's real. We have to have some outside input. We rely on people like, well, like you guys, right, to give us feedback and we can follow our gut because internally we know, we live it, we breathe it, but when you partner with an outside agency, it's so beneficial. It's learning from a different perspective and having that additional layer of insight, but as the internal marketing team, you are the one who has to give the final review, and just ensure that it's aligned and that you're keeping that messaging consistent.
Greg Bray: Melissa when you look at the journey mappings and things that you've done you know, at different times, is there one common place where people are just totally stumbling and falling flat on their face or is it just really vary a lot across what you've seen?
Melissa Galland: Well, it can vary quite a bit. Our industry, it's different, right? It's really easy when you go to the store, you buy [00:14:00] something, they take it home. It's done. Right? I go to Nordstrom, I shop, they send me a card in the mail. Like it's 1, 2, 3, right?
Home building, the conversation often starts online. Then it shifts from this department to this department, on and on through the process. So, it becomes so easy for us as an industry, with us having such a long and drawn-out buyer's journey and buyer experience, to drop the ball in certain areas and not have cohesion in that experience. That's where it takes someone who's going to be focused on what is it like from the start to the beginning and analyzing that whole process to kind of connect everything.
Kevin Weitzel: Can I put you on the spot?
Melissa Galland: Yeah, please do.
Kevin Weitzel: Here's what I'm going go do. So, I went to the Ginn Group website, and I noticed that they had a pretty bold statement that just said that, you know, they believe in not just building homes, building communities.
Melissa Galland: Yes.
Kevin Weitzel: Some builders think that just putting an inviting front door, pretty yellow door, red door on their home is going to be [00:15:00] creating community. What does the Ginn Group do that differentiates themselves to create a community? Followup to that, is how do you utilize your marketing message to deliver that message to your clients?
Melissa Galland: Yeah, so I would say again, we have Ginn Gives, so we're giving back to the community in a variety of ways, but something that struck me in my very first interview with Patrick Ginn, I noticed you have these beautiful homes and beautiful products, and sometimes in the affordability space, you kind of start to see beige on beige, but he's like, well actually we order enough of it.
It doesn't cost us more. We should give them something beautiful. Right? That commitment to quality and giving a beautiful product is part of what makes Ginn Group, a little different. I guess, combined with really just the intentionality. How is this going to impact the community?
What are we doing here? We have a community that's partnering a portion of the dirt that's being [00:16:00] developed is going to go to the boys and girls club, like how does this make our community better and being intentional about it. Again, not just having it as a statement on your website.
Making things pretty is nice. Okay. I work in marketing. I love making things pretty, but nice only goes so far. It has to be authentic. It has to be real and there has to be something sustainable about it. Something that's going to live on. People will paint over that door and they might choose an ugly color if you don't have an HOA.
Kevin Weitzel: So, basically you're saying it's not just about the phone check photo expose?
Melissa Galland: Correct.
Kevin Weitzel: Alright, just checking.
Greg Bray: I don't even know what that means Kevin.
Kevin Weitzel: It's one of my pet peeves from the eighties when the big thing was about writing these great big giant checks and look at what we donated. It is like just donate it. You don't need a pomp and circumstance celebration that says, here's what we did. You just do it. I applaud people that just do, instead of going look at [00:17:00] me, look what I did.
Greg Bray: So, as you try to deliver that message, Melissa, how has that gotten easier or more difficult with buyers doing more and more of the process online and evolving in that direction? What impact does that have?
Melissa Galland: Well, just generally speaking, I would say that as everything goes more online, we have to adapt and that's where technology's amazing too. Right? We have to be able to meet our customers where they are. In my last role, we were very fortunate, right before the start of the pandemic, we had kind of decided you know what, let's finally get on board with this whole virtual appointment thing. We had rolled out this training and sent everyone their cameras. Here's how you have a virtual consultation, because this is what people are telling us they need. Again, it's listening to the customer, understanding what they need, and how you get in front of them and communicate with them. Weren't we glad when you started hearing about all the webcams being sold out, that we had just launched that.
So, really it's something that's always [00:18:00] adapting. Is it harder to tell your story? Not necessarily. It's just different, and it's always going to be different. If we think it's going to stay the same and we can just do the same thing forever, then well, we're probably a little crazy. I think that's the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing the same way.
Greg Bray: If I'm a marketing director at a builder listening today, and I'm like, you know what, we need to do a better job with our experience. Where would you suggest somebody begins that kind of a process of trying to improve their experience?
Melissa Galland: Okay. Everyone start with your team. That is number one. Start with a survey of your team members. Step back and look what the employee experience is like, because you can hire people, you can spend a lot of money to fix customer experience, but if your team isn't happy, if they aren't feeling empowered and inspired, they're not going to deliver.[00:19:00]
People can do it for a dollar for only so long. Especially right now, home building is one of the most challenging industries to be in. Sorry, Mr. Customer, yes, your house is done, but no, we do not have a garage door for you. Like, whoever thought that would be a problem, getting a garage door. Like, some of the things that are challenges right now. So yeah, finding people that want to put up with all of that, they have to be bought in on who you are as a brand. They have to understand the core values and what their stake in it is.
Greg Bray: Man, I love that. I think we're just going to take that little few sentences and just make that the whole episode. It's so true. I remember a long time ago, some training or coaching, back before we had webcams, where they were talking about, if you are talking on the phone and you smile, people can hear it. They can hear you smile on the phone, and it was kind of a weird thought.
I think that's kind of what you're getting at, is that the way that people feel as they communicate internally [00:20:00] comes through subconsciously on some level, right? That's a neuroscience episode we'll have to get you some other down how that actually works, but this idea that if they're unhappy, they're just not going to communicate the same way. It's just not going to come through. That's not even digital, right? That's just the way people connect.
Melissa Galland: Exactly, and a lot of times it's easier than you would think to impact employee experience. At Ginn Group, we have every month, all hands meeting, and our CEO talks to us and people leading key initiatives, we talk and we open up the floor and anyone in the company can ask a question.
So, open communication. That's huge. It's challenging again, just from that same thing I was talking about with our industry having like crazy long processes. It's hard to keep those communication lines open, but if you're trying really hard, that alone can make a huge difference.
Kevin Weitzel: Can I change gears just for one second? So, with all this, you know, hullabaloo about people wanting to be able to [00:21:00] buy homes online and be able to hit the buy it now action button, do you have a different, obviously you have a different process for rental versus purchase, but uh, do you see that it's an easier pathway for automating or semi-automated that rental process?
Melissa Galland: Oh yeah. A hundred percent easier to automate that process. We want to bring home buying online. We want to give people the tools, but I think people still really want that human connection. So, it's again, finding a way to find balance in that.
It's not the same as ordering your next tube of mascara. You want to have that human experience and feel good about where you're going to live, whether it's a home you rent or a home you're buying. That does require a human involvement. Can it be done more and more virtually?
Absolutely, but I don't think it could ever be a hundred or should ever be a hundred percent automated.
Greg Bray: So, Melissa for that marketing director, my marketing director personality here on the side, they love [00:22:00] your ideas, and now they've got to get buy-in from somebody higher up to start trying to execute some of these things.
Any tips there? How do I go to the owner, the CEO and say, Hey, you know what? I know I'm just marketing, but I want to get involved in HR and I want to touch warranty, and I want to touch all these other, because I want better overall journey and experience. How do you pitch that to the top?
Melissa Galland: Well, I would say there's a couple of things to think about there, but number one is if you're trying to pitch something new, is your house in order, how is your team doing. So, you can start small and make the changes within your own team. For me, when I was going through the recruiting process, and actually came up with a lot of what I was doing for recruiting, hiring and onboarding from outside agency partner, but also another home builder.
So, I would also tell people like, Hey, join your HBA, get involved in different home builders groups. I got to show people, I've done this in [00:23:00] my department. How can we take this bigger and more global and see these kinds of results across the organization? Then after that then it's like, oh yeah, you want to change the job description for the superintendent?
You want to make a template, so it's for every department? Let's do it. So, that's really where it starts. Start small. Focus on your group. Are you doing all the right things? Then how do you share that?
Greg Bray: Well, we appreciate your time, Melissa. So, want to be respectful there, but just a couple more questions while we got you.
So, what do you see coming? What trends are you watching for and getting ready for that are coming?
Melissa Galland: I think that what we're seeing is housing affordability is such an issue. As an industry us trying to do all we can to figure out how to solve that, and maybe working with our local governments to figure out what that looks like. Because of that, I think the multifamily space and build for rent and just looking at different options, because at the end of the day, we all [00:24:00] need a place to call home, even if we can't afford to buy a home. I've spent years and the focus on buy a home, so what does that look like on the other side now with home prices where they are?
Greg Bray: Any last pieces of advice on improving that brand or customer experience that you didn't get a chance to say that you want to share today?
Melissa Galland: I think it'll be different for every brand, but as soon as you decide to care about it and look into it, day one, it's already better. I think that's the thing is really, how do you get on board and collaborate cross departmentally and not just keep that as a marketing message? As a marketer go out in the field and are the things that you're saying to the customer at the beginning of the journey, true at the end? If they're not, how do you feel about that and how do you fix it? Is that changing your marketing message or is that collaborating with other divisions of your organization to make a change?
Kevin Weitzel: Are you actually delivering what you promised at the onset when you finish the transaction? [00:25:00] That's fantastic and that's gold! Gold, Melissa!
Greg Bray: Well, Melissa, if someone wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get touch?
Melissa Galland: Yeah, well, I'm on LinkedIn, like probably way too much because I love connecting with people, especially in our industry. So, that's a really easy way to connect with me.
Greg Bray: Terrific. Well, thank you again, Melissa, for sharing so much with us today and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine and
Kevin Weitzel: I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.