Using Focus Groups to Understand Buyer Needs & Wants and Identify the Right Marketing Mix for a Unique Home Builder
The Situation –
Ichijo Homes are a successful Japanese company which began building over 35 years ago and now builds 12,000 homes a year in Japan, USA, and Australia. They focus on building 7 and 8 star energy-efficient homes whereas most homes built in NSW range from 5 - 6 stars. Ichijo Homes (originally called Ichijo Technological Homes), began business in Sydney in 2010 but by late 2012, had sold no homes. Product, marketing and business activity had been based on experience, and past practices in Japan and the US and management’s own perception of what was required to deliver their unique offering and brand. Historically, Ichijo had not used any external parties to conduct customer research. The Managing Director, Satoshi Maeda, realising they were off-track, employed a consultant in mid-2012, Robert Barnaby, previously Executive General Manager Masterton Homes, to add much needed local knowledge and direction to their marketing effort.
It did not take long for Robert Barnaby to recognise the issues that were impeding progress, namely:
- No history
- No buyer awareness
- No public image & personality
- Unsure of who to target
- Unsure of what the Australian Ichijo buyer really wants in terms of:
- Unsure of the acceptability of a Japanese builder and the name Ichijo Technological homes
- Unsure of the primary positioning – Technological vs, Energy efficient vs. Healthy
How Solutions Marketing helped -
Robert Barnaby realizing that Ichijo needed to uncover customer needs contacted Solutions Marketing for assistance. He was aware of us from our continuous tracking of HomeWorld visitors from 2004.
Our recommendation was to conduct qualitative research, namely focus Groups to identify, explore and understand issues about which we know little. Qualitative research answers mainly ‘why’. This method is particularly useful in understanding customers and non-customers beliefs, attitudes and behaviour, brand image and perceptions, the relevant importance and performance of the 7 P’s and advertising and communication creative execution appeal. Four focus groups were held in early December, 2012. Respondents were drawn from the ‘Visible achiever’ and ‘Socially Aware’ Roy Morgan segments of our population.
The results –
Much needed clarity was obtained from the research in relation to Ichijo awareness, comprehension of the offer, pricing, brand positioning and communication. The managing Director Satoshi Maeda watched the progress of all four groups via a one-way mirror and was extremely impressed with the extent of learning
Over the next few short months, Robert Barnaby and the Executive team & their agency Creative Strategist, Eric Stephens from the ‘True Agency’, all with new-found confidence dramatically changed the website and other communication by clearly explaining the unique product offer and its components, simplified the name to Ichijo Homes positioned more on 7-9 star energy-efficiency rather than healthy, simplified its pricing communication and added a display home in HomeWorld Kellyville to complement its display home in HomeWorld Gledswood Hills. Ichijo is now strongly positioned in the energy-efficient segment, a brand leader, successfully selling many, many homes and home and land offers.