3 Steps to Selling Green

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When it comes to getting consumers to invest in green initiatives, marketing strategies are heavy on “green” and light on “initiative.”

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (www.ce.org), 60 percent of consumers want to make “green” purchases, 72 percent say they want energy-efficient homes, and 70 percent are concerned about their energy costs.

Yet as few as 7 percent of homeowners actually follow through on energy-efficiency purchases. Why? Don’t we know that energy efficiency is the right thing to do? So why the hesitation? Can’t anybody sell this stuff, especially when most people want it?

Doing the right thing, and paying for it, are two separate events—and bringing together conscience and consumerism is today’s premier marketing challenge. (Are you paying attention, power companies, systems integrators and manufacturers of power-consuming devices?)

The ability to sell sustainability represents the single most important challenge for companies engaged in the production and consumption of power (read: just about everything with a power cord, battery or electric bill.) Without some clear strategic selling strategies around green initiatives, change in this market will remain elusive.

Here’s a quick three-step process you must consider if you want to change concept into action, and responsibility into profit:

  1. Focus on the why
    Consumers and media focus on the “what”—what makes a home green, what makes a power conditioner more effective, etc. What’s missing is the “why.” Why do consumers need to buy in? Because it’s right for the environment. Because they can save money. Because it offers savings and convenience. In Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, he writes:“The question [is] of the long-term survivability of so many other companies that have defined themselves and their industries by WHAT they do. They have been doing it the same way for so long that their ability to compete against a new technology [or to introduce it effectively]… becomes a daunting task.”
  2. Lift the “restrictions”
    Going green has come to represent solutions that are seen as compromising, intrusive or prissy. And few want to be slaves to lifestyle choices that are perceived as limiting or restrictive.

    George Velazquez, principal at Integrisys in Chicago, recently installed the energy-saving electronics system in the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified residence in Illinois.  His team developed the LivSystem to fill a void in the luxury energy management category. From Velazquez’ perspective, green is not something you can separate from good design. And you shouldn’t try. Energy efficiency is an integral part of the system’s design.

    “People are looking for solutions to manage the inefficient and the unmanageable,” Velazquez says. There’s nothing restrictive about it; sustainability without sacrifice is the why, and being environmentally friendly is simply a byproduct of a quality solution. For the team at Integrisys, you can’t separate quality from energy efficiency.

  3. Create value in your brand

    The public perception is that green costs more. And paying more for limiting or intrusive solutions is not a good value equation. So how do you overcome pricing objections? Create exceptional value. Consider this: The Ritz-Carlton just opened its second LEED-certified hotel in Lake Tahoe, and Ferrari recently unveiled its new hybrid supercar, based on the 599GTB platform (it’s still got a V-12 that can make a nun curse, but its carbon output is reduced by 35 percent). Ritz-Carlton and Ferrari are making sustainability a part of their brands. It’s a stretch to say that these companies have intrinsically branded energy management into their corporate cultures, but no one can argue that they aren’t making progress. Proving the value of effective energy management and consumption is the role of a good brand. Your job is to create an energy-sensitive brand that helps set expectations about your products and solutions. It is vital that customers understand your brand’s promise of energy efficiency.

One more point, but it’s a vital one: To effectively sell and market energy efficiency, it has to be who you are. It must be an intrinsic part of your company’s culture, solutions, and your “WHY.”  As marketers of devices that consume energy, we must educate ourselves about the value of smart consumption. And there is a clear need for companies and service providers that weave energy management into their cultures—and communicate that focus throughout their branding.

No matter what the product or platform, the good news is that good marketing and branding never goes out of style.  Getting consumer interest starts with the “why” and a cohesive brand campaign that lets people know your commitment to the environment—and to their bottom line.

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