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Green Business Networking: Setting Standards and Strengthening Commitments

by Jocelyn Broyles

Published 5/12/11


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Eco-friendly business is turning into big business and the companies who play well with others at this early stage in the game will come out as the industry leaders: focused, stronger and better positioned than their counterparts who try to go it alone.

"The more you include others, the more smoothly things flow and the more easily things come to you. In order to attract success, you need to welcome it wherever you see it" - Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth".

The same thing goes for networking with other green businesses. Collaboration; peer and competitor support and esteem; and future returns on current relationship-building all are essential to maintaining your company's green presence, success and goals.

According to Freedonia Group, Inc., as of January 2011, "US green packaging demand [is projected] to top $42 billion in 2014 [and] US demand for recycled content, reusable and biodegradable packaging is projected to exceed $42 billion in 2014."

Those are big numbers, suitable to one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.

Taking into account the billion-dollar potential of just the green shipping and packaging supplies industry, and the fact that half of the surveyed office professionals were interested in eco-office measures, but didn't have the tools to affect change within their companies; green businesses need to assert their presence, build strong relationships and become the resource for those looking for answers.

General outreach practices including industry-specific tradeshows and directly contacting a peer or competitor are both excellent ways to grow your businesses network and create industry standards and resources. They provide a face-to-face or voice-to-voice experience that is still necessary in this age of technology, and can generate new ideas, jump-start an initiative, or simply lay groundwork for a future relationship.

Green Business Sharing Green Ideas
Sharing Green Ideas

Tradeshows are a great arena to begin discussing green business topics.

Tradeshows in particular are wellsprings of innovation and collaboration. Attending a green and sustainable tradeshow often increases enthusiasm and propels your green commitment to the next level. Introductions made at tradeshows can result in instantaneous recognition of like-minded goals and can start a partnership or idea-sharing and growth-promotion between two companies. A direct email or phone call, executed with consideration for the company's achievements and detailing potential collaborative or revenue-producing ideas is often the start of a long-term business relationship. Both these methods of inter-industry contact provide the community and support necessary to continue your company's green goals with renewed and often enhanced zeal.

The technological methods of networking, while not always as instantaneously supportive as direct contact with a like-minded company or person, play a significant role in business relationships today. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be exceptionally beneficial in growing your businesses network; for innovation of new ideas and products; and for receiving necessary feedback and support needed to stay in tune with your original green commitment.

Twitter, while often seen as a flighty site for the pop culture generation, when used strategically as a marketing tool, wields great results within a niche market such as green. Greennii.com, a green and sustainable resource database, increased its Twitter following 290% in two months, by subscribing to TweetBig, a Twitter management service. Greennii now receives approximately 15% of its users directly from Twitter, due to its daily, industry-specific tweets.

Bing and Google confirmed in December that links shared through Twitter and Facebook effect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings. Facebook can not only provide a portal and voice to a company, it can be used as a platform for client interaction and can drive interest and revenue to new heights, as in the case of Sprinkles, a cupcake company, who's owner, through perseverance and clever marketing uses his Facebook page to engage his customers in a daily free cupcake game. Facebook utilization such as this gained Sprinkles 70,000 followers as early as 2009.

While Twitter and Facebook are the social darlings of social media, LinkedIn is the professional player, but don't discount it - or the others - for that reason. LinkedIn is an excellent meeting place for industry networking, as it excels in providing a space where personal relationships can be shifted into professional relationships; and professionals who are strangers can reach out to industry peers in an effort to promote collaboration, idea sharing and profitable ventures. Kevin L. Nichols used LinkedIn to launch his consulting venture. According to Nichols on LinkedIn, "[He] uses his affiliations in various LinkedIn Groups to create warm leads. He uses LinkedIn Events to organize professional mixers so he can introduce his target market to his services. Nichols has been successful at using his LinkedIn Status Updates to draw traffic to his Website and allow potential clients to find him on the internet, avoiding paying for expensive CRM software.

All of the networking methods, from direct, personal, face-to-face meetings to online relationships created through a series of introductions, provide a space for like-minded individuals to come together and share a dialogue on current and important industry news, information and events. Networking provides a sense of cohesiveness, teamwork and camaraderie, and building and maintaining relationships throughout the green industry helps us all realize this is a collaborative undertaking, and that your green goals, commitments and energies are part of a collective whole.

That type of industry strength, brought about by the solid networking of green industry players, paints a picture for other businesses and industries seeking to go green. It is the foundation we as green businesses need to create - to maintain, build and strengthen our own green commitment and to set the standard for all other businesses in the future.