Kevin Oakley, managing partner of Do You Convert, discusses what the future of home building looks like, as well as the good old days, in this episode of the Epcon Experts Podcast.
“Walk‑in traffic, people who do that are weird. They’re the abnormal. The normal person, 95 percent of the population, is not going to walk in unprepared just to look around.“
Host: Hello. Today we’re joined by Kevin Oakley, managing partner of Do You Convert. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin Oakley, Managing Partner of Do You Convert: Thanks so much for having me.
Host: I’d like to start out with an easy question. Let’s start…with a softball.
Kevin: Yes, please.
Host: From your perspective, if you were looking into a crystal ball, what does the future of home building look like? How will it change in the next 5 to 10 years and beyond?
Kevin: There’s lots of way to go on that. Since I’m a marketer, I’m assuming you mean in that phase primarily. It’s actually going to be a great way to start, because the complexity of it, meaning the product always impacts a marketer’s ability to do their job.
If there’s a theme, even though this is just the beginning, I have a sense it’s going to weave through this, is that marketer’s job is grabbing attention of the consumer, showing them the offering and helping to nurture them through once they react to that initial offering in a positive manner.
We temporarily grab their attention with advertising, then we help…hopefully, that attention converts.
If you want to be a great marketer, go find a company with a great product, or the ability to influence how that product is developed, or have a voice, or make sure the consumer is front and center.
When we talk about how things are going to change in 5 to 10 years, we actually have to talk a little bit about product. We were just talking about this before we hit record, that I think “precision engineering” is your favorite term. Some would say “offsite construction” or “advanced panelization”, lots of terms for it, but I think that’s one direction that product is going to continue to go.
Then the other direction is infinite customization, which already exists now, but the building, costing and purchasing, all the moving pieces are, let’s just say, chaotic. Those two extremes will continue to be where product evolves to.
When it comes to marketing and sales, I’m a firm believer that we’re heading towards the “Uberization” of what we do. You think right now, even, most people think about one sales office, one model home, one salesperson, maybe two, and we funnel all that traffic. That salesperson sits there for eight hours a day, seven days a week, in the owner’s view of a best-case scenario, and waits for the traffic to come.
The Uberization’s going to take us to the point where when the customer pushes the button or shows up, we are going to route the appropriate person there to meet them, whether that be in person, virtually, in any fashion that the customer wants.
It’s going to be much more responsive using technology to do that well and quickly. We’re not going to just have people sitting around waiting to interact with a customer because people are getting more expensive. There are not enough experts to help customers.
We have this challenge of wanting to keep down expenses. We have a challenge of consumers not wanting to go visit a physical place until they’re pretty darn sure that they already love it.
Even traffic, to me and to those, I think, who are living in the year 2023 or beyond, when you say that word, I think web traffic. I don’t think foot traffic first because that’s where it all starts.
Host: How is all that change possible, Kevin, because homes have always been built the same way? It’s stick building. The process has been the same. There’s all this talk about the future. I talk with a lot of builders, as you do. I think there’s a denialism that things are going to change.
You’re talking about some things that are going to take place, but builders have been doing it the same way and it’s worked fine. Why do they really need to take that seriously?
Kevin: We are seeing a lot of interest in this space from the outside. I just met a gentleman who I’ve never heard of before. He’s like, “Hey Kevin, I want to invest $40 million in this vertical of home building, creating a piece of software that home builders will use. What should I do?”
I have to imagine, if that one person appeared out of nowhere, there are more of them. When people who are really smart, who are well capitalized are looking for an industry to, on one hand, you could use the word “disrupt,” which people like to use.
The other one is to just say, opportunistically, there’s got to be an analogy. The mattress world is a great parallel here, of mattresses where a high margin, and I know if you’re a builder listening, you’re like, “Kevin, my margins aren’t high.” I understand. I was a builder. Our cost of goods is really high, too.
The amount of effort that goes into it can feel like our margins aren’t enough. I hear that loud and clear. Then came Casper. They said, “Hey, why did Casper pick the mattress industry, or the founder of Casper?” It’s because high margin, low barrier to entry, and this is an opportunity for us to disrupt that.
There are people from the outside. I don’t know if we want to list names or not. Companies like Higharc, which Epcon uses for design and costing and take‑offs and all the things that it does.
It also allows infinite flexibility and customization as part of its solution that starts at the beginning and solves the problem with the latest technology from the beginning. It’s going to wipe out everything. There’s lots of quotes around this.
Bill Gates is the one who said we overestimate what’s going to change in the next 100 years and underestimate what’s going to change in the next 10, some version of that. It’s coming and it’s here. There are already companies that are innovating. Now, that’s the one hand, outside forces.
The other thing that’s happening is costs right now are out of control. On the one hand, we know as home building organizations, we have to lower our costs, so that we can build something. Goldman Sachs just today came out and said, according to their own index that they’ve been charting for the last 40 years, homes have never been this terrible in terms of affordability.
We have an extreme affordability challenge. The builders are saying, “Yeah. That’s great, but sticks and bricks, labor, zoning, not in my backyard, all this stuff means that there’s no opportunity for my cost to decrease.” Then, the technology and innovation companies come over and say, “Hi, we can help you with that.”
A lot of it starts with products and demand of if homes are not affordable, then you can try to keep raising your margin and raising your price and say, “Well, I’ll just build less, but I’ll make more money on each one.” That’s not how most home building organizations are built.
Even land, that’s not how land works. You don’t say, “Well, I’ll pay you $10 million for this farm and in my business plan, I’ll just plan to sell, you know, two homes a quarter.” There are things that actually are breaking. Costs are breaking. The amount of labor available is breaking.
I don’t think, to cut to the chase of it, wanting to change just because we have some innovative thinkers in our industry, who are trying to push us forward isn’t enough. I think, Nido Qubein who said the only person who likes change is a toddler in a dirty diaper.
The pain of staying the same has to outweigh the pain of making the change. The outside forces are what’s going to drive that stuff from happening, and the customers, of course.
Host: There’s never been a time where innovation is going to be more critical to what’s taking place. The technology companies, they’ve done it in about every other industry. Now, they’ve got their eyes set on the home building industry.
Kevin: They’re doing it way smarter. I interact with, I’ve invested in several organizations. I’m on the board of some. They’re way smarter about it now. They used to say we made off in fairytale land this amazing solution, and they would go knock on the doors of home building companies and say, “Look at what we did.”
Then we’d all laugh at them and say, “You don’t understand how complex our business is. You clearly don’t get it.” Again, companies like Higharc said, “No, no, no. We’re going to take years to just listen and collaborate and truly understand what you’re doing.” They’re using home building companies who want to innovate as testing grounds, but more than that as true partners.
That’s why we’re making the progress we’re making, is that technology companies have finally started listening to the builders versus saying, “You guys are so antiquated and you just don’t get it. We are your saviors.” Now, they’re like, “No. We’re not your saviors. We understand this is really freaking difficult. We have tools that we want to understand how we can help.”
Host: Let’s say you’re sitting down with a builder that can actually see in the rear view mirror and see these advancements taking place, what advice would you give to them about how they prepare for that future?
Kevin: Know your why and know your data. Again, we could say a whole bunch of company names. There’s now an infinite amount of opportunities for either incremental improvement or drastic rethinking of how you’re doing something. Which one do you pick first?
That’s oftentimes when we start working with the home building company. It’s like, “Well, there’s seven opportunities for improvement here. We can’t fix them all now. Which one should come first, and why?” Don’t just get shiny object syndrome and start chasing the coolest thing. You have to really understand your business and what the weakest part of that is.
I spent two years running home building divisions for NVR. They purchased the company that I worked for. One of the things that they talk about all the time is, what is the limiting factor?
In the machine that’s been built, there’s always one process or part of that machine that is limited in capacity, limited by speed, limited by resources, but the whole machine can only be as functional as its limiting aspect.
You got to know exactly where you are, your weak points, and have the data to support those views to know where to go.
Host: So many of those builders have just been selling homes left and right. They didn’t really have to work on their business. Then when things slowed down, all of the deficiencies start to come to light.
Host: We were talking about disruption a little bit ago. Let’s talk about some topics that people may have heard about, or maybe not. Maybe this is the first time we’ve brought it up, but ChatGPT and AI, the metaverse, they’re all evolving topics. What role do you see these technologies having?
Kevin: Let’s talk about the one that we have to spend the least amount of time on in the immediate future, and that is the metaverse. The metaverse is further off than AI or blockchain in how it’s going to likely impact because if we go all the way back to the affordability challenge, people have to have a place to live.
Cardboard box, living under an overpass, not an option for most of us that we think of. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to strap something on your face and go live inside of pixels, you’ve got to have an actual place to do that that protects you from the elements, that keeps you warm.
The metaverse is something to pay attention to, but I would recommend people let other organizations pioneer in that and then move quickly with them.
On the AI front, some people have fear about this, understandably so because it’s something that maybe you don’t understand, or you just watched a computer do something that took you 10 years to learn how to do well. That’s freaky, but it’s just another form of augmentation.
None of these systems are actually thinking yet. In ChatGPT’s case, the way that the language model works is it’s reading everything it can. It’s understanding that typically, after the word “exfoliate,” to pick something random, what is the percentage chance that the next word should be “your,” and then the next word should be “face?”
It’s just saying things that it thinks makes sense based upon being trained on everything that it can read. It’s not actually thinking. If it’s not actually thinking, then that’s an opportunity to add a human who is thinking and has expertise, and use that just as another point of leverage.
I jokingly say it’s no different than an iPhone. I forget the stat ‑‑ I have two teenage daughters so I pay attention to this ‑‑ of they feel unsafe if they don’t have their phone in their hand. They don’t have to use it. Just like, “Dad, where’s my phone? I just want to hold it.” Because it is an extension of them. It is an augmentation of them.
We’ve offloaded things, do you remember phone numbers anymore of people that you meet?
Host: Not really, no.
Kevin: No. We’ve augmented that, sent it to our phone, and said, “You remember the phone number, I’ll remember the person’s name.” That’s the deal we’ve made with the iPhone. AI is just the next extension of that.
Using AI, I can read and summarize an infinite amount of work. I can get past writer’s block. It’s just another form of augmentation, in terms of ChatGPT.
Even in terms of analyzing data and just boiling up three to four potential areas of improvement for your business, Power BI is an example from Microsoft, is an amazing tool that companies are using to be able to highlight, “Here is the region of our company that has the lowest sales to appointment ratio, and here’s three potential reasons why.”
You can’t be scared of it. You’ve got to start using it. Those who don’t choose to augment themselves with these tools are going to fall behind, no question.
Host: It’s an advancement of spellcheck.
Host: We don’t hesitate to use spellcheck now. It corrects the spelling of a word, great.
Kevin: Yeah. You remember Clippy from Microsoft?
Kevin: The little paper clip guy in the corner who was really annoying but animated and the butt of many jokes. I would not be surprised if Clippy makes a return. But instead, he’s actually going to be helpful.
I think that’s where the next evolution of chatbots go on builder sites. It’s not a chatbot the way we think of now. It’s something that will say, when you come on the site, “Hey, I can just sit here and watch what you’re doing and make relevant suggestions of floor plans or communities that you might like.”
It will become a true concierge in that sense of, “I see you’ve been looking at three‑bedroom floor plans only. Do you want me to get rid of all the two‑bedroom options so you never have to see those again?” It’ll be suggestive, not reactive to what someone’s actually typing in. That’s the idea that I see of that.
Host: Kevin, we’ve been out there with advanced and new technology coming on, so let’s shift gears a little bit to what’s here now. Let’s talk about pricing transparency online. It’s a subject of debate. I don’t really understand why, but it continues to be. How transparent, in your opinion, should builders be in their pricing?
Kevin: I love getting controversial because I get uncomfortable if everyone agrees with me. Pricing transparency is a non‑negotiable, but not necessarily full pricing transparency. What I mean by that is the builder that I spent most of my career with was Heartland Homes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We were one, a custom builder, which means we could do anything. Then we also would have, by floor plan, anywhere from 30 to 85, 100 pre‑priced options for a floor plan. The biggest feedback we got from customers after the fact was, “Why didn’t you tell me I could do X, Y and Z?”
We would say, “We can do anything, so it’s hard for us to tell you everything that’s possible.” The salespeople there who struggled in terms of getting sales, we noticed a pattern.
The original default stance that they had was, “Hey, thanks so much for visiting Heartland Homes. This is the Stanford model.” You would say, “Oh, I love this home. What are the options available?” They would say, “Oh, great, let me print all those out for you.”
They would hand you 30 pages of paper that had all the pre‑priced options. They felt like they were doing you a service. Their sales ratio suffered because customers got confused and concerned, or would just start adding up everything, not even understanding the options that wouldn’t be available when you picked one option.
“To confuse them is to lose them” is a famous saying in the sales training world. You have to show base prices. You should always show, I believe, maybe the 10 most common structural options that people pick.
In fact, there’s interesting insights there in terms of curation and knowing that à la Amazon of, “X percentage of people who view this floor plan or choose to buy this also add these two or three things on there.” That would be unique content that consumers would find interesting.
Full transparency is another extreme that I’m not sure that we’re ready for yet. In that just digitally putting those 20, 30 pages of paper and saying, “Here, customer, you figure it out.” One, they’re going to have questions, so we better have the right people in place to answer those questions.
Two, this is way too complicated, but when you get a driver’s license, or let’s use a boat license. In the state of West Virginia, I watched my friend do this, they get a boat license, he had to watch videos online, and then answer questions.
Now, we can’t do that for Personalizer, or Build Your Dream Home online. No one’s going to want to watch a five‑minute video about how this works. There is a sense of right now where until the systems get built out well enough, it might be reasonable to say, here’s one room of the house. The most important one in most people’s mind is the kitchen.
We’re going to give you 20 different ways to do that. Just know that if you interact with a sales professional or a hybrid salesperson or an online salesperson, they might be able to unlock another 40 options. They’re going to need to explain those to you and walk through them.
100 percent, we have to have transparency. The question is, would my wife have married me if I was fully transparent on my first date with her about everything about me? Probably not. We also have to have this understanding of ruling out additional transparency as we get to know people better.
Host: The pushback that often comes with the builders that I speak with is, “I can’t put my pricing online because they can’t really communicate the value, the quality. That can’t be communicated online. I’ve got to get them in person and in front of me.”
Kevin: That’s incorrect thinking. Not even incorrect, it’s dangerous thinking. Because back to what I mentioned before, when you say the word “traffic,” it’s web traffic. I don’t know how we do a better job of this, collectively, in our industry. If you tell an owner of a home building company, you just had 30,000 users on your website last month, they don’t believe that number.
Sometimes I find it creative, I’ll look up and find an arena of appropriate size. Then, I will get the pictures of that arena. Because to them, it doesn’t feel real unless they reach out. Actually, where that comes from historically, is the very first Realtor.com reports or MLS reports of how many people looked at the home.
I started my career in ’03. Back then, you would get a report that would say your inventory home was viewed a thousand times last week. The owners would always look at me and say, “But I only had two showings. What the heck’s up with that?”
They took two showings, meaning there’s only two real people and whoever those other people that the stat is talking about, those must be fake. Web traffic is the most important part. You have to have enough content that communicates that value because otherwise, they’re not taking the next step.
We talked to builders about having an imaginary dashed line. The consumer has to have enough high emotion energy to cross that line, to want to hit the submit button or to ask a question or to become a “lead.” Because no one wants, what they feel like is going to happen is all these spam emails and nonstop phone calls.
You have to be emotionally high enough to want to take that next step. If you don’t have the content, and you’re waiting for them to walk in, that’s actually dangerous.
Host: As you’re aware, we build homes that are popular with people over the age of 55. A lot of our builders probably fit that category as well. They’re the baby boomer generation. At the International Builders’ Show, there was a topic of how you build trust with the 55+ population.
A lot of it was in person, that’s how you build trust. It’s being that one-to-one. I was ulterior voice to that, as a Gen Xer. You build trust with me by providing all of the information online that I need to make decisions to do my research. Then, if you’ve given me what I need, I’ll trust you enough to come speak with you. That’s the shift that a lot of builders are missing.
Kevin: The way that you build trust or the way I talk about it is to be persistent with your presence.
We have experts in our lives or people we listen to or trust, who we have never met and never had human interaction with. Those people showed up, or were available, either on demand, which is the word that we should be thinking about today, going back to the Uberization idea, or regularly.
It goes back to the content and the quality of that content, and the availability, which is, I think, the biggest revolution that we’ve had, is all of this should be available anytime.
Host: I think this is the point to go back to the fact you’ve talked about builders wanting to return to the good old days. Can you explain what you’ve been hearing and the reasons people are saying this?
Kevin: The good old days means I want to send human beings to my model home for my salesperson to close. That’s the simplest way to think about it. I call it “nostalgic lenses.”
If you go back to those good old days, we’ll get in the time machine and we fly back, an unknown amount of walk‑in traffic units would come in. We registered almost none of them. Those people left with lack of information or a binder full of paper that was extremely expensive that got tossed at the bottom of the car or in a trash can.
The salesperson narrowed in on two people to try to hit their sales goal. There was no transparency on any of the data or where people were. In fact, salespeople would keep a little three-by-five index card list on their desk. We didn’t even have leads in a CRM. We couldn’t email those people or follow up with them as marketers.
We couldn’t do anything well in mass other than spend $15,000 a weekend on the newspaper. If we go back to those good old days, almost none of it was good. It was extremely opaque. We didn’t understand the business. Back to understanding the weak spots so we have the data to figure out what to do better, we had none of that.
The reason we want to go back there is because it felt more real again, I think. It’s like, “Well, how many people showed up?” That’s never going to happen the same way again, I don’t think.
Walk‑in traffic has recovered by some measures, maybe 10 to 15 percent in the first quarter of this year from where we were, but it’s never going back to the way it was because other industries are training consumers how to act.
We don’t have to go to the grocery store to get groceries anymore. We don’t have to go to the pizza shop to get a pizza. We don’t have to go to the dealership anymore necessarily to get a car.
The ultimate reason people want to go back is that walk‑in traffic units today are, I believe, another controversial statement, the most urgent traffic units we have, period. They’re so urgent that they’ve said, “I’m not going to wait for your online person to talk to me. They’re going to show up there because they want a solution, they want answers, and they want it now.”
Then I think those people show up, interact with a salesperson, who says, “I got a live one here, and I can interact with them face‑to‑face.” Traditional salespeople enjoy that better than phone conversations or texting.
That translates into a better experience for the customer because the salesperson is on a high because they have a real person in front of them who didn’t come through the online process. They weren’t prepared. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh.”
It’s like if you showed up and presents are at the bottom of the stairs every time, you go, “Oh, my gosh, a present. I wasn’t expecting this one.” You get excited, customer gets excited, they buy. Here’s the problem. That’s great. We should allow that to happen forever. We should never not allow walk‑in traffic units to happen.
Just because they happen and they are closing at a high rate doesn’t mean we can create more of them because most people don’t want to do that. There’s this misalignment of an owner saying, “Oh, gosh, look, walk‑in traffic is converting. Let’s go get more of that.”
This is the way I say it now, is that walk‑in traffic, people who do that are weird. They’re the abnormal. The normal person, 92 percent, 95 percent of the population is not going to walk in unprepared just to look around.
Host: I see “buy online” is definitely going to be something that continues to evolve. A lot of builders are going to be hesitant to it, but we’ve been trained through all the other companies out there that we can buy whatever we want, when we want, online any time of day.
Kevin: I would recommend we separate the words “buy” from “transact” because I think people have been buying homes online for 12 years. The majority of people have bought their home in their minds on the other side of a screen.
Now we’re trying to say, “Transact. Sign the paperwork. Give us your money,” over the computer because otherwise, it doesn’t count as “buy online.” That’s a wrong way to think about it.
Host: I’ve got a question about an article that you recently published on the five phases home builders walk through during a market correction. Could you walk us through that topic and what advice you might offer?
Kevin: Yeah. We’ll list them out really quickly. First phase, and this is market corrections. First phase is what I call “blame and Band‑Aid.” You point to things that aren’t really the problem, but they’re the easiest thing to point to.
You’re blaming the wrong thing, back to that area of focus and not understanding the data or how things work, like marketing, or your Band‑Aiding by saying, “Well, go ahead and give a promotion, give an incentive, include more features,” but you’re not solving the core issue.
You’re trying to use other things to temporarily solve an issue because in that phase, you don’t really believe that things are going to stay very bad for long. It’s like, “I just need to figure out this one little thing to adjust.”
Phase two is what I call “cut and clear out” meaning you cut prices. You realize that the market has moved, and you’ve got to go find it. You’re going to adjust pricing to find that market and then cut to wherever you need to. Clear out meaning clear out the inventory so that your new product at the new pricing can hit the market and serve what’s there now.
That’s kind of like a race to finding the bottom internally in your organization. Sometimes, unfortunately, cut also means staff. If you’re rightsizing your organization and you just hired 20 new salespeople, you might not need that many anymore. “Reset and rumble” is where, I think, all of the hard work goes into. Now, we’re talking about the next presale, the next new start that you have. It’s incredibly painful to cut prices and impact margin.
In terms of mentally tough, it’s hard to get past it, but then you just say, “OK. Do it.” That price change happens. Reset and rumble is all about competitive market analysis, figuring out where the market is heading and doing the infinitely large number of small things to impact that.
That’s why I say Rumble is, you’re making all those adjustments, and then you’re going to the market. You’re competing against the other builders for market share. You’re in a rough-and-tumble, back-and-forth with them. There are instances where, week-by-week, or month-by-month, you’re saying, “I did X and then the other builder did Y. I’ve got to respond by doing Z.”
Stage four is “momentum or mortality.” You’re either going to start gaining positive momentum through that rumble process, or you’re going to potentially go out of business or decline or need to sell or figure out another plan for yourself.
Then if you do get early momentum, and you keep leaning into that momentum, then you get back to stage five, which is “growth and good times” again. There’s no doubt that housing always will be cyclical. If you’re listening to this podcast, you should be nodding your head because, you all are future travelers.
You have to look at a piece of dirt and say, “By the time this goes through all the approvals and everything that I need to, years will have gone by. Then I have to take another year to build a product on top of it. Then hope that the market accepts it if you’re building spec homes, or inventory homes.”
If you’re doing presale, it’s a little bit shorter, but it’s still years at a time. Then when rates double or triple from where they were before, in the span of three months, that’s what causes cycles, is anytime the business itself takes years to develop.
Host: All builders hit a brick wall at some point in their business. I would encourage everybody to go to your LinkedIn profile and go check out that article because it’s a good reminder of where you are maybe in your business, and then what directions you should potentially take.
Kevin: Part of understanding that, I think, is just saying, “Well, how do we get through stage one as fast as possible? You do that, you’re by definition, beating your competition.
Host: Another article you recently published was titled “The Five Common Pitfalls Hindering New Home Marketers,” which outlined some key takeaways. I was wondering if you could discuss those.
Kevin: Yeah, you bet. I’ll try to do this, again, as quickly as possible. The first one is a lack of understanding of their current marketplace and the opportunity available within it.” Basically, just means marketer shows up in our industry and doesn’t understand market dynamics.
Again, we were talking earlier about someone who had large market share in their DMA that they were serving, but then the overall number of permits dropped by 30 percent year‑over‑year. They’re wondering, “Why am I not selling as many homes as I was before?” That’s market dynamics. What is the opportunity?
Sometimes someone will come in and they don’t have enough experience. They’ll just say, “Well, we should be able to sell 20 more homes here because this product is awesome,” but there’s not the population to support it or the income to support it. It’s just a general lack of understanding.
Part of a marketer’s job, I believe, is to help other departments be accountable to reality. If the owner or someone in land comes in and says, “We’re going to do this here,” that’s going to be like, “Are there people for me to talk to who actually want that thing?” Just because it sounds great.
That’s the first one. The second one is a misunderstanding of the data that’s generated within their own organization. The first one was data outside of your organization. Not really having an understanding of how it functions and impacts the business.
The second one is not understanding data within the business. All of our companies spin off data in large amounts through analytics, through the CRM, etc. If you don’t understand how that story works together, again, you don’t know where to attack or what to work on.
The third is struggling to analyze the data in context to see how it all works together. Individual metrics, not fully understanding what they mean in number two. Number three is the entire customer journey, and how it all works together.
Number four, difficulty communicating and getting support from their manager, company ownership or other department leaders. Most marketers are introverts. If you’re an extrovert, and you’re a marketer, that’s called a salesperson. There are just not very many extroverted marketers.
Then, when you ask them to defend their idea, or to get a little controversial, because the data supports that you should, they are like, “No, no, no.” If you are a marketer listening to this, the best thing you can do for your career is to accept accountability. Marketers generally shy away from that. They shy away from confrontation.
You’ve got to be able to communicate and tell a story with that data to get other people to change their minds around you. Because again, we might do advertising and marketing perfectly, but the product is off base, or the price is no longer realistic, or it’s taking too long to build or, or, or.
There are a million things that we don’t necessarily often get a chance to directly impact as marketers, but we have to be able to speak to it, and what the market is doing. Then the last one is a funny one to end on, maybe. They don’t know how to get a high-volume amount of work done. That goes back to the discussion of AI and tools that are at your disposal to be more efficient.
You might be great at all those things, but if you can’t get the goods out of the woods, you’re going to be ineffective.
Host: Kevin, I was hoping you might be able to share a little bit about Do You Convert, the company that you work for and the type of work that you do.
Kevin: Yeah, you bet. Do You Convert was started in 2008 by my business partner, Mike Lyon. From 2008 until 2015, we were exclusively focused on online sales or inside sales. Once someone requests more information, how do we translate that interest into onsite appointments for sales teams to work with?
CRM setup and implementation, all of the nurturing, how to talk to customers on the phone, interviewing finding those right people, training them up, getting the system around them, that’s what Do You Convert started as.
Then in 2015, I joined Mike. We added lead generation on that, because once you had an online sales program that worked, and generally speaking, the onsite conversion rate of those appointments was double that of appointments that were held from walk-in traffic.
Again, not just walking through the door, but people that walked in the door, sat down for an appointment, compared to an online salesperson scheduling an appointment. That was twice as efficient. Once that started working, builders would say, “Well, I just need more leads than just feed this program and give me more and give me more.”
Now we work with seven to eight different home building companies that collectively do just under $30 billion in revenue in 39 different states. We still do those two core things of helping people through digital means, get more leads. Then converting those leads into onsite appointments.
With, gosh, 80 Franchise Builders at Epcon, it’s kind of the same thing. What’s been fun, the last four or five years, especially as we’ve gotten larger, when you get larger things are supposed to break and get worse or harder to maintain.
It’s actually becoming the opposite, because now there’s so much inflow of data about what is working around the country, that we also start being able to assist people more with best practices more broadly in terms of customer interaction. We don’t charge for that. It’s the free prize. That’s what we do.
We don’t make any money off of ad spend is probably the other big differentiation. We are a consultancy that helps with strategy. Then, we also help you implement that like a typical agency would.
Host: Kevin, I always enjoy being able to sit down with you and talk with you. I always learn a lot. I want to thank you for your time today and joining us for our podcast.
Kevin: Hey, thanks for all that you do. Thanks for being at Epcon because how many Franchise Builders did you have when you first got there?
Kevin: Doubling that impact, I’m in Columbus, Ohio, that’s where I grew up, where Epcon is headquartered. It’s cool to see someone in your backyard that is having such an outsized impact on the industry. Thanks to you and the whole team there.
Rob: Well, thank you.
To hear more from Kevin Oakley, check out Q&A With Kevin Oakley, Managing Partner at Do You Convert.