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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing Your Firm’s Green Initiatives

“Sustainable” and “green” are the big new buzzwords, and many AEC firms are looking at their own marketing to see how they can better promote their own green or sustainable efforts.

Maybe you’re already pretty green and work with LEED® consultants on building certification, whether it’s new construction or LEED-EBOM (LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance). Perhaps you are a contracting company that works under a LEED AP project manager. Or possibly you are really just getting started in the world of green. No matter where your firm is on the continuum, your marketing efforts need to reflect your firm’s reality.

Here are a few common mistakes I’ve seen marketers make when promoting their firms’ green efforts, trying to be “more green” in order to jump on that sustainable bandwagon.

Exaggerating your claims of being green
One small project or a single effort (recycling in the break room, anyone?) does not make you green. Don’t get me wrong: You should definitely promote your real, concerted green efforts. But don’t magnify them out of proportion or you will face the

Under-promoting your green efforts
Yes, this also happens a lot. A company that has been quietly “doing the right thing” in many areas all along just doesn’t showcase that on its Web site, in its materials, or even in conversations with prospects and clients. If your firm has a track record in being green, either in its day-to-day operations or with its client projects – or better yet, both – this needs to be promoted across all forms of media you use. It should be easy to find on your firm’s Web site and should be highlighted whenever possible in all materials.

Overlooking the obvious
So you have good green projects to shout about, and they are properly showcased in your materials and on your site. What about your internal operations? DO you have recycling in the break room? Is staff encouraged to ride-share or work from home? Do you reuse, reduce, and recycle everything possible in your office (paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, and so forth)? Do you unplug non-critical equipment when it’s not in use to save energy? (Did you know you can have your Web site hosted with a solar- or wind-powered ISP?) I have worked with many companies selling a green product or service, but not thinking about their daily operations or their own supply chain. Being green is about walking the walk.

Failing to differentiate
With all the other businesses out there clamoring about how green they are, it’s easy for your firm to get lost in the noise. Unless you are strategic in promoting your green efforts, you will come across as just another business trying – or worse, pretending – to be green. Really analyze what you’ve done better or differently, and use that in your marketing efforts. If you are consistent about that, it will pay off.

Copyright 2010, Linda McCulloch, Design That Works Communications Inc
Reproduction permitted with copyright line, author credit and author contact information.
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About Linda McCulloch and Design That Works Communications Inc.:
With many awards for her work and more than 20 years of experience, Ms. McCulloch helps small and large businesses with their branding and marketing efforts by focusing on their strengths to improve their position in the marketplace. McCulloch, whose green initiative is called Design That’s Green, is an active member of several green organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council–Atlanta Chapter. She volunteers with these groups, providing marketing and communications advice as well as graphic design services. In addition, she composts and recycles just about everything, maintains her gardens organically, is a Legacy member of the Nature Conservancy, and her yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.