Capturing Your Hard Support to Focus Your Green Marketing Efforts Mike Fleming presents a few green marketing tactics that companies/campaigns can use to shore up their most motivated customers instead of reducing their profitability by focusing on undecideds.

Posted Sept. 2, 2009
By Mike Fleming,

In today's market, growth no doubt remains the top
priority. However, by definition, a recession means most
business-to-business (B2B) and consumer categories are seeing fewer
purchase occasions. This places an enormous emphasis on customer
retention, while being more targeted than ever to acquire new customers
with fewer resources and smaller budgets. These challenges are even
more pronounced in green marketing. Many companies don't understand who
their core customers are (much less green customers) and what motivates
them, so they market to the masses. The result is often vague or
irrelevant product and brand positioning, or even worse — greenwashing.  

A targeting framework we've used for more than 20 years to help
leading companies focus their positioning and drive growth is the hard
and soft support model. As recently observed from the field of politics,
campaigns are won and lost with the strength of the hard and soft
supports. This is the core that not only provides the base volume, but
also generates the momentum needed to convert a significant portion of
the undecideds.   

We recently helped one of the world's largest consumer goods
companies completely re-orient their commercial approach around their
hard and soft supports. We found these 13 percent of their consumers
were driving 65 percent of their revenue, yet they were positioning and
pricing to the undecideds, leaving significant profitability on the
table. They stopped pricing to the undecideds, started focusing on what
it takes to get "one more purchase" from their hard and soft supports
and then began to understand what positioning will really motivate an
increase in loyalty from within the undecideds.   

What we've observed from green marketing is no different. Most
companies are watering down their positioning as it relates to green
because they're chasing the undecideds. Undecideds switch between
brands, they buy on price and availability, and even come and go from
the category. Instead, what companies should be doing is first going to
their hard supports (who are often soft supports of green) to find out
what really motivates them to buy from you. Beyond the obvious benefit
of providing the most profitable base volume, they'll also help you
understand from a green positioning perspective what it takes to
convert a significant portion of their "twins" within the undecided

There are three fundamental steps to driving retention and ultimately growth from your hard and soft supports:

    1.    Identify – Don't stop at segmentation,
you must target. Segmentation is a key input to strategy, but it's
passive. Targeting takes segmentation and makes it actionable by
identifying where your most attractive sources of volume originate,
profiles who they are, and hypothesizes why they buy more from you.
    2.    Understand
– With these hypotheses in place, it's now time to validate
them. Determine what benefits really motivate buying behavior vs. those
that are just cost of entry to doing business. We've found time and
time again, what customers say is important and how they actually buy
are two different things. We've seen this to be especially true as it
relates to green.
    3.    Activate – Now that
you know who your hard and soft supports are and what motivates them,
your positioning in the market should be clear. With the right
positioning in place, now it's time to activate — the right targets,
the right messaging, the right pricing, the right channels, the right

Many of our clients in the last 12 months have asked us to help them
understand how to leverage green for growth. As we've told them, don't
isolate green from your core business and positioning and start with
your hard and soft supports. It's a highly disruptive opportunity that
creates a new platform and dialogue to engage customers, but must come
from your core positioning with your core customers.   
Mike Fleming is a principal in the Atlanta office of
Core Strategy Group, a firm that specializes in the Insurgent Principles of marketing and strategy to help its clients drive profitable growth.

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