For a new community in a new market, Michigan builder Mike Bosgraaf wanted to up the ante. Gathering representatives from his own company, the architectural firm, the market researcher, and the developer, Bosgraaf teamed with the local office of Consenses, a Roseville, Calif.–based technology firm, to gain a more objective and productive effort from the focus group concept.

Judging eight floor plans drafted for the new project, the group used handheld keypads to rate the plans' adherence to agreed-upon criteria for market success. A software program tallied the votes automatically to provide real-time results, which showed that four of the plans were found lacking. After small groups discussed possible fixes, the entire group reconvened to evaluate and rank those suggestions, again using the software to concur about which changes to make.

“It really focuses how and where to spend your time and effort,” says the builder. “If a particular feature is rated highly but isn't in the plan, we know what to address specifically.” Bosgraaf also used the technology to evaluate elevations and for the selection of the public relations agency for the project.

“The technology takes out any subjectivity, emotion, or bias,” says Brenda VanderMeulen, president of Consenses. Bosgraaf and VanderMeulen team up every quarter to run the program for a current issue or decision facing the builder.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: Techno-focus groups; Builder: Bosgraaf Homes, Holland, Mich.; Consulting firm: Consenses, Roseville, Calif. (Holland, Mich., office)

KEYPADS TO SUCCESS: Focus group participants convened by Bosgraaf Homes evaluated floor plans, elevations, and marketing plans via handheld voting devices.
KEYPADS TO SUCCESS: Focus group participants convened by Bosgraaf Homes evaluated floor plans, elevations, and marketing plans via handheld voting devices.