While many successful companies start with an original idea, an idea alone is not enough to guarantee success. It’s important to make sure that the idea meets the needs that real customers have.
Kirsten Leppert Kowalyk is the Director of B2B marketing at Landed, a startup that helps essential workers afford homes. She joins Seth Resler on the podcast to talk about the folly of pouring time and resources into a product without first checking to see if there is a need for it first.
[00:00:00] Seth: Hello, and welcome to the Bad Marketing Advice podcast. This is the podcast where we invite marketing professionals onto the show. We ask them to tell us the worst piece of marketing advice that they have ever received. My name is Seth Resler. I am your host. I am also the founder of Community Marketing Revolution.
[00:00:26] We create branded podcasts and virtual events for companies and organizations. So if your company has ever been thinking to itself, you know, we should really launch a podcast. We can help with that. Uh, whether that’s a podcast to engage with your potential customers or clients, or to maybe onboard them, or even just as a communication tool within a larger organization, go to communitymarketingrevolution.com. Reach out to us. We’d love to help you out.
[00:00:51] All right, let’s talk about what’s happening on today’s show today. Our guest is the director of B2B marketing at Landed. So a brand new role for her Landed helps essential professionals in healthcare education and local governments buy homes. Our guest is a brand strategist and marketer who has over a decade of experience in the consumer packaged goods and FinTech in.
[00:01:14] She recently decided, and I mean, real recently decided to take her talents to a more mission driven company. And so now she is leading the B2B marketing efforts over at Landed. Welcome to the show.Kirsten Leppert Kowalyk, Kirsten. Hi.
[00:01:29] Kirsten: Hi, Seth, how are you?
[00:01:31] Seth: Good. Thanks. First of all, congratulations, this is a brand new job for you.
[00:01:34] Kirsten: It is. It’s very exciting.
[00:01:36] Seth: And it’s a brand new position there at Landed as well. Explain who landeds customers or clients are and what’s the problem that you solve for them.
[00:01:45] Kirsten: Sure. So we are a prop tech, I guess, is what you’d call it company where we help. Home buyers in this crazy expensive market that is all of us are experiencing right now, but particularly in very high home priced markets, like the Bay Area, Denver, New York, Miami, and we’ve specifically help people who work in essential industries. So teachers, nurses, first responders.
[00:02:12] Seth: Got it. And when you say PropTech, that means property, right? That doesn’t mean like fake sword that Johnny Depp uses for fighting the Caribbean movie.
[00:02:20] Kirsten: Right. Property tech. Exactly. And so we are, we offer a shared equity down payment program for those essential professionals to help them get that down payment, um, to 20% to be able to afford a home in these really, really high market prices. So it’s a really fulfilling, really fun mission. And my job particularly is to try to find employers, to try to connect with people in HR departments or that manage benefits or that are in finance departments or operations for these school districts or local governments or health or hospital systems to make them aware of this offering.
[00:02:57] Cuz it’s no cost to the employer. It’s literally a benefit that they can then promote to their employee base to help them stay within the communities that they work in and also help to build generational wealth for some communities that have, have not had access to that.
[00:03:10] Seth: I love this because I am from the Bay Area. I grew up in San Jose. My family is still out there. The house prices have been ridiculous, you know? In terms of, since I was a kid, my sister and her husband are teachers.
[00:03:24] Kirsten: Oh, my gosh.
[00:03:25] Seth: Right? So that’s exactly the type of people that, that you’re helping out.
[00:03:28] Kirsten: Exactly. Cause we think of it as a good investment. We know it’s a good investment because we know that these essential professionals have, you know, steady jobs and steady income, but they just don’t. When, when you’re looking at, you know, two bedroom houses that started a million dollars, how are you ever gonna be able to save the 200,000 to be able to put down in a home? So that’s where Landed comes.
[00:03:48] Seth: That makes so much sense. Cause I’m here in Metro Detroit and uh, you know, I I’ve got a house that’s about the same size as theirs and their rent has gotta be four times my mortgage payment.
[00:03:58] Kirsten: Exactly. And yeah, in places like Miami rent is going up like 50, 75% sometimes for people. So they’re getting priced out of even being able to rent and then there’s no place to buy a home. So it’s a really, you know, it’s something that I think people in the rest of the country is starting to feel, whereas probably you in the Bay Area have experienced your whole life. It’s exciting that Landed is also going national we’re we’ve, we’ve been expanding very rapidly.
[00:04:21] And so hopefully we’ll be in more and more States. We’re in about 17 to 19 States, depending on what day it is in may right now. And we’re, we’re hoping to expand, uh, rapidly.
[00:04:30] Seth: And there are folks there who are working on the B2C side, meaning. Outreach to people like my sister, but they created this B2B role and you are now in it. So that is really reaching out to what, the organizations that people like my sister work.
[00:04:44] Kirsten: Yes. The employers themselves.
[00:04:45] Seth: The hospitals, things like that. So what is that? What does a typical week look like? How do you reach those organizations?
[00:04:53] Kirsten: Sure. So yeah, one month in, there’s not been two two weeks that are similar, but really it’s trying to one first figure out where to fish, right? Who are the types of people. And we’ve got a great sales organization. That’s called our, our employer partner team that I’m helping support and trying to give them tools to be able to effectively meet with these employers once they get the meeting. So their job is to figure out how to get the meeting.
[00:05:18] My job is to figure out how to effectively. Set them up for success within that meeting to make sure that we’re communicating the benefit of Landed in a relevant and clear way. It’s, you know, it’s financial products and mortgages and real estate it’s complex, right? It’s it’s not a simple, a simple explanation.
[00:05:35] And, and our program is a shared equity program, which is also not very easy to explain, especially if you’re not in finance, right. If you’re, if you’re a healthcare professional and. You know, now our chief nursing officer, you might not have a whole lot of background in here, but, and so how do I, how do I create messaging that is easy to understand and is clear and is compelling so that you, you know, have no choice, but to say, of course, I wanna offer this to my employees.
[00:05:59] Beyond the face to face interactions. I also am working on media plans to help build awareness in markets that we’re growing in. You know, your typical display banner ads or out of home or Spotify radio ads to try to build awareness with those key audiences.
[00:06:15] Seth: And I realize in asking this that this is both a new role for you and a new role for the company. So you may still be sort of piecing this together. Yeah. What is the job title of the person that you guys want to go talk to at these organiz at these school districts at these hospitals? Is it HR? Is it?
[00:06:32] Kirsten: It’s all of the above really? You know, sometimes these, we originally started just in education that was in the Bay Area. It was for school teachers K through 12. It was actually limited to a certain area because Facebook, the Zuckerberg foundation was one of our founding lenders or not lenders investors. And so it first started in education. And so we were talking to superintendents to school boards, things like that. Well, as we’ve started to expand industries, we’ve also had to expand our network and who we want to target within those organizations.
[00:07:03] So for higher ed provosts, presidents of the universities, people that work in the HR or benefit offices at hospitals, it could. The CEO of the, of the hospital or the hospital system, chief nursing officer, chief medical officer, et cetera, and then local governments. It’s the mayor. It’s the commissioner. It’s the chief of staff. It’s, it’s the HR department, whoever, whoever it might be.
[00:07:26] Seth: And the advantage for all these people I’m guessing is that it helps them recruit. Whether it’s it helps people move to the city or it helps people move to the company. Cuz there may be people thinking, you know, I really wanna be a teacher, but I’m not gonna go be a teacher in San Francisco.
[00:07:40] I can’t be able to afford anything. I’m gonna go be a teacher in Ohio. And this helps, you know, the San Francisco school districts, for example, say, Hey, you know, there’s a way for you to own a house and be a teacher here.
[00:07:51] Kirsten: That’s exactly it, Seth. And we know, I mean I’m sure anybody that’s read the news, particularly after COVID. The burnout in nurses and, and this just the overwhelming burden on our health system and the costs have really limited their ability to increase, pay for a lot of nurses or a lot. You know, first line healthcare professionals or excuse me, frontline healthcare professionals. And so this is a way that they can offer a benefit to try to help retain those employees that they have.
[00:08:19] Seth: Oh, well, that’s fantastic. I love that you do this. I totally understand why you’re like I’m on board. I like the mission I’m in.
[00:08:25] Kirsten: Yes. Yes.
[00:08:26] Seth: That’s that’s really cool. So let’s get to it. What is the worst piece? Marketing advice that you have ever received. all right.
[00:08:36] Kirsten: Well, no disrespect to Kevin Costner and the baseball players, you know, swinging for the swinging for the corn, uh, out in Kansas. But I think the absolute worst advice that I’ve ever received was. If you build it, they will come. Meaning if you’ve got a great idea or if you’ve got a great product or innovation, that’s all that you need to be able to be successful in a market or with your launch. And the reason why I think that that is terrible, terrible advice is because I think the best marketing and the best strategies are rooted in insight and are rooted in the market telling you.
[00:09:14] What it needs, and that doesn’t mean that it needs to be prescriptive, right? Like Steve Jobs would not have been successful with apple. If you waited for somebody to say, I wanna have a computer that I can hold in my hand. Right. And that takes pictures cuz nobody would’ve ever said that. But there was still some underlying marketing need underlying unmet consumer need that said I wanna be able to communicate better or I wanna be able to.
[00:09:37] To share information more easily, whatever that may be. Right. So there still needs to be some kernel of consumer insight of market led need for a strategy to be successful.
[00:09:48] Seth: It’s gotta be a problem that you solve. Yeah. No, that makes so much sense because. Like this, frankly, because I have followed this advice. I don’t even know if somebody gave me the advice and I followed it or I just did it on my own, but I have certainly built things. Nobody came and so.
[00:10:03] Kirsten: But I’m sure you thought they were great ideas, right?
[00:10:05] Seth: I, they, they were brilliant. They were genius. Let me just tell you shocking that I’m not a billionaire right now. but nobody came and I wish somebody like you had come along and told me this, uh, ahead of time. So. What would you say to somebody who just says, let’s just build it. Would you tell them that they need to do?
[00:10:22] Kirsten: I would step back and say, why, what problem? Like you just said, Seth, what problem is this solving? Right? What have we heard from our target consumer or our strategic value consumer or our growth sector where we wanna grow? How does this solve that problem? And how does this solve this problem uniquely and in a different way and better than anybody else. Right. So not that we’re just that we’re just doing it because everybody else is, but how does this uniquely position us to solve this problem?
[00:10:51] Seth: It sounds to me like we’re talking about market research there.
[00:10:54] Kirsten: Market research. Absolutely. And so, yeah, it could be qualitative, right? That you’ve gotten, you’ve done ethnographies or you’ve done focus groups or surveys, things like that, but there’s also just market data too. That can, that you can look at analytically like looking at either sales trends or you know, market dynamics that numbers don’t lie either, but I, I do love a good focus group session that’s for sure.
[00:11:15] Seth: Right. It, for example, it’s not hard to figure out that there are essential workers who are having trouble using their first home. Right. So that’s, what’s great about this company is there’s so clearly a need to solve.
[00:11:28] Kirsten: And we are, we don’t have competition, which is amazing. I mean, obviously there’s a lot. Lenders or loaners, you know, out there that are, that you can get money from, but we are the only shared equity down payment program. Uh, and it’s more than that too. We have a huge network of, of lenders and real estate agents and, and relationship managers that help people through the entire home buying process so that you’re not just, you know, it’s, it’s a lot.
[00:11:51] And if you’re a first time home buyer, There’s a lot to consider. And so it’s, it’s a great network for them to have.
[00:11:56] Seth: I should have asked this at the beginning, but you’re uh, is this a non-profit organization? This is a for-profit.
[00:11:59] Kirsten: No, it is a for-profit organization, but it’s incredibly mission driven.
[00:12:03] Seth: And what is the revenue model? How do you generate revenue by doing this?
[00:12:08] Kirsten: Oh, okay. So there’s, again, it’s complex, but there’s, uh, there’s two ways. So like I said, it’s a shared equity model, which means that we are co-investing in your home, right? We’re not lending you this money. We are co-investing in your home with you. So we put in money at the beginning with a down to help you reach your 20% down payment.
[00:12:27] And then when your home appreciates over the years, So either you refinance or you sell your home, whatever the however much the home has appreciated, Landed then gets a percentage of that appreciation. However, it’s a shared risk model. So if your home depreciates, we also share in that risk. So it’s in our best interest to make.
[00:12:48] And that’s part of that whole. You know, network of support team for, for home buyers. Cause we wanna make sure you’re making a sound investment. Right? We’re looking at that at the market. We’re looking at the home, we’re looking at the dynamics that are happening around the market to make sure that five, 10 years down the line, that home is gonna appreciate.
[00:13:04] Seth: And you’ve built it and people are coming. Have you ever made the very mistake that you’re talking about? Have you ever built it and people didn’t come?
[00:13:11] Kirsten: Yes. Um, but not by, not by choice, by force. Right? I understand. Yes. Yes. I, uh, it’s it was in a previous role and I was working on an insurance product and it was all app based. Right. It was InsureTech. So it was all our product was all app. And listen, insurance is not something and it was auto insurance. Okay. And insurance is not something that, that people are passionate about. Right. It’s not a fun thing. It is a.
[00:13:36] Seth: If they are passionate because here in Michigan, some people are, that’s not a good thing when they’re passionate.
[00:13:41] Kirsten: Yeah. That’s fun. Passion. Maybe, maybe anger, passion, but a frustration. Um, although I did enjoy getting that check back. Uh, thanks. Thank you. I, I liked, I liked that. No, it’s, you know, it’s just not a really, there’s not a whole lot of engagement. You know, you don’t think of your auto insurance company as, as something that you really wanna spend a lot of time or, or effort in or with.
[00:14:01] Right. And I had this leader who was obsessed with us making our insurance app more gamified, right? Like turning our app into something that someone’s gonna wanna come back and use all the time to increase the engagement with our customer base, with our. And they’re like, just build this really cool, you know, work with the product team to, to build this really cool game or whatever within the app.
[00:14:24] Sort of like, if, if you think about what are apps that you use, do you have any apps that you use where you go in and it’s like, and you get like banners or, or like coins or.
[00:14:33] Seth: No, I, I play all those on Switch.
[00:14:37] Kirsten: No, I’m trying to think of like, if you’re in, like, you know, if you get, you get, you get this badge or whatever, you know what I’m trying to say?
[00:14:42] Seth: I, so I know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen this gamification I’ve, I’ve heard this trend a lot in marketing, but not everything is a good fit for gamification.
[00:14:52] Kirsten: No, it’s not. And you don’t wanna, you, you wanna go into your car insurance app when you need your car insurance card, when you need your ID card, or when you have to submit a claim, right. Or change or change your coverage, you don’t, you’re not gonna go into your app because you can get a badge that. That you stopped at a stop sign when you were supposed to.
[00:15:10] Seth: Right. So I get pulled over by the highway. Wait a minute, officer. I’m about to get the high score. I’ll be with you in just a second.
[00:15:17] Kirsten: Exactly. But this, this leader was just absolutely obsessed that if we increased the gamification and put all these bells and whistles and badges and all this stuff that we would get these 20 to 25 year old, you know, guys to come download our app and be customers. And it just was an epic fail. Oh yeah.
[00:15:37] Cause nobody, nobody cared. Right. And, and the worst part was that it took focus from our product team, you know, and, and engineers and designers and marketers away from doing things that actually could have driven the business. Right. If we had cuz nobody Seth, absolutely no one. And all of the research that we did said, you know what? I just wish the app was more fun and I’d be in it way more often. If I could play a game.
[00:16:01] Seth: If only Grand Teft Auto had this, you know, option where you could whip out your insurance card and go wait a minute. like, that’s, that’s what we need.
[00:16:10] Kirsten: Exactly. Exactly. So it was six months of wasted time, which is frustrating, but a good lesson that’s for sure.
[00:16:17] Seth: Uh, I’m glad you’ve learned it. Thank you for sharing the lesson with us. I really appreciate it. Thank you for coming on the show too. If people want to learn more about landed, they can go to the website, which is Landed.Com. Actually, I am. I’m gonna be telling people I know about this.
[00:16:29] Kirsten: Please do. Yeah. I mean, we’re, we’re in startup land, right? We are, we’re trying to get to series C and growth is the name of the game and it makes me feel so good because you know, I’ve worked in consumer package goods my whole life. And so it was always like get one person to buy one more package of something that was my whole.
[00:16:46] My whole mission. Right? And now it’s like, no, every time I, I share the news about Landed or I get one more person on board, it’s actually helping their life. It’s actually, oh, it’s building our communities and making our, our world a better place. So fantastic.
[00:16:59] Seth: And, and should both the consumers who could benefit from this program, but also the B2B people that, that you’re dealing with, they should all go to the same Landed.Com.
[00:17:07] Kirsten: Absolutely. Seth, it’s all. It’s all. Perfect.
[00:17:10] Seth: Uh, well, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you for sharing the, uh, horrible, terrible, awful advice with us. Uh, hopefully others can avoid the same mistake. Yes. Uh, Kristen Leppert Kowalyk, director of B2B marketing at Landed. Thank you very much.
[00:17:24] Kirsten: Thank you, Seth.
[00:17:25] Seth: I am Seth Resler. Again, I work with Community Marketing Revolution, where we produce branded podcasts and virtual events for companies and organizations. If you’re interested in a podcast, you’ve been sitting there saying, you know, our company should really do this and it’s time to pull the trigger, head over to communitymarketingrevolution.com, read all about it, and then send us an email. We’d love to talk to you. Thanks so much. We’ll talk to you next time.
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