Saving the Earth, One Email at a Time

Traditional marketing practices tend to use a lot of paper. Consider how you can make operations more sustainable with digital communications.

Marketing is not exactly known for being an eco-friendly industry. In fact, the U.S. uses about 68 million trees each year to produce 17 billion catalogs and 65 billion pieces of direct mail, according to the American Forest and Paper Association. However, as the world becomes increasingly more digital, marketers have an opportunity to use digital tools to boost their environmental sustainability and turn this reputation around.

Many businesses plant trees to celebrate Earth Day; however, marketers who instead champion digital communication within their companies will benefit from a sustainable practice that can become a foundational part of their business. Consider the following best practices to help your company become more environmentally friendly for a sustainable future.

Move from direct mail to email.

When it comes to eco-friendly behaviors, some industries are better — and some worse — than others. Real estate, for instance, is notoriously old-fashioned in its marketing habits, relying predominantly on direct mail to reach customers. On the other hand, retailers who have embraced the shift to ecommerce tend to lean toward digital marketing to communicate with their customers. Internet retailers, in particular, generate very little paper across their business practices, delivering receipts, catalogs and other solicitations electronically.

Reducing your reliance on direct mail to reach customers will have a significant impact on the amount of paper waste your business creates. Shift your focus toward email, and consider how your current marketing content could be delivered electronically. Could a digital newsletter replace a brochure, or an emailed promotion replace a print mailing? Begin introducing QR codes to your print mailings that, when scanned on a smartphone, lead prospects to a landing page where they can easily enter their email address to receive digital communications. Use your traditional marketing pieces to promote your email list generation, and show your customers how they’re supporting your commitment to the environment. Taking that first step to digital might keep thousands of trees firmly rooted where they stand, and drastically reduce paper mailings from ending up as landfill.

Switch to scannable content.

While the restaurant industry has, for the most part, made the initial transition to electronic communication, they’re still lagging behind other industries in how they’re using it sustainably. Restaurants frequently send digital coupons and promotions to their customers but require customers to print them for redemption. While the communication to the customer has minimal environmental impact, the customer becomes the culprit doing damage to the environment.

Make sure the coupons and offer codes you distribute via email can be scanned and redeemed directly from a smartphone or other mobile device. Use responsive design tools to ensure your entire message and the offers it contains are easy to read and scan regardless of the device. Think about ways you can entice your customers to use digital devices for redemption, such as extending a better offer like free delivery to those who don’t print. If your business has an ecommerce site in addition to a physical location, consider whether that promotion can be used online as well as in store, and give clear instructions for both use cases.

Transition processes to an online portal.

Amazon is a force of nature, driving seismic shifts in the ecommerce, marketing and fulfillment industries. The company is setting the stage for how to do business digitally today, and one way Amazon’s influence has reduced paper waste is through the company’s online portal to manage workflow processes. Rather than mail hard copies of receipts and product manuals with new purchases, Amazon gives customers access to digital versions of these materials through their online accounts. These records can be accessed anytime and anywhere, and they track a deep purchase history so customers need not worry about losing documents.

If your business has an online component, consider how building out a customer-facing portal could cut down on overall paper waste. Migrate workflows for receipts, instructions and manuals to this portal, and make it accessible through many mediums like web browsers, devices and even apps. Help your customers understand that they’ll always have access to the documents they need and that their use of your portal is benefiting a greater good — the environment.

Transitioning your marketing efforts to be digital-based might take a bit longer than planting a tree, but the impact on the environment can be similarly enduring. If you can’t get your hands dirty this Earth Day, think about how a few changes to your marketing practices can affect the world around you. We can all do our part by taking steps towards an environmentally sustainable future.

Alternatives to Cold Call Prospecting

Some salespeople rarely make cold calls. They’ve developed other prospecting activities that can produce the sales they need without having to spend long hours on the phone. If that sounds good to you, you’ll need to put in the time developing said alternative prospecting channels so that you’re getting enough leads from those sources that cold calling becomes unnecessary.

Warm Leads

The most effective way to cut down your need for cold calling is to build multiple sources of warm leads.

A warm lead is a prospect who comes to you already interested in buying. Building a strong network will, among other things, help you to achieve a stream of warm leads from contacts. However, keep in mind that a business network requires time and effort on your part to maintain. Network contacts expect you to help them out with leads and other assistance or they won’t be inclined to help you.

Another good source of warm leads is referrals from existing prospects and customers. The final stage of the sales cycle, after closing the sale, is asking for referrals to friends and colleagues of your new customer. Because these referred leads know your customer and he can (hopefully) confirm how happy he is with his new product, it’s much easier to close a referred lead than a cold lead.

Finally, warm leads can come to you from a website or social networking site. These leads are people who visit the company site or read its Facebook profile and decide they want to learn more, so they ask for a salesperson to contact them.

These leads tend to be eager to buy since they’re clearly interested enough to want to know about your products, but they are also likely to have solicited information from your competitors, so be prepared for some heavy negotiating.

If your warm leads aren’t enough to keep your sales high, you can consider other methods of contacting cold leads.

An email is an excellent option. You can craft one message and send it to a large number of potential prospects with one click. The biggest concern regarding emails to large groups is accidentally crossing the line into spamming. Sending spam can create a lot of trouble. Not only are there laws in place that make spamming illegal, but it’s also unprofessional and can result in fines, losing customers, getting a bad reputation, and even having your email account shut down by your hosting provider.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is a traditional way to reach out to prospects, but it is also the most expensive. A simple letter will only cost you for supplies and postage, but if you decide to put together a professional direct mail package with a brochure, you can end up spending a great deal of money on design and printing costs. On the other hand, if you have a good lead list you can end up with very high returns on direct mail solicitations.

Door to Door

The classic door-to-door approach can also be effective. If you’re selling to consumers, you can pick out a good neighborhood and start knocking. B2B salespeople can target large office buildings and stop by every suite. In-person visits are time-consuming but can also lead to quick closes, if you can talk to the right person at the right time.

Most salespeople will find that these methods can supplement but not replace cold calling. A salesperson who is a keen networker with strong social media skills and a willingness to put in a lot of time can cut cold calling down to a tiny fraction compared to a salesperson with no network or Internet marketing. Still, there’s no reason you can’t shoot for the gold ring and try to get to the point where you never need to make another cold call!

Beating Email Overwhelm


Most business owners have a love/hate relationship with their email. Mostly hate. But like it or not, business owners and executives often “live” in their email inbox, so it makes sense to learn to control the beast before it controls us.

The first step in getting past email overwhelm is to clearly define who the boss is in this relationship: you or your email. That might sound like a silly question, but ask yourself if:

  • Your email client is set to automatically check for new messages every few minutes.
  • You read your email on multiple devices — computer, smartphone, iPad, etc.
  • You feel a compulsive need to see who is sending you email as soon as you hear the sound that indicates a new message has arrived.

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are not in control of your email. It is in control of you, and you need to fix that.

Begin by setting a schedule for checking and responding to your email. That might mean 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at noon, and 30 minutes at the end of the work day. Choosing specific times to check your email isn’t as important as making an effort to not allow email to remain the time thief it currently is. You set the schedule. That’s the first and most important step.

When you begin to follow this schedule consistently, you train customers and friends who have come to expect an immediate response to realize that even though you don’t respond instantly anymore, you will respond… but on your schedule.

The urgent messages will still find you. You can let your important clients know about your schedule and that they can still call you if there’s something that truly can’t wait. Also consider setting up folders and rules. Use your email client to automatically sort your email into folders based on the subject or sender, then when it’s time to check your mail, you will easily be able to find the most important messages first.

Getting past email overwhelm isn’t hard, but it does require conscious decisions and actions on your part. The first step is to simply decide to take control over your inbox.

The next step is to create a system to control the incoming daily emails. Make four folders and label them “to read,” “to do,” “to answer,” and “maybe.” File your emails accordingly. Your goal is to leave your inbox with zero messages by the end of each day. Now, during your allotted email time, you can first respond to any new and urgent emails and then file the rest. In the time you have left, you can begin working your way through the folders.

When it comes to taming the email inbox, there are three points to keep in mind:

  1. Be the boss — don’t let email have control over your life.
  2. Use email the way it was intended — and use other tools to handle the jobs email isn’t very good at.
  3. Keep your inbox clean — as with your office desk, clutter accumulates, so do your best to keep up with it.

Start mastering these simple concepts, and you’ll be well on your way to getting rid of email overwhelm for good.

Marketing with Email Signatures

Think about how many business emails you send each day. Now think about the email signature you’re currently using on your emails. While email signatures are commonly used as a way to identify the sender and provide important contact information, many people are missing out on the valuable opportunity to use their signature line as a marketing tool. Here are a few tips to help you create an effective email signature that your recipients will remember:

  • Create brand recognition by including your logo, tagline, mascot, or other graphic that is tied to your brand.
  • Choose images carefully and use them sparingly, so your signature doesn’t overpower your message.
  • Increase web traffic by enticing readers to visit your web link for a free sample, free white paper, or to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • If you include a web link, spell out the address rather than using hyperlinks. This will eliminate trust issues caused by opening an unknown link and will also make it easy for recipients to copy and paste the address into their browser.
  • Offer a teaser that entices the reader to ask for more information or to click a link to learn more.
  • Personalize your email signature with a photo to help readers put a face with your name.
  • Consider adding a brief quotation that represents your business or provides an insight into your personality.
  • Create a consistent brand image by standardizing email signatures throughout your company.
  • Change up your messaging frequently to keep it fresh and interesting for email recipients.

Is Direct Mail Really Dead?

You may have heard the hype that direct mail has died and gone to junk mail heaven. Don’t believe it. That talk comes from people who have never learned how to use direct mail correctly and effectively or who have a vested interest in spreading false and misleading information.

Why use direct mail? Because it works.

  • It works in getting clients.
  • It works to get your foot in the door.
  • It works for lead generation.
  • It works for growing traffic at brick-and-mortar (and even online) businesses.
  • It works at differentiating your company from those who rely strictly on online communication.

Direct mail marketing is extremely reliable and extremely precise. It can be inexpensive and personalized. In fact, direct mail arrives more personally than any other medium and can deliver a message with 100% exposure.

In addition to all of this, direct mail…

  • Requires virtually no tech skills
  • Can be leveraged using shared advertising space
  • Is what nearly all recipients prefer for unsolicited advertisement
  • Can bring in business without someone actively searching for it
  • Can be scaled infinitely
  • Has worked for over a century without fail
  • Has always been the king of all advertising
  • Can take almost any business to any level of success desired
  • Can be felt and not just seen
  • Has an infinite shelf life

To be clear, “junk mail” is NOT what we are referring to as effective direct mail. Some companies with large marketing budgets can afford this type of “spray and pray” mailing.

Effective direct mail marketing takes some thought, planning, and strategy. It needs to be memorable, and it needs to stand out. Businesses of all size that are utilizing this powerful tool are still reaping the rewards.

No, direct mail isn’t dead. It’s alive and kicking. If you haven’t tried it in a while, try it again. You won’t be disappointed by the results.

Make Unsubscribing Easier

In the world of email marketing, many companies are so focused on encouraging people to opt-in or subscribe to their emails that they overlook the wishes of recipients who may want to unsubscribe.

If unsubscribing to your messaging is not easy, you run the risk of increased spam complaints and ISP blocking, annoyed customers, and a weakened brand image. More than 40 percent of email recipients click the easier option (the spam button at the top of their email) rather than searching for an unsubscribe link. This occurs most often because many companies hide the link, push it down to the bottom of a message, or purposely blend the “unsubscribe” text into the background.

One way to make unsubscribing easier is to place an “unsubscribe” button at the top of your email. In addition to making your unsubscribe button more noticeable, you may also want to offer other options (change email address, change/reduce message frequency, choose different types of messages to receive, change message delivery to RSS/direct mail, etc.). Consider adding a survey, too, that asks why the recipient chose to unsubscribe (I receive too many emails from your organization, emails are not relevant to me, I did not subscribe to these emails, etc.).

Overall, the unsubscribe button isn’t always a bad thing and doesn’t have to mean goodbye. It can not only help reduce email complaints, but can also clean your email list, ensuring that only people who are truly interested receive your message.

HTML vs. Plain Text Emails: Which Should You Choose?

After seeing the visual difference between HTML and plain-text emails, it’s hard for many companies to send anything but fancy HTML formatting with every email they send. However, just because you can make HTML emails doesn’t mean you always should.

While HTML messages typically have flashy graphics that grab attention, they also lack a personalized touch and feel more “salesy.” In addition, HTML emails take longer to download, use more disk space, and often gain a bad rap for privacy threats, potential viruses, and information tracking. If a recipient doesn’t accept HTML emails (due to security, bandwidth issues, privacy, etc.) or an email program doesn’t interpret it correctly, your message will appear in plain text with random code that is extremely difficult to read.

Another reason to consider plain text is that more and more people check email on their cell phones, and many still have issues displaying HTML correctly.

Because email is a method of communication, many people believe the focus should be on the message and not how pretty it looks. But marketers also understand that sometimes the only way a message will get read is if it exudes visual appeal.

One solution may be to send emails embedded with both plain text and HTML, or to create a combination of both (an email that looks like plain text yet features basic ROI tracking, a share link, or social media buttons). And don’t forget, we’re also here to help anytime you’d like ideas for communicating in print!