Green marketing is an opportunity for your business to do the right thing and be rewarded for it.
Green Products and Services
Green marketing has two main aspects. The first is that it puts environmental considerations first when it comes to creating and selling products and services. For example, a lot of people use laundry services and dry cleaners. A green version of a laundromat would use cold water washing, water-efficient machines, gentle detergents, and energy-efficient washer and dryers. Some might even be solar powered.
A green dry cleaner would use fewer harsh chemicals that would have less of an impact on the environment, while still getting the job done. They would use less plastic and paper to wrap up the clothes and give customers incentives for bringing back the wire hangers so they don’t end up in the garbage, and therefore in landfills all over the country.
Green Marketing Methods
Green marketing can also be about ensuring that all of your marketing efforts are green and have a low impact upon the environment. For example, choosing whether to produce your sales materials on paper or digitally can have a huge impact on the environment, as well as on your bottom line.
If you decide you absolutely have to have a printed piece, your choice of paper and ink can also have a significant impact on the environment. Using recycled non-glossy paper and soy ink will make a huge difference compared to new paper that is coated (shiny) and has chemical-based inks.
If you are selling tangible goods, your choice of packaging will also have a significant impact. Again, paper and ink will affect how recyclable the packaging will be. If you use plastic, choosing a recyclable plastic can make all the difference between it being repurposed, or filling up landfills all over the world.
Even the day-to-day decisions in the office as you run your green business can have a significant impact on the environment. Do your colleagues hit the print button all the time without thinking? Or do you aim for a paperless office with good back-up on both hard drives and cloud storage?
Do you use paper cups and disposable plastic coffee pods? Or mugs and a standard coffee machine with a reusable stainless steel filter? If the latter, do you use the coffee grounds for mulch in your office plants or your own garden?
Which cleaning products do you buy for the office? Bottle after bottle? Or the small containers you use to refill the bottle and just add water? Are they green cleaner without harsh chemicals? Or heavy-duty ones that pollute the environment and even cause allergic reactions?
Once you enter the realm of green marketing, you will find that it connects with other ethical considerations and personal values. For example, green marketers will often source raw materials or buy wholesale from "fair trade" co-operatives and small businesses.
As the name suggests, fair trade means that the suppliers, such as coffee farmers, are paid a fair wage for their produce, not forced to live on a poverty-level wage. Coffee, tea, and cocoa are just a few of the items you might have in your office kitchen. Fair trade clothing, jewelry and furniture might all be part of your shopping site.
Green is a mindset and certain values you can share with your customers. Green marketing is therefore not just about selling, but is a way of life. Becoming more aware of green issues can be a path to greater profits once you start putting the planet first. Take a 360-degree look at your entire business and see if green marketing is for you.
One of the most common questions in relation to green marketing and selling more eco-friendly products is what price should be charged for them. This can be a tricky issue because people who run a business, and their loyal customers, can often hesitate when it comes to changing prices. And people who are just going into business need to have some sort of pricing benchmark so that their products and services will be comparable to those already on the market.
Business owners might be concerned that they will decrease sales if they increase prices. They might also be concerned that existing customers will feel they are getting a bad deal if they raise their prices.
Consumers are always concerned with getting good value for money. A price change might make your customer think that you don't value them. However, as with most effective marketing, the important thing to do is to understand the needs of your customers and what drives them when making purchasing decisions. It is also important to understand your own unique selling point - that is, why they should do business with you.
Greening Your Product Line
So your first step is to determine whether or not your customers are interested in green products. An easy way to do this is to look at your current product line and see if your top sellers can be transformed into greener versions of their existing selves.
If so, your next consideration will be maintaining the quality of the item. It should be just as good, if not better, than the existing product - only greener. If this is the case, most customers will not mind a price increase. This is because price and value are two different things.
Price versus Value
For example, not everyone looks for bargain-basement prices and shops at Walmart. They might have ethical concerns about whether their workers are treated well, where the raw materials are sourced from, and whether or not vendors that supply their products are fairly compensated. Since Walmart fails on all three counts, ethical shoppers will "vote" for more ethical companies with their dollars.
Studies have shown that customers interested in green issues have indicated they would be willing to pay 10% to 20% more for a product if it is green, provided that it gives them at least the same satisfactory experience as a product which is not. This being the case, you can use your current pricing as a guideline and add 10%.
The Financial Impact of Greening
Your next consideration will be if anything is going to change in terms of your raw materials. For example, switching to post-consumer waste paper for your packaging instead of your present packaging might actually work out cheaper, so you could keep your price the same and still win, and be greener too.
Or you might also decide that you wanted to source your raw materials from a fair-trade co-operative in Africa. In this case, you might pay a little bit more for your raw materials than you were previously, but you would also be doing something which was more ideologically sound and in keeping with green issues and the ethos of creating a better planet for everyone.
Announce this change on your website as a way of explaining any price increase, and most customers will be more than happy to pay a little bit more.
No matter which decisions you make regarding pricing, make sure that your customers understand the value proposition. In this way, they will actually feel good about the price increase, because they know that they are doing something worthwhile with their money.
There are a number of ways to start creating green products and services for your business. Your approach will depend on whether or not you are just starting a business, or have been in business for a while and wish to make your business greener.
Do Your Research
Your first step is to do your research. If you are starting your own business, you need to do niche research to determine whether the market you want to enter into will be profitable. Within that market, you then need to find out if green issues drive purchasing decisions.
For example, we know that dog training is a profitable niche, but are dog owners green, or interested in holistic living? The answer is yes. There are avid readers of Whole Dog Journal, for example, and would never miss an issue - especially the reviews of the healthiest all-natural dog foods for their beloved pet.
They will buy healthy toys that are not plastic and will steer clear of rawhide, since it is full of chemicals. They will avoid anything that says it is made in China after the pet food poisoning scandal that took so many pets' lives several years ago. Think about your niche and the green issues that might be driving your target customers' purchasing decisions, then cater to them.
Greening Your Existing Products
If you already have an existing business, it is important to survey your customer base to determine whether or not they would be interested in greener alternatives to your top-selling products. Below are a few ideas for creating greener products and services that your customers should love.
Organic Food Service
Ordering food online is booming. You could stand out if you were to offer organic whole food delivered fresh to people's doors every day. Emphasize freshness, locality, and taste in your chemical-free organic foods.
These days, people are interested in sustainable natural fabrics, not synthetics. You can source fabrics from all over the world that are 100% organic, such as linen, bamboo and cotton. There is also a great interest in recycled or upcycled items.
Some people love to shop in vintage stores, while others love repurposing pre-existing garments. For example, you can make great cushion covers with old sweaters, and even a wedding gown out of old umbrella fabric.
If you run a lawn maintenance and garden service, consider offering an organic one that promises no harmful pesticides and harsh chemicals will be used. When making choices about what products to use, also take into consideration any family pets and children. Cocoa mulch is all natural and very effective, but dogs have died from eating it because they should not consume chocolate.
Green Wedding Planning and Live Event and Party Planning
Weddings are a prominent example of conspicuous consumption. Many modern brides, however, are concerned with the impact of their wedding on the environment. They also hesitate about spending a lot of money on cut fresh flowers when there are many green alternatives, such as silk. If you are already a wedding planner, or live event or party planner, you will know all about the amount of waste such events can generate.
If this is the case, take a 360-look at the events you run to see how you can green them. Locate products and vendors and become an affiliate and earn a commission, or earn commission on referrals.
These are just a few simple ways to create green products and services you know there will be a market for, for greater profits.
Your website should be the hub of all of your marketing activity. If you decide that you are going to offer a new line of green products and services, the first place to start marketing this fact will be your own website.
If you have been in business for some time, one of the easiest ways to go green is to revamp your product line. Look at two or three of your best-selling products, and see if you can come up with greener versions of them. Ask your customers what they think of the idea. Survey your email marketing lists to see if they would also be interested in greener versions of your products.
Once you have done your market research, it will be time to take a 360-degree look at the product as it is at the moment to try to see in which areas it can become greener. For example, you might wish to look at the packaging. Opting for recycled cardboard and soy-based inks will make a significant difference in the impact your packaging has on the environment. Similarly, paying attention to the plastic that you use and opting for ones that are easily recyclable will also ensure that less trash goes into landfills.
When you make these decisions, write about them at your site. You might even write a press release about your changes if you are using any new, cutting-edge technology. For example, there is an inventor from New Zealand who has created a portable machine that can create standard-sized building bricks out of sea plastic shoveled up from beaches in the Hawaiian Islands, and using the bricks to make houses for the poor. That kind of innovation is headline-worthy and certainly should be reported on your website.
Greening Made Easy
Your website should also become the hub of all of your activity because a truly green company will try to be as clean as possible. This means discontinuing any paper catalogs or direct mail that you may have been using in order to market your products. This in turn will mean you need to do most of your marketing online, especially in relation to the social networks.
It might also mean ceasing to publish paperback books in favor of electronic ones and buying recycled photocopy paper and paper goods for the office and announcing that fact. All of these initiatives will have a significant environmental impact and you might even consider documenting all you do and the savings they involve. Then you can share your experiences and become a poster child for a leaner, greener company in your niche or industry.
You could even create eBooks, or become a coach or consultant, about greening one’s business, spinning new profitable products out of everything you learn. Naturally, you would launch these new products at your website.
Your About Us Page and Mission Statement
Your green initiatives also should also be part of your About Us page and mission statement. These "housekeeping" pages on your website are more important than you think. Google’s search engine spiders scan them more than any other pages at your site apart from your homepage.
New visitors to your site will want to know who you are, what your values are, and why they should do business with you. Don’t make them guess or hunt all over the site to find out this information. Put it where they can find it and be proud of your green offerings.
Your website should be a hive of activity, driving traffic to it to see all you have to offer. Once you have traveled down the path of being greener, be sure your website and all your marketing reflects that fact, and see what a difference it can make to your profits.
Once you decide to make your business greener, it will be important to market this fact to your target audience. One of the best ways to market any new initiative is on social media.
Having said that, announcing that your business is now greener can be a tricky proposition. On the one hand, regular customers don't really like change. On the other hand, up to 90% of US consumers are interested in green issues.
Know the Green Niche
About 20% of the US consumer base is "very green" - that is, takes green issues extremely seriously. Another 40% can be considered "medium green"; green issues tend to be one of their main considerations when they make any purchasing decisions, but it is not the most important one.
However, if you want to be seen as green and establish yourself as a green company, you have to be the real deal and "sell yourself" to the 20% who are truly green.
This is no easy feat. Fortunately, on social media, people tend to cluster in groups and share their interests. The green niche is a busy one. It also overlaps with other niches that have an ethical or even spiritual dimension.
For example, people who are interested in green issues are often also interested in LOHAS - that is Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. This is a holistic way of looking at the way they live their lives, from the foods they eat and hobbies they engage in, to the products they buy, the clothes they wear, and the housewares they purchase for their homes.
People interested in green issues are also often interested in holistic health, and are therefore willing to try herbal supplements, organic foods, and healthy activities such as yoga, tai chi, a walking program, and so on.
People who are green tend to make their purchasing decisions based on careful research about the impact that the product has on their environment. Consider how many people have purchased hybrid cars, for example.
They do detailed research before buying. Many of them go on social media to find out people's experiences of the green item before they make their final purchasing decision. This phenomenon, referred to as social search, can greatly influence your target market before they finally decide to press the button.
In the course of their research, a green shopper will ask friends and family, and treat social media signals as word-of-mouth advertising. In fact, studies have shown that feedback on social media sites is more trusted than information given by the manufacturer. Green consumers listen to what their peers tell them rather than what they manufacturers or labels tell them.
This being the case, it is important to make sure that you pay attention to reputation management and good customer service in relation to all of your products. Social media can be a double-edged sword. It can be a great opportunity for people to share experiences. On the other hand, it can be a tool for anonymous haters or rival companies to try to undermine your business.
However, if you are sincere and honest about your products, and really have ethical issues in mind rather than just trying to cash in on the trend, you should soon see an uptake in the green products and services you are offering to this influential and lucrative target customer base.
Your website will be the hub of all your marketing activity, so be sure to have social share buttons on your site or blog so visitors to your site can share on their social media accounts with just a click. In this way, your happy customers will spread the word and create the impression of a clean, green company worth doing business with.
Smart business owners are always looking for easy ways to expand their customer base. One of the ways to do this is through affiliate marketing.
Green affiliate marketing is a little bit more specialized, but it is possible to find green affiliate programs that you can join, and in turn find affiliates who are willing to market your green products.
Green Affiliate Marketing
If you are thinking of expanding and "greening" your business, one of the easiest ways to do this in a risk-free manner is to become an affiliate marketer. In this way, you can test the market and your customers’ interest in green products without spending a lot of time, money and energy creating them from scratch.
There are many companies which offer affiliate programs so that you can sell their products in exchange for a commission. You could also sign up for Amazon Associates and create an entire store of green products with just a few clicks.
In addition, there is direct selling - that is, face-to-face selling of brand-name products and services in exchange for a commission. Good examples of top direct sales companies would be Tupperware and Pampered Chef. Avon and Mary Kay are also hugely popular; however, since they now test their products on animals, they are no longer green and ideologically sound.
However, you are sure to find a large number of green companies if you search for green affiliate programs and green direct sales companies in Google. Sign up for the programs, start selling, and track your results.
Getting Green Affiliates and Joint Venture Partners
If you are already selling green products, it is important to look for affiliates to help you broaden your customer base. Your best affiliates might also be willing to form joint venture partnerships with you, in which you work on mutually profitable deals together in order to make more sales.
In terms of green affiliate marketing, the process is similar to becoming a green affiliate yourself. Online affiliate marketplaces are a hive of activity with many opportunities that should be right for your business. Some of the top ones like CJ.com and Rakuten LinkShare are easy to use as an affiliate, but too expensive for small businesses to use if they wish to look for affiliates.
Fortunately, there are a couple of marketplaces which are affordable. ClickBank is the best affiliate marketplace for selling digital products - a perfect green product. For example, an eBook conserves trees, water, chemicals, ink and so forth.
ClickBank has recently also allowed people to start selling tangible products at their site, such as herbal supplements, customized clothing and mugs, and so forth. The listing fee for each of your items is currently $50. You set the commissions, which can range from 50% to 75%.
Another good site for picking up green affiliates is PayDotCom.com. It allows you to sell both the digital and tangible goods and has a very easy-to-use interface. You can create a shopping cart, and also offer valuable resources for your affiliates in order to help them sell your products like pros.
Joint Venture Partnerships
Once you are working as an affiliate, or have affiliates, you will get to know both you competitors and those who sell similar but not identical products to your own. You might decide to approach them with a deal, or vice versa. The deals usually involve mailing to each other’s email lists and splitting the sales 50/50. Other deals can be more complicated if you work well together.
Becoming a green affiliate, and collecting an army of green affiliates, are two of the easiest ways to grow your business by leaps and bounds and tap into this multibillion-dollar market.
Once you’ve starting thinking about green marketing, it might be a good idea to get support as you set up your products and services and start creating your marketing material along the correct green guidelines.
The Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) in the US has a range of free resources to help business owners start up and run their own green business. Topics include creating green products and services, advertising, green marketing, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) compliance for green marketing materials, and market research.
It also lists green marketing case studies, energy efficiency guidelines, green commuting ideas, and green contracting opportunities to sell goods and services to the government.
The Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers small businesses information on compliance with all key regulations, including energy efficiency ratings. It also offers training, grant opportunities and guidelines on how to get certified as a small business with the EPA.
They also offer the Safer Choice resource https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice for consumers and manufacturers so they can make smart decisions about what raw materials to use and what products are best to buy. As part of this program, they also offer guidelines for a safe environment in the workplace in terms of chemicals, and a similar program in reference to the use of pesticides.
The Sustainable Marketplace program
The Sustainable Marketplace https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts is run by the EPA and offers guidelines on choosing and sourcing greener products if you are a business or institution. It also offers consumers advice about how to make greener choices in relation to the many items they buy, which can give valuable insight into exactly what green consumers are looking for and why.
The Global Add to dictionary Network
The Global Add to dictionary Network (GEN) oversees various types of green certification. Depending on the kind of product, a company can write their own declaration of their product or service being green, or get certification or a license. If the certification is mandatory, the GEN can help ensure that any hazard warning and essential information about the product is correct. The manufacturer can also get seals of approval, report cards and single certification, such as Energy Star compliance and ratings.
The Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers detailed guidance about acceptable marketing practices in relation to green marketing, which they refer to as environmental marketing. It gives clear definitions of various key terms, such as organic and "clean diesel", and specific labeling guidelines. The full document can be found at: https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-issues-revised-green-guides/greenguides.pdf. It offers definitions on a number of topics commonly found on labels, such as "free of", non-toxic, and more.
Environmental Health Perspectives
This useful journal, published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), offers a wide range of articles regarding the impact of various manufacturing practices on the environment and how to produce cleaner, greener products. Their article on greenwashing is a must-read for anyone wishing to produce honest and accurate green marketing materials and ads. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/118-a246/
Your Current Vendors
If you are thinking of making your products greener, check with your suppliers. Chances are they have greener versions of many of the products or raw materials that you use. You get to maintain your existing business relationships with reliable vendors and they get to keep you as a happy customer.
If you are thinking of going green, there’s no need to go it alone. There are many third parties and free resources available that can help you navigate the new waters of green marketing, and make sure you set yourself up for success.
There are a number of common mistakes new green marketers make that can cost you big time if you aren’t careful. Some are totally inadvertent. Others are deliberate, and can ruin your brand’s reputation if you get caught.
1. Not knowing your niche
The green marketing niche is booming, so it is easy to get carried away with the idea of jumping on the bandwagon in order to ride along the trail to profits. However, it is important to know your market, and make sure that your messaging is on point.
About 20% of US consumers are considered to be "true green" - that is, very keen and knowledgeable about the issue, so you need to win them over if you are going to succeed in tapping into the entire 90% of the population who has expressed some interest in buying green products.
2. Not thinking through the full implications
Your product needs to pass the test with True Greens if you wish to establish a good reputation as a green marketer offering eco-friendly products and services. You also need to demonstrate a green ethos in your company to prove that you are not just paying lip service to green values.
Some companies have been caught out when extreme greens dig through their trash to find out just how much recycling they are really doing, or investigate the origins of their raw materials to determine whether or not it is green and fair trade so that no one is exploited.
3. Not taking into account the intelligence and commitment of this audience
Those who think about green issues usually tend to do research about the topic and question the products they buy to see if they are green enough. In addition, they worry about fair trade and also LOHAS, Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.
For many green shoppers, it is not just a case of buying a tube of toothpaste. Any purchase is part of an entire focus on holistic living. They consider price and quality, but also raw materials, where they come from, if products are tested on animals, and so on. They read labels and do background research, so your product needs to be able to stand up to this kind of intense and intelligent scrutiny if you are to succeed in business.
4. Not getting your labeling right
Green marketers can get carried away with cool slogans and their own rhetoric. They also don’t think things through thoroughly because they often don’t know their market well enough - or, in a worst-case scenario, try to trick consumers by presenting themselves as green when they really aren’t.
For example, Clorox boasts about greener cleaners, but they still churn out caustic ones by the gallon. A car company might boast about their hybrid vehicles, but a quick internet search reveals that they are manufacturing ten times more gas-guzzling autos each year.
Misleading consumers about the extent to which your company is green is termed "greenwashing" and comes from the term whitewashing, making something appear cleaner than it really is. In this case, companies who greenwash are trying to make their products seem more eco-friendly than they really are. But since True Greens can be such intelligent consumers, greenwashing is a bad idea if you value your reputation and profits long term.
These common errors in green marketing can cost you if you make them, or try to trick your target market. Put green ethics above profits and you should soon have a successful green company with happy customers and a good reputation.
If you have been running a successful business for some time, you might be wondering about ways to increase sales or develop new products your target market might be interested in. One of the ways to expand your line while giving yourself the best chance of success is to consider "greening" your business, and/or the top sellers in your line of products and services.
The first step before taking any action is to determine whether or not your customers care about being green.
Are Your Customers Green?
In case you aren't sure whether your customers are interested in green issues, here's the good news. Studies have shown that 90% of all US consumers are interested in green issues, and take them into consideration when making a purchase.
The studies outline three distinct green consumer groups. Around 20% of the US market is considered "deep green", that is, greatly interested in green issues and with green motivations as their driving force.
Another 40% is "medium green", strongly influenced by green issues when they make purchasing decisions. Another 30% has shown some interest in green products if it makes sense for them to purchase them. Creating products that are low-risk to purchase because they are not overly costly is one way to lure these potential customers.
All three groups will be looking for products and services which do their job as good as or better than existing traditional products. If you can do this at a reasonable price, you can find committed consumers.
Survey Your Customers
If you are still not sure if your target market is interested in green products after reading those statistics, the best way to find out is to survey them. Use your email marketing list to send out a simple survey that you have created at SurveyMonkey. Ask them if they would be interested in greener versions of your top products. Get them to rank their preferences so you know what to work on first.
Understand Green Issues
Also keep in mind that it is not enough to simply have products that you call "green". Green is also a mindset and group of values. For example, green is about sustainability, being organic, and often fair trade as well - in which suppliers from developing nations, for example, are fairly compensated for their produce and work, not just fobbed off with rock-bottom prices.
Other Ethical Considerations
Another set of ethical considerations to take into account might have to do with political orientation. For example, some people refuse to buy any products from certain countries because they do not feel that they wish to support those countries for various reasons, such as a poor human rights records, or concerns about safety and business ethics.
For example, many people in the US avoid anything made in China, both for political reasons and also for concerns over quality control. The dog food, baby formula, and Chinese steel industry scandals have made the American public very skittish about purchasing Chinese goods. Due to concerns over the balance of trade and preserving jobs in the US, many consumers are also now looking for "made in the USA" on the labels instead.
When labeling your products, be sure to be honest. The item might be made in the US but the raw materials might be sourced from one or more countries abroad.
Consumers are voting with their dollars more than ever now, so if you are interested in launching a green product line, be sure to check with your customers first to determine if they are interested in green products, and what is motivating that interest. In this way, you can cater to them with just the right new products and services and boost your profits.
If you have been thinking of becoming a green marketer - that is, turning your existing business into a greener one in order to attract customers interested in green issues - it is important to understand whether or not your existing customers are green already. If they aren’t yet, they soon could be if you lead the charge and set a good example of how to become more eco-friendly.
What Is Green Marketing?
Green marketing is all about marketing products and services which can be considered greener than what is readily available on the market at present. For example, if you were going to open a green dry cleaning business, it would use less harsh chemicals, recyclable plastic, reusable hangers and shirt boxes, and so on.
You would also need to educate consumers about why green dry cleaning is as good as, if not better than, existing dry cleaning. By explaining what the difference is, you can justify any price difference related to your new green product line.
Studies have shown that customers have indicated they would be willing to spend 10 to 20% more on a green product versus a traditional product - provided that it gives the same level of performance, if not better, than what they usually use.
Running a Green Business
Green marketing is also about being conscious of waste in the business and trying to have as small a carbon footprint as possible in the running of the business.
The easiest place to lead the charge here is to stop creating paper catalogs and other paper-based sales materials. Instead, create an online catalog with full details of all of your products, and keep it updated frequently. Drive people to the site with classified ads in your local paper or niche-related or industry-related magazines.
Make the most of your email marketing lists to remind people to come to the site and see what's new. Have regular product launches and promote them on social media and online press release distribution services. In this way, you will be spreading the word about your new green products and services, but without having a significant impact on the environment.
Around the office there are likely many things you can do to make it leaner and greener. And in this way, you can show your target customers that you are not just trying to cash in on the green trend, but are genuinely concerned about the environment. For example, use recycled paper in your printer, along with soy-based inks. Use recycled toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels as needed.
In terms of paper towels, consider buying cotton hand towels and washing them regularly rather than using up a lot of paper towels. Use mugs instead of disposable cups. Use a regular coffee machine instead of a Keurig so all those little plastic pods don’t litter the planet.
Use a stainless steel reusable filter in your coffee machine basket so you don’t even have to waste paper on coffee filters. Buy water filters and filtered water jugs to cut back on bottled water use. Use BPA-free plastic (or stainless steel) water bottles and travel mugs to cut down on trash and plastic in the environment.
There are many things you can do to educate your customers about green issues. But first you have to learn yourself. Once you do, you can take a 360-degree look at your products, services, office, and vendors. In this way, you will be able to clean and green your company, and impress customers who are interested in green issues.