Monday, January 26, 2009

Developing green products that sell

On Friday, I went after the glaring failures I see in the green product world. And since I'm a firm believer in never pointing out a problem without also offering a solution, here are some ideas for creating or sustaining a green product line.

1) Do your research! The Internet is an endless resource for research. Start there. Find out what people are looking for. Join forums and read blogs. See where the push is for greener products. A preliminary search a few days ago revealed lots of new moms looking for organic or natural baby clothes that don't cost a fortune (babies grow too fast!) but offer some protection from the harsh chemicals now used in most infant wear. Is the need met? From the number of posts, clearly not. Remember, successful green marketing is not about telling people that they need something, it's about finding out what they need in a green format and providing it.

2) Mind your price points. Just because a product is green, doesn't mean it should cost more. And it certainly doesn't mean it should cost a lot more!! Work to source your materials and processing with an eye on the final retail price. We're living in a shaky economy. If you want your products to sell, they have to offer value as well as a greener benefit.

3) Skip the shouting! Just because your product is green, doesn't mean it has to look different! People like pretty greeting cards on white or colored card stock, so forget the brown cards imprinted with faded earth tones. Soy and vegetable inks are available in a wide range of real colors, and recycled paper doesn't need to be brown or grey!

Of course the buyer should know it's green -- but that could be as simple as a tag or imprint. It doesn't need to be in their face. Make it work for ordinary shoppers, too. Cartoon characters on organic cotton bibs and t-shirts instead of tired "save the earth" slogans will sell more product and thus do more for the earth by replacing non-green items with similar images.

4) Start with the purpose. If the purpose of making and selling green products is simply to show the world what a mensch you are, by all means, continue making them obvious, different looking and elitist. But if the purpose is to help the planet and make a difference, focus on how you can take ordinary, popular items we all buy and use and make them safer, greener, more organic, less wasteful. Offer that, in a familiar look, functionality and cost level, and you will be on your way to a green business success.