Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Should You Green Up Your Direct Marketing?

I've been reading about green direct marketing lately. There seem to be two distinct views about the idea of greening up direct mail. One side thinks that "green direct mail" is an oxymoron. The other side says that it's worth taking a look at your direct marketing efforts and finding ways you can improve your green marketing efforts.

I agree that it's worth seeing if you can green up your marketing efforts. It's good for the environment and the future of our planet. It may also be good for your bottom line. Let's be honest. Most companies will support an effort to "go green" is if it is profitable for them.

The most successful green efforts will involve doing things that your customers and prospects will see as beneficial. That may mean actually modifying your products or services to include a green aspect. Here are a few examples.

Office Depot offers an assortment of products with a "green" element, most having to do with using recycled materials. They found that customers liked the new products, but didn't like searching through all products to find the green options. So, Office Depot began publishing and mailing The Green Book. It's a catalog of environmentally friendly products.

It's ironic that Office Depot is using a catalog to market its green products. Yet, it works. They are reaching a niche market that is concerned about purchasing these Earth-friendly alternatives. And, I'm sure they are making a profit from these green products.

SC Johnson, the company that makes brands like Shout, Windex, and Scrubbing Bubbles, also markets Greenlist product labels, which designates products with a special label indicating they contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOC). The Greenlist process lets the company measure the overall environmental impact of each product, as well as aids its ability to tweak formulas to scale back harmful ingredients.

Why is SC Johnson creating these green products? First, the company believes in doing what's best for the environment and has a long history of exceeding environmental guidelines. Second, they are meeting a demand for cleaning products that contain fewer harmful ingredients and are good for our planet.

Now, you may be thinking that your company isn't really in a business where you can offer green products or services. For instance, if you sell life insurance or long term care insurance, it might be difficult to green it up. So, here are some quick tips to help green your mailings:

Continuously update your mailing list.
Yes, this is something that is obvious to all marketers. But, I mean really get in there and be critical of your lists. Are you sending the right offers to the right prospects? Could you segment your lists to send more relevant messages to each audience rather than mass mailing everyone? By frequently reviewing and updating your mailing list, you can make sure you are only sending materials to your best and relevant prospects. That means less money spent mailing and less paper and resources consumed.

Use recycled materials.
Use more materials made from recycled paper. To help make sure your materials can be recycled by recipients, try using soy or water-based inks, windowless envelopes, and uncoated stock. Also, add a written message or the Recyclable symbol on your marketing materials to encourage recipients to recycle.

Be accurate in your claims.
Make sure you use the proper terminology and logos in your direct marketing materials. Educated consumers will know the difference. Remember that the word "Recycled" or the recycled logo may only be used alone when the product or package contains 100% recycled material. Use the recyclable symbol to identify paper and paperboard products made from fibers that, after use, are suitable for recycling. Ask suppliers to provide documented proof of their environmental claims. If they claim their products are made from recycled materials, ask specifically about the percentage of recycled content.

Consider on-demand direct marketing.
You may be able to reduce the amount of materials you print by sending out materials on-demand. Rather than printing up thousands of pieces to keep in inventory and then possibly throw out when they become outdated, just print what you need when you need it. You will also have more opportunities to customize the materials you mail. This means you may be able to mail less while maintaining or even increasing response rates.

Offer paperless options.
You can create an integrated marketing campaign and invite recipients to respond to your mailings online using a custom landing page. Or, allow customers and prospects to opt to receive their offers through email communications – for those who prefer not to get paper. You can also drive toward more online statements and notifications, if it fits your business. These paperless alternatives can save you money in materials and printing costs, and some of your customers will appreciate having more green options.

It's tricky to do classic direct marketing and be green. Always be honest with your customers and prospects about your green efforts. Think about your products and services to see if there's something you can do to fill a green need. You may find yourself in a great position - establishing good business practices and making a profit!

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