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How to Use Green Marketing Effectively in Your Business

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How to Use Green Marketing Effectively in Your Business

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: May 24, 2012

Does your small business sell a “green” product or service—one that benefits (or at least doesn’t hurt) the environment? Then you could benefit from Americans’ desire to go green when shopping. According to the 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker, 69 percent of American consumers always or sometimes take the environment into consideration when making choices about what products or services to buy.

But not so fast. Before you launch a green marketing campaign, there are some key things you need to know to avoid major missteps that could bring your business down. Specifically, consumers are leery of companies’ green claims, with just 44 percent trusting companies about their green credentials. So how do you tread the straight and narrow when marketing green?

Understand what motivates green purchases. It’s not just about doing good. Although 88 percent of green shoppers want to do what’s right and 85 percent want to preserve the environment for future generations, the biggest factor—cited by 90 percent—is the desire to save time or money in the long run. In other words, your product or service has to meet the same criteria as any purchase would—you don’t get special treatment for being green. 

Be specific. As I mentioned above, consumers are highly skeptical about green claims, so you need to spell out in plain English exactly what makes your product or service environmentally friendly. Stay away from complex or vague statements or scientific terms that are hard to understand and likely to make customers suspicious. Instead, keep it simple. Using symbols of any green certifications you possess is a smart move; these influence 80 percent of consumers to buy. You can also explain how the product helps the environment, such as “uses less water.”

Educate customers and prospects. Education is key when differentiating many green products and services from the competition. Your website, packaging, ad copy and other marketing materials should explain the benefits of your product or service, not just to the environment but to the customer as well. For example, low-energy light bulbs cost more than standard bulbs, but because they last longer, they can effectively be marketed citing the benefit that they eliminate the need to frequently replace bulbs in hard-to-reach places. If your product is priced higher than similar, non-green products, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. Just be sure you spell out how your product is a better value in the end because it lasts longer, saves on energy costs or can be re-used.

Be honest. It’s easy to get a bit flowery and over-the-top when you’re writing marketing copy, but with a green product or service, you must be particularly careful not to overstate your green credentials in any way. If your customers—or your competitors—find out you’re not being 100 percent honest, it could backfire on your business in a major way. The Cone study found that when consumers feel a business is making false claims, 77 percent will boycott the company.

Walk the talk. In addition to the content of your marketing message, you need to consider how it is delivered. For example, if you announce your new green product by mailing a hard copy press kit to dozens of media outlets, your environmentally friendly message will get canceled out by the sheer waste of paper. If your organic skin-care products are shipped to stores packed in oversized boxes with Styrofoam peanuts, someone’s going to notice the disconnect and, in today’s transparent world, the negative word-of-mouth will spread fast.

Follow these simple principles, and marketing green is easy. Making sure your company lives up to its green beliefs in every way is the best way to not only help the planet, but grow your sales as well. 

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades


I completely agree with your point on being honest. The idea is to sound as appealing as you can to customers, but if they find out your not holding your side of the bargain up it will take the credibility away from your company, and who wants that.
I am planning to open a Hair salon and wishes to go green..do you have any suggestions or ideas that would be helpful...I can be contact at This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices (http://www.sba.gov/community) for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Rieva, Can you recommend any resources for someone starting a floral retail business for the first time, one that will be focused on protecting the environment?
I really think the game changers of the industries will follow this path of green success. The next decade will indicate mass scale changes in the ways that companies obtain and maintain eco friendly practices. Good insight into a booming sector.
I think that small businesses will have to lead the way even with the generational shift happening right now. The larger corporations just don't seem to have the oversight yet to make a large scale move to be more green and their customer base hasn't demanded on a large scale either. What do you think Rieva?

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