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The Evolution of Choice

Why Does Today’s Consumer Want to Customize?

Truth: today’s consumer has more choices than ever before. The 21st century has brought a variety of choice, not only in the traditional consumer items — food, clothing, communication, and transportation — but in the products and services that have come to life with the surge of technology in the last several decades.

Take soda, for example. The Cola Wars: what once was a two-item “Pepsi or Coke” option in the not-so-distant past, is now a choice inundated with dozens of other beverage options on the market today. Even the original colas Coke and Pepsi have countless options between themselves: diet, caffeine free, cherry, light, among other flavors and variations.

This is just one minor example of all of the different daily choices today’s consumer makes. And the reason all of these different products and options exist? Because of the evolution of consumers themselves — they want more options! Here’s why:

  • Consumers now live in a predominantly “consumer-centric culture” — a social phenomenon that has gradually (and at times drastically) increased in speed and dominance during the last century.
  • Studies show that as technology expands, corporate competition expands — thus resulting in more products and more choices for consumers. A good example of this is Apple products vs. Windows products.
  • The internet adds a new dimension to the choices our consumers are faced with today, with the ability to communicate opinions, feedback, recommendations, and needs online to millions of viewers.
  • Today’s customer wants the best bang for their buck — especially when it comes to big purchases like homes and cars. They will pay top dollar to have their “dream” home or car but will be selective with who they give their business to, giving it only to the vendor that will give them exactly what they want.
  • The consumer’s desire for more options makes producers keep up — supply increasing with the demand.

The often missed opportunity of producers (of both products and services) is to educate their consumers on the benefits of the choice they are provided. This is precisely the case for homebuilders. As each homebuyer has their unique needs for their lifestyles and homes, it is up to homebuilders to accommodate. The truth is, today’s consumer knows what they want, and companies that can give them just that will win their business. If you don’t give your customer what they want, someone else will!

As a purveyor of choice, we take it as our responsibility to show the consumers of our services just this: we want to give YOUR customers the best choices out there. Check out our VIP services to get started today!


Are You Catering to Your Home Buyers?

3 Ways to be more Customer-Centric in 2014

When asked, most homebuilders will most likely answer “yes” as to whether or not they consider themselves Customer-Centric. And why not? Being Customer-Centric is important, not only to the happiness of your customers, but to the long-term financial success of your company.
Not only that, but customer-centrism is huge in any industry that heavily relies on today’s ever-changing technology – we have to keep up with the times and the new trends of the home buying experience, or we will get blown off the road and fall by the wayside. But the truth is that only a handful of homebuilders have actually tailored their home buying experience to their direct customers. Why? Well, in the long, tedious, complex process of building a home, we lose sight of the big picture — of what is best for the customer. Considering the habits of today’s consumer, there are 3 distinct and crucial steps to sufficiently accommodating your home buyer:

1. Provide Useful Information

Buying a home starts with fact-finding, and there is such a thing as “too much.”  There is also such a thing as “too little,” and finding a good balance of the information you provide to your potential customer is the absolutely vital first step. It’s your initial hook. From the information you provide on your website, to the content you include on your marketing collateral, to the signs and displays you have up at your sales centers and model homes — all information provided should be trim, concise, and relevant. It absolutely has the ability to sway your customer’s decision!

2. Give Them Control

Letting your home buyer have control of the process gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their new dream home and form an emotional bond to it. Homebuilders often fall short on this step due to a lack of interactive tools provided to their potential home buyers. Today’s technology allows for most of the home buying process to be done online, just like everything else we do — from shopping for clothing, to managing finances, to dating. Not keeping up with today’s interactive online technologies could be losing your company a lot of money, and even worse: lifetime customers.

3. Provide Many, Many Options

Buyers love personalizing, and they will often gladly pay more for it — in fact 60% of consumers will spend more for a better buying experience. We are living in a time where options are everything (flash to your neighborhood grocery store). Being able to customize your car, your phone, and your home are just a few examples of the desires and standards of your average consumer today. So when it comes to new homes, being able to choose your architectural style, your dining room lighting, and your cabinet materials either online or in the design center is the standard premium of today’s new home buyers. But the good news? All of these options reinforce ownership –  the most influential emotion in making that decision to buy.

All of these steps actively engage your potential home buyer, while genuinely understanding what it is that they want. Following through and giving them what it is they want will turn them into a lifetime customer.

At the end of the day, this is the business of turning houses into homes!



“Just Get’em In.”

3 Reasons Why Generation Y May be Avoiding Your Model Home

“Just get’em in.”  It’s a tacky car sales line that no longer works  in that arena, so why maintain this mentality when it comes to your model home?  Generation Y home buyers—people born in 1977 or later—stated in a recent survey they prefer a highly energy efficient home that will provide lower utility bills throughout the time they own the home over a lower-priced home without energy efficient features.  Why do they know this?  They are savvy researchers, already know what you have to offer, and hate being sold.

Here are 3 reasons why people  may continue to search from home and avoid your sales force all together.

1) Agents pretend they are not selling when they are clearly selling. 

Sales make the for-profit world go round.  Everybody knows it.  So if you are someone who is paid to sell, why act otherwise?  Let us avoid small chat over my (admittedly stylish) shoes, the weather, and the baseball game I didn’t watch anyway.  The honest and most respected approach to an informed Gen Y like myself looks like this:  I would like to see if there is an opportunity to do business together. Any other approach and the customer can spot you as a two-bit liar from a mile away.

2) Salespeople forget the customer may actually know as much as they do.

Sites like and have become a great equalizer in the housing industry.  Not only have your customers shopped the available inventory (and probably have been for months if not years) but they have thoroughly explored your website along with competitors’ sites.  They have already seen your branding, have read customer reviews at sites like and read the numerous blogs out there about the home building experience.  The customer can literally be searching your site and reviews while touring your model.  Be truthful and treat your client like the informed consumer they are.

3) Salespeople still use closing techniques.

We’ve all seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross which depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen and how they become desperate when the corporate office sends a trainer to “motivate” them, otherwise they face being fired.  In this era, people have options including making a purchase online and not interfacing with anyone at all.  While this might not be the case in the home building industry yet, increasingly buyers who detect closing techniques are far less likely to buy from you, let alone trust you.  A survey in Neil Rackham’s Spin Selling (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing) indicates they may not even return your calls.  Think of all those wasted marketing dollars.

Purchasing a home is not only one of, if not the biggest monetary decisions in one’s lifetime but has  also become an emotional decision based on a lifestyle your consumer has already carefully researched and chosen.  Baring this in mind might help agents pull Gen Y-er’s off their laptop and into the sales center.

What is Responsive Design?

The term responsive design is a hot topic with anyone who’s serious about their online presence and it seems like everyone is beginning to offer it in one form or another, yet you may still be asking what IS responsive design? I hope to answer that question in the next few paragraphs and hopefully both of us will come out of this exercise better for the experience.

Mobile browsing is set to outpace desktop browsing in three to five years and shows no signs of slowing. Given we have a multitude of browsers each with their own aspect ratio and viewable area, how do we make something that works for each device? If you have noticed how many manufacturers releasing new devices multiple times a year, creating device specific site(s) hardly seems reasonable, so what do we do? Enter responsive design.

The following techniques are found in almost every responsive site:

Leveraging Media queries in your CSS:

Media queries allow you to ask a device what type of device, browser and browser window dimensions. Using this information, we can choose how to best display the content. We can also make more drastic changes to our page layout by setting “thresholds” for browser sizes at which we need to make a more drastic layout change, this is called a breakpoint.

Implementing Fluid Grids:

Fluid Grids allow your site to expand to fill or shrink to fit (within limits, we’ll get into this later) to the size of your devices browser.

Flexible media & Images:

A flexible image or media element is an image or video element which can be displayed at full size if space permits, yet it can also scale down proportionately in order to display equally well on a device with a smaller viewable area.

It works a little something like this, imagine you’re looking for news on from your laptop, you will most likely get a layout with full size pictures, weather, a full size masthead and all the trimmings. Whats happening in the background is first off a “Media Query in CSS, which asks your laptop, what kind of device are you, what is your os, browser and also what are the dimensions of your browser window. Once the site knows what type of device, browser and dimensions you’re viewing at, it can give you a layout which makes the most of your space, which is where a flexible grid comes in to play.

full 3 column version

fig 1. ~ This is the widest layout using a full 3 columns in its layout

A flexible grid is like an accordion, which can expand and contract to fit the available space, whether your browser window is 1200px wide or a mere 800, a flexible grid has got you covered. The grid is basically a set of columns which hold the contents of a site in a neat and orderly fashion, regardless of the width of the window its being viewed within (Laptop1168px wide fig.1). The flexible grid works well on larger browser windows, yet when things start to get small, our media query and its breakpoints have our back.

2 column version

fig.2 ~ This is the in-between layout consisting of only 2 columns

When a browser window gets small, such as a tablet or a mobile phone, the layout we were looking at on a laptop would be impossibly small and illegible on tablet or phone, so the media query says, if the browser is smaller than 768px, wide, change our grid from 3 columns to 2 (this could be a tablet fig.2), if the browser is less than 600px, stack all the content on the site in a single column (which is what happens on a mobile phone fig.3)

fig 3. ~ This is the smallest layout consisting of only 1 column

These are the basics of responsive design, the broader topic of responsive design and its implementation can become complicated quite quickly, yet for the purpose of this introductory article we’ve covered the basics. If you would like to read more about responsive design, try the articles below.

Wikipedia: Responisive design
Smashing Magazine on Responsive Design

Capturing Homeruns with Homebuyers Through IFP e-Lead Generation

Field Of Dreams


You undoubtedly remember sitting on the edge of your seat while listening to the encouraging words spoken so sincerely by James Earl Jones to Kevin Costner in The Field of Dreams, “Ray, build it and they will come”.   One of films’ best moments, I believe.  That prolific attitude resonates today and can be powerful in marketing your communities.  I’m talking of course, about your Website.  While building it and they will come is the goal, is it engaging and holding the attention of your potential clients?  Simply designing and going LIVE with a captivating site is Step One of Three in your e-Marketing efforts.  All-important Step Two results in cultivating homerun e-Leads from your Web community and building a strong, promising sales pipeline.  E-Lead Generation is the current mantra of marketing experts, and is more important now than ever before as the market starts an upward trend with buyers scouting for a new home.  And, why not start at the very first impression…your Web site?

Finding the best way to collect and track your online leads can be tricky.  It depends on what stage of a web visit the customer information is captured.  More than likely, it isn’t until they reach “Contact Us”.  Why wait until that point to ask them to act?  You take great risk of losing them.  Actually, the best capture-point for home builders is where the client starts to “visualize” themselves living in one of your homes.   Picture this…The home buyer is enticed by your community’s various locations and new flexible Interactive Floor Plans (IFP).  They now have an opportunity to become interactive with your site by hands-on enhancement of a certain floor plan (s) of interest.  They can add a den or office.  Add a sales option.   Add a pantry.  Add a bar/island.  After any alterations have been made on their flex floor plan, the customer will want to save and print out a Print-on-Demand PDF for their reference and in sharing with friends and family.  Time spent:  15 minutes on average plus a take-away document.  There it is…the very best time to collect key contact information and move it to your sales staff for follow-up.  Your customer’s response will increase at a point of “excitement” rather than “skepticism” (or not at all) when filling out a “request for information” on your Contact Us page. Example

Designed specifically as an e-Marketing solution, IFP software has been created by The Contrado Group to enhance the online shopping experience.  In addition, this proactive technology can be integrated by the folks at Sales Simplicity ( ) providing you the best opportunity for e-Lead Generation through built-in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.   Now, it’s possible for you to stop the leak in your sales pipeline and avoid “lost potential” from a static site.  Your Website becomes a virtual “request hot-line” instead of an informational e-Brochure that may be printed and filed away.

Installing IFP technology is seamless ( and will increase your sales intelligence program by moving “desire for information” quickly to your sales force which satisfies these vital marketing objectives:

  • Creates hot leads faster
  • Captures leads at a point of “high interest”
  • Seals a cracked sales pipeline
  • Increases model home traffic/one-on-one appointments
  • Increases your marketing ROI
  • Secures more model home appointments – and faster!

Finally, Step Three proves critical in turning the IFP-driven leads into happy homeowners.  Responding fast is key…Auto Reply is another feature of the IFP program by The Contrado Group.  From this information, your sales team can promptly determine if the lead is promising or not.  Remember that more “hot” leads equaling homeruns are on their way as a result of your Web site IFP program that will ultimately help you win the game!


What’s Your Collaboration Quotient?

Collaboration is key
Hiring a key staff member with an impressive IQ is undoubtedly a benefit to achieving your company’s goals, and even better if they possess a high EQ/Emotional Quotient to help manage team members effectively.  But, what is your company’s CQ/Collaboration Quotient?

Many business leaders today are increasing their quotient level by identifying the tremendous opportunities available to them through enterprise collaborations – all parties working towards a common goal.  Before you jump on board; however, you’ll want to assess the types of problems your business wants to solve.  Here are a few examples of how multi-party collaborations can help solve a business problem, address an immediate crisis or set loftier milestones:

  • Draw more innovation opportunities
  • Advance effectiveness & efficiencies
  • Decrease time-to-market cycle
  • Joint  ”strategy focus” and desire for same end result
  • Avoid duplication of efforts
  • Streamline the information flow which decreases errors
  • Reduce overhead, improve profits
Clearly, we’ve all conducted in-house collaborations with project teams for years.  Adopting multi-party collaborations adds that next level by integrating your in-house team with outside specialists who possess the necessary tools and technologies for bringing about the improvements essential to reaching your goals.  The biggest roadblock to teaming with outside experts can be the push-back from your current in-house team.  To build confidence, it’s important that they understand how the tools and share of information processes can best be integrated, the value the partners bring to your company’s bottom line, and how the integration process will ultimately make your company increasingly more competitive.  The overall collaboration effort brings everyone onboard and driving for the defined common goal of the company, which drastically raises your CQ/Collaboration Quotient.

Shifting Gears in 2012

Stewart-Shifting Gears

Performance-Driven Approach through Integrated Process Management (IPM)

Shifting gears is second nature to NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart.  It’s critical to gaining the results needed to maintain his lead and charge beyond the checkered flag in first place.

For years, home builders were somewhat content with the minor shifts necessary to conduct their businesses.  They found there were manageable corners to take.  Today, however, there are many new variables as a result of a culture-shift effecting the purchasing habits, expectations, desires, and vast amount of products available to homeowners.  So, how do you respond and position your company in order to remain a leader?

Industry experts note that looking to technology alone won’t solve the issue of efficiencies, time-to-market issues, costs, and more.  What you, as a builder need to wrap your arms around is a “performance-driven team philosophy” where through people, processes and technology combined, you will experience the most profound changes to your bottom line, improved accuracies and faster time-to-market products.  This optimized approach recognizes the key drivers and integrates the right results for home builders.  The shift is gaining momentum through an innovative solution by our experts at The Contrado Group tabbed,“Integrated Process Management (IPM)”.  Now in its second year, IPM has been refined in 2011 and is proving highly effective for valued clients such as Maracay Homes, Scottsdale, Arizona who improved their time-to-market results by 60%.  How does translate in dollars? Well, a big bundle comes to mind!

Staying in the race in 2012 will mean making major shifts, according to industry professionals.  Improving efficiencies have driven builders to advocate an integrated approach by steering clear of their outdated, convoluted, building-in-isolation process into a results-driven project delivery model.  An IPM program by The Contrado Group will provide you with a steady and single-source of information/technology starting as early as the conceptual drawings , into structural design/drafting (BIM), to project management, to sales options, and then to the all-important marketing/sales solutions.  Our BIM (Building Information Modeling) affiliate, AmeriCAD ( , sets the core technology standard for the Integrated Process Management platform and allows the reduction of risk through better information throughout the process.

It is reported by home builders currently working in a BIM environment ( , that they are not only gaining efficiencies via clash detection, coordination, scheduling, etc., they are also reducing risk of exposure for schedule and budget overruns, claims, and more.  Looking at the current climate, owners that would put down big dollars to purchase land and start a community may be reluctant. So what will help convince them otherwise? Understanding that there is a much better risk scenario out there and that is what BIM and Integrated Process Management (IPM) is delivering to the industry.

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