Helping green businesses prosper in a downturn
Five easy steps from Sinclair Consultants, a leading provider of PR, marketing & communications services to businesses in the green economy
It’s probably fair to say that those of you working in and running ‘green’ businesses are doing so because you really believe passionately in what you do and want to make a positive difference to the world in which you live.
You see yourselves as enlightened custodians of a fragile world that is in danger of becoming irretrievably damaged if we don’t act now and make some serious changes to the way in which we live our lives.
So you have set up businesses that sell a range of products and services that you believe will make a real difference and enable the sustainable economic model to develop and grow.
Most of these businesses are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and as such, experience just the same kinds of growing pains as SMEs in the conventional economy.
Finding new customers and maintaining healthy cash flow are probably two of the biggest headaches. But as we head into what looks like being a pretty major downturn, how can you ensure that your businesses endure and ideally, continue to prosper?
Step 1 How you present your business
It’s an increasingly competitive world out there and in order for your business to compete on equal terms, you need to make sure that everything you do looks as professional as possible. Historically, ‘green’ businesses can look a bit homespun in terms of logo, corporate identity, clunky website etc and whilst this can be charming and in some cases a big plus factor to a niche, anti-capitalist customer segment, it’s not going to do your business any favours in the long term. Remember, you are competing with businesses that have much greater resources than you do but sharpening up your corporate identity doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Clever use of typography, colour and space can make a big difference and means you won’t necessarily have to start from scratch with a total redesign.
Step 2 Getting your script right
What do you say about your business and its range of products and services? Are you saying the right things? And how are you saying them? On the website? In printed materials? In emails? Getting the words right, in terms of content and tone of voice is crucial, but in order to do so, you also need to know your customers, hence Step 3.
Step 3 Know your customers
What sort of customers do you have? What are they buying from you? How did they hear about you? What systems do you have in place for maintaining that contact? Do you send out regular newsletters? Do you hold customer events? Are there other products or services that you could be selling to them? The larger your business gets the more you will need a proper system to help you exploit your existing and potential customers so that you can grow your business.
Step 4 It’s all about perception…
As a committed individual or team of people, passionate about what you do, you probably know a great deal about the products you sell and the market place you are selling into. In fact, you probably know much more than you think you know. That knowledge and experience has value, but are you exploiting it? For example, do you ever write articles for publication that demonstrate your sector expertise? And are you in touch with the journalists that write about your sector, whether trade press, magazines or national, regional or local press? Do you ever send out press releases about new products or recent successes within your business? If not, you are missing a trick. Journalists can only write about information that’s supplied to them and if you aren’t telling them your good news, then you can be sure your competitors are. If you’ve got something interesting to say, you should be saying it loud and clear. The same can be applied to local TV and local radio. Businesses with a strong, public profile put a lot of effort into ensuring that they are talking to the right journalists and giving them information that is targeted to their precise requirements.
Step 5 Taking the lead
As well as raising your profile in media terms, there’s a lot you can and should be doing in relation to you other target audiences. Do you speak at industry events? Are you involved with your local community? Have you been in to your local primary / secondary school to talk about the subjects that you feel passionate about in relation to the green economy? What about starting up a local group to help you achieve some of your work-related, green or sustainable objectives? This could be on any subject, ranging from recycling collections to setting up a local renewable energy network. This in turn can lead to exciting sponsorship opportunities involving individuals or perhaps a group of local organisations. Just think laterally about where your business is now and where you want it to be in 12 months’ time. There will be more than one way of getting there, so you should explore all the options.
Finally, remember that you are in the vanguard of the whole green movement. It’s not always the most comfortable place to be, but pioneering never was an easy ride. Take pride in what you do, maintain the passion that has helped you get to where you are today and keep the faith. There are already thousands of us out there, all pulling in the same direction and we will get there in the end!
Christopher Biggs is a director of Sinclair Consultants. He works with a range of green companies and helps them achieve their business objectives through a range of advertising, PR, marketing and corporate communications initiatives.
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