Investing in Human-Centered Research: Lessons from Pharma for Homebuilders

Investing in Human-Centered Research: Lessons from Pharma for Homebuilders

Oct 9, 2023 | By Beth Russell

Pharmaceutical companies invest a shocking amount of money in market research. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent to survey a qualified group of people to determine which shade of yellow they should use in their logo, which pamphlet would best represent a drug, and what magazine spread was the most captivating. On top of the billions spent on research and development of drugs, I find it refreshing how much time and resources are spent on how the drug will be presented when it’s released for sale.

What many people don’t know about the pharmaceutical world is that these drug companies get one chance. The longer they stay in research and development, the less time they have to go public before generic copies of the drug can enter the market. Timing is everything, so they must get it right if they have any shot at making a return on their investment.

The same could be said for homebuilding. We only have one shot at this development, community, or home, so we must make the best of our one opportunity. Yet, in homebuilding, we’re not investing nearly the same amount of time, money, or energy into “getting it right” as other industries.

Pharmaceutical companies clearly have an advantage in funds over your average homebuilder, but a valuable lesson can be learned here. Oftentimes we’re using conclusions made from past data or past projects to measure how we approach a new project. While the data that crafts the story of these conclusions is still valuable in these new projects, we’re only hurting ourselves by not investing in additional human-to-human market research to peel back the layers we haven’t yet considered.  

One of the most powerful pharma research projects I was a part of was one for a potential new Alzheimer treatment. Interviewing the caregivers was a beautiful marriage of both heartbreak and hope. The prospect of this new treatment and their participation in its development created a sense of personal ownership in the creation of new hope for their loved ones. While the mere concept of market research for the medical field feels cold and clinical, the truth was it helped build an emotional connection to the patients and their families and brought warmth to an otherwise sad environment. It unfolded layers we never expected, and participants always provided meaningful feedback that impacted everyone involved.

Meanwhile, in the housing world, we’re developing communities and homes that will eventually raise families, build friendships, and provide a haven for those who need it the most. Arguably, there’s nothing cold or clinical about what we do. It’s the most personal (and expensive) purchase someone will make in their lifetime. It’s because of this that emotion is always a driving force within the process. Much of what we do from a marketing and sales perspective is to find ways to build that emotional connection between our consumers and our brand and/or product. Imagine being able to build that emotional connection before building a list, before planning the community, and before plans are designed and lots are selected.

My experience taught me that people feel valued when their opinion is valued. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s time we start coming up with ways to do just that, but earlier in the process. Not only will we connect with our customers earlier on, but we’ll likely discover more about what will make us successful for projects in years to come.
Beth Russell
Marketing Coach

Beth Russell

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