How to Market Sustainability to New B2B Customers
The demand for sustainability as a component of businesses practices is not going away anytime soon. However, learning how to effectively Market your sustainability objectives to your customers, old and new, is the ultimate driver for success if sustainability is your focus.
According to Nielsen, three out of four millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings, and 72% of Generation Z is ready to do the same. In addition, a Unilever study showed that 33% of people choose brands based on their social and environmental impact. This study also revealed that one in five surveyed would favour brands whose sustainability credentials are clear on their packaging and marketing.
As time goes on, these demands are likely to increase. Capitalising on this market depends not only on sustainable operations but on good marketing and even better product procurement.
Where do we start?
Some pretty quick wins that marketing can implement and won’t require massive buy-in from the wider business. This makes the time to market much quicker and gives us a good feel for how receptive customers and prospects could be to this change. These will typically be actions directly connected to Marketing activities. For example, selecting more ethical vendors, reducing the waste from events and giveaways, introducing a more sustainable agenda into the campaigns we run, and forging partnerships with charitable organisations and good causes.
Some examples of sustainable Marketing are:
- Cutting out Direct Mail as it’s considered to have a high carbon footprint.
- With DM campaigns, businesses should at least be careful to use FSC approved paper/packaging.
- Being hyper-targeted with DM and email campaigns to reduce waste and wasted energy – we will see fewer’ spray and pray’ campaigns, rather more precision, cutting out waste.
- The use of AI to make marketing campaigns more accurate, less wasteful
There are then the wider-ranging business-wide initiatives Marketing can take on. Some will be more challenging than others and will require more significant support from the business departments to implement. However, these changes, such as those in supply chain management and operational process improvements to reduce waste or promote a circular economy, will ultimately result in a culture shift over time.
It may seem overwhelming initially, but it starts with a slight change that soon becomes something more extensive, as with all large projects.
It won’t always be an easy journey, but it will be a fulfilling one, driving positive brand awareness and fundamentally changing the course of your business for the better. Action for the climate isn’t about immediate impact; it’s about creating a sustainable business built to endure the challenges of the future.
Tackling sustainability in B2B businesses presents a vast opportunity for us as marketers, and we can be the pioneers of this movement.
Five principles of sustainable marketing that you can embrace today:
Consumer-oriented marketing means that the company or organisation view its marketing strategy from the consumer’s point of view. (We’ve already got this one covered with the inbound marketing methodology!)
Customer value marketing
Customer value marketing entails putting most efforts and resources into continuously improving the value added to the offering. As the company creates value for the customer, the customer, in turn, creates value for the company. Sustainable!
The principle of innovative marketing ensures that an organisation never stops finding better ways to develop products, services and better ways to market. Those that ignore innovation will lose customers to those that find better and better ways.
Sense-of-mission marketing is the principle that guides a firm to define a broad mission that speaks to society rather than just the product. Adopting an overall mission gives a company a clear, long-term direction and serves the best long-run interests of consumers and the brand.
With the principle of societal marketing, the company balances decisions based on the customer wants, the company requirements, and the customer and society’s long-term interests. For example, Method home products put the ‘hurt on dirt without harming people, creatures or the planet’. Innovative companies look ahead to potential societal issues as opportunities.
Four strategies for Green Marketing
As diverse as marketing can be, so various are the possible strategies for Green Marketing. Here are three popular methods that we have seen and that we use to promote ourselves:
Cause-Related Marketing (CrM)
For every product sold, a sum of money or a product goes to an NGO or is used for a clearly defined environmental or social purpose. To establish a recognisable link to one’s brand, the cooperation partner or charitable purpose should be consistent with your portfolio and the commitment should be documented and communicated transparently. Only in this way can brand trust be built up.
One example is Pampers: They donated a tetanus vaccination for every package of nappies sold – Green Marketing at its finest.
Transparency and responsibility
True to this motto, a company should provide transparent sustainability reporting that surpasses the legal requirements and discloses, for example, its cooperating suppliers and the origins and means of obtaining the raw materials for its products. This fosters customer confidence both in the company and its products. Those with a clear conscience have nothing to hide – and appear customer-focused and trustable.
Campaigns and initiatives without branding
The strategy aims to initiate a campaign that promotes the common good or sustainability, but it has nothing to do with the company and could even harm its product sales. The outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, for example, has committed itself to the sustainable use of clothing by advocating the repair of damaged and reselling of worn clothing. While potentially damaging products sales is never the objective of a Marketing team, this strategy often leads to higher product sales as brand awareness and trust grows.
Such an approach fosters simpatico and credibility, which ultimately contributes to winning new customers and the long-term loyalty of existing ones. Furthermore, such campaigns offer plenty of opportunities to create personal touchpoints with the target group.
It’s not enough to let consumers know that you’re offering a green alternative. It would help if you let them know everything about the category you’re in. For example, if you’re selling a harmless, biodegradable cleaning product, let consumers know how traditional products damage our environment. Focus your green marketing on how your product or service is a better alternative. All the small details of what ingredients are used, how effective it is, and how it biodegrades should be included in your message. The better you are in educating consumers with your marketing, the more likely the businesses will be convinced to switch and support you.
Best practices in Green Marketing: Credibility
There’s a very narrow line between Green Marketing and greenwashing. However, even if unintended, the slightest mistake in brand communication can cause a considerable loss of trust among the target group. Consequently, several factors need to be considered to ensure sustainable marketing is received as intended.
- Truthfulness is the absolute baseline: Does your company act sustainably? Check where there’s room for improvement and first of all, validate that your resource consumption does meet the requirements of sustainable production and sustainable management.
- Practice what you preach: Sustainability cannot simply be a self-imposed stamp to let you jump quickly on the Green Marketing bandwagon. Instead, it must become an integral part of the corporate philosophy, which all employees live and advocate – both inside and outside the company. For this, you must communicate your sustainability strategy internally and, ideally, develop it jointly within the company.
- Open communication: Communicate your company’s values and fill them with content and illustrative examples. Your website provides the space to present your understanding of sustainable business without unnecessary self-adulation.
- Skip the moral sermons: Sustainable corporate culture and value creation must not be the subject of moral superiority over other companies or online commentators. Don’t try to convert others or kick off discussions, but take a clear position, communicate it and answer questions with this philosophy in mind.