Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Online store, online market space – part 12: the Green and environmentally conscious business

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 7, 2010

One of the general topic areas that I have been writing about as a recurring thread through this blog is Green and sustainability, with most of that appearing as entries in my Social Networking and Business directory. That, among other things includes a handbook I have serially presented on best practices for organizing a Green and sustainability oriented movement (see postings 49-58, 60, 65 and 70 above.) I have also been running a series on best practices for systematically, strategically building an online store as a startup business (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 20-30.) This posting is a next installment in that series while simultaneously continuing my ongoing Green series.

From the perspective of setting up an online store though, I point out that while the Green-oriented community is active and growing and an important overall community to connect to for any business, the basic ideas I will be presenting here would apply to connecting to any community that could constitute your marketplace and that can be identified through shared goals and objectives, member identity and self-identification or other clearly defined standards.

Know the community you would reach out to, and its issues. This means knowing more than just the broad brushstroke stereotypes and understanding the issues and at least something of the differences and diversity in the overall community.
Speak the language and know the jargon and even if you only use it selectively. This is important that you be able to present yourself as in insider. I write of being an insider in a job search best practices context (see for example my posting on informational interviews, which can be of help in this context for conducting your new business due diligence research.) This is vitally important here too.
Be an insider and walk the talk – actually practice involvement and commitment to the goals and principles of the groups you seek to serve through your business.
Listen, listen, listen – members of the community will tell you what they need the most, and even (especially) where your competition is not meeting their needs. Insight you can gain from listening and from asking good questions can lead you to the blue ocean strategy opportunities that would make your business a marketplace leader. In this your potential customers really want to see you succeed as that would offer them resources they desire and need, and perhaps as a very high priority but that are not otherwise available to them.
If you are a member of the community, overtly setting out to help meet the needs of the community, your customers become your allies and with a sense of commitment to your success.

In Green and sustainability, what are the core issues and challenges that local communities are facing? Know them. What are the larger issues that you can bring into a focus of understanding that you could address with specific products and services? Know them.

One of the core environmental impact issues I have written about in my Green and sustainability handbook (see links above) is hydrofracking as an environmentally damaging technology for extracting shale oil and gas. One of the most important points of immediate adverse environmental impact in this is in damage to the quality of water in the local and regional aquifers so an obvious point of impact and connection for an online Green business would be in offering water quality testing equipment and supplies, or testing services. Potential targeted markets would include households that rely on well water, local communities that offer community-based water supplies which by their very nature depend on these aquifers, and other businesses that rely on water quality for them to be able to effectively function.

• Knowing the core issues and the opportunities that addressing them would create for you as a business can help you identify and connect into goals-oriented communities that could become your strongest markets.
• Knowing potential markets, and what organizes and drives them as shared interests and concerns can help you identify and really understand unmet needs that community members would seek out to purchase.
• Note that in the preceding paragraph, in my hydrofracking and water quality example, I cited three possible markets – B to C (business to consumer), B to G (business to government, and here local government) and B to B (business to business.) Learn the basic ground rules for working with them as distinct marketplaces, and particularly where your customers would be in the G or the larger scale B categories with their potential for bureaucratic rules, guidelines and purchasing requirements.
• Learn how to communicate with your customers and potential customers and how to meet their decision making and purchasing requirements and with the least effort on their part that you can manage from your side of the transaction.
• Ideally, your customers will be able to focus all of their attention and effort on meeting their needs and little if any on the processes through which you would meet those needs for them. Functionally this means keeping your processes streamlined and as transparent as possible.

Green is an important focus, and a complex one with many faces and that involves many communities and demographics. As stated above it is not, however, the only defining goals-oriented basis for developing a focused-community-based market share. A key to any due diligence in setting out to target and capture market share in one of these opportunity areas is in knowing what they are as their members self-identify.

If you are targeting a particular ethnic or national-origin community as a source of potential customers, that obviously includes knowing their spoken and written languages and their dialects of choice. But the defining parameters that self-identifying members of a group use and assume as given may not always be obvious to an outsider. And the value that specific details in this hold in validating that sense of self-identification may not be obvious. Not all points of potential similarity and difference hold equal weight. Learn what matters and focus on that.

As a final point in this posting, I am including this from a Green perspective in a Social Networking and Business postings directory for a reason. There is tremendous potential in reaching out to the marketplace using social networking, and both in

• marketing and the sharing of information as to who you are and in
• becoming a part of that community as a knowledgeable and even savvy insider and in learning from the community what you most need to know.

I will be writing more with a Green and sustainability focus and in a few days I will be adding my next installment in this series on online stores.

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