As customers become increasingly tuned out to traditional forms of advertising, Home Performance Contractors and Energy Auditors need to dig deeper. In our increasingly "word of mouth" world, the endorsement of someone trusted, even if that trust is just implicit, is the most valuable marketing currency. And though so much of the "trust" conversation seems to revolve around the online marketing space, some innovative, offline approaches can be very effective too.
1. Partner with an Energy-Related Non-Profit.
The interests of many non-profits in the global warming and energy space aligns well with us. They understand the residential energy efficiency opportunity, and are always on the lookout for benefits they can pass along to their members. Here in our home state, the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals has teamed up with the state's largest environmental organization, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, to promote energy audits to their members. NRCM, with a very popular website, an effective PR staff, and large online and offline newsletter lists, will shortly begin promoting a summer audit special to their 4,000 members--all of whom are very energy and planet-minded people.
2. Cause Marketing: Charitable Giveaways.
Charitable auctions, if you choose the right one, can be fantastic awareness building opportunities. The cost of giving a free audit away to a good non-profit a couple times a year can have great ROI (beyond the karma points), particularly if you're getting prominent exposure to a room of 400-500 well-to-do, environmentally minded people. If you can't justify giving away a free whole house energy audit, think about donating a gift card worth half the value of your audit, or maybe just a free blower door test and quick infrared scan.
3. House Parties.
We've tested the concept of house parties very successfully. A homeowner hosts a cocktail party, and the auditor/contractor gives the host a free "mini-audit" or discounted full audit as a reward for hosting. The auditor sets up a blower door, demonstrates the use of infrared, and shows everyone at the party what the process is. A light, social environment with some liquid lubrication (email me for our magical sangria recipe) is a great way to educate homeowners on what a home energy audit is —and we found that people were fascinated with the tools and elements of the process. Really leaky houses work best. ;-) Two to three audit bookings from an event were typical.
4. Lawn Signs.
Some of the most old school, tried and true marketing tactics are still among the most effective. Most smart contractors use lawn signs when they're on a job, and for good reason: they're inexpensive, and inherently local. The neighborhood wants to know what the Jones' are up to. In the energy efficiency world, the challenge is coming up a compelling message and making sure the sign stays up for awhile. Instead of just your company name, consider lawn signs with a potent message that the homeowner can be proud of, like "Energy Reduction in Process." And consider making a deal with your client to leave the sign in place for a while - maybe a small discount on future followup testing.