Successful program managers know that understanding the factors that drive homeowners to make upgrades is critical to the widespread adoption of energy efficiency. What better place to learn about driving demand for upgrades than in Indianapolis, America's most famous driving city?

The City of Indianapolis Better Buildings Program partnered with the community development financial institution (CDFI) Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) to develop the EcoHouse Project loan program for low- and moderate-income homeowners, but struggled with how to market it successfully.

Initially, EcoHouse's marketing efforts were informational and designed to appeal to "green-minded" homeowners.

Through phone calls and meetings with interested customers, however, program administrators learned that homeowners tended to be motivated by more tangible and immediate concerns. The need to replace a failing water heater, for example, was more compelling than the conceptual benefit of saving energy. The program used this insight to revamp its marketing to focus on customers' needs, revise its promotional materials, and consolidate its messaging.

While still targeting "green-minded" homeowners, the Indianapolis Better Buildings Program refined its marketing efforts to a needs-based sales message aimed at customers with pressing problems in their homes. The updated materials clearly spell out the available upgrades and their associated benefits to homeowners. Based on customer feedback, EcoHouse staff also gained insight into how residents were learning about the EcoHouse program and used this information to more effectively tailor marketing strategies. For example, homeowners in Indianapolis responded best to direct mail campaigns.

Interest in the program soon spiked. The number of inquiries received in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 57% greater than those received in all three previous quarters combined.

"Always listen to the feedback, and always evaluate your program," says Rachel Faulkner, Director of Marketing and Communications at INHP. "Don't be afraid to revise your messaging and your marketing plan."