So you've got a great idea to stave off climate change and make the world a more sustainable place, and you're convinced you can turn it into a profitable business. You've written your business plan; you're searching for investment, and; you know you have an audience waiting to become your ambassadors and your customers, if only they learn about you. It's the basic algebraic formula "a + b = c." Or is it?
Frankly, I hated algebra, so it gives me a perverse joy when I get to tell green company founders "a + b" can equal anything you want it to be in the perception business. But more importantly, I tell them the equation is much more complex and not nearly as linear as they would like to believe.
In honor of the 9th-grade math teacher who gave me a passing grade because (I assume) she didn't want me in her class two years in a row, I'd like to discuss the formula to brand liftoff that applies only to green companies.
A = Your Great Idea
By nature, anyone who's in cleantech/greentech is an altruist at heart. Not to cross my math disciplines here, but it's a geometric fact. As such, you have an almost Polyannish belief the rest of the world will see your invention with the same Aristotelian logic you do and come to the conclusion that it's the greatest thing since Aristotle.
Unfortunately, you've overestimated your fellow man, so your brand fame equation has already started with a false premise, which means your brand rocketship will miss the moon and float endlessly in space, minus the Hollywood ending or cool Star Trek gadgetry which will allow you to break the space/time continuum.
The reality is the "a" in the equation is only applicable if your world-changing idea meets the following criteria:
- Can be profitable
- Can't be copied
- Has a novel backstory
- Can be deployed commercially
- Shares a personal connection to the audience that doesn't already exist in the marketplace or allows a viewer to adopt it (see: Prius, Toyota)
B = Exposure
Recently, I had a conversation with the CEO of a cleantech startup, who upon learning what I do, asked me, "Who do I need to call at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times?"
I demurred his question because exposure isn't something that just happens for green companies. It only happens for cats, people doing stupid things who video themselves and post it on YouTube, or companies who have initial investors with last names like Gates, Branson, Kholsa, etc. For the rest of us, exposure is part of a well-thought-out plan.
Before you program any of the writers for Fast Company or Inc. into your smartphone, there are several things you need to work out strategically, including:
- What's your unique value proposition?
- What's your brand story?
- Who's validating your idea/your brand?
- What's the urgency behind your brand?
- What critical problem are you solving?
- Do you have a communications infrastructure to share your news?
- How are you scaling this idea?
- Who is willing to fund the idea?
- Who has a readership that would care about your idea/brand?
Journalists who work in specialized niches like cleantech get dozens of pitches every day from companies just like yours. Just because you are doing good things for the planet doesn't entitle your company to special attention. Everybody thinks it's great that you turn waste cotton fibers from blue jeans into sustainable insulation for people's homes, but that doesn't mean it's going to attract media attention.
Maybe you have a local angle, or perhaps your company is industry specific. Start there, but first, make sure you have your story straight, and you know what points you want to emphasize based on your audience.
I've written before about how cleantech scientists and engineers love to talk about what they invented and how they invented it, and why they need to be focused instead about how it impacts the audience. The only thing worse than being ignored is getting attention and blowing the opportunity to reinforce the advantages your audience will see with your product/idea.
The other reason to hold off on calling The Times? It's much easier to get your feet wet in the exposure game when you're talking to industry journalists who are going to be a sympathetic ear. Regardless, though, if you want media attention, at a minimum you need to have a hub for your communications platform where you share your brand story and additional ways to share your good news like an e-mail list because, believe it or not, no one is paying as much attention to your company as you are.
C = Credibility
In a basic algebraic equation, the letter "C" is usually the answer. In getting liftoff for your green brand, however, it belongs on the left side of the equation because credibility is not the ultimate goal for your brand, and it's no more or less important than "A" or "B."
Credibility comes from grants and winning awards, but it also comes from another "c" word--content.
Whether your green company is B2B or B2C, producing content not only gives you new ways to reach your audience, but it also helps your SERP (search engine page rank), which in itself is a sign of credibility. When your brand appears at the top of the first page in your industry, there is a bias in your favor because the Lords of Google have bent the sun to shine in your direction.
In a world where 90% of all internet traffic starts with a search before purchasing, search engine ranking is the most powerful avatar of credibility in the world today.
That's not to say the support from powerful VC's, politicians, and respected voices are worthless. Quite the contrary; they convey credibility. But if you don't or can't share that content with others, and with Google, Bing, and Yahoo, you're only filling a bucket that has a hole in the bottom.
D = Discovery Of Your Brand
Ultimately, you're trying to make a stage for your targeted audience to notice you. If you've added a + b + c, you've built that stage with bright lights so they can see your story, feel good about it, and become part of your sales funnel.
And to pass this algebra course, all you need to do is repeat the equation over and over again, making sure your brand story stays consistent with the values you display in your marketing tactics both online and off.
If you're interested in having your green brand discovered, contact me for a free initial 30-minute consultation.