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 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.

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.

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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

Think LEED in Marketing Your Building Products

marketing building products

As sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives continue to escalate, you can find business value and opportunity in marketing the environmentally responsible offerings of your building products.

Green construction has exploded and is fueling the entire construction industry. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook report:

  • Green is expected to grow up to 55% of all commercial and institutional construction by 2016 (up from 44% in 20120
  • Residential green construction will comprise a 22-25% share in 2013 and by 2016, this share is expected to increase to 29-38% – an estimated $89-$116 billion

Other key points found in the study include:

  • Health-related green building labels are taking force in construction specifications, growing more rapidly than any other aspect of green, according to Dodge SpecShare
  • One third of all home builders in the U.S. expect to be fully dedicated to building green by 2016
  • Green construction jobs are following the green building market; 35% have green jobs today
  • 81% of executive leaders in corporate America believe the public expects them to engage in sustainability – one of the key forces driving corporations to institutionalize some green efforts. 30% of senior executive officers report that they are greening two-thirds of the buildings in their portfolio – with 47% expecting to do so by 2015.

All you have to do is look at the growth and increases in market share to see the competitive advantage in LEED-oriented marketing. But there still remains confusion and misinformation about LEED, so it doesn’t necessarily market itself.

As a recap, LEED promotes a holistic approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health, which include sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality.

In your marketing messaging, I suggest you to take a page from technology marketing. Rather than highlight a list of sustainability points, your messaging should help your consumer visualize the benefits and advantages. By allowing them to visualize a sustainability solution, you are demonstrating that you are helping them get there.

It’s important to remember that when you help consumers solve problems, particularly in the rapidly-evolving green market, you can gain competitive distinction with unique marketing messaging.

The 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook Report is produced by a staff of researchers, economists and analysts, drawing from its Dodge project database, its construction market forecasts, proprietary market research, and secondary research, as well as extensive data and trend analysis.

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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.

Marketing Building Products: Women represent half the customer base of Home Depot and Lowes

women marketing building productsWith women spending 85 cents of every dollar in the marketplace, building product manufacturers cannot ignore the new realities of marketing to “her.”

It’s long been known that women serve as Chief Purchasing Officers when it comes to their households, whether it’s related to healthcare, the next family automobile or home improvement products.

91% of the women purchasing new homes do not feel that advertisers don’t understand them. – Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team,

In order to harness women’s spending power, you have to understand their values and motives. A Wharton study, Men Buy, Women Shop, found that women are more invested in the shopping experience on many dimensions while men’s concerns are more utilitarian, such as the availability of parking. The companies who are creating rich brand experiences based on an understanding of how they can improve women’s lives will be the ones expanding their loyal following and increasing market share.

Home Depot and Lowe’s both recognize that women represent half of their customer base and a recent Lowe’s study found that women initiate 80% of all home improvement projects.

I’ve distilled some of the pitfalls many marketers make when trying to tailor their marketing to women into five salient points:

  1.  Communicating features instead of value. Do you know what features your female customers think are most important and why they think it? Gaining this type of insight from your female customers can lead to product improvements that will result in gained allegiances from this powerful demographic.
  2. Thinking women are a “niche” market. Women are now the primary consumer, accounting for 85% of all consumer purchases. Enough said.
  3. Creating his and her versions of your brand. Many companies confuse marketing to women with thinking they need to create a softer version of their brand – or by making it pink. The reality is that you don’t have to feminize your brand in order to appeal to women.
  4. Segmenting women by their age. In today’s world, women are not so linearly focused as they’ve been in the past. They move through their lives in terms of stages. As a marketer, you need to understand that for women, age is more a mindset than a demographic.
  5. Failing to recognize that women think differently than men. Women are  programmed to gather information. They are also hardwired into the right side of their brain where emotional memory, experience and intuition live. What does this mean to you? You need to emotionally connect with her heart, which is smack dab in the middle of her brain.

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Building Products: 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Green Marketing

five tips marketing building products

Green certifications are a great way to strengthen your company’s credibility in green marketing claims.

Energy prices having increased dramatically in the last 10 years has introduced an even wider audience to energy efficiency and environmental issues. But with more than 400 different eco-labels now on the market, we need to make sure we aren’t confusing our end customers.

Energy efficiency is a leading factor in deciding if a product is green. According to a McGraw-Hill Construction Smart Report, 85% of respondents said it was important. Other important factors are health and well-being benefits (72%), water efficiency (71%) and recycled content/recyclability at 70%.

The standards and certification programs provide helpful guidance but they do differ, which has caused confusion in the market place.

Here are five tips on how to enhance the value of your green certification and avoid confusion with your customers:

  1. Be sensible. Make sure the organization behind the certification you are pursuing is credible and that it’s standards are in compliance with the industry’s top standards organizations.
  2. Be germane. Given the fact that there are more than 400 labels that are available for green certification, chances are you may qualify for more than one of them. Remember though to promote the attributes that are most relevant to your brand and if possible, integrate the messaging throughout your brand extensions.
  3. Be informative. Educate your customers on the specifics about your green certification. If your qualification is a single-attribute label, be clear that a specific attribute qualifies and that the product as a whole isn’t greener.
  4. Be open. If your company self certifies by providing a type of label or certification based on a set of criteria, be clear that the label is yours and is not the work of a third party.
  5. Be boastful. Help create awareness of your certification if it isn’t widely recognized by the average consumer. Look for ways to communicate your commitment to your green certification, which can create differentiation among your competitors.

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Content Marketing Leads to the Purchase of Building Products

content marketing building products

Publishing and sharing useful content related to building products can help move your buyers down the sales channel more quickly.

In fact, 58% of B2B decision makers say that content plays a role in purchasing decisions. Another 38% say content that introduces fresh thought leadership around business challenges affect what they buy for their company, according to CMO Council survey of B2B decision-makers.

In the B2B environment, in-depth content that aligns with what your customer wants to know will prove more valuable to your audience. Ideally, you will have a customer-centric content plan in place that targets what your customer needs or wants to know at each stage in the decision process.

What type of content are we talking about? In addition to Interviews, lists and comparisons, other types include:

  • White papers
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • How-to guides
  • Video
  • Surveys

Once you have digital assets, the most important part of any content marketing strategy is to make it sharable and push it across all of your media channels.

The following four tips below will ensure a good start:

  1. Target the right audience. The more engaging your content is to your target audience, the more sharable it will become and the more links it will acquire, which will help in search engine optimization efforts.
  2. Correctly publish your content. Including social functionality on the content page, hyperlinking your website as the source and pushing it out to your blog are all ways to increase social shares and link backs to your site.
  3. Promote through your social media channels. Use the obvious channels such as Google +, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to start a dialogue or debate that relates to your content.
  4. Reach out to key influencers and ask them to share. Leverage established online communities by identifying who the influencers are, whether it’s an individual or a website, and asking them to share your content in order to reach a much wider audience.

Lastly, one other issue to consider is how to format digital content. Therefore, keep in mind how the target audience will access the material. Referring back to the CMO Council survey, the office desktop computer is the more popular device, but 41% of respondents consume content using smartphones and 30% use tablets.

photo credit: Zane Selvans via photopin cc