So, your business has gone green? You’re recycling more, your IT systems have been updated and the light bulbs are energy efficient. You’re even selling environmentally safe products. Now what? If your business has made the green commitment, you should have a marketing plan in place to take advantage of the added value you’ve given to your products and services.
Studies show that over 30% of consumers and clients value green products and services higher than conventional ones. This is a significant market to tap into, but your marketing must be innovative and involved to tap into it.
Your marketing tactics should include campaigns and methods of communication that involve and empower individuals. Campaigns that spark emotion and activism from your target market generate a deeper connection between customers and your brand. Here are some specific ideas on how your company can best showcase your greenness while making a lasting impact on your clients and consumers.
Regardless of size, your business can create a social networking area to serve as an important component of your website. Social networking areas provide a forum for employees, customers and citizens to discuss your products, environmental issues, and what your company is specifically doing about them. This gives your green community the opportunity to be involved and a part of your company, creating a stronger attachment between them and the brand.
Some existing social networking sites let you post information about your business. Dotherightthing.com is a site committed to showcasing socially and environmentally aware companies with the “core mission to help drive more sales, talented employees, and investments in companies that do the right thing.” Submitting information to sites like dotherightthing.com helps to make those already concerned about green topics aware of your company.
Change.org is an example of a successful environmentally focused social networking site. People gather on this site and find others concerned about the same issues they are. Non profit organizations raise awareness by signing up on the site and building online communities around them, where people can chat about causes, donate money and be actively supportive from their computers.
Blogging directly involves your clients and potential clients in your brand. Create a blog that centers solely on going green, and assign the employee who has headed your green movement to maintain the blog. For blogging to be effective, it must be fluid and continuously updated. You must take an aggressive approach to promoting the blog via your website, email and online campaigns and setting up reciprocal links with other green blogs.
With a blog, your company creates a personal tie with the readers and participants. They feel like they are connecting with the company, the author and the other bloggers. This connection gives the participants a reason to use your product or services (other than lowest price or convenience). Your blog posts communicate that your business believes in what it is doing. Simply put, blogs build company loyalty and a desire to use your product or service.
Short Message Service (SMS)
Chances are everyone you know over the age of 10 has a mobile device. Short message service, also known as text messages or SMS, is a tool that keeps your company on the minds of your target market.
Once you have a mobile phone number database established, you can involve those individuals by sending out monthly tips on how to stay green, conduct polls and present special offers to the green SMS subscribers. Text messages, with coupons attached to them can be sent out, requiring recipients to only bring in their phones, show the text message and get a deal. SMS serves as a company reminder every time a message is received that your company is green, and recipients are more likely to think of and use your business when appropriate. Additionally, SMS lets your customers know you care and appreciate their dedication to the cause and loyalty.
Build campaigns that reward individuals for being green. MAC Cosmetics rewards customers by giving them a free lipstick with the return of six empty primary packing containers to recycle. Every time a MAC customer uses up a product, he or she thinks green and sets aside the waste rather than throwing it away. This conscious effort reminds customers that MAC cares about the environment and is willing to reward them for also caring. This simple gesture costs MAC little, yet it builds brand equity and creates an emotional attachment to the brand, as customers feel that their purchases and product usage ultimately help the environment.
Consider creating similar campaigns within your own company. When green events are going on, ask customers to show a ticket from the event and then give them 10% off in return. Trade a certain amount of recyclables for a free product or service. Special offers and rewards are a double whammy, with clients and consumers feeling good because they are saving money and helping the environment.
Warning: Be Credible
The green consumer is knowledgeable and sensitive and will react negatively if he or she feels green claims are inaccurate. Be sure to explain the value of your green products and services. (Does is save energy? Is it biodegradable?) Explanations can be put on packaging, on the website or be done in person. If your product is more expensive is there a reason for it? If so, let the consumer know. Energy saver light bulbs, for example, are more expensive, but their life expectancy is significantly longer than typical light bulbs. Ultimately the cost is lower.
There are official guidelines and stamps of approval available for being green. Use these to your highlight your benefits. You don’t want to be accused of “greenwashing” (misleading consumers about the environmental practices of your company or the environmental aspects of a product or service). Use third-party certifiers to increase your credibility. Look for stamps of approval from EnergyStar and the Federal Trade Commission. Follow the guidelines of groups such as Friends of the Earth. The approval of these organizations lends authenticity to your company’s greenness, an important factor when dealing with as passionate a crowd as the green one.
Commit yourself and your employees to going green, not just in products or services, but in internal practices as well. If you sell green products and services but don’t implement green business practices internally, you risk losing credibility. Look at your company and ask if the products you use or the companies you are work with are green. If not, could they be?
It’s also important for your staff to be excited about the green movement. Sponsor in-house promotions and events dedicated to boosting the green morale. Host an office-wide “Bring Your Old Batteries to Work Day” and hold a friendly competition to see which department brings in the most. Create an office carpool. Be sure to clearly post why certain changes are taking place, in order to keep your staff informed.
As your workforce gets more excited about helping the environment, not only will they be more motivated and have more respect for the company, but they will show their excitement when pitching or discussing green products and services with current or potential consumers.
What Marketing Greenness Means for You
The marketing strategies presented in this article are intended to involve your target market and create an emotional and legitimate connection between your company and them. This is a group of “do-ers,” and the presented tactics tap into this by requiring action. By creating a more environmentally responsible and active client and internal base, these individuals are more likely to be loyal to the brand and the company.
A Vistage speaker who presents the talk Managing Gen X And Y and Marketing 2.0 ,Philippe Cesson is also President and CEO of CESSON, a full-service marketing agency that helps small to mid-size businesses realize and market their core identities.