Data Mining

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Associate Editor Rob Fanjoy recently suffered a fate common today - information overload.

March 31, 2000

Associate Editor Rob Fanjoy recently suffered a fate common today - information overload. In researching and interviewing for this month’s cover feature on twenty-first century home design, Rob got caught on the information merry-go-round. Every interviewee suggested a new resource for more information. Each web site offered click-throughs to thousands of other sites with related content. Builders willingly shared their ideas and experiences, and then referred Rob to the architects and industry professionals they consider design leaders and housing innovators.

Each day Rob found new and useful information. However, with each bit and byte of new information, the job of organizing and assigning value to the content became more difficult. Finally, bleary-eyed from reading and re-reading his notes and wrestling with an outline that had grown beyond all reasonable length, Rob cried uncle. For that moment on that one day, the information won; the overload was complete. The next day Rob saw through the abundance and brought the insight necessary to bring order to the chaos.

What Rob went through isn’t unique to editors. It’s what you do everyday in your own company. Think about it. In the sales office or model home, the job certainly is selling, but the tools to accomplish that mission are research and information. The best sales professionals ask questions before ever giving answers and it is only by learning as much as possible about buyers that the top performers earn that title.

It is no different in the field or on the job site. Each day and every hour the construction superintendent probes for the obstacles facing those charged with building houses. It is only by learning as much as possible about how to make their jobs easier that he or she is able to effectively bring a house or a development in on time and on budget.

This list of examples could run through everyone in your organization and in mine. We’re all charged with doing the same thing—asking the questions that elicit the information to carry out the tasks at hand. If everyone does just that, it’s business as usual. Houses get built, homes get sold and articles get written. But the day is fast approaching when that won’t be enough. The most successful companies and most valued employees will be the ones who learn to use that data - be it consumer preferences or a better way to build - in a new way.

Take a look at the feature on page 83. It’s the story of a builder that looked at this market and saw a new way to use the information learned about his potential buyers. Capital Pacific Homes of Newport Beach, Calif., did the research, commissioned the studies and found that its target market was young, wealthy professionals (married or single) who lack only one thing in their lives - time. For these folks, the multi-million dollar price tag for a home on one of the last buildable pieces of the Palos Verdes Coast was no problem. Their problem was finding the time to make that house a home.

What’s the big deal you ask? You can learn the same thing through good market analysis, you say. The real story - and the reason for the information in these pages - is the unique and profitable way Capital Pacific interpreted this information. Rather than keep the design center open longer or offer buyers an on-line product selection option, they offered a turnkey home. These buyers had the option of buying a home instead of just a house; theirs included furniture, lighting fixtures, pictures on the walls, dishes in the cabinet and silverware in the drawer.

Capital Pacific mined the demographic data and combined it with the company’s knowledge of construction, architecture and design to create a new and profitable business opportunity. By thinking differently about information and combining it with its own insight, Capital Pacific is answering a need in the market and adding a dimension - as well as a lot of dollars - to its business. Information, insight and ingenuity - a powerful combination in the right hands. Are they yours?

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