You - “Ohhhh... waste is sooo boring. My customers don’t care”.
Us - “Ha! We’ve seen plenty of businesses who’ve used their sustainability initiatives - especially waste - to grow their customer base, build their brand and turn their clients into raving fans. Let us show you how..!”
Your sustainability journey is one of the best opportunities to stand out from the crowd, spruce up your image and build a loyal customer base. Every genuine commitment to ‘do good for the planet’ and every step in the right direction - no matter how small - is a terrific opportunity to engage your customers in your story, connect them with your brand in a meaningful way and support your bottom line.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen customers continuously raise the bar when it comes to what they expect from the businesses they buy from. More and more people deliberately seek out businesses that have a ‘purpose’ and help address the bigger issues facing our society - be that homelessness, climate change or the health of our oceans. And you guessed it, waste ties back to many of these issues. Your waste efforts are opportunities to show you care about the bigger picture and are doing your bit for a better tomorrow.
The small things you do to support your community and your environment will excite many of your customers and encourage them to support you in turn.
THE STRENGTH OF PURPOSE
According to a 2020 large scale global study discussed by FORBES:
94% of consumers think it’s important that the companies they engage with have a strong purpose.
Customers are more likely to purchase from the purpose-led brand, more likely to protect that brand in a challenging moment, more likely to more likely to trust the brand, and more likely to recommend the brand to friends and family.
Younger generations are leading the charge with 92% of Gen-Z and 90% of Millennials saying they would act in support of a purposeful brand (compared to 81% of Gen-X consumers, and 77% of Baby Boomers).
So… How do I make my ‘waste & sustainability’ journey relevant to my customers?
Step 1 - Apply golden business rule #1
Most importantly, apply rule #1 - put your customer first. Put on your customers' hat!’ If something excites you, it doesn’t necessarily mean it excites your customer. You’ve got to walk in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. Think about what matters to them. If you know what common themes make your customers tick, what worries or interests them, you are halfway there. Don't be afraid to talk and ask them questions about what they care about.
Step 2 -Connect your green creds to your customer
Connect your sustainability journey to something your customers believe and care about. Think about how you can translate what you do to support the planet into a powerful story that will excite your customers. Always think about how you can evoke a positive emotional response. Good storytelling is key!
Here are a few examples:
Clean beaches and oceans: Residents and visitors want to experience our beaches, parks and bays without litter. They love seeing our marine life thrive. If you just eliminated plastic straws from your venue, you don’t want your customers to think you’re just saving money or wanting to inconvenience them. Let them know you took this step because you want to help reduce the amount litter and plastic impacting our seabirds and marine life.
Homelessness: Most people think it’s wrong that we throw out so much edible food, while many Australians go hungry each day. If you’ve teamed up with a food rescue organisation, share with your customers that you’re actively fighting food waste and let them know their patronage supports our wider community.
Farmgates: Everyone loves a good farmgate. Delicious, nutritious, locally grown food - straight from paddock to plate! If you’ve started to send your food waste and compostable takeaway packaging to a local farmgate to turn it into compost, you might need your patrons to use a dedicated organics bin. You can easily turn this into a big positive (rather than a nuisance) for your customers by explaining how the new bin is supporting local growers and helps local farms thrive.
Reducing waste: If you want to push for the use of BYO, you want customers to know you’re not doing it to save money at your end. Instead, share your commitment to reduce waste with fun signage and offer a discount (or a treat, see further down) to incentivise and excite your customers.
Step 3 - Make your story newsworthy
Your sustainability journey could help you attract a whole new, value-aligned customer base. If you make your stories newsworthy enough, they will travel beyond your current customer base and spread to a much wider audience. In the world of media, the following elements are considered essential to make a story shareworthy. When you craft your stories, tick as many of the following boxes as possible:
Timeliness: New news! If something’s just happened, it’s more interesting. Media (and customers) lose interest when you focus on past events. Get your new news out fast!
Location: create a local connection. Close proximity means it’s immediately relevant to people in your community. We always care more about things that happen close to home.
Controversy and problems tend to attract more attention: If you are working to tackle a specific issue that affects our community, share it!
Human interest: People are generally interested in other people. We are attracted to stories of people who’ve succeeded in something or overcome a challenge. Make it personal!
Prominence: A well-known person (or event, location) can be all you need to make your story newsworthy. If you can get a prominent local or blogger to share your journey, news will travel further.
And remember to tick off the ‘Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?' in your story.
Do you have any content and storytelling examples? We sure do!
Sharing behind-the-scenes content: a video clip of the compost truck coming for collection and heading to the local farm, or a look around the low-waste kitchen.
A fun giveaway / competition on your social media or in store: guess how many BYO cups we will have filled by the end of this month? The closest guess will win something cool (ideas - a BYO cup, a print by a local artist etc.)
Get personal!! Share a personal video message from the owner via your socials. A great photo tells a thousand words, a great video is often even more powerful.
Make your customer the hero: ask permission to take a photo of the next 10 BYO cup customers and share on your social media to encourage others.
Treat them: every customer who brings their own reusable cup is treated with a sweet. Every morning for the next 6 weeks, the first 2 customers who bring their BYO cup get a free coffee. Every 10th customer to BYO cup receives a free coffee.
A little word of warning, in the nicest possible way...
Do yourself a big favour - stay away from any kind of ‘greenwashing’ (i.e. making people believe your business is more eco friendly than it really is) and only ever promote green credentials you can substantiate. Dishonesty is guaranteed to come back and bite you. Someone will find out and your hard earned reputation is down the drain.
We encourage you to share your journey. Your trials and tribulations. If you haven’t nailed something just yet, be open about it. Let your customers know how passionate you are, how complex the problem is and that you’re working hard to find a solution. Engage them in your story! They will love your honesty and authenticity and will cheer you on along the way.
For more information on how to find your ideal customer, tips on digital marketing, image and content use, check out Boomerang Alliance’s blog on Sustainable Marketing.