Builder Benchmark: Insights from the Study

Builders, Sales and Marketing All Share Info

The third annual Builder Benchmark on home quality and performance is out. This in-depth study identifies trends, barriers to advancement, and information and resource needs that we can help address through Alliance programming.

This time around, we conducted one-on-one interviews with technical contacts as usual, and we also reached out to Sales + Marketing contacts through an online survey in an effort to understand not only how builders were building high performance, but also what strategies they were using to communicate and sell that performance.

All together, 30 Alliance builders participated directly. We also assessed all members’ websites to identify additional trends in performance-related messaging, technologies and home features being promoted, and use of tools like social media and video.

Here are some of the questions we asked:

  • What performance values are you focused on delivering (D+C) or promoting (S+M) in your homes – Safety, Health, Comfort, Efficiency, Durability, Responsibility, Affordability, Connectivity?
  • How are you connecting these values back to features and benefits?
  • How, and how much, are you leveraging online marketing and web-based tools to connect with buyers?
  • What is your approach to innovation?
  • What are your greatest quality or risk concerns?
  • To what extent are you thinking about connectivity?

Check out highlights of our research below, or access the report for the full details.

A few highlights from what we found:

Significant changes on the technical side. During our one-on-one interviews, we saw some significant changes from last year’s responses. Some broad trends have been summarized in the full report and in earlier newsletter articles – including codes as a primary performance driver, resiliency just emerging, smart home interest and apprehension, cost concerns for the builder and Millennial buyers, trained labor in short supply, rising popularity of modern design, etc.

Efficiency is the #1 performance value communicated to buyers.

A full 77% of Alliance builders market energy efficiency. Connectivity gets the least focus, but judging from the growing interest in Connected Home technology, that’s poised to change quickly. For the #2 and #3 focus, it varies widely depending on a builder’s size.

We found it interesting to note that Health and Safety, which our How We Live™ research has shown to be homebuyers’ top values, don’t even make the top 3 for most builders. Missed opportunity? We’ll take on this topic in more depth in future research.

Challenges remain to effectively marketing performance.

Alliance builders are still finding selling performance an uphill climb, on many levels. Here are a few specific comments:

  • “Many of our customers want a high performance home but don’t want to pay extra. They want it included in the base price.” – top 50 builder
  • “Mainly it’s appraisers, not building in the value and savings of energy efficiency.” – leading regional builder
  • “While HERS is the most accurate way to convey the overall efficiency of the home, it can be a difficult topic to teach and not one that can be done quickly or as easily as talking about school district, community amenities, etc.” – leading regional

There’s a strong interest in digital tools that could boost sales and marketing.

Since Alliance builders say their top source for sales leads is their own website, this makes sense. For example, we found that while marketing budgets were tight, most builders were engaging on multiple social media platforms and more than 60% had virtual tour home footage.

The bad news is that this footage is often outdated and lives on a YouTube channel without a direct connection to the builder’s website. And a majority of builders said keeping content fresh is a challenge, and they are interested in pre-packaged home performance content they could customize for their own websites. We’ll be connecting with Alliance partners and sponsors over throughout the remainder of the year to see what resources we can offer to help.

There’s lots more in the full Builder Benchmark report. We’ll be in touch to kick off 2015 Benchmark research in the coming months!