The green building bandwagon is now officially crowded and getting heavier by the day, if industry trade magazines are any indication.
The trades are writing about green building in every issue, featuring numerous green articles. Wall Street is calling it the hot trend to invest in and consumers are increasingly demanding it. No longer does a skeptical industry need to be convinced.
Instead, the challenge now lies in helping companies find their niche in this green building phenomenon – in how to embrace it, take advantage of the business opportunity and be smart.
Jumping in too fast without understanding the products or their attributes, the supply chain and the supply challenges can be disastrous. Sitting back and remaining inactive until change is forced can have equally dire consequences.
As the director of marketing of Truitt & White, a Bay Area building material supplier that is at the forefront of green building, I read a lot of trade journals and am impressed by the plethora of articles on green building. However, if I weren’t already deeply involved and experienced in the field, I would read these articles and walk away with anxiety rather than knowledge.
I hear the cries of urgency – yes, it’s happening, yes, suppliers, manufacturers and builders need to get onboard fast – but I don’t hear any sound advice on just how to jump on board. Most articles I’ve read shout about the statistics with compelling arguments for getting with the program. Few offer concrete suggestions on where to start or, if you’ve already started, how to take those next steps. Let’s talk about how to gently enter the fray.
You’re Ready to Offer Green. Now What?
Let’s assume, as you’re reading this article, you’re ready to go to the next step, whatever that might be for your company. What are a couple of concrete things to do and what results might you expect?
Let’s look at how Truitt & White embraced green building early on, and what their results were. It’s an interesting case that combines the marketing strategies of Getting There First and Leadership.
In the building industry, early adopters are generally companies with a culture and history of innovation and leadership. Truitt & White is one of those companies.
And so in 1999, when green building was gaining some momentum in the local building community, it was instinctual for Truitt & White to take notice and begin considering how to eventually take part in green building.
Truitt & White knew they wanted to take advantage of the benefits of green building. And they understood the best place to start was with their products. Although the move would be challenging, it would also be rewarding.
For retailers, it’s not easy offering any type of new building product or material—green or traditional—to a builder who’s been using the same one for years.
Retailers and suppliers build their reputation on, among other things, the integrity of the products, and in-depth research of new (and sometimes unproven) products before offering them to their builder and contractor customers.
Bringing in a new product is not easy. Inventory can be a complicated process. You can’t get your customers using the product and then discover you can’t get it anymore. It’s important to commit the needed cashflow, training for both your customers and your salespeople, and get a commitment from the manufacturer or wholesaler to a long-term position.
Up Next: Marketing
As Truitt & White began to focus on green building materials and internal education, the company began building a marketing plan to grow their green building programs and create new sales opportunities.
With consistent messaging from signage and articles to pro-builder workshops and strategic partnerships, the company built awareness and established itself as a leader in green building.
What are some of the lessons learned? It takes time and commitment to build a program. You must devote resources to your infrastructure and continue to stay in front of your customers.
What’s the advantage to being there before other suppliers? Competitors always measure against the leader rather than follower. And once established, a leader is difficult to dislodge from its top-of-mind position. But there are also challenges associated with the leadership position. It’s an on-going challenge to keep growing the program, to build on successes and not allow complacency to set in and derail the work. If you don’t pay attention and fall off course, you can be sure someone else will step in to fill the spot.
Is it too late for other companies to adopt the marketing strategies of Leadership and Getting There First? Of course not. The construction industry is enormous – opportunities abound.
Sidebar 1: Easy ways to start offering green
Sidebar 2: Connect with your builder/customers
Copyright © 2006 by Polaris, Inc. All Rights Reserved.