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How to Develop Successful LEED® Marketing

Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Geibel APR, LEED AP - All Rights Reserved


LEED marketing is taking on all the characteristics of technology marketing. If you understand and use successful technology marketing practices for your LEED marketing, you can skip the traditional trial-and-error process of an evolving and crowded LEED market and leapfrog to marketing success.


LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has taken the construction industry by storm in the last few years. Seldom has a technique or methodology gained such rapid and widespread industry acceptance.

Some statistics demonstrate this. LEED APs (Accredited Professionals - individuals accredited by the US Green Building Council who guide the certification application process) numbered only 20,000 back in July 2006. By 2007 there were 40,000. In 2008 there were 53,000. As of September 2009, there are approximately 121,000 LEED APs*. The number of LEED registered commercial projects doubled from about 10,000 at the end of 2007 to more than 20,000 by January, 2009. There are also 10,000 residential projects. Although the LEED market is projected to be $60 billion by 2010, that's still only 2% of the $3 trillion US construction market. So there is still lots of room for LEED market growth.

This rapid increase in both providers and projects brings about the need for LEED-oriented marketing that will help establish competitive distinction.

The reason that LEED marketing is similar to technology marketing is that LEED is standards-based. In other words, it references established standards by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers), the EPA, the State of California and various other governmental and industry groups. Hence, trying to explain LEED building certification points is often like trying to explain technical standards. If that sounds like how technology marketing is often done (bits and bytes), well - it is. That is also how much of the LEED marketing in now conducted.

Like most new technology, LEED doesn't necessarily market itself. Sure, sustainability is "in" and "trendy", but that will only go so far if you are selling professional design or construction services, or building products. Many of the client decisions are in the range of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and are not easily changed once decided. Hence, the client comfort factor with the decision being made (choosing the right LEED firm) plays a significant role. Years ago, the cliche in the technology industry was: "No one ever lost their job by specifying IBM."

LEED marketing would benefit from taking a page from the more advanced forms of technology marketing - that is, moving more toward client visualization of benefits and advantages (which involved feature translation into benefits) rather that a recitation of sustainability "points".

Visualization simply means is that you help the potential client create a vision of a LEED-oriented sustainability solution, and credibly demonstrate that you are an enabling capability to get to that vision.

Once the technology markets adopted the visualization approach, their sales were able to move out of niche markets to mainstream - either commercial or consumer. The benchmark sales process for technology that helped them to accomplish this was Solution Selling®, which in fact utilized this visualization technique as a key factor in the Solution Selling sales process. It has since been widely adopted (and copied by many sales training vendors - commonly referred to as "consultative selling") throughout many industries, specifically those with complex or difficult-to-sell products.

By evaluating the current state of LEED marketing, the comparisons to the evolution of technology marketing are obvious. Here are the three stages of the marketing evolution:

All of this brings us to the elements of successful marketing program. The key elements that LEED producers need to keep in mind are:


LEED marketing is essentially sustainable technology marketing with an architectural design wrapper. This is due to the standards-based nature of the LEED certification process, and savvy LEED marketers can leapfrog their marketing programs to an advanced state by learning from the evolution of technology marketing.

What needs to be remembered is that in a rapidly-evolving and crowded market, competitive distinction plays a key role. It is the role of the LEED designer, constructor and building products supplier in solving problems and bringing the best LEED solution to the table that creates a powerful and unique marketing message.

* Bear in mind that the LEED AP accreditation rules changed as of June 30, 2009, resulting in significantly more effort for candidates after that date to attain the LEED AP designation. Hence many opted to take the exam prior to the deadline. That being said - it is unlikely that such a dramatic annual increase in LEED APs will be repeated in the future.

** For an excellent article that discusses the limitations of unchecked sustainable advocacy, see Stephen Del Percio's article in the Green Real Estate Law Journal

© 2009, Jeffrey Geibel APR, LEED AP - All Rights Reserved

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