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This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Caroline Ashe of Ivey Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how important understanding analytics is when evaluating the success of digital marketing campaigns.
The ultimate determination of whether a marketing strategy is cost-effective is to assess the results. Caroline says, “…if we're paying money to something, we wanna see if it's giving us the benefit. That's what we're looking at. Like, how is it coming and did it produce a contract or a lead?”
Home builders must have someone who has the expertise to keep a close and consistent eye on data analytics to show whether a particular marketing campaign is profitable. Caroline explains, “I think I've learned over the years that analytics is important, and if I don't know how to read it or I don't know what it means, then I need to either hire someone or I need to have somebody on my team that knows what I'm looking at and how it's a benefit. Because when you're talking to leadership, all they wanna know is, okay you're asking for this much. How is that going to produce contracts? How many contracts is it gonna produce? Whatever business you're in, whatever your service or product is, that's all they wanna know.”
When a team can show the success of a marketing program with data, funding for additional campaigns will come more easily. Caroline says, “But the more that I learned about the analytics and really how it benefits the company's bottom line, it's easy to get more money for it. You know, I'm like, Hey, this campaign did really good. It brought us this, it brought us this. And so when I'm saying, okay, I need another $3,000 for this digital campaign, it's an easy ask on the marketing side. You've gotta know where that contract came from.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the benefits of understanding analytics in home builder digital marketing.
About the Guest:
Caroline Ashe has been a leader in Augusta Georgia’s real estate and marketing community for 21 years. In 2015 she joined Ivey Homes as their Sales & Marketing Director. In her role, Caroline heads company advertising strategies and design, public relations and community outreach along with the leadership, coaching and growth of Ivey’s sales and marketing teams, which include on-site sales professionals, Design Consultant, Online Sales Counselor, Marketing Coordinator and Marketing Assistant.
Caroline lead Ivey Homes to a National Association of Home Builders Gold Award for The House That Facebook Built, a charity campaign that raised over $80,000 in 2017. The proceeds were donated to Augusta Warrior Project, The American Red Cross - Augusta Chapter and The Children Hospital of Georgia. In 2020, Caroline helped create the Buy Ivey, Build Community campaign that lets Ivey homebuyers choose from local charities for a portion of their home’s sale to be donated. In its 3rd year, the campaign has raised over $117,000 for local Augusta charities.
Caroline feels personally it is important to give back to her community and loves to do it in creative fun ways! In 2017, Caroline participated as a local star in the Alzheimer Association’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser raising over $15,000 for dementia-related diseases, and in 2020 was the top fundraiser in Safe Home’s Fake it to Make It Lip Sync Challenge, raising over $41,000 for local domestic violence needs. Caroline was also honored in 2009 and 2015 by her peers as the local Sales and Marketing Council’s Member of the Year and was chosen as an Augusta Magazine’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch in 2010.
Caroline currently serves as a Board Member for the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, Board Member for the Builders Association of Metro Augusta’s Sales and Marketing Council, Mentor for the chamber’s Young Women on the Way Program and Broker member of the Georgia and National Associations of Realtors.
In her spare time, Caroline, is a competitive ballroom dancer, lover of naps, wife, mother, and dog-mom to The Golden Sisters, her two perfect Golden Retrievers.
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 want to give a special thank you to today's episode sponsor NterNow. If you are having a growth in your inventory homes then you definitely need to check out NterNow, that's at nternow.com.
Today we're excited to welcome to the show, Caroline Ashe, who is the Sales and Marketing Director at Ivey Homes. Welcome, Caroline. Thanks for joining us.
Caroline Ashe: Hey guys. Thanks.
Greg Bray: Well, Caroline, why don't we [00:01:00] start off with just having you tell us just a little bit about yourself and help us get to know you a bit?
Caroline Ashe: Yeah. So, I come from a general brokerage background, been in real estate about 21 years, and with Ivey Holmes for eight years now.
Funny story with me and Ivey Homes. I actually was one of their very first sales agents in one of their very first neighborhoods in Augusta, and so got to know the brothers and just stayed in contact with them over the years. As Matt Ivey says, it took him 16 years to get me to come work for him, and we've been doing a great job, I think, over the last couple years.
They do a great job in our market and it was an easy decision. Although, I like the general brokerage side. Once I had started working probably 80, 90 hours a week and didn't have a vacation for two years, it was a good switch to still stay in the industry but learn something totally new than general brokerage and getting into new homes.
Kevin Weitzel: So, that's the business side of you. Please expound on something personal that people will learn [00:02:00] about you on our podcast.
Caroline Ashe: Okay. I'm very competitive by nature. I came from a sales background. I am a competitive ballroom dancer in my spare time. I have been ballroom dancing for about six years now and compete all over the United States and I have actually been to Cuba one time for an international competition and took top student there. So, have a great time with it. It's lots of good exercise. It's good therapy, and so it's all around something I absolutely love.
Kevin Weitzel: Awesome. what's the dance that I like? The paso doble. That's a good one. Right?
Caroline Ashe: Yeah, that's a good one.
Kevin Weitzel: What's your dance of choice? What's your go-to if you wanna win?
Caroline Ashe: If I wanna try to win, so I'm what's called a nine-dancer. So, that's cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero, mamba, which is the rhythm, like American rhythm, and so bolero is my absolute favorite dance. And so that would probably be my go-to dance.
Kevin Weitzel: Awesome.
Greg Bray: So, when you say you go all over, how often are you doing a competition?
Caroline Ashe: You know, we kind of stop for the holidays, and so we'll [00:03:00] compete all the way to like October. There is one in December that we like, so we go about every other month.
Greg Bray: Okay.
Caroline Ashe: It's an expensive sport.
Greg Bray: Is it, I was just gonna ask, what's like the purse look like? Like, first place, you know, do you actually cover your travel expenses, or is it like you're making money?
Caroline Ashe: On the student side, it's extremely expensive. So, you're paying for your teacher to go, you know, if you've got flights. The dresses, obviously, are not something you can buy off the rack, so they're all custom made and you know, they all have to be different. It's an expensive sport, so.
Greg Bray: But hey, good exercise you said, right? So, there you go.
Caroline Ashe: Yes. Great exercise.
Greg Bray: That's right. And a lot of fun sounds like. Well, that's awesome. Well, tell us a little more about how you decided you wanted to be in home building and real estate. What kind of attracted you to this industry?
Caroline Ashe: How I got into real estate. That's funny. So, I actually lived in Atlanta, moved here, in Augusta, for a job. Really wanted a career change, but didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was in more of like facilities management, kind of computer sales. It wasn't what I [00:04:00] love to do, and I actually answered an ad in 1999 for a real estate company to be like an administrative assistant. They hired me, and two years into it, I literally thought I could do this much better than these people are doing it. And so I thought, I'm gonna get my real estate license.
So, the real estate company I went to work for had a school. I got my real estate license and the rest is history. I built a very good business in the general brokerage for 16 years. If you ask anybody in our market, I was really one of the first adopters of like lead generation, you know, things that were going online, like when social media first started. Everybody's doing it now, but I have one of the oldest real estate social medias in our area.
Fast forward to like when 2008, 2009 kind of came about, I really leaned in, you know, where a lot of realtors were like getting out of the business. They were doing something else. They couldn't make a living. I really kind of bet on myself, [00:05:00] and I bought two websites. They're no longer in service, but they were ones that this company had built up, and I bought them. They were all lead generation, and so then from about 2010 on almost my entire business was online referrals. I had referral business from customers, but I was generating a lot of online leads from just people that were looking online for houses in our market.
Greg Bray: That's awesome because that sounds like you're in pioneer territory there, as far as recognizing the power of using the internet to generate those leads. That's pretty cool.
Caroline Ashe: You know, I wanted to share the knowledge cuz it was expensive at the time. Now it's very inexpensive, and it was a very foreign territory. But I love to read. I love to dig into things and kind of figure them out. It was fun for me. And of course, in 08, 09, 2010, you were just digging for everything that you could get. It ended up being one of the things that really, you know, Matt Ivey saw in what I was [00:06:00] doing and kind of a forward-thinking on that side. And so from a marketing side and being able to market myself, being able to, you know, market my business was a big draw.
Greg Bray: Well, Caroline, tell us just a little bit more about Ivey Homes, the areas that you guys are building in, and what type of buyers you serve.
Caroline Ashe: So, we're in the Augusta, we call it the Augusta River Region. So, we're right on the Savannah River to north Augusta, South Carolina. So, Augusta, Georgia, Evans, Georgia, in Grovetown are some of the bigger cities that we're in. We're a builder-developer, and so we have anything from a townhome that can start in about the 200 thousands all the way up to active adult. And then we have some larger plans for bigger families that would be kind of in the mid-fives is kind of where we top out.
So, we have a very broad range, and we have several communities around this area that we have, you know, customers in that we're building in. And we're a production builder, so we have a little bit of personalization for what our customers can personalize. We do have [00:07:00] design studio but we kind of stick to our library of plans.
Greg Bray: Given your experience before you were with Ivey Home as far as generating leads online and learning how to do some of that, how have you seen that buyer experience evolve over the years as far as how much they're doing online back in the day versus, you know, today and some of those changes that you've seen in your career?
Caroline Ashe: Yeah. So, I think, back in the day, all of the information being out there about just real estate and what's out there was new even to the buyer. There was always that back and forth what do you put out there and what do you make them come to you for? And so I think a lot of that evolved. Now, everything is online. So, I think what has changed is when the buyer actually connects with your company or your brand, they have done so much research. They know exactly what they want.
I think on the real estate side, we're still in a part where they still need to [00:08:00] touch and feel it, but I think it's coming. You know, and some builders are doing it piece by piece. Where you're gonna be able to buy a home online, you're gonna be able to pick all of your selections. I think that's coming and it's a real part of our industry that is something new. A lot of builders or marketers are really watching to see how other people are doing it, what's working, what's not working.
So, I think the biggest difference, to answer your question, is they know what they want when they connect with your brand and your company now. Whereas versus you still had to do a little bit of like push and pull on what information you were putting out there.
Kevin Weitzel: So, a lot of times the marketing team is usually savvy on wanting to get that information out because that's how we all shop anymore, and a lot of times it's the owner group. So, it sounds like Matt and Mark weren't giving you any pushback when you're suggesting, let's get this as digital as humanly possible.
Caroline Ashe: Oh no. The whole thing about the pandemic pushing our industry forward on the digital side is a true statement because even us [00:09:00] we're like, is the buyer going to react to that? Are they gonna like that? So, we were questioning it too. But really the pandemic, it was like you had to put it out there. You had to figure out ways for them to do their selections online whether it's with Zoom or walk with the sales agent to pick a home site. It did push us into kind of a have-to during the very beginning of the pandemic. That fear was gone because we were like, we just gotta sell houses. We gotta figure out how to do it, so let's just try it.
You know, we redid the website and everything and we're working on, even doing a piece of it. Not the whole process, but we are working on where they can pick the home site, where they can pick the elevation, they can pick the floor plan, and then do like a reservation, and within 48 hours, 72 hours, the contract can be written in person. Because in our market we've found that a lot of our local buyers are still a little more on the traditional side. They still wanna meet. They still want that hands-on appointment.
Greg Bray: So, I was gonna ask if you guys were [00:10:00] looking at that buy online cuz you brought that up and where that kind of was without giving away any deep, dark corporate secrets. Although we accept deep, dark corporate secrets. That's fine.
Caroline Ashe: Yes.
Greg Bray: But is that something that you guys are trying to get to as you move forward with what you offer online, or have you decided that's farther than you want to go?
Caroline Ashe: No, we definitely have built the website to have that capability. Right now it's just the picking of the home site, picking of the elevation. All of that pricing is already on the website, so they're not having to select any options to create the final price. But we have built the website where we can turn that as we get comfortable with it because I think for us, Ivey Homes, we're very process driven.
So, I won't say that we slow to change, but there's a lot of little moving parts that you have to get a lot of people buy in on cuz it's different. I think we're gonna do it in baby steps, but we hopefully [00:11:00] will get to that point. Definitely to like a reservation and then the either Zoom appointment, if it needs to be virtual, or the onsite appointment to kind of ratify everything.
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So, I know with the builders that we talk to, one of the big obstacles they run into with trying to get to that buy online is just the data management. Making sure that what we're showing on the website matches with what we're showing the sales team, what we're showing in the back office and all of those things. How did you guys start to approach that particular challenge? Or was it something that was no big deal for you guys? I'm just curious.
Caroline Ashe: It definitely was a big deal, especially if we move into like phase two of it where they're picking like different flooring and different faucets and cabinets because all of those prices, they can change. I won't say volatile in price, but purchasing can make an adjustment, a small adjustment to flooring prices, and we don't really know about it until you're pricing something out.
So, obviously, our home site [00:13:00] costs are already in our base price, so that's not gonna change. Our elevation costs don't change and in any home site premium or anything doesn't change. And so we feel like if we can get it to that point, that's our first step, and then we can work on the other.
Yeah. The other thing with the management of it is just we couldn't do this during the pandemic for one reason only is a supply chain. You know, we're not really using that anymore, but we didn't know what products we were gonna have from week to week. There was no way for us to offer that flooring color or that particular brand of something because we might not have it by the time the home gets to be available, or that piece of the home is ready to be built onto the job site. So, we just didn't even feel like we could manage that.
Greg Bray: What type of reaction have you gotten from buyers to these tools? Have you felt like they've engaged well, or nobody's using them? What type of feedback have you received from the customers?
Caroline Ashe: We haven't launched it just yet, but we have done [00:14:00] some surveying. We've done some asking of the customer what they would be comfortable with. From the feedback I've gotten, I think it's going to be well received. I think the other benefit of it is where everybody's trying to make their websites more sticky, it's what I call it. You want them to stay on, you want them to engage with it, you want them to make it their own.
That's the other piece of it, not just the buying part of it, but you're wanting them on the website. You're wanting them engaging with all of that content so they feel that they're invested in it. And then once they do that reserve, then you feel like, okay, you kind of got them. It's kind of like the online sales, if they make that appointment, then you know, our sales team knows we have a very good opportunity to write a contract. So, it's kind of the same thing but using more of the website as that online piece.
Kevin Weitzel: What are you doing differently to draw the audience to your website?
Caroline Ashe: This is a digital marketing podcast, so I'm assuming that somewhere down the line, y'all figured out that we do a lot of [00:15:00] digital marketing and so I would say, I would say the biggest thing is we just have different information on different channels to try to drive more people to our website. Then on our website, having pieces of that trying to get them to engage. Whether it's you know, a pop-up with a special offer or if it's some type of download form that they can use. We're just trying to get them to the website.
We're using a lot of geofencing, which is one of my favorite things. I think it's very Big Brother, but it's like one of those like, why did I get that ad? Oh my gosh, that's exactly what I wanted. It's very interesting to me how geofencing works. I like that. I would say we do it for about every three months. Like, currently we have one, we've been seeing a lot of people that are coming out of the rental market. So, we were like, where are they coming from? If they're walking through the door, then their neighbor across in building three might be looking to buy. It's showing some very good results already and we've only had it probably running about a month. We're having people coming from these apartment [00:16:00] complexes that we've geofenced. And the tracking, it's just, you can see it. And I'm a big, like, wanna know where they come from to get to the contract.
Greg Bray: We love it. And if anybody listening's looking for a little more information about how geofencing works and some of that, we've got some stuff on the Blue Tangerine website that helps explain it and show you kind of what's possible with that. So, check that out for sure, because it's a really interesting opportunity to use the places people go to determine if they are your target audience or not. It's fascinating stuff. So, Caroline, you are obviously someone who is measuring and tracking and looking at what works and what doesn't. What are some of those key metrics that you look at to help you decide if one of your campaigns is working well or not?
Caroline Ashe: You know, one of the biggest ones is how many visits are actually getting to the website, and then how are they engaging with the website? We've seen a lot more phone calls here recently, which is kind of interesting. You know, a lot of ours are a lot of form submissions or they're trying to get, [00:17:00] you know, whatever goodie we have on the website. But a lot of phone calls. I feel like a phone call is okay, they really need something quick. They need information quick. Our online sales has, you know, been able to really turn some of those around. So, just engagability, like where it's coming from and how they're engaging with the site.
Also, we look at downloads. We have a lot of information on our website. We have everything tagged on what they're downloading, what they're looking at. I find it very important to make sure that we know what our customer's looking at on the website so we can talk to them, you know, and what they're looking for. So, I think it's very important in marketing, digital or whatever way, that you're talking to the buyer that you're trying to get to engage with that content. So, we also look at our online sales, online sales appointments that are set. We look at that and then all those direct contracts that come through whatever source it is. You know, I'm big on, obviously, if we're paying money to something, we wanna see if it's giving us the benefit. That's what we're looking at like, [00:18:00] how is it coming and did it produce a contract or a lead?
Greg Bray: It's so much data sometimes to parse through, isn't it? Cuz you just rattled off a whole bunch of different things to look at, right? If you only get one thing you can look at, I've got five minutes this morning, I can only check one number, what's the one number you look at from yesterday?
Caroline Ashe: I would probably look at time on-site and what they're actually looking at. You know, if I'm gonna say like a particular day, like, I'm gonna dig down and look and see what that was looking for and where those sources were coming from. Because then I can know like, okay, this ad was obviously running. You know, we put this amount of money into it, and it brought this much. If I'm looking at it for a day I pretty much have the analytics. We use Teams and there's extensions. It puts your analytics into Teams every morning. So, whatever time you want it, you can go look at it.
Greg Bray: That's a great idea to make it right there in front of you when you log in, ready to go. That's awesome.
Caroline Ashe: Yeah.
Greg Bray: So, Caroline, I'm really excited about how much experience you've expressed today because sometimes we talk to [00:19:00] folks who haven't been doing this for as long and I don't mean to imply anything. I know you started in kindergarten, so if you were talking to somebody who is just getting started, who is really struggling to get digital marketing working, or maybe they can't convince, you know, the boss to invest, what tips would you share with somebody who just hasn't been able to get their digital marketing kind of rolling the way that they really want to?
Caroline Ashe: I definitely appreciate the compliment. Although, I don't know everything. I think I've learned over the years that analytics is important, and if I don't know how to read it or I don't know what it means, then I need to either hire someone or I need to have somebody on my team that knows what I'm looking at and how it's a benefit. Because when you're talking to leadership, all they wanna know is, okay you're asking for this much. How is that going to produce contracts? How many contracts is it gonna produce? Whatever business you're in, whatever your service or product is, that's all they wanna know.
The other thing is [00:20:00] I would say know your customer. That's probably a Marketing 101, but we forget about it. You are talking to people. You're trying to get them to either engage or you're trying to get them to buy a service or product. So, make sure that you know your buyers.
Each of our neighborhoods has a different buyer, so if we have a particular ad for our active adult, that's a totally different buyer and what we're talking about than to a first-time home buyer that's moving out of their parent's house that wants to move into a townhome. So, making sure that we know that customer and we all, from marketing and sales, are talking that language so that when that person engages with it, whether it's online or it's in person, then we know exactly what is gonna trigger that particular buyer to consume our content or to buy one of our homes in that particular market.
Greg Bray: So, as you ponder kind of what you know today, is there something that you're like, [00:21:00] man, if I had only known this 10 years ago I would've done so much better?
Caroline Ashe: Oh, okay. Well, right now I'm not a spring chicken anymore and I think bingeable content, cuz I think that's how we're getting information right now. Our attention span, even myself, is that of a gnat. How to market to different buyers or different prospects that are wanting content that's quick. I'm sure in your business as you see that like time on site. We used to look at time on site as that means your content's good, they're engaging with it, but everything is so mobile and quick. It's just degraded that particular metric, so you can't really hang your hat on it anymore.
But that bingeable content, so like TikToks and reels and quick videos and things like that, because that's how the consumer right now is digesting information about product and services. That's how I do it. I'm scrolling through. And so, you know, I think if we would've gotten on the bandwagon on that even five years ago, [00:22:00] I would've been great. It's just now we have some younger people on our marketing team that's like, we need to do this. And I'm like, you're exactly right. We do. I'm like, but I have to figure it out. I'm like, okay.
Greg Bray: Yeah. bingeable is a great word. It's a great word.
Caroline Ashe: I love that word. One of our marketing assistants went to IBS and we were doing like a little recap of what she learned, and you know, she used that. And I was like, oh, that's great. I was like, that's a great word. Because that's exactly, you know, we were talking about like little short ways that people are getting information about your company.
Greg Bray: It also implies the idea though, of giving them more, if they want more, right? You give them the first piece, make it quick, you know, but yet there's links and cross-links and intertwining of all of that content so they can keep going if they need to, if they have time, but they don't have to.
Caroline Ashe: And I think relevant content, I think a lot of people are doing it. I think relevant content is also a big kind of [00:23:00] buzzword because, you know, a lot of the social and everything has gotten somewhat degraded, depending on what type of service or business product industry you're in. And it's just flooded with ads and different things that you don't want, and so it gets a little irritating. But if somebody is really wanting to engage with your business, then you want them to find good content. So, like less is more now. I believe on social it's very less is more right now on the business side.
Greg Bray: Well, we wanna respect your time today. This has been a great conversation, Caroline. Is there anyone last piece of marking advice that you'd like to share while you've got the floor is yours?
Caroline Ashe: I would just say pay attention to the analytics. I had to learn them. I do not have an analytical brain. I'm more of the, you know, warm and fuzzy and, oh, it's pretty. I like that. But the more that I learned about the analytics and really how it benefits the company's bottom line, it's easy to get more money for it. You know, I'm like, Hey, this campaign did really good. It brought us this, it brought us this. And so when [00:24:00] I'm saying, okay, I need another $3,000 for this digital campaign, it's an easy ask on the marketing side. You've gotta know where that contract came from. And that's what I do at the end of each month, is I can look and see exactly where all of our contracts came from and which ones were digital, which ones were Zillow, which ones were walk-ins, which ones were anything.
The other thing we kind of leaned into right now, which you know, you have to be careful with, is email marketing. I think it went away, but I think with that intentional marketing and very targeted email campaigns, we've seen some very good results with those as well. So, don't forget about email.
Greg Bray: What's changed with email is the broadcast. Like the impact of something like a newsletter is not nearly what it used to be, but the more personal one-to-one, using tools to, to help you manage that.
Caroline Ashe: Or just that targeted, like knowing your buyer and being able to target that information to someone that is wanting the information.
Greg Bray: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Caroline, if somebody wants to [00:25:00] connect with you and get in touch, what's the best way for them to reach out?
Caroline Ashe: Social, it's just Caroline Ashe, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org is the easiest way.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for spending some time and sharing with us today. We really appreciate it.
Caroline Ashe: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity. It was great.
Greg Bray: And a big thank you to our episode sponsor NterNow. Learn more at nternow.com. Thanks, everybody for listening 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 OutHouse. Thank you. [00:26:00]