Building Products Marketers Reap Benefits as Champions for Health

Oct 3 Reap BenefitsThe connection between public health and the built environment  isn’t always obvious. However, when unseen toxic chemical, biological and physical agents exist in and around the built environments we live and work in, they can make us sick.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 20 percent of the United States and 20 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s population is exposed to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). People contract SBS after exposure to chemical, biological or physical agents believed to be found in buildings.

Improving the quality of our work and living spaces is paramount to public health, and building products marketers have an opportunity to play a key leadership role in these efforts, which can be challenging to achieve. Urban Land Institute’s “Ten Principles for Building Health Places” research explains that this requires work within the community and a shared vision to cultivate and develop healthy spaces for the public.

Here are five strategies based on some of ULI’s principles that will help you champion health to benefit communities:

Get the word out about the benefits. Ensure that everyone who’s a stakeholder understands the full value of healthy spaces, including personal, economic and social. As the champion, ask questions such as who benefits and what improvements will be realized with these changes. Find opportunities to connect with the community about the value proposition.

Partner with your community for collective action. Use a grassroots approach to work with community leaders who can help lead the charge, identify areas of need and who can help organize. Seek them out and identify them to serve as your public health ambassadors for healthy spaces. Invite them to connect with you through social media, via email marketing or for community events.

Be inclusive. Don’t overlook segments of the community. Health is a value that’s important to everyone so broaden the appeal of your message. Make sure that it targets a mix of backgrounds, socioeconomic levels and ages.

Prop up your brand as a proponent of health. Since everyone cares about their own personal health as well as that of their friends and families, make sure that your communication plan ties your brand to health and healthy spaces. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a hashtag that says #PuttingHealthFirst on your social media messaging or sponsoring a health-related contest or sweepstakes.

Consider out-of-the-ordinary partnerships. Find ways to collaborate with partners that will share your value of health, but who perhaps may not have been a traditional partner in the past. Connecting with the medical community in some way may now make more sense. Exhibiting at a medical-related trade show or participating in a community event that involves members of a neighborhood, health care workers and public officials are possible opportunities.

Building product marketers who make public health a part of how they do business can become a powerful force in achieving positive health outcomes for the public. In turn, the public will gratefully reward them, not just with public praise but also with their loyalty for (healthier) years to come.

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LEED Categories as Value Offering to your Building Products Marketing Customers

JuneBlog1_pic1 thinkstockLeveraging your knowledge of LEED credit categories, particularly for retrofit projects, can go a long way toward showcasing the value you bring to your customers. Much of the opportunity to generate or affect savings in some way occurs through credits related to building system improvements and retrofits/upgrades. For your customers working from a paid-from-savings approach, understanding which credits offer the greatest savings potential is critical.

The LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system is designed to measure improvements, operations and maintenance while reducing environmental impact. The credit categories that offer savings opportunities within this ratings system include:

  • Sustainable Sites (SS) credits: These credits address maintenance activities and building systems related to a building’s exterior and site. This may include programs that reduce automobile use, heat island effect and light pollution.
  • Water Efficiency (WE) credits: Points earned here devote attention to plumbing fixtures and fittings, water usage, landscape irrigation systems and cooling tower water management.
  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA) credits: These credits promote innovative strategies that improve building energy performance. Areas addressed include building commissioning, refrigerant management, energy-use monitoring and emissions-reduction reporting.
  • Materials and Resources (MR) credits: Successful points support sustainable purchasing and solid waste management.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credits: These credits promote improvements to outdoor air ventilation, indoor air quality, occupant comfort and green cleaning.
  • Innovation in Operations (IO) credits: Points here are awarded for outside-of-the-box design measures and building expertise not addressed in the other five LEED credit categories. They can be earned by achieving exemplary performance of an existing credit or by putting in place an operation, practice or upgrade not outlined in the rating system.

Your customers’ green retrofit projects mean that they will be paying close attention to green performance measures to help them realize economic savings and lessen environmental impact. Look to LEED’s credit categories to show your customers that you understand the importance of smart business decisions and that you serve as a resource to help them achieve a successful paid-from-savings approach.

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Lessons from Alan Alda for Marketing Building Products

Alan Alda, marketing building products

Alda teaches at New York’s Stony Brook University where he trains scientists to be more sensitive to their audience.

You may be losing big sales if you don’t tell the right customer-benefit story. You may have the best product on the market but, in the end, the manufacturer who has a good product and is understood by the consumer gets the sale.

As a building product manufacturer (aka scientist and engineer), it’s natural for you to talk about the science of your manufacturing process, your equipment, materials and other technical data.  And, there’s someone in your buying channel, who needs to know those details. Home owners and building owners however, may not understand the technical jargon. They’re interested in how your product benefits them.

Alan Alda the actor, now a real-life professor, is teaching scientists how to communicate with people in ways they can actually understand.

In an interview with CBS News, Alda explained that even policy makers, like Congress, can’t understand scientists who come to talk to them.

Why would Congress give money for a project that they can’t understand?

Same line of thinking, why would someone buy a building product if they can’t understand why it’s better? What the at shelf cost is compared to the life cost and all of the other factors that go into a buying decision?

Instead of speaking what we might hear as scientific gibberish…I study spatial planning and the valuation of ecosystem services to different stake holders.

We get this:

I study ways oceans are used.

Building product manufacturers say something like this…We create roof technologies with high R-Values for cool roof applications on structures where sustainability is required

Translated for consumers it might sound like this:

We sell energy-efficient roofing products that last a long time.

Why do building product manufacturers need to simplify their message and worry about the B to C market? 

Well, the game-changer is technology, the internet and social media.  Even though your original building product sale may be B to B, the digital world we trade in has given the consumer great power.  If you’ve ever researched a purchase online and read a negative review, you know, it can be a deal killer and that it can happen in real-time, in just one post.

Today a brand is built not only by the product you manufacturer, it’s shaped by consumer opinion, in this case building owners and home owners. Your consumers assume your building product is well made.

What consumers really want to know is:

  • Does the product offer something I value?
  • How will it look?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Is it safe and non-toxic? 
  • How long will it last?       
  • Does it meet all the code and warranty requirements?    
  • Are there any incentives to buy your product?  (tax credits or energy credits)
  • If an architect is helping me, does it qualify for LEED points?

This article was inspired by a CBS News article, “Professor Alan Alda teaches scientists how to speak”  For a downloadable copy of the CBS News Interview with Alan Alda, click here.

photo credit: andycarvin via photopin cc