"A year after the incentives ran out, our sales were actually higher because we invested in branding, marketing and our sales process." - Richard Burbank, Evergreen Home Performance
How can you keep a home performance business afloat after incentives for home energy efficiency improvements run out? A recent webinar from Efficiency First tackled this topic, featuring panelists from a number of home performance companies across the country who discussed how they have combated fluctuating incentives in the energy efficiency space, both nationally and locally.
Richard Burbank, a friend of ours from Evergreen Home Performance here in Maine, made a few especially poignant points that we thought would be worth sharing with our readers:
- Take advantage of incentives when they're available, but do so in a way that your business won't be hurt when they go away.
- Programs and incentives are like training wheels: all well and good when they're on, but you should plan to take them off so you're not shocked when you're without them.
- If business is like sailing, incentives are like extra wind in your sails. Use that extra wind to invest in branding, marketing, and sales, so that you can continue to cruise on when the winds die down to normal conditions.
- Thriving in market without incentives requires mastering standard business skills: marketing, sales, customer service, quality assurance, staff recruitment and development, PR and community engagement, company culture, accounting and financial acumen, and sourcing funding with lenders and economic development programs.
By following his own advice, a year after the stimulus incentive program here in Maine ran out of funding, Richard's company's sales were actually up. While he says that he'd still love more sales at this point, he sees that as more of a staff development and lead generation challenge, rather than a policy problem.
Long story short: incentive programs are well and good, but if you're relying exclusively on incentive programs to drive your business, you still have your training wheels on. Before those funds dry up and you still have extra wind in your sails, start investing now in those long-term brand and marketing efforts which will be a necessity once the incentives are gone.
Examples of long term branding and marketing efforts that you should focus on immediately include:
- A strong, usable website
- Developing a solid brand
- A slow and steady web content strategy
- Efficient social media management
Consider that each of these efforts will help you stand out among the multitude of contractors clamoring for incentive jobs in the short term, too.
Wondering how much of your revenue you should be putting into marketing and sales? Check out our post, What Should Your Home Performance Marketing Budget Be?
Any other questions, comments, or insights into how to run a successful home performance business in a post-incentive world, feel free to chime in in the comments.