[Clare Delaney has been a leader in the ecofriendly movement for years. I’ve asked Clare to talk with me about marketing to groups that have strong, cohesive values and deep loyalties to those they do business with. Specifically we talk about capturing a new market for you!]
Kevin Hogan: Clare, hey thanks for doing this with me. I think Coffee Readers will have a lot of fun with this.
I was talking with my son today about how everyone in our family has the same insurance agent. Dennis was a bit of a mentor to me when I was a kid and I have had my insurance needs taken care of by him forever. I passed that same sense of loyalty to my family.
Today he is a wealthy person because he gets how to capture and KEEP people like me who will remain loyal forever. I have no idea if his company is the best company, but he always cared.
It would take a lot for me to even entertain leaving Dennis as my insurance agent.
Now let’s take that Loyal Mindset and change the context to Greens.
When you and I have talked about Ecofriendly People, I’ve often used terms like Evangelize. I would like to respectfully refer to Ecofriendly People as Greens. Just as I’m an evangelical for my insurance agent, Green people seem to be advocates of a lifestyle and ideology.
These consumers are REALLY LOYAL to their beliefs and ideals and do not tolerate a lot of hype. That certainly would match my feelings when it comes to insurance and my agent.
What can my reader who might like to direct their message to a market of people who have the TRAIT of being loyal to an ideology, do to capture these hearts and minds?
Clare Delaney: It’s what we all dream of – customers who are such loyal fans of you, your products, your business, that they tell everyone they know how wonderful you are!
Those customers are there for the taking – but you need to know exactly how to turn them into rabid fans.
Kevin Hogan: Will you show us what to do to get those fans?!?
Clare Delaney: I’m going to show you exactly how to do it.
The customer I’m talking about is the “green” consumer. Let’s call them “Greens” for short.
The interesting thing from a marketing point of view about the green consumer is that they rarely feel they are doing “enough” for the environment, they always feel they can do more.
Kevin Hogan: Another group of people might feel they never are doing enough for their family. Another might feel that they always want to do for their employees. Yet another for their friends. Another group for their spouse.
Clare Delaney: Exactly.
The nice thing about the green customer is that they rarely expect any company they buy from to be 100% totally green. What they want to see is you making genuine progress towards that goal, making significant improvements.
When a green customer finds a product which they believe does minimal harm to themselves, their families, and the environment, they tell everyone they know all about it.
Kevin Hogan: They want their feelings to not just go viral but to be experienced by everyone else?
Clare Delaney: Yes.
Most Greens are avid users of social media, and many are also active bloggers. When you impress them with your green credentials, they will tell the world about you.
Kevin Hogan: So, how do you find – and satisfy – the green consumer?
Finding the Green Consumer
Clare Delaney: The best place to start is to find them on social media.
Look for hashtags and keywords such as:
- Eco friendly
- Water / CleanWater
- BPA / BPAFree
- Phthalates / PhthalateFree
Also consider these, depending upon your product:
Kevin Hogan: It just makes sense. And by extension for our readers who might not benefit from marketing to the loyal Green, they would look for precisely the same hashtags and keywords for a niche that would make sense for them. Maybe they want to market to the just married or the people who are dating.
We are looking for PEOPLE not just thinking about OUR product.
Profile of the Green Consumer
Clare Delaney: Right. So with that in mind you want to have a profile of your future loyal customer. For the Green, that person has very specific traits.
As with any marketing, you need to know the concerns or pressure points of the customer.
Greens are concerned about toxins in their homes and in the products they buy.
Greens worry about pollution, and the effect of it on their family’s health.
And Greens are genuine in their concern – they really, truly want to live more safely and do less harm to other people and to the planet.
As for demographics, the majority of Greens are women – and that’s great because women make most of the purchasing decisions, and they purchase on behalf of men, too.
When it comes to age, the US in general is a little different from the rest of the English-speaking world – in the US it’s often children and teens who are more aware of the environment, and they influence their parents to move towards greener products. (Remember that within a decade, those Green Teens will have their own purchasing power).
Many young mothers are also green, but more for reasons of health and safety for their families than the environment.
But in Australia, New Zealand, parts of Canada and in Western Europe, greens tend to span all age groups and are already purchasing green products as a matter of course. They tend to take it very much for granted that they must reduce their impact on the planet.
Kevin Hogan: OK, I think that is more than 99% of readers know about their current buyers.
Once you have a group of people that are so close in philosophy you run into some problems, right?
I’m assuming that TRUST is a huge issue for people that so strongly identify with not just one thing but a theme, a church, a movement, a segment of a political party.
Clare Delaney: Exactly. The question is, “How do you Overcome Mistrust?”
Greens tend to distrust claims made by product manufacturers (probably with good reason!).
But you as the marketer developer of a product or service need to overcome mistrust and cynicism in most markets.
Suppose you created a new product which had, say, 25 percent less fat content that the previous version?
Would you put a “25% Less Fat!” label on your product if you couldn’t prove it?
Of course not!
Kevin Hogan: A lot of companies do that. And of course, less fat than WHAT!? But if you want to be taken seriously obviously you want to be accurate in labeling or it will come back to bite you later. Business Karma.
Clare Delaney: Consumers have a lot of information today that they simply did not have access to 25 years ago. Companies win if they publish the studies that conclusively prove a claim – and make them readily available.
Build a dialogue of open transparency with your customers. They will reward you for it.
Greens appreciate “value” and they have the education and intelligence necessary to understand any evidence you want to give them to support your environmental claims.
Greens won’t know every single “green” aspect of your specific products, and so consumer education – particularly over social media – needs to be a very important part of your marketing strategy.
Kevin Hogan: This is important. There ARE a lot of smart people out there and good scientists or faithful believers got that way because of a REASON.
They do care. They want to be better people. They want to share. They want to make a difference.
Does this mean that because of the strong connection they have to a set of beliefs, ideas – that they will spend more for a better product?
Clare Delaney: Something else that’s nice about the green consumer is that some will be willing to pay a premium price for your products if you can prove that they are genuinely green products that work well.
For example, Harvard researcher Michael J. Hiscox showed that consumers paid 45 percent more for shirts on eBay that were “ethically certified”.
And we already know that people will happily pay a premium for Fair Trade products: Farmers get a better deal which allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. And consumers have a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping, by paying a small premium to support the Fair Trade process.
Kevin Hogan: OK, so we learn that having smart and loyal clients and customers can be a very good thing, indeed. What else are these clients and consumers looking for, specifically for Greens which we can generalize to other groups?
Clare Delaney: Don’t forget convenience. If you sell a cleaner that’s green, for example, greens will not go to a separate store to buy it. If they would normally buy your product in a supermarket, then they want green versions in the same place.
Kevin Hogan: Good point. Great products need to be readily accessible. What else? Walk the reader through how Greens think so Coffee Readers will:
- learn how to REALLY understand the THINKING process of THEIR CURRENT CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS and
- learn how to map that over to another group that makes sense to be using their product or service.
Greening Your Business
Clare Delaney: Showing true commitment to the environment takes more than slick marketing and big promises.
It means running your company in a way that actually does no harm to the planet.
Try to structure your business to make money by cleaning and improving the environment we all depend on.
Choosing to do so can bring great dividends for CEOs and shareholders, as well as for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the earth that sustains us all.
There doesn’t need to be a conflict between the planet and profit.
It’s simply about maximizing benefits while minimizing detriments.
When we create things – products or energy for example – we create waste. Waste reduces profit, so it only makes sense to reduce or eliminate waste. When we reduce waste, we also reduce pollution, so our air, water and land sustain us better.
Concern for the environment fueled a move to organic produce. Consumers sought to protect both the planet and their health by eating food that had been less intensively farmed, and subject to fewer chemicals. This, in turn, gave rise to other “environmentally friendly” products, such as detergents.
Detergents that we use to wash our clothes contain phosphates. Those phosphates go down the drain and ultimately end up in our waterways. The link is not tenuous – protect waterways, and you protect lives.
Green products are good for us as an instrument of health. According to the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health, there are approximately 100,000 industrial chemicals in use worldwide – but only 3,000-4,000 of them have been evaluated for their toxicity.
Kevin Hogan: And once again, I want the reader to see that THIS is what knowing your customer really means! Is there a predominant theme that runs in the thinking and feeling process of the Green market? If you know how people think, you can capture their attention.
Also, I want you to tell me how Kevin Hogan can capture more greens without generalizing to other demographics and lifestyles.
Clare Delaney: The best piece of advice I can give you if you want to appeal to the green consumer is “Question Everything”.
What impact do your actions have on all the people involved with you? This can be everybody from farmers and miners supplying raw materials, on up to the CEO of the company.
Explore how your customers use their products and how they dispose of them.
Can you do some training and education programs? Computer companies, for example, could help underprivileged kids by giving them access to technology.
Your staff are great resources that you can tap – they’ll often be able to suggest improvements.
Try to benefit the natural order as much as possible – or at the least do no harm and minimise environmental impact.
Look at the entire life cycle of your actions – try to determine the true cost of what you’re doing in regards to the environment.
Find ways to reduce your energy usage.
Can you reduce packaging?
Can you render waste less toxic before disposing of it in a safe and legal manner?
Can you use renewable energy sources?
Can you ask your suppliers to use less packaging?
Can you offer concentrated products?
Can you ban certain ingredients from your products?
Research what other companies are doing to make a positive change in the way they do business. Looking at the steps they’ve taken will save you time brainstorming on ways to improve your own business.
Kids tend to be quite environmentally aware, so can you appeal to that? Innocent Drinks owe their success to savvy youngsters – their colourful labels tell children how to eat their “five a day,” while also promising to plant trees in developing countries, if they convince their parents to buy more of its products …
H.J. Heinz’s Ohio facility reduced its solid landfill waste by re-using approximately 350,000 lbs. of plastic materials that would have otherwise been disposed of. They decreased the need to purchase additional raw materials which supports the planet and saves money.
Always consider “cradle to grave” of all your products. Consider the growth and harvesting of raw materials to manufacture to distribution to eventual disposal by the end user.
In 2008 Marks & Spencer, a British department store, was concerned about the huge volume of clothes that end up in landfills every year. They teamed up with nonprofit Oxfam to resell used or unwanted clothing. Called shwopping, it’s been one of M&S most successful initiatives. Shwopping has raised over 5 million pounds ($ 7,160,450 US dollars) for Oxfam, and 1 billion items of clothing are diverted from landfill each year. As a direct result of shwopping, Marks & Spencer has seen a rise in customer traffic for its clothing and thus further stickiness to its brand while also helping the firm to reduce waste.
Remember that currently, the cost of disposing of non- degradable or toxic products is borne financially by governments and environmentally by the residents near the disposal site and elsewhere. People living close to a cement or power plant often have a lot of air pollution.
Kevin Hogan: What else can companies do to capture your market? This is all so fascinating because no one goes this deeply into who their customer is, how they think, why they do or do NOT do business with company a instead of b.
Clare Delaney: It all matters to greens.
Consider a ‘green’ building – one that uses natural heating and cooling methods instead of mechanical.
Create shade with roof overhangs or trees, use special glass which blocks about 70% of the sun’s solar heat energy but still lets in 64% of visible light. This means you’ll need smaller cooling systems, which reduces building costs and long-term energy consumption.
And it’s not only fancy, glossy corporate headquarters. You can green a small office and your home, and it’s really easy – and not expensive at all
In the same way as you’d look at different tiles or different carpets, look for green options such as lo-flow faucets and LED lighting. Instead of fibreglass insulation (you can’t touch it, installers wear masks and protective clothing, and there are airborne particles – it’s not a friendly material), buy insulation made from recycled denim (you can handle it safely, it doesn’t off-gas, safe, it costs same as fibreglass and has the same r-value or effectiveness as fibreglass). As well as your own safety, you’re saving denim going to landfill.
By the way, people who work in green buildings typically show 6 – 16 % improved productivity that becomes a measurable benefit that can ultimately be linked to profitability and shareholder value. What’s more, employees feel better about their work environment and their employer, creating stronger employee relationships and company loyalty.
Kevin Hogan: Let’s consider modifying our current products, services, messages to capture a demographic like greens. How does that work? When does it fail?
Clare Delaney: Obviously, you can incorporate a number of ‘green’ improvements into a new or refurbished product – and if they appeal to customers, then you can cost-effectively incorporate those changes into your other product lines.
An environmentally-improved product can successfully renew an aging brand.
Green improvements made to a ‘youth’ line can also be readily applied to ‘adult’ product lines.
If you have products that are traditionally sold to men, then increase your sales by marketing ‘green’ improvements to women, because they are increasingly purchasing items like automobiles and paints, as well as men’s clothes and toiletries.
A very cool concept is to tie a product’s environmental attributes to the lifestyle of target consumers.
Millions of hikers, for example, care about protecting wild lands; boaters are concerned about clean lakes and streams; and mothers worry about their children’s health.
So a watersport product manufactured in a way that reduces water pollution carries an innate appeal to many boaters, while green household cleaners that substitute safe ingredients for dangerous chemicals will appeal to mothers.
Measure what you are doing so you can report it to your fans.
How will know if you’re improving? And how can you prove to potential customers that you’re greening your business?
There are no universal standards, but you could measure the following:
- Average hours of training/employee
- From welfare to career retention
- Volunteer projects
- Charitable contributions
- Local minimum wage compared to what you pay
- % of locals employed and at what level at significant locations of your company
- Safety incident rate
- Lost/restricted workday rate
- Sales dollars per kilowatt hours
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Use of post-consumer and industrial recycled material
- Water consumption
- Amount of waste to landfill
- % of spend on local supplies
- supplier policies
- Infrastructure investments and services provided primarily for public benefit
- Materials used – weight / volume and type,
- % recycled materials, (input and waste).
- Direct and indirect energy consumption, by source.
- Energy saved.
- Energy-efficient initiatives and what they’ve saved
- Total water withdrawal by source.
- Water sources significantly affected by water withdrawal.
- % and total volume of water recycled and reused.
- Land owned or leased
- Biodiversity on that land, and impacts of your activities on it
- Strategies, current actions and future plans for biodiversity management
- Wildlife, fish and birds affected by operations, especially if they are endangered
- Direct and indirect GHG emissions
- other chemical emissions
- waste by weight and disposal method
- Significant spills
- water discharge
- Total environmental protection expenditures and investments.
Kevin Hogan: WOW!
Give me one more thing that greens think about so we can both talk to greens and then talk to other groups of people who are in different demographics but use the same strategic thinking and approaches.
The Grandfather Test
Clare Delaney: Our children will inherit the world that we’re creating today.
Next time you make an important decision, I’d really like you to apply the “grandfather test”.
What’s the grandfather test? What will your children’s children say about you and the way you did business?
Will your grandchildren know that you worked hard because you love where you work? Will they know that you loved your family and you cared about their future? Will they know you wanted to give them a healthy, safe environment to grow up in?
It’s More Than Just More Customers
Of course, you want more customers to be happy with your products so they’ll tell others so you get more customers.
But you also benefit your own family when you make your business more appealing to the green consumer.
When people can see that you care, they truly want to do business with people like themselves.
There is SO MUCH to gain from making minor shifts that will make huge changes in public attitude and patronage of your company.
Because we all want our families to grow up in a safe environment, and we want to know their economic future is secured as well.
Remember the Grandfather Test.
Give yourself the gift of long-term security.
And give your kids the world that they deserve.
Free bonuses for Coffee readers:
Clare is giving you free checklists for you to utilize in implementing the ideas in this article. (no sign up required):
View this 22 minute video for a video version of this article:
Clare Delaney lives on a tiny tropical island and writes about living more simply, with less stress and fewer toxins. You can find out more and get a free report as well as an update from her each week.