Thursday, October 27, 2016

Busting the Myths about E-Media and Paper

We’ve all seen it on the backs of envelopes and on pop-ups for bank and retail account login pages. Go Paperless! Go Green! Save Trees! But is going paperless really about saving the environment?
Or cost reduction for the sender? 

It is about cost reduction. According to ESP Consulting, telecommunications companies can expect to save 45% per bill when a paper bill is converted to an e-bill. Credit card companies can expect to save 37%. No wonder the push is for customers to go electronic. 

The irony is, going paperless does not save trees. The commercial value of forestry products like paper and lumber provides forestland owners with an incentive to manage their lands rather than selling them for non-forest uses such as development. By going paperless, consumers reduce demand for paper and thereby reduce the incentive of landowners to maintain their forests. Going paperless actually encourages deforestation.

To counter the growing volume of greenwashing out there, Two Sides, an organization dedicated to presenting the facts about electronic and print media, has put out a detailed fact sheet to provide businesses and consumers with what it calls “rigorous, factual, and verifiable life cycle assessments of each alternative.” 

Furthermore, because forest products can require little or no fossil fuels for production and store carbon throughout their useful life, they can have inherent climate change advantages over all other materials with which they compete.

This is not to bust on email. Both print-based and e-media have environmental footprints, and email has an important place in the marketing mix. But paper has power to communicate in ways that electronic media cannot. It is tactile, disruptive, and offers the power of unique and compelling binding, folds, and die cuts that command attention in ways email can’t. 

When it comes to print and electronic media, it is not a matter of choosing one or the other. It is about choosing wisely and using each most effectively. 

Let’s look at a few eye-openers. 

Computers require a lot fossil fuels. The total weight of the fossil fuels used to make one desktop computer is more than 529 pounds. This is 10 times the weight of the computer itself. This ratio is very high compared to many other consumer goods, including automobiles and refrigerators.

Computers have hazardous constituents. Some of the constituents of computers, including lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, pose risks to human health and the environment if mismanaged at their end of life. We all know how many computers end up in landfills when they are not supposed to.

Paper mills depend on recycling programs. By contrast, nearly 80% of America’s paper mills are designed to use paper collected in recycling programs, and they depend on paper recycling to supply the raw materials they need to make new paper. 

Paper mills utilize renewable energy. More than two-thirds of the energy used to produce paper comes from renewable sources, such as water and biomass. 

Trees are flourishing. Over the last 50 years, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland increased 49%. 

So does going paperless really save trees?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What's in a Leaf?

If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree's leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.


An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.


Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.


Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, "7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers" (, it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.

By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.


Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Direct Mail Checklist

In today’s world of complex creative and nonstop marketing assault, it’s easy to forget the basics. Before designing that visually extravagant mailer, take a step back and make sure you’ve covered the fundamentals. 

1 List.
Who are you sending the mailer to? Is the list current? Are you mailing to the right people? Are the names up to date? Are there duplicates (or even triplicates) that need to be culled? 

2 Basic segmentation.
Even if you are not using full personalization, your mailing should still have basic segmentation that allows you to speak relevantly to your core target audiences. If you’re selling homeowners or auto insurance, for example, you’ll speak differently to families with children than you will to retirees. 

3 Cross-reference. 
Especially if you will be personalizing, it’s a good idea to cross-reference your data. You can assume that customers purchasing infant formula have young children, but maybe they are grandparents picking up necessities for their grandchildren, too. If those customers subscribe to New Baby magazine, however, you can have confidence that they have young children at home. 

4 Call to action. 
Too many mailings suffer from not having a call to action. CTAs are critical to motivating behavior, and without one, even the most otherwise well-designed campaign can fail.  Make the CTA visible. Make it bold. Put it in a starburst or use brightly colored lettering. Readers can’t respond to a CTA they don’t see.  

5 Response mechanisms. 
Give people more than one way to respond. Consumers’ lives are cluttered and over-scheduled. The more ways you can give them to respond, the more likely they are to do so.  If you are using personalized URLs, include a personalized QR Code in case they want to respond on a mobile device. Give people a general URL, a tear-out card, and a phone number. Pre-fill tear-out cards with as much information as you can. Remove as many barriers to a response as possible. 

Bullets and white space.
Busy consumers don’t have time to read. When designing for direct mail, think “infographic.” Use bullet points, numbered lists, and graphic elements—anything that makes the information easy to absorb with a quick visual scan. 

7 Include a P.S. 

Did you know that the P.S. is the most read part of a letter? Use this area to reiterate your key points and CTA. If people don’t read anything else, they’ll read that.  Studies also show that including a deadline for the CTA is a great motivator. This is a great place to reiterate it. 

Tips for Nurturing Existing Sales Leads

While bringing new leads into your business is always important, sometimes it's not the "be all, end all" solution to your bottom line. Remember that according to most statistics, an incredible 90% of new prospects are merely in the "browsing" stage of their relationship with your company - meaning that they're not quite ready to buy. Out of every new lead you bring into your business, only 5% are ready to pull the trigger - if that. While you may think this means you have to work harder to bring in a higher volume of leads (this is a numbers game, after all), try a different approach. Don't forget about the leads you already have.

If you want to get better at nurturing your existing sales leads to get them ready for that ever-important purchase, you'll want to keep a few key things in mind.

You Are an Authority. Don't Forget This

When people think about nurturing leads, one of the qualities required for a solid relationship is one of trust. Never forget that you're not just selling a product or service - you're also selling yourself. People are a lot more willing to spend money with your company if they trust that you know what you're talking about.

Don't JUST hit your prospects with sales materials over and over again; this isn't lead nurturing, this is badgering. Instead, try sending helpful, well-researched content in their direction as well. You need to be focused on establishing that you know what you're talking about. People aren't just going to take your word for it. When you spend time positioning yourself as an authority and focusing on the other qualities of lead nurturing as well, people will begin to see you as the solution to their problem when they do feel comfortable enough to buy.

Don't Just Make Contact When You Have Something to Sell

One of the biggest mistakes that a businessperson can make involves only remembering that a lead exists when you need to increase your sales numbers for a particular quarter. Nurturing leads requires you to keep in mind that you're talking about more than just line items on a balance sheet - prospects are living, breathing people who don't like to feel used.

As a result, make an effort to reach out to a few of your potentially higher quality leads even if you're not pushing a new product or service. Thanks to the power of social media, this is easier than ever. Even a quick Facebook message on a birthday or at Christmas will go a long way towards strengthening (and increasing the ultimate value of) your relationship.

These are just a few of the many reasons why it is so important to nurture your existing sales leads. None of this is to say that you should stop focusing on bringing in new leads and turn 100% of your attention on existing ones. As always, success requires you to strike a delicate balance between the two. But if you let the majority of your existing leads lay dormant for too long, you're burning a lot more than just potentially important relationships. You're leaving a lot of money on the table at the same time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

Parents to teenagers and young adults know that there are some lessons that only living life can bring us. Life lessons learned through living life are valuable, and they are hard to teach to teenagers because teens think they have the answers to everything. However, experience can offer up gems of information about what is truly important in life and how to enjoy each moment as it comes.

What are some of the lessons that life teaches us?

1. Life isn't fair, but it is still good.

How many times have you heard your child or teenager say to you, "but that isn't fair!" The truth is that life isn't fair. Life happens as it happens, and you need to learn to roll with the ups and downs and continue on your journey. If you can take each moment as it comes, then you can appreciate the good, survive the bad, and continue on your way.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Many of the big decisions in life can be broken down into small steps that are easy to accomplish. Each time you have a big project or decision in front of you, you can make it easier to understand by chopping it up into small tasks. Then, do each task one at a time until you complete the whole.

3. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Humor makes life more tolerable both in good and bad times. If you can learn to live life with humor, including your own foibles, you will relax more and stay healthier. Laughter is a stress-reducer and can help keep your craziest days sane.

4. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

Since nothing ever goes exactly as we plan, it is important to prepare for contingencies. If you are ready for the worst, then you will be able to move in various directions when reality hits. You can plan to the Nth degree, but once your event or project is in motion, you cannot stop it. Going with the flow and learning to be flexible will keep you on top of the situation (as much as that is possible).

Applying Life's Lessons to Business

Running a small business is fraught with surprises, changes, and learning curves. Many of the lessons that apply to life, in general, can be applied to running a business. Small business owners are responsible for everything that occurs in the whole of their business, and it is nearly impossible to predict what each day as a small business owner will bring.

If you can enjoy each part of your business, sharing what you know with your customers and employees, and reaching out to your community to connect with people through your business, you will enjoy life's journey. Business isn't always fair, but if you put your heart into it, it will be good. Your customers and employees will see how you run your business, and they will respond. When in doubt, just take the first small step, and you will be able to accomplish whatever goals you set for your business. Don't take your business so seriously. No one else does. Run your business with a good sense of humor and your customers and staff will join in laughing with you. Overprepare, and then let your business take you where it will. You will discover new dimensions to your niche that you may never have known before and you will have an exciting, fulfilling journey.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Don't Make the Internet Angry: Important Considerations About Using Social Media as a Marketing Platform

As a sheer marketing platform, social media brings with it a host of advantages that can't be ignored. According to one recent study, there will be 2.5 billion unique users worldwide on social media networks by as soon as 2018. Right now, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have the potential to effortlessly connect you with approximately 70% of the United States population.

However, social media also presents some challenges, too - particularly if you insist on taking the "tried but true" marketing techniques of yesteryear and trying to cram them into a social media-shaped box. If you want to unlock the real potential that only social media can provide, you'll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Different Users Are Looking for Different Things

One of the most important things to understand about social media networks is that they aren't all created equally. Someone who uses Facebook isn't looking for the same TYPE of message that someone who uses Twitter is. The same goes for LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. While they're all "social networks" in the strictest sense of the definition, they all have their unique strengths.

Twitter users are looking for shorter, bite-sized bits of information while Facebook users prefer longer, more thoughtful posts. A piece of marketing collateral that you designed for Facebook won't necessarily play well to Twitter's audience, and vice versa. You have to understand the channel you're using, play to its strengths, and adapt across the board. Even if you're presenting the same message on each network, you have to make sure that the delivery mechanism is optimized for the platform you're working with at the time.

Think Young

One of the most mission critical things to understand as you move forward with social media is the fact that 90% of young adults today (defined as people between the ages of 18 and 29) are social media users. Not only that, but a third of them say that social media is one of their preferred methods for communicating with businesses in general.

In essence, this means that if you want to create the type of loyal following that will carry your business far NOW, you have to start playing to their habits on social media today. These younger users will continue to age, and if you can hook them young via social media, you've likely hooked them forever.

Social Media Demands Honesty

Finally, one of the most important considerations about using social media as a marketing platform has to do with what happens if things go wrong. Because of the intimate, constant connection that social media generates, anything less than honesty is not welcome. If customers have a concern, address it. If a legitimate problem arises, do what you can to make it right. If something bad happens with your company - be it a negative run-in with a customer to a full-fledged PR disaster - don't just try to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened.

Gabe Newell, a former Microsoft employee and founder of Valve Corporation, said it best when he said "One of the things we learned pretty early on is 'Don't ever, ever try to lie to the internet - because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity."

In essence, this means that while social media can bring a lot of positive attributes to your company regarding the sheer marketing power it offers, it is also a slippery slope. If you want to use social media to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with your target audience, you can't assume this is a given. You have to earn it, and you can never take it for granted.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Art of the Pivot

No matter what business you're talking about, most companies usually begin life in the same way: with an idea. You wake up one morning, have an idea for a product or service that you're sure will be the "next big thing," and you get to work. You fully commit yourself to building an infrastructure, developing and expanding on your idea, and eventually, you bring your product or service to market.

And then things have a habit of sometimes not going necessarily how you'd planned them.

Maybe people are using your product, but they're not using it in the exact way that you intended. Certainly not in the way you built your strategy around. Maybe your product or service isn't popular at all, but the underlying idea is still a solid one. In these situations, you have two options: you can pack up your ball and go home, or you could do what some of the most successful companies in the history of planet Earth have done: you pivot.

The Art of the Pivot in Action

A few years ago, an online role-playing game was founded called "Game Neverending" - you're forgiven if you've never heard of it. The premise was simple - users would travel around a digital map and find other people to buy, sell, and build items with. Included inside the game was a photo-sharing tool, which quickly became one of the most popular parts of the experience. Though the developers loved their idea, users weren't quite so kind. People were spending less and less time on the "buying, selling, and building items" part and more on the "photo-sharing" part, causing significant problems for the company's long-term goals.

While you've probably never heard of "Game Neverending," you ARE no doubt aware of a service called Flickr - one of the most popular and widely used photo-sharing tools of the digital age. The developers behind "Game Neverending" realized that they were never going to get people to love their RPG the way they did, so they did what any entrepreneurs would do: they pivoted. They threw out everything except the proven-successful photo-sharing technology and started from scratch. One acquisition by Yahoo! later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Let the Market Be Your Guide

The key takeaway from this is that you need to be willing to listen to the market and allow it to guide you through execution, even if that execution is at odds with your original intent. Remember that the market is telling you "We like this, but it would be better if it had X, Y, and Z features" is different from pivoting. If users enjoyed the RPG experience of "Game Neverending" and the developers just kept adding game-related features, we might not have Flickr today.

Instead, the market communicated loud and clear: "We don't like this game, but we do enjoy this one thing that the game lets us do." These are the types of moments you have to be not only willing to listen to, but also to allow them to change your idea of what your product or service could become.

Listening to the market and being willing to pivot, even if that was the furthest thing from your mind at the time, is not a bad thing. Indeed, history has proven that great things have been born out of it time and again. Because if you release a product or service and are unwilling to change based on the ideals of your users, you'll wind up hemorrhaging users pretty quickly.

And without those users, what are you left with? Little more than a good idea in search of a purpose, which isn't anything at all.