Homebuyers Want “Better”

by | Jan 26, 2017

I recently spoke at the International Builders’ Show, along with two successful residential homebuilders, in a session called “Taking the Mystery Out of Marketing High Performance.”

While we had not compared speaking notes, all three of us ended up sharing, essentially, the same insight in different ways: homebuyers don’t buy homes based on green or energy-efficient features.

They buy based on benefits. The secret is in telling the story of why high-performance homes are better in an emotionally compelling way.

I kicked-off our session with some consumer insights: our 2014 Energy Pulse study found that three-quarters of homebuyers would pay more for a “high-performance home” that was built to standards higher than ENERGY STAR®. And in an unaided question from our Energy Pulse 2016 study, we learned that the primary association with the phrase “high-performance home” is (not surprisingly) “energy efficient.” Finally, we know that energy efficiency is a fantastic selling point: 81% of people who expect to buy a new home in the next two years say higher energy efficiency would cause them to choose one new home over another.

So all homebuilders need to do is rattle off a litany of energy efficiency features to their prospective buyers and … SOLD! Right?

Wrong.

Buyers purchase homes they fall in love with. When you call your best friend to gush about the home you just bought, you don’t lead with “energy efficient.” That’s like describing your boyfriend as “honest.” That’s a fabulous attribute, but it’s probably not why you fell in love. Rather, homebuilders (and makers of energy-efficient products) should strive to make an emotional connection. You don’t do that by rattling off a litany of features. Instead, you lead with the emotional benefits.

We know, from our years of Energy Pulse studies, that there are several strong emotional benefits associated with energy efficiency – one of which is comfort, which can mean different things to different people, and often varies by feature. Comfort benefits add up to a better home living experience:

  • LED lighting = brighter for easier reading and daily tasks
  • High-efficiency HVAC = warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
  • Better sealing and insulation = consistent room temperatures and less outside noise

My co-presenter, CR Herro of Meritage Homes (one of the highest volume homebuilders in the U.S.), said that they have standardized high-performance features in their homes because that is one of the easiest ways to ensure consistent quality. But their sales pitch doesn’t include a list of “standard energy efficiency upgrades.” Instead, he trains his sales reps to communicate why their homes are simply better by focusing on the benefits – not the features.

John Brandon, owner of Red Tree Builders, an award-winning custom green homebuilder based in Asheville, North Carolina, shared his early marketing pitch failures emphasizing building science, ratings and air quality certifications. He said he used to watch potential buyers’ eyes glaze over as he rattled off the details. Now his priority is to help his prospects visualize the experience of living in a green home.

Life is better in a high-performance home. Tell them why.

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann started Shelton Group's research department in 2000 and paved the way for us to become the insights-grounded creative agency we are today. After 17 years leading our research team, she recently handed down the title of Vice President of Research & Insights, but remains an integral part of that team as she continues to oversee proprietary studies.

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann started Shelton Group's research department in 2000 and paved the way for us to become the insights-grounded creative agency we are today. After 17 years leading our research team, she recently handed down the title of Vice President of Research & Insights, but remains an integral part of that team as she continues to oversee proprietary studies.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insight

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Penny Kemp

VP Account Management & Strategy

Penny leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results. She works closely with Suzanne, President & CEO, to develop strategic marketing plans and with Matt, VP Creative, to foster creative campaign ideas. Before joining Shelton Group, Penny had developed expertise in brand management and marketing while working with award-winning agencies and shepherding programs for the likes of Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Russell Athletic and James Hardie Building Products.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.