Marketing products on their “green” benefits can be a very productive business strategy, with many opportunities and advantages over more traditional marketing programs. That said, when designing a green messaging platform it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in what the company believes are the product’s most obvious green advantages. Surprisingly, however, many times the most obvious benefits aren’t the ones that resonate loudest with potential customers.
So before you approach the potential customer, it is important to have a good understanding of the areas that can yield big benefits for them. Let’s take as an example a small start-up light-emitting diode (LED) lighting solutions company, Greenhouse Strategies (GHS), and see how an amazing 75 percent energy savings was not the benefit that sealed the deal with a mining company that deploys hundreds of lighting units daily.
GHS is a company that develops and manufactures industrial and municipal LED lighting solutions. Their proprietary technology gives GHS the ability to provide superior light quality – rendered to match the qualities of daylight – with outputs suitable for industrial purposes. Applications include: mobile light towers for construction, law-enforcement activities, and outdoor industrial applications; street lamps for roadways and parking facilities; and other specialty LED applications.
When GHS first approached the mining company with its portable lighting solution for that industry GHS was prepared to highlight its 75 percent energy savings compared with industry-standard metal halide lamps. While the energy cost savings were potentially large, a bigger cost savings with a larger environmental benefit was soon uncovered as discussions progressed towards a deal.
“Initially, we thought that energy cost savings were going to be a key point in closing the deal with the mining company,” said Michael Morris, one of GHS’ principals. “But as discussions continued it became apparent that one of the largest issues facing the mining company was the upwards of $30,000 per day in fines it was paying to the government for improper disposal of broken metal halide lamps.”
Metal halide lamps contain mercury and other elements that, if improperly disposed of, can cause harm to the surrounding environment. Given the dangerous nature of mining activities, however, broken metal halide bulbs and the resulting fines were an all-too-common (and expensive) cost of doing business.
“While the energy cost savings of LED lighting can pay for these units many times over during the lifespan of the product, the savings in fines and the benefits to the environment were much more significant than any energy savings for this application,” added Morris. “Our units are not only built to last, but in the event they should become broken, no heavy metals are released into the surrounding soil and air.”
As GHS continued to find markets and court customers for its products, a counterintuitive pattern began to emerge that now guides their marketing efforts.
Intuitively, given the active role government agencies are taking in developing and implementing regulations to protect the environment, one would think that green messages such as reduced pollution and easy, inexpensive disposal would resonate loudly among government entities than with corporations. But GHS found the opposite to be true.
“When we approached municipalities with our dark-sky-complaint LED street lights, the overwhelming emphasis was on short-term and long-term bottom lines,” expressed Morris. “This opened our eyes that we need to present municipalities with a very different argument than corporations, as interests and areas for potential savings vary greatly between the public and private sectors.”
The lesson that the GHS example teaches us is that when it comes to green marketing — one size does not fit all.
So before you begin designing a green marketing campaign that is focused on a single environmental or energy saving benefit, ask yourself the following questions:
- What green advantages to my product are most relevant to my target market?
- How can these advantages help the customer’s bottom line?
- How can these advantages reduce fines or waste-handling costs?
- What are the most significant regulations facing the industry you are trying to sell to?
- What other non-monetary benefits can the customer gain from using your products?
By carefully highlighting your products’ green benefits and tailoring your messages to focus on the benefits most relevant to the target market, it is possible to overcome objections to the increased up-front costs of, and resistance to, adoption of new and greener technologies.
Bob Lipp is President of Marcomm Group, Inc. (www.marcommgroup.com) a B2B integrated marketing agency with a wide range of clients, some who have adopted the recommendations of the agency to market “green.”