Go for the Green

Entrepreneurcom_jpegOriginally posted March 2008
By Kim T. Gordon, Entrepreneur Magazine


Check out these 4 essential tips for turning green marketing into gold.

Selling environmentally friendly products and
services has gone mainstream. Not only is this good for the planet,
it’s also great news for your business because
consumers are often willing to pay more for products that protect the
natural environment by conserving energy or resources and reducing the
use of toxic agents, pollution and waste.

The vast diversity and availability of green
products and services from major manufacturers is a clear sign that
many consumers are already buying green. Organic foods, green household
cleaning products and recycled or biodegradable paper products, for
example, are widely available.

But that doesn’t make marketing green
products and services a walk in the park. In fact, a study conducted
last year by Ipsos Reid showed that 7 in 10 Americans either "strongly"
or "somewhat" agree that companies call their products green simply as
a marketing tactic. To build trust–and sales–it’s essential to base
your claims in irrefutable facts and provide true environmental
benefits. Third-party certifications or seals of approval can show that
your product meets respected standards and bolster consumer confidence.
Your marketing campaign must also ring true. Consider the fallout that
happened when Ford Motor Co. ran magazine ads touting its new
eco-designed plant: Some critics viewed the campaign as a smoke screen
for the poor fuel economy of the company’s SUVs.

Before you launch a green marketing campaign, consider these keys to success:

Motivate
green shoppers. Even with today’s spotlight on environmental issues,
the majority of consumers will not necessarily purchase green products
for environmental reasons alone. The growth in sales of organic foods
and energy-efficient appliances, for instance, is largely because
shoppers want to buy healthy food and
save money. Look beyond the greater environmental benefits to the
tangible advantages individuals gain by purchasing a product or
service. It comes down to answering the basic question every consumer
has in his or her mind: "What’s in it for me?"

Show them
the money. Saving money–when coupled with the additional benefit of
saving the planet–is a terrific motivator. Particularly with a more
expensive product, the key is to present a marketing message based on
the value to the consumer in the form of cost savings over the
product’s lifetime. Items such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and
energy-saving water heaters, for example, don’t just benefit the world
we live in–over time, they deliver measurable savings to the purchaser.

Promote
safety and good health. For example, composite decking material, though
more costly, is gaining favor over pressure-treated lumber, which is
imbued with toxic agents and requires labor-intensive painting or
staining as well as the use of chemical preservatives. Decide how your
product will enhance the health and
safety of users, and create a green message that relates directly to
the customers’ personal environment. A study by S.C. Johnson found that
consumers are more likely to act on product benefits such as "safe to
use around children" and "no toxic ingredients" over benefits such as
"recyclable packaging."

Make convenience a plus. Early on,
green marketers failed to consider the importance of convenience to
customers. Electric cars were a dismal failure because of their need
for constant recharging. Today’s green products and services must
deliver all the convenience consumers expect by saving them time or
being easy to use. For instance, states including California and
Virginia allow hybrid vehicle drivers to travel solo in high-occupancy
vehicle lanes. And Toyota has marketed this convenience to drivers in
high-congestion areas through its Prius website. Your product may
ultimately have the power to save the world, but it will be purchased by more consumers if it also promises to save them time and money and benefit their health.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business,
at smallbusiness now.com. Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small
Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at
smallbizbooks.com.

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