Nascent cleantech companies can no longer rest on their altruistic intentions to build market share. They need savvy marketing strategies to attract some of the $56 billion in venture capital investment poured into the cleantech sector in 2021 if they hope to scale.
"Because we care about the planet" is not a mission statement, a unique value proposition, or a point of differentiation. Twenty-five years ago, maybe, but with 49 countries and one-fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies committed to net zero emissions targets or carbon neutrality, it's the default for a startup cleantech company to drown in the rising seas.
Last year, over 1,600 cleantech startups received funding in the U.S. alone according to Silicon Valley Bank. Your competition is no longer just the other startups in your industry sector. It's about finding an emotional chord to connect with those investors above all the other noise. It's about having a brand story that packs a punch and a marketing strategy that helps you stand out.
Why Is Cleantech Marketing Important?
It's common wisdom in business that the best product doesn't always win. It's even more prescient advice in today's hyperspeed economy because the best cleantech solution today is likely to be replaced as the metric-judged best solution reasonably quickly.
Science scales so much more rapidly today than at any time in history that the performance of your climate solution is now just table stakes.
No matter how good your science or engineering is, somewhere in the world, there's a team with a similar solution that's gunning for the same investment capital as you.
Your only hope is to forge an emotional or (dare I say) irrational connection with your investors and your audience. Enter cleantech marketing.
The Importance Of A Clear Vision And Strategy
It's essential to understand what your business does and what your company does for others before you start marketing.
Why? Because that's how you create an emotional connection and build brand loyalty that trumps performance. Your intellectual portfolio (IP) is crucial because it protects your unfair advantage over your competitors, attracts investment, and helps you define or redefine your market. But again, it's unlikely your waste, water, or emissions solution will be the only one on the market for long.
If you don't want to compete on the lowest price, you need to start with a clear definition of who your customers are, what problems they face, and how you plan to solve those problems for them. They need to know you are empathetic to them if you want them to identify with you.
Once you have a clear vision of whom you serve and why they should care, you can begin developing a marketing plan that aligns with your goals.
How To Build An Effective Cleantech Marketing Plan
A good cleantech marketing plan is the strategy by which you will achieve your sales goals, including identifying your customer base, developing a message that resonates with them, and building an effective sales funnel digitally and in person.
How To Create A Cleantech Brand Identity
You can recognize Nike by the swoosh and Coca-Cola by its font, but what do you do to stand out if nobody outside your company knows you and your audience consists of only a few thousand end-users or customers?
If you're looking to start a new cleantech business, you must consider how you'll brand yourself, everything from what kind of logo you choose to how you market your company online.
A brand identity is the values, beliefs, and personality traits that make up a company's image. It's what people think when they hear the name of your business. To build a successful cleantech business, you need to develop a strong brand identity.
Some of the factors that go into creating that identity include:
- Brand Personality
- Brand Function
It's easy enough to cast this off as unnecessary. Still, it's important to remember that the brand you create serves as guiding principles for your internal and external audiences. That brand is key to selling to customers and potential recruits who internalize the brand as a reason to work for you.
How To Develop A Cleantech Website
Marketing your company usually begins with a website because it's often the first touchpoint between a company and its customers. It also serves as the hub of your communications strategy.
Whether you have internal team members who can build a website or a marketing firm writes and designs it for you, there has to be an underlying purpose for its existence other than what's expected in today's marketplace.
Before you start, you need to know a few basics like:
- Who Is Your Audience?
- Why Are They Coming To Your Website?
- How Will Your Audience Find Your Website?
- What Problem Are You Solving For Them?
- What Action Do You Want Them To Take On The Website?
For example, a pre-seed stage cleantech company might want only a landing page, a mission statement, and a way to collect names and email addresses while their research matures into a business.
Series A stage companies looking for their first customers need to hook them on the cost savings or other KPIs along with a brand story that helps create a positive first impression.
Series B stage companies need a more fully built website with sales funnels to drive leads.
Here's the one piece of advice I implore you to follow whatever the stage your cleantech company:
Your website is not about you. It's about your customers and the problem you solve for them.
Please have everyone on your team associated with website development repeat this like a mantra at least ten times before the first website brainstorming session begins.
Whether you use WordPress, Wix, HTML5, or some other platform, whom you serve is more important than what platform you use to communicate.
Starting The Cleantech Marketing Journey
"We don't have the money," or "We're waiting until we perfect our technology," are two excuses I often hear from cleantech startups who are more comfortable living in the realms of science or engineering. My stock response is, "Did you wait to go out on a date with your future spouse until you were perfect or had the right amount of money?"
Think of it this way. The investor(s) you are approaching has 50 other emails just like yours in his or her inbox. It's not your technology or engineering that gets that email opened because all of those emails look alike. Novelty and excitement are the bait, and if you want to reel in dollars to scale, you need a marketing hook.