Case Study: How One Product Could Market to Green and Nongreen Audiences

By Shel Horowitz

(Adapted from Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz)

Too many makers of green products focus only on green customers. But that’s leaving a lot of business on the table. Most green products and services can be successfully marketed to both green and nongreen markets.

Even market niches that are created by green thinking—products or services that would not exist without the green consumer—can also find appeal outside the green world.

Remember the five questions we suggested in Chapter 4 in developing your new product? Let’s put that into practice with a real product: Why Flush?—an all-natural enzyme compound that reduces the odor and stain of urine, allowing it to remain in the bowl with no ill effects. Because the toilet is flushed far less often, the primary benefit is saving water.

Problem/Desire:
Thousands of gallons of water per household are wasted flushing small amounts of urine. An entrepreneur would like to help people save this water.

Possible Solutions:
There are several possible ways to fix this, such as composting toilets, graywater recycling (so that the water for flushing has already been used once, in a sink, dishwasher, shower, bath, or washing machine), and European-style two-way toilet switches that allow you to select a large flow for solids or a smaller flow for liquids. But this particular entrepreneur chose a different route.

Advantages:
Most of the other solutions involve extensive hardware modifications, and that’s expensive. Why Flush?, by comparison, is cheap to buy and easy to implement (a couple of squirts on a standard hand-operated spray pump such as you’d use for window cleaner).

Possible Markets:
Green consumers who care about saving water are an obvious market—and because of its low price and intuitive use, the product appeals not only to homeowners but also to renters. But there are several other markets, too.

Large consumers of water have economic reasons to save. Think about how much water is consumed in the bathrooms of sports stadiums, concert halls, schools, transportation terminals, and so forth. However, to reach this market, there would have to be a way to control the flush schedule and add the product remotely, which might be difficult in most circumstances (other than public urinals, some of which already use a timer instead of individual flush handles). So this would be a back-burner market, to pursue later once the technology catches up or the social expectations around flushing have shifted enough to create a space in the market within the society as a whole.

But there are at least two other huge markets that are much easier to approach: First, homeowners who live with septic systems and private water supplies (their own or a neighborhood well). Unlike the owners of large public bathrooms, this group has no technological or sociological challenges in implementing Why Flush?, and has a strong economic interest in conserving water. These homeowners extend their infrastructure’s lifespan while decreasing the number (and thus the cost) of septic tank pumpouts.

The second large market consists of people who live in places that face drought frequently, and where the culture has shifted in favor of flushing less—as it has in many parts of California, for example. Those folks are already letting the yellow stuff sit, and they would welcome such a simple solution to the problem of odors and stains.

Getting the Sale:
Target your appeals to each of these audiences. For green homeowners and tenants, saving water is enough of a reason. For the industrial bathroom owners as well as the well and septic crowd, a purely economic argument will work better. And for those already not flushing because of drought, an appeal based on a clean, germ-free house and a toilet that is once again easy to clean should close the sale.

These four different markets are going to congregate in different places—and be attracted to different message points.

To reach green consumers, exhibit at green festivals…demo products in stores…do radio interviews…advertise in demographically/psychographically appropriate publications and radio shows…seek out product reviews in green publications and websites.

Articles in trade magazines and targeted direct mail would effectively reach the industrial users. To reach homeowners with septic systems, rent customer lists from septic pumpout companies, and seek out print media interviews. And reach people in drought-centric cultures through mass-market media.

And of course, although the message points would be different, it’s important to note that the marketing techniques can transcend the barriers and reach every group. With different audience-specific messages, the company could actively use social media, blogs, traditional media publicity, public speaking, product demonstrations, its own website…

Green/social change business profitability expert Shel Horowitz, “The Transformpreneursm,” shows you how profit by greening your business, turning hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance, and marketing these commitments. Adapted with permission from Shel’s 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (with Jay Conrad Levinson; Morgan James Publishing, 2016). The book highlights profitable and successful socially responsible strategies used by companies from Fortune 100 to solopreneurs: http://goingbeyondsustainability.com/guerrilla-marketing-to-heal-the-world/ To discuss your next project with him or schedule a no-charge 15-minute strategy session: shel [AT] greenandprofitable.com, 413-586-2388 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m., US Eastern Time), Twitter: @ShelHorowitz

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