Daily Green Business Tip

Starting today, I will be sending one green business tip everyday via my Twitter account. I realize these lists can be trite but consistent lists can make a difference. At the end of the week I will consolidate the tips on my blog.

Each week will be organized by one of the eight strategic notes of the marketing octave: product, place, price, promotion, process, passion, people, and profitability. Our monthly newsletter will provide some back stories to the lists and how it can tie into a cohesive harmonic strategy.

We are really looking for any ideas so you can submit the ideas through our website contact form or by the comments section below. We will acknowledge your ideas in the weekly blog.

Sustainability Index is needed. Thanks Wal-Mart and Costco

If this is real then I will have to reconsider my ban on Wal-Mart. Check out the story on Big Money about the sustainability index. An rating system like this could really change the behavior of businesses with some consumer pressure. A state Department of Ecology manager told me that the general public only understands one environmental term, organic. It would take retail leaders like Wal-Mart and Costco to help market and define an index for broader sustainability issues rather than the current non-existent or splintered use of green terms. Verification will be a challenge to overcome but this is a step in the right direction.

What is important is for Wal-Mart to be true to its mission to be believable. For example, Wal-Mart has had a bad reputation on how it treats its employees. It would be difficult for me to trust their sustainability index when they do not treat their employees as well. Costco has had a good reputation in how they treat their employees. Thus, it helps that a consortium will lead the implementation of the index. Business needs to be harmony with all customer touch and reputation points to have a high level of trust.

Even with the challenges in this program, this is the type of activity that business needs to make to move our country and the world towards a more liveable future. Thank you to Wal-Mart to try to take the lead.

No Styrofoam cups,Toyota

I just bought a brand-new third generation Toyota Prius. First launched in Japan, the 2010 Prius is the top selling car in Japan and sales are hot here in the U.S. Toyota’s Prius has helped the company dominate the U.S. auto market. Toyota has positioned the Prius to be not only fuel efficient but good for the earth with their tagline “harmony between man, nature and machine” (sounds like a Marketing Philharmonic tagline, doesn’t it?). As you would expect, research has shown that Prius owners want to protect the environment and they want to show the world that they care about the environment. Toyota even states on its website that one of its core values is to be cleaner and greener. Although Toyota sells other types of cars, it brand (people’s impression) is that it is a greener car company.

But it isn’t enough to say your green and to even have a product that is more environmentally friendly, you need to have all your customer contact points and your marketing be harmonious to maximize your brand’s value.

So what about the styrofoam? I asked for a drink of water at my local Toyota dealer as I was finishing up the sale of my new Prius. They served me the water in a styrofoam cup! For anyone who cares about sustainability and waste, styrofoam is abhorrent to them. Right then, I started questioning my trust in the dealer and even in the Prius.

Marketing is not your advertising or your next discount promotion, it is ensuring all your customer contact points are harmonious with your brand position. Even large companies slip up sometimes. It is important to stay true to who you are and to bring the benefits to the customer they value. All pieces (at Marketing Philharmonic we call it the Marketing Octave) need to be in concert with each other. Thus, ban those styrofoam cups, Toyota.

We must do SOMETHING

I am an optimistic person. I believe people are good and the world will continue to be a better place. But I am wrong about the world. We have slowly poisoned our earth which affects our climate, our environment and our health. It is isn’t about saving the Earth, it is about saving us. The Earth will still be here but will we be able to enjoy the current’s Earth’s bounties like delicious salmon, the sound of birds, skiing, breathing clean air, and drinking clean water. Can we be harming the beauty of nature for the next generation? According the scientists we are and it might even be sooner than that. Here is a local article about the issue.

I trying to do my part. I have a plan to motivate and educate businesses and their customers on being more sustainable. I have worked with an excellent group the Network of Business Innovation and Sustainability on the plan. We just need the funding and a pilot. No one has acted yet. After talking to a key municipality and several government agencies, they say it is a great idea but aren’t acting. Please email me or write a comment if you would like to help.

We must do something!

Rendezvous Lodge gets real results

I chose the name “Marketing Philharmonic” because we wanted to show how we orchestrate all elements into marketing to make real music. Our clients get real results with our entire marketing landscape review. One of our clients, Rendezvous Lodge, came to us about a promotional plan to increase the number of guests. (By the way, I have stayed at Rendezvous Lodge, http://www.rendezvouslodge.com. The view, the accommodations and the hosts are unforgettable.)

After analyzing their Marketing Octave of their customers, competitors, company, and category, we found that the most important change would be to raise their prices. They are priced under market rate and were actually running at a loss. Without a price increase, increasing guest nights would not reach their profit goals.

We also discovered that guests were looking for more activities; a significant potential revenue stream.

After increasing their prices and adding activities, Rendezvous Lodge is now be ready for promotion. Without looking at all the marketing elements, the return on their marketing investment would have been unsuccessful. As proprietors, Mark and Abby McNeil said, “Marketing Philharmonic produced a professional strategic plan with fresh ideas so we can meet our income objectives.”

Is it Green Washing or Scrubbing Bubbles?

After making a quick tweet on Twitter about a recent SC Johnson commercial, I did some more research. SC Johnson is a family company producing household cleaning products with such brands as Windex, Glade, Drano, and Scrubbing Bubbles.

The commercial expounded their initiatives on using alternative energy at their production facilities. At the end of the commercial, shots of Windex and Pledge were shown. My first thought was that SC Johnson is guilty of green washing. Green washing is the term used for companies riding the wave of environmentalism but not really producing green products. SC Johnson produces household cleaners with harmful chemicals but then tout their “green” energy policies.

I researched the SC Johnson web site and the company seems to be sincerely trying to help the environment. Without any legal requirements, the SC Johnson products will now list their ingredients. Only a few are on their website though. They are members of the Environmental Protective Agency’s “Partnership for Safer Chemistry” to help reduce harmful chemicals. SC Johnson also has a patented process called Greenlist to reduce to make their products better for the environment.

So why am I still bothered? I have adult onset asthma. Many studies claim one of the reasons for the rise in asthma is the chemicals in household cleaners. We really don’t need to use ammonia, bleach and the myriad of other chemicals to clean our homes. Natural products like vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap do just as well without harm to our lungs and to the environment. SC Johnson produces the type of products that make my lungs squeeze in pain. I get scared when I see a bottle of Windex.

While I admire that SC Johnson is making an attempt to be more environmental they still are launching products with harmful chemicals. They posted a page on their web site which disputes claims about household chemicals with such statements as “Natural or home remedies are not necessarily safer, effective or lower in allergens. In fact, many natural products undergo limited or no scientific testing compared to the extensive toxicological evaluations.” So while the site is full of their environmental initiatives, they still defend the use of their synthetic harmful chemicals.

What does this have to do with harmonious marketing? SC Johnson is a business and their green initiatives are just trying to address the concerns of their customers. Instead, to be truly harmonious, many of their products should be fazed out and replaced with more less harmful products. At least SC Johnson is making an attempt but they are still trying to protect their turf. Reports defending their use of chemicals while still making “Greenlist” and other environmental claims are not in harmony.

Drop it or not. Six questions to ask about your price

The second element in the Marketing Octave is price. With sales down everywhere, it may be time to review your pricing. What is difficult is to ensure you don’t harm your reputation or your profits with the review.

Six questions to ask about your pricin:

  1. What are products are no longer moving? Consider deeply discounting those while maintaining the price structure of the other products/services.
  2. What are your competitors doing? Competitors need to be tracked closely but not always matched. You don’t want to make the same mistakes they may be making.
  3. Can you simplify pricing? You may be able to give the illusion of lower prices by simplifying or packaging your offerings.
  4. What type of discounts can you offer? Be creative here. Brainstorm offers that still fit your brand and reputation but still stand out.
  5. What could you added as a value-add rather than discounting?
  6. What is your cash flow on each sale? While this seems like a “duh”, sales team may be still be compensated on unit sales. While margins may need to be adjusted, so must revenue goals. Track your sales team’s potentially deep discount levels needed to reach their sales goals. .

What are some of the ways to find out about your pricing? Check out your competitors. Mine comments on social media about your product and pricing (such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.) Send out online surveys to a customer panel about your pricing. Test different offers with your tactics or by geography or target. In our next installment we will look at promotion questions. Getting back to the basics is important right now.