Many building materials companies believe that features like “Made in America” or “Green Materials” are nice but that no one will actually pay more for them. They’re wrong. It doesn’t matter what your personal political beliefs are because the trend is clear. Buildings will continue to become more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.
If you have found that your customers don’t care about environmentally friendly products, it’s because you’re making two mistakes:
- You’re talking to the wrong people. Green building products are becoming more popular, but they’re not mainstream yet. At least, not with people willing to pay more for them. But there is a small and growing group of customers who value green products. You need to find them and focus on them.
- You’re using the wrong message. If your customer doesn’t value green products, don’t make that your main message. It’s also not your job to convince the customer they should go green. But when you’re talking to a customer who wants sustainable products, you need to know your green story in depth. Empty claims like “Saves Energy” won’t cut it with those customers.
Since green building materials is an increasingly important market, I thought it was time to get a fresh perspective on it. So, I asked Laci LeBlanc of North Star Inbound to share some thoughts on the subject.
Going Green in Building Materials
As the world continues to urbanize, humans are faced with a monumental obstacle: climate change. In an attempt to reverse the damage, or at least slow it down, building regulations have been enacted and agreed to by governments across the world.
As a result, the construction industry must cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030, and all building construction must be carbon-free by 2050. With the construction industry accounting for nearly 40% of all global emissions, this is no small task.
With net-zero energy buildings becoming the standard, building material manufacturers must adapt to ensure their products continue to be specified, ordered, and installed. In other words, it’s time to go all in on selling green.
Know Your Impact at Every Stage
Manufacturing has never been perceived as “clean.” From forestry to furnaces, most aspects of building tout a major carbon footprint. Embodied carbon, emitted during the manufacturing, transportation, construction, and end-of-life phases of building products make up 11% of global emissions. Reducing emissions at every level of manufacturing must become a goal, and manufacturers have to be prepared to talk about how they are striving to meet it.
Transportation is a universal example. Regardless of what product you’re selling, you’re likely using diesel fleets and fossil-fuel-powered machinery to produce and transport it. Fortunately, most major freight companies are already taking steps to address the issue. Ask your provider about how they are using shared truckloads, incorporating automation, and updating their fleets in order to reduce their environmental impact. Then, relay those efforts back to your customers.
Of course, there are multiple benefits to replacing your company’s own fleet with more fuel-efficient models, if that’s an option. In addition to incentives like tax rebates and long-term savings on gas and maintenance, auto recycling also has the added benefit of generating upfront cash. Not to mention, touting your green fleet and manufacturing equipment is also a great way to secure eco-minded clients.
For jobsite deliveries you can also consider outsourcing to a firm like GoFor Delivers to lower your carbon footprint.
Anticipate Client Needs
For many manufacturers of eco-friendly materials, competition is going to become even more fierce. That means you’ll need to think ahead to anticipate client needs and possible objections to using your product. Even a product that meets green standards won’t be specified if it won’t satisfy the end user.
For example, is your product easy and inexpensive to maintain? Can you do anything to make it easier or less expensive, not just for your first customer, but for their customers as well? The solution doesn’t always have to be transactional. It could be relational, which has the added bonus of turning your customer’s customer into your own.
Let’s use solar panels as an example, as they will be a major key to the design and retrofit of net-zero energy buildings. If you manufacture and sell solar panels to home builders, can you simply offer to offset the cost of maintenance for the homeowner for the first year? Since solar panels cost $100 to $350 per year to clean, the investment is minimal. But it could be the difference between a homeowner choosing your product over the competition. If you happen to offer the service yourself or partner with someone who does, it could cost you even less – and result in a new recurring customer for you or a valued installer.
Look to the Competition
Green and net-zero buildings are becoming the new normal. Building material manufacturers will have to become the revolution’s leaders. Studying the competition is a sure-fire way to ensure a pace at the top in such a tumultuous industry. As a green manufacturer, look at competitors’ prices and value. Become a value and knowledge leader to attract more customers and opportunities.
Manufacturers should also research competitors’ green talking points and build upon them. Find out what customers are looking for in building materials. Become the best source of green materials and knowledge. Exemplify the green wave. And then connect with the customer. Building material companies are engaging with customets more than ever. And they are doing so by using interactive websites, video marketing, comtent and social media.
As usual, honesty is the best policy when it comes to selling. Greenwashing, the superficial attempt to pass a product off as more sustainable than it is, should be avoided at all costs. Consumers are already wary of sustainability claims, and we’ve seen the resulting backlash before.
In actuality, no one expects manufacturing companies to go greener than required. So, if your company is not miles ahead of the curve, that’s likely okay with your customers. More often than not, they are looking for the best value, and the right balance of sustainability and affordability is the most attractive option.
Be at the Forefront
Achieving net-zero requirements and meeting emissions goals is a challenge. But, building materials manufacturers can set the tone.
It isn’t enough to ride the coattails of the green wave. Manufacturers must adapt to create the green building blocks of the environmental revolution. By doing so, they can lead the change – one building at a time.
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