Identify the Three Tiers of Noncustomers in Your Industry

In the building supply industry which consumers are considered noncustomers? What are you doing to attract them to your business? The book Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing – Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth by W. Chan Kim is an awesome and eye-opening book about moving from red to blue ocean industry.Blue Ocean Shift.jpg

Identify the three tiers of noncustomers in your industry

Now we turn from current customers to noncustomers. Using the three-tiers graphic, shown in figure, (below) as a guide, ask each of the team members to think through and write down their thoughts about who might be in each tier. To help you perform this task effectively, relevant materials and templates are provided for your free download and use at Exercise Templates. Here are the questions you want to ask:

  1. Who sits on the edge of our industry and uses its offering reluctantly and/or minimally?
  2. Who considers our industry and then consciously rejects it, satisfying their needs through another industry’s offering or not at all?
  3. Who could strongly benefit from the utility our industry offers, but doesn’t even consider it, because the way it is currently being delivered makes the industry seem irrelevant or out of their financial reach?

For many people, this will be the first time they’re ever been asked to systematically think through the issues of non-customers. As we have witnessed, if an organization has given thought to noncustomers, it’s usually in terms of their competitors’ customers, not the noncustomers of their overall industry. They ask, “Who are our competitors’ customers, and how can we win a greater share of those who patronize other players?” But this is not the meaning of noncustomers in blue ocean terms. What is key at this stage is getting team members thinking deeply about noncustomers and, critically, letting them discover for themselves how little they may know or have thought about the wider opportunity landscape that exists beyond the current industry’s horizon.

Organizations often become comfortable commissioning and outsourcing large, formal market studies. Hence, it is not surprising that, at this juncture, we’ve often been asked, “Don’t we need to be supported by formal market research so we will know, concretely, who the three tiers of noncustomers are?” In response, remind them that the blue ocean shift process is built on firsthand discovery that will be done when the team goes out in the field. The purpose here is to maximize the team’s firsthand learning and confidence in what they see for themselves in the field. With firsthand discovery, the resulting strategy is likely to be executed strongly, as the confidence that emanates from the team reverberates throughout the larger organization.

Much to their surprise, team members generally find that, by struggling through this exercise independently, they flesh out a rich list of noncustomer groups and are really pushed to broaden their thinking. Equally important, they see how tightly focused on existing customers their strategic lens has been. When people are spoon-fed answers by having reports commissioned up front, they seldom realize what they don’t know, and too often easily conclude that they “got it, knew it, no big deal,” when, in fact, they didn’t have or know it, and it is a big deal. People seldom realize what they don’t know or appreciate the value of what they’ve learned if they haven’t struggled to obtain it themselves. Making people discover firsthand that what they know-and don’t know-is key to getting them to internalize and value what they learn.

After each of the team members has compiled their list of noncustomers, ask them to share their thoughts about whom they put where and why. The objective now is for the team to identify and select the people or organizations they collectively see as the dominant noncustomer group or groups in each tier. Note that team members may continue to feel a bit uneasy, because they’re being asked not only to move away from what they know, but also to share their thoughts in front of their colleagues. Some unease is good, however, because it means that team members are being pushed to broaden their current understanding. As each of the team members contributes their thoughts on each of the three tiers, you should record and post them in front of the group. This allows everyone to see the whole team’s thoughts, which in itself is eye-opening, as they get to appreciate the differences and similarities in how each of them views the same market reality.

As people share and debate their selections and the thought processes behind them, team members’ understanding of who potentially belongs in each tier starts to deepen. So does their confidence that opportunity exists in the untapped demand that lies beyond the boundaries of their industry as it’s currently defined. Typically, as members discuss the validity of one another’s reasoning, a number of customer groups are crossed off, and different sets of customers get grouped together, producing fairly solid agreement among team members as to whom they see as the main non-customer groups in each tier. With this, a good understanding of the industry’s total demand landscape starts to come into focus.Noncustomer in various industries.jpg

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The Power Of Moments

I highly recommend reading The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath, Dan Heath. Are you creating memorable moments with your customers and memorable experiences in your everyday life?

The Power Of Momentspower of monments.jpg

What are these moments made of, and how do we create more of them? In our research, we have found that defining moments are created from one or more of the following four elements:

ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday. They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight. (You pick up the red phone and someone says, “Popsicle Hotline, we’ll be right out.”) To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures — the Popsicles must be delivered poolside on a silver tray, of course-and, if appropriate, add an element of surprise. We’ll see why surprise can warp our perceptions of time, and why most people’s most memorable experiences are clustered in their teens and twenties. Moments of elevation transcend the normal course of events; they are literally extraordinary.

INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world. In a few seconds or minutes, we realize something that might influence our lives for decades: Now is the time for me to start this business. Or, This is the person I’m going to marry. The psychologist Roy Baumeister studied life changes that were precipitated by a “crystallization of discontent,” moments when people abruptly saw things as they were, such as cult members who suddenly realized the truth about their leader. And although these moments of insight often seem serendipitous, we can engineer them -or at the very least, lay the groundwork. In one unforgettably disgusting story, we’ll see how some relief workers sparked social change by causing a community to “trip over the truth.”

PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best-moments of achievement, moments of courage. Tb create such moments, we need to understand something about the architecture of pride – how to plan for a series of milestone moments that build on each other en route to a larger goal. We’ll explore why the “Couch to 5K” program was so successful-and so much more effective in sparking exercise than the simple imperative to “jog more.” And we’ll learn some unexpected things about acts of courage and the surprising ripple effects they create.

CONNECTION: Defining moments are social: weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches, sporting events. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others. What triggers moments of connection? We’ll encounter a remarkable laboratory procedure that allows two people to walk into a room as strangers and walk out, 45 minutes later, as close friends. And we’ll analyze what one social scientist believes is a kind of unified theory of what makes relationships stronger, whether the bond is between husband and wife, doctor and patient, or even shopper and retailer.

Defining moments often spark positive emotion – we’ll use “positive defining moments” and “peaks” interchangeably throughout the book – but there are categories of negative defining moments, too, such as moments of pigue: experiences of embarrassment or embitterment that cause people to vow, “I’ll show them!” There’s another category that is all too common: moments of trauma, which leave us heartbroken and grieving. In the pages ahead, we’ll encounter several stories of people dealing with trauma, but we will not explore this category in detail, for the simple reason that our focus is on creating more positive moments. No one wants to experience more moments of loss. In the Appendix, we share some resources that people who have suffered a trauma might find helpful.

Defining moments possess at least one of the four elements above, but they need not have all four. Many moments of insight, for example, are private-they don’t involve a connection. And a fun moment like calling the Popsicle Hotline doesn’t offer much insight or pride.

Some powerful defining moments contain all four elements. Think of YES Prep’s Senior Signing Day: the ELEVATION of students having their moment onstage, the INSIGHT of a sixth grader thinking That could be me, the PRIDE of being accepted to college, and the CONNECTION of sharing the day with an arena full of thousands of supportive people.

Sometimes these elements can be very personal. Somewhere in your home there is a treasure chest, full of things that are precious to you and worthless to anyone else. It might be a scrapbook, or a drawer in a dresser, or a box in the attic. Maybe some of your favorites are stuck on the refrigerator so you can see them every day. Wherever your treasure chest is, its contents are likely to include the four elements we’ve been discussing:

  • ELEVATION: A love letter. A ticket stub. A well-worn T-shirt. Haphazardly colored cards from your kids that make you smile with delight.
  • INSIGHT: Quotes or articles that moved you. Books that changed your view of the world. Diaries that captured your thoughts.
  • PRIDE: Ribbons, report cards, notes of recognition, certificates, thank-yous, awards. (It just hurts, irrationally, to throwaway a trophy.)
  • CONNECTION: Wedding photos. Vacation photos. Family photos. Christmas photos of hideous sweaters. Lots of photos. Probably the first thing you’d grab if your house caught on fire.

All these items you’re safeguarding are, in essence, the relics of your life’s defining moments. How are you feeling now as you reflect on the contents of your treasure chest? What if you could give that same feeling to your kids, your students, your colleagues, your customers?

Moments matter. And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance! Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite, and managers can motivate. All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought.

Thank God It’s Monday!: Key Messages For A More Motivated Workplace

Thank God It’s Monday!: How to Create a Workplace You and Your Customers Love by Roxanne Emmerich —  this book which is twenty years old didn’t offer any new insights for me. Below is an excerpt from the book:

Key Messages For A More Motivated WorkplaceThank God Monday.jpg

Here are some of the core messages for change I share, which you will explore in the pages that follow:

  • Commit with all your heart. If you are anything other than a 10 on a 1-10 scale, you are hurting your fellow team members, your customers, and yourself.
  • Be unreasonable with yourself. Be unstoppable going after what you want.
  • Don’t let the little things take you out.
  • Call it tight on dysfunctional behaviors-yours and others: How you do anything is how you do everything.
  • Show you care-colleagues, customers, and vendors. In every encounter, make it obvious.
  • Celebrate every win. It reprograms the brain for more winning.
  • Clean up your messes. If you “blow it,” and you will, restore your integrity.
  • Use powerful and positive language about what you will do and the attitude you expect from others.
  • No more adult daycare! Dysfunctional behaviors must go, whether yours’ or of those around you.
  • How you do anything is how you do everything. live with passion and creativity by reprogramming your limiting beliefs.
  • You can be as miserable or as joyful as you choose. Those who show they care, who appreciate and celebrate, are leaders of their way of being. They keep a culture focused and people thriving.
  • Stop being busy and start doing what matters. Be accountable for results.
  • The fastest way to success and happiness is by giving. Life gives to the givers and takes from the takers; the world has a perfect accounting system.

Try This:

  • Imagine your workplace as one you are eager to come to.
  • Imagine that the only way your workplace will turn around is if you, and only you, are 100 percent accountable for the turnaround. If that were the case, what would you do differently starting tomorrow?
  • Identify the ways in which you are part of the problem instead of the solution-whining about what’s wrong instead of going to the right people with suggestions, shooting down ideas but not proposing ideas for further progress. Be honest. Really honest. Look at your own behaviors with a magnifying glass.
  • Look around and see the fellow employees who are going to need special help to embrace the vision. Use a mirror if you have to.
  • Think about it. Do you really believe? Can you commit to this? Can you make it happen and keep happening?
  • Do you want this enough to help ensure it can happen? What can you do from all levels of your job?

Hit Makers: The “Laff Box”

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson is a quick read. The book is full of stories, and facts on how things become popular. Below is an excerpt:

The “Laff Box”Hit Makers.jpg

In the 1960s, the biggest star in American television wasn’t Mary Tyler Moore or Andy Griffith. By pure screen time alone, the TV talent most present in American living rooms wasn’t an actor at all. It was an electrical engineer who never appeared in front of the camera, but whose work behind the scenes was influential enough that you could hear him almost every minute on about forty shows a week. At one point, he was so powerful, and his work so private, that he was called the “Hollywood Sphinx.” His name was Charles Douglass, and he invented the laugh track.

Douglass was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1910 and his family moved to Nevada when he was a child to escape political unrest. He wanted to study electrical engineering like his father, an electrician with a Nevada mining company. But when he found himself in Los Angeles after World War II, the hot new media industry for a technophile like Douglass was television. He took a job as a sound technician with CBS.

Situational comedies in the 1950s tended to be shot in simple set in front of live audiences. Entertainment often shoehorns past habits into new formats, and indeed 1950s television was basically live radio or theater in front of a camera. But when actors forgot a line or messed up their blocking, the second or third takes of the same jokes wouldn’t elicit many laughs. Weak chortling made a show seem stolid when it was broadcast to audiences sitting at home. This led to the practice of “sweetening” laughs by extending or amplifying the sound of merriment in postproduction.

Douglass was interested in a bigger solution to the problem: He wanted to invent a machine to simulate laughter. This way, shows would never be fully defeated by awful writers, worse actors, dead audiences, or the vagaries of a live recording. For several months in the early 1950s, he listened to audio of laughs, gasps, and applause from several theatrical performances and television.” He recorded his favorite sounds of mirth on analog tape, which he could play with keys he took right off
a typewriter.

The “Laff Box,” as his invention came to be known, looked like a gangly bastardized typewriter, but Douglass played it like an organ. The laugh keys could be pressed together like chords to create more than a hundred variations of audience amusement. In his private studio, Douglass knew how to layer laughter for the right moment during postproduction. As a sitcom gag worked its way toward a ridiculous climax, Douglass would play early chuckles, crescendo to hearty guffaws, and finally leave the invisible audience screaming with delight. layering in the laughs was an art, and Douglass had the only game in town

Douglass’s technology faced considerable antagonism in its early days (and high-minded doubters throughout its existence), but eventually networks realized that canned laughter had several advantages. First, it allowed directors to shoot first and add the audience later. Showrunners began to film television more like movies — inside and outside, with several takes and multiple camera angles. By 1954 Douglass had so many clients that he quit his job at CBS to work full-time with his Laff Box. He owned a monopoly on mechical mirth, but he was a benevolent monopolist, scoring a single episode for just about $100.

The second reason why laugh tracks eventually caught on requires a deeper understanding of why people laugh in the first place — of what makes something funny.

Plato proposed that laughter was an expression of “superiority” over a person or character in a story. Superiority is clearly at work in physical humor and Borscht Belt jokes. “My doctor said I was in terrible shape. I told him I needed a second opinion. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘You’re also quite ugly.'”

But the theory of superiority fails to explain puns, which are funny, at least in theory. “Two atoms are walking down the street. One of them turns to the other and says, ‘Hold up, I think I lost an electron.’ The first atom replies, ‘Are you sure?’ The second atom shouts, ‘Yes, I’m positive!'” This joke has nothing to do with power. The last word of the story arrives as a small yet meaningful surprise. But to explain what makes it funny, a broader theory is needed.

In 2010, two researchers proposed what might be the closest thing that sociology has to a universal theory of humor. It’s called “Benign Violation Theory.” Peter McGraw, now the director of the Humor He- search Lab, and Caleb Warren, now an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Arizona, proposed that nearly all jokes are violations of norms or expectations that don’t threaten violence or emotional distress.

  • “A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar, and they each order a seltzer”: That isn’t a joke, because there’s no violation of expectation.
  • “A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. They sit down to order a beer. Then they nearly kill each other over irresolvable religious differences”: That’s too dangerously violent for most people to laugh.
  • “A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘What is this, a joke?”’: Whether or not you personally find this funny, it’s clearly a joke, subverting expectations in a way that isn’t purposefully cruel or violent.

“If you look at the most universal forms of laughter shared across species, when rats laugh or when dogs laugh, it’s often in response to aggressive forms of play, like chasing or tickling,” Warren told me (and, yes, rats can laugh). “Chasing and tickling are both the threat of an attack, but without an actual attack.” By this theory, a good comedian chases with impropriety and tickles with wordplay, but does not deeply wound the audience’s social mores.

Any mainstream system — social behavior, manner of speaking, identities, even logic — can be threatened or violated. But people laugh mostly when they sense that the violation is benign or safe. And what makes something seem benign or safe? When lots of other people are laughing with you. That was the magic of Douglass’s box: It was effective tool of safe public conformity. Hearing people laugh gave audiences license to chuckle, too.

 

Awkward: The Devil Is in the Details

I found Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome by Ty Tashiro a fascinating book. The book helped me to understand anxiety with social environments. Below is an excerpt:

The Devil Is in the DetailsAwkward.jpg

John Gottman of the University of Washington and his colleagues have conducted observational studies of positive and negative behaviors with married couples and grade-school children for decades. The focus of many relationship scientists has been on negative behaviors such as resentment or withdrawing from conflict, but the trick to understanding interpersonal behavior is about the ratio of negative to positive behaviors. It turns out that positive behaviors can be as small as telling someone he looks handsome, attentively listening to a friend’s small triumph of the day, or surprising a coworker with her favorite cupcakes.

Gottman has found that people keep an informal count of behaviors. He calls this ratio of positive to negative behaviors an emotional bank account. To stay in good standing with others, people need to keep a balance of about four or five positive behaviors to every one negative behavior. Imagine that you do four good things during an interaction with a friend: give an enthusiastic greeting, compliment his outfit, share some french fries, and respond empathically to a concern. Then you inadvertently insult this friend by forgetting that today is his birthday. You would probably come out of this interaction with $0.00 in your emotional bank account with him, which is not bad considering that you could have left the interaction in the red had you not been so nice at the start of the interaction. It’s good to think about leaving interactions without a negative balance because people’s emotional bank accounts charge interest.

Gottman finds that negative balances are not wiped from other people’s minds at the end of the day, but instead carry over to your next interaction. This is bad news if you end the day in the red with someone, but good news if you end the day with money in the bank. When people leave interactions with a negative balance, it has a way of building corrosive resentment in others’ minds, which essentially adds interest to their emotional debt. The good news is that leaving interactions with a positive balance tends to build trust, which is like gaining interest on your deposit.

One strategy is to avoid mistakes, but a focus on trying not to make a mistake has a way of creating persistent anxiety, which is both unpleasant and unhelpful. The best way to leverage the concept of the emotional bank account is to commit to making small deposits of positive behaviors on a consistent basis. Instead of viewing the dozens of social situations and hundreds of cues that one encounters every day as an opportunity for failure, the mindset shifts to capitalizing on routine situations by contributing a little more than expected. Sometimes others view heroic efforts as a disproportionately large contribution, but typically positive efforts both big and small have about the same effect.

When you become the kind of person who first thinks about how to help people rather than how to get something from people, it builds a positive balance in your emotional bank account with others. Over time, that positive balance begins to build trust and eventually faith that you are a good-natured person. The key is to be subtle about your contributions. Most people feel tremendous gratitude when their grandparents slip a ten-dollar bill into their birthday card, but if their grandparents slipped a check for $10,000 into their birthday card, it would actually feel awkward for most people. Subtle deposits could be as small as being more specific when you say thank you or letting others go first when a line forms at a buffet. As a supplement to face-to-face deposits, it’s easier than ever to make “mobile deposits” through a kind text the day of someone’s big test or follow-up message after dinner to say “That was fun, thanks for getting together.”Ackward Table 5-1.png

The reality is that awkward people are more likely. to make small withdrawals from their emotional bank accounts with others because they are prone to mishandling minor social expectations. Awkward people may not notice that their large backpack swung into their friend’s head as they turned to sit down on the bus or they may accidentally disclose the surprise birthday party to the birthday boy. These awkward moments are done without premeditation or malice, but they are still negative and even if people do not say anything, their automated mental accounting system deducts a little bit from the emotional bank account.

These unexpected or accidental withdrawals make it imperative that awkward individuals make a concerted effort to maintain a positive balance through consistently making small deposits that move their balance farther to the positive side in others’ minds, It’s like contributing a little bit every month for social insurance.

Awkward individuals should not let their clumsiness with minor social expectations define them. As both awkward and non-awkward people get older, most of them will care less about surface qualities and instead evaluate people on their Willingness to be fair, be kind, and be loyal. So long as good people feel as if you are trying your best to consistently contribute, then they are willing to overlook a little awkwardness. Whether It’s a commitment to a familial relationship, friendship, or romantic relationship, when awkward people make sure that they find a way to contribute to the broader good, it is the best strategy for creating sustainable social capital.Ackward Table5-2.png

 

Inside the Magic Kingdom: Leading the Discussion

Inside the Magic Kingdom by Thomas K. Connellan is a quick read. Below are great questions to start an action plan to lead like Disney:

Leading the DiscussionInside the Magic Kingdom.jpg

Post the question in full view of all the participants.

Pose one question at a time. After the conversation gets moving, try to take a back seat. Give the group control of the discussion. Avoid repeating the question unless the group gets off track-then refer back to the posted question. If people seem to be holding back, bring them into the discussion with a question: “Peg, what do you think about this?” Record all ideas suggested.

Summarize. Before you proceed to the next question, briefly summarize the main points you have discussed. Refer to the points that you captured in writing.

QUESTIONS

LESSON 1:

The competition is anyone the customer compares you with.

  • Recall a situation where you were very impressed with the level of service you received. How did it raise your expectations of other companies?
  • How does our company’s service compare?
  • Who are our direct competitors?
  • Who else might our customers compare us with?
  • What does that suggest about how we might change the way we do business?

LESSON 2:

Pay fantastic attention to detail.

  • What details get in the way of our being easy to do business with?
  • What details could be improved to keep our customers coming back?
  • What details in our workplace could become “hitching posts”?

LESSON 3:

Everyone walks the talk.

  • Think about the way people do their jobs here. Could we adapt the “aggressively friendly” concept to our company’s environment?
  • How might we expand customer service from a department to a tradition?
  • How could we individually do an even better job of “walking the talk” than we do right now?
  • What does “walking the talk” mean around here?
  • How would a customer’s experience be different if everyone here “walked the talk”?

LESSON 4:

Everything walks the talk.

  • Remember the gold-leaf paint on the carousel. What messages are being sent to our associates/employees about the value of customers?
  • Keeping in mind the importance of things unseen, in what ways could we remind employees that customers are “pure gold”?
  • Imagine that everything in our company walked the talk. What would that look like?
  • What’s one thing that could be changed so that it did a better job of walking the talk?

LESSON 5:

Customers are best heard through many ears.

  • How can we “put on our ears” to track customer satisfaction?
  • How could the process of gathering feedback be more creative and fun?
  • Remember the impact of immediate action. How could we improve our response time?
  • Identify and list aspects of our job(s) that involve customer contact. (Best used for a homogeneous discussion group.)
  • What formal or informal listening posts are we not using that we could be using?
  • How could we become more responsive to customer needs?

LESSON 6:

Reward, recognize, and celebrate.

  • How often does good performance go unrecognized?
  • In general, what’s the positive-to-negative feedback ratio in our company / plant/ department/ etc.?
  • How could we improve that ratio?
  • What is your individual ratio of positive-to-negative feedback?

LESSON 7:

Xvxryonx makxs a diffxrxncx.

  • Thinking about the typewriter with the broken key, how could our company apply this lesson?
  • In what ways have we personally experienced this lesson?
  • How can we communicate this belief to others in the company?

GENERAL QUESTIONS

  • What is the main message of this book?
  • What insights have you gained from reading this book?
  • What’s the one thing you’re going to do differently, starting today?

Ending the Discussion

In one or two sentences, state what you have accomplished as it relates to the initial questions posed. If the ultimate goal of your discussion is application, create an action plan that includes who, what, and when.

Why She Buys: The Lesson of Ryland Homes

Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers by Bridget Brennan is a fascinating book which provides a different perspective on selling to women. Below is an excerpt from the book:

The Lesson of Ryland Homes: If the woman doesn’t want it, the man doesn’t get itWhy She Buys.jpg

Myth: Men drive all the big decisions in married households.

Reality: Women are the deal breakers.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry more male-dominated than home building. The average home-building company is staffed like a World War II aircraft carrier, at least in its management ranks. But times are slowly changing. While most senior executives are still white and male, these companies are waking to the fact that their real customer are women, and that they’ve been leaving money on the table by creating and selling homes from a male perspective, from underdesigning closets to using sell sheets that focus purely on technical data and architectural blueprints.

The Ryland Group is a $2 billion, publicly traded home-building company-one of the top in its industry-that has changed the way it designs houses, based on a new understanding of who rules America’s roosts. In one of the world’s biggest housing downturns, the company is leveraging its knowledge of the alpha consumer ever way it can.

If you’ve never thought of a home as a product before think again–a new home is the ultimate consumer lifestyle product. For most people, there is no bigger purchase, literally or figuratively. As is the case with all major consumer product categories, women dominate.

“Women influence 91 percent of new home purchases,” Eric Elder, the senior executive who has championed most of Ryland’s female-focused efforts, For several years now, single women have been the fastest-growing segment of the home-buying market, buying twice as many homes as single men. I worked with Ryland on a two-year research project to understand what: women want in a new home. As a result, the company implemented a variety of covert, female-friendly efforts across the company. The goal was to make these changes imperceptible to home buyers, so that women would feel drawn to Ryland’s homes but men would not feel excluded.

DESIGNING WOMEN

As discussed in Chapter 3, when a woman goes off to the workforce, she changes her personal traffic patterns, along with those of everyone in her family. As such, working mothers were the biggest catalyst for modifying Ryland’s floor plans. The company redesigned the common areas Of many of its models so that multitasking moms could keep one eye on the kids and eye on the stove. Windows were built over kitchen sink to provide a direct line of sight to the backyard. Open kitchen/family room layouts were designed with nooks for decks, so that kids could do their homework on the computer or watch TV while Mom looked on from nearby. These designs were an acknowledgment of the “time compression” that occurs within families when both parents work. Instead of parents spending an hour or two helping kids with homework and then making dinner, both activities are now likely to happen at the same time.

Time compression and the blurring of boundaries between work and home means that home isn’t quite the sanctuary it once was. With cell phones, BlackBerry devices, laptops, and the Internet, work is “part of the furniture” at home, too. In an effort to replace what’s been lost, Ryland redesigned its master bedrooms as oases for stress relief. New master suites were designed as retreats for the adults in the house-and in particular, women. “A private, relaxing, reenergizing space is especially important to single mothers, who don’t get much time on their own,” says Elder. Many of Ryland’s master bedroom suites now feature a coffee bar, mini fridge, and lounge area.

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Modifications to Ryland’s floor plans were just the beginning. The company also embarked on design changes to its neighborhoods. It learned that women don’t view themselves as buying just a house with four walls; they feel like they’re buying an entire community, a neighborhood, a school district, and a lifestyle. Women believe a new house is going to improve their life, along with the lives of everyone in their family. If it won’t, they might as well stay where they are. Subsequently, Ryland began creating more female-friendly amenities in its neighborhood designs, including cul-de-sacs, better street lighting, pocket parks, electronic garage doors as a standard feature, better lighting around home entryways, and secure gated entries in townhouse communities.

EMBRACING PERSONALIZATION

As part of the female-friendly process, Ryland completely overhauled its design centers, the places where customers pick out their options and upgrades after signing a contract for a new home. These centers had a history of being housed in the bare garages of model homes.

“In our industry, picking out home options and upgrades used to be a back-office function,” says Elder. “We’d have a hodgepodge of display cases given to us by random suppliers, with a few samples of products here and there; bad lighting … the whole experience was an afterthought.” It couldn’t be more different now. “We actually embrace the personalization process, when we used to fight it,” explains Elder. “It’s one of the biggest changes that’s occurred at the company, and it’s wholly driven by women.” A senior female executive at Ryland, Diane Morrison, was the force behind the company’s new design centers. She recognized that for many women, the appointment at the design center is the most exciting part of the home-buying process: it is here that they get to pick out all the things that will make the home distinctly their own.

Ryland also broadened the color palettes on its home exteriors, to help women feel that their new home has a unique, personal identity, and to diminish the dreaded “cookie cutter” effect. Instead of offering three exterior colors in a one-hundred-house community, Ryland now typically offers from nine to fifteen.

LESSONS FROM THE COVERT APPROACH

Ryland is a great example of a masculine industry that’s responded to women with subtle design changes that benefit both sexes.

“Every architect that’s designed homes throughout the history of this company has been a man,” says Elder. “Closets used to be leftover spaces that were essentially a door and a hole. Now they are a design element of the home, with functionality built into them. Our sales lobbies, which used to be fairly bare, now have places to sit down, with inspirational reading materials, like home design magazines, and toys for kids. And we’ve changed our merchandising displays so that they are more emotionally charged and filled with pictures of people.”

When the covert approach is done right, men don’t even notice the design elements that have been added for women. , It turns out that men like the idea of having a hot cup of coffee in their master bedroom, too. “From a consumer stand-point, men would live in the garage if they had to,” says Elder with a grin. “Women want the home, and men want the women to get what they want. The great thing for us is that the changes we’ve made have been driven by women but are appreciated by men, too.”

When you appeal to women in a covert fashion, the men find themselves on the receiving end of things they never knew they wanted but are happy to get-and maybe even pay more for the next time. The lesson is this: when you make women happy, you make everyone happy. Women are the leading economic indicators of what people want. Key learnings from Ryland include:

  1. Never underestimate the influence of women in a couples” purchase. Women are the veto vote for buying decisions large and small, from deciding what home to buy to where to eat. The individual who conducts the financial transaction (which can often be the husband) is not always the primary decision maker. If you sell to a lot of couples, figure out the “hot buttons” for both your male and female customers. They may be very different.
  2. Study how the divorce rate and the increased spending power of single women may be impacting your industry. The phenomenon can open new opportunities in product design, as it did with Ryland and its master bedroom retreats, and also in the services that support your product offerings.
  3. A well-crafted, subtle approach attracts women and pleases men, too.
  4. It’s socially unacceptable for men to buy products that are overtly feminine. By being subtle in your appeal to women-through a covert approach-you have the ability to attract both sexes without alienating either one. Married women never want to see their husbands alienated or emasculated. (Not if they’re happily married, anyway.)