How to find green promotional items for your business

Are you tired of junky plastic promotional items, or promotional products that no-one really uses or appreciates?

Choosing sustainable promotional products for your business doesn’t just help the earth.  It demonstrates the integrity of your business.  Choosing sustainable promotional products wisely can also keep you top of mind because they’re likely to be items your prospects really do use or appreciate.

Where to look for  eco-friendly products to promote your business

A good rule of thumb when you’re looking for earth-friendly items to promote your business is to start your search close to home and move out from there.   Five  places to look:

Bottle openers
These recycled bicycle chain bottle openers from Resource Revival are practical and sustainable – a terrific green promotional item.

1. Your own company.

  • If you produce items that are easily made into samples, your work is easy.  Nothing will do a better job of telling prospects how good you are than by giving them a taste! But if that’s not possible, don’t despair.  You may be surprised at what you can come up with inside your own four walls.
  • You may have fantastic promotional item possibilities hidden in your ownwaste stream.   Do you have scrap fabric, wood or other materials that are currently being thrown into the landfill or otherwise disposed of? In addition to offering ready-made Green promotional products,  promotional item company Greengiftz works with companies to turn their scraps into beautiful items they can use as promos.
  • What if your company doesn’t produce anything physical that could be used to make things?  Well, don’t forget that information itself is an incredibly valuable commodity!  Why not offer your prospects a book, report, informational video,  calendar, tip sheet or other written item packed with great information they’ll love you for? (Heck, you can – and-should- include information too, even if you’re offering a tangible item!)

2. Your own home. Look around your home and garage for practical items that – imprinted with your name and logo – might make good giveaways.  After all, if you’re using it, others will probably appreciate it, too.  Some ideas to start you off:

  • Funnel (for reclaiming used oil or other substances)
  • Pressure gauge (for keeping tires at proper inflation for energy savings)
  • Switchplate (Imprinted with your logo and a friendly reminder to turn off the light when not in use.)
  • Wooden spoon or cutting board (made of sustainable bamboo or local wood)
  • Imprinted wooden clothespins and clothesline
  • Beeswax or soy candles
  • Pot holders

3. Your local community. Keep a look out for interesting locally made or produced items that would tie in to your brand or message.  Good places to look include your local farmer’s market or artist’s co-op.  Or perhaps you can find natural items indigenous to your area that can be used to make unique and beautiful natural promotional items.

4. Your network of contacts. Ask around at networking meetings or through LinkedIn or other social networks.  You might uncover the perfect promotional item for your Green business – and you’ll be spreading the word about your business at the same time!

5. Online sources. Nothing wrong with searching the Web for green promotional product ideas.  Here are some good places to start:

The Green Logo

Eco Promos Online

EcoBrander Promos


Green Promotional Items



Green by Sky High

Resource Revival (items made from old bicycle parts)

Ecobags (all sorts of eco-friendly reusable bags)

The following are mainstream promotional item sources that carry a good selection of eco-promotional products:


Garrett Specialties

Have you discovered a unique and sustainable item that you use to promote your business?  Let me know – if it’s a good one I’ll showcase it (and your business) in a future post!

Three Rules of Thumb for Choosing Promotional Items for Your Green Business

An Eco-Hedonistic Approach to Green Marketing

woman enjoying natureA few months back I took part in a fascinating exchange on the LinkedIn group “Women Growing Green Business.” The conversation kicked off when one member of the group posted a link to Green marketer Joel Makower’s post Earth Day and the Polling of America, 2010: Me First, Planet Later.

In it, Makower dolefully detailed a number of studies indicating that “with the exception of committed environmentalists — a relative sliver of the populace — the mood (of American consumers) has switched from ‘What can I do to be helpful?’ to ‘What’s in it for me?'”

Perhaps Makower is rightfully cynical.  But in the eyes of this particular group of women – many of them talented Green marketing experts as well – this “Me First” attitude regarding Green products represents not just a challenge but an exciting opportunity.


In fact, one participant, Green market researcher Wendy Cobrda of Earthsense, has gone so far as to coin a term for it.  She calls it “eco-hedonism” and insists it’s not a bad thing.  In her own words:

Instead of Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability — the great majority of people are motivated by Lifestyles of Hedonics and Economics, doing things that bring them pleasure and those actions are shaped in many ways by their means or economics.

For example, for the longest time, I’ve been a fan of Muir Glen fire-roasted canned tomatoes. While I’m not a gourmand by any stretch, I do enjoy cooking, and even more so when what I cook brings smiles of pleasure. On a whim, I tried those tomatoes and for years now, that’s all I buy (unless I can’t get them!) Why? Because they taste good. I appreciate that they are organic, I like the mission of the company, but I come back time after time because I like how they taste.


Remember the old saying, “Keep it simple, stupid?”  Green marketers would do well to heed it.  Like it or not, the act of shopping is the modern equivalent of foraging for food, shelter or other primitive necessities.  Foraging usually doesn’t involve complex, ethical decisions.  If it looks good, tastes good, smells good, take it! f it doesn’t appeal, leave it.  And by all means, if it’s scary or suspicious, run!  Simple. That’s what we’re wired for at a deep animal level.

It’s not that people don’t care.  It’s just that the environment and the challenges we face as a species and as a planet are anything but simple.  The average person has a very hard time grasping the importance of the issues themselves, let alone how their choices may influence those issues.  Choosing a product based on its eco-friendliness involves thought patterns that may also include feelings of uncertainty and confusion – not emotions that readily lend themselves to buying.

When your product appeals to a person’s hedonistic self-interest you’re speaking to them on a super-simple level that requires little thought.  We’re talking animal instincts.  Great taste.  Comfort.  Savings. Sex appeal. It may not be spiritually enlightened, but it’s powerful stuff, and that’s where the main thrust of your marketing messages should be.

And Green messaging?  Should we even bother with it?


As Green marketer Jacqueline Ottman noted in the thread,

What I believe is that people do care about the planet — that is evident– but when they go into supermarkets and put on their “shopper hats” they have to make sure that the products they buy satisfy their primary reasons for buying the products in the first place —getting clothes clean, buying nutritious and tasty food, etc. This is even more important in a recession when consumers need to ensure they are getting value for their money.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the planet. For the entire 20 years that I have been tracking green marketing, environmental, and increasingly social, benefits have played an important secondary role in influencing purchases. (One of my colleagues coined the phrase, “The tie goes to the dolphin”.) Green then is the added source of value that can break a tie at the shelf. But, when truly integrated into the value proposition, green can enhance primary benefits —the organic produce that tastes better. That is true green marketing heaven!
So absolutely weave green messaging into your promotions. (As long as you can do it ethically and truthfully, of course!) But don’t make it the main dish.  Think of it as a scrumptious dessert to top off an already mouthwatering meal – tipping the balance from tempting to irresistible!

P.S. Just a small but very important caveat: this article was penned with the generic, mainstream American consumer, or mildly Green consumer, in mind.  Your company’s target market(s) are unique and may require a different approach ranging from not mentioning sustainability issues at all, to making them the main focus of your messaging.  It’s all about understanding the prospect!

Do you have a lot on your plate? Need someone to come up with just the right words to tempt your prospects to indulge? Leave a comment detailing your needs, or visit me at to find out more!

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

photo credit: Guttorm Flatabø via photopin cc

Thanks to…

…for publishing my green marketing article “Are Green Marketers Selling Their Souls?”

GreenBiz is a great resource for anyone interested in sustainable business and it’s truly an honor to be included as an author.

Thanks again, guys!  And kudos on a terrific site!

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.

“Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green:” This book’s a keeper!

Book cover, "Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green"
In their latest book, Horowitz and Levinson show you how Using the relationships you already have, you can create powerful partnerships that bring you directly in front of new and key audiences, at little or no cost—even competitors can be part of your success!

Book Review: Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green

Here’s one to add to your marketing library for sure!
I’m deeply honored that Shel Horowitz asked me to promote his latest book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet–which he co-authored with the legendary “father of Guerrilla Marketing,” Jay Conrad Levinson. Shel is not only an award-winning writer and a world-class marketer, he’s also been a voice in the wilderness for ethical and Green business practices. These guys do quality work, and Shel says this is the best book he’s ever done.

My own personal copy is full of underscores and dog ears where I’ve marked fascinating insights and great real-world ideas for marketing your business ethically and effectively, whether you’re a beginner or advanced.

Visit http:// guerrillamarketinggoesgreen. com to purchase this book from your choice of retailer (links at the bottom of the page), at up to nearly 30% off (a savings of up to $7.) No matter where you buy it, registering your purchase through that site qualifies you for a substantial bonus package  (currently worth over $2600 and climbing), including two free months of membership in The Clean and Green Club (Shel’s eco/ethical business membership program), a 20-minute consultation with a publicist, 70 tips on creating credibility,
and more. I don’t know how long Shel and Jay are going to be offering all these extras, so don’t procrastinate on this one – grab it now!

In case you’re wondering, yes I am an affiliate.  I bought the book well before Shel approached me and truly believe it’s worth owning.

Green marketing: Seven ways to separate yourself from the pack

Now that Green is becoming commonplace, you'll want to use smart marketing techniqies to rise above the crowd.

This question from a gentleman in the building industry came my way a couple of weeks ago:

“Now that everyone is building green, how do you separate yourself from the pack? What does it take to sell green to the homeowner?”

It’s a good question and one that is relevant to many businesses outside construction as well.  Here is a (slightly edited) recap of my reply:

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your query.  Here are some thoughts on your question.

1. In most cases, don’t use Green as your front-line benefit. You’re absolutely right.  There’s nothing unique about green any more.  In most cases, green shouldn’t be your front-line benefit.  However it does play a great supporting role.  I like to keep up with green marketing research as much as I can, and every survey I’ve read recently indicates that Americans are continuing to shift more towards Green products.  Even the recession hasn’t put a dent in Green spending.

On the other hand, there’s an exception to every rule, and you definitely want to get a good handle on what’s important to your clientele.  If you’re selectively marketing to the very environmentally conscious, you might very well want to position your product as a solution to your customers’ environmental concerns.  For example, say you’re a solar PV installer in Wisconsin.  A recent survey of Wisconsin homeowners who installed solar electric systems indicates that their top two reasons for purchasing were to protect the environment and to reduce their personal carbon footprint.  In this case you’d definitely want to highlight the environmental benefits of your product, as well as target your marketing efforts towards the environmentally concerned.

2. Highlight savings, build value. Especially in this economy, saving money is a huge incentive for most people.  People are starting to catch on that greener choices often result in savings. Even if your product is more expensive, see if you can show your customer that it’s a better value and will save them money in the long run.

3. Find your prospects’ emotional hot buttons. Many green products also carry other, often related but more personal benefits which may resonate more strongly with your prospects.  For instance, they can contribute to more comfortable, healthier homes or be more aesthetically pleasing.  Figure out which emotional hot buttons appeal to your customers and show them how your Green products can make them healthier, happier, etc.

4. Keep up with available perks. If you’re a contractor or installer, or sell high-efficiency appliances, make sure you keep up to date with all the federal, state and local incentives available to your customers.  These can often tip the balance in your favor. (If you’re a builder or installer, or have implemented green practices in your own business, you may qualify for some extra perks,too!  Check out’s posts on Green Tax Incentives and Save Money Through Energy Efficiency Laws. )

5. Segment your customer base. Realize that not everybody thinks about green the same way.  You can split the population up into a number of categories based on their green buying behaviors and understanding of sustainability issues.  Try marketing in different ways to the various segments of your customer base.  Referring back to my first point, it’s crucial to understand what’s important to your customers.  As a Green builder, you may find that some of the products you offer – say, energy-efficiency products – appeal to people for different reasons, and/or appeal to different people, than others (such as low-VOC paint or reclaimed or recycled building materials.)  Although you may spend a little more to develop different campaigns for each segment of your market, you’re likely to greatly increase your ROI by doing so.

6. Educate, educate, educate! Education is really important.  A lot of people don’t even have green on their radar screen yet.  Many more are interested, but don’t know where to start.  You may find they’re looking to you to help them.  Do a good job, and they’re likely to spread the word to their friends.

A few ways to generate sales and leads through education:

  • In your monthly newsletter or e-zine
  • On your website or blog
  • Video – on You tube, on your website or given to the customer on CD
  • Information packages
  • Teleseminars
  • Giving classes and workshops
  • Contributing articles to newspapers and magazines
  • Public speaking to local groups, hosting your own radio show, etc.

7.Get involved. Precious few companies – even ones promoting themselves as Green – actually seek out comunity involvement.  If you want to reach the die-hard green crowd (not a large portion of the population but a very influential one), or any other niche that’s important to your business, get involved in their causes.  Does your community have a sustainability group or committee?  Join!  Green Drinks (informal nights out at local watering holes) are another good place to network.  How about lending a hand to community projects or charitable causes?

If you decide to go this route, though, be authentic about it.  You have to truly believe in the cause and be prepared to pitch in with the group’s agenda.  If you’re phony and just there to get sales they’ll know it.  But if you stick with it, it will likely pay off very well over time – not just in terms of networking and sales, but socially and spiritually as well.

These are just a few ideas.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What are you doing to promote your own green business?

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.


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

Sustainable Business: A Matter of the Mind

Business man with sledgehammer
It's not just the tool, it's how you use it that counts.

What should a young person do to prepare for a career in sustainability?  John Howley, internationally recognized expert, educator and thought leader on the business of sustainable energy, recently posed this question to a group of green industry professionals on LinkedIn.

Predictably, many of the respondents suggested earning certification in renewable energy and other Green technology.  This reflects a common tendency to equate sustainability with technology.

It’s understandable.  After all, just look around at the world.  The awesome technology our species has developed over the past 200 or so years has enabled us to soar to heights our ancestors could never even have dreamed of.  Unfortunately, it’s also unleashed environmental destruction on a scale even we don’t fully understand.

Mind over Matter

It’s a natural reaction to blame the technology – and to look to alternate technologies to fill in the gap and save us from our own creation.  Solar panels, organic agriculture and the like do indeed hold the promise of a more sustainable approach to living on Planet Earth.

However, the most powerful force for sustainability we have at our disposal is not technology at all.  It’s the human mind.  And it’s our minds, not our technology, which will save – or fail – humanity.

It’s a Matter of Choice

Are you reading this at home?  If you are (or even if you’re not) you probably have access to a somewhat primitive but very useful piece of human technology:  the hammer.  Pick one up if you can.  (Or do so mentally if you can’t.)  Feel its weight in your hand.  You could use this hammer to build a home that can provide shelter and comfort to your family for generations.  Or you could use it to bash someone’s head in.  Same tool.  Same user.  How – and whether – you choose to use it follows from the thoughts in your mind.

We can switch to cleaner technologies.   But without a deep understanding of what is truly sustainable, and a deep desire to get there, what will it mean?  Like the mythical Icarus, we’re likely to keep pushing beyond our limits until we come unglued and fall to earth.

Preserving the Flow

What is sustainability in business but the flow of profits such that the company remains solvent and thriving?  What is sustainability in the world but the flow of life and the conditions it depends on so that the living communities on Earth – including humans – may live and thrive?

Personally, I think in the very near future virtually every career will be – of necessity – a career in sustainability.  We have finally reached the point where we can’t pretend any more that economic sustainability is somehow separate from and independent of ecological sustainability.  The technologies we turn to must then be not only economically viable, but must fit into the natural world in such a way as to support it rather than tear it down.  And that means not only choosing our technologies carefully, but also, like Icarus’s father Daedelus, using them responsibly.

Using our Heads

As marketers and business leaders, of course, this puts us in a hot spot.  After all, it’s our job to get people to buy as much product as possible, right?

Or is it?

Again, let’s use our minds.

Our job is to maximize profits to keep our companies and the economy solvent.   And in the new economy it’s in our best long-term interest to do so in a sustainable manner so the world and future generations also benefit from what we do.  This means we have to work smarter, rather than just mindlessly cranking out more and more product regardless of the consequences.

Here are some ideas for how we can accomplish this:

  1. Be honest with ourselves. Is what we’re doing really viable in the long-term?  If not, how can we start moving in a more sustainable direction?
  2. Educate both ourselves and our customers. True sustainability requires a shift of purpose and a shift of mindset.  It requires us to be far-sighted.
  3. Pay attention to personal relationships and customer service. It’s costly to gain new clients.  The better the relationships you have with your existing customers, the greater your per-capita return – and the more influence you’ll have over their attitudes and future decisions.
  4. Build value. When you can really prove the value of what you offer, you’re less likely to have to lower prices to make the sale.  Being able to command a higher price per item equals greater profits and/or less expense.  And if you’re selling a sustainable product, it places a higher value on sustainability itself.
  5. Use our heads. What business are you really in?  Are there ways you can sell additional services to the same customers?  Can you come up with more efficient ways of doing things?  Remember, few things are more valuable than human ingenuity and good information – and these things can often be sold without harm to the environment.

The physical world is finite.  But there are no limits to human imagination.  And that’s something that can be put to work – and profited from – in any field, technical or not.

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.

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.