I may disagree with one or two of the recommendations made here below by Derek Markham (for instance, promoting a website as the number one green marketing solution is somewhat “last year’s thinking”, when one considers that website-based interactive communications is experiencing a fast rate of decline, as application-based (mobile, desktop, TV, etc) interconnectivity ramps up exponentially), but the overall message and insights are impressive and worthy of sharing. As ever, your thoughts and comments are welcomed!
25 Ways to Go Green Marketing, Without Blowing Up Your Marketing Budget
Marketing might seem synonymous with advertising, leading some green business owners to run out and get print ads in industry magazines or local newspapers, print up a bunch of postcards or flyers for direct mailing by mail, or perhaps even lease a billboard. While some of those might work for some businesses in some markets, there are ways for businesses to use green marketing to increase their reach without investing large amounts of cash.
Don’t Blow Up Your Marketing Budget, Green It Up Instead With These 25 Green Marketing Tips:
- Take your marketing to the web with your own website: The internet has radically changed the landscape of marketing by enabling business owners to have a virtual home for their paperless advertising – their own website. For only a minimal investment of money, your green business can have its doors open 24 hours a day.
- Use geolocation apps to reach local customers: Reaching the right customers at the right time is a key component of any green marketing campaign. Use popular geolocation apps like Gowalla or FourSquare to boost the effectiveness of your paperless advertising programs.
- Pursue social media marketing: With the huge surge in social networking and bookmarking, your business can take advantage of the new media landscape as a part of your paperless advertising efforts. Set up social media profiles for your business and start making connections to customers, suppliers, clients, and your competitors.
- Choose a green web host for your site: All hosting companies are not created equal. Does your web host use renewable energy purchasing? Do they buy carbon offsets? It might mean paying a little more to know that your web host is as green as possible, but any extra above the normal rates can be considered part of your green efforts and used in your marketing messages.
- Offer a digital mailing list option: If you use direct mail to reach current customers, create a digital version and offer that option via email to all new and current subscribers.
- Clean up your mailing list: How often do you update and clean your mailing list? With so many people on the move each year, you’re bound to end up with duplicate or wrong addresses, which translates to wasted resources during mailings. Use a service or software to regularly clean your list, and make it easy for customers to update their contact information with you. The potential savings here for businesses with large lists is quite high, especially when considered in conjunction with having a digital mailing list.
- Offer digital downloads of marketing assets: Make digital versions of all of your marketing materials and be sure they’re easy to find and download. An electronic version of your catalog can be easily shared by customers, and can be updated much quicker and cheaper than a printed one. Plus, it’s virtually cost-free if you already have the files ready to upload.
- Upcycle your advertising materials: Look into upcycling or repurposing your advertising and marketing materials, such as having your old billboards turned into shopping or messenger bags. Use those products as great green swag for events or contests.
- Green your giveaways: What kinds of gimme items do you pass out? If they are meant to be disposable or only single use, it just creates more waste. Products such as cloth shopping bags with your logo are not only a useful item for customers, but they serve as mobile billboards for your business. Consider the environmental effects of your promotional items before committing to them, and instead of giving away four throwaway items each year, focus on one quality free item.
- Use a green printing service: Going truly paperless isn’t really an option for most businesses, so when you have printing jobs, choose an eco-friendly printing service. What kind of recycled paper do they offer? What kind of inks do they use? Are they powered by renewable energy?
- Choose 100% recycled content paper: When printing promotional flyers, mailers, business cards, brochures, or other paper products, opt for a paper stock made from 100% post-consumer content. Not only is the cost only a little more than other paper choices, but recycled paper only uses half as much energy to make as virgin pulp. To make up for any extra cost, consider printing only what you need, or print fewer than your usual amount and make it clear that a digital version is also available.
- Go with green clothing: Do you have company t-shirts or uniforms? Make the choice to have them produced from organic cotton or an alternate fiber such as hemp, bamboo, or even recycled PET bottles, and let people know why it’s better for the planet.
- Get green certification for product: Does your product qualify for a green label? Get it certified and add the certification logo to your marketing materials, along with an explanation of what it means to your customers. Do some research to find out which certifications would be best for you, instead of taking on the cost and paperwork for labels that your customer doesn’t recognize and understand.
- Set goals and document your green progress: Public accountability can add loads of credibility to your green marketing, so assess your business’ current “state of green” and set goals to further your sustainability efforts. Track your progress on your website and in mailings to share with your customers.
- Rethink your packaging: Does your product even need packaging? In general, the less packaging you need, the cheaper it is on a per-unit basis, so losing the packaging might be a savvy financial decision as well. If it does need a package of some sort, can you continue to make it greener? Packaging that can be repurposed or recycled adds to your green credibility, and if you can use 100% recycled materials, you’re doing even better. Make a point of informing your customers of these points.
- Green delivery: If your product gets delivered to customers, how can you lower the environmental impact of the transportation? Alternative fueled vehicles or bicycle delivery are two ways to address green delivery of products. This may not be a viable option in some areas due to availability or a big cost difference, but for those with the option, it can become another selling point for your products.
- Send electronic proofs or use bicycle courier: Does your business have a need for sending documents across town on a regular basis? Bicycle courier service is quick, green, and usually cost-competitive with other delivery services. Or consider using all electronic proofs instead of physical copies.
- Eco-friendly business cards: Even if you choose recycled content paper for your cards, what happens to it when someone no longer needs it? Print your business card info on seed packets or paper containing embedded seeds. Print something extremely useful on the back, like a reference chart for your industry or niche, so it gets kept and used. To offset any cost difference, don’t print thousands of cards that will get tossed away, but instead print fewer ones of higher quality and impact.
- Feature your green efforts prominently: Use your environmental efforts as a selling point in your advertising, packaging, and other promotional activities by featuring them along with any green certification you’ve qualified for.
- Join eco-organizations such as 1% for the Planet: Partnering with environmental stewardship organizations and pledging a percentage of your profits to support them can help to further your company’s commitment to preservation and conservation. Joining one of these instead of the usual industry associations or chamber of commerce might be a better use of your money, especially for your company’s green image.
- Follow the guidelines for environmental marketing claims: Are your green marketing claims valid? Make sure you’re not trying to greenwash, and that you’re within the FTC guidelines for environmental marketing claims.
- Make the green aspects of your product easy to understand: By being clear about the eco-friendliness of your product or service, you’ll give customers another reason to choose your business over a competitor.
- Join a local living economy group: Band together with other local independent businesses through organizations such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) to help build lasting, profitable, green partnerships. Local networking can pump up your green marketing at the cost of time, not money.
- Use digital coupons: With the trend toward going digital in many media outlets, digital coupons are an eco-friendly way to give discounts and promote your products without having to print and distribute any paper products. Mobile advertising is also rapidly expanding with the rise in smartphones, so mobile coupons can give potential customers a reason to shop with you, right from their phone. And as with most things digital, the easier it is to share with others, the farther your reach will be with these types of promotions.
- Ditch print advertising: Do you really want your business associated with media made from dead tree? It’s also much more expensive than digital advertising, so try banner ads, PPC, or Facebook ads. These options offer better demographic targeting, with near-instant campaign metrics at a fraction of the cost of print. Split & multi-variate testing allows you to fine tune your ads and landing pages. Don’t forget directory listings as another form of online advertising. Be sure to get listed in green business directories, as well as local directories, like Yelp, Best of the Web Local, and local search listings. This will boost your local SEO for your green business website.
Going green with your marketing isn’t necessarily about a huge change in your current campaigns – taking your marketing efforts green doesn’t have to be a one-shot approach. By implementing just a few of these green tips on a regular basis, the budget for your marketing campaigns won’t get blown up, and the cumulative effects on the environment can further be used in your marketing messages. Coupled with the huge leverage available to businesses in the digital sphere, going green with your marketing just might be the key to jumpstarting your business’ sales, no matter what the economic forecasts might say.
Derek Markham is a writer, a father, a WordPress addict, and social media butterfly who loves to share what’s new and interesting in his world in under 140 characters.