When you are shifting your company to sustainable operations, you don’t just want to let people know – you need to let people know. Not only do consumers want the companies they do business with to be sustainable, 64% claim they will only give their business to companies that go above and beyond what other companies do. Not only that, but 53% assume a company is not doing anything to become socially responsible or sustainable unless they somehow learn otherwise.
What this means for your company is simple. Regardless of whether your sustainability efforts are reducing your carbon footprint or greening your packaging, you need to get the word out. And the need to marketing your brand in terms of sustainability has changed the way marketing campaigns are approached. Marketing campaigns now explore the many ways to let people know about a company’s eco-friendly efforts, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of referral marketing.
Referral marketing and its benefits
Businesses have relied on referrals – aka. Word of mouth – for decades. When someone is happy with your business, they tell someone about it. Businesses have built referral programs around this concept, rewarding customers for making referrals. How effective is referral marketing? According the Nielsen 84% of consumers trust referrals from friends and family. In addition, 68% of consumers trust online consumer opinions. However, it’s not just happy customers who are able to make referrals.
It turns out, there are many environmental organizations out there that are perfectly willing to recognize, award, and endorse companies that are making strides with their sustainability efforts. When it comes to your sustainability efforts, you might just be able to tap into these resources and get referrals or endorsements from eco-friendly organizations. A good example of this is when Toyota’s Prius was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation, the United Nations, and the Sierra Club. The key is to have a marketing plan to get these referrals and endorsements.
How to implement eco-friendly referral marketing
Fortunately, you can create a referral marketing plan that will not only get the name of your business out there but will let people know they can trust your sustainable efforts. After all, if a credible environmental organization trusts your company and products, then why wouldn’t consumers and investors? With this in mind, there are few ways you can ensure your company and its products are supported by eco-friendly organizations:
Cause marketing – Support a cause. If a portion of the sale of one of your products is donated to a worthy cause, that organization will publicly recognize your company and you can include those contributions in your marketing materials. A great example is when Proctor & Gamble donated $1 from the sale of each bottle of Dawn dish detergent to the International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Marine Mammal Center. You can easily find a non-profit organization related to one of your products and commit a portion of your sales to support the organization as a whole or one of its programs. In return, the organization will endorse your company and product.
Awards – There are some environmental organizations that award companies for their sustainable efforts. One such organization is the Sierra Club, which has a number of awards for various contributions made by environmentally conscious companies. For example, in 2018, their John Muir Award went to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, whose company has donated over $89 million to grassroots environmental organizations over the decades.
Third-party endorsements – There are many green organizations and activist groups out there that would be willing to endorse a company whose efforts are in line with that organization’s or group’s causes. Sometimes this requires making donations, but it can also be as easy as teaming up with them to work on a project together or doing something in your company that is directly related to the work they do.
Make associations known
Once you have these types of referrals and endorsements, let people know. You can run an advertising campaign in partnership with the organization that has endorsed your company. If there is a logo associated with the organization or the award, use that in your marketing material. Ask the organization to issue a press release or issue your own.
The key here is simple. If a trusted nonprofit organization says they trust your sustainability efforts and consumers know about it, they will be more likely to support your brand. If investors know about it, they will be more likely to invest in your company. You automatically become more credible when these organizations get behind your brand and the sustainable efforts your company has made.
If you are interested in learning about other strategies to strengthen your brand, check out our eBook "5 environmentally friendly branding strategies: the case of Carbon Offset"!