Going green: Five strategic marketing questions


If you\’ve been struggling to build a green business, or to offer green products or services through an existing business, this post might just make your day—because I\’m going to share the single biggest component of determining whether you will have a viable market for your offering.

All you have to do is ask yourself five simple questions:

  • What problem can you solve, or desire can you facilitate?
  • How is your method different from and better than existing solutions (what are the advantages, in other words)?
  • Who needs this problem solved strongly enough that they\’re willing to pay (who is the market)?
  • How do you reach those people?
  • How do you convince them to buy?

Let\’s see how this works out with a case study—an actual example I ran into recently.


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: Go Flushless, an enzyme compound that elimates the odor and stain, allowing the urine to remain in the bowl with no ill effects.


Most of the other solutions involve extensive hardware modifications, and that\’s expensive. Go Flushless, 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 the low point of entry, 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 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\’s another huge market that\’s much easier to reach: 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 the Go Flushless method, and has a strong interest in conserving water so as to extend the lifespan of its infrastructure while decreasing the number of septic tank pumpouts.

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

How to Reach these Markets:

These four different markets are going to congregate in different places.

For green consumers, exhibiting at a green festival makes a lot of sense. In fact, I met company owners Bill and Jane Monetti at a green festival where I was speaking and they were exhibiting—and selling quite a bit of their product.

Articles in trade magazines would effectively reach the industrial users. Homeowners with septic systems might best be reached through direct mail or even in-person sales calls. And people in drought-centric cultures could be reached simply enough by mass-market media such as radio, TV, and print newspapers.

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 Monettis could actively use social media, blogs, traditional media publicity, public speaking, product demonstrations, and their own website (no name a few examples).

Getting the Sale:

Target 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 is going to work. 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.

Shel Horowitz, shel at greenandprofitable.com, shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He writes the Green And Profitable column and is the primary author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).