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

Why Your Building Product Content Needs Social Media (and Vice Versa)

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Building product content and social media go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Having your building product social media and content strategy efforts work in tandem will support business objectives, engage audiences and produce more meaningful results. 

According to Content Marketing Institute’s latest research, business marketers are working on an average of 13 content marketing initiatives and 69% are producing more engaging content. It seems there’s no slowing down the content marketing train anytime soon!

In a recent webinar I attended, How to Integrate Social Media and Content Strategy, moderator Jay Baer posed the question, “Which comes first, content or social media strategy?” As content production continues to increase, more and more marketers struggle with this question.

Content is fire, social media is the gasoline. –Jay Baer

When working together, content marketing and social media are a powerful duo. With an understanding of how and where to share information, content can be distributed strategically to drive action. Also, content created with an understanding of the strengths of specific social networks gives you the ability to drive conversations around relevant topics.

Social media needs content strategy. 

Social media is a prolific medium that moves–and fades–fast. It happens quickly whether it’s organic content or a paid media promotion.

Content strategy needs social media. 

Content needs social media in order to validate the strategy, tie it back to objectives, establish meaningful connections and produce desired outcomes.

Use social media to promote great content first and company selling messages second. The social medium was never intended to be the world’s shortest press release. Think value and customer-centric content over hype. Understand what your building product audience needs from you and deliver it.

Addressing your building product customers’ needs and pain points will pay off in content quality, site performance, social engagement and conversions. 

To answer Jay’s question: you can’t succeed in social media if you don’t have something interesting to say. Social media needs content strategy.

View the entire Content Marketing Institute survey: New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54740306@N08/10058843203

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

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.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

5 Considerations for Building Product Marketers When Adopting a Housing Cause

JuneBlog2_pic1 thinkstockAdopting a housing cause can begin a partnership that creates a mutually beneficial relationship—if you make smart, strategic choices along the way. Not only will you burnish your image and brand, as well as boost sales, you’ll also do something for the greater good and uplift your community.

Assuming that you’re now convinced of the value of housing cause adoption, here are five (more) things to consider as you begin the adoption process.

  1. Choose carefully. When selecting a cause, make sure it’s both relevant to your business and something internal and external stakeholders will also want to get behind.
  2. Stay humble. As you begin to integrate the cause into your brand, focus on promoting the overall mission rather than on using the cause as a device to talk customers into actions that will benefit your business immediately or directly.
  3. Be inclusive. Provide your customers with opportunities to participate in the cause. Be clear about how their efforts can make a difference, then measure and report back to them on the impact of those efforts.
  4. Embrace Millennials. The Millennial demographic’s defacto expectation is that the building products industry will do their part to make the world a better place. Begin to engage these brand influencers now through social networking, such as Facebook or Instagram campaigns that promote your cause and whose low barrier to entry makes participation effortless, and they will reward you with their business later on.
  5. Go old school. Don’t ignore traditional marketing approaches such as messaging on packaging, media interviews promoting events related to the cause and print advertising, as they can add dimension as well as reach to your housing cause campaign.

Careful consideration and a strategic approach to adopting a housing cause will resonate with your customers and the community at large. This in turn creates a lasting impression and sparks a relationship, which garners loyalty. When done well, it raises your brand’s visibility and can provide the best opportunity for you to connect with your customers.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

9 Green Actions (Under $500) with the Fastest ROI in Building Product Marketing

The 2013 Small Business Sustainability Report

In building products marketing, green behavior is one positioning strategy that will provide you a strong competitive advantage and greater potential for growth.

There are many reasons for a manufacturer of building products to become environmentally friendly. The environment is one aspect, but it’s also just good business. Growth in the green segment market share is proving that sustainable products are no longer just fringe alternatives. 

“Consumer demand is the primary driver of investment in sustainable initiatives today… and companies [we surveyed] reported that they can charge an average 19 percent premium for sustainable products and services.” (Accenture, “Long-Term Growth, Short-Term Differentiation and Profits from Sustainable Products and Services)

 The 2013 Small Business Sustainability Report is a study of more than 1,300 U.S. business owners’ green-related behaviors and beliefs. It’s the first major study to look at the green economy from the perspective of small business owners. It’s also the first to consolidate market data on the growth of green segments across a range of industries – green building, renewable energy, hybrid vehicles, fair trade food, etc.

One of the more revealing results of the report a list of green “best bets” that require little capital. These may not be your best operational efficiency investment, so for a more thorough look at actions with the best ROI (but may not be the cheapest to implement), I urge you to download the report.

Here are nine green actions you can take – WITH AN INITIAL INVESTMENT OF LESS THAN $500 – that will provide the fastest return on investment:

  1. Train staff to conserve energy
  2. Enable energy-saving settings on computers
  3. Install programmable thermostats
  4. Train staff to conserve water
  5. Reduce paper use (double-sided printing)
  6. Shift from paper to electronic communication and filing
  7. Decrease packaging on products
  8. Install more efficient lighting
  9. Recycle and/or reuse in-house plastics, paper, metals, glass, and/or organics

By implementing green changes in your building products manufacturing organization, you will gain customers who support green businesses. You’ll also save money, reduce waste and have a healthier work environment for your employees.

The 2013 Small Business Sustainability Report was produced by Green America, EcoVentures International and The Association for Enterprise Opportunity.

4 Ways to Keep Green in Your Building Products Marketing

green building product marketing

How building product marketers position their products, in terms of sustainability, is increasingly becoming a concern for consumers.

Environmental awareness has exploded in the last decade as more and more socially conscious consumers back their beliefs in the checkout aisle. Therefore, it is a good idea to stay informed of FTC guidelines to be sure you are making truthful claims and staying in compliance with the labels you use on your products.  Last year, the FTC issued revised Green Guidelines for products to be legitimately called green.

Among other modifications made, marketers are cautioned not to make broad, unqualified claims of “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” due to a consumer perception study that confirms these claims suggest the product has far-reaching environmental benefits. There are few products, if any, that have all of the characteristics that could substantiate these claims.

Marketers, be careful how you tell your green story. Be accurate and not too bloated with buzzwords like biodegradable, organic, all natural, etc. Here are some thoughts on how you can stay true to your green messaging:

  1. Ensure your “green” claim is legit. The FTC, among others, will question it, so know exactly where the criticism will be directed. Know the background on raw materials and how they are gathered, made, packaged, shipped and discarded after use. Highlighting certain parts of your products “greenness” (recyclable, energy-efficient, organically grown, fair trade, etc.) is a better route to go with the new FTC guidelines.
  2. You’re green? Prove it. There honestly isn’t a totally green product out there. If you think yours is, then prove it. Ultra green consumers are ultra skeptical and will demand you prove your green-worthiness. Make sure the back ups to your claims are easily accessible and anyone can find them.
  3. Certify with third-party certification. This is a good way to stand behind your claim. Use familiar symbols, such as Energy Star, C2C (Cradle to Cradle), etc. so that your claim can be easily recognized.
  4. Green will set you apart, but won’t do the heavy lifting of a sale. Even though green is a reason to choose your brand over another, your products still need to do the heavy lifting by providing a solution for the buyer. Green is a differentiator and if you are comparable in price, performance, quality, etc. with your competitive set, your green side may enhance your image and secure market share.

You can review the new FTC Green Guidelines.

photo credit: Olof S via photopin cc