Our Energy pulse study does a good job every year of documenting the gap between what people say they will do vs. what they actually do. For instance, in 2008 44% of the population said they had already installed a programmable thermostat and 27% said they were likely to. Thus, this year we should have seen that 71% have installed one. Nope. Only 48%. After five years of tracking propensity vs. actual behavior for 10 different purchases and behaviors, we’ve actually created average discount percentages so our clients can be more accurate in their market opportunity projections.
I talked with a reporter about this phenomenon today and he asked, “why?” I gave the laundry list of reasons – lack of access to capital, fear of spending money, fear of not knowing the right things to do (insulation vs. windows, for instance), and decisions to make aesthetic improvements instead. All valid reasons, but a biggee I’ve had some experience with lately is the power of convenience (or the lack thereof.)
One more bit of qualifying before I expound on this: Our Eco Pulse study asked Americans, “If you had to choose between your comfort, your convenience or the environment, which would you choose?” Convenience was number one, followed by comfort. So it’s important.
And that’s the thing about energy efficient home improvements: they’re largely inconvenient. In March I put myself through a home performance energy audit. That means the auditor didn’t just do a quick walk-through: he spent six hours at my house. On my day off. Which means I was stuck at home all day with an albeit pleasant individual, but not the guy I wanted to spend the bulk of my Saturday with.
He gave me the laundry list of things that needed to be improved on my house and I’m just now getting around to taking care of the list. The big action items are air sealing, insulation in the attic and basement, and new windows. I have the advantage of having a client in the insulation industry and another in the window industry, so my process has been much faster and easier than that of the average consumer. But I’ve still now logged a few hours researching the exact products I need and asking my clients for pointers (multiple calls and emails on this one, and that means they’ve put time into it as well), another couple of hours with my contractor discussing the project and waiting around while he took measurements, and a trip to my local big box home improvement store. And that’s all just to get estimates on everything.
The moral of this story is this: if you’re marketing an energy efficient home improvement product, make it convenient and/or find a way to compensate the customer for the pain in the process. For instance, offer to do the work necessary for quoting (and the installation as well, if possible) on evenings and weekends. Conspicuously post email addresses of your sales reps so a customer perusing your site at 10:00 at night can shoot you a quick email on the spot rather than waiting until the next day to call. Consider a guaranteed time limit on the quoting/measuring process, “No more than an hour in your home or we’ll give you 10% off the purchase.” And leave behind an inexpensive gift to thank the customer for their time – something simple like a CFL bulb or some foam outlet covers with a clever package that says something like “just one small step towards taking control of your energy costs, and our way of thanking you for your time.”
Break down the convenience barrier and you’ll see your close ratio increase dramatically.