These days consumers are hyperaware of green practices. And they are often supportive of sustainability initiatives as they try to incorporate these practices into their own lives. By “going green” in your business, you are telling your clients that you support their efforts to be green. And it’s a great marketing tool, a way to connect with your customers on a level that goes beyond selling.
The key here is to do, not tell. The message is in the actions you take in conducting business. The goal is twofold:
- Making your business more sustainable, saving money and resources
- Letting your actions speak to clients who will spread the word about your good business
Here are some simple things your business can do to woo customers who will want to support your efforts to go green:
- Communicate by e-mail: Save resources by communicating via e-mail. This includes billing, invoicing, and notices to clients. For marketing materials such as notices of sales or special services, check out Vertical Response and Constant Contact, two services that will allow you to design a simply formatted newsletter or notice that you can send to a large number of clients. All e-mail correspondence should contain a note at the bottom that explains it is being sent in order to save resources.
- Encourage customers to bring their own shopping bags: Shoppers are becoming accustomed to bringing their own bags to grocery stores. The practice isn’t as popular for other types of shopping excursions, but your business might be the one that finally gives them that nudge. Imprint your store logo on reusable bags, which are available for a nominal cost, and place them near the register, where customers can purchase them for $1 or $2. Better yet, consider giving bags to customers who make a minimum purchase of, say, $10. Your customers will carry this bag, and your good name, around town. And your green message will be out there for everyone to see.
- Consolidate shipping or deliveries: Trip bundling, when you combine several trips into one, means looking for ways to be efficient in your travels. Schedule appointments in one part of town before traveling to another part. Explain to customers that the reason for the extra wait for a service call or delivery is so ou can save energy; they might be more supportive than you think.
- Adjust the temperature: Most people have trained themselves to turn up the thermostat a few degrees in summer and turn it down in the winter to reduce energy consumption. Try it in your place of business, explaining to customers that you are doing your part to conserve. Something else to consider: shorter office hours during the coldest and hottest months. Another alternative is to operate by appointment-only during some of the coldest and hottest weeks of the year. There are usually a couple of weeks in January and August, when clients are apt to be scarce anyway, that you might be able to operate by appointment. Explain the policy to clients via e-mail and signs in your store. They will be much more supportive when they know why they need to wear an extra sweater or make an appointment.
- Donate used electronic equipment: So many electronic devices such as computers, monitors, printers, and cell phones end up in landfills, contributing to the toxic mix. Consider swapping used equipment with fellow businesses in your area. Or give it away. Your 2-year-old printer might be considered nearly new to the preschool down the street. The donations will go a long way to engendering good will and maybe a new customer or two.
- Support other businesses in their green initiatives: Don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk. Buy other businesses’ green products, take advantage of any services that put sustainability into practice, and work together to reduce, reuse, and recycle.