Some entrepreneurs create a business around their passion. They firmly believe if they follow their passion, the money will follow. Other entrepreneurs research the market, then create a business based on a gap, or need in the market. IMHO, these guys are the truly savvy entrepreneurs. Because they’re not personally attached to their business idea, and they’re not going to spend tons of time and money to create a product that they HOPE people will buy.
So here’s an awesome story from Zack Kalter, whom I met at Think Tank, the most awesome affiliate marketing conference around. Zack is working with Clearly Filtered these days, a green startup that makes portable water filtration products, including
Not only are their filtered water bottles BPA free, their filters remove 99% of chemicals, viruses, bacteria, and other nasty stuff. I wish I knew about their bottles before I started travelling in the Brazilian Amazon for 5 months, especially after my UV water purification device conked out after month 1, forcing me to use toxic, government issued chlorine drops as my only alternative.
I’m particularly intrigued by their process. What does it take to research a market, then come up with a compelling product that sells? Here’s Clearly Filtered’s story, plus advice to aspiring green entrepreneurs on how to research a market and pick a product to sell:
Clearly Filter’s Green Startup Launch Story
As a startup in the green industry, we have spent the last 6 months choosing a product, coming up with a business concept, and implementing a full e-commerce solution for distributing our products online. We are a young company, but we have gone through some growing pains and would love to share a few key points for anyone out there looking to start a green business. Hope it helps!
Choose A Green Niche You Can Be Passionate About
When we first started thinking about what kind of business to start, we really wanted to do something that would have an impact on the world. We considered various initiatives in the green industry but when we were presented with an opportunity to market portable water filtration products, we knew we wanted to move forward with the idea immediately. This would allow us to do our part to combat the global water epidemic. We believe that starting a business without a purpose is setting yourself up for failure from the start.
We happen to believe that clean drinking water is a basic human right – not a luxury. We all need water and lots of it. But how do you know that the water you’re drinking is clean and free of contaminants? That’s the very problem we’re trying to address.
The typical solution, at least for those who can afford it, is to buy bottled water. But it’s terribly overpriced, the quality is poorly regulated and once used, the plastic bottles have a nasty habit of ending up in our landfills and oceans. Just because we have something at our disposal doesn’t mean that we should dispose of it.
It was these factors and more that led us into this business venture. Below the surface – at the very core – we knew it was vital that we keep our mission statement at the forefront of our daily activities. We want to help people save money, live a healthier life, and do our part to help preserve our planet. But none of this can be accomplished without laying the foundation of a successful business.
Niche Market Research Is Key
When starting any business from the ground up, you have to have to be aware of your competition. We knew that the water bottle niche was very competitive and filtered water bottles are just now becoming more popular. Our initial goal was to determine if our filters could stand a chance against the many competitors in the marketplace. Initially, we did some keyword research using Google’s keyword tool to get a gist of which keywords had the most traffic. Then we Googled certain key phrases like “filtered water bottle” to get a rough idea of who was advertising, which sites show up in the SERPs and which product images show up.
This gave us a clear look at who is making an impact with their SEO and PPC marketing. We began to jot down every company selling a filtered water bottle and we kept it all compiled in Google docs for easy collaboration. What we found was that there are a few huge players in this market. But, more importantly, we found out that our competitor’s filters aren’t anywhere near the caliber of ours. On our spreadsheet, we included how many contaminants each filter removes and it turns out that our filter can eliminate up to 99.99% of all fresh water contaminants while our top competitors only claim to reduce chlorine.
This was the first “a-ha” moment for us because we instantly knew that we had a better product – one that would allow our customers to feel confident that they were drinking pure clean water with every sip.
While it is clear that market research is important, we also had to consider longevity of the industry. With each passing year our water is becoming more and more contaminated and we felt that this market is only going to become more and more relevant in the future. With the amount of natural disasters our world experiences, it never hurts to be prepared.
Cash Is The Lifeblood Of Any Startup
Product creation requires a great deal of work, and we realized that right away. There are many costs to prepare for, such as product costs, web cart creation, web designers, and fulfillment just to name few.
We really wanted to bootstrap the operation but we felt as though it would be in our best interest to bring some investors on board. We took one initial round of capital from two investors which gave us the leverage to complete our website, purchase initial product supply and hire a few key employees to work part time. It was, and still is, important for us to be extremely tight with our money and keep track of where everything is coming from and going to. We use QuickBooks to manage all of our transactions, which makes the process a little easier.
We also had to take into consideration future product redesigns and new releases so that we can have some flexibility in the way we want to position the company down the road. One thing we have learned is that innovation is key and staying stagnant for too long can lead to your death as a company.
Nothing Happens Without The Marketing
Remember that iconic line from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come?” Well, that just doesn’t hold true in the world of e-commerce. With so much competition you have to be on the ball and be able to find traffic sources any way you can. While talking about our marketing strategy, we understood that there were a few key ways that can generate the right kind of traffic to our site.
Paid traffic such as search adverting (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and media buys can be great if you target the right keywords, but it can also be expensive and risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. We decided that we would do paid search on a small scale to ease our way into testing the waters and would focus on a variety of free methods to minimize risk. Here are a few of the ways we will be marketing using free methods:
1. Guest blogging – This is actually what I’m doing right now. It often goes unnoticed but guest blogging is probably one of the best ways to gain exposure because it is a win-win for everyone involved. The owner of the blog gets a quality piece of content and as the author, you get the readership value and an incoming link to your site.
2. Facebook Fan Pages – Facebook is huge these days…obviously! We are making a huge push to our Clearly Filtered fan page to help educate our consumers and build relationships with them. Down the line, we’ll also be doing some paid Facebook ads to our fan page to spread awareness but right now we are starting with viral components like contests and word of mouth.
3. Video Marketing – Video marketing is something we feel very strongly about. We will continue to make new videos and promo pieces in order to educate and entertain prospective customers. YouTube videos are one of the best ways to communicate your message and personality and the insight feature is an awesome tool for understanding viewer demographics.
4. Forums – Forums might not work for all niches, but we believe that joining the conversation is a huge part of educating people about clean water and our products. Our goal with forums is to target different markets (such as health, travel and survival) and add value to the conversations currently taking place. The goal here is to not spam and genuinely add value to each conversation.
Philanthropy Is A Win-Win
When starting ClearlyFiltered.com we knew we had to include a branch of the company that incorporated a non-profit organization.
We’re really proud to announce our plans for the Clearly Filtered Foundation. The purpose of this foundation is to provide people with a platform to donate money knowing that their contributions will go directly to giving clean water to someone in need.
That’s the kind of thing that makes all the work we’ve put into Clearly Filtered seem worthwhile. It’s our way of giving back to the people who need it most.
If you can tie a non-profit into your business or help give back in some way (think Tom’s Shoes), it will both reward you as a company and give consumers the satisfaction of actually doing a small part for a great cause.
There is a lot to starting a green business and there will always be challenges. The important thing to remember is that a green business does more than make money – whether it’s a non-profit segment, or simply helping people live greener lives. We as green entrepreneurs need to keep these concepts at the forefronts of our minds and push forward in our entrepreneurial ways. Thanks for reading this post. We hope it gives you some insight into what it takes to start a green business.
If any of you are interested in checking out our products, we’d love for you to visit our site. Also… We are giving readers of Green Marketing TV a 10% coupon as our way of saying thank you for reading our post. Use coupon code: gmtv11
About Clearly Filtered:
Clearly Filtered develops portable filtered water bottles, which aim to help clean up our water, make us healthier, and eliminate the harmful waste of the bottled water industry. We are a young startup based out of Orange County, CA and are doing our best to create a sustainable green business that can both turn a profit and help the environment at the same time.
For the most up to date information about us, our products or how you can get involved, visit us on the web at: www.ClearlyFiltered.com. You can also find us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ClearlyFiltered