One could make the point that marketing is often about answering the question: “Why would someone buy your product?” In B2B (business-to-business) product marketing, that question is most often answered based on one or more of the following three variables: Cheaper, Faster, Better.
Volumes of research suggest that purchasing decisions are largely based on factors of cost, performance (cost-effectiveness), and quality. Today, however, with more major companies becoming environmentally-conscious — with some even mandating the purchase of “Green” products that save energy, conserve resources, reduce emissions, and are biodegradable or recyclable – and government agencies implementing Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) plans, there is a new variable in this age-old mix.
Green has become a category all to itself. The marketing paradigm has shifted to become: Cheaper, Faster, Better, Greener.
However, marketing strategies and messages — especially in the B2B marketplace — still need to make legitimate and credible claims about their products and services. While it may be in vogue to suggest a green attribute of your product, it is essential to avoid trivializing the subject with marginal or inconsequential claims. Instead, there should be an obvious green benefit. After all, major companies (such as PepsiCo), government agencies, and educational institutions (such as Duke) have expressed their commitment to buying green products for infrastructure and other processes.
For these companies, agencies, and institutions whom are mandating the purchase of green products, green has become a fundamental part of the decision making process. Where appropriate the variables have become cheaper, faster, better, and greener.
Consider the case of Miura Boiler — a global leader in the manufacture of industrial steam boilers — and their effort to become a market leader in the North American market.
Steam remains a primary source of energy in manufacturing and processing food, textiles, pharmaceuticals, automotive products, and others. It also is drives critical systems for large educational institutions and hospitals by supplying steam for not only heat, but hot water, sterilization, and other important systems.
The typical industrial steam boiler manufacturer uses oil and gas to boil large amounts of water and turn them into steam in about two hours. Miura, a Japanese company with experience working under strict water conservation and emissions regulations in the Japanese market, developed a technology that could actually turn water to steam in about five minutes prior to entering the North American market.
This technology, developed before being “green” meant something other than money or a popular frog on a children’s TV show, boils the same amount of water as its counterparts. However, instead of using “one large pot,” these boilers distribute a similar amount of water boiled in several smaller pots enabling faster boiling times and increased water usage efficiency.
In turn, this reduced the amount of fuel (oil and gas) required to run these systems — an advantage that, as the cost of oil and gas began to climb, increasingly caught the attention of North American industrial boiler buyers.
The reality is that while many businesses and institutions place a value on environmental responsibility, green products that come with a higher price tag, like hybrid cars, can sometimes face marketing obstacles.
While green marketing is an increasingly important way to attract B2B customers and deliver your message, cheaper, faster, and better remain cornerstones of attracting customers.
For Miura however, fuel savings, of an estimated at 18 to 20 percent, was another compelling reason to buy a product that conserves resources, reduces the facility’s carbon footprint, and was a socially responsible choice.
If your company is considering implementing a green marketing strategy, note the following:
1. Green is not just the color of money, it is the color of social-responsibility.
More and more companies and institutions want to be socially responsible and perceived as buying green.
2. Don’t trivialize the subject with unsubstantiated or marginal claims.
While there are no strict guidelines for green claims, energy savings, resource conservation, and reduced emissions are benchmarks of green B2B products. Other valid platforms include: biodegradable and/or easily recycled, reduced toxins, and engineering for increased efficiency and reduced maintenance.
3. Price will always be a factor considered in purchasing decisions.
Selling green products at price points higher than competitors can dampen sales, unless the cost of consumables, such as energy, is predicted to dramatically increase in the near-term. If you plan to sell an energy-consuming green product at a higher price than less-efficient competitors, you may want to provide customers with information about applicable utility rebate programs, and government incentives.
4. Present your green message proudly and boldly.
Don’t hide your green message. It deserves more than a simple bullet point.
5. Keep your message focused and answer the question: “Why would someone buy your product?”
A focused message that answers this question is preferable to generalities that require the buyer to search for meaning.
6. Green marketing is an evolving discipline, but uses similar marketing tools to more established marketing areas.
Campaigns that leverage user commentary, case studies, thought leadership initiatives and other means attract potential buyers and establishes a comfort level with your company.
Bob Lipp is President of Marcomm Group, Inc., a B2B integrated marketing agency with a wide range of clients, some who have adopted the recommendations of the agency to market “green.”