From Passion to Podcast: April Edwards’ Journey to ‘We Love Deck Builders

Hi, welcome to We love deck builders a podcast specializing in everything business growth for deck builders. So my name is April Edwards, I’ll be your host. I’m the founder and growth strategist at deck builder, marketers, we help deck builders across the country move their business forward through digital marketing. Now, I wanted to start this podcast because I saw a lot of amazing communities online in different Facebook groups. And of course associations like NADRA on different events. But nothing more regular, as far as a podcast is concerned, and really being able to get your, you know, weekly tidbits of inspiration from industry experts, and how you can really move your business forward. So we love deck builders was born, I’m really excited to be on a mission to educate, inspire, and empower everyone here to really move your business forward and have another outlet to build up this community. I really want to help the outdoor living industry, enhance their skills and grow their business. And I think this is a wonderful platform for it. So I’ll be hosting different like minded individuals periodically to share their experience and their passion, what it has been like growing their business and how they got to where they are now there’ll be sharing helpful tips and tricks that you can, you know, take with you some good actionable insights, and just get inspired. I’m really excited about it. We’ve got some great guests lined up. Mike Mitchell from Mitchell construction, he’s been killing it in the Chicagoland area. He’s surpassed the sales goals this year. And we’re really excited to meet with him and see what his journey has been like he’s got some really good juicy nuggets to share with everybody. So make sure to tune in to that. We’ve got legacy Academy lined up, Chris and Amy Breen are helping tons of Deck Builders across the country, personally and business minded as well. So what’s Chris is his phrase he says is it’s the, he says, focused on the business man before the business plan. So they they coach a lot of Deck Builders across the country, and we’re excited to have them on so that you can learn more about how they might be able to help you and move your business forward and be able to help you get in the right mindset. Entrepreneurial Mindset and just you know everything so that you can take care of yourself, your team, your family, and everything in between. In order to have a successful business and a successful life. We’ve got some other partners lined up. So make sure that you stay tuned. And we’re gonna be covering a bunch of information. So not just about marketing, but you know about your business. We’ll have like I mentioned exclusive interviews, we’re going to have all kinds of expert insights and practical advice, lots of actionable takeaways and business resources too. So like I mentioned in each episode, we’re going to dissect real life scenarios that tackle common challenges and explore great solutions to help you elevate your business booster profitability and solidify your presence in the competitive deck building market. So we’ve got like I mentioned a lineup of engaging conversations with seasoned pros that will be providing actionable insight and good takeaways for you. So a sneak peek into some future episodes we’ve got staying ahead in the digital world stages of business growth, top ways to compete in a competitive market, the technology side of the deck world, leveraging customer reviews and testimonials, recruiting for culture, fit and longevity and sales strategies for top deck builders. So if any of those sound interesting to you, make sure that you stay tuned and stay tuned. Stay tuned and subscribe. I’ve, and also if there’s anything that you guys want to hear, let me know. And if you’re interested in being a guest on the podcast, you can visit And, you know, put in an application to be on the podcast, we’d love to have you. I’m available, you can reach me, I’m always monitoring our social profiles at Deck Builder Marketers on Instagram, Facebook, you can ping me on facebook directly. And I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have. And of course, take any feedback that you have on the feedback or on the podcast and what you’d like to see. So I figured, since this is our first episode, it would be nice for you to get to know the host a little bit. And so I just figured I could give you a little bit of background on me, and why are you even hosting this? And how are you even got here. So I think it’s always interesting to you know, hear what people’s journeys are, and especially, you know, this random blonde chick from California that has entered this deck building space, and really has the passion to help people, I think that it’s a pretty interesting story. So. So I, I’ve got a long background in design and marketing. And I think that my creative side is really what drew me to this space. So a little bit about me, I grew up in a small town in Ohio, it’s close to Kent State, if you’ve ever heard of, unfortunately, some things that went on there on the campus back in the day during the Vietnam War, but anyway, a very small town, grew up in the cornfield, and just always kind of had that small town mentality, classic story of like wanting to do something bigger, and get out of the small town. And so I always had a passion for art. And I knew that I wanted to go to art school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to specialize in. But after I graduated in 99, I went up to Cleveland, the big city. And I started my, my art journey and quickly got interested in everything digital. So back then is when the internet really took, you know, a leap. And I was interested in everything with it. So with that I started learning how to code websites, it first hand code them. And then I started to learn how to do flashy animation. So eventually ended up combining the two and I would make websites that you that were animated, that were tactile, so take pictures of things, and you’d have the ability to interact with them on the website, and just have all kinds of really cool bells and whistles. Honestly, it’s so amazing to see how things have changed over the years, because now it’s about like simple and clean and to the point easy to read, give me what I want. I’m gonna get out of here. But back then it was really cool to have this like interactive space. But anyway, I digress. So I ended up going down the Commercial Road in art school. And after I graduated a got I got a job at a division of American Greetings called ag interactive, and I did flash animation, I created some of the first avatars and emoticons for the MSN Messenger platform. And everything just kind of trickled from there. So I was a contractor in my space, and I would say 80% of my career, I was a contractor. So I think that’s kind of interesting, because some of you may have started out as a contractor as well before you started your own business. And my story is the same. I moved to San Diego in 2006, during the down economy, and nobody was really hiring full time. But everybody needed the work done. So I ended up getting more contract positions, specializing with my flat flashy animation, my graphic design and my ability to code websites. And I just learned a lot working in different marketing agencies and branding agencies, creative agencies, like a lot of you guys probably did, too. Where maybe you contracted with other companies and realize that you could do it on your own or you could do it better. And it was the same with me. After a while I realized, huh? Well, I started to Yeah, so I started to subcontract with different agencies to and then I started freelancing where I was working directly with the clients on my own. And I just saw so many things that I didn’t like and I would say So, the biggest the biggest lightbulb was realizing the client experience that some of these agencies were providing, and how they were really wasting the the customer’s time. And in our field historically, it’s, you know, pay by the hour. So if you’re having to meet with the client a million times, not only is it taking up the client’s time, but they’re getting charged for it. And so for instance, one client would, they would have, maybe their website done. So they would meet with the website team, and they would go over everything about their business, all the intimate details, which I find extremely important in order to represent you, well, they would do all of that. And then a few months down the road, somebody would decide that they needed SEO, or Google ads, and they’d go through the same process with each department, they’d have to teach that department everything about their industry and their company. And I just found that to be extremely inefficient. And they I wanted to have a more connected experience that provided better results. So it’s a classic story of kind of seeing a bigger company fail because they don’t put the customer first. And so AE design CO was born. And we were a generalist marketing agency. Compared to general contracting company, where you’re doing everything for everyone, right? Maybe you are subcontract to sub contracting with other businesses, maybe you are doing residential construction, maybe you’re doing commercial construction, maybe you’re doing interior and exterior, maybe you’re doing roofing and you’re doing siding, all of that stuff, it was basically the same with with AE design CO and it was great, I loved it, we were able to succeed. We were able to succeed and help all kinds of businesses thrive through websites, SEO and digital all kinds of digital marketing, Google ads and things like that. And as a, as an entrepreneur, I started to feel a little unsatisfied, I felt like we could make a bigger impact by focusing in on one type of client, because every it’s kind of if you guys ever went through this in your own businesses where you get a new type of project, and you kind of have to figure things out, I mean, you’re dedicated, you have the skill set, you just might not have the experience having built a certain type of deck 100 times, right. And you know, you get better and better you learn something new every time. And I recognize that and I really wanted to own it. I wanted to be able to focus and provide one type of service to one type of client and just continuously get better and better at it. I’m almost obsessed with it. So deck builder, marketers was born three years ago. And we’re always getting better. But the reason we ended up picking deck builders is because I really, really thought about it for a few years, to be honest. I mean, I really had to figure out what direction I wanted to go in. Because I’m feelings type of person, I have to have a really solid vision, and then I’ll do anything. But I have to, I have to feel that, you know, I have to, I have to really visualize it, in order to own it and see it through. And then nothing will stop me. And so I had, you know, I had a little bit of a journey, I tried some different things out. And yeah, after a few years light bulb went off, were like, Oh, wait, let’s look at the clients that I’ve worked with the one in the ones that I enjoyed working with the most the ones that I was most successful with. And it was a deck builder from Ohio. Over the course of working with them for a few years, we ended up developing a system that I was able to refine and package up for all of you guys today. So this tried and true system developed into the deck builder marketing system. And it it works really well for different phases in your journey. So our deck builders range from you know, kind of have established their brand somewhat. Maybe they’re starting to delegate, you know, some of the work to different team members in terms of the actual build or project management or taking the phone calls, and they’re ready to start delegating some of the marketing so that they can get more consistent And then we have builders that are in a different, so our system kind of goes clockwise. And we get like we give you like the core of what you need and the foundation of what you need. And then we accelerate it as you go. And so we have builders that are very well established and may have sales teams that they need to keep, you know, busy. And so really ramping up their marketing and having somebody else take that on is extremely helpful. So, I absolutely love this industry, I’m very passionate about all of the people too, and I just really feel like I’ve lucked out. So I also come from a line of construction workers in my family. And, you know, I, I know what it’s like when the when the work dries out. And it’s kind of feast or famine. And I think for some of you guys, depending on where you are in your business, you might like it because you get a little bit of a break, especially in the winter sometimes. But you know, depending on where you are in your business, you’re going to need more and, and that’s where we’re able to come in to really help with that. So I started deck builder, marketers, I reached out to a bunch of people consistently, you know, to see if anybody needed some support with their marketing. And but the best time was when I went to the first deck Expo a few years ago in Dallas. But I’ll never forget the first time I went to deck Expo, I didn’t have a booth or anything like that I really just wanted to go and meet people. And boy, I showed up to the NADRA booth. And I cannot tell you how welcoming Margie and Heather and pops were and how they just continue to just really have a passion for this industry and make everybody feel really welcome. They worked so hard. And during that time, they introduced me to some different people. And I was just blown away, I really was I was blown away with everybody that I got to meet at the first Deck Expo. And the relationships that I’ve built since then, have been amazing, I feel that a lot of people in this community, wear their heart on their sleeve reminds me of my family. And I’m just honored to serve everyone here. And I absolutely love meeting new people in the industry and hearing their stories. And I hope that you do too, because we’re going to be doing a lot of that here. So outside of that it’s outside of work stuff, I love to ride dirt bikes, I don’t feel that I get to do it enough, I’m sure ever all of us feel the same way we put so much into our businesses that sometimes it can be hard to get away. But um, but I do. And I have a daughter and a son, married with a dog, all that stuff. And we travel around the country in our RV whenever we can. I’m going on my first trip to Costa Rica for a surfing yoga retreat. And I can do that because I build up a team that could really take care of things while I’m gone. And it can be really hard to hand over the reins. But when you have a great team and use you put the time in to find the right people in the right seats and build an amazing culture, it is so rewarding to be able to step away and see that things are still taking care of and I’m just really honored with the team that I have. We have a bunch of great gals and guys to serve you. And I look forward to having some of them on the podcast as well so that you could get to know everyone here too. But enough about me. Just wanted to kind of give you an introduction as you listen to the podcast so that you understand a little bit more about me and you know what my significance is. I also am a regular columnist in the deck specialists magazine. So the column market yourself make sure that you check that out. And we do regular web webinars and stuff like that with deck builder marketers, we also have a Facebook group, deck builder marketing mastermind, so make sure you check that out. And yeah, this podcast will be a wonderful outlet. I hope that you get to listen in while you’re getting ready for work or while you’re on your way to the job site, whatever it is. And yeah, just look forward to a lot of great content and serve you guys the best that I can. So it is November of next week. I’m getting ready to go to deck Expo but I think it’s a really good time to talk about things that maybe you haven’t been doing and should be doing to better serve your business. From my perspective, of course, it’s going to be more of a marketing perspective, and then things to really look out for next year. All right, so 2023, going into 2024, I’d say the biggest thing that I ended up telling clients is the importance of reviews. So you guys serve a local community. And there are certain factors that Google looks at in order to show you before your competition in your local area, and reviews is one of them. So don’t be afraid to ask for reviews, especially if you have a really nice review system in place that can help gate those bad reviews and kind of put it on autopilot. leverage technology to do that, you have to make it really easy for people in order to leave a review. So don’t just ask them but give them a link. You can even purchase cards that have a QR code that you can give them to, you know, during your final walkthrough, you can give them the card and they could leave a review or hand on your phone, say Hear Leave, leave a review. But it’s really, really important from all angles. And I think that it’s a really good example of how Google changes their algorithm and really a good way, way that matches the good user experience and just things that the searcher wants to see. And that is important in order to make sure that you have those elements, and then reward you for having them by showing your website versus your competition. So just, you know, make sure that you’re constantly getting reviews and monitor to see how your competition is doing with them too. So obviously, you want to have more reviews than them, but you want to have quality reviews, obviously. Make sure that you are also always replying to those reviews. So a few bonus items and recommendations that I can give you is when you ask your customer, if they could leave a review, ask them if they wouldn’t mind posting pictures of the project, that will give you a lot of bonus points with Google. Also, you if you reply to any review, good or bad, also really good. So people get nervous about the bad reviews. Now I’ll tell you, most of the time, if a deck builder gets a bad review, it’s because they didn’t follow up in time on the actual lead. It has nothing to do with the customer. I think most of you guys build amazing projects and do a really good job there. It’s just sometimes, you know, a lead might slip through the cracks, and people get annoyed and they post the bad review. But it’s not the end of the world. All you have to do is show you’re just how you handle that by responding to the review. And that will show anybody that is reading the review how you handle things and that you care. And that’s the most important part. And Google appreciates that too. So I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, I think a lot of times it just have to reinforce this stuff so that it gets at the top of your inbox if you know what I mean. So make sure that you’re constantly getting those reviews. Another thing is content. So content helps from a brand positioning standpoint, to really help differentiate you versus your competition. What makes you unique. That is the most important thing that you could have on your website, your business card, your trucks, all of that stuff. Like do you have a tagline? Is there something specific that you’re doing that’s different than other builders? Why would I want to choose you versus someone else? Is there a signature type of project that you do? Are you about eco friendly materials, you know, low maintenance type of stuff. Super elaborate custom, outdoor living spaces. You know what, what is your special attribute? Make sure that you showcase that and you are working for a community. So show me show. I give people a sense of who you are, you know, show some personality. What’s your story? Do you participate in the community? Do you do any charities do you give back in any way? Just whatever you can to showcase that you’re a real person and have pictures on your website that showcase that too. Now all of that goes into creating content consistently in order to help from an SEO standpoint, so the reviews really help with your Google Business Listing in order to get your rankings up there. So your Google business or Google Maps, is at the top of the search engine, one of the it’s the top three spots apart from some ads before that is the top three organic spots. Now, if you can look at your analytics, you should have your top lead source come from your Google Business Listing, it’s free. So you need to make sure that that puppy is well optimized that you’re getting good reviews, you’re posting regularly, you’re listing all of your services, you’ve got amazing photos on there, add some q&a, just fully flesh out that Google Business Listing as most as much as you can, and make sure that you’re keeping an eye on it. So have a regular tasks to do that. And that is really, I mean, I cannot tell you how important it is for you to put some effort into maintaining that and making sure that it is top notch, so that you get more qualified leads in the door. Now, from an SEO standpoint, that would be outside of Google Maps, that would be anything that is showing underneath of that. And you have to have really good content on your site, in order to show up in the organic rankings. So think about all the services that you offer. You don’t just do decks, you probably do composite decks, or maybe you do outdoor rooms, maybe you specialize and you offer structure pergolas, maybe you do outdoor kitchens, maybe you do multi level decks, curved decks, whatever it is, make sure maybe do porches maybe I mean, there’s a goes on and on. There’s all kinds of different types of deck services that you offer. Maybe you’re still doing wood ducks, you know, maybe you specialize in a certain type of framing, you know, make sure that you add that stuff to your website, it’s really going to help the more rich content that you have to feed Google and show what you’re all about is serving the same purpose is anybody that would go to your website to check you out. It’s just Google is going to help make that connection, they’re going to match your business with their searcher on their search engine, it’s searching for a deck builder near them or searching for deck design ideas or searching for what’s the difference between Timber Tech and trecks? How much you know, should I budget for a entire outdoor living space, when’s the best time to build a deck all of these things, make sure that you have content showing up for that. So I will say with 2024 rolling around here. If your competition isn’t already leveraging chat, GPT and different AI tools, they’re probably going to be next year for sure. And so if anybody knows anything about SEO, like I just talked about, it’s about basically, if somebody puts in a search term, you want to have a page on your website that matches that now with the help of Chat GPT. If you are a good pilot, and you know how to navigate it, and feed it the right information, you could get some pretty rich content to show up now. I can tell when things are Chat GPT read. And some people think that, you know, they just kind of rely on it, and they don’t tweak it and massage it. Or maybe they don’t even understand that the content or context of what they’re writing, if you’re hiring an agency that is just leveraging Chat GPT or something like that. So I mean, you gotta be careful. But the point is, is there’s a lot of technology out there is making marketing a lot easier to do. But you still have to know what you’re doing. So all I’m saying is, you’re if you’re not already on the back bandwagon with focusing on some of these digital efforts for next year, you’re just going to continue to fall behind. I mean, after COVID That was a big eye opener, I mean, lots of things change. It was amazing, because there was so much demand that I think so many people were busy. But I think what we ended up finding out is that a lot of other people entered the space. And so it became more competitive. So if you didn’t have a differentiator, and you were not promoting yourself in a certain way, and people are just price shopping, then you’re competing against somebody that is promising the world because they’re new and they don’t really understand right? So the other thing is there were a lot of businesses that were not fully leveraging digital, and they fell completely behind because their competition started to or was already doing it for a while. So just make sure that you are producing content. Now the other reason I bring this up is because with all the advances that are going on in the industry, with people wanting, you know, smart decks and pergolas, or leveraging VR, or you know, augmented reality in order to do presentations of, you know, what their space is gonna look like, these are all things that you might be used to like, it’s just, you know that you do those things. But you might not be in a, you might not be doing a good job of letting the world know about it before they know about you, if that makes sense. So having this really rich content on your website is going to help attract the right people to you. And then regardless of how they get there, if you’re doing paid advertisement, or any of that stuff, if they see all of these things that you’re doing, if you’re you know, eco conscious, you know, if you are supporting local businesses, for materials, things like that, it’s something that is going to make you stick out and something that you really need to pay attention to. So make sure that you are focusing on content for next year, and reviews, I’m gonna say those are the two biggest factors. There’s so much more to say about social media and paying for ads. There’s so much more to talk about with email marketing. But you can definitely expect that your competition is going to be leveraging things like automation, with their communications. Having more advanced AI generated chat bots, that really helped lead people through the frequently asked questions that they have, I mean, you could train these bots to be able to reply to certain key words are questions that are asked to alleviate your time and obviously make it easier for people that are interested in your services, that want that real time feedback, when you might not be available for a phone call, or maybe they don’t prefer to do a phone call. So those are just some small examples of things to look out for. With next year. I guess I’ll just leave you with this. For 2024, I want to challenge you to always know your numbers, it’s the most important thing you can be doing as a business, it’s really hard to move forward and think strategically, when you don’t really know you know, at any given moment, what your margins are, what how much you’re spending in certain areas, how much you profit on having certain employees, things of that nature. So make sure that you get really tight with your numbers. And make sure that you’re spending your time in the areas that nobody else can do. So if you’re you know, if you’re spending time building the projects, or you know, answering phone calls, just reconsider what you’re good at what you enjoy doing, what you can delegate and what you hate doing right? and figure it out, figure out what your time is worth and start delegating some things so that you can focus on the things that only you can do to help move your business forward. So that’s all I have for you today. I hope you found this insightful, please stay tuned for some guests that we have coming up. And I look forward to seeing any of you guys in person coming up here in the next few months with deck expo or the NADRA deck awards coming up in Clearwater. So for all of you, I hope you enjoyed the show and we will see you soon. Bye. Hey tech building community enjoyed the show. Hit subscribe and give us your thoughts. We love hearing from you ready to level up your business? Visit deck builder Check out our services and let’s build your success together. Don’t forget to download our free guides. They’re a game changer. Thanks for tuning into we love deck builders and see you on the next episode.


April Edwards

Owner & Lead Marketing Strategist
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