Marketing is a key component of getting any business off the ground, especially a small green business (such as a green building or green roofing business), with a limited budget to spend on reaching an audience and growing a customer base. I talked with Sarah Bodnar of Social Media Sisters, who does a lot of work with environmentally-conscious companies, to get some tips and tricks on developing an integrated marketing strategy that will take full advantage of the tools at your disposal, and won’t break your pocketbook in the process.
Bodnar explained that the face of marketing is changing; historically, she says, companies had a separate marketing division which handled promotions, and today, companies of all sizes need a truly integrated strategy, where marketing is present at every step of the way. That means getting to know every stage of the product and the people behind it in order to present the story of a business. With green products in particular, she says, this is critical: “Consumers are getting more and more curious [about product sourcing]. [They want to know] what went into it, where these products came from…” and a savvy marketing campaign tells that story.
She notes that with increased customer awareness also comes the importance of understanding that because green businesses are working to shift paradigms, it’s important to meet audiences where they are, and to be aware that they may not understand the importance of buying green. A good campaign should talk about the benefits a product offers, and it offers a great chance for a small business to distinguish itself from the competition: “Storytelling is a really critical part of helping people understand what the value addition is to your product.”
“A lot of small businesses don’t know how to tell their story in a real, authentic, from the core way; they’re used to the language of marketing, which is now archaic. It’s very salesy and not vertically integrated,” she says. The best way to hit potential customers is with authentic, honest storytelling. Introduce them to the people making products and to the environment where they’re made, talk about sourcing, and make customers part of the story. A jeweler who doesn’t use any power tools, for example, should include that in part of the story of her product, and explain how that distinguishes her products, using her own words rather than overblown marketing speak.
Next: using the Internet to reach audiences