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!

 

 

Web-fonts – Make Something Beautiful

Choosing the right font can make all the difference.

In the early days of the internet, the internet was the wild west in many respects, yet when it came to typefaces, we had few choices and those we did have were referred to as “Web-Safe” fonts. The so called web-safe fonts are listed below along with their fallback generic family type of serif, sans-serif or monospace.

  • Serif Fonts
  • Georgia, serif
  • “Palatino Linotype”, “Book Antiqua”, Palatino, serif
  • “Times New Roman”, Times, serif
  • Sans-Serif Fonts
  • Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
  • “Arial Black”, Gadget, sans-serif
  • “Comic Sans MS”, cursive, sans-serif
  • Impact, Charcoal, sans-serif
  • “Lucida Sans Unicode”, “Lucida Grande”, sans-serif
  • Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif
  • “Trebuchet MS”, Helvetica, sans-serif
  • Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif
  • Monospace Fonts
  • “Courier New”, Courier, monospace
  • “Lucida Console”, Monaco, monospace

The fall back is listed as a backup, which is to be used if the specified font isn’t available on the users system.

This is a font stack declaration for a body tag, showing the preferred font, a fall back and a generic fall back.

Example:
body {
font-family: Arial, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;
}

While these fonts are utilitarian and do the job we now have web fonts available to us which allow us to specify a wider variety of fonts which will display correctly on (almost) all user machines.

Web-fonts are supported by all major browser platforms but not all in the same way. There are currently four different font formats that must be included in order to target all browsers. This includes TTF, WOFF, EOT and SVG.

How do I use web-fonts?

You must upload your web-font kit to your website. They should be in or near the same directory as your CSS files.

Include your web-font stylesheet

To use web-fonts, you must first make a CSS @font-face declaration allows each browser to select the font it needs from the various formats.

I’ve included an example of an @font-face declaration below.

Example:

@font-face{
font-family: 'MyFavoriteWebFont';
src: url('MyFavoriteWebFont.eot');
src: url('MyFavoriteWebFont.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.woff') format('woff'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.ttf') format('truetype'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.svg#webfont') format('svg');
}

Modify your existing stylesheet

Now that you have a new web-font available to you, you need to tell your stylesheet where to use it. Look at the@font-face declaration I included above, there is a property called “font-family.” The “MyFavoriteWebFont” name listed there is how you will reference or “nickname” the font. To use your new web-font, simply reference that webfont name to the font stack in the “font-family” property, inside the selector you want to change.

Example:
p { font-family: 'MyFavoriteWebFont', Times, serif; }

Why can’t it be easier?

There are also several web font services available such as Adobe’s Typekit https://typekit.com/, Google’s – Google Fonts http://www.google.com/fonts, with both serve up the font files from a Content Distribution Network (CDN), for increased availability and fast downloads. These services also alleviate the need to house the font files on your server, you merely reference them in the head section of your file and declare them in your CSS.

Take a few minutes and play around with web-fonts. Choosing the right font can make all the difference.

“Welcome to warp zone!” How Playing Nintendo in My Parents Basement Poised Me for the Consumer World.

You remember that feeling, that rush that overtook your small frame when you first opened that shiny Nintendo cardboard box for the first time.  Sure, your friends may have let you play with theirs, you may have even considered yourself a skilled “gamer” (though it would be years before anyone would classify themselves as such) but this was your Nintendo consul, your chance at video game glory.

In my case, my victories were to be shared with my younger brother.  As it turned out, the majority of my defeats would also be his doing.  Regardless of this fact, nothing (NOTHING) could take away the feeling that I was part of something bigger, something that was in my control (at age 8 there really isn’t much that lays within your control) and somehow this was my destiny realized.

Granted, I wasn’t really a little Italian fellow battling through mysterious worlds to save my princess, nor would I have responded to the name Zelda in real life, but after a few days hunkered over the hand-me-down TV in the basement a few things had become very clear:

  • Mushrooms will always shrink you
  • The dog will perpetually steal your ducks (or worse, laugh at you when you miss)
  • The donkey is not your friend
  • Different scenes call for different ambiance: Mario Brothers Dungeon Music

 

It had also become clear that blowing on the game cartridge was the secret that solved all skipping, hiccups, and    worst of all, the dreaded blinking red light of death….

 

 

I am happy, and somewhat disappointed, to say that I no longer play video games.  However, a few lessons have stuck with me years later when it comes to my consumer experience based on those afternoons in the basement:

  • Products that allow you to fix something yourself will always find favor with me (just imagine trying to blow on your iPad if it breaks.)
  • The emotional attachment that comes when I am given control is still addicting.
  • I, like nearly all American consumers these days, will always expect the next version to be better, shinier, and more user friendly than the previous version (compare Super Mario Bros. to Mario Cart which came out only a few years later.)

These lessons are not specific to the video game industry, all segments of consumer culture (including home builders) ought to be aware this is what your customers have come to expect.  Put the tools and products in place that will give your consumers that “fresh out of the package,” “I am going to rule the world and be cooler than all of my friends” feeling.  At this point, the princess whose face is merely a pixilated compilation of tan boxes just isn’t worth saving anymore.

 

The Housing Recovery: 5 Lessons We Learned

August means school is back in session, and it’s got us at Contrado thinking about what we’ve learned since the downturn. Although it was a time of struggle for everyone in the home-building industry, there was a silver lining — learning a whole lot about survival. Apart from learning how to embrace efficiency the downturn taught us how to adapt and how to use the proper tools that were key to our survival. We’ve compiled a list of the lessons we learned (with an inspirational flair) to help guide your post-downturn learning strategy, even if you aren’t going back to school this year!

 

1.  To Be an Industry Leader We Must Always Keep Learning and Improving.

Start with honing in on your company’s successes and failures, and educating yourself on current products/services in the industry that could make you the leader of the pack. Investing in the right product or service, like Virtual Option Sales, could be the difference between selling a home or not — putting you either ahead of or behind your competition.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” JFK.

2.  Don’t Ignore the Signs.

Be aware of market conditions and USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. It’s hard to accept losses and to embrace a dark cloud — but always look for the silver lining. With learning comes a bit of vulnerability, but don’t let that stop you! There is room in every mind (and company) to learn something new that you will thank yourself for later.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

3.  Use Survival of the Fittest to Your Advantage.

Take a tip from Darwin and recognize that if you cannot adapt and evolve to what is currently happening in the home-building industry, your company could eventually become extinct — but in this economy it could happen in the blink of an eye! Learning how to adapt, evolve, and change to be more successful is an ongoing, never-ending process that will lead you beyond survival, and hopefully to the top of the food chain.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

4.  Learning Something New Will Benefit you Professionally and Personally.

It goes without saying that learning a new skill will widen your horizons, and learning in any situation is almost always personally rewarding. Happier employees, happier company.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

5.  Take a Risk.

A calculated risk, that is. It might be the last thing on your mind when you are in panic-mode, but taking risks is a big part of survival. Simply reacting to your surroundings won’t get you very far in most cases. Getting to the top will require a balance of defense and offense.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Picasso

So now is the perfect time to ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT TO LEARN?

Most likely you have always had something that you wanted to learn – after all, curiosity is human nature! If you are drawing a blank, a few common ideas and skills that would also potentially benefit your career are learning how to:

o   Speak a new language (whether it be Spanish, Sign Language, or HTML code!)
o   Network within your industry
o   “Let go” of things and embrace positivity
o   Integrate your business operations to increase efficiency
o   Strengthen your leadership skills
o   Create a research study to discover what your ideal customer really wants
o   Find a creative new hobby
o   Stay current on market trends
o   Tell jokes
o   Explore technology (especially if it will enhance your business!)  

We at Contrado have taken it upon ourselves to learn and embrace efficiency – which for us has included learning the cutting-edge technologies in the home-building industry today, Call us to hear more about what got us through the downturn!

 

Jump-Starting 2014

Why You Should Use the School Year to Get a Head-Start on Next Year’s “Business Resolutions”

We all know the feeling – the double-edged sword that the end of the year brings. On one hand you have a sense of hope for the new year to come; on the other hand you’re probably feeling a little guilty or anxious about all of this year’s resolutions that never came to fruition. Wouldn’t it be great to avoid those negative feelings entirely?

Some write out long lists of things they want to change or improve — both personally and professionally — others have a few simple things they know they want to work on but haven’t gotten around to. Regardless of strategy, New Year’s Resolutions are a pretty common part of starting off the New Year, and sometimes without realizing we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Starting on those resolutions now, at the beginning of another type of year – the academic year – will benefit you in a few ways.

Start the Lists Now. You will also most likely have several lists – to-do lists, checklists – for the new school year: New books to purchase, new professors to meet with, old friends to catch up with, new classes to sign up for. Why not start the business-equivalent checklists now? New learning/training materials to purchase for your staff, new schedules and meeting plans to create, new strategy or brainstorming sessions, meeting new business partners, and listing new customers or clients you would like to meet. Regardless of what your business goals are, try forecasting what you will want to change in January, and start now. You will definitely thank yourself come 2014.

Get Prepared Now. Sometimes the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Think of it as training before football season starts – you can start training once the season starts, but you will be a disadvantage compared to your teammates that spent their summers at football camp.  Just like getting your body in shape for the upcoming sports season, you are getting your business healthy and prepared before the beginning of the New Year.

Benefits of Starting Today:

  • You will have a head start in the game – not only with your fellow resolutionists (aka competitors), but also with yourself.
  • You won’t be as overwhelmed with all the “newness” buzz that the New Year brings.
  • You will probably feel much more encouraged to continue on with your resolutions after a few months of determination and progress.
  • You will have more room in your life for personal resolutions come 2014!

The bottom line is preparation, and the more thorough preparation you have accomplished by December, the more likely you will be efficient and actually complete your goals next year.

Good luck!

 

Fly Fishing & Selling Homes

Plans

First There’s Strategy -

When you first think about building a new community, what are some of the thoughts that come to mind? Customer? Area? Product? When an angler begins a trip to his or her favorite fishing destination, they need to think along the same lines of strategy. In fact these are some of the key areas of concern before they even drop that first line into the water:

  • Type of fish
  • Geographic Area
  • Time of Year
  • Rig Presentation

Isn’t this similar to what an executive team thinks about too when planning a new community? Who’s going to be my customer? What area? Type of product offering?

Fly Fishing

Choosing The Flies – Product Selection

When choosing trout flies, the relative importance of fly characteristics in your selection, in order, should be: size, shape, color, and action (for stripped flies). In saltwater, action is often more important than exact size and shape. Don’t you need to make sure that your home offering selections are enticing to the target demographic too? If technology is a key feature for a Gen X buyer, then one must make sure that there’s key technological features available in the community.

Fly Fishing Cast

Presentation – Creating The Right Sales Environment

Trust me on this one, you can be casting into a certain section of water and not even get one bite if you don’t have the right presentation. Two thirds of the time, trout are biting on submersible midges and nymphs. The other times, they are striking a dry fly on the surface that represents an insect that’s hatching that time of year.

If you don’t have the right type of web site presentation using up to date technology such as Interactive Floor Plans, then chances are the prospect will pass you on for better presentations. Not only is presentation important, but a builder will need engaging content to attract potential home owners. (see 2012 Home Buyer Conversion Report)

Interactive Floor Plans

These are but a few direct correlations of fly fishing and selling homes. I trust that we can all learn new ways to go to market by observing other endeavors of life…………………

Happy Fishing!!!

Interactive Floor Plans

Imagine Integration

Speed to Market

How to Achieve the Results You Want, The Way You Want.

Picture This. The smell of coffee fills the air, you grab a seat in a room full of energized people talking excitedly among themselves…

  • To the left is your team — your departments of:
  • Architecture
  • Purchasing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Who are sitting down & communicating with your:
  • Architectural Designers
  • Structural Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Framing
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Energy Experts

Their main objective? Your Success. All these people are assembled here to help you complete your project faster than ever before, while at the same time lowering costs and improving accuracy.

This is Integration, at its finest. But is this even an option? YES. Not only is it possible, the Home Building Industry is finally catching on to this prosperous way of doing business and completing projects. It is called Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD. Coined in 2007 by the AIA California Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_project_delivery

IPD, is a results-driven collaboration between all people, processes, and technology. It increases velocity, reduces waste, and maximizes efficiency — the goal is achieving overall project SUCCESS. The people in this meeting make up your IPD dream-team.

They will take you through all of the phases of design, documentation, and final construction.

The results you can expect:

  1. INCREASED VELOCITY: Working collaboratively over the next several months, they will shave weeks/months off of your time-to-market schedule (refer to image).
  2. LOWER COSTS: Your IPD team will substantially reduce costs and improve efficacy by evaluating and perfecting the product development and delivery.
  3. IMPROVED QUALITY: Working together during all stages will ensure an end-product that is higher in quality & accuracy — a product with hardly any error.

So why is IPD important, and what are we currently doing wrong? For the past 50 years, most builders have adopted an ‘a la carte’ method to their home building process —choosing several different companies to complete the different processes, creating a hodge-podge team of different vendors instead of one team (IPD) that works on everything together. What results is a plethora of errors — multiple points of contact and a continuous back-and-forth of communication. Think of the game “telephone” — somehow the message always seems to get messed up. The costs increase, the deadlines change, and a good flow of overall efficiency is lost. Quality and accuracy is on the way out the door, too. And ultimately, the worst potential outcome is a poorly executed product and an unsatisfied home buyer.

Here is an example of an agenda for an IPD-managed project:

  1. Develop Project Agenda
  2. Set Main Project Goals
  3. Set Desired Project Targets
  4. Outline Project Milestones
  5. Create Project Checklists

Just imagine this integration taking place in your company, with your team, right now. This is the quiet revolution that is taking place in the Home Building Industry today, and yes, we at The Contrado Group are at the forefront. 20 years of industry experience has taught us how to embrace the process of integration to achieve the results that our builders want, when they want them.

Built in Wordpress — Fueled by The Contrado Group