Green businesses around the globe work hard to solve big problems, but good intentions are not always enough. True success requires that you not only have a great product, but that you let people know about it. Before people do business with you, they want to know you and trust you, and see that you have what they want, and that means building a connection with them. To connect you’ll need marketing and PR, but you might think you don’t have the time or money for it. There are solutions though that don’t cost a great deal. Here are seven ways you can market your green business on a budget, and get the results you need for your business and the planet.
1. Social Networking
Everybody is on Facebook it seems like, but what are you doing with it? It’s free, which is hard to beat, but your time is not free and you need results. It’s easy for social networking to suck up a great deal of time if you’re not careful, and not all of us get millions of followers Charlie Sheen style.
The best use of this new tool is to connect with people, to establish a bond that grows over time and builds interest in you and what you do. Your social network is your new mobile village, and is an increasingly valuable tool to not just talk at people but to listen. Every time I’m on Facebook, I find out something interesting about my green biz friends like Spencer Brown of Rent a Green Box and Thomas Ackerman of Spirit Graphics and Printing. Some of it is about their business, and a lot of it isn’t, but all of it is part of the bigger story of who they are.
2. Meet and Greet
For all of the electronic tools we have, the most powerful way to connect with people is still to meeting them face to face, and many people are still uncomfortable doing business unless they’ve met you and shook hands, feeling like they really know you. Take every chance to meet and talk to people about what you do, and what they do, and establish the kind of lasting bond that builds valuable long term business relationships. The Ecology Center reaches out through their workshops in the local community, and with social networking and their new book Backyard Skills to expand the reach of their message.
Video is a powerful tool, and increasingly easy to use. When you can’t meet someone face to face, a good video is the next best thing. Videos can range from professionally produced to cell phone videos, from the funny to the dramatic, but one way or another they help people to know you better, to read beyond your words.
Quality of the video helps, but in an age where people are constantly sold and marketed to, a simple and direct video that is perceived as authentic can cut through the noise and get us to listen. Even if the video is just you talking on a Flipcam about your business and what you do, it can help for people to see that you are a real person. Keeping it simple has the added benefit of keeping costs low, as well as being perceived as honest.
4. Going Guerilla
We are constantly marketed to, which can increase resistance and limit how well marketing works. That’s why marketing for the big companies is increasingly integrated into programs, we can’t TIVO it out or mentally skip it. Getting noticed means getting attention and getting attention sometimes means breaking or bending the rules, going green guerilla in your marketing with small but effective campaigns that bust out of the norm. In his book Stirring It Up, Stonyfield Farm CE-Yo Gary Hirshberg recalled campaigns they carried out with almost no budget by inflating tires, handing out coupons, and getting on local radio.
Social networking is on the rise, but there’s still a role for more thoughtful writing that is longer than 140 characters, and bloggers are some of the most accessible media to get in touch with. There are a lot of bloggers in the world, including green ones, but by going to sites like Best Green Blogs you can narrow your search to those that seem the most relevant. And by starting your own blog on your website, you can build a following of potential customers who return to your site for the latest update.
Every day thousands of journalists around the world are looking for sources for stories, and Peter Shankman found a way to help them, with his site at Help A Reporter (HARO). To be a potential source for a story, sign up on the website for free and you’ll get three emails each weekday with a list of story topics reporters need help with. Find the relevant stories, send the journalist an email about yourself, and you might just find yourself smack dab in the middle of some great exposure.
7. Spreading Your Story Around with Media Distribution
When you have a story about your business, and a variety of media to tell this story, finding an affordable way to distribute your media can boost its impact. 3BL Media is one way your green business can distribute a rich variety of media, particularly for news and information about green businesses and CSR. The most effective media distribution goes beyond press releases to include new media like videos, audio, blogs and social networking. Tell your story often, in many formats, and to the broadest audience. To see some examples of how it works, you can check out some releases I’ve done with 3BL Media: Starting Up Green on 3BL Media.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green” and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping green businesses to start green and grow greener.