Happy Holidays. Who’s searching for you? That’s a charged question for 2014, a year we’ve christened as home building’s “Fend for Yourself” year. Here, our graphic indexes the BUILDER 100’s top 15 companies according to whose Google Trends November 2013 search score ranks the highest, an indicator of search box brand power. We see in the months ahead, a stronger, almost causal, correlation between home builders' search box strength and successful home building firms.
Google Trends allows users to discover the popularity of a keyword or term over a period of time, and to find out where, globally or nationally, the majority of searches are coming from. Google Trend scores represent search interest for each month on a scale of 0-100, relative to Google's search volume, so while trend scores don’t represent absolute search volume, they're a very good proxy for interest.
Originally, “Fend for Yourself” spoke principally to access to capital and credit resources as Uncle Sam tapers back its accommodative, easy money rescue measures. But the term, “Fend for Yourself,” also references access to the capital and currency of home buyers’ ability to know who you are and trust what you do. Ask yourself, “who’s searching for me?” Challenge yourself in 2014 to hire individuals who can complement your domain knowledge with technological skills that improve what you know about who you’re building for, who you’re partnering with, who’s investing in you, who’s searching for you.
It all comes down to 2014's No. 1 question for home builders of any size or capital structure: Who will buy? The "what" and the "where" and the "when," and even the "why" questions are secondary. If you focus on who--one home, one neighborhood, and one hire at a time--2014 should turn out better than okay.
ASSOCIATION, CORRELATION, CAUSATION ... Big Data, after all, reverse-engineers behavior captured as patterned information into decision-making insight. Search box strength and social presence can now help healthcare professionals detect where this season's flu outbreak occurs down to zip-plus-four granular detail. How long before some Jonah Hill-like Money Ball character comes along in home building, who can transform runic hints into a game plan. This type of professional may already be in your strategic skill-set, or may be laboring, miscast on IT Help Desk or in market analytics somewhere. If you haven't already done so, it's time to map a new job description for a geeky-but-not-too-geeky type who can connect the dots between buying behavior, search behavior, and social behavior. Cracking that code will be a game changer.
ON-SITE DECISION SUPPORT ... While we're on the subject of who you should be headhunting, how about a technology maven who can convert your floor plans and products and materials sourcing schema to an app, just like the recipes Daniel Raffel transformed into a distributed, real time education and training platform, Snapguide?
WHO PUTS THE MO IN MOBILE? ... People who want to find you, trust you, and buy your homes are on the go, and if you let them, and help them, and compel them with your mobile presence, you'll go far to solving the "Fend for Yourself" question of "who?" quite nicely. Here's insight into how many home purchases tie to mobile searches, by device (paywall). So, a mobile strategy and a mobile strategist whose skills combine the blend of domain expertise into your buyer segments and technology platforming, development, and user interface/experience chops are no longer an option.
RIGHT-THE-FIRST-TIME, SOONER ... Speed in the construction process improves profitability on a house-by-house basis, but only if velocity combines with right-the-first-time quality and customer satisfaction. Game changing robotic technologies that fed upon pipedreams and whimsy only 18 months or two years ago have suddenly become real-world opportunities. No doubt, it may be the last thing home builders want to see on a job site, but robots are coming, probably faster than you think and it's time to get beyond seeing them as a destructive force. (They won't literally eat your lunch). Who on your team is scoping out the real promise of artificial intelligence on the job sites, in the back office, in logistics planning, even in land acquisition strategy, which is essentially a complex of variables that blend into dollar valuations, hurdle rates, and internal rates of return?
PRESS PRINT ... Home builders may be human kind's original "maker" community. Another non-traditional, domain-expert-meets-tech-whiz job description that should be part of your 2014 strategic set is someone to scout and leverage the opportunity in 3D printing, sooner than later. Characteristically skeptical, home builders may once again dismiss the phenomenon as pie-in-the-sky science fiction. Those construction supervisors are probably still walking around with clipboards and a wet sheaf of paperwork stuck to them as well. The Internet of Things may be the future, but it's also going on today.
So, back to the original question: who's searching for you? Part of the answer should be someone you want to hire whose job description on your staff is brand new.