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Going Green: How to Genuinely Enhance Your Sales Proposition

By: Michael Bleau

Saturday, August 01, 2009
 
In today’s renewable-energy-sensitive culture, some consumers seem to be obsessed with sustainability, which carries over into the boardroom, driving companies to rush ‘green’ content into their marketing materials. The good news is that people are paying attention —which is my point—people are more informed than ever before when it comes to renewable energy, eco-friendly processes and products. So if you promote your company and products as being green, then your message needs to be accurate, genuine and relevant.

If your company is ISO 14001 registered, working toward registration or has enacted other steps to curb your energy use and minimize your environmental impact through the process of how your products are produced, then share this news with your customers. If you’re not there yet, be patient and promote your efforts when you have something to share. You are correct to think that being an environmentally responsible manufacturer whose products provide greener side benefits is important to your customers. Just try to not get carried away with the desire to project this image. If you force the topic into your marketing efforts you run the risk of being perceived as disingenuous.

Promoting your sustainability efforts really is not very different than how you approach promoting other aspects of your business. First and foremost, understand your audience and what is important to them. Next, ask yourself what you want to achieve through the communication effort. What outcomes are you trying to achieve and what do you expect to gain from sharing this message? Being able to quantify the outcome that is driving you to share this information is an important part of any promotional effort. If you can’t answer this question, then hold off until you can. And consider that once you present yourself as a green company, you inadvertently may invite consumers who probe with magnifying glasses, so be sure that you have all of your facts straight. If you want to say that you’re green, then point to some specific, beneficial results for your community or your customers. It’s not enough to generalize and say that you’re working to reduce your carbon footprint or you’re emitting less waste into the environment, since it’s given that we all should be doing this. Take steps to learn how your efforts or the sustainability of your products extend downstream to your customers and onto their consumers.

FKM Walzentecknik, Duisburg, Germany, an industrial roll producer with a factory based in the Chicago area, produces pressing rolls made from nonwoven materials used in a variety of sheetmetal applications. Many of these products are used by automotive stampers to clean and remove excess lubrication from blank or coil stock prior to forming. During market diversification efforts aimed at entering the textile industry, FKM noticed an interesting benefit that its customers gained when using its rolls.

Let’s back up a bit. Textile manufacturers produce fabric similar to how coil steel is processed. Fabric continuously feeds through a series of machines as a long strip of material guided by tension and pinch rolls as it winds its way through various processes. Many of these processes involve wetting the fabric, resulting in the need to dry the fabric as one of the final steps in the production line. In textile production, the machine performing the final wringing operation is called a stenter and the rolls within it are called padder rolls. The wringing operation takes place just before the fabric feeds through a long, heated chamber for the final removal of excess fluid before packaging. Conventional padder rolls are polymer based, which do a fine job of wringing the fluid from the fabric, unless the fabric enters the rolls in a bunch. When this happens an impression or deboss mark is made in the face of the rolls, allowing excess fluid to pass until the roll materials ‘memory’ may or may not allow it to fully return to a smooth, flat state. Humidity sensors control line speed, so when excess fluid is carried through the stenter into the drying tunnel by the fabric, the line slows to allow more drying time.

Eliminating this ‘memory effect’ at FKM was a problem and the focus of an effort to replace the padder rolls with a nonwoven alternative less prone to debossing. While the nonwoven material solved the problem of maintaining its shape to reduce the intermittent passage of extra fluid, it created an additional, unanticipated benefit. The overall wringing was far more effective, reducing the residual moisture content during normal operation from 70 to 52 percent. This unintended effect translated into far less time in the final drying tunnel. The result: less drying time and a faster line speed.

So why is this an example of a green story? It all boils down to energy consumption and customer savings. Faster line speed and increased line throughput results in less BTUs consumed per pound of fabric produced. After months of validation with customers, FKM became convinced it had something tangible to share with prospective customers about energy savings. This gave FKM a genuine green benefit to promote that didn’t overshadow the main value proposition of cost savings and an overall improvement to the textile mill’s production process.

While quality, cost and reliability are essential, being a responsible, environmentally conscious manufacturer is on the minds of your customers, so addressing this buying influence is important. As you promote, you need to ensure that your message isn’t perceived as being disingenuous, which at best will be ignored or at worse can tarnish your company’s image. Tying in genuine green benefits is an excellent way to differentiate your company, but only if the benefits are tangible, relevant and demonstrate real value. MF

 


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