How to Make Your Business Cater to the Conscious Consumer
Updated: Jun 23
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While there have been many headline events over the last few years, some more notable than others, one problem that hasn't gone away is climate change. Whether you get triggered by watching a forest getting logged or by someone using plastic bottles for the meeting every week, there are plenty of issues related to the health of our Earth that affect us.
If you own a business, there is one group of people who you have to care about no matter what: your customers. We've seen companies take positions over political issues, fire their employees because of statements they made, or issue public apologies when commercials are panned as "tone-deaf".
When you have a business, you can't discriminate, however, you can and should discern the kind of customer you are trying to appeal to. You should be able to describe everything about that ideal customer of yours. What are they like? What do they do for work? What's their weekend routine? Do they have a family? Do they like pets? Are they vegan?
These are just some of the questions that you want to ask when you are determining your target market. You only have a limited marketing budget (most likely) and if you try to please one group, you probably won't please another (good luck trying to sell beef jerky AND vegan leather handbags).
This brings us to the point of conscious consumers. Brands like REI, Patagonia, Subaru, and others have found their way to the heart of these kinds of customers, and they are growing as a demographic. They are growing big time.
Customers are more aware than ever that their carbon footprint matters. They are more mindful of single-use waste and want to vote with their wallets to support brands that are doing their part to protect the environment and our natural resources. According to last year's GreenPrint survey, about 2/3rd of US consumers are willing to pay MORE for environmentally friendly products, but 74% don't know how. For millennials, my generation (and my target audience for Financial Fives) about 75% are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
The signs are pointing toward catering to this ever-growing group of consumers with disposable income, but discerning tastes and conscious consumption. Customers, especially millennials, are more aware than ever that they have a choice to vote with their wallets and have a say. They give feedback to companies and call them out on social media when they fail at greenwashing. Hint: Don't mess with millennials. So, how do you cater to these conscious consumers?
1) Look at Your Business Model - When we think about starting a business, we are usually so excited about sharing our idea with the world and making gobs of money, that we don't spend nearly enough time on our business plan. How are you going to find customers? And when you do, how will you keep them or prevent them from going to a competitor?
If you are a service-based business, such as being a realtor, are there certifications you can achieve to appeal to conscious consumers, such as EcoBroker? Do you offer the option to bike to open houses or drive an electric car?
I've also seen some green realtors offset the carbon emissions from driving around to various homes, or donate a percentage of their commission to an environmental non-profit of the client's choice. Think about what you do in your business, from your contractors to vendors, to suppliers, to partnerships, and find ways to work with those that reflect the values of your customers.
2) Are there Ways to Reduce Waste? When I started California Box Rental, I created the business because I didn't like the waste of cardboard boxes. It was fully centered around sustainability. However, you don't have to create a business to solve a sustainability issue, you just have to embody some of the values of sustainability. Can you switch from plastic packaging to paper? Can you start using post-consumer recycled labels? Are you able to source your energy from solar or wind?
If you have a storefront, can you ask your landlord to install bike racks out front, and have a zero-waste diversion center inside? From Zero-Waste Coffee Shops to Pet Grooming stores that use plant-based ingredients, it's easier than ever to find cost-effective ways to appeal to that conscious consumer.
3) What Problem Are You Solving For? We know that when we start a business, it's usually to solve a problem that we find in our own lives. Whether it's an issue with the current version of your bike helmet, to just wanting more tasteful cold-brew coffee, entrepreneurs use a problem to take it upon themselves to fix it and make money in the process.
Service-based businesses, such as graphic design or designing websites, may not have the same number of options to be more conscious, other than ways mentioned above like donating a percentage of profits to an environmental charity or offsetting your carbon emissions/travel.
If you have a product, look at the supply chain. Look at your packaging. Look at the lifecycle of that product. Is it easily recycled? Is it made from post-consumer recycled content? Can it be made with more regenerative or plant-based materials? If you can create a product that takes the trash out of the ocean and makes something useful, you might have just found your fast track to becoming a millionaire.
What do you think? Are you a business owner that's trying to appeal to the conscious consumer, and if so, what's working for you?