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Why your sustainable idea is not bringing you clients

And how to reframe your sustainable business to bring in more clients
A question mark written with a graphite pencil, circled a couple of times and underlined.

It wasn’t all that long ago that crowds would carve out a few hours on the weekend to sardine themselves into decadent shopping malls and binge on the latest fashions, toys, music, and food. This nostalgic adventure may have been the best option at the time, but now consumers enjoy a far more intimate shopping experience through their mobile devices.

Shoppers no longer have to wait for open business hours when they can simply pull up their favorite brand’s website on their smartphone whenever the urge strikes them. This presents a new opportunity for businesses to engage with potential clients using attractive website design, entertaining visuals, and relatable social media posts.

With all those direct lines of communication, it should be easy for your eco-friendly and sustainability-oriented company to reach your target markets. So why hasn’t that happened? Why are your clients choosing less environmentally safe products over yours?

Young caucasian woman on leather couch working at a laptop while browsing her phone.
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

The Truth of the Modern Consumer

Let’s get a better picture of who it is we are targeting. Nearly 60% of consumers surveyed will change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Of that same group, the majority said they would spend up to 35% more on the price for a similar product from an eco-friendly brand. The point is, there are consumers out there who will respond to your green business.

Before Covid, we saw great promise grow from Millennials to the current socially aware generation of consumers raised on TikTok. While many in this group still prefer locally sourced and reusable product-based companies, they have had to deal with the repercussions of income disparity during the current era.

This places our consumer base into two solid categories. First, we have value-driven consumers who are more motivated by the price tag, and second, are purpose-driven consumers. They seek brands that align with their personal values. Our goal is to target the second category using a few marketing methods that can be implemented in your online presence.

A big sign on the wall that says: "We like you, too. :)"
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

User-Generated Content

If you want more interest, that converts to sales from your eco-friendly business, you need to build up your social proof. The best way to do this without placing your thumb on the scale is to cultivate quality user-generated content (UGC). This can be everything from product reviews, shared media, unboxing videos, and even a selfie taken while drinking a bottle of your handmade apple cider.

UGC is a powerful tool that we often overlook in our marketing campaigns. For example, there was a recent study performed in California where a group of researchers was trying to lower the amount of household energy being used. They sent out three messages to homes in their target area with content related to being more environmentally friendly or how conserving power will save you money in the long run. Unsurprisingly, these messages did little to move the needle.

The fourth message was geared differently. The researchers stated that the fellow community residents were also trying to conserve energy and used that social proof as the reason why everyone else should do the same. This message generated 3.5 more of a response than the others. The reason was simple, consumers will emulate the behavior of those around them to get over any uncertainty about a product or service.

To reach more consumers with your green business, you need to engage in social proof that aligns with their beliefs. Create highly sharable social media content and develop strategies that reward using your products while celebrating their environmental goals. You want consumers to see their peers using, enjoying, and reaffirming the benefits of your business.

The word stop made of plastic tubes on a blue background with plastic utensils environmental pollution concept.
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Shift Your Default Green Options

Let’s look at another way to encourage more consumer activity with your green business. Consider the almighty Starbucks for a moment. In July of 2018, the company committed to banning plastic straws worldwide by 2020. So now, when you go through the drive-thru and order a green iced tea, your giant refreshing drink comes in a container with an adult sippy cup lid instead of a straw.

We can save the debate over the efficacy of the plastic lid to the plastic straw when it comes to environmentally safe practices and instead look at the behavior for a moment. While Starbucks introduced their new default option of a plastic lid, they would refrain from asking if consumers wanted a straw. This added a step to completing your caffeine-addicted purchase that most consumers did not want to take. If they wanted a traditional straw, they would have to spend energy asking. Slowly, Starbucks was nudging their customers into accepting the change by making a choice for them.

Nudging are minor changes in the environment that can lead to behavioral changes. Turn this to your business. How can you adapt your structure, design, and online presence, so the default option of your products is already geared towards environmentally safe practices? Once you have done this, how can you leverage this nudge using social proof and user-generated content to validate your changes?

A couple of eggs in a egg carton with each drawn a different smiley face.
Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

Leverage Emotional Responses to Create a Domino Effect

We’ve identified our target market, aligned our website design and product offerings with default eco-friendly options, and used online reviews and social sharing to validate our company.

What is next?

Time to drive home our company’s value proposition using emotional appeals that will lead to longer-lasting customer relationships, creating a solid domino effect of higher sales.

The emotional appeal is often overlooked with sustainable-oriented businesses because marketers like to feature disturbing warnings of what will happen if we don’t go green. The fact is, people are stubborn creatures of habit that we need to encourage more than threaten. Time to shift your language and approach to hope in a brighter future and pride in using more socially aware products.

Emotion is king. It is the main currency of Millennials, the dominant workforce representing more than $2.5 trillion in spending power. If you want to sell your feminist line of comfortable clothing, you better have a message of gender equality. The same is true for eco-friendly products. You need to start leveraging messaging that aligns directly with the social movement of a greener, safer, and more sustainable lifestyle. 40% of younger consumers will stop using a brand if its ethical values are not aligned with their own.

Time to talk about hope, change, and a better tomorrow that celebrates new eco-friendly habits supported by your products and services. Then hammer home these ideas with as much social proof as possible to build trust capital with your customers. If done well, you’ll be looking at a new influx of highly engaged customers that will spread the good word about your products as brand ambassadors extraordinaire across the online world.

A small sapling starting to grow from the sand.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Growth Starts with You

If you build it, they will come, but only if they see you making it. If you want to grow your green business into a profitable endeavor, you need to show the world you are aligned with their beliefs. Offer a value proposition that validates the pricing of your products and then attach highly engaging social proof through user-generated content.

The ability to shift and nudge consumer behavior is a delicate dance of subtle change, only possible by embracing a positive outlook on the future. Your consumers want to act more socially aware. Give them permission and make it easier by streamlining your product offerings and website design using updated content and engaging social proof. You absolutely can have a successful green business and be a juggernaut of environmental change. It just takes a little rethinking of your strategies.

What’s next for you?

If you want to understand how building your new eco-friendly business website will help your sustainable business, contact me. With my experience and professional knowledge, we will elevate your sustainable project into the online world and reach your target audience.

Also, check out my FREE 5-day email course, How to Build Your Sustainable Brand, which will help you understand your brand, tell the story it needs to tell, and show your passion to the customers who will value and support your brand.

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