There is a win-win marketing opportunity sitting right in front of you and if you’re not taking advantage of it, your competitors will. Maybe not today, but soon. Which is why you need to spend some time and energy thinking ECO!
Eco-friendliness and sustainability is a HUGE trend. In fact it’s more than a trend because getting rid of single-use plastics has turned into a formidable MOVEMENT that is sweeping across the globe (with a few notable exceptions 🙄.
Clearly, this is amazing news for our planet and everyone living on it but it also has a direct impact on you both as a consumer AND as a business owner, which is where I come in.
Only today I read an article about 9 ways to get rid of single use plastics in your bathroom. From wool-wrapped soap pebbles to shampoo and deodorant bars, from fabric makeup-remover pads to washable cotton sanitary towels, the move away from single-use towards reusable and recyclable is thankfully here to stay. And it made me think of you.
My question to you is WHERE DO YOU FIT?
How can you be a part of it? How can you capitalise on it because I’ll tell you something – if you don’t embrace it, somebody else will. They will get the business you could have had purely based on their eco-focus in their business and that will HURT. Ouch!
Even if you think it just wouldn’t matter to your customers, think again.
Even if you think it’s impossible to do anything ‘eco’ in your business, it’s not. There will be a way. And I want you to read this and start thinking, not just because we all need to play a part in saving our planet but also because you can turn it into a big marketing advantage. Oh, yes you can!
If you make soap or skincare, there has never been a better time to be making hand-made. If you create things from fabric or wool you can look for ways to create reusable versions of things people usually buy and throw away. Think about the renaissance of towelling nappies, it’s not just traditional ‘eco’ families using them.
But what if you’re not a soap or skincare maker? What if you don’t knit or sew in your business? How can you incorporate ECO in your business in a meaningful way, that will make a difference and be a great marketing angle?
Well, I’ve a few ideas for you and even if I don’t directly mention YOUR sector think about those I do mention and how you might adapt the thinking to fit yours.
Virtual Assistants – how can a VA be eco?
Well, they can go paperless for starters. Many already have but how about their clients? If I was a VA I’d be thinking about offering a service where I help my clients become more sustainable in their business. From helping them create a paperless office, to doing research around eco-friendly suppliers, from helping them source sustainable packaging to enabling them to cut travel by doing more online meetings, I’d have a huge ‘ECO your business’ package I could offer to clients who have the will but not the time to do this.
Dog Walkers – how can they be eco?
Well, biodegradable poop bags are a good start but you might also choose to map your pickup routes to save fuel (good for your pocket and the environment). You might already be doing this but why not tell your clients and potential clients, so they understand it’s deliberate strategy? How about the clothes you wear? And what about the services you offer? Can you add value by selling small dog accessories like travel water bowls to cut down on single-use plastic bottles of water? How about dog leads made from sustainable bamboo fibre? And if you have to replace your vehicle, maybe you choose an electric one if it’s practical and use that in your marketing too? Your customers can feel good that their impact on the planet is lessened by choosing you as a dog walker. Cool, huh?
Wellbeing businesses – how can they be eco?
Well, mindfulness goes a long way towards making people more conscious of their actions. Mindfulness reduces stress, increases awareness of our behaviour and often has a knock-on effect of reducing materialism and mindless consumption. In other words if you can learn to be happy being you, you don’t need to buy ‘stuff’ to make yourself feel happy. That is a great eco strategy.
Herbalists and homeopaths might choose to post their remedies in reusable or recyclable packaging and do consultations via Skype, to save travel. How about sustainably sourced ingredients?
Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths might send text appointments and do online bookings rather than using cards. They might choose massage oils from a sustainable source in recyclable packaging. They might have a plastic-free practise and use this as a marketing point.
Eco Ideas For Small Businesses With A Big Heart
How about other eco ideas for other businesses? Can you take back your packaging and recycle it if your customers send it back?
Can you offer refills?
One of my lovely students, Tina at Purple Nanny in Abbotsbury in Dorset has just started a refill service for all sort of household liquids and her customers love it. Some of them make a point of shopping with her just because she’s the only person in her area offering this. Not only does it save on packaging, it also has a feel-good factor and THAT is something customers love.
Can you offer repairs?
I bought a beautiful leather bag from a little startup company based in a Canadian forest (yes really, the things you find on Kickstarter…) and they offer lifetime repairs for free if you send your item back to them. My only problem is it would take weeks and lots of money to send it back to Canada from the UK so I’ll look for a local cobbler if I need repairs, as I don’t want THAT on my carbon footprint!
If you’re in hair and beauty can you reduce plastic in the salon? Choose energy-saving hairdryers when they need replacing? Offer a shampoo refill service if your client bring back their bottles? Research the most sustainable and economical options for hair towels? Choose sustainable, reusable kit where you can (I’m not suggesting you reuse waxing strips, but what COULD you swap to that would mean you buy less and reuse more, while maintaining your high hygiene standards?)
Bringing Eco Into Your Business
Where can you save electricity? Save water? Compost? Sustainably source?
Can you do deliveries by bike?
On foot? By go-cart? By horse?
Can you suggest things they can do with the things they have bought from you once they no longer need them? If you make cards, can you include a little list on the back of things you can do with a card that’s had its day? Turn it into a fan? Use it to prop up a wonky table? Make it into a jigsaw? Turn it into a new card?
Can you ask customers to send the items back once they no longer needs them, so you can refurbish or repurpose them? Can you give them loyalty points for doing that? Heck, can you buy the stuff back for a small amount that they can redeem against new stuff?
I’ve seen some great ideas from big and small brands, from a subscription service where you get a selection of pre-loved clothes for your growing baby each month to save you buying new clothing that will barely be worn before it’s too small (I’ve also seen a baby-wear hire service – similar but different) to a big brand (John Lewis) that will buy back your old clothes so they can ensure they are properly recycled. From my husband’s business where they offer free repairs on all the tools they sell (which means the customers come onto the van and browse while the repair is getting done) to the free water refill campaign (Tina at Purple Nanny does that, too).
Here is a little clip of the John Lewis story with a link to the story in The Guardian. I did think there might be some shareholder schmoozing involved but one of my lovely readers, Catherine, advised me that John Lewis don’t have shareholders and are run co-operatively, which makes it EVEN MORE AMAZING! They are reducing their impact on landfill because it’s the right thing to do. How fab is that? As for the marketing, they made sure the press knew what they were doing because it’s a great story and got them tons of coverage, as you can see.
What can you learn from that? I’m thinking if you’re consciously doing something in your business that has a positive impact on the environment, you definitely need to be shouting about it to the local paper at the very least.
Your Eco Marketing Angle
With my business hat on, how can you USE any of your amazing eco ideas in your marketing?
How can you capitalise on it? You’re doing it anyway, so TELL YOUR CUSTOMERS (and potential customers) because most people will care and some people will care a LOT, to the point where they become fiercely loyal and supportive of your business.
Don’t assume you can’t make sustainability and eco-friendliness a part of your business. We all can.
And don’t assume nobody will care. They do.
And don’t assume your tiny efforts won’t make a difference. They will. To the planet AND your profits. Win-Win.
I would LOVE to hear how you are bringing sustainability and eco-friendliness into your business. Tell me your ideas. Tell me what you’re already doing. Tell me how you’re using it in your marketing. Tell me what your customers think of it. I can’t wait to hear from you!!
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.