Five Ways to Use Green To Grow Your Business with Marketing and PR

by Marcos Cordero on September 1, 2011
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Green messaging is everywhere these days – from billboards to magazine advertisements, restaurant menus to gas pumps.  There’s a reason for that.  While going green can drive down costs and can mean big savings from an operations standpoint, the flip side of the sustainability coin is the opportunity it presents to expose your product or service to the more than 40 million U.S. consumers who identify themselves as green.  This sector represents about 20 percent of U.S. adults, and is expected to grow by an additional 38 percent over the next three to ten years.  And they have money to spend.  Despite the recent economic downturn, two-thirds of these consumers say they are spending just as much (and 25 percent say they’re spending more) than they were before the recession.

So, how do you leverage your green initiatives to attract these consumers and their spending?  As with any other target audience, you can reach them through PR and marketing, with a few green twists.  Here are five steps for starting a successful green PR effort:

1)     Be Green, of Course
Studies show that if consumers don’t see your company as green, they won’t buy your product, even if it is green.  But don’t worry, these consumers are also savvy enough to realize no company can be 100 percent green. They just want to see that you’re making steps in that direction.  In fact, 87 percent of Americans say going green isn’t about global warming, it’s about cutting down on trash and waste, and another 12 percent say “don’t waste” is the strongest message to get them to buy green and conserve.  Small changes like paper reduction policies, energy and water conservation measures, and employee/customer recycling programs are surprisingly attractive to and effective with these practical consumers.

2)     Pick the Right Place for Your Green Message
Two of the best ways to places to communicate your green status are in the store and online.  Because 40 percent of consumers want to see more green information at the store level, and 28 percent say they want to see it displayed prominently on shelves or at the point of sale, in-store signage can be extremely successful. Online communication provides an easy way to communicate your green status through your website. In fact, when consumers are presented with information on sustainability practices online, conversion rates are several times higher than traditional e-commerce conversion rates.  New technologies like Quick Response Codes (QRCs) allow you to combine these methods.  In fact, the Green Business Bureau recently introduced the industry’s first use of a QRC, allowing consumers to access companies’ green scorecard online at the point of sale.

3)     Choose Environmentally-Friendly Marketing Materials
When it comes to green marketing, the medium must match the message.  Papering your neighborhood with flyers can send out the wrong message and make it seem as though your green efforts are a ploy to win customers (also known as “greenwashing”).  When designing marketing materials, use methods that limit waste, and choose recycled options whenever possible.  When using printed materials, ensure that you include a prominent statement specifying that they are printed on recycled paper or paper made from renewable resources.  Better yet, advertise exclusively online or through a solar-powered digital sign.  Remember, every choice you make is a reflection on the true intention of your green program.

4)     Adhere to Green Messaging Guidelines
The FTC recently issued an update to its Green Guides, designed to help marketers avoid green claims that are false or misleading.  These guidelines cover specific green claims, including terms like biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled content, and ozone safe, and provide direction on everything from wording to the proximity of environmental claims and qualifying statements.  While the Green Guides are not legally enforceable in themselves, the FTC has brought action for unfair and deceptive advertising (Section 5 of the FTC Act) against businesses that failed to adhere to their recommendations.   It’s vitally important that anyone with responsibility for green messaging familiarize himself with the Green Guides.

5)     Seek Green Accreditation
Gaining green certification through a third-party organization is a label that will help you grow your business.  As with the green messaging and marketing described above, consumers are looking for certification labels when deciding what companies to do business with.  In fact, 55 percent of consumers look for environmental labeling and 71 percent actively look for trust marks and certifications before doing online business with a merchant.  Certification from organizations like the Green Business Bureau show a consumer that your business is credible, safe, and trustworthy – and green.

Going green can be a boost to your bottom line when it comes to savings and cost reductions.  But, to get the most out of your sustainability efforts, use your green status to grow your business by attracting the right consumers.

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