Businesses big and small have turned a substantial corner when it comes to “Thinking Green.” From reusable grocery bags to recycled toner cartridges, it is becoming easier and more affordable for businesses of all shapes and sizes to make globally healthy choices in their day-to-day operations.
Unfortunately, the progress that has been made in reducing, recycling and reusing is also making it harder for green businesses to stand out from the crowd. As marketing director for a small paintball company, I have noticed an obvious trend of businesses competing as enthusiastically for consumer’s eco-sensibilities as they do for their wallets.
Regrettably, traditional marketing sorely misses the message that green businesses are trying to get across. Here are some tips on how to market yourself and your business without sacrificing your green operations, eco-friendly products or low-impact beliefs.
It seems like the day after someone invented the mailbox, his neighbor started a mass marketing list and began sending mailers for custom postage, mailing labels and address stamps. The simple fact is that “junk mail” works well enough that it has become a keystone in the marketing plans of businesses in many different industries.
Somehow, I was still surprised when a local power company sent an entire packet to my office detailing how they were going green. While the information that the mailing presented was positive and makes me feel a little less guilty when I forget to shut the lights off at night, it got me to thinking: “How many millions of sheets paper did they use to get their point across?”
If you opt to go the mass mailing route, then make sure that you think through how the mail piece will be perceived. Avoid waste by producing a post-card mailer that doesn’t need an envelope, and make sure that your card is created on recycled paper so that you aren’t contradicting yourself in print.
Green Marketing Tip: When you print on recycled paper, make sure it is apparent to the consumer. A simple note that says, “Printed on recycled paper” says a lot about your green marketing strategy.
Anyone who’s ever been to a trade show or convention knows that these mega-events are as much about passing out trinkets plastered with company logos as they are about information on new products, goods and services. Businesses (even the green ones) fall prey to the attraction of plastic keychain flashlights and polyurethane stress-ball swag that are cheap enough to hand out to consumers en-mass without really thinking of the impact that the give-away madness will have on landfills, thrift stores and desk drawers.
If you really want to position yourself as a green company, then this is a great place to quite literally stand out from the crowd. Instead of providing one-use plastic bags for consumers to drag their swag around in, give away reusable shopping bags. If you love the idea of handing out something to write with, try passing out biodegradable pens. Putting your logo on T-shirts and hats made of bamboo or memo pads made of post-consumer product will go a long way in making your brand stand out.
Green Marketing Tip: Don’t just plaster your logo on cheapest stuff you can find for big events. Find an item that your target market will actually use. Your client will remember your brand better if they actually use your swag than if it sits in the bottom of their junk-drawer.
Newspapers and Magazines
While it is always nice to see your name in print, it won’t do you any good if you are the only one who’s looking. The sad fact is that traditional printing is losing the battle against online and televised news and entertainment.
According to the Magazine Publishers of America, single copy and subscription sales of all ABC magazines dropped by over 10,000,000 annual copies from the year 2000 to the year 2008. An article written by David B. Wilkerson of Market Watch reported in April that U.S. newspaper circulation dropped 7% from September 2008 through March of this year, and the trend is unlikely to change any time soon.
As mobile devices with internet connections become more affordable, and media continues to shift to the internet, the value in print advertising will continue to diminish. Not only are people looking for instant access to their current events via the internet and TV, but consumers are also becoming more aware of the waste of resources (both natural and financial) that print produces. Opt instead to spread your message via the web. Pay-per-click advertising is affordable, effective, and can easily be set up through search engines and individual websites alike.
Green Marketing Tip: If you still want a paper ad, but don’t want to waste your money, advertise in a local events publication. Ad space is inexpensive, and you will be more likely to have your message seen by consumers in your neighborhood.
Regardless of how you decide to approach green business marketing, remember that your ultimate goal is to attract new customers and increase loyalty of existing ones. Make your message clear, easy to understand, and most of all – make it green.