Category Archives: Production Homebuilding

Declare Independence from Tradition!

Embracing 21st Century Technology in our 20th Century Industry
(Or, why we do things differently at Contrado)

Thomas Jefferson once said that he liked “the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He knew what they needed: independence from traditional political, economic, and religious oppression. By writing the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, he was expressing the convictions that were in the hearts of the American people – the need for change.

1.  Understand that People Are Afraid of Change. When was the last time you changed the course that you were on? “Change” is a broad word that we can apply to many different things… a birth, a loss, a move, a new opinion, a new job. But ultimately it is a departure from tradition – which leads to a new way of doing things. For example, the change our nation went through during the 1700’s, despite being fought by many, led to a whole new world of possibilities and fresh starts. Regardless, change usually freaks us out. Whether it’s Good Change or Bad Change, we as humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. We fear failure. We feel doubtful about the possible outcomes. But we have to remember we always have options, and we can always CHANGE the outcomes. You don’t have to settle. “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

2.  Understand the Technology. If we think of change as a software upgrade, what software are you in need of, right now? Do you need better online engagement with prospects, for example? Do you need to build more homes with limited resources? Do you need better software to help you meet your customer’s exact needs? If you don’t know, evaluate what isn’t working. Then inform yourself!  You can start by asking the question, what are the best tools out there for what I need right now? If you go beyond word-of-mouth and previous methods into the world of uncovering the new, you will find services, systems, software, companies, and tools that you have never even heard of (like Contrado’s new HTML5 Interactive Floor Plan system!). What are today’s game-changers? Incorporating iPad technology into their homes? Making it easier for you to do your job? Building homes in half the time? You will be surprised at how much newness is flooding the industry.

3.  Understand that nothing will change unless you Try Something New. Times they are a-changin’! We are living in an exciting time where technology seems to be accelerating at the speed of light, and we will be left in the dark if we don’t try to keep up. In other words: have you ever heard someone say that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’? Trying new things can be scary folks, but how can you improve without even a little bit of change? Traditional tactics in the Revolutionary War ultimately failed the British; the revolutionaries were outnumbered, so they developed guerilla warfare to outmaneuver their red-coated opponents. They were forced to innovate the way they battled – thinking differently, operating more efficiently, using what they had and just going with it – which led them to victory.

You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  So if after all of this you don’t do it for you, do it for our Founding Fathers!

The Independence Equilibrium

How to Find the Right Balance in the Home-Building Industry

With our most celebrated national holiday upon us, we at The Contrado Group have been thinking about Independence quite a bit lately. Yes, we’ve also been looking forward to breaking out the BBQ, floating around on that unused raft, and maybe even playing with some fireworks. We will be celebrating our country’s Day of Independence – the day our Founding Fathers came together and drafted a revolutionary document declaring our freedom and our independence from our British ancestors. So we asked: what does that have to do with us in the home-building industry? How can we apply such a monumental moment in history to us? And most importantly, how do we find the right balance that will enhance efficiency for all?

First, we must acknowledge that Independence Inevitably Leads to Innovation. In embracing your individuality as a company (or as a person, for that matter), you will be surprised at how many new ideas you have and how much new material you can actually create. Take our Founding Fathers for example. Not only did they fight in an actual decade-long war for their freedoms, but after their triumphant victory they created the “Declaration of Independence,” they established the US Constitution (“We the People”), and in general had a pretty successful American Revolution. They were pioneers. In declaring Independence like they did, you are virtually breaking through the old dysfunctional way of doing things, and embracing change and newness as your Modus Operandi. And the final objective? Self-sufficiency… on your terms. This is the bread and butter of the American Dream and of what being successful means in our society today, applicable to both to the individual and the organization.

Second, we must recognize that Independence ≠ Isolation. Think of our industry as an ecosystem. Each member contributes to the overall operational efficiency of the system, which as it turns out, is paramount for saving time and money and for producing the best results. Who does your architectural planning, drawings, & renderings? Who does your marketing, and your selling?  You may need to re-evaluate your game plan. Being over-independent often results in the dreaded Silo-Effect (dun dun dunnnnnnn!): operating in isolation. This leads to little/no communication and an almost guaranteed increased inefficiency. In most of these all-too-similar cases, being over-independent indirectly cuts you off from valuable resources and other members of our “ecosystem,” who are there to give feedback, bounce new ideas off of, and in essence help you grow.

So, how do we find the Independence Equilibrium?

  1. INNOVATE: We must create space for the innovation that independence breeds. Within your company’s means, ask yourself what you can do differently to maximize operational efficiency.
  2. COLLABORATE: We must find the Pioneers, the Innovators, and the Front-Runners and we must collaborate with them. Outsourcing key parts of our processes, people, and technologies to these guys will yield better results than trying to figure it out on our own – one-stop-shops and multi-taskers welcome!
  3. NETWORK: We must keep in constant contact with the members of our ecosystem, the other home-building industry professionals. There is a big chance they might have the solution you are looking for.
  4. EMBRACE CHANGE: We must declare our Independence from the old dysfunction! The plus side for home-building professionals? We don’t need to fight a 10-year war and risk death for our revolution.

“Big Data” Shifts Business Trends

The New Information Age

We are just beginning to wrap our heads around the vast amounts of information available to us in this new information age. With computer processor speed doubling every 18 months along with increasing storage capacity, we can afford the means to assess data in its entirety. This phenomena is known as “Big Data” which refers to our new found ability to crunch a vast quantity of information, analyze it instantly, and draw some astonishing conclusions.

Collecting information is just the beginning of creating the ability of artificial intelligence as we saw way back in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey
 

HAL 9000 (a computer) decides what’s best…………….

Gone Are The Days Of Traditional Statistical Analysis

In the old days, statisticians would have a hypothesis and test it with a random sample of a population. The greater the size sample of the population being measured, the more accuracy of the sample being a representation of the entire populace. This would reinforce the notion of “causality”, that being, we as humans have a yearning desire to try to understand the world around us. What causes things to happen? For example, say we have a theory that someone buys a home because they eat eggs in the morning.  As you can imagine, there’s a fair amount of people who get up in the morning, fix themselves some eggs for breakfast and go off into their day. And, of people who purchase homes, it can be said that there may be a high degree that they also had eggs for breakfast. Thus, eating eggs causes home sales? So, is it realistic to prove this preposterous hypothesis with a statistical analysis? However, if one was to gather a random sample of new homeowners, there would be proof that would suggest that egg consumption yields new home buying behavior. This type analysis is known as causality as opposed to correlation and takes the form of trying to understand a phenomena, coming up with a hypothesis, and proving it through statistic analysis.

Causality vs. Correlation Analysis

Statistical Analysis vs Causality

Some things are best left to try not to understand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within a correlation model of understanding, we are able to assess just pure raw data and observe correlations without trying to understand the cause of an event. What this enables businesses to do, is to view highly correlated events and capitalize from their relatedness. In other words, if a given situation yields outcomes with a high degree of correlation, then why bother trying to understand why?

In the book, Big Data – A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think the author explains how retailers are just beginning to understand their abilities to assess data for what its worth and understand the correlations of relationships. An illustration of this is how Walmart now sells Pop Tarts during times that precede a natural disaster. They observed that during times where people are preparing for hurricanes and/or a natural disaster, that not only did typical disaster items such as batteries, flash lights, and water sales spike but so did Pop Tarts sales. They then began to merchandise disaster related items and Pop Tarts in stores in order to make it easier for their customers to shop. Now who would have hypothesized that Pop Tarts would be a necessary item for preparing for a Tornado or Hurricane? In hind sight, it maybe easy to explain because of the product ease of use for their customers. However, if one removes the urge to try to understand what causes certain correlated events and just accepts the raw data and that these correlations exist, then a new era of marketing has begun using this strategy.

However, there are many ways to view the world, and one must be cautious as they develop ways to assess given circumstances of events. “Big Data” as some may have us to believe is not the cure all, but can be used in significant ways to observe the patterns of our society. This can be another great tool in ones tool box to be able to predict market trends, product sales, and any other activities if the right data is obtainable and accurate.(Read More – Big Data News Roundup: Correlation vs. Causation)

New HTML5 Interactive Floor Plans

We are very pleased to be getting the notoriety of our new HTML5 Interactive Floor plans! As we approach the International Builders’ Show this month, it’s nice to be able to have articles such the one written by ConstrucTECH (click on picture below for full article):

HTML5 Interactive Floor Plan Article

Start The Dialogue With Future Customers

Engaging At A Prospective Level – Creating Dialogue

Dialogue marketing is a term that has emerged in recent years to describe companies’ efforts to engage willing consumers in an ongoing dialogue to create lasting relationships. For example, based on data, marketers target groups of consumers who exhibit a propensity to buy and invite them to connect with the company in a variety of ways. The engagement process provides value to both the consumer and the company. Marketers use these opportunities as automated data collection points. The companies use the data to further customize their marketing messages and personalize the experience for their consumers and market segments. In exchange for sharing opinions, buying patterns, product preferences, etc., consumers receive perks such as discounts, tips, and free trials as well as appropriate and valuable messaging from the company.

History of Dialogue Marketing

Dialogue marketing can track its roots to permission marketing and relationship marketing, and is similar to engagement marketing and double-loop marketing. A direct reaction to traditional push marketing, the goal of dialogue marketing is to develop ongoing and long-lasting relationships with the right consumers.

Dialogue marketing is based on the premise that engaging consumers in relevant and personal conversations is more important than ever. As technology arms consumers with new ways to ignore messaging, disconnect from branding and disengage from the marketplace altogether; marketers believe that connecting on a personal level with consumers who do or will buy because the company resonates with them helps companies differentiate themselves and stand out as leaders in the marketplace.

Gone Are The Days Of Push Marketing

Online Engagement

When one can provide content online that is of value to a prospective client, they tend to be more inclined to be willing to exchange more information about themselves and their interests. Now more than ever, we have to differentiate ourselves from the sea of information that is online. For example, in order to capture any interest at all, a website must be able to convey the message of a company’s product or services with in six seconds of viewing. On top of that, there needs to be interactive triggers that will engage the viewer. This can as simple as more detailed product information as a link, or as complex as using an interactive floor planning tool.

Interactive Space Planner

Click On Image To Go To Space Planner

We have witnessed but a vast many changes in the way we go to market, from the push marketing styles of the 1950′s to one of engagement through the use of many forms of today’s media. The key to reaching today’s consumer is to first have a product that is right for the targeted demographics. However, this is only the first step of a well thought out market strategy. Part of any successful marketing plan is to be able to have an engaging process that begins the critical first steps of building the initial relationship. This means a marketing plan that has key ingredients which will provide value-based online content to begin the all important beginning steps of the customer relationship – the dialogue.

Hybrid Marketing For Home Builders

Combine Traditional Media with an Interactive Digital Experience

Today we’re seeing a combination of forces merging into a singular platform that allows for a prospective homeowner to be more informed, engaged, and excited about their new home  even before they set foot in the community. With the varied tools available online from social media to interactive floor plans, one can easily get a fairly good grasp of a the type of home they are interested in purchasing. What can trigger this interest is the use of traditional media formats such as T.V., Radio, Print, and Outdoor. However traditional campaigns can be tricky in measuring the return on investment.

With a Hybrid Marketing approach, greater emphasis is placed on the reliance of a prospect seeking key informational components of the buying process. These components can be related to the geographical area, community, plat map, floor plans, and other critical areas to be considered when making a home purchase decision. One of these areas would be the actual floor plan selection and the associative options with that plan. Interactive Floor Plans (IFP) is a perfect way to engage a prospective homeowner online to make various option selections at their leisure.  In making these selections, the prospective client can save their favorite floor plans to their e-mail address which in turn begins the Hybrid Marketing Cycle from a Pull Marketing style approach.

As the saved floor plan is sent to the prospect’s email address, a copy of the saved floor plan is sent to the builder for future reference. Not only does this allow for a better prepared sales agent, but a builder can begin to assess through analytics which types of floor plans and options are right for a given community. With this data, a builder can optimize the right floor plan / option mix in a community and cut costly plan maintenance for under performing floor plans.

Customer Discovery Center – The Meeting of Two Worlds (Digital / Print)

Here’s where the magic takes place! Instead of being handed a registration card as way to gain access into the model park, and agent is already prepared with the floor plans that a prospect has saved. If this is not the case, then an agent can walk the future homeowner through the Customer Discover Center. This is a large format presentation (1080p) on a wide screen of the community, site plan, interactive floor plans, key builder information, and more.

 

The prospect will be given the opportunity to view various floor plans and options. Upon various selections, the agent will then be able to print a customized eBrochure for the client to place into the Hybrid Kit. Of course, before the customized floor plan is printed, the agent asks if the prospetive homeowner would like to have the floor plan saved to their email address. In which case, an eLead has been entered into the sales agent’s system. This same saved floor plan can be forwarded by the prospective homeowner to family and friends which in turn can create referral sales.

With the Customer Discovery Center, Interactive Floor Plans, and Print On Demand, home builders can provide a very engaging platform for prospective home owners that allow for them to control the buying process. Gone are the days of push marketing that relies on factoring a small percentage of success of a massive expensive ad campaign. Now we can rely on solid data of our target market, and focus our valuable marketing resource dollars upon those who are truly interested in purchasing our products.

Innovation with Personality

What does personality have to do with innovation? I’d have to say, quite a bit. After all, the art of business boils down to a continuum of innovation and marketing. Let’s say you’re in the middle of an important innovation-phase of your business. Whether it’s an entirely new product-line or business management technology designed to help increase your bottom line, how you promote either one is best received by your customers or your inside team if branded as interesting, important, cost-effective and well, likable.

Look at Google, for instance. This amazing brand innovation could’ve been computer-stuffy, but instead it has personality, even through its “doodles”…Google’s famous homepage “Doodles” (the changing Google logo graphics) are well known and enjoyed by millions around the world as a way to mark an event or anniversary. But did you know that the very first Google Doodle was designed as a kind of “out of office” message?


In 1998 Brin and Page took the weekend off to go the “Burning Man Festival” in Nevada. The Burning Man doodle (shown above), was designed by the Google guys and added to the homepage to let their users know they were out of office and couldn’t fix technical issues like a server crash. And, so it goes…Google Doodles. They make me smile.

Like most people, I’m drawn to others who possess a fun and inspirational personality. They lift me up. They look at the world with optimism, even today. What it boils down to is “likability”. The same is true when searching to create a relationship with a company or service business. I want to get the feeling of, “man, I like you”. If I don’t get a warm fuzzy response to my request for services or feel no level of urgency or appreciation during a business transaction, I normally don’t refer or return. What would prompt me to pass along their information? I don’t want my friends and colleagues to deal with that “no relationship wanted” personality. No way.

5 Steps to Give your Innovation Personality:

  1. Determine benefits of the innovation and how it will make your audience feel – because it’s not always about the money.
  2. Use clever language to promote a program: Instead of “Customer Service Department” use “We Want you Satisfied Department”, or instead of “Customer Buying Program”, how about “Your Journey Home” program?
  3. Look at what other businesses do that draw you in. Who really speaks to you and provides that likability factor with their new product introductions? How do they do it?
  4. Lighten up and add flair to your message – ice breakers are welcome here.
  5. Be different and personal in your writing style. The old corporate-jargon is becoming ignorable!


Here’s the bottom line…

Yes, do get excited about your innovation, but carry that level of excitement over to your marketing department where its “personality” is born. We can all use more “doodles” in our work-a-day world.

 

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