In the discussion "Transforming Existing Buildings Through New Media: An Idea Exchange." the question of using Groupon or other couponing sites like Living Social came up. Consumers of the products are often looking for new products and services they might not otherwise try like an energy audit (my sister in law tried a pole dancing class with a few friends). If you use Groupon to sell an energy audit, it basically means you're going to give away they audit and hope to get paid back on the retrofit work on the backend if the customer follows through.


Has any tried social couponing? Any suggestions?

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We hit up Groupon with this several times.  No go - they weren't biting.  (With Groupon and others, you have to submit your ideas for approval.)


I can't tell you how sick I am of getting coupons for restaurants I've never heard of and massages.  We thought an energy audit groupon would be novel and cool.  'Guess we're biased.  




Have you tried Priceline Local or Living Social? None are quite as large as Groupon, but they might be worth a shot. Often times the second tier players are hungrier and more willing to experiment. Here's a link I found of the top 20 social couponing sites:

I tried it in St. Louis and did not have a great response.  Here is the link from Groupon when it ran earlier this year.



I'm not an auditor, but it seems as if the price point and messaging for Groupon were a bit off. Groupon customers demand real value and $150 doesn't seem quite there. Price point probably needs to be $25-$40 which means you're giving it away with the intent to make it up on 1) referral business 2) retrofit work. This of course assumes you're doing the retrofit work. If not, this probably won't work. 


The messaging in the Groupon didn't touch upon safety or comfort and only vaguely referred to the money savings. These are big selling points too - not just energy savings. 


Lastly, you excluded homes over 3,000 square feet because they are more difficult, but those home are usually wealthier clients that probably have the money to do the work. . . 



Thanks Steve!

Appreciate the input!

We used Living Social and had a good response selling 40 audits in 3 days.  We thought the clientele would be motivated to actually implement the scope of work recommended, which is really the business we were after, however about 30% of them indicated they only purchased it because it was a good deal to use for future retrofits or as their budgets allowed.  We are just completing all the audits now so we have left to see what percentage of this work has actually produced jobs. 

Theresa - where are you?  It sounds like it worked well. What was the cost of the audit?

We are located in Southern Maine.  We offered the "deal" at $160, with the stipulation they were within 15 miles and <2600 sf.  Addition charges applied beyond that.  We would typically charge $400 and Living Social required we discount 60% in order to run the deal.
Well I'm proved dead wrong on the price point and square footage. Perhaps Living Social's slightly different model worked better than Groupon's. Or perhaps it is a regional thing. Do you still have the link to the Living Social promo? What do you think was the driver? Were most of the customers even aware of what a home energy audit was before your promo?

Sorry I couldn't locate the link.  There has been a lot of education through Efficiency Maine and other organizations on the importance of home energy audits and I offered the deal when  the rebate program Efficiency Maine was offering expired.  We have now geared toward the PACE Financing program in lieu of the rebate (which was 30% of the cost of improvement to $1,500).  People aren't as motivated to get the work done because there is no free money coming their way and also because we were into the summer months.  I find it takes 4-6 weeks for a homeowner to make the decision to do the retrofits and am not surprised we haven't booked at a lot of business just yet.  Most of our clients are very motivated to improve the efficiency of their homes but want to put their money in the appropriate places as their budgets allow.  Alot has been done to professionalize the insulation/weatherization industry in Maine but people have been throwing money at insulation for years and not getting the expected results which is why they seek the audit and see the benefit in our BPI trained installers doing the work but of course they are free to have the work estimated/done by others. 

After looking at the Groupon page referenced above I am not surprised that there were few takers.  Since you got a strong response, I have to assume you were allowed to write your own copy to highlight the important aspects of having an energy audit. 

Here in SE Pa there are a number of companies giving "free audits" as a way to get in and sell/install products.   Some are regular insulation or HVAC companies using this as a means to get in front of customers, and they actually have people with relevant BPI training.  Others are hucksters selling products with no real building science training, only a slick sales pitch and wild claims.  "Our power factor correction device will save you 10%-12% on your monthly electric bill."  "Our radient barrier insulation, like NASA uses, will reduce your heating and cooling cost by 20% ."  "Install our windows and save 35% on your heating bills."  "Our new windows are 83% more energy efficient!"  There a long list...

As  true third party auditors and energy efficiency consultants, we do not sell or install products nor do we steer audit clients to installers or suppliers for a finder's fee.  We are able to give the customer our full audit findings without having to color the report to help make a sale.  We do offer coupons for people we talk to at builder shows and at energy efficiency related programs such as the Mid Atlantic Renewable Energy Association show this weekend (9/16-18) in Kempton, PA. We also offer discounts to refered customers - satisfied clients send their friends and the friend gets a discount.  Friends helping friends makes everyone involved feel better about helping to reduce their energy useage.  Our income is from providing guidance to our clients, we charge a fair price for our services and you get what you pay for.


Timely, related article about a new social app called HouseFix 


HouseFix: Bringing Social Recommendations & Accountability To Home Improvement

The goal of the service is to the take offline social recommendations — in other words, the advice friends and neighbors often give each other about improving their houses — and bring them online. It’s also looking to become a comprehensive directory of contractors, complete with reviews and profiles of each. And, finally, it wants to help contractors keep track of their own projects and create an online presence.


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