brand story & messaging

Five Ways to Sharpen Cleantech Marketing

Sandra Stewart | September 4, 2012

A colleague recently sent me an article from a British publication chastising U.K. cleantech businesses for using fluffy greenspeak to market their products. I don’t see many U.S.-based cleantech companies doing that, but the critique got me to thinking about the cleantech marketing don’ts I do notice regularly. My top five:

Unprofessional materials. Many cleantech companies are competing with gigantic corporate incumbents. Websites and collateral featuring quicksand-like prose and a design sensibility circa the dawn of the Internet are not going to inspire confidence in prospects who can already think of 50 reasons to stick with the status quo.

Unclear benefits. Cleantech companies often have supercool technology—but that’s no excuse to let the engineers drive marketing. Communications that focus too much on the product’s technical splendors and too little on what it does for users aren’t going to build a market.

Confusing technical explanations. Sometimes technical explanations are necessary, and when they are, they’re usually targeted at a technical audience. Companies often see this as license to dispense with clarity—“they’ll figure it out”—but technical readers are often the pickiest about precision.

Poor understanding of target markets. Sometimes we think people care about something because they should. Alas, they often care about something entirely different. Simple example: companies should care about reducing their electricity bills, but what if the people typically authorized to buy your energy-conserving product aren’t accountable for electricity costs? Marketing needs to speak to the intersection of what the product achieves and what buyers think is important.

Internally focused marketing. Cleantech companies are just joining the party on this one—all kinds of businesses wander off down the dead-end path of internally focused marketing. The problem here is not so much failing to understand target markets as failing to consider them. This happens when decisions about content, tone and style are based purely on the personal preferences of company leaders. Unless these leaders are the target market, the company may end up marketing mainly to itself.


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