Why Locally Sourced Building Products Make a Difference to Customers

5046595262_63441f95f1_oYour customers now live in a society where people’s relationship to their environment truly matters. This means a growing number of people are paying more attention to how everything impacts their communities. By promoting your locally sourced building products and materials, you show your company’s commitment to community investments in the future and the active role you’ll take.

Sustainable buildings and spaces factor in the entire life cycle of the construction process. The amount of energy it takes to make and transport materials is almost as critical as the selection of materials and the building process itself. Materials and products vary in the amount of energy they require for production, as do various transportation modes. For example, ocean and rail shipping are the least energy-intensive while aircraft is the most.

When transportation contributes to pollution, it affects public health. When you reduce transportation and lower energy use, emissions that cause climate change are also lowered. Building materials sourced locally mean shorter trips to haul, lower diesel fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions. This presents an important marketing opportunity for you as a building products manufacturer.

Point out to customers that often times local materials and products can be less expensive, “greener,” very unique aesthetically and help keep the local economy afloat. Let’s also not forget that locally sourced products and materials are excellent for retrofit projects as well. These materials can easily be used in more traditional construction.

Here are four more reasons why locally sourced building products matter:

Transparency pays and consumers want the truth. With questionable ethics rampant in food production and mass production in general, consumers are rightfully concerned about what not only goes into their bodies, but the health of their living spaces. With that comes the desire to know where the products they’re living with come from. Having traceable products that boost the local economy engenders trust. Trust engenders loyalty.

Solid community bonds are forged. Making your community’s needs a priority with locally sourced product and materials ties you more closely to the community. Local material use can support the economy and foster connections with the community. The community then recognizes that you share its vision for sustainability and builds a deeper connection with your brand.

You are perceived as a responsible corporate citizen. When you share that you use locally sourced materials and products, it shows the community that you care about the health, quality and safety standards of your products, the surrounding environment where these materials are used and those who use your products. You’re now viewed as “one of the good guys.”

It’s a hallmark of quality. Consumers are seeking out that “made in the USA” label in hopes of finding quality. Use of local materials celebrates tradition and a simpler time when “homegrown” was preferred. It lets people know your company is authentic, and authenticity ups your street cred.

By educating your customers on your locally sourced offerings, you integrate community engagement into your brand’s identity while demonstrating the value of sustainability.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/54359128@N00/5046595262

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing Green Building Products

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The key to success in marketing green building products is gaining trust and keeping mind share with building decision makers. 

No matter how great your product is it’s the marketing that determines the sale. To build a successful company, you need a great building product. But having a great product doesn’t lead to success by itself. You can have the right product for the right market and still fail because no one knows you exist. You have to stay focused on marketing at every stage of your business.

Below I’ve assembled a list of do’s, and don’ts, to help reach your audience and gain trust with them.

Don’t Do This. 

Green promotion requires companies to be honest with buyers and not mislead them by over promising. An important piece of advice I’d like to share with you pertains to “greenwashing.” In this industry, the potential to confuse consumers of your products with misleading green claims is high. Green issues are highly technical, fast moving and complex. If your claims are unclear, then you risk being labeled a greenwasher, which can seriously damage your company’s credibility.

To avoid making misleading environmental claims, make a commitment to abide by the FTC’s Green Guides. Also, make sure the claims you make about your building products’ benefits are backed by third party testing. While the energy efficiency of a product is dependent on a building’s climate, size, location, construction, and other factors, make sure you do the legwork to provide an accurate estimate.

There are quite a few recent cases where the FTC fined business owners for making “deceptive and unsubstantiated” claims about the energy and cost efficiency of their products. The fines associated with these cases range from $150,000 to $350,000.

Do This. 

Since you know who is most likely to buy green building products, then you know where they go online, where they assemble in groups, etc. Below are what I consider to be basic prerequisites for marketing green building products.

Promote on Your Website.

Since so many buyers are self educating on the web, it’s important that your LEED certification information is easily accessible–by this I mean easy to find–on your website. You might consider producing a downloadable PDF that explains which LEED prerequisites and/or credits your product may be able to earn. This information needs to be clear and state why your building product is LEED-appropriate.

Participate in Green Building Conferences and Expos. 

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is the largest green building conference in the world. It features three days of speakers, industry showcases, networking opportunities, LEED workshops and tours of the city’s green buildings. The tens of thousands of attendees include architects, builders/contractors, building owners, code officials, developers, engineers and other groups.

BuildingEnergy is a cross-disciplinary conference and trade show in the northeastern U.S. put on by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. It presents 10 to 12 areas of focus on renewables and high-performance building to thousands of attendees, including engineers, builders, developers, policymakers, building managers, manufacturers, installers and others.

For a complete listing of green building events, visit GreenBiz.com or BuildingGreen.com.

Get Listed in Products Databases for Green Building.

EcoScorecard is a web-based tool that helps architects and designers measure the environmental impact of products and materials against LEED, CHPS, REGREEN, Green Globes and the Green Guide for Healthcare on a credit-by-credit basis. The goal of EcoScorecard is to make the search for green products easier and more efficient for the consumer. It’s also free for users since manufacturers pay for EcoScorecard.

GreenSpec is BuildingGreen’s online guide that lists over 2,200 green building products that meet the guidelines described in Environmental Building News (BuildingGreen.com’s publication). The difference between GreenSpec and EcoScorecard is that product manufacturers can’t pay to list their green building products. GreenSpec editors select products to feature in the guide. You can submit a product suggestion, but there is no guarantee that your product will be listed.

Learn more about the FTC’s Green Guides here.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86530412@N02/8233501246

The 411 on LEED in Green Building Product Marketing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarketers seeking to have building products applied to the LEED® Rating System need to have a thorough understanding of the system, the credits that apply to their products and the certification process as a whole. 

The green building industry continues to grow because of environmental concerns, tax subsidies, savings in operational costs and the rising popularity of LEED.

According to Environmental Leader/Environment & Energy Management News, there are 17,434 certified commercial and institutional projects, representing 2.3 billion square feet. There are also another 29,599 registered (pursuing LEED but not yet certified) projects, representing 4.4 billion square feet.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a set of building rating systems for buildings of all types – commercial, residential and neighborhood communities. It works throughout the building lifecycle–design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fitout and significant retrofit.

The five rating systems address multiple project types, such as:

  • Building design and construction
  • Interior design and construction
  • Building operations and maintenance
  • Neighborhood development
  • Homes

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is intended to help building owners use resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings. LEED certification provides third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation

Although building materials play a fairly substantial role within the LEED Rating System, LEED does not certify green building products. It certifies buildings. To receive certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve one of the four levels of certification–certified, silver, gold and platinum.

The majority of building products will contribute to achieving LEED points through performance-based requirements. Some points will necessitate assessing the aggregate environmental or health value of a set of products and other points will require that certain limits or minimums be met.

In November 2013, the most recent update to the rating systems launched, LEED v4. This version allows for a wider range of building types and manufacturing industries. It also encourages optimization of energy and water use and furthers environmental issues like climate change.

Category5 CEO and owner Lori Malone is a LEED® Green Associate. The GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute) awards these nationally recognized certifications to confirm that an individual demonstrates knowledge and understanding of green building practices and principles needed to support the use of the LEED® Green Building Rating System.

Photo credit: Daniel Lobo via flickr

View the complete LEED Rating System.

View the entire list of credit categories.

Why Healthy Living Spaces Should Matter to Building Products Marketers

Oct 1 Healthy Living SpacesIf your goal is wellness (and whose isn’t?), you know eating healthy food and exercising are a big part of the equation. It’s just as important, however, to make sure the space you live in is healthy for you.   

To find out what healthy living spaces really mean and why they are a win-win for both consumers and green building products manufacturers, CMO-Scan spoke to Jillian Pritchard Cooke, founder of the Wellness Within Your Walls concept, and president of Atlanta-based interior design firm DES-SYN.

Q: Why did you feel Wellness Within Your Walls was important to bring to life now?

A: The [Wellness Within Your Walls] program has been in the planning stages for about eight years. DES-SYN was involved in the first LEED Certified Gold home in the country. Our first clients were husband and wife Laura Turner Seydel (Ted Turner’s daughter) and Rutherford Seydel and building what is now EcoManor.

Laura was interested in the design and function of the space. Rutherford was interested in the systems such as the geothermal, solar panels, and graywater systems with a desire to have them be the best they could be.

While working on this project, I also was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer so I began to think about the toxic side of building and decided to champion the healthier side of building. LEED was big at the time, and there were conflicting choices related to health, which were overwhelming to consumers. I decided to try to simplify the information, and that’s been a real focus—simplifying information from the manufacturer, the builder and the designer to the consumer.

Q: How has Wellness Within Your Walls impacted how you do business?

A: EcoManor met the LEED certification program requirements. We were very creative in the design and execution of the home to garnish additional points to meet the gold level status.

One challenge we had was that LEED deducts points for spaces over 5,000 square feet. The Seydels, a family of five, wanted to accommodate visiting guests and their family, and in order to do so, they built the house to be greater than 5,000 square feet.

We purposefully filled the home with healthy, non-toxic furnishings and interior building materials that told the story on how to reduce harmful toxins. Those purposeful choices helped us reach LEED Gold level. Marilyn Black from GreenGuard was instrumental. She worked closely with the Seydels and our design team to ensure that formaldehyde and other toxin levels erred on the side of safe.

At the time of installation, we used AMF Safecoat low-VOC paint. (Shortly after the installation many other paints became available that were no-VOC). EcoManor became the genesis of Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW). Now our clients request that we design to the WWYW standard. This has increased our business exponentially.

Q: What lesson or takeaway is there from this model for building products marketers?

A: We’ve created four CEU (continuing education unit) credit courses available through IIDA and ASID that fall under the health and safety heading of the CEU courses. Anyone can take the four courses, which is followed by a test. If you pass, then you’re eligible for WWYW designation.

The intent is that manufacturers of home building products and furnishings would adhere to producing natural products free of toxins, sustainable products free of toxins or produce products in a responsible way, by using transparency, accountability, safety data sheets, and adequate labeling. Labeling relates to, for example, if you bring a product in your home with chemicals, what are the off-gassing procedures you should put in place so toxins don’t come into the home environment?

Q: Do you personally practice what you preach?

A: I live in a 100-year-old, 2,100 square foot house with hardwood floors. I have no pesticides in the garden so my pets don’t bring it in the house with them when they come inside. I clean with non-toxic cleaning materials. I believe in steaming to reduce germs. I believe in fresh air so all the windows in the house are operable. I have additional ventilation systems to reduce dust mites at different times of the year. I only burn soy and beeswax candles, and we clean our vents regularly. In addition, I use no-VOC paints and off-gas before I bring anything into our home.

Q: How are you expanding your Wellness Within Your Walls concept into the community?

A: We have set a goal of 50 states in 500 days. We are educating builders, contractors and designers through IIDA, ASID and NAHB. This is an organized, requested event that takes place in major cities. So far, we have already taught in Dallas; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and we’re going to Asheville, N.C. We’re also setting up dates in Louisiana, Chicago and New York. We are looking for ambassadors for the national program. As an ambassador, if you help WWYW plan the event, you can sit in on our four CEU classes at no cost and get your WWYW designation.

The response to this tour has been good. Retailers have been excited, wanting to fill their shops with products that meet the standards. We have also partnered with the Sustainable Furnishing Council (SFC), the NAHB, the UL GreenGuard certification program and other organizations concerned with sustainability that have a health platform. Our program offerings are solution-based and hinge on research-based programs.

Q: What do you feel is the next step for building product marketers with regard to your three categories of Natural, Sustainable and Responsible?

A: I think we are starting to see transparency, and with that comes accountability and proper labeling. I don’t think this is any different than the farm to table movement, where the consumers asked for it and the food industry responded.

The same applies to the building products industry. Consumers have asked for it, and home building manufacturers have no choice but to respond to the demand. Given a choice between a product that doesn’t disclose what it’s made of vs. products that do disclose and how to mediate and mitigate toxins makes them solution-based, and that’s what consumers are looking for.

Building products manufacturers all have choices as it relates to producing products that are safe, which is socially responsible.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

What Transparency in LEED v4 Means for Building Products Marketing

transparency

Processed foods and beauty products have long had their ingredients scrutinized and made public through appropriate labeling. Now it’s the building, construction and design industry’s turn.

The fourth iteration of the LEED ratings system, v4, launched in November 2013, focuses largely on transparency, particularly when it comes to material credits. Points will be awarded for companies’ disclosure to the public about what materials their products are comprised of and how their products are made. It’s sort of like nutrition labeling for building products.

Although some may feel this creates undue stress on certain players in the industry, it actually can serve as a wealth of opportunity for consumers. The more consumers understand about a product, its origins and how it can potentially impact them directly, the more likely they will be inclined to purchase that product. Knowledge, for consumers, is power.

Full disclosure
To leverage your product’s position within the LEED v4 rating system, it’s important to disclose three key things:

How your product is made, which includes base materials and/or ingredients used

Extraction point of the raw material

Location of manufacturing

Many opportunities exist for building products companies to be transparent about their product offerings. However, the building products and design industry is not totally in agreement about the best ways to convey that transparency.

Some believe environmental product declarations are the best way to go while others opt for health product declarations, which are similar to safety data sheets, and then there’s the product transparency declaration. Each of these has its limitations, but all strive to give a more comprehensive understanding of the product.

Whatever method you choose for disclosure, ensure that you don’t oversimplify any challenges and continue to perform best practices and ongoing education to give consumers the proper tools they need to select the appropriate building products for their needs.

The industry will soon accept LEED v4 as the standard. When that happens, building products marketers who have invested time and resources in educating buyers about their brand’s own green conscience through product transparency will be well prepared. In fact, they may find that they have blazed a clear path to success.

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

Why the Marriage of Solar Panels and Metal Roofing Matters to Building Product Marketing

AugustBlog1Happiness, for most homeowners, means never having to replace your roof—or any other part of your home, for that matter. Realistically, that’s simply not possible.

What is possible, however, is helping your sustainably focused customers maximize efficiency, recognize how to get the longest service life possible out of their roofs and identify overall cost savings. A great way to do that is to educate your customers on the advantages of metal roofing particularly when they are also considering adding solar panels, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) system.

According to the Metal Roofing Alliance, 5 million new roofs are installed annually, with 47 percent of U.S. households willing to consider metal roofing. Although metal roofing is the No. 2 roofing choice behind asphalt shingles, it offers far more value, particularly when paired with a PV system.

Dynamic duo

The energy and life cycle cost savings your customers can potentially realize with PV systems that use solar panels on metal roofing are tremendous. More and more green-conscious customers are looking toward PV systems as an efficient heating and cooling solution that captures free, renewable energy. Customers can realize significant savings on energy bills with these systems—up to 40 percent in the summertime, for example.

PV systems also offer customers low life cycle costs. On average, these systems have a service life of 30-plus years. When marrying PV panels to a metal roof, the service life is extended even further.

That’s because a properly installed metal retrofit roof can last up to six decades. That means PV systems can even be installed on 8- to 10-year-old metal roofs since the service life of the average metal roof (40-60 years) is longer than the life of most PV systems. In contrast, conventional asphalt shingle roofs have a service life of 15 to 25 years.

For those customers who need a new roof and are also planning to add a PV system, going with metal can make a lot of sense—and cents.

Why metal?

Although upfront costs for metal roofing are higher, it’s still a sound investment for your customers, and it’s important that they understand this. Metal roofing affords customers a list of long-term savings, including:

  • Low to no maintenance
  • Harsh weather resistance, including wind and fire resistance
  • No need to tear off the existing roofs in most cases

Metal roofing also contributes to greater efficiency and lower cost since it’s able to lower air temperature by 12° F, which means your customers:

  • Spend less money on utilities
  • Depend less on energy resources
  • Reduce general air pollution

As an added bonus, since metal roofing can often be added to existing roofing, less materials end up in landfills. When a metal roof reaches the end of its useful life, it can be recycled, since many of the panels of a metal roof are largely made up of recyclable content.

Encourage your customers to consider metal roofing and a PV system as a single asset. Then have them consider the total life cycle cost of ownership over the life of this asset. The market is primed and your customers are ready and willing to listen. All that’s left for you to do is show them why the metal roof and the PV system really are the perfect couple.

Photo credit:  Thinkstock.com

How Retrofit Benefits Your Building Product Marketing

shutterstock_117276403Your customers likely already understand that a green building approach, and meeting LEED standards, will result in high-performance building systems that can yield significant cost savings.

When it comes to greening existing buildings, however, most customers will automatically assume needed improvements will be cost-prohibitive. What those customers don’t realize is that projects requiring retrofits, system upgrades or renovations can be great for business when a “paid-from-savings” approach is taken.

Getting paid from savings

A paid-from-savings approach simply means an organization can use utilize cost savings gained through building improvements to pay for green building retrofit projects.

In fact, payback time for green investments on green retrofit projects is just four years vs. seven years for a new green building, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 World Green Building Trends SmartMarket Report. Other benefits to be gained include:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased asset value of building
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Occupant productivity and health improvements

Show, don’t tell

So what are you doing to educate your customers and show them how your products can best meet their green retrofit project needs? Ordinarily, your customers may turn to industry associations to find more information about green trends and product information, but they would welcome an alternate resource for insights gleaned from successful projects.

The 2013 SmartMarket Report also revealed the two most effective ways for companies to get the word out about their products’ green attributes – case studies and lifecycle data.

  • Sharing case studies that demonstrate how your products meet and exceed green industry standards and showcasing your products’ green benefits in a compelling manner are great ways to capture your customers’ attention and earn their trust. Case studies should talk about the challenges and recommendations you made as well as concrete results those customers achieved by using your products thereby proving their effectiveness to other customers.
  • Lifecycle data, when available, reflects the full impact of the product – from its production all the way to installation. The analysis and combination of this data enable you to provide customers with a comprehensive picture of product benefits.

Green retrofit projects address financial, environmental and even social benefits that comprise the “triple bottom line.” Taking the initiative to educate your customers on the business benefits of green retrofit will enable everyone to realize not only the opportunities and paybacks now but also enduring benefits going forward into the future.

Photo credit:  Shutterstock

10 Customer Service Commandments for Building Product Marketing

customer-serviceBuilding product manufacturers that keep customers happy are the ones who will prosper and make a positive impact on their community. 

Most businesses today strive to put a customer service plan in place, but few achieve top-notch status for the experience they strive to provide. With customers increasingly turning to social media as a way to communicate with businesses, marketing and customer service need to be closely aligned.

Great customer service is marketing. 

For a majority of businesses, there is clearly a disconnect as to how they believe they are viewed by their customers and how their customers actually view them. According to statistics provided by Bain & Co., 80% of companies surveyed said that they offer a superior customer service experience, but only 8% of their customers agreed with them.

In today’s competitive building product environment, simply having a great product isn’t enough. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of the selling process. Therefore, customer service is about the relationship with your customer more than the individual transaction.

The mail-order giant, L. L. Bean, displays a quote at their headquarters in Freeport, Maine that sums up the value they place on customers. I’ve used it as inspiration to create 10 Customer Commandments for building product marketers.

1. Customers are the most important people in our business.
2. Customers are not dependent on us – we are dependent on them.
3. Customers are not to argue or match wits with.
4. Customers bring us their needs – it is our job to fill those needs.
5. Customers are not an interruption of work – they are the purpose of it.
6. Customers do us a favor when they call – we do not do them a favor by serving them.
7. Customers are part of our business – they are not outsiders.
8. Customers deserve the most courteous and attentive treatment we can give them.
9. Customers are the individuals who make it possible to pay our wages.
10. Customers are the lifeblood of this and every other business.

View the entire Bain & Company report here.

Photo credit:  Gordon Ednie via Flickr 

The Four P’s in Building Product Marketing

4Ps_handsThe four P’s have served building product marketers well for half a century but the product-focused strategies are increasingly at odds with how business is done today.

The marketing mix, otherwise known as the 4 P’s of marketing, dates back to the 1940s and was developed to help companies gain advantage within the marketplace by determining a specific marketing mix that would satisfy both the needs of the customer and the retailer’s needs.

The growing influence of the internet has changed the relationship building products manufacturers have with their customers. The truth is, the 4 P’s aren’t irrelevant, they just need to be reinterpreted to serve marketers of building products. Three ways in which they don’t deliver include:

  1.  Stressing product technology and quality, even though these no longer provide differentiation but are simply the cost of entry
  2. Distracting marketers from leveraging their company’s expertise as a trusted source of problem solving, advice and diagnostics
  3. Under emphasizing the value of their company’s solutions

The time has come to rethink marketing’s P’s.

Place.

Due to today’s physical and digital worlds coming together, place is irrelevant. Customers expect access to your information. They need to be able to research, buy and advocate anytime and anywhere. They are no longer confined to the traditional channels and therefore, it’s no longer about place, it’s about any place.

Promotion.

Building product manufacturers no longer control what is said and read about them and are therefore susceptible to market transparency. Consumers can find anything that has been said or written about a company and no amount of marketing can cover it up. Instead of pushing a message out into the marketplace, today’s successful companies get consumers to promote it for them. But in order to accomplish this, you have to deliver great customer experiences and encourage your customers to talk about them. When it comes to promotion, think in terms of conversations.

Price.

Customers have more choice than they’ve ever had before. Falling short on products that don’t fully meet their needs just isn’t good enough. Price is not a differentiator, but the experience and value created by your brand is and companies who accomplish this can charge a premium.

Product.

As previously mentioned, the idea of promoting product features and quality is outdated. It’s not about features, it’s about how you can help solve your customers problems.

People.

Due to the important role people play in today’s marketing mix, I’ve added a fifth P: People. They are your customers who help spread the word about your company and they are your staff who help make your customers’ experiences great ones. Building strong and engaging relationships with both of these groups is the key to communicating your messaging successfully.

Photo credit: Jukka Zitting via Flickr.com

 

5 Dangers to Avoid in Marketing Building Products

iStock_000015878418_5_dangersBrand awareness can be achieved in your building product marketing but having a clear understanding of the nuances involved in communicating to your audience will set you up for success.

Reaching people is easy in today’s connected world. We no longer have technological barriers and geographical boundaries that we have to worry about, so creating brand awareness in your building product marketing is easy to achieve. Isn’t it?

Your customers may be easier to reach, but it doesn’t mean you’ll easily accomplish the feat of brand awareness in today’s noisy B2B world. There are many pitfalls in branding and marketing building products, but I’ve condensed the list to what I believe are the five biggest dangers in branding and marketing your building products:

  1. Not human enough. People want to do business with people, not things such as corporations. In their dealings with your building product business, they want to know there is a real, live person to interact with. Companies that strive to be human, that have personalities, values and real world attributes see success.
  2. Lack of voice. Voice is extremely important in branding and marketing your company’s building products. In fact, it may be one of the most valued thing it owns. In a nutshell, it’s the message–and the essence–of what you are doing.
  3. Too much “Sell.” Everyone needs to sell. That’s undeniable. Though in today’s chaotic B2B world, your building product customers need more than a salesperson; they need someone with whom they can engage. Consider the fact that customers are 60-70% through the sales cycle before a prospect wants to engage with one of your salespeople and be sure you are providing engagement in the early stages of their journey.
  4. Trying too hard. Whether it’s in courtship or business, the harder you vie for attention, the more likely you are not to receive it. In order to be human and resonate with your customers, you need to relax. You can be serious, just not too serious. Execute the work that goes into your branding in a relaxed manner.
  5. Too easy to forget. Attention is a valuable commodity today. When you get your customer’s attention, grab it and hold on to it by telling them a story that’s tough to ignore.

Please share your greatest brand challenges in the comment section below.

Photo Credit:  Istockphoto