In Paint your business green – why you need a sustainable marketing strategy, we highlighted the need for businesses to start thinking in greener terms and begin applying more sustainable principles to their everyday processes and strategies. But the truth is that without customers´ full understanding of and involvement in environmental practices, this holistic circle is not complete.
So, how do you get your eco-aware consumers-to-be initiated in your sustainable efforts?
Share the value of being green and have fun with it!
This is your number one and most important step. Your current and potential customers need to understand why being environmentally aware matters. The last thing you want is for your customers to look at your marketing materials and say, “so what?” when it comes to your green practices. Once they comprehend the value of these practices and start adapting a more green philosophy to their daily routines, you´ve got most of the work done. But your campaign won’t gain traction if you haven’t told potential, and current, customers why it matters.
However, you need to establish a good balance. If you take it upon yourself to proselytise too much and too often, they´ll probably react by going into denial or shutting out the bad news. This can easily result in their shutting you out as well. You can achieve a balance by making your information interesting and fun – try to integrate stories, contests, events, jokes, food and the arts into your green marketing mix. Get your customers involved, ask them to invite a friend or many. Don’t be afraid to be outrageous if it’s consistent with your brand. And by all means have fun yourself!
You got them – now how do you get them involved?
Once you feel safe that your green marketing induction is working and that your customers are convinced you are a genuine, holistic sustainable marketer, you need to find ways to involve in your green-ness both your eco-aware customers and those on their way towards becoming one. You can do this in a number of different ways.
For instance, if you decide to stop using plastic bags, start by explaining the reason behind it – it takes more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Then, you need to be consistent and practice what you are preaching. Don´t expect them to have to carry their own bags every time they come to your shop if they turn around and notice you are not doing your duty recycling appropriately. Be consistent and be holistic.
If you feel confident you are genuine about your efforts, spread the word electronically and reduce the amount of paper you generate- do away with paper coupons, snail mail letters, invoices and post cards. Offer your customers the option to show you their coupon via their smart phone or by a code you’ve emailed to them that they can input at check out time.
For instance, this is how laundry detergent manufacturer Method, educates and involves customers in their green philosophy.
• Method does not advertise. They attract consumers via strong price value and word of mouth that is generated in a number of highly effective ways, starting with the uniqueness of the product itself.
• Method uses its website as an educational tool for green energy saving tips and general green resources – from information about switching to Energy Star certified energy-saving compact fluorescent lighting, to tips from the Alliance to Save Energy, a respected environmental group. This type of marketing empowers customers as they are given the ability to calculate their own savings and to aggregate those savings with others´.
• Method promotes a campaign via their website called “I Fight Dirty.” This campaign encourages users to fight against dirt and against dirty practices by the industry. Thus, its captures the essence of what the brand is about from both the functional as well as emotional standpoints.
• Method uses their website to send a newsletter to consumers who sign up. This publication includes tips on how to compost Christmas trees, locate brands of reusable diapers, save pristine beaches by fighting dumping in oceans of plastic laundry bottles.
• The website also points some of the places where Method has been spotted — like the “Green Festival” hosted by Coop America each year.
• Method´s website also gives visitors the opportunity to buy merchandise like tee shirts emblazoned with the method name.
So the moral of the story is: Inspire your customers, involve them in your green marketing efforts and you´ll empower them. If you empower them, you are helping them make the right choice (hopefully you and your business) and you are helping them fight environmental degradation. Strive to be transparent in your green practices and achieve zero environmental impact. You will gain their respect and everyone will benefit in the long run.