Market research is like reading a great mystery book you can’t put it down. That’s because behind the headlines and the carefully chosen words lies the transcripts and data. That information holds the keys to the direction of the marketplace. Thus was my recent experience while researching the Department of Energy’s (DOE) pilot program, Home Energy Score (HES). You’ll be hearing all about this program, which plans a national launch this fall, but of immediate interest is the customer research that uncovers some real opportunities for window and door dealers, installers and manufacturers right now.
Buried among all the program information is the customer research conducted by Newport Partners, LLC. Those homeowners, in the survey, Motivating Home Energy Improvements, tell us what motivates them to make home energy improvements. They tell us what information they use to make the decision to buy windows. When asked why they would make improvements, the number one reason, by a wide margin, was to save money. If it could be shown that they would save money by replacing old windows, doors and other home building products that would make the decision for them. I hear some of you saying duh, but I’m here to tell you that comment will get you no where because, when asked how they will be convinced that the replacements will save them money, a salesman’s word isn’t enough. They mistrust information coming from a sales person, contractor, or manufacturer.
The homeowners were asked what would motivate them to make the investment in saving money. They want the following evidence:
• Clear easy to follow information about the cost benefits.
• Testimonials and recommendations from friends, family and associates, that is, basic word-of-mouth.
• Information from trusted professionals, 3rd party, utility or government source.
Another revealing clue, as to the direction of things to come, was the survey participants’ answer to the question of price. Those interviewed said they did not want to finance their home improvements in this depressed housing market because of the difficulty getting home equity loans.
Put these clues together, 1) save money, 2) clear easy and trusted information, and 3) simple and affordable financing and you can take steps immediately to sell energy improvements to your customers.
Recommendations that come out of the survey are things you can do for your customers right now.
• Create marketing materials and selling guides that include statistical data and information from trusted sources.
• Create a “home improvement bundle” to be installed by your contractors.
• Prearrange short-term bank financing.
• Include the cost of a 3rd party auditor in the financing package to assure that the work was done properly.
Anyone who owns a home is keenly aware of the rising cost of utilities. Couple that with the reality that they may be living in their homes much longer due to the slow housing market. It’s the perfect time to sell energy efficient replacement windows and doors. Create a marketing message about your “home improvement bundles”, give your salespeople energy savings data, arrange financing and create some spring sales.
In closing, The Home Energy Score came about through the Recovery Through Retrofit Report and aims to fill a gap in the market of people not making basic energy improvements. It scores a homes’ energy performance on a number of inputs including such things as: air tightness, skylights, window area and window characteristics i.e. number, frame type, glazing type and alternative values. Among other things, the home scorecard can be used as a guide to plan energy upgrades.