At the Affordable Comfort (ACI) Conference in Austin in April, three giants of the home performance industry sat on a panel describing their business models. They were WellHome, the subsidiary of $7.3 billion MASCO, GreenHomes America, and Recurve, the California contractor formerly known as Sustainable Spaces. I couldn't help but notice, in their generally well-designed presentations, that none was using the term "Home Performance" in their branding.
That's right. At the mecca of Home Performance, the biggest players in the industry seem to have abandoned the term.
Naturally, I stood up and asked about it. The answer came from Brett Knox, President of GreenHomes America, who essentially said: with limited marketing budgets we can't afford to educate consumers on what home performance means. The other panelists, Matt Golden of Recurve and Larry Laseter of WellHome, nodded in agreement. In fairness, Rick Gerardi of WellHome ran up to me afterwards to defend their use of the term. Rick was there, he said, 20 years ago when the term was born. And he assured me that WellHome hadn't completely abandoned it, which is true if you read their fine print.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post that looked at Internet search volume for various energy efficiency terms. It was clear from that research that Brett Knox's point is a fair one: consumers' aren't familiar with the "Home Performance" label, and they rarely search for it online.
So here we are: our industry is poised for massive expansion, thousands of us in every corner of North America are using the term Home Performance, and what we call our business isn't resolved? This isn't good.
Since that meeting, and in our interaction with contractors and auditors across the country, I've been thinking about this dilemma. Home Performance is a long standing concept, conceived by the founders of the industry, and remains, in my opinion, the best way to describe the full range of the whole house approach. As a way of grouping the big 5 benefits of the whole house approach--comfort, efficiency, health, safety, durability--Home Performance is still the best umbrella term. Yet 20 years after its conception, it remains a mystery to most consumers, and even the largest companies in the industry aren't able to invest in the necessary education. So where does that leave us?
I believe that it comes down to knowing where in the selling cycle the term fits. Let's all agree that the day when consumers are saying, "I want Home Performance" is a long way off. But that does not mean it should be abandoned alltogether. When introduced at the right time in the consumer's consideration process, the idea and concept of Home Performance remains a powerful way of communicating all the benefits of whole house and, equally importantly, positioning the energy auditor/home performance contractor as a critical, consultative, long term advisor to homeowers. Here's my best effort so far, in infographic form, to describe this concept:
Overall, the point is that Home Performance as a concept is not driving demand, but when introduced once a homeowner is in the consideration phase, and increasingly throughout the sales and job completion cycle, can be the powerful communication idea that it was originally conceived to be. I consider this infographic a first draft, so please let me know what you think.
One final point, which is the responsibility we all share. Disagree with me if you don't think Home Performance is our core conceptual term--I welcome the discussion. But if you agree that it is our best umbrella term for the whole house idea, then all of us have an obligation to promote the term for our collective good.
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