Green Business: Where to share your eco-educational messages

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them. And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too! Here are some good places to start.

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them.  And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too!  Here are some good places to start:

·        Write articles about green issues and (depending upon your target market) submit them to local, national/international or trade publications.

·        Hold workshops and invite your customers and prospects.

·        Exhibit at trade fairs and business expos – and make sure you have plenty of good information to engage people and get them thinking about you as the expert.

·        Get speaking engagements. This will educate people about sustainability as well as making them aware of your business and what you offer and building trust in you as an authority.  If your business is local, try contacting churches in your area.  A lot of them are really starting to get interested in sustainability as a spiritual act.  They are hungry to know more and will thank you for the favor of coming out to speak!  (Don’t try to do a hard sell when you’re speaking to church groups, but it’s usually fine to give them informational pieces with your logo and contact info.)  Business groups are also good ones to speak to.  Try your local Chamber of Commerce.

·        Offer information kits, free reports and case studies to your clientele.  When you give people helpful, in-depth information on topics that interest them they develop a sense of gratitude and relationship to you, and are more likely to turn to you as an authority.

·        Keep educating your existing customers. Send a newsletter or e-zine out at least quarterly; once a month is even better.  Including environmental education messaging on packaging is another great idea.  Make it fun for your customers by holding contests and other events they can participate in and invite their friends.

·        Blog regularly (once or twice a week is fine).  When you blog on a topic of interest to your social media friends, post it and tweet it out.  (But only if it truly is good information and not just a thinly disguised sales pitch.)

·        Make videos about the same topics you speak or write about.  Your videos don’t have to be high tech as long as you present good ideas.  Even on a limited budget you can buy a little flip video camera for under $50 that will do the trick.

Get in the habit of videotaping any speeches you make, or even just capturing your thoughts on camera in your office, or documenting the positive changes your company is making. Put your videos to work for you by posting them on your blog, putting them on a CD or thumb drive and giving them to prospects or customers, using them as premiums for lead generation, or distributing them to the same kinds of groups you speak to.

·        Don’t forget your website. Add articles, case studies, videos and the like as extra pages.  Doing so can help with your search engine rankings, increase the amount of time people spend on your site,  and increase the chances of people linking to your site and/or coming back for multiple visits.

The important thing to remember is that consumer education is an ongoing process.  Do it consistently, one idea at a time, and always tie your statements back to positive personal benefits.  Over time, your efforts will make a difference!

Do you repeat yourself in your marketing? If not, why not?

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 3: Repetition Rules

Your audience may not have anywhere near your understanding of environmental issues.  Almost certainly they’re not nearly as aware as you are of the benefits your product brings to them personally and to the planet.  You may even have to overcome some deep-seated irrational or emotional barriers in your prospects.

It’s a very good idea to repeat your messaging in as many ways as you can. Try delivering the same idea via different media.  Use various examples and analogies to get your point across.  Be both persistent and consistent.

For example, you can speak about a topic at a conference, blog about it, offer an in-depth white paper about it, shoot a video about it, create an interactive survey addressing it,  put it on an audio disc, hold a workshop or teleseminar, tweet about it, etc.

Don’t worry about overdoing it.  Most people are so inundated with information that it takes a few times for a message to sink in.  Also, everyone has their preferred way to absorb information.  By sending your messages out using a variety of media (on- and offline short and long copy, video, audio, email, social media, live events, etc.), you’ll reach a much broader segment of your targeted population.

Show, don’t just tell, your customers what’s in it for them

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 2: Show and Tell in your marketing…

…but especially show.  Try to come up with ways your audience can experience your ideas with their senses.  Anything hands-on is great.  Involve their imaginations, and their emotional as well as their rational minds.  By engaging as much of the whole person as possible, you’re much more likely to get through to them, especially if they’re distracted or have preconceived ideas or objections you need to overcome.

Live or video demonstrations, case studies, testimonials, before-and-after pictures, samples and free trials are all excellent “show me” techniques proven to engage customers and encourage sales.

So is quantifying – translating raw data (such as X number of kilowatts of energy produced per hour) into concrete real-world examples your customer can wrap his mind around (like, “that’s enough to power every single appliance in your home with juice left over to crank the stereo – and it’ll save you $xx.00 per month on your utility bill!)

And don’t forget storytelling – one of the most powerful “show-me” techniques available.

Showing lets your prospects come to their own conclusions based on real or imagined experience and is often much more powerful than straight-up telling.  Try “showing” – both directly using hands-on experience, and indirectly in your marketing copy – and see what a difference it makes in your sales.

How to Overcome Green Business’s Biggest Marketing Challenge

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself. People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding. And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself.  People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding.  And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

That’s why it’s a good idea to come up with simple reasons to buy our products. Statements like “it saves you money,”  “it tastes better,” and “it’s the healthy choice for your kids” give people clear reasons to buy that benefit them personally in ways that are easy to understand.

So should we steer clear of environmental messaging for fear of confusing our prospects?

In most cases, emphatically NO! The environment is becoming an increasingly important concern, especially for certain segments of the population.  We certainly do want to talk about environmental benefits.  For one thing, concern for the environment can often tip a consumer’s decision in favor of your product.  But more importantly, keeping the environment top-of-mind benefits the planet and society as a whole by shifting society’s preferences towards more sustainable options.

That’s why consumer education is such a crucial part of Green marketing.  Take every chance you get to engage people and gently help them understand the complex issues our world is facing, as well as the role your product or service plays in protecting it.

But don’t be pedantic or overbearing.  The trick is to break it down into digestible chunks.  Over the next few days I’ll share some  guidelines for creating environmental messages that will both inform and engage your customers.  Stay tuned!

28 Sustainable Ideas for your Green Lumpy Mail Promotion

pebblesFollowing are some ideas for eco-friendly objects you can use in your next 3-D mail campaign, as well as sample concepts for working them into your promotions.

Natural objects:

Nuts – “I must be nuts to be offering discounts this deep” “Are high heating bills driving you nuts?” “Let’s get cracking on a solution!”

Acorn –  “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns” – could work for insurance, any kind of investment.

Pine cones, leaves – Marquette, Michigan home improvement contractors The Window Store once sent a mailing to existing customers promoting their gutter cleaning services.  Along with the sales letter, they included a handful of pine needles and leaves raked from an employee’s back yard.  The letter was extremely successful, bringing in enough business to keep their crews busy for several weeks.

Seashell – gift from Nature; emphasizes your company’s respect for the environment.

Shark tooth – “Eat your competition alive!” (Or, if your business has been around a long time or you’re selling a product that’s been successful for decades, make an analogy to the shark. Most of the critters that evolved at the same time as sharks are long gone, but sharks are still supremely successful creatures – you can’t really improve on their design.)

Fossil – “Still using fossil fuel?” or “Don’t let outdated [technology, etc,] make you look like a fossil.”

Flower seed packet – Great tie-in if you’re representing a product that helps businesses (or consumer savings) grow!

Live bamboo plant http://www.epromos.com/product/8815209.html – Also good for a growth theme, or for healthy living (plants are their own little air purifiers.) Or call it a “desktop meditation garden” and let people know your product will save them so much time they’ll now have time to relax.

Small rocks or pebbles – “Help is just a stone’s throw away.”

Office supplies:

Eraser – “Wipe away your troubles” (could work with a microfiber or organic cleaning cloth as well.)

Pen/pencil – These are tried and true promotional items when imprinted with your company’s name.  Promotional pens and pencils are available now in a number of eco-friendly choices, including bamboo, corn starch, and recycled paper.  Pens and pencils make great practical promotional items because they’re almost guaranteed to get used, and frequently get passed from person to person.  Make full use of them by including an involvement device in your package for which they’ll need a writing implement.

Pencil sharpener – “Let’s sharpen your advantage.”

Flash drive (USB stick) – Load it with your promotional materials. “Flashy” packaging your prospects are guaranteed to appreciate!

Sticky note pad (recycled) – Everyone uses these and they often get passed around.   Print some up with your logo and URL.  Make sure you indicate some reason to visit your website or call (white papers are great for this) – but leave plenty of room for notes!

Edibles:

Fair trade coffee – “Wake up to [your favorite benefit]!”

Organic tea bag – or how about two?  You could do a “Two for Tea” promotion or fundraiser, using the tea bags as tickets to your event.  The tea bag then gets redeemed for a prize; the extra bag lets them get their friends in on the fun, encouraging referral business. (Extra points for snide copy related to Tea Baggers!)

Organic nuts – “My wife (husband, kids, boss, dog, etc.) think(s) I’m nuts (to offer prices this low, etc.)” or  “High heating bills driving you nuts?” or “Let’s get cracking on a solution!”

Organic candy –“For the sweetest savings of the year…”

Fortune Cookies (probably best sent in a box) – Fortune cookies have insanely high open rates, and you can order them with custom messages.  And did you know you can now even get organic fortune cookies?  Why not have your prospects break theirs open to find out which one of several free gifts or discount offers they win? (The message then becomes a coupon.)

Other items

Marbles – “The boss is losing his marbles (to be offering a deal like this!)”

Pressure gauge – “Feeling pressured?” or “Take the pressure out of _____.”

Origami – From lotus flowers to sailing ships, no matter what you’d like to represent in your mailing, somebody’s probably made an origami version of it.  These folded paper objects are beautiful, intriguing and much more eco-friendly than plastic objects. True, they may not be readily available commercially, but most origami pieces are quick to make and if your mailing is small you should be able to find someone willing to earn a few bucks for folding paper into pretty shapes.  (My eleven year old daughter comes to mind!) 😉

Wooden/bamboo spoon – “Stir yourself up some savings.”

Coin – You’ve probably received mailings that had a penny or other coin glued to the sales letter, perhaps visible behind a window in the envelope.  They’re effective because no one wants to throw away money, so you can almost guarantee it’ll get opened.  Just make sure you have a killer headline to draw them in once they’ve ripped it open!

Balloons (biodegradable) – If you’re sending birthday greetings to your customers, good for you!  Make them even more special by including balloons.  Or use the balloons to spread the news of your company’s “birthday” or the birthday of a famous person related to your industry (link it to a sale or promotion, of course.)

Candle – Could be a great involvement device, especially for a nonprofit.  For example, you could ask them to light the candle on a certain night to show their support for a cause – then visit your website to pledge that they’ll do so (and hopefully make a donation, too!)

Switchplate – If you offer energy-saving services, consider printing up switchplates with your logo and a “Turn out the lights to save energy” message for your customers to use at the workplace or in their garage, basement or attic.  You could include them as a courtesy gift with your direct mail promotion, or send them as a thank-you to recent customers, along with a survey for gathering feedback and testimonials.

Book – Who would throw away a book? Especially one that addresses their needs or interests.  Books make terrific lumpy mail additions.  For maximum impact, send them one you’ve authored (or co-authored) yourself.  Best if you can subtly weave persuasion into your book along with useful information – and include a bio page with your contact information at the end.   This could well be the most powerful sales tool you ever lay hands on. (If you’re not into writing, no worries. Just hand your ideas over to a ghostwriter – like yours truly!) 🙂

As with any promotion, when you send a 3-D mailing just make sure to keep it targeted, relevant, clear and focused.  And if you’re planning a large mailing, be sure to test it on a small portion of your list first (500 names is ideal for a test run.) Good luck, and have fun!

 
photo credit: Free HDR & Photomanipulations – www.freestock.ca via photopin cc

Creating an effective lumpy mail campaign for your green business

direct mail packageEver open your mail over the recycling bin?  You’re not alone.  Nationwide, about 44% of sales letters sent through the mail never get opened.

So if you’re trying to minimize your impact on the environment, should you avoid direct mail at all costs?

Perhaps.  But if you’re marketing a product or service that ‘s truly sustainable, you have to keep in mind that you won’t help the planet at all by going out of business.  And the fact is that direct mail creams email not only in terms of open rates (approximately 80%  of commercial emails are clicked out of existence without ever being opened) but also in overall response or conversion rates (DM scores on average at about twice the rate of email.)  When you send a real letter you’re less likely to annoy people and more likely to catch them in a mood to pay attention to what you have to offer.

Direct mail has a higher upfront cost, but many savvy businesspeople swear by it as one of the most effective tools in their marketing arsenals.  So you may want to at least try adding direct mail to your marketing mix, especially if the product you’re selling is on the pricey side.

Using 3-D objects to increase your open rates – and sales

Including a three dimensional, or “lumpy” object in your direct mail package helps boost response in several ways.

  • Including dimensional objects in your mailing is a sure way to pique your prospects’ curiosity and increase your open rates.  This is important, because just getting the darn envelope opened is your biggest obstacle to the sale!
  • 3-D mailings get the prospect involved.  They give him something to touch, puzzle over, listen to, and sometimes even smell or taste.  They may have symbolism that gets him emotionally involved as well.  And they may prompt him to take action in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise.
  • If the object has value to your prospect, it works like a gift – making him psychologically indebted to you.  This can prompt him to give more time and attention to what you have to say.
  • Lumpy mailings are out-of-the-ordinary, and thus are more likely to be remembered and talked about.  This can be a real advantage if you’re using your direct mail sales letter as part of an orchestrated marketing campaign.  For instance, if you’re following up with a sales call, referring to the unusual object you sent them can be a great way to break the ice and engage your prospect.

Making sure your 3-D mail objects make sense

It’s a good idea to choose objects that have high perceived value or ones that your prospect is likely to use or pass on.  (Stay tuned – in my next post I’ll detail some good picks that are also easy on the Earth.)

It’s also best to tie your objects in to your direct mail promotion in some way that makes sense. For instance, if you’re having a promotion centered around a holiday, you might want to include objects associated with that holiday.  (Say, a small dreidel for a  Hannukah promotion.)

Telling a story about your object and why you’re sending it to your prospect is also a great way to engage their interest. Or you can treat the object like a coupon that can be exchanged for an offer or reward.

Integrating lumpy mail into your marketing campaign

Don’t feel you have to sell directly with your lumpy sales letter.  Depending on your product, you may want to use it to offer an information kit or other lead generation device.  You can also use lumpy mail to drive people to your website (be sure to offer a juicy incentive for going there) or as an invitation to an event such as a workshop, teleseminar or webinar.

Often, 3-D direct mail works best as part of a sequence.  Try sending a lumpy sales letter to your list, then following up with a couple post cards and then a sales call.  Or send a sequence of three related lumpy mail pieces for maximum impact.

Another idea is to use dimensional mail to reinforce a recent sale, raise perceived value and prevent buyer’s remorse – especially if your product is relatively intangible.  A good example of this is the elegant package American Express sends  their new Business Platinum cardholders in lieu of an ordinary letter, along with their new charge card.  This could be a good strategy to allow you to realize some benefit from the power of direct mail while minimizing the resources involved.

To mail, or not to mail

Direct mail isn’t necessarily for everyone.  As a green marketer, you may not feel comfortable sending direct mail, especially if you’ve ever been vocal about “junk mail.”

If your business is doing fine without it, by all means carry on. More power to you!  But if you’re struggling, or just have the nagging feeling you could be doing better, why not give direct mail a try?  And if you do, why not consider including a lumpy object (a sustainable one of course)?  You just might surprise yourself with how well it does for you!

photo credit: donovanbeeson via photopin cc

Green Marketing: Are You Selling Your Soul?

 

A few months back I published a post about a market study entitled Green Marketing: What Works; What Doesn’t – A Marketing Study Of Practitioners.  In the study, a significant percentage of marketers who tracked their responses reported an increase in effectiveness when they used Green messaging in their campaigns.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t intending this post to be particularly insightful. I was simply reporting on some interesting research. I thought the results of the study indicated a heartening trend – that Americans are finally concerned enough about sustainability issues that “green” messaging is actually getting through to them.

However, my little article touched off some intense emotional responses.   One man in particular brought up an issue which needs to be addressed, because it touches on the heart not only of responsible marketing but of our very chances of achieving sustainability in our modern world:

Perhaps you should step back and take a look at what you call green marketing… (followed by a lengthy discourse on the environmental consequences of the coal and nuclear plants which power the Internet and make modern commerce possible.)

Green is a self-aggrandizing rationalization that people use to assert that they are living well for the common good of their fellow man and the planet earth. Sorry folks, this posture ended with Plato’s Republic.

He also sent me a scathing private email ending with:

“Do you really believe in what you write? Or, are you selling your soul for the sake of money?”

Wow.  Talk about a soul-searching question.

Here was my response:

Yes, you’re right.

Marketing is not green. The entire military-industrial-corporate society we live in is completely unsustainable. But I think one has to start somewhere. There are companies and organizations out there that are working to change it for the better. I’m privileged to work with some of them.

Whether or not the messages in question were honest and worthwhile, or whether it was all greenwashing, and whether it’s even ethical to use green messaging is beyond the scope of this post – good topics for another day, for sure.

Yes I know the whole issue of marketing and business and how it relates to the environment is a sticky one at best. It’s amazingly complex and there are few if any straight answers. I welcome your thoughts.
Privately, I went on to explain that I choose to work with forward-thinking companies so that I can put my talents to their highest and best use: promoting the shift towards a sustainable world.  Many of my clients are start-ups, nonprofits and small-scale entrepreneurs.  Quite probably I could make substantially more money working with larger, more established companies.  (On the other hand, like everyone else, I do have bills to pay and kids on a collision course with college, so offering my services free is just not realistic no matter how much good it may do the planet!)  I pointed out that the vast majority of Green initiatives he himself champions can only exist if they’re capable of feeding the hands that drive them.
The next email I got from him was much calmer.  “Sorry I came out with my guns ablazing. At the very least, communicating via the internet saves some trees and diesel fuel pollution.”  He ended by inviting me to review a feasibility study for his green business!

The Irony of Marketing Green

To be sure, it’s easy to get downhearted trying to be sustainable in an unsustainable society.  It’s easy to see “green marketing” as an oxymoron when we think about how many resources we’re still consuming even when we try to cut down on our consumption.  But we have to start somewhere.  And despite all the greenwashing, if you look at the change in public consciousness in the past five years alone, you’ll realize that collectively, we are making a difference. Personally, I think business and marketing can exist and thrive within a sustainable society.  In fact, it has to. Just as sustainability in Nature depends on the flow of energy or life, so economic sustainability depends on the flow of profits.  However, achieving such a goal will result in a radically different business climate than we may be used to.  We’re going to have to change from a linear to a circular understanding of the flow of both products and profits.  Which for many of us will require a radical shift in our physical, mental and spiritual relationship to and understanding of the world we live in.

And what about selling one’s soul?

Well, you could look at it another way.

Sell, baby, sell

Most entrepreneurs I know pour their heart and soul into their businesses.  If your soul is truly aligned with your purpose in life, and if your life’s purpose is in harmony with the greater universe, then you should sell your soul.  You should promote and sell the heck out of it.  Because the more people begin to buy it, the more value – and harmony – you will bring into the world.

I know scores of people who are burning with purpose and are taking real action to make the world a better place.  They’re running nonprofits, starting businesses which offer sustainable alternatives to conventional products and services, and working with school districts and government agencies.  They’re opening people’s minds and instituting new opportunities and infrastructure that support a sustainable future.

Each one of these people – even if they’re unaware of it – is engaged wholeheartedly and unabashedly in the act of selling.

The trick is to be brutally honest with yourself.  Is your reality truly aligned with your ideals? If not, what can you do to bring them closer together?  And if they are, are you doing it justice with your sales?

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into Green marketing and sales writing, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Kids develop preferences and beliefs through their experiences. You can help your customers do the same.

You know how sometimes kids say the wisest things?

The other day I was down in the basement putting in a load of laundry.  Pretty routine – except I was trying out this new detergent.

Actually it’s not detergent at all, it’s these nut shells that contain soap-like compounds.  You put a few in a little muslin bag and throw it in with your wash, and the clothes come out clean.

Like I said, I was trying it out for the first time.  And I had my doubts.  How could these silly nuts possibly clean a whole load of wash?  But when I unloaded the machine, the clothes smelled sweet and fresh.

“WOW!  These things really WORK!” I exclaimed.

My daughter looked at me in surprise.  “Of course they do!  Why wouldn’t they?

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Her comment stopped me cold.  Indeed – why wouldn’t they work?

I realized that as much as I believe in the need for environmental products, I still struggle with the deeply embedded cultural belief that more technologically “advanced” products will do the job better.

My daughter, on the other hand, has been growing up listening to my lectures (and, I have to admit, sometimes my lip service) about environmental values.  More importantly, for the past eleven years she’s observed my admittedly imperfect striving to live in harmony with Nature.

Clara herself thrived on Nature’s perfect food as an infant.  She was present during the many La Leche League meetings I led, helping other breastfeeding moms nurture their babies as Nature intended, and used to carry her dolls around in her own little organic sling.

She watched as I composted kitchen and garden scraps and returned them to the Earth, enriching our garden soil…then again as the seeds we planted in that soil blossomed into thriving plants…

…and she feasted on the bounty our garden provided – without unnatural chemicals or fossil fuels.

She helped clean our home with vinegar and baking soda, and never picked up the idea that “sqeaky-clean” can only be attained with the help of chemical cleaners.

In the end, she’s internalized it.  Clara has accepted – at a gut level – the power of natural products.

Why?

It’s the power of experience – and of demonstration.

The Power of Experience

Remember the old parenting joke, “Do what I say, not what I do?” It’s funny because we all know it doesn’t work.

In marketing, too, as in parenting, we’ve got to do more than talk about our products.

Did you ever have a Kirby sales rep come to your door?  Sure, they talk about the vacuum cleaner and what it will do for you.  But the real magic in their presentation comes when they dump a bunch of dirt on your carpet and vacuum it up with your own machine – and then throw a filter into the Kirby vac’s hose and suck up a ton of dirt out of the very same spot – thus proving through experience the benefits of owning their product.

Do you think they’d sell nearly as many vacs if all they did was talk?

Not on your life.

Experiencing is believing.  One of the reasons many people still distrust the effectiveness of green products is because they have no experience using them.

In-person demonstrations are an ideal way to dispel doubts about a product.  But it’s not always possible.

Here are a few ways to show (rather than just tell) your prospects just how effective your product is, even if you’re restricted to print or web:

  • Free samples
  • Videos
  • Photographs
  • Diagrams, charts and graphs
  • Testimonials (yes, it’s telling, but it allows your prospect to vicariously share the experience of a satisfied customer.)
  • Stories (again, it’s telling, but storytelling activates the “experience” part of the brain.)
  • Analogy – if you can link your product to something they’re familiar with, you’ll tap in to their already existing experience.

Can you think of any more?  If you can, share them below!

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s weekly tips and insights into Green marketing and sales writing, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

For more information about Soap Nuts and other eco cleaning products, or to find out about a business opportunity that will help you make a living while making a difference, visit Eco4Me.biz.

The Chrome Scrotum

It's not just a motorcycle...

Right after we got married, my husband Dan and I flew out to Oregon with two touring bikes, eight panniers, and as much lightweight camping gear as we could pack in them.  After landing in Portland, we pedaled over the Cascades, dipped our back tires into the Pacific and turned around and headed across America.

You don’t survive 4,000 miles of saddle sores and extreme weather with someone without developing a few inside jokes.  One we got a lot of mileage out of (sorry, can’t resist the pun) was the “third testicle.”

You see, one of the great things about bicycle touring is the silence.  It’s just you and the wind, and the little crunch of gravel under your tires.  You can hear the cows mooing, and the birds singing…

Until some great big hairy guy on a Harley comes roaring out of nowhere, shattering one’s peaceful reverie into a bazillion ear-splitting exhaust-laden slivers.

It’s not like you can’t buy a motorcycle that’s quiet.  It’s like these guys have to prove their manhood with their machines.

Same thing with pickup trucks…

And snowmobiles and 4 wheelers and jet skis…

The Third Testicle

So we jokingly started to refer to anything with souped-up horsepower as a “third testicle.”  Got low testosterone?  Just rev your engine.  Who needs Viagra?

That was almost 17 years ago.  The joke has gradually faded from our repertoire.  But just this morning I saw something which brought it sharply back to mind.  In fact, I almost snorted my beverage up my nose when I saw it.

There , dangling under and a little behind the towing ball on the pickup truck in front of me, was – unmistakably – a scrotum.  Made of chrome.  Swaying realistically side to side with the movement of the vehicle.

It’s that Sex Appeal thing

The guy who bought that pickup truck may have needed a work truck – but just as likely he could have gotten away with a high-milage sedan, saving money on gas as well as the original purchase.   He bought the vehicle that made him feel powerful. He may be just a lackey at work (or even unemployed), his wife might not look up from the TV when he comes in the door, but by golly getting behind the wheel of that truck transforms him into an alpha male.

The quest for power is a natural survival instinct in all animals, including humans.  And it’s tied to biological reality.  In general, the fitter, more powerful you are the easier time you’ll have attracting a mate and passing your genes on to the next generation.

The challenge we face in attempting to replace fossil fuel isn’t just one of replacing infrastructure.  It goes much deeper than that, into the primitive recesses of our brains and egos.   Fossil fuel represents power.  Plain and simple.  There’s something about it that gives us that alpha rush.  (Even I have to admit that as pleased as I am to get 50 mpg driving our diesel Jetta, I also seriously enjoy the car’s powerful, responsive engine that eats up hills and allows me to pass at will, which of course proves my dominance on the road.)  (Sorry, can’t help it.  It’s that primitive brain of mine. )

It has nothing to do with logic.

Logic: Necessary but not Sufficient

Of course, people need logical reasons to buy.   But if we want to convince people to give up their muscle cars, chemical cleaners, and other unsustainable products in favor of our greener, more responsible products, we have to dig deep and figure out what it is they really want, on a primal, animal level  – and then present our offerings in such a way that they light up those hot buttons in people’s heads.

A product like the Tesla Roadster Sport makes the process easy.  With its sleek lines and slam-you-back –in-your-seat acceleration of 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, it’s just plain sexy.  Only a real Neanderthal would miss the noise and exhaust.

But any product worth bringing to market is bound to resonate with someone’s “hot button.”  (It doesn’t have to be sex, although that’s a powerful one.  It could be security, comfort, pleasure, greed…any of a number of motivations linked to our primal emotions.)

The challenge is twofold: to identify the primal urges that drive our prospects, and to present our products in such a way as to strike that hot button in their soul.

I’ll discuss ways to do the latter in future posts.  In the meantime, though, I have an assignment for you.  Be on the lookout for “chrome scrotums”- telltale clues people unwittingly reveal about their deepest , darkest desires.  Post ’em below when you discover them!

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer specializing in helping Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into marketing, sales writing and sustainability, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

Are Your Green Claims FTC Compliant?

FTC seal
It's a good idea to be aware of FTC guidelines when making green claims in your marketing.

In 1992, in response to a flurry of green marketing claims (the first wave of the green deluge we’re now experiencing), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a series of guidelines for environmental advertising and marketing messages.  Known as the “Green Guides,” these rules are strictly voluntary and are not enforceable by law. (Yet.)  However, they are based on Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which declares false or deceptive advertising illegal.  So don’t take them lightly.

If you’d like to read the Green Guides for yourself, you can do so here.

Otherwise, read on for the quick ‘n’ easy Green-Guides-in-a-Nutshell.

For today, let’s take a look at the four main points set forth in the “General Principles” section of the Guides.

1. Qualifications and disclosures: Language addressing green claims should be clear, prominent and understandable.  You should be able to back up any claims with proof.

2. Distinction between benefits of product, package and service: Make sure that if you make a claim for your product, it’s clear whether you’re referring to the product itself or its packaging.  (For instance, when using words like “recycled,” “recyclable” or “compostable”.)

3. Overstatement of environmental attribute: What if your manufacturing facility cut its use of chlorine bleach by 50% last year?  Sounds great, right?  You could get all sorts of great press!  But hang on.  What if your reduction consisted of your janitor using ¼ cup instead of ½ cup a week of the stuff when he cleans the urinals?  Pretty negligible – so button your lips.

4. Comparative claims: When you’re making comparisons you should:

  • Make clear what’s being compared.  Avoid vague statements like “10% less packaging.” It’s meaningless unless you qualify it like this: “10% less packaging than the leading brand,” or this: “New package – 10% less plastic!” (The word “new” makes it clear that you’re comparing it to your own old packaging.)
  • Be able to back up your claims with proof.

Of course, there’s more to it.  For example, the Guides go into far more detail on use of specific words like “refillable” and “ozone-friendly.”   I’d encourage anyone making claims of sustainability or eco-friendliness in their advertising to familiarize themselves with the Green Guides.  But there’s no need to sweat.  The suggestions just make good sense, and echo two of the major principles of green marketing: clarity and transparency.

What do you think?

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer specializing in helping Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into marketing, sales writing and sustainability, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.