For years Quadrant Homes’ "More House Less Money" marketing focus worked well for the Washington state builder. Then last summer, after some intensive market research, executives discovered things had changed. “We realized, in spite of some recent innovations to product, that we were losing ground,” recalled Ken Krivanec, Quadrant’s president.
So the Puget Sound-based builder did what it has done since the late '90s, embark on some serious market research beyond the regular weekly feedback from buyer surveys.
“What we did in July and August was under take a very large study to try to really understand perceptually what the market was thinking about Quadrant,” said Krivanec. The good news was that Quadrant, a division of Weyerhaeuser, has a very high brand awareness score in the area. The less happy news was that the buyers wanted more than a lot of house for a little money.
“What happened was this buyer became more discerning as the market started to turn down,” said Krivanec. “Their expectations changed. What we found was that buyers wanted more choice.”
And, as it turns out, buyers are willing to sacrifice some house size for getting a home that they want, personalized their way.
As a result of the research, Quadrant immediately began to shift the company’s focus away from “More House Less Money” to “Built Your Way” in what the company calls an “Evolution to a Revolution.”
“'With More House Less Money,' we made all the choices,” said Krivanec. “They can do that now with 'Built Your Way.' … In the process if they say, for example, ‘We want to move this wall, move these windows, change the floor break.’… We will let them do that. That’s a level of customization we haven’t done before.”
While Quadrant already gave buyers choices in location, floor plan, and finishes, the company dramatically upped the number of interior choices it offers in components, such as millwork, hardwood flooring, and kitchen islands, to meet a desire for expanded and higher-end choices. It also changed some home elements to emphasize areas buyers said were important to them, such as the laundry room.
“Our [average] square footage is down year-over-year,” said Krivanec. “I think [buyers] are making the tradeoff for the ability to spend more money on a house that becomes very personal to them. I think they’ll sacrifice [square footage] for that.”
The research also showed that buyers wanted more details and choices about that in exterior design, so the company jettisoned some old exterior plans and created some new ones with more character detail.
Buyers said energy efficiency was important, so Quadrant committed to building all new homes to the new 2011 Northwest Energy Star standards.
And to help quash buyers' fears about not liking their homes when they are done, Quadrant added the promise that if buyers don’t like their home when it’s finished, they don’t have to buy it.
While one might think that increasing the level of potential customization to homes would cause havoc to the production calendar of a company such as Quadrant, which practices evenflow construction methods, finishing a home in 54 working days, Krivanec said it hasn’t.
“What’s really been great about this is that all the great work we’ve done creating the lean manufacturing system is paying off,” said Krivanec. “We realized that we can actually let people make changes to their homes in a customized way” without affecting the evenflow process.
After the research was finished last summer, Quadrant immediately began retooling its existing mode homes to reflect the new options and building new ones from scratch.
In January, coinciding with the beginning of the spring selling season the company launched its new branding campaign in earnest.
“When we turned this switch on and really started presenting our brand and getting it out into the community, it really improved,” said Krivanec. “I am really enthusiastic.”
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.