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Selling Green Internally
Originally published: 01.01.09 by John Empson
There is a lot of talk about selling green products, green lifestyles, green attitudes and energy effi ciency. As a business owner you have already spent countless days toiling over your marketing strategy. You have experimented with naming your company, selecting a company logo, tag lines, colors, advertising and dozens of other elements all before you open your doors. However, there is one area that is nearly always forgotten in the structuring of a new company or the re-branding of an existing company — internal marketing.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether you want to make energy effi ciency and the green concept part of your marketing plan. But first, you need to make it part of your company culture.
If you think internal marketing isn’t important, think again. Your employees are on the front lines of your business with daily customer contact. Therefore, each of them should be trained in the green concepts, products and services so they can help educate and influence your customers. Continually marketing to your staff will reinforce your brand strategy making it second nature
Internal Marketing is a continuous training process that occurs exclusively within your company, and in which the employees are educated on the marketing strategy and the direction of your brand. When your employees know and understand the concept of your marketing efforts they will be better able to communicate that message to your customers. In addition, they will feel more ownership in the long-term goals of the company and a sense of pride when those goals are met.
Educating, Building Culture
It’s not enough to say that you are a green company. You have to live it, talk about it and reinforce it with your staff.
AJ Danboise is a suburban Detroit HVACR, electrical and plumbing company that has walked the talk. In early 2008, the company took their brand to the next level with a company-wide recommitment to going green and promoting energy-saving technology.
Starting with a ban on Styrofoam cups, Marketing Operations Manager Jim Randall passed out steel drink tumblers and then collected all of the old business cards for recycling.
Randall says he has made a concerted effort to educate, what he calls his “internal customers”, about the benefits and the reasons for selling green. He adds that this is the first step in selling green to customers.
“We needed to let our employees know that we were serious about establishing our newly branded company as the leader in green, energy efficient products. Everyone is excited to take the company in a new direction,” Randall said.
The education process has been part of regular staff meetings at which the team discusses who their customers are and how they are trying to attract and retain them as long-term customers.
Upon roll out of their new advertising campaign, a company meeting was called to bring everyone up to speed and to reveal the new company logo. During this meeting, details such as the reason for the change and even the rationale for the colors used in the new logo, were extensively discussed.
Randall says, “We talked about the overall marketing concept, what green means to us as a company and how we want all of our employees to be aware of and on board with our marketing efforts.”
In addition, the company has used internal training sessions to teach technicians and office staff, not only what to say to the customers but also how to say it. Manufacturers’ representatives have been brought in to reinforce the green concept by having them educate technicians about their latest high efficiency, water and energy saving equipment. Plus, every month, employees receive a newsletter at home packed with articles and information that reinforce the marketing philosophy.
AJ Danboise offers various levels of incentive programs to their technicians. The more technicians know and understand the products and services, the more they can educate their customers and sell your products. In this scenario everybody wins. Your business wins with increased sales. The technician wins with incentive programs and of course, the customer wins with a safer, more efficient green product in their home.
Employees Talking to Consumers
Selling green and energy efficiency to your customers is no different than selling it to your employees. Once your employees are educated, selling green and energy efficiency to your customers becomes almost effortless. You need to list the benefits in a way that resonates with the customer’s lifestyle. Keep in mind that the benefits need to be real. You’ve seen ads on TV for hybrid trucks that get 14 miles per gallon. Where’s the value in that?
The key is uncovering what is most important to the customer. The customer might have a problem with uneven temperatures throughout their home. They may have allergies and need to improve the indoor air quality. More often than not they want to reduce their highenergy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. The answer is always a properly sized and expertly installed high efficiency system that will use fewer resources today and for years to come.
Talking points with customers should include three key areas:
1. Healthy Home. Communicate to the consumer that your products are designed to provide their family with a cleaner and healthier home through advanced technology. Healthy indoor air quality helps prevent the causes of allergies and illnesses and can eliminate mold, bacteria and other contaminants.
2. Energy Savings. Energy efficiency means costs savings. Reducing the monthly cost of heating and cooling a home will speak to the heart and wallet of any homeowner. Emphasize the fact that systems are becoming increasingly affordable, especially when factoring in the lifetime of energy savings. To do this, use the customer’s energy bills to show them how much they will save over the life of the equipment.
For example, show the annual expected energy savings multiplied by the minimum life expectancy of the unit. You can use 15 years as a typical life expectancy of a furnace.
A) Current furnace is 70% efficient. New furnace is 95% efficient.
B) Gas usage could be cut by as much as 26% (95 - 70) / 95 = 26.3%.
C) If their annual gas bills are $2,000, they could save as much as $520 a year or $7,800 over the expected life of the furnace. The formula to calculate the expected savings for a new air conditioner is essentially the same: Take the new equipment SEER rating and subtract the existing equipment SEER rating, and then divide by the new equipment SEER rating, which will equal the percent of savings.
For comparing a 13 SEER with an old 8 SEER, the formula would be (13 - 8) / 13 = 38%
3. Lower Maintenance Costs. Scheduled maintenance will assure that their investment will last for years to come.
Selling green and energy efficiency is found in every part of the AJ Danboise marketing system. It is critically important to show customers how green can benefit them and how it will improve their lifestyle.
By centering your internal messages on developing your employees’ understanding of these green concepts and your external marketing on the above key elements, you will develop a convincing value proposition for your products and services.
Randall says, “We tell our customers that thinking high efficiency will affect their current energy bills. Thinking green will affect generations to come.”
John Empson is co-owner of Broadcast & Design Group, an advertising agency based in Minneapolis that specializes in marketing services to the HVAC industry. Jim Randall is Marketing Operations Manager at AJ Danboise. For more information, visit: www.broadcastdesigngroup.net or www.ajdanboise.com.
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