Sustainability Marketing: How to Promote “going green”

“If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?”

This quintessential thought experiment isn’t the most environmentally friendly metaphor. Nonetheless, it is useful when it comes to marketing your spas’ sustainability efforts—if none of your customers know what you’re doing, are you getting the maximum return on “going green?”

The simple answer: no, you’re not. Being perceived and understood as a sustainable company is more important to
consumers than ever before. According to a report by Nielsen in 2015, 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands—up from 55 percent the year before. Among Millennials, that same report found that
73 percent would pay more for sustainable products. And “Brand Trust,” the belief that your brand’s sustainability
efforts are authentic, influences nearly two-thirds of all consumers.

Sustainability is a surefire hit. People support companies who place a priority on protecting the environment; in today’s increasingly fractious culture, doing things to help take care of the planet is one of relatively few areas of common ground left. Everyone will support it. And ultimately, sustainability marketing is just one more tool to help promote your business. And yet, only 33 percent of respondents in the most recent ISPA Snapshot Survey on Environmental Sustainability publicize their sustainability practices as part of a marketing strategy.

I’ve heard from many spas who want to promote their ongoing green initiatives, but feel that they can’t do so unless they are totally green. Because they are only partially green, they say, they’re afraid as coming off as inauthentic. What I’ve experienced in more than 20 years in the industry could not be more different. You don’t need to have a greywater system, solar panels, or a facility that uses high-Rvalue insulation. Any step made towards going green or being more sustainable is perceived by consumers as extremely positive and should be noted.

Authenticity is built from the groundup. I recommend making sustainability a part of your business’ core values. Include it in your mission or vision statement, then make that sustainability promise prominent on your website. This is something that essentially markets itself: every person who visits your website will see and understand the importance of sustainability to your spa, even if you only have a few green initiatives.

Don’t discount the power of your employees, either. Including a sustainability pledge in your mission statement
will demonstrate to your employees that going green is important. Once they know the “what” and “why” of going green,
they will be better able to promote your efforts to each and every customer. This grassroots form of green marketing will take hold among your customers and spread through word-of-mouth.

Get your employees further involved by creating a “Green Team” or “Sustainability Committee,” and make sure that a
marketing plan is a core part of any planned green initiative from the get-go. When I was Vice President of Marketing
at Miraval Resort & Spa, there was a Green Committee that included employees from departments across the resort. They developed a plan that included a variety of ways to go green, incorporating ideas from every committee member. Once an initiative was complete, we marketed our efforts by:

  • Ensuring that each employee knew what we had done.
  • Telling our guests about our green efforts and teaching them how to go green at home.
  • Used social media and blog posts to highlight our efforts.

Regardless of what your greening practices are, social media is a great platform to show that you’re practicing what you preach. If your greening efforts include volunteer work by your employees—at Miraval we volunteered for roadside cleanup—post photos of your team participating on Facebook and Instagram. I’d recommend sharing any photos posted by your employees of their own green volunteer work, too.

In fact, charity and community partnerships are a great way to market your sustainability efforts. Partnering with other companies to go green can often get your brand valuable exposure on your partners’ websites, be it through press releases, photos or a simple partner list.

Another great way to market your sustainability efforts? Do it indirectly. Position yourself as an educator and a leader by creating green-centric educational content, then marketing it alongside your own initiatives. If your spa has recently reduced its water use by switching to low-flow fixtures, put together a quick blog post featuring five quick tips for customers to reduce water use in their own homes. Then, push that blog post out via Facebook and Instagram. When you provide content that has intrinsic value to a customer, they will value your brand more highly and your sustainability efforts will be seen as more authentic. Furthermore, this type of content marketing will keep your brand front-and-center without giving your customers “message fatigue,” which sets in quickly with other, more promotional forms of marketing.

Promotions and discounts are another great way that sustainability can boost your marketing exposure. I’ve worked with several spas that offer discounts on treatments or retail when customers bring in goods to be recycled, or who offer 5 percent off a purchase when a guest brings in a reusable bag. This kind of promotion is a win all-around: you get your idea across, your customer is impressed by your commitment, you increase your sales and you’ve helped the planet.

Ultimately, there’s no sustainability success that’s too small to promote. With companies’ environmental philosophies becoming greater and greater influencers of purchasing decisions, failure to promote your greening efforts is a missed opportunity to grow your business. Thankfully, with such a bevy of platforms and multitude of ways to market going green, it’s never been easier—or more beneficial—to do so.

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