Greg E. Stine
During the late 90s, the dot-com boom split people into two camps: Those who believed the ride would last forever, and those who knew better. It seems foolish now, but some really smart people thought those crazy stock prices would just keep going up. Those who knew better prepared for the inevitable bubble burst. Understanding the old adage—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—they looked at the boom from an unpopular perspective. Rather than basking in the glow of dreamy stock options and bulging 401K plans, these people understood that what goes up must come down, and were prepared for a soft landing.
By planning ahead, leaders with experience and a practical approach found themselves in a unique position. They were able to stand up, shake off the wreckage, and embrace the market share they’d held out for. While they knew the Web wouldn’t take over the world, they also knew it wouldn’t disappear. As the overall market fell into recession, savvy companies in niche markets—online retailers like Amazon.com and popular search engines like Google—were geared for the real world, stepped out from the rubble and took over these new markets.
Smarter Builders Going Green
The housing market is currently in the middle of a similar scenario. Last year saw a bubble inflating the value of new homes to all-time highs. But the burst was inevitable. And unsurprisingly, it popped over the summer. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the median price of a new home is currently the lowest in 35 years. The market is soft – there are too many sellers with inventory, and not enough buyers.
But while one camp scrambles to match the dropping prices of competitors (a race to the bottom?), the other calmly understands that these things happen. Bubbles burst and markets adjust. Soft markets are opportunities to gain market share. Yes, the overall market may be momentarily contracting, but the pressure will kill off weak competitors and free up market share – important when the market restores itself and resumes positive growth.
And for some smart companies in the building industry, the no-longer-hidden opportunity has been found in the growing green building market. Green building may not be their only ticket to the top, but as a trend, like Amazon and Google, it’s here to stay.
Green Building Has Hit the Mainstream
If there is anytime to grab a piece of the green building pie, it’s now. The demand may not currently be through the roof, but there is no better time to position yourself and your company for the day that it will be.
The gap has started to close between the early adopters of green building and those a bit more hesitant. No longer is green building reserved for the fringe. Instead, it makes sense for everyone. In an era where depleting energy, water, and other resources affect everyone, green building is no longer about making a statement; it’s becoming a standard.
I’ve been predicting the emergence of green building for the past few years, working to teach manufacturers, builders and remodelers about the importance of incorporating green elements into their offerings. Those that have listened will be ready to take advantage of the new wave of residential guidelines (LEED for Homes, GreenPoint Rated, California Green Builder) and the public interest they will create. (For more information on ratings see “Rating Systems Offer Builders an Edge.”)
Go Green, but Remain True to Your Brand
So, green and sustainable living is here to stay. Homebuyers and consumers are becoming more educated and asking for it. But, as a company, how do you incorporate something new such as green building or offering green products while staying true to your brand?
Many companies are taking advantage of this by emphasizing their green products and services and creating a brand that communicates this commitment to sustainable practices. Whether you’re a retailer, a supplier, manufacturer, or a building professional, branding your company or product green is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Over the years, I have worked with many clients to build strong brands based on their commitment to core values, like green building. Throughout the branding process, there are a few key concepts I use while helping these organizations create salient, long-standing brands:
Take Advantage of the Down Market - Now
I urge anyone working in the building industry to start thinking about incorporating green techniques or products into their business operations, especially now.
Don’t let the soft housing market fool you into believing now is the time to disengage, to hang in the corners until things pick up again. It may not always feel right, but now is, in fact, the best time to invest in your company’s future. Just don’t forget about your company’s brand and image in the process.
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