The Power is in The People
I’ve attempted to describe the Builder Show experience to non-industry friends and family more than once, but I don’t think I’ve ever really succeeded. For starters, they don’t seem to understand why my face is smiling when my mouth is speaking words like “trade show” and “education session.” I normally take a moment to be grateful I’m not attending the same trade shows they are. They must suck. And then I accept that the experience cannot be fully translated. It can only be experienced.
Of course, IBS is a trade show. And it does include education sessions. IBS is also the single most concentrated gathering of growth-minded professionals in our industry. And above all else, it’s where lifelong friendships are born and renewed.
Naturally, these friendships are well qualified for the exchange of professional support. If building a professional network is your goal, the Builder Show is your marketplace. Being present at the show means you have access to hundreds of professionals in your position, working in completely different markets, and working for builders who are not your competitor. Finding just one of those at your local SMC meeting is like hunting unicorns. At IBS, there will be hundreds, or possibly thousands, of attendees that fit the description.
If you allow it, I’ve found that these friendships readily transcend professional boundaries. I’ve benefited from incredible advice on nearly every professional topic. None of it holds a candle to the generous counsel and guidance I received when I was navigating some especially difficult teenage parenting years. That gift was priceless.
Two Years is Too Long
“I knew I missed people. I didn’t realize how much until this week.”
– Angela McKay
I was expecting below-average attendance this year, but there was little sign of that among sales and marketing professionals. I missed friends like Quint Lears (congrats on the new baby! 🍼) and Cindy Plackmeyer (congrats on your new role! 👑), but the volume of friends in the room far exceeded my expectations. And it wasn’t just me. On minute one of day one, the pent-up demand for handshakes and hugs was on full display.
I think Sales Central first became a thing in 2013, and I’m grateful for its existence every year. Dozens of times throughout the week, any gaps in my schedule were spent here. Imagine a “sales and marketing clubhouse” where you’re guaranteed to connect and reunite with friends. And the clubhouse has free coffee. And sometimes, the clubhouse has free food. That’s Sales Central.
It’s also noteworthy that there are no velvet ropes in this clubhouse. Sales and marketing rookies, veterans, and industry legends alike walk the same floor, sit in the same chairs, and wait in the same lines for coffee. Every attendee is equally accessible. See someone you want to meet? Just say, “Hello” and start a genuine conversation.
PSA 📻 – The genuine modifier is no joke. Even in a room full of sales and marketing pros, a surprise unsolicited pitch is not cool.
Tuesday (Day One)
Progress over Perfection
Angela McKay kicked off day one with every seat occupied for the Progress over Perfection panel at the Professional Women in Building HQ. Angela’s panelists included Kerri Woodward, VP of Operations at Chesapeake Homes, Leah Kaiz Fellows, founder of Blue Gypsy, and Erin Hurley, Director of Business Development at Lita Dirks & Co.
Leveraging Technology to Attract the Digital-Savvy, Connected Buyer
Angela closed out day one moderating a panel titled, Leveraging Technology to Attract the Digital-Savvy, Connected Buyer. This panel included Kimber Gabryszak, Senior Director Homebuilder Client Development at Atlas RTX, Ingrid Prince, Regional VP of Sales at Century Complete, and Shari Morton, Chief Marketing Officer at Shared Drive.
The session title and speaker lineup should indicate the kind of useful insights that were dished out to the attendees. What I didn’t expect was to leave this session with an urgent need to taste a box of Last Crumb Cookies 🍪.
#Protip – Tickets for The Nationals do sell out, so buy your tickets far in advance. My very non-pro inaction nearly left us two tickets short. Thanks to Angela’s outreach and the generosity of Mollie Elkman, President of Group Two and author of The House That She Built, and Judy Dinelle, Builder Ambassador at 84 Lumber, Megan, Molly, Angela, and I were all in attendance.
Our design and development of the new Liberty Communities website received one of five Best Website for a Builder Silver awards. While we didn’t take home the gold this year, it was awesome to cheer on so many friends who did. That list of winning friends is so long, recognizing everyone here is not possible. What a luxury problem, amirite?!
Speaking of lifelong friendships, Karen Nickell and I were both Sales Managers for Ryland Homes (she in Houston, I in Baltimore). This is only the second time I’ve seen Karen since 2008, but it felt like I saw her just yesterday. Karen is now Sales & Marketing Manager for Legend Homes in Houston and a Sales Manager/Leader of the Year Silver award winner!
I consider every Silver winner in the Best Professional Development Program category to be a friend, so I was guaranteed to be cheering for someone. The Gold went to Meredith Oliver’s Builder Town Hall program, which our own Angela McKay has been a big part of since its inception.
Wednesday (Day Two)
Megan and Angela started bright and early, attending Kevin Oakley’s 7AM Marketing Breakfast. Molly and I wimped out at the 7am start time. Shame on us. 🔔🔔🔔
The pancakes were reportedly subpar, but palettes were rescued thanks to our Canadian maple syrup plug. 🇨🇦 Angela always delivers. The company and conversation, however, was top notch. I solemnly vow never to miss this event again. ✋
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Striking a Balance: Lead Quality Over Quantity
Later that morning Angela moderated Striking a Balance: Lead Quality Over Quantity in Sales Central with a panel full of my favorite people. Beth Russell, Director of Marketing at Stylecraft, Jen Barkan, Online Sales Coach at Do You Convert, and it’s especially awesome to see Carly Sickles, Digital Marketing Manager at M/I Homes making her IBS debut.
The “On Your Lot” Business: Website & Customer Experience Best Practices
That afternoon Megan’s session got underway – The “On Your Lot” Business: Website & Customer Experience Best Practices. Joining her on stage were Tom Baldwin, VP of Operations at Caruso Homes and Dawn Dantzler, VP of Marketing & Customer Experience at Tilson Homes.
Our team has noted a rapidly growing interest in the on-your-lot business model coming from our production builders, and the underlying motivations behind this trend could easily fill a blog post of its own. When considering topics to propose for IBS 2022, Megan and Jenna felt strongly that this one would resonate. Spoiler alert – It resonated.
The session was a fascinating look under the hood at two different, but well-oiled “on your lot” machines. Megan crafted a comprehensive list of marketing and operational topics. Throughout the session, Tom and Dawn shared what seemed like countless gems and valuable details with candid transparency.
Audience questions came rapid fire the moment Megan opened the floor with 10 minutes left in the schedule. More than 15 minutes later, questions were still coming in when Megan was forced to close the session. At least a dozen attendees stayed in the room to ask more questions one-on-one, and this continued until everyone was asked to leave in order to make room for the next session.
I’ve never witnessed a session with that level of audience questions. It’s clearly a topic in need of further exploration and knowledge sharing. Let’s hope we can get this on the IBS 2023 schedule.
Immediately afterwards, Angela headed off to do a practice run of her upcoming Spotlight Session, while the Tilson and Caruso teams joined Megan, Molly, and I at the Rosen Centre bar for a round of drinks. As tensions released, our conversations traveled far and wide – Disney vacations, Ironman triathlons, and college versus the trades. It’s especially gratifying when we’re able to build a connection between builders like Caruso and Tilson – two well run organizations with good people, facing similar challenges in non-competing markets. This is an “only at IBS” kind of moment.
On that walk to the Rosen, I got to catch up with yet another ex-Ryland colleague I admire, and had not seen in years. Ben Kinnish was VP of Purchasing for Ryland Baltimore. I knew that Ben was part of the Caruso team now, but it was a special surprise to be able to buy him a beer and chat with him at the show.
Builder Technology Networking Reception
Next up, Megan, Molly, and I Uber’d to reunite with Angela for the Builder Technology Networking Reception at Tapa Toro. The event is organized by ECI Software Solutions and ONeil Interactive was proud to be a co-sponsor this year.
Hundreds of people attended this event. A comprehensive highlight list for this event would be long. Like, really long. Like, even-I-wouldn’t-read-it long.
How about my top two?
- I’m pretty sure Ansley from The Providence Group saved my life when she came through with that Pepcid AC. Clutch.
- As the reception closed, Eric Alarid and I enjoyed a one-of-a-kind conversation focused mostly on flamenco dancing.
Thursday (Day Three)
In most years, day three is pretty low key. This year, it’s just as full as the others, beginning with 9:15 AM sessions for both Molly and Angela.
7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Facebook Business Manager
Megan and I were on the comfy couches in the front row of the Tech Bytes room for Molly’s in-person builder show debut presentation, 7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Facebook Business Manager.
If we assigned an Olympic-style “level of difficulty” scores for presentations, Molly didn’t choose the easiest performance. Tech Bytes sessions are shorter than a traditional Building Knowledge session, but I think that benefit is more than offset by the fact that the Tech Bytes room is enormous and the stage is high – two elements that can easily create an intimidating environment for a new speaker. Most notable, many first-time presenters opt to join a session that includes one or more co-presenters. This is a solid strategy, as it allows them to share the time and responsibility with a more seasoned speaker. What did Molly do?
Molly presented her debut session solo. 💪
I’m happy to report that no one else belonged on that stage with Molly. She nailed it all on her own – delivering her presentation and answering numerous audience questions with confidence and ease.
Moving Beyond Clicks: The Skills, Tools & Mindset for the Modern Marketer
After congratulating Molly, Megan and I went across the hall to the other big room, the Spotlight Session room, to catch the last half of Angela’s final session, co-presented with Kerry Mulcrone – Moving Beyond Clicks: The Skills, Tools & Mindset for the Modern Marketer.
I instantly loved the stage arrangement. There were two comfy chairs and coffee mugs that gave off a morning talk show vibe. As the title implies, the scope of this session’s subject matter is broad. Angela and Kerry had a lot of ground to cover.
Angela talked about the challenges our industry will likely experience applying a click-centric measurement model to an omni-channel (online-to-offline-to-online-etc) purchase flow we see ahead. That last sentence sounds like word salad, but it does really say some things. It’s yet another topic for us to unpack in a future blog post or video.
Strategies & Success Secrets for Creating the Online Home Shopping Experience Buyers Expect
Last up, I had great fun participating in a panel discussion titled, Strategies & Success Secrets for Creating the Online Home Shopping Experience Buyers Expect.
I salute Greg Bray of Blue Tangerine for bringing this uncommon panel together. Panels are typically made up of participants with unique and complementary professions. Instead, Greg proposed a panel consisting of himself, Chip Johnson of Builder Designs, and me. 🤔
A panel of three companies, all offering a similar menu of website and marketing services?
A panel of three companies that are frequently in direct competition with one another?
Sure, it’s mostly ✌️friendly✌️ competition, but it is a competition each of us are in to win, nonetheless. My first thought when I read Greg’s email pitching the idea…?
My very next thought? If I was a builder attending the show, this panel would excite me, and might even elevate this program to a “can’t miss” priority level.
The panel proceeded according to Greg’s design, including Kevin Weitzel of Outhouse as our moderator.
Each panelist shared their thoughts on the “buy online” landscape, including processes and common implementation obstacles, credit card security, and the impact to the online and onsite sales teams.
This session occupied the final education time slot of the show. If you missed it, if you wished a colleague could have been present, or if you just want to hear us again, we’ve scheduled an encore webinar presentation for Thursday, March 24 at 1:00 PM EST.
To be notified when registration opens, drop us a note using the form on this page and reference the webinar in your message. [!UPDATE! Webinar registration is now open- Register Here.]
Exhausted, Energized, & Grateful
Imma let the section header above speak for itself.
As I was searching for a justification to do anything other than proof-read this post, I decided to make a list of every person I met, and every friend I reconnected with at IBS 2022. Of course, I hadn’t considered that I was creating even more work I needed to proof-read until it was too late ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
22 – The number of people I met for the first time.
56 – The number of people I reconnected with.
32 – The number of people (within the 56 above), I hadn’t seen face-to-face in 2+ years.
5 – Days in Orlando
4 – Nights in Orlando
3 – Days in the Convention Center
2 – Tired feet
1 – Full heart
I missed you all, and I hope to see everyone in Las Vegas!
Four ONeil Interactive team members participated in five presentations (excluding Centrals presentations). This volume exceeds the NAHB guidelines for speaker participation from a single company. How did this happen?
- NAHB finalized the selected education programs for IBS 2022 in the summer of 2021.
- In August 2021, ONeil Interactive’s participation was within NAHB guidelines. Three ONeil Interactive employees had been selected to participate in three education programs.
- In August 2021 or before, the NAHB education committee selected two programs that included Angela McKay as a presenter. At the time of this selection, Angela was not employed, nor under an agreement to be employed by ONeil Interactive.
- Angela McKay’s employment with ONeil Interactive began in October 2021.
We respect NAHB’s participation limits, and we believe it’s important that IBS make a diverse set of viewpoints available for attendees. In light of this year’s unique circumstances, we are grateful all members of the ONeil Interactive team were able to fulfill their commitments.