Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2011

Eye On Energy

Life After the Tax Credit
Effective Marketing Strategies Take Precedence
by Ric Jackson

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) tax credit has expired.* Now what?

Absent the $1,500 ARRA tax credit that helped drive energy-efficient window sales the past two years, window producers and retailers need to refresh their marketing strategies to promote the benefits of high-performance windows effectively to homeowners.

Next, companies need to take a holistic approach to marketing those energy-efficient windows without a tax credit incentive. To assist in these efforts, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) offers several best practices in its new “Driving
Demand for Home Energy Improvements” report, including the following:

Sell what homeowners want.
Common selling points for high-performance windows include energy savings and lower utility bills. They won’t be the primary drivers for every homeowner, however, especially ones that already have low energy bills. These parties may respond better to programs that combine energy-saving messages with targeted messages focusing on concerns they actually have. For example, homeowners may be more concerned about increasing comfort, reducing condensation or improving indoor air quality. They also may respond to information about neighbors making home energy improvements, as pressure to keep up with social norms may inspire action.

Know your audience.
When tailoring marketing programs to consumers, think about whom you are trying to reach and what strategies will engage that audience. Consider targeting smaller populations, as blanket marketing campaigns can be ineffective at influencing parties to take action. Reaching target groups enables you to adapt messages to their needs and motivations. For example, early adopters are often a good initial target for programs linked to energy efficiency. These parties like to be among the first to try new products and programs, and they have the power to influence others.

"A recent LBNL report suggests that marketers avoid the word ‘retrofit,’ as it may not inspire or motivate homeowners."

Communicate effectively. Words matter. Choosing the right language for marketing materials can go a long way in influencing your audience’s perceptions and choices. For example, the LBNL report suggests that marketers avoid the word “retrofit,” as it may not inspire or motivate homeowners. Instead, the report says terms like “energy upgrade” and “home energy improvement” are more descriptive and potentially more appealing.

Partner with contractors. For remodeling and replacement projects, a contractors often is the homeowner’s primary point of contact. Contractors have influence over consumers’ buying decisions, which makes them an ideal partner for window marketers. When designing contractor programs, strive for simplicity, consistency and streamlined involvement. Create simple messaging that helps contractors educate homeowners about the benefits of energy efficiency. Offer training on how to communicate with customers and convert leads into sales. Take advantage of supplier programs that offer various tools for easy incorporation into your marketing programs.

Reach consumers multiple times. As a general rule of thumb, consumers need to see product messages at least three times to take notice and be moved to make a purchase. Frequency counts, as does diversity. A layered marketing strategy combining traditional and non-traditional tactics will ensure your audience receives messages a number of times. Tactics may include print, TV and radio advertising, e-mail marketing, direct mail, websites, blogs and social media platforms. Other potential tactics include holding breakfast meetings, lectures and community roundtables. In addition, make it easy for satisfied customers to spread the word by providing them with cards or literature they can share with friends. No matter what marketing channels you utilize, maintain consistent messaging throughout to build program awareness.

* At press time, Congress voted to extend the tax credit into 2011, but for $200 for windows and $500 for exterior doors. Visit www.dwmmag.com for the most up-to-date information.

Ric Jackson is the director of marketing for Quanex Building Products Engineered Products Group. He can be reached at rjackson@quanexepg.com. His opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.