Sometime in January as I was driving out of my neighborhood at some obnoxiously early hour, I saw something that made me do a double-take. In the dark, through the flurrying snow, in the sub-freezing weather, I saw a group of kids waiting at the bus stop.
But wait … something was wrong in this picture. One of the kids had on shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers with no socks. This was not June … it was JANUARY. I noticed the kid was shivering and wondered “What the heck was he thinking?” I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for him (nah) or for his mom (who undoubtedly lost that morning’s battle of what’s appropriate to wear in 10 Degree weather in Cleveland). I hadn’t thought about that moment until now.
Like many of you, I’ve been watching and reading the news. And I’m starting to feel like I’m driving through this economy and some of the bankers, the politicians and car companies are the shivering kid in sub-freezing weather. The economy is like the weather and we all need to dress accordingly!
Consumers’ conversations have changed. What’s important to them has changed. The stories of their lives have changed and it seems like no one is paying attention.
Example: If consumers are talking about eating out less often, then having “fun” at Applebee’s doesn’t seem like it fits (especially if mom or dad just got laid off).
To be successful right now, we need to start paying attention to what consumers are talking about and where they are spending their money.
Eco-Conscious Brands are Selling
Four out of five consumers are still buying green products despite the battered economy, according to a new Opinion Research Study. While people are spending less overall, “green” brands have not seen a decline like other brands have. Smart brands have made the connection that eco-brands are ultimately about cutting cost and conserving in the long term (even though they tend to cost more). And businesses that embrace the eco-frugal trend will get and keep higher profit customers.
For example, Mini-Coopers (The Mini-e) are positioning themselves as minimalists and beta testing a more eco-friendly version of the Cooper. Apple has been advertising their new “green” content.
What can you do to take advantage of this trend — while still being true to your business’s mission?
How to Position Yourself for the Current Conversation
1. Speak Fluent “Green.” Another finding in the Opinion Research Study was that while nearly half of all consumers preferred green brands, about a third really had no way of confirming that a brand’s green claims are true. Yet, about 21% said that a brand’s reputation was pivotal in their purchasing decision.
That means that you need to dig deep inside your company, product or service and authentically identify all your eco-friendly materials and practices. If that was never a focus of your marketing – just tell your customers the true story of what you learned and how you learned it. You’re likely to gain more profitable customers with a message that says “We got tired of waste and chemicals and have decided to go green – here’s what we did, why and how.”
2. Find ways to involve your customers in the process. The Study also found that there is a disconnect between what consumers say and what they do. 87% say they recycle, yet the EPA says that only 33% of our waste is diverted for recycling.
That means that your customers want to be environmentally conscious, but they need a support mechanism. That could be your business. And if being eco-conscious has not been a focus for your business in the past, this is an ideal way to authentically make the transition. Companies that recognize that there is power in going through the eco-journey together will gain a fiercely loyal fan base.
If you’re an industrial firm, recruit an advisory board of customers and work on products that they buy – cutting costs and saving the environment together. If you’re more of a consumer business, create a group both at your location and on Facebook and create or change a product or service together.
3. Create and Tell Your Story. Most industrial organizations shy away from storytelling. That’s too bad because companies don’t make decisions to buy things — people do. There is always a person who ultimately decides to choose you.
According to the book, Make to Stick, sticky stories have six attributes. They are simple, concrete, emotional, unexpected, credible and told as a story that we can relate to and see ourselves in. This means that a lot of work will go into putting a re-tellable, inspiring and marketable story together.
With the speed of communication these days, there is just no excuse for being disconnected from your customers and what’s important to them. These three tips will get you closer.
And for heaven’s sake … put a coat on. It’s cold out there.
* * * * *
About the Author: Ivana Taylor has spent over 20 years helping industrial organizations and small business owners get and keep their ideal customers. Her company is Third Force and she writes a blog called Strategy Stew. She is co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers.”