Marketing and selling green roofs

Departments - Web Extras

July 27, 2011
Carolyn LaWell

Not surprisingly, green roofs are expensive. The average price is between $10 and $24 a square foot, and then, of course, there are maintenance costs. So while the market has seen and continues to see tremendous growth and potential, a hard sell is going to be more difficult than marketing your services or bidding for a job.

“There has to be some momentum, they have to want to do it,” Roger Grothe, president of Aloha Landscaping, says of closing sales. “The incentives aren’t big enough to lead people into doing this. It’s never going to be free.”

The extra work has proved to be worth it though for those who have entered the market. George Irwin, president of Green Living Technologies International, says with his company’s systems, they strive for a 15-30 percent profit margin. Fransen says he expects somewhere in the 30-40 percent range.

To find clients and jobs, companies can position themselves to reach those most likely to install a green roof. The majority of the traction is on the public and private commercial side, with some of the most popular being governments, universities, hospitals and multi-unit residential buildings.

To get its name out, Aloha Landscaping put an ad in Minnesota Business during the magazine’s green building month.

Alex Fransen, landscape development manager of Steele Blades Lawn & Landscaping Services, says his company fell into its first green roof project. A local waterproofing company called and said it had a roof that needed plants, soil, irrigation and everything else. Since then, Steele Blades has marketed its services to roof contractors and relied on the relationships it’s built with contractors and green roof manufacturers to find new jobs.

“That has been the biggest thing for us, the manufacturer referring us to other roofing and waterproofing installers,” Fransen says. “This is a relatively new field in our area. Because there aren’t a lot of people doing it, they don’t know where to look, and they go back to the manufacturers and say, ‘Hey who is installing these things.’”

The connections are one thing, but marketing your abilities also comes down to knowing the products, which can take several months to learn, Fransen says.

“When I’m out talking to architects and engineers and property owners, it makes them feel a little more comfortable that a landscaper is coming in there and knows the product that they’re talking about and can take them to projects in town or in the region that they can see. It gives them a better understanding and a better feeling about us.”

Actually walking onto a green roof is an experience companies must provide their clients in order to sell them, Irwin says. That may even involve companies investing in a few small projects of their own.

“You really have to have a place where your clients can actually touch it, feel it and see it,” Irwin says. “Seeing great pictures is absolutely wonderful, but until someone actually walks up on the roof and sees (what has been) installed, that is the key.”