Jim Groff admitted to a packed room of builders and architects that he doesn’t know how to build a house--and that he’s not even handy around the house. But the president of Baublitz Advertising in York, Pa., said he knows how to market green homes and remodeling projects to prospective buyers.

Groff, whose clients include product manufacturers, dealers, and builders, provided the following 10 tips for creating a cost-effective green marketing plan:

1. Know Thyself
Groff explained that selling is about trust, and those with the best, most trustworthy stories win over clients. He said builders need to clearly articulate the reasons potential buyers should hire them.

“You must define who you are and live your brand,” he said.

2. Know Thy Stuff
Confused consumers don’t buy, so builders need to clarify the reasons why to purchase a green home or remodeling project from your company, Groff said. He added pros need to be knowledgeable about the firm’s green building practices, as well as the green products they install and the suppliers they do business with.

He said good sources of information about green products and construction techniques include associations, trade shows and conferences, publications, and other professionals.

3. Don’t Go to Market Without a Plan
Groff said green pros should:

  • Know their markets 

  • Select a target audience. “You can’t be all things to all people,” he commented. 

  • Do a thorough analysis of competitors. 

  • Understand the challenges and opportunities to building green. 

  • Communicate your objectives. 

  • Have a clear and compelling message. 

  • Become the go-to green source for local media. 

  • Develop a realistic marketing/advertising budget (about 2% to 5% of sales). 

  • Write a timeline for implementing the plan and decide who is responsible for implementation. 

  • Develop metrics for success. He noted that some metrics aren’t easily measured; for example, public relations efforts that pay off in the long term.

4. Develop a Compelling Message
A successful message, Groff said, is one that is unique, meaningful, and credible; that addresses consumers’ emotions and intellect; and that decisively sells a company’s demonstrated results.

“This is not a time to be shy,” he said. But he cautioned, “[Buyers] want proof. They don’t want your claims.”

Testimonials also should be part of the message.

5. If You’re Going to Do it, Flaunt It
Pros who’ve earned green certifications, or whose homes are certified or use green products, should tell everyone--from potential customers to suppliers to subs. “You’re building a resume,” he said. “Take the opportunity to show yourself off.”

6. Fish Where the Fish Are
Groff noted that many buyers of green homes and projects are affluent, well educated, in their mid-40s, and married, so those are the folks pros should target.

Once a client base is selected, builders should qualify their prospects’ level of greenness and needs. For example, Groff said, “know your audience and what they value. If they are concerned about saving energy, then talk to them about beefed-up insulation and weatherproofing.”

7. Choose the Tactics That are Right for Your Audience
Groff said there are several non-negotiable and must-have items in a successful marketing plan:

  • Non-negotiable: uniform logo, tagline, letterhead, business cards, signage, presentation materials, branded trucks and clothing, and an attractive Web site.

  • Must haves: referrals and a public relations program, which can include staff-written stories for newspapers and shelter magazines; press releases about your green projects; and involvement in social media. He told the mostly over-40-year-old attendees not to forget Facebook and LinkedIn, the popular social media sites that connect friends and professionals.

The public relations strategy also should include booths at home shows and participation in Parade of Homes, as well as regular e-newsletters that include repurposed articles or speeches you or employees have written.

Finally, pros should consider reaching a broader audience with direct marketing and media advertising.

8. Don’t Try This at Home
Groff recommended hiring a marketing firm to develop the company’s marketing plan. He said pros should contact several firms, ask for samples of work done by current employees, check references, and ask for demonstrated proven results. And once an agency is selected, take its advice, he quipped.

9. Speak the Truth
The advertising executive strongly encouraged the attendees not to greenwash, that is, overexaggerating their green projects or saying something is green when it is not. “If you greenwash, we all lose,” he contended.

10. Grow the Category
Groff concluded the session by saying that green commercial and residential building are expected to double by 2013, and that despite the down market, this is the time for green pros to make their mark and help spread the word about the benefits of building green.

“Be an ambassador, and we’ll all win,” he said.