Sustainable products and services marketing communications are focused educational messages for each customer persona.
The marketing cycle stages are the same: audience, investigation, comparison, negotiation, sales and follow up. The Green Building movement has a passion and an involvement which is shaping the industry. The people that are receptive to Green marketing believe that Green products and services are better than others. Consumers select the standard that they believe in: The U.S. Green Building Council, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with their product certifications, Department of Energy (DOE) with their Energy Star Certifications and many other organizations are being adopted as trusted brands by the public. Wikipedia has a great page on Green marketing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_marketing/.
Sustainable products and services by their very nature are more advanced and efficient. Everyone likes to save money and have a better quality of life; these are the major benefits of sustainable products and services. As energy costs rise and quality of life decreases; more and more people will be turning to sustainable practices to preserve their lifestyle. Education and the peer sharing of these inexpensive methods and practices will continue to grow the industry. We LEED Platinum Certified our office for $12 per square foot. In this blog post I'll review the resources available to learn more about the market and the methods that are most successful.
Here are typical Green customer personas that contact us:
- Persons wanting to learn about Green building and study for the U.S. Green Building Council Green Associate exam
- Professionals wanting to pass the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Professional Accreditation exam
- Persons wanting to Certify their home or building
- Government, university students and faculty doing research and education
- General public involved in the environmental movement
- Professionals wanting to learn about energy modeling
- Local organizations wanting a Green speaker
- Business owners or inventors that want to sell to the Green building movement
- Professionals that want to get involved in the local U.S. Green Building Council Chapter.
Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS)
In 1977 a new industry came to being, marketing for architects, engineers and other professional services. The laws changed to allow advertising. The Society for Marketing Professional Services is an excellent resource for learning the best practices for marketing architectural and engineering services. Primarily the marketing department at those firms prepares proposals and complete state and federal forms to bid on projects. Especially helpful is their Marketing Handbook and its accreditation test Certified Professional Services Marketer exam. Everything from research to websites to events to exit interviews is included. If you offer architectural or engineering services this is a must have accreditation for one of your staff.
U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is how we found out about the Green Building movement in 2005. It's a non-governmental non-profit that has assembled the best sustainable building practices into an easy to understand and implement certification system. We got involved with the local chapter by helping develop their web site and display materials. It also gave us an opportunity to offer classes to pass the USGBC Green Building exam and teach renewable energy classes at Cincinnati State Technical College. As with marketing any product, the best marketers have a deep and committed passion for the industry. This is represented by Certifying our office LEED Platinum, the highest level. We did all of the work on the project ourselves and now offer LEED documentation services for other projects.
Jerry Yudeson is a pioneer in the Green Building marketing industry. He has written an excellent book, Marketing Green Buildings: Guide for Engineering, Construction & Architecture, and we highly recommend it. Jerry spoke at a Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Marketing Professional Services educational breakfast in 2006. One of the major takeaways from the presentation was to seize the moment and take hold of this new and growing industry. Lohre & Associates has embraced this concept. Because it's a unique industry and quite different from our traditional marketing communications firm, we registered "Green Cincinnati" and started our Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy division for Green Building services and marketing.
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy
When we founded Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy in 2005 with the goal to help promote Green Building and provide the public with the resources needed to advocate for the U.S Green Building Council's LEED Certification process, we wanted to focus on the products and services that would help design, build and maintain buildings that are trying to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The Green Building movement has many different meanings and we use that general term to describe our focus but underlining that is our dedication to the U.S. Green Building Council's Certifications as the best in class.
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)
The single most important thing in marketing Green Building products is the grants, rebates, incentives, tax abatements and any other cash reduction methods. DSIRE is a great resource to find the state and federal incentives available. In Cincinnati we offer extended building property tax abatement to 15 years, the only one like it in the world. It has made Cincinnati a center for residential LEED design in the nation. The state of Ohio offers a Commercial building tax abatement extension of up to 12 years for LEED Certified projects. The state of Ohio requires that all school buildings be built to LEED Certification. The Federal government offers reduced interest rates to affordable housing projects if they are LEED Certified. An added incentive to those developers is that they are required to pay for the maintenance and utility bills for 15 years. All U.S. government buildings are required to be LEED Certified. LEED buildings by definition save at least 15% on energy bills.
Fostering Sustainable Behavior
We learned about this the Community Based Social Marketing group from some employees of the City of Cincinnati. Their resources are excellent for uncovering the basic problems to changing behavior. For example, in one Mexican town the mothers wouldn't use child seats in their cars because they believed that if God planned for them to be in an accident there was nothing they could do about it. The city leaders started having the local priests bless the child carriers and the marketing problem was solved. Other great ideas we learned from them were how to use your neighborhood to encourage recycling. It takes one neighbor persuading another to realize it's easy to recycle. And as they can see, everyone else on their street is doing it as well.
The Shelton Group has done a continuous survey of the U.S. since 2005 regarding the public perception and adoption of sustainable practices. Their research has shown a growth of interest in sustainable products up to 2010 and a leveling off after that. There is no obvious reason for this trend. They have also confirmed a time honored marketing method "humor." Getting a person to laugh is the best way to have access to a few new neuron connections being made. Another important finding was that a household needs to make at least five energy efficient efforts to really see a difference in their utility bills. These things could be a programmable thermostat back, storm windows, new windows, high efficiency HVAC, insulation, air sealing, and many others.
Yale Project on Climate Change - Anthony Leiserowitz
Professor Leiserowitz, like the Shelton Group has done research on public attitudes about environmental issues. The Yale Project identified easy to understand categories of the population. There are those that are early adopters of sustainable practices to those that see no problem with the environment. Bill Moyer's recent interview is worth watching.
I'll conclude this post with references to RESNET, Energy Star and your local utility; they represent the best home energy efficiency guides. Your local utility probably has a simple online questionnaire that will offer helpful ideas to make home improvements. There is talk about requiring all new mortgages to have energy assessments done and they will probably be sanctioned by the Residential Energy Services Network. Energy Star is part of the U.S. Department of Energy and one of the original energy efficiency certifications available to the homeowner. They also have a residential energy audit online like your local utility.
GreenBiz Group provides, "clear, concise, accurate, and balanced information, resources, and learning opportunities to help companies of all sizes and sectors integrate environmental responsibility into their operations in a manner that supports profitable business practices.'
Their 2013 State of Green Business Report offers a good overview of facts and figures for green industry insiders, " In tracking the trend toward third-party assurance in sustainability reporting, we looked at sustainability disclosures made in compliance with reporting standards, such as those offered by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), or AccountAbility."
Mind Over Markets
Here is another description of the different segments of Green by CEO Carolyn Parrs of Mind over Markets, "The consumer base is made up of what I call Shades of Green. Deep Greens (19% of US population) are the most environmentally active segment of the market. They are the most willing to pay a premium for green products and are more forgiving when it comes to efficacy. Medium Greens (33% of US population) embrace environmentalism, but more slowly. They are practical and like to see the results of what they do, so are more likely to buy green products that make sense in the long run. Light Greens (16% of US population) are generally unconcerned about environmental issues. They have a “wait and see” attitude and will only buy green products if they are economically equal, or better yet less than conventional products and services. After all, shouldn’t green cost less if you are using less ingredients/supplies/parts?"
George Lakoff to green marketers: use the F-word
Mr. Lakoff has some good points about the emotional words we use like "Freedom." Using them in your campaign will make it more effective. He reports that 98% of our decisions are unconscience. Using the right "metaphors, narratives and emotions" can help call on those unconscience motives to help sell your message. From an article by Anne Clark for The Guardian.
Recognize resistance, which is so commonplace it often discourages while passing unnoticed
Muhammad Yunus, of Grameen Bank and the worldwide microcredit movement, spent more than 30 years promoting the idea of microcredit -- first in his native Bangladesh and later around the world. Growing the Grameen Bank from a small outpost to a bank that lent to millions of poor women was a long and trying process, and he learned a great deal from it. So can we. Thanks to Katharine Esty and her post on GreenBiz.
Chuck Lohre's AdVenture Presentation of examples and descriptions from Ed Lawler's book of the same title - 10 Rules On Creating Business-To-Business Ads