Marketing Pro Of The Month: John RivesJanuary 28, 2020
Hello and welcome to our brand new blog series, Marketing Pro of the Month! Every month, Meredith Communications will feature a different marketing pro from today’s home builder industry. Learn about your peers, get advice for your industry and so much more. We’re honored to have John Rives with McKee Homes as our February 2020 Marketing Pro of the month!
- Tell us about your builder including market, product type, average units sold per year, average sales volume per year
Our market is comprised of four regions in Eastern North Carolina. Raleigh, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, Moore County, and Wilmington. We build single-family homes from 1,300 sq. ft. to 4,000 sq. ft., Epcon homes for 55+ homebuyers from 1,700 sq. to 3,100 sq. ft., and townhomes from 1,950 sq. ft. to 2,500 sq. ft. We sold a little over 300 units last year with a projected volume of 375 units for 2020.
- What is your exact title and how long have you been in the position? How did you get your start in home builder marketing?
My title is Online Marketing Manager although that will change to Digital Marketing Manager soon as that is a more common title now for what I do. I have had this position for almost eight years with McKee Homes. My career path story is too long to tell here, but I will say that I worked as a carpenter/contractor for 20 years before moving into computer IT almost 20 years ago. I ended up starting a CD/DVD duplication business which evolved into multimedia and web development and eventually online marketing. I worked for an advertising agency in Fayetteville, NC before joining McKee Homes in 2012.
- Let’s talk responsibilities: What are yours on a day-to-day basis when it comes to marketing?
My main responsibility is generating leads to send to our OSCs. Other responsibilities include managing our website, SEO, online and print advertising, content marketing (blog), floorplan renderings and community sitemaps, photography, video, and social media as well as generating marketing and ROI reports. I also manage our Digital Marketing Specialist, Carrie, who is instrumental in helping to manage photography, content marketing and social media. I set up our CRM and do high-level management, however, most of the CRM day-to-day is now handled by Jayne, our Online Sales Manager.
- What is your favorite social media platform to use?
Facebook is still my favorite social media platform for marketing and advertising although we also use Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.
- What does the average Monday look like for you personally and professionally?
Personally, I like to get up as early as possible to get a head start on the day. In the summer I usually get up around 5 AM and go out for a walk by 6 AM. Professionally, Monday starts at 7 AM with working email from the weekend and setting up my task list for the day and week. I also tally our website leads for the previous week and enter that in Traction which is an EOS tool we use to manage our company. Everyone at McKee Homes has at least one measurable that we track weekly. Website leads is one of mine. I usually call Carrie around 9am, since we both work from our home offices to go over our task lists and prioritize our projects and tasks as well as strategize and do any problem solving that’s needed. After that I make other phone calls and send out any emails and texts to get the information I may need for my tasks. I am goal-oriented so I enjoy checking tasks off my list during the day and week.
- How do you see your role evolving over the next few years?
With the addition of our Digital Marketing Specialist role which started a little over a year ago, I now have more time to spend on managing data which is how I see my role evolving. One of the difficulties with marketing in home building and real estate is determining where our leads and sales are coming from as there can be many touchpoints along the way. Accurate ROI for various advertising channels is imperative in choosing where to spend more, or less, advertising dollars. I have developed a way to track an online ad-click all the way to a website signup form and even to a contract on a new home. This is invaluable in determining the ROI, not just for an advertising channel or platform, but for comparing the performance of individual ads.
- What is a question you’re frequently asked in your role? (Maybe it drives you crazy, maybe it doesn’t!)
I get a lot of questions about whether we can do something on our website that someone saw on another website or why things are a certain way on our website. I don’t mind those questions and sometimes am able to add a feature or page on our website because it is a good idea and not too expensive to implement. The only thing that drives me crazy is when our sales consultants don’t review their community web pages for accuracy, and we have something that needs to be updated that I didn’t know about.
- What is a big success you’ve had in your current role?
My two biggest successes are:
1. Hiring our first OSC (Online Sales Counselor) Jayne, in 2013 who is now our Online Sales Manager with two OSCs under her. Our OSC appointments accounted for 40% of our contracts last year. OSC appointments convert at a much higher rate than walk-ins.
2. Developing gated content and smart signup forms that have dramatically increased the number of leads we generate from our website visitors. All marketing leads accounted for 60% of our sales last year.
- When it comes to marketing, we all learn from our mistakes. Care to share a time you learned from a marketing mistake?
Five years ago, I worked with my PHP programmer to build and publish our first responsive website. I was running a couple of months behind on getting the website live, and therefore once I tested the redirects from the old site to the new site and everything looked good on the new website, I spent the rest of the month catching up on other projects. At some point in that first week, I had my programmer fix a few bugs with the code in the site and didn’t realize he made changes to our htaccess file from a local copy he had. Unfortunately, when he uploaded it to our website, the new file deleted all my redirects on the server.
The mistake I made was not checking the redirects after the first day of testing. When I saw our Google Analytics report at the end of the first month my heart sank as our website sessions had nose-dived from where they had been before the new website launch. We were losing tons of web traffic and leads. I did some testing and realized my redirects had been overwritten, added them back to the htaccess file, and our website sessions picked up almost immediately. Over the next few months our website sessions skyrocketed, and we ended up with 30% more traffic than we had before the new website launch.
Lesson learned: No matter how busy you are, make sure you don’t forget to keep testing and checking all the important data on a regular basis. Staying in Google’s good graces is essential to generating website leads and sales in today’s online world.
- Marketing tends to be very experimental. What do you love about that and what do you hate about it?
I love experimenting with new ads, or changes to existing ads. A/B comparisons are a great way to see what works best. Keyword and negative keyword list experimentation is very useful and fun for me. I also love setting up new landing pages and signup forms to see what works best.
The only thing I hate is not having enough time and/or budget to do effective comparisons and A/B testing and experimentation.
- What are you currently reading or listening to? Work and personal.
I get a number of industry newsletters that I follow as I like to keep up with current and upcoming changes to online marketing. Last year, Marcus Sheridan, who is a champion of content marketing, started sending me a monthly newsletter called More Than You Are which blurs the line between personal and professional observation and experimentation. It’s a great read and we often discuss the topic in more detail once I have read it and responded. Two other very good books I read not too long ago were recommended by Kevin Oakley. Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces That Shape our Decisions by Dan Ariely and Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PH. D.
- What is your favorite app or tool to use for work-related tasks? Personal tasks?
I tend to work out of MS Office Outlook, Word and Excel much of the time for personal and professional tasks. I have hundreds of subfolders in Outlook to keep everything organized. I also use Basecamp for project management and of course Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Photoshop is a powerful tool with the ability to run batch jobs. So, you can set up an Action to resize photos and export them for the web and run it on a folder of high-resolution images. It only takes a matter of seconds to resize 30-40 hi-res images. Because our website is mobile-first and page-load speed is critically important, we use three different sized images for property listings and photo galleries on our website and a fourth for generating videos. With Actions, all four sizes can be exported in a matter of a minute or two.
- Are you team taco or team pizza? Or team other?
I would have to go with team pizza, with a caveat. Because of an intolerance to Nightshades, I can no longer eat tomatoes or peppers, so I have to stick with pesto pizza, no tomatoes, no peppers.
- If you had a Friday off of work, what would you do with it?
When I have a day off, I usually visit my mom who has Alzheimer’s and is in a memory care facility. I also like to write, play and record music in my spare time.