The Green Production Process
Felt-covered amphibians and marketing managers agree: It’s not easy being green. But that doesn’t stop Kermit or your friendly neighborhood production company from trying. “Green” is more than today’s favorite buzzword. Marketing managers should put an ear to the ground for the environmentally sound practices of the companies with which they do business. In doing so, they can save money, exhibit stewardship, reduce their carbon footprints and even improve ROI.
Find Where the Green Savings Grow
For many years, paper has been easy to recycle, so all direct marketing production companies make it part of their plant processes. But direct marketing managers need to go beyond recycled paper choices in their conservation efforts.
The common knock on going green is that environmental practices add cost and chill net returns in a competitive milieu. The larger question is: Can any competitive business afford not to change its industrial colors? Today, environmental sensitivity calls for a rainbow of sound practices.
Green production is a total process involving everything from clean lists to more targeted mailing, co-palletization and commingling. Here are just the basic steps every direct marketer should take—every one a cost-saver:
• Frequently—even ruthlessly—purge mailing lists of duplicates, bad addresses and former recipients who no longer want mailings.
• Include an easy opt-out option on mailings to eliminate waste and express your consideration.
• Use techniques like predictive modeling to target a smaller, more specific audience with mailings that help reduce or eliminate bulk mailings with lower return percentages.
• Choose a lighter-weight paper stock, or use postcards instead of larger pieces—relying on fewer resources means that it will cost less to send.
• Explore cross-media marketing. Used in conjunction with other media, options like e-mail and Web marketing can create recognition and help reinforce direct mail.
• Select direct marketing production vendors that are certified in forest and paper programs.
As consumers demand greater environmental responsibility from companies with whom they do business, direct marketing managers look for ways to differentiate themselves in this brave, new, green world. Some organizations have set up internal task forces to identify ways to minimize adverse environmental impacts. For direct marketers, a key part of that effort involves turning to vendors for options on how to go green.
Environmental certifications ensure that marketers’ production companies use paper produced from forests that are sustainably managed. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) manage the two most popular forest and paper certification programs in the U.S. Direct marketers that work with a production company that is FSC- and/or SFI-certified can display logos on the print material.
Both certification programs tell your current and prospective customers that you are dedicated to protecting forests. The movement has taken hold enough that consumers now notice—even look for—a certification logo, assuring themselves they are doing business with companies that take stewardship of the environment as seriously as they do. Clearly, a direct marketer’s choice of production partner responds to marketplace concerns.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Today’s consumer pays attention to the environmental impacts of many manufacturing processes, including practices in the marketing industry. Web sites like carbonfootprint.com and nature.org enable individuals to calculate their carbon footprints and offer pointers on how to live carbon-neutral lives.
Many forward-thinking direct marketing production companies aspire to operate in a way that reduces or eliminates whatever adverse environmental impacts they may have. Carbon-neutral status is challenging, to be sure, but sensitivity to the direct marketing carbon footprint belongs on the list of every direct marketing manager’s goals.
Good managers focus not only on improving the number of responses, they also pay attention to the cost of achieving those response rates. Green production can go a long way toward improving a project’s ROI.
For example, a total green approach to direct mail can encompass sophisticated modeling and data mining techniques, the efficiencies of co-palletizing and commingling, FSC- and SFI-certified paper, variable data personalization and other sophisticated cross-media marketing techniques, as well as proper disposal and recycling practices. All reduce adverse environmental impacts, and—in the case of direct marketing—fewer but better pieces in the mail will boost ROI by delivering appropriate messaging to those audiences likely to be the most responsive.
The precise benefit of green production may be difficult to measure for such a results-oriented business process, especially in the direct mail channel. But remember: Green direct marketing can make social and economic sense. It’s up to the smart direct marketing manager to explore how and when.
Crystal Uppercue is the marketing manager for EU Services, a 385-person, FSC- and SFI-certified direct marketing production facility based in Rockville, Md. EU Services offers customized solutions through commercial, envelope and digital printing; mail and data processing; integrated direct mail, e-mail and personalized response URL campaign planning and production; fulfillment; and Web-to-print ordering and management programs. She can be reached at (301) 795-6373 or via e-mail at email@example.com.