Make Your Eco-Friendly Marketing Sprout By Taking These Four Steps

Perhaps the most transparently disingenuous and self-delusional lines I hear when I encounter startup CEOs in the climate tech space is, "We're in stealth mode."

News flash: your flight of fancy isn’t fooling anyone.

Beyond the initial friends and family list, your climate tech startup is going to be applying for government grants, pitching for venture capital, and looking for subscribers for your early-stage funding. To be successful in these endeavors, one cannot be surreptitious or clandestine.

More pointedly, in the age of social media, even the CIA can't keep a secret. Hiding your climate tech IP from competitors while waiting for your sugar daddy's check is as likely to be successful as trying to create a new democratic nation-state amid a civil war between rival factions who have been at each other's throats for 1,400 years.

Here are four ways to let the story seed germinate in your mind during your company’s embryonic phase.

Tell Your Story From The Day You Start

When anyone applies for a business license, rents office space, or leases equipment, one of the questions on the order form is "What does your organization do?" Use this opportunity to start the process of refining your story.

If you have to fill out forms, use them to distill your mission.

These "fill in the box" questions are a perfect primer for brevity. Could you explain what your company does in four to six words? The more you write that way, the easier it will roll off your tongue in your next Zoom call.

Ask Questions First

Continually asking questions is one of the most basic principles of the scientific method to refine your hypothesis. Yet it always amazes me that climate tech founders steeped in science education seem to forget this basic principle when sharing their stories with others.

Here's a test: Ask five people you know how your business makes a difference in the lives of its customers or end-users. Note: You aren't asking what your company does. You're asking what the customer or end-user gets out of the deal they make with you when purchasing your product or technology.

Suppose all five responses are nearly identical; congratulations! You've passed the first test of marketing. In all likelihood, though, you will get answers that range from shrugs to what you produce, which is a sign that the revision process has only begun

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Eliminate All Verbs

If you're trying to create a mission or vision statement, delete every word that ends in -ing because here’s what is NOT your mission or vision.

  • Innovating
  • Fostering
  • Recreating
  • Imagining
  • Seeking
  • Building
  • Employing
  • Ratcheting
  • Racing
  • Eliminating
  • Opening
  • Fixing
  • Expanding
  • Solving

Those are what copywriters call empty words, and they have no place in your elevator schpiel. They are ‘puff out your chest’ words that make the founders feel good but have no bearing on whether your product or technology will be successful.

Leave the verbs at home to keep your audience interested.

Your audience doesn't care how you are making your contraption. Your audience cares how their lives are more manageable, more convenient, less expensive, healthier, etc.

Market to that. Speak to that. Save the puffery for industry awards night.

Story First. Marketing Tools Second.

Too often, climate tech startups treat marketing like a to-do list of items that need to be finished rather than something foundational for the business.

    Domain? Check
    Email addresses? Check
    Website? Check
    Facebook page? Check

And sometimes, the list goes on from there. Other times not, but regardless, thought needs to precede action.

“Why should people care about us,” is as fundamental to a business as a constitution is to a government. It’s not theory; it’s requisite.

Before you even think about naming your company, there needs to be a reason for its existence. So hold off on the website and all of your other marketing tools until you answer that question.

Know your origin story and refine your value proposition before handing assets to web designers and marketing teams. If they can't understand why the audience should care, how do you expect them to communicate that vision?

CleanTech Focus