Promoting a green business via environmentally themed sites
I’ve been running Green Living Tips since late 2006 and previous to that I was involved with green business marketing activities for some years.
During my time of running GLT I’ve received hundreds of emails from green businesses requesting coverage. Some of them I do write about, others I overlook – and some of the reasons why I’ll touch on shortly.
I have a particular affection for “battlers” – the little guys and gals of the green business world who are trying their best to make a difference with their environmentally friendly products in the face of stiff competition and the seemingly bottomless pockets of large mainstream companies.
Being self-employed, I certainly understand the challenges of marketing yourself and your products or services.
A great equalizer has been the Internet. Used correctly, it can catapult you from struggling to pay your bills and keep your doors open to wondering why you ever had cash flow problems.
You don’t have to take out a second mortgage or high interest loan to get the funds to do it. If you’re cash-poor, it’s possible you are comparatively time rich; and that is an important asset you can leverage to your advantage.
The following are some low-cost and no-cost tips to help get your green business noticed – not by directly approaching those who may purchase your products; but indirectly via those who can tell many others about it – the owners of environmentally themed content sites.
I believe the best approach is via email, but not just a hastily slapped together note.
From names and email subject lines
I don’t know how many times I’ve received emails from green businesses that have nothing in the subject line and the name doesn’t indicate anything related to the environment. Don’t forget to use a brief, relevant and interesting subject line; otherwise your email is very likely to be relegated to the deleted items folder.
Using a related from name like so:
Michael Bloch – Green Living Tips
… also helps your potential target to quickly see that the contents of the email are related to green business and not pills, potions or that other word that I won’t mention, this being a somewhat family-friendly site and all :).
Keep it real
When approaching sites that showcase environmentally friendly products and green businesses; don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re a one-person show, you do not need to make out you’re a multi-national. Referring to yourself in terms such as “President” or “CEO” is unwise. Remember that these sites get hundreds of coverage/review requests and the owners/reviewers can smell puffery a mile off.
Forget about the hype
A related issue – hype is fine and unfortunately quite necessary for general advertising to the public, but if you’re wanting a review; be excited about your product, but don’t exaggerate or overuse buzz terms. It’s annoying to the person reading it as we’ve heard it all before countless times. Exaggeration and buzz term ladened copy creates suspicion. It takes up a lot of time and head space in sorting out the facts from the fluff.
You believe your products are the best, you have (or should have) an intimate knowledge of them – but don’t expect others to. Avoid vagueness; be specific in your introduction as what the product actually addresses and how.
I’ve received quite a few emails containing lines like “the environment is in trouble”. Yes, I know. I run a site on that very topic. Why tell me that? Another one that springs to mind.. “Did you know disposable plastic bottles are a major waste problem?”. Umm.. yes. Credit the person reading your email to have some basic familiarity with common environmental issues.
Compliments are always appreciated, but don’t go too over the top with them. You’ll be wasting valuable time you should be spending talking about your product or service.
I’ve had some merchants practically demand a review or blurb about their business. There is no entitlement when chasing free promotion; no matter how much you believe your business to be the solution to all the world’s environmental problems.
Be respectful, be polite – ask, don’t expect. Remember the coverage that you may receive could be potentially worth thousands of dollars in sales; by being demanding you’ll be less likely to get it.
Don’t pose as a happy customer
This happens a lot – daily – both in email and blog/article comments. A merchant will pose as a happy customer, recommending I or GLT visitors check out a particular product. Like many content site owners, I’ve been around the Internet a long time and I’m pretty good at spotting this ploy.
On another environment-oriented site I’m involved with; we recently had a merchant engage in this and he was bailed up about it by one of the community members. Instead of drumming up business for himself, his attempt at sneakiness made others in the community ask “if you do this sort of thing, what else will you do?”. It drove people away from his business and the community members will tell others about the sneakiness. It’s not worth it – be up front.
Personalize the approach
First impressions count – whacking the text of a press release in an email without any introduction can be considered rude. You are meant to be selling yourself and you have targeted a specific site, so at least have the courtesy of a personalized introduction, using the name of the site owner or potential reviewer. If you don’t know it, try and find out.
Keep it brief
Due to the volume of mail that many popular green-themed sites received, you only have a few seconds to impress. State your name, your interest in the target site, mention your product.
Tell the potential reviewer what environmental problem the product or service addresses and what sets it apart from others.. and do it all within a few paragraphs. If you want to include a press release, separate it from the main approach.
However, if you decide not to include extra information..
Offer further information
There’s nothing a reviewer likes more than being provided with a stack of good quality information he or she can base an article or review on. It can reduce the article preparation process substantially. By offering the potential reviewer additional unique content that is thoughtfully prepared, you increase your chances of gaining coverage dramatically.
Picture this scenario – you’re waiting for an important call, due any minute, and then a telemarketer ties up your line. It doesn’t make you all that receptive to whatever they are peddling.
A similar situation can occur with large attachments such as images and PDF files. There have been quite a few occasions where I’ve been in a hurry to get my email, noticed it was taking a long time to download; gone in via webmail, spotted the offending message with its 5 megabyte attachment and just deleted it.
If you find it necessary to include attachments, keep them under a couple of hundred kilobytes in total.
Bribes are good
Bribes can be very effective – when utilized in the proper way. I don’t mean saying “I’ll pay you a hundred bucks to write a blurb about my product”; this is about promotion on a very tight budget – I mean offering readers of the site where you would like coverage a special bonus or discount. Everyone is a winner in this situation – you don’t outlay any cash, the site gets to offer its readers something special and the reader gets a discount.
If you can afford it, at least offer a sample of your product to the person you’re approaching. They may not want it, but it’s a good faith measure that you believe in your product.
Ensure your site is presentable – and working
You don’t need a cutting edge web design, but it certainly helps if your site is tidy and more importantly – working. There’s been many times I’ve visited a merchant’s site after being request to only to find links that lead nowhere, images missing – or not loading at all. Get your site presentable before making your approaches.
Prove you know your stuff. Do you sell candles? Write informative articles about candles for your site. Leave out the sales pitch (except for in the article bio lines) – this is about educating, giving people something of value, proving your expertise and indicating passion. Good articles can also boost your credibility when your site is being reviewed. These don’t have to be epics, just a few hundred words of good information.
After the articles have been up for a while and perhaps refined, the next step is very important.
Allow your articles to be reproduced
This has been a method I’ve used for nearly a decade – and it has always worked in generating coverage on related sites.
If your site isn’t ranked highly on the search engines; submit your educational articles to those related, but non-competing sites that are. The coverage can send many new customers your way and if you include a live link to your site in the bio-lines, can also help with your own search engine rankings.
For an even better chance of gaining high profile coverage, offer unique articles based on the original. High profile environmentally themed sites love original high quality content and by doing this you will exponentially increase your chances of being published. The only “cost” to the sites publishing them is publishing the bio-lines and of course, the link to your site.
Many content sites and blogs offer the ability to add comments. This is sometimes abused by green business merchants who see it as an easy way to get free coverage. Participating in discussion threads is certainly a good way to get noticed, but banal “me too” or comments that are thinly disguised self-promotional blurbs will get you nowhere. Strut your stuff; show your expertise with carefully considered participation and the traffic will follow you. Not only that, but the owner of the site might sit up and take notice of you and publish a piece about your business.
More online marketing advice for green business
As mentioned, I’ve been around the online marketing scene for quite a while and have learned a lot over the years – the above just scratches the surface of the various ways you can promote your green business online on a tight budget – or none at all.
For more ideas, visit my other site which is dedicated to the topic of online business and web marketing – Taming The Beast.net. While it isn’t environmentally focused, most of the information still applies to green biz marketing.
In my next article on green marketing, I’ll look at low/no-cost ways to reach your target audience directly – sign up for the Green Living Tips newsletter so you don’t miss out!
By the way, if you’re looking for free coverage on Green Living Tips; please check out this page for details.
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