More About This Episode
The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
On this episode, Zach talks with Michael Padavic, the chief design officer at StoryBuilt, a firm that builds and develops in several of the largest cities in the United States. Since Michael is a developer/builder/architect, he has a unique vantage point and offers key insights and advice that building product manufacturers can leverage.
Building Multifamily Homes: A Holistic Approach
We’ve heard how many people are flocking to the suburbs outside of metropolitan areas, and residential construction is on the rise in those areas. But according to research, that’s not the case for people in all age groups.
“The upshot is that the large suburban counties now have more of their population in the ends of the age spectrum and fewer in the middle relative to the urban core counties,” reports Richard Fry for Pew Research.
For the people moving into those urban areas, lifestyle and convenience are part of what’s appealing about bustling metros. And that’s what makes the StoryBuilt approach to multifamily housing so successful.
Michael oversees the architecture and engineering departments at StoryBuilt as the company’s chief design officer, and he’s a big advocate for the brand’s approach to multifamily housing — what he describes as vertical integration.
So what does that really mean? “We acquire the land, we plan it, we design it, we engineer it, we build it, we sell it. Everything is in-house,” Michael explains. For anyone that lives or works on a StoryBuilt property, “we want to be involved with them from the moment we acquire the land and bring them on as customers, through helping them, through community management afterwards.”
StoryBuilt is more holistic about the way that the company works and builds. “It allows us to be a little more flexible and nimble and specific to providing the right product for the site, as opposed to having a specialized product and just finding sites that work for that,” he explains.
StoryBuilt’s method of multifamily construction is more hands-on with the design, in general. “We want to craft every corner of that site and carry that through so that it feels curated,” says Michael. And anyone who lives, works, dines or shops at a StoryBuilt location gets to have that kind of experience.
Today’s Multifamily Market
Making cities more livable is part of what StoryBuilt focuses on with its properties.
What we're seeing in Austin specifically, where we're headquartered, is people are flocking here. And so, we need to be smart about that urban environment that we're developing right now.”
“What we're seeing in Austin specifically, where we're headquartered, is people are flocking here,” explains Michael. “And so, we need to be smart about that urban environment that we're developing right now.”
For building materials companies that’s a huge opportunity. But because of supply chain and efficiency issues in construction, it’s also a challenge.
Michael suggests that manufacturers might be able to provide solutions, with products that work for prefabricated units or modular construction. “I think a lot of products and manufacturers are thinking about that, not necessarily for prefab and delivery,” Michael says, “but it's about efficiency … supply chain and getting things out there quicker with the same quality.”
But Michael points out that the multifamily market can’t just focus on efficiency — it also needs to be sustainable. “We can't reduce the quality, it has to still be a good quality,” he says. “Where we build is our sustainable strategy ... We're trying to increase density, so there are less people driving further out.”
StoryBuilt also maintains construction standards that support sustainable and long-term building solutions. They made the decision early on to use spray foam insulation and solar panels in their projects.
Customers still have options and ways to customize the end product, but the standards that StoryBuilt uses are what makes it not just successful, but future-focused. “And we're at that point now where building codes, other builders, they've already implemented that stuff, or they're moving beyond it,” says Michael.
How to Sell to the Multifamily Industry
Manufacturers can provide solutions for multifamily developers like StoryBuilt, but Michael emphasizes the need for a little leg-work, before approaching the builder or developer you might want to work with.
The best and most simple advice Michael can give is: Know your customer.
“It takes a little more time to make an extra phone call, do a little research, but you just don't want to shoot it out there,” explains Michael. “The more you understand what we're doing when you're approaching us with a product, the better I feel like we're a couple steps down the conversation instead of just lobbing stuff at us.”
Not doing your research can backfire. “One person who came to us in terms of a product was just address numbers,” offered Michael. “And if that person had done the research on our company and who we are and what we do they would have seen that either their product as a whole wasn't really a good fit.
“We’re a little contemporary, this is a lot more traditional and it just wasn't a good fit, but maybe they have something that they're working on or another aspect of their product to say, ‘Look, the bulk of our stuff isn't naturally fit, but hey, check this out. This is contemporary. I think it'll fit well.’”
By giving developers an idea of how they might use your product in their designs, manufacturers can help developers provide solutions to their customers down the line. That means giving them visuals, installation ideas and other inspiration. Because “as an architect,” Michael explains, “we look through magazines, websites, things like that.”
And “any time you see something cool, and then the product information is there, even just bullet-pointed, that's really helpful,” he says. Michael shared a few other ideas for manufacturers who want to get in front of builders and developers:
Offer more informational sessions.
Whether it’s virtual or an (eventually) in-person event, giving customers and potential clients a way to ask specific questions about your product is a great way to get your foot in the door. “The benefit to our company is that we have two angles of getting that information. We have the architects who are designing and thinking through the materials,” he explains. “We also have the purchasing team and they're getting information from their suppliers and trades and then they'll bring stuff to us or we'll take stuff to them.”
Make sure your social media supports your audience.
Having a digital presence, especially on platforms like Facebook or Instagram, helps to extend the reach that you have to builders and developers. “My phone is full of screenshots from Instagram that I want to just find out what that is and remember it for later,” says Michael.
Get in front of wider audiences on other publications.
Promote your products through websites like Architizer, which gives manufacturers an opportunity to showcase those products, in front of an audience who’s actively looking for those solutions.
Have integrated sales to effectively service and support your audience.
Many manufacturers have teams to service architects and separate teams that work with contractors. Because Michael says he is a developer, he always gets routed to the contractors’ side even though design is also at the forefront of his projects. “I think being open-minded and knowing that as architects, we have to be thinking through material costs, we have to be thinking through ease of construction,” explains Michael.
“And I think we also have people on our construction team that are thinking through how this material looks in the field, and understanding that we have a way that we want that to pull through, knowing that there's this information out there that just can't easily be put into this container or that container.”
Want Even More Insight?
The urban landscape looks different than it did a decade ago. We expect to see even more change in how people want to experience those cities in the next few years. The urban multifamily market is evolving every day: Michael and the team at StoryBuilt are a part of that evolution.
Listen to more of our conversation on urban living and the multifamily industry — check out the full interview on our podcast.
To learn more about working with the innovative team at StoryBuilt, check out their website and the exciting projects they’re working on.
Need further help with your multifamily sales and marketing strategies? Get in touch with us at [email protected].