Many state and local home builder associations (HBAs) around the country have pivoted quickly and found ways to adapt and keep their members engaged as they host events online that have traditionally been in person. Although there’s no singular secret ingredient, several HBAs transitioned their in-person green home tours to successful virtual events while providing extra value to their membership.
NAHB’s recent HBA Sustainability Network meeting highlighted how three different organizations planned their virtual green home tours. For example, in an effort to help market the importance of high-performance homes in North Carolina, Julie Carrow, director of special events for the HBA of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties, worked with a local company to provide Matterport 3D tours for every entry in its Spring Green Home Tour.
In New Mexico, Executive Officer Miles Conway of the Santa Fe Area HBA also decided to take his organization’s Haciendas Parade of Homes virtual. Converting the tour to a digital platform and revamping its website to make it user-friendly helped keep the tour’s brand alive for the annual event.
These HBAs also shared some lessons learned for anyone planning a virtual green home tour:
- Start planning early. For instance, begin discussing initial plans and logistics for a spring virtual high-performance home tour in early fall.
- Start recruiting sponsors early as well, to help finalize budget numbers to plan the virtual tour. To assist in recruiting sponsors, ask builders (if they are comfortable) to provide a list of suppliers and subcontractors that they use on the online entry form.
- Promote the event heavily early on to builder members. Use social media and other promotions not only to garner interest, but also recruit new prospects to join the HBA so that they can have their work featured in the virtual tour.
- Expand your network. Work with your green rater and verifier members to see what homes are in their pipelines to recruit additional builders and entries for the virtual tour.
- Expand submission eligibility. Criteria for which green home tour entries to accept should include all nationally recognized third-party green home certification programs, as opposed to just a few.
- Promote your members’ high-performance homes using all mediums: drone photography, short videos, clickable 3D tours, etc. Work with local photographers, videographers and other local companies to help promote the virtual event as well and stimulate interest for green homes within the community.
- Consider a no- or low-cost event. That creates a low barrier for entry so that interested customers and the general public can educate themselves more readily about high-performance home benefits.
- Consider a hybrid event. Offer both options, depending on your state or local regulations, so that more people can attend virtually if they do not feel comfortable going in person.
- Have a digital flip book to highlight all the homes within the tour, which can be used to help participants navigate the virtual home tour website and as a marketing tool.
- Capitalize on free promotion outlets, such as a local public radio station or volunteers’ social media channels.
- Cross-promote your virtual green home tour with other events.
- Pre-record a video highlighting important high-performance features, from either the builder directly or from the home owner, to add a personal touch.