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A guest post by Len Dreifort of the Work Coach Cafe.

What is green marketing? It's basically about selling products and services based on their environmental merits. Green marketing has been a significant force in creating the sizable and growing market for sustainable products and services. Companies adopt an eco-friendly perspective to appeal to today's conscientious consumer.

Jacqueline Ottman, author of "Green Marketing: Opportunity for Innovation," provides these five rules for green marketing:

  1. Customers should understand and care about the environmental issues your products address.

  2. Show customers how they can address environmental issues by purchasing your products and services.

  3. Besides being environmentally friendly, assure customers that your products actually work.

  4. Be transparent to ensure credibility and legitimacy of your claims.

  5. Because eco-friendly products are typically priced at a premium, determine if customers are willing to pay your prices.

Experts suggest that companies implement sustainable business practices before promoting green products and services. Otherwise, potential customers will think your business is taking advantage of those with environmental concerns.

Though it's nearly impossible to locate and define a "green" target demographic group, the green market is actually quite vast. Numerous surveys show that 70 to 75 percent of consumers will select green products if they're available.

Strong marketing efforts aren't required to attract dedicated environmentalists to green products and services. Environmentalists are now of a large group of consumers that consists of folks of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational levels.

Offer specific environmentally-friendly claims. The FTC provides guidance regarding which claims are acceptable. Use such organizations as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or government agencies to substantiate any eco-friendly claims. For example, you can get your eco-friendly claims approved by UL Environment. Being certified allows you to put their "ecolabel" on your products and other marketing materials.

The notable Green Seal, an independent nonprofit, has more than 20 years of experience certifying green and healthy products and services. Trusted eco-labels attract "green" consumers and enhance the value of your brand.

Live the green lifestyle. Successful green companies don't just sell the green lifestyle---they live it.  Join industry partnerships to show that your company is committed. The Environmental Protection Agency sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and product stewardship programs that reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. Joining one of these programs helps grow your brand and gives you the opportunity to protect the environment.

Many companies promote their environmental awareness through affiliations with environmental projects or groups. Small businesses can demonstrate their willingness to help the environment by financially assisting a local initiative, such as a community recycling program. Companies enhance their green image with programs dedicated to helping the local environment.

Advertise at some of the notable green web portals. Many of them offer advertising on their websites or in their email newsletters, which often reach thousands of people for a fraction of the cost of comparable offline media. Also, use interactive channels to involve customers in developing your green products and services.

When done correctly, green marketing can be a very powerful marketing strategy. Just make sure all your environmentally friendly claims are legitimate.

Len Dreifort is a member of the Work Coach Cafe writing staff. He writes about careers in public relations, among other career fields in the business world.

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