We are now entering a transition phase in cleantech, with focus shifting from technology to market commercialization. The winning technologies will win in large part because of marketing and communications. In the case of cleantech, it's not enough as a marketer to be a good practitioner of marketing.
In a world of ever increasing sophistication and specialization, in-depth knowledge of key drivers is essential to success. That means a deep understanding of underlying technology, cultural perceptions, policy, and consumer and enterprise behavior.
Moreover, there is interconnectedness in cleantech that does not exist in other areas of the economy, which requires maintaining unusually high levels of visibility into multiple vertical industries. Here are seven keys to success:
1. Think systems. One of the unique things about cleantech is that you can't effectively talk about what you're doing in a silo. It is all inter-related. If you do power storage, it relates to renewable energy and smart grid. If you do water, it's connected to energy. If you do biofuels, it impacts food, water and energy. Your point of view must be developed accordingly.
2. Market the solution, not the problem. There is enough fatigue out there already about the environmental problems we face. Be a face for the solution.
3. Be specific. Talking about "green jobs" or "renewable energy" is no longer enough and audiences are growing more skeptical about "greenwashing." Talk about "wind energy jobs" or "solar power." The more detail you provide, the more believable you become.
4. Drive sales by focusing on your customers' strategic priority. While it may be tempting to lead with the environmental benefits of your product or service, our research shows that compliance and cost/ROI take precedence. Take time to research your customers and understand their primary motivations. You can adapt your message (and channels of communication) accordingly and be far more impactful.
5. Be a policy wonk. Perhaps more than any other space, cleantech requires that you have your finger on the pulse of policy. Whether you are in clean energy, water, smart grid, biofuels or transportation - national and international policy will play a major role. Ignore engagement with policy-makers at your peril.
6. Go digital. Communications have moved online. Social media is the new currency. Find compelling content that can mobilize online communities and get traction for your brand. Ad spend and press releases are becoming less and less effective as the role of online search takes stories directly to individuals at the touch of a button. It can be very cost effective, too.