What’s Love Got to Do With Doing Business?

Most of us don’t think of love as being an important aspect of business. Sustainable change agent Giles Hutchins explains why it is, and how to help your company tap into the power of love.

Giles Hutchins, author, The Nature of BusinessA while back I stumbled across a video on YouTube that struck me as very provocative and very, very important. The video was entitled The Future of Business, and in it the man on the screen mentioned the importance in business of – of all things – love.

When most of us think about business, love is just about the last thing that comes to mind. However, this man was talking about love as something very primary in the shift to a sustainable future, which includes the way we do business.

“This man” was Giles Hutchins, a business change agent who has worked in business for nearly 20 years, formally as management consultant for KPMG and then as global director of sustainability for Atos International. Giles specializes in taking inspiration from nature and applying it to sustainable business transformation. By that he means not just trading conventional technologies for ones that are less destructive, but a true transformation to a new paradigm, one that is inspired by and in harmony with nature.

Giles is also the author of The Nature of Business: Redesign for Resilience, an excellent book which explores how the increasingly unpredictable, interconnected and uncertain nature of business in modern society calls for a more emergent, dynamic approach to organizations and leadership.

Giles was kind enough to agree to speak with me via Skype earlier this month to further explain the importance of love in business.

(You can listen to the full interview here: Interview with Giles Hutchins on love in business)

Giles maintains that the biggest problems we face as a society today cannot be solved through technology alone, because they are not a product of technology.  Rather, he attributes the root cause of our environmental crisis to an “inherent anti-life approach,” which, he says, stems from an illusion of separation.

“We tend to see ourselves as separate from each other and from the world around us. And the way in which we manage our businesses today… is very much rooted in this sense of separation of self from nature.

Snakes and Vultures watercolor painting in progress

“(But) if we look at how reality really works, how nature operates, how organisms live, how each of us thrive and survive in the world, we actually realize that nothing, absolutely nothing is completely separate from anything else.

“And so it’s important, I think, to come with that (more natural kind of) thinking if we’re then going to start dealing with some of these profound challenges that we face today, otherwise we add to the illusion of separation which causes further downstream ramifications… We need to get to the root cause of the challenges that are now facing us…

“Love as deep attunement of our ego self, with our true self; of our conscious mind, with our unconscious imaginable presence; of our soul with the World Soul; of our rational mind with intuitive heart. Love is awakening to the divine presence flowing through every action, every moment, every relationship, every interaction that we undertake.

“So it’s a foundation, an all-pervasive presence flowing through everything, which is fundamental for us to tune into. We’ve lost that deeper sense of Love; re-embodying and re-member that Love helps us see beyond the illusion of separation.”

Illustration: Hands with glowing heart

While love is an abstract concept, its effect is real and very tangible. However, it’s not something that can be mandated into a company’s DNA. Rather, it flows out from individuals within an organization.

“There are many organizations that perhaps people wouldn’t think of (being based on love), which have people in them that are inspired by love, and perhaps those people may only be inspired by love for just 10 or 15 minutes of their day…

“…there are examples of organizations that have a purpose-driven, value-based organization…but I think it’s important to realize that we all are individuals working in organizations and perhaps through our lives we sometimes have moments when we are “in love,” when we’re flowing, we’re deeply attuned, focused on the activity, loving the activity that we’re doing, and therefore what we’re doing is laced with love. (That is what I mean by being) in love, that we are deeply resonating with what we’re doing.

“For instance I could talk to people in a call center and you know, many of them may be disenchanted with what they’re doing, just doing it purely to meet the bills and to pay off debts, yet you can come across someone who clearly is motivated and enjoying what they’re doing, and have a conversation which is quite different – a love-based sharing – and in that moment inspired by love.

“Everything has interrelationships, and our environment clearly has a massive impact of how we are and how we feel.

“And so if you have a culture that’s very much ‘anti-life’ (highly competitive and carcinogenic) that rubs off on us, it’s very difficult for us to then be inspired by love.

“Yet we create an environment through our own interactions which then contributes to a wider environment which might then inspire team members, which may then go on to inspire other teams in the organization, which then either helps that business unit or the wider culture. That’s a bottom-up approach.

“Vice versa you can have a top-down approach where you have purpose-driven leaders creating space for an environment based on love, recognizing that people are more motivated and more creative if they’re actually coming from love; recognizing the importance of that for organizations in these challenging times.

“And of course it’s a mixture of both. It’s neither top-down nor bottom. Both of those are kind of old ways of looking at things.  We affect the change through the actions and interactions that we do. There are catalysts like leadership and creating a culture that help foster a loving environment.

“Having worked at different levels in organizations and consulted for a variety of different people from people on the shop floor right through to global CEOs, (I’d say that) it often seems everybody has the same challenges and barriers to love.

“Take someone on the shop floor who’s saying, ‘Well yes, but what can I do to change the organization? Well it’s not first-and-foremost about ‘changing the organization’ or ‘the world’, but rather changing what you are doing and how you are being. That person has similar challenges, barriers and fears as a global CEO would have in that regard. And of course both of them have just the same amount of opportunity if they choose. So part of it is an attitude. It’s a way of attending our attention, and our quality of awareness is all part of that.”

As it turns out, some of the world’s largest corporations – including Apple, Yahoo, General Mills, and IBM – are catching on to the benefits of Incorporating mindfulness and other love-centered practices into the workplace.

For example, Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” employee training was described by one participant as “organizational WD-40, a necessary lubricant between driven, ambitious employees and Google’s demanding corporate culture,” who added that “helping employees handle stress and defuse emotion helps everyone work more effectively.”

This and similar voluntary programs have been widely reported to improve focus and productivity, increase employee satisfaction, improve communication, and reduce stress in the workplace.

I asked Giles what he would recommend to enable the switch to a more love-centered business or even to enable one’s employees or coworkers. He replied:

(A lot of organizations are trying) to bring in a greater clarity of awareness and sense of purpose into their organization, which helps people slow down and…sense with how they’re acting and interacting.

And so it’s a sense of presence, whether that is having 10 minutes of silence at the beginning and end of every day, or encouraging people in work-breaks to engage in contemplative practices such as meditation or having meetings walking in the park, or doing some stretches or yoga. Things like that, which help align the mind, body and soul in the workplace which is essentially healthy for the business.

Some of that is at a personal level, encouraging people to be aware of certain things. And by the way this isn’t in any way a kind of propaganda or mainstream sort of education put on people. It’s very much there as an invitation and general awareness for people to take or leave as they wish. Everybody is on their own journey and a part of this is recognizing that.

And at perhaps a more systemic level in the organization is recognizing what kind of leaders that you want in your business. How do you emulate success in the organization? What type of people do you want leading other people? And I think this is about walking your talk. And so leaders who are actually leading from the heart, who are leading with love, are the ones that are going to help emulate a culture like that in the organization.

Listen to the full interview with Giles Hutchins here.

To explore Giles Hutchins’ work further, visit www.thenatureofbusiness.org.

How have you experienced the effect of love in business? How has it made a difference in your organization or in your life?

The Silent Crowd of Customers Many Green Companies Ignore

Many eco-responsible businesspeople only market online because they think it’s more sustainable. But they’re out there – a silent crowd of customers who prefer to do business offline.

I was in the post office just before Christmas and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation taking place in line ahead of me:

“I just ordered a book from Amazon. It’s the first time I’ve ever ordered something online.”

“Oh really? Pretty convenient, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know, it makes me nervous.”

“Oh, well, with Amazon I think you’re OK.”

“That’s right – they’re so big I’m sure they keep up with security. But I don’t think I’d trust most sites.”

If you’re like me and spend a lot of time online, it may be hard to believe. But they’re out there – a silent crowd of customers who prefer to do business offline.

Many of them may be your ideal prospects, especially if your products appeal to the older generations and/or a rural audience. Ignore them and their needs, and you may be shortchanging yourself badly. (As well as refusing them the pleasure and benefits of doing business with you, and potentially forcing them towards options that are less environmentally responsible.)

Many eco-responsible businesspeople avoid offline marketing because they believe digital media are more sustainable than traditional media – particularly because of the consumption of paper.

However, I believe that when done responsibly, print need not be any less sustainable than paper, and integrating print media into your marketing mix can really benefit your environmentally responsible business.

What’s your opinion? Do you avoid marketing your business offline? Why or why not?

Rethinking GoDaddy

Ever have one of those wake-up moments? When you suddenly realize that your actions aren’t in line with your values?  I did today.

Well, to be perfectly truthful, it wasn’t so sudden. I’ve suspected for quite some time that the hosting company I’ve been using, GoDaddy, isn’t exactly earth-friendly. But I’ve always had such great service from them that I’ve turned it into a personal blind spot.

Then a couple of days ago I joined The Hub by LOHAS. It’s an online sustainable business network that encourages socially and environmentally conscious businesses to connect and do business with each other. In order to join you have to take a pledge to support like minded business. I signed, and then got to thinking…

Am I really doing all I can do to shop my conscience?

So I went online and tried to find any evidence that GoDaddy was taking any steps towards sustainability. I found nothing on their website. (In fact, if you go to GoDaddy’s blog and type “sustainable” or “sustainability” into the search box, you’ll get a notice that says, “Sorry, but you’re looking for something that isn’t here.”)

Then I did a search and all I could find that seemed remotely related to environmental issues was Bob Parsons, the CEO of GoDaddy, killing a “rogue” elephant in Zimbabwe. (See the video, along with a few good suggestions for effective, alternative ways to deal with problem elephants other than blowing their brains out, here.)

So, it seems the time has come to start looking for other options.

But, like I said, GoDaddy has been very good to me and I don’t think it’s fair to just up and take my business elsewhere without communicating why or giving the company a chance to redeem itself. How much better if they actually do start to change due to consumer demand! So I composed a letter to GoDaddy through their support page. It went like this:

Dear GoDaddy,

I’m contacting you because like an increasing number of consumers, I am deeply committed to protecting the environment and prefer to do business with companies who share my concern.

I’ve been meaning for some time to check up on your sustainability record and finally took the time to do so today. I found….nada. Well, actually, if you count the elephant incident, worse than nada.

I provide professional services to green companies, and my website provides the first impression most of my clients have of me. While I LOVE your customer service and enjoy your pricing, I have grave reservations about continuing to host with you unless and until you start taking the issue of sustainability seriously.

Please wake up to the fact that this is the 21st century and we can’t ignore our impact on the planet anymore.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and no one expects you to suddenly be perfect. I’ve appreciated your wonderful service over the past few years and would prefer to keep doing business with you. However I will need to start seeing some kind of dialogue about and action towards sustainability on your part, or I will feel forced to take my business elsewhere, and encourage others to do the same.

Thank you,

Anne Michelsen

I’m told it can take up to two days before receiving a response. I really hope they’re open to dialogue, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I’m going to start researching other hosting and domain options. Any suggestions?

Turn Your Disposal Problems into Goodwill and Publicity With Eco Apprentice

EcoApprentice logo
EcoApprentice is a cool new app that lets innovative thinkers help companies solve their sustainability challenges.

Ever stand around scratching your head, wondering what on earth to do with (fill in the blank with your own biggest disposal problem)? Nearly every business has such a problem: those odd byproducts of existence that pile up in our offices, warehouses and yards. Like used sandpaper, worn out bike tubes, or leftover bits of soap.

Most companies simply throw them away. But conventional waste disposal can be costly, and it’s certainly not sustainable. A better option is to figure out some way to put the items to use.

The question is, how? If you have a problem like this, you’ve probably already spent a lot of time racking your brain for a solution. In the mean time, the stuff just keeps piling up.

Fortunately, there’s a new application which may be able to help. It’s called EcoApprentice, it’s very easy to use, and (for the time being at least) it’s free. (Founder Richard Halpern says, “My expectation is it will always be free for schools, non-profits, and small businesses.” Cool.) You just sign up as a member (there’s no charge for this) and post your problem as an EcoChallenge.

It’s also a good idea to offer a prize for the winning solution. This doesn’t have to be anything huge. Most businesses offer something that’s easy for them to give. For example, Truce Designs, LLC is offering one of their tote bags as a prize for whomever can help them sustainably dispose of their scrap fabric and foam. Balch hotel owner Sandra Irwin offered a night’s stay and breakfast, or a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies to the winner of her challenge to figure out what to do with little bits of leftover soap. And (attention students!) waste-reduction company TerraCycle is offering an internship to whomever can come up with ways to effectively recycle used sandpaper.

Once you’ve posted your challenge on EcoApprentice, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the solutions to roll in. The time this takes can vary according to the difficulty of the problem. When someone suggests a solution you like, you declare them the winner!

Of course, there are winners all round. You win by finally getting rid of that gnarly problem (and perhaps a whole pile of accumulated waste.) Depending on the solution involved, your community or another business may win by making profitable use of your unwanted stuff. And the planet enjoys a lightened load and the spreading of eco-awareness.

Speaking of awareness, extend your winnings by using your EcoApprentice.com experience to generate publicity for your business. Journalists are always looking for newsworthy items, and innovative waste-reduction solutions certainly count – especially if they benefit the community, too. Be sure to send out a press release (contact me if you’d like assistance), and let your current customers know, too, that your company has just turned a shade deeper green.

Green Business: Where to share your eco-educational messages

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them. And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too! Here are some good places to start.

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them.  And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too!  Here are some good places to start:

·        Write articles about green issues and (depending upon your target market) submit them to local, national/international or trade publications.

·        Hold workshops and invite your customers and prospects.

·        Exhibit at trade fairs and business expos – and make sure you have plenty of good information to engage people and get them thinking about you as the expert.

·        Get speaking engagements. This will educate people about sustainability as well as making them aware of your business and what you offer and building trust in you as an authority.  If your business is local, try contacting churches in your area.  A lot of them are really starting to get interested in sustainability as a spiritual act.  They are hungry to know more and will thank you for the favor of coming out to speak!  (Don’t try to do a hard sell when you’re speaking to church groups, but it’s usually fine to give them informational pieces with your logo and contact info.)  Business groups are also good ones to speak to.  Try your local Chamber of Commerce.

·        Offer information kits, free reports and case studies to your clientele.  When you give people helpful, in-depth information on topics that interest them they develop a sense of gratitude and relationship to you, and are more likely to turn to you as an authority.

·        Keep educating your existing customers. Send a newsletter or e-zine out at least quarterly; once a month is even better.  Including environmental education messaging on packaging is another great idea.  Make it fun for your customers by holding contests and other events they can participate in and invite their friends.

·        Blog regularly (once or twice a week is fine).  When you blog on a topic of interest to your social media friends, post it and tweet it out.  (But only if it truly is good information and not just a thinly disguised sales pitch.)

·        Make videos about the same topics you speak or write about.  Your videos don’t have to be high tech as long as you present good ideas.  Even on a limited budget you can buy a little flip video camera for under $50 that will do the trick.

Get in the habit of videotaping any speeches you make, or even just capturing your thoughts on camera in your office, or documenting the positive changes your company is making. Put your videos to work for you by posting them on your blog, putting them on a CD or thumb drive and giving them to prospects or customers, using them as premiums for lead generation, or distributing them to the same kinds of groups you speak to.

·        Don’t forget your website. Add articles, case studies, videos and the like as extra pages.  Doing so can help with your search engine rankings, increase the amount of time people spend on your site,  and increase the chances of people linking to your site and/or coming back for multiple visits.

The important thing to remember is that consumer education is an ongoing process.  Do it consistently, one idea at a time, and always tie your statements back to positive personal benefits.  Over time, your efforts will make a difference!

How to Overcome Green Business’s Biggest Marketing Challenge

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself. People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding. And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself.  People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding.  And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

That’s why it’s a good idea to come up with simple reasons to buy our products. Statements like “it saves you money,”  “it tastes better,” and “it’s the healthy choice for your kids” give people clear reasons to buy that benefit them personally in ways that are easy to understand.

So should we steer clear of environmental messaging for fear of confusing our prospects?

In most cases, emphatically NO! The environment is becoming an increasingly important concern, especially for certain segments of the population.  We certainly do want to talk about environmental benefits.  For one thing, concern for the environment can often tip a consumer’s decision in favor of your product.  But more importantly, keeping the environment top-of-mind benefits the planet and society as a whole by shifting society’s preferences towards more sustainable options.

That’s why consumer education is such a crucial part of Green marketing.  Take every chance you get to engage people and gently help them understand the complex issues our world is facing, as well as the role your product or service plays in protecting it.

But don’t be pedantic or overbearing.  The trick is to break it down into digestible chunks.  Over the next few days I’ll share some  guidelines for creating environmental messages that will both inform and engage your customers.  Stay tuned!

28 Sustainable Ideas for your Green Lumpy Mail Promotion

pebblesFollowing are some ideas for eco-friendly objects you can use in your next 3-D mail campaign, as well as sample concepts for working them into your promotions.

Natural objects:

Nuts – “I must be nuts to be offering discounts this deep” “Are high heating bills driving you nuts?” “Let’s get cracking on a solution!”

Acorn –  “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns” – could work for insurance, any kind of investment.

Pine cones, leaves – Marquette, Michigan home improvement contractors The Window Store once sent a mailing to existing customers promoting their gutter cleaning services.  Along with the sales letter, they included a handful of pine needles and leaves raked from an employee’s back yard.  The letter was extremely successful, bringing in enough business to keep their crews busy for several weeks.

Seashell – gift from Nature; emphasizes your company’s respect for the environment.

Shark tooth – “Eat your competition alive!” (Or, if your business has been around a long time or you’re selling a product that’s been successful for decades, make an analogy to the shark. Most of the critters that evolved at the same time as sharks are long gone, but sharks are still supremely successful creatures – you can’t really improve on their design.)

Fossil – “Still using fossil fuel?” or “Don’t let outdated [technology, etc,] make you look like a fossil.”

Flower seed packet – Great tie-in if you’re representing a product that helps businesses (or consumer savings) grow!

Live bamboo plant http://www.epromos.com/product/8815209.html – Also good for a growth theme, or for healthy living (plants are their own little air purifiers.) Or call it a “desktop meditation garden” and let people know your product will save them so much time they’ll now have time to relax.

Small rocks or pebbles – “Help is just a stone’s throw away.”

Office supplies:

Eraser – “Wipe away your troubles” (could work with a microfiber or organic cleaning cloth as well.)

Pen/pencil – These are tried and true promotional items when imprinted with your company’s name.  Promotional pens and pencils are available now in a number of eco-friendly choices, including bamboo, corn starch, and recycled paper.  Pens and pencils make great practical promotional items because they’re almost guaranteed to get used, and frequently get passed from person to person.  Make full use of them by including an involvement device in your package for which they’ll need a writing implement.

Pencil sharpener – “Let’s sharpen your advantage.”

Flash drive (USB stick) – Load it with your promotional materials. “Flashy” packaging your prospects are guaranteed to appreciate!

Sticky note pad (recycled) – Everyone uses these and they often get passed around.   Print some up with your logo and URL.  Make sure you indicate some reason to visit your website or call (white papers are great for this) – but leave plenty of room for notes!

Edibles:

Fair trade coffee – “Wake up to [your favorite benefit]!”

Organic tea bag – or how about two?  You could do a “Two for Tea” promotion or fundraiser, using the tea bags as tickets to your event.  The tea bag then gets redeemed for a prize; the extra bag lets them get their friends in on the fun, encouraging referral business. (Extra points for snide copy related to Tea Baggers!)

Organic nuts – “My wife (husband, kids, boss, dog, etc.) think(s) I’m nuts (to offer prices this low, etc.)” or  “High heating bills driving you nuts?” or “Let’s get cracking on a solution!”

Organic candy –“For the sweetest savings of the year…”

Fortune Cookies (probably best sent in a box) – Fortune cookies have insanely high open rates, and you can order them with custom messages.  And did you know you can now even get organic fortune cookies?  Why not have your prospects break theirs open to find out which one of several free gifts or discount offers they win? (The message then becomes a coupon.)

Other items

Marbles – “The boss is losing his marbles (to be offering a deal like this!)”

Pressure gauge – “Feeling pressured?” or “Take the pressure out of _____.”

Origami – From lotus flowers to sailing ships, no matter what you’d like to represent in your mailing, somebody’s probably made an origami version of it.  These folded paper objects are beautiful, intriguing and much more eco-friendly than plastic objects. True, they may not be readily available commercially, but most origami pieces are quick to make and if your mailing is small you should be able to find someone willing to earn a few bucks for folding paper into pretty shapes.  (My eleven year old daughter comes to mind!) 😉

Wooden/bamboo spoon – “Stir yourself up some savings.”

Coin – You’ve probably received mailings that had a penny or other coin glued to the sales letter, perhaps visible behind a window in the envelope.  They’re effective because no one wants to throw away money, so you can almost guarantee it’ll get opened.  Just make sure you have a killer headline to draw them in once they’ve ripped it open!

Balloons (biodegradable) – If you’re sending birthday greetings to your customers, good for you!  Make them even more special by including balloons.  Or use the balloons to spread the news of your company’s “birthday” or the birthday of a famous person related to your industry (link it to a sale or promotion, of course.)

Candle – Could be a great involvement device, especially for a nonprofit.  For example, you could ask them to light the candle on a certain night to show their support for a cause – then visit your website to pledge that they’ll do so (and hopefully make a donation, too!)

Switchplate – If you offer energy-saving services, consider printing up switchplates with your logo and a “Turn out the lights to save energy” message for your customers to use at the workplace or in their garage, basement or attic.  You could include them as a courtesy gift with your direct mail promotion, or send them as a thank-you to recent customers, along with a survey for gathering feedback and testimonials.

Book – Who would throw away a book? Especially one that addresses their needs or interests.  Books make terrific lumpy mail additions.  For maximum impact, send them one you’ve authored (or co-authored) yourself.  Best if you can subtly weave persuasion into your book along with useful information – and include a bio page with your contact information at the end.   This could well be the most powerful sales tool you ever lay hands on. (If you’re not into writing, no worries. Just hand your ideas over to a ghostwriter – like yours truly!) 🙂

As with any promotion, when you send a 3-D mailing just make sure to keep it targeted, relevant, clear and focused.  And if you’re planning a large mailing, be sure to test it on a small portion of your list first (500 names is ideal for a test run.) Good luck, and have fun!

 
photo credit: Free HDR & Photomanipulations – www.freestock.ca via photopin cc

3 Rules for Sustainable 3-D Mail

acornFinding objects to include in your lumpy mail promotions is easy.  Companies such as Oriental Trading Company and 3Dmailresults.com offer many options for inexpensive and interesting mailable items to spice up your promotions.  However, the vast majority of these objects are unacceptable from a sustainability point of view.  Most are made from plastic or other unsustainable materials. They are not compostable or biodegradable, and therefore pose a waste disposal problem and threaten the integrity of our environment. And many of them serve no real purpose other than boosting your open rate, so are not likely to be reused.

Clearly, if we wish to honor our own values and avoid alienating our eco-conscious customers, we need to avoid such objects.  Ideally, the 3-D objects we include in our mailings need to fall within these guidelines:

  1. They should be made of materials whose production places minimal stress on the environment.
  2. Their disposal should not degrade the environment: they should be compostable, recyclable, and/or reusable.
  3. They should offer enough value to their recipients that they will be used or passed along.  (An exception might be natural objects such as acorns which can simply be returned to Nature.)

It’s a little harder than just opening a novelty toy catalog.  But following these guidelines will help you come up with sustainable direct mail ideas that will not only attract interest from your prospects, but admiration.  And, sales!

photo credit: Sam Droege via photopin cc

Creating an effective lumpy mail campaign for your green business

direct mail packageEver open your mail over the recycling bin?  You’re not alone.  Nationwide, about 44% of sales letters sent through the mail never get opened.

So if you’re trying to minimize your impact on the environment, should you avoid direct mail at all costs?

Perhaps.  But if you’re marketing a product or service that ‘s truly sustainable, you have to keep in mind that you won’t help the planet at all by going out of business.  And the fact is that direct mail creams email not only in terms of open rates (approximately 80%  of commercial emails are clicked out of existence without ever being opened) but also in overall response or conversion rates (DM scores on average at about twice the rate of email.)  When you send a real letter you’re less likely to annoy people and more likely to catch them in a mood to pay attention to what you have to offer.

Direct mail has a higher upfront cost, but many savvy businesspeople swear by it as one of the most effective tools in their marketing arsenals.  So you may want to at least try adding direct mail to your marketing mix, especially if the product you’re selling is on the pricey side.

Using 3-D objects to increase your open rates – and sales

Including a three dimensional, or “lumpy” object in your direct mail package helps boost response in several ways.

  • Including dimensional objects in your mailing is a sure way to pique your prospects’ curiosity and increase your open rates.  This is important, because just getting the darn envelope opened is your biggest obstacle to the sale!
  • 3-D mailings get the prospect involved.  They give him something to touch, puzzle over, listen to, and sometimes even smell or taste.  They may have symbolism that gets him emotionally involved as well.  And they may prompt him to take action in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise.
  • If the object has value to your prospect, it works like a gift – making him psychologically indebted to you.  This can prompt him to give more time and attention to what you have to say.
  • Lumpy mailings are out-of-the-ordinary, and thus are more likely to be remembered and talked about.  This can be a real advantage if you’re using your direct mail sales letter as part of an orchestrated marketing campaign.  For instance, if you’re following up with a sales call, referring to the unusual object you sent them can be a great way to break the ice and engage your prospect.

Making sure your 3-D mail objects make sense

It’s a good idea to choose objects that have high perceived value or ones that your prospect is likely to use or pass on.  (Stay tuned – in my next post I’ll detail some good picks that are also easy on the Earth.)

It’s also best to tie your objects in to your direct mail promotion in some way that makes sense. For instance, if you’re having a promotion centered around a holiday, you might want to include objects associated with that holiday.  (Say, a small dreidel for a  Hannukah promotion.)

Telling a story about your object and why you’re sending it to your prospect is also a great way to engage their interest. Or you can treat the object like a coupon that can be exchanged for an offer or reward.

Integrating lumpy mail into your marketing campaign

Don’t feel you have to sell directly with your lumpy sales letter.  Depending on your product, you may want to use it to offer an information kit or other lead generation device.  You can also use lumpy mail to drive people to your website (be sure to offer a juicy incentive for going there) or as an invitation to an event such as a workshop, teleseminar or webinar.

Often, 3-D direct mail works best as part of a sequence.  Try sending a lumpy sales letter to your list, then following up with a couple post cards and then a sales call.  Or send a sequence of three related lumpy mail pieces for maximum impact.

Another idea is to use dimensional mail to reinforce a recent sale, raise perceived value and prevent buyer’s remorse – especially if your product is relatively intangible.  A good example of this is the elegant package American Express sends  their new Business Platinum cardholders in lieu of an ordinary letter, along with their new charge card.  This could be a good strategy to allow you to realize some benefit from the power of direct mail while minimizing the resources involved.

To mail, or not to mail

Direct mail isn’t necessarily for everyone.  As a green marketer, you may not feel comfortable sending direct mail, especially if you’ve ever been vocal about “junk mail.”

If your business is doing fine without it, by all means carry on. More power to you!  But if you’re struggling, or just have the nagging feeling you could be doing better, why not give direct mail a try?  And if you do, why not consider including a lumpy object (a sustainable one of course)?  You just might surprise yourself with how well it does for you!

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Increase your open rate – and decrease waste – with lumpy mail

packageDirect mail can be an excellent way to promote your business because it it highly targeted, trackable, is more likely to command your prospect’s undivided attention than many other forms of advertising, and can be relatively inexpensive to implement.  Done right, it can also be extremely effective, especially when mailed to customers you’ve already established a relationship with.

Some Green marketers are hesitant to use direct mail because of the solid waste involved.  Fortunately, there are ways to make direct mail more sustainable.  I will highlight some of these in future posts.  Today, though, I want to discuss one direct mail trick that pretty consistently increases response rates – and profits – from direct mail campaigns.

Overcoming the “First Big Challenge” in direct mail

 

Unless you are using postcards, one of the biggest hurdles you are likely to face when using direct mail is simply getting your mailing opened.

Even the best sales letter in the world won’t have a chance of working if it never makes it in front of the prospect’s face.  On the other hand, even if the prospect doesn’t respond to a mailing, the act of opening it up and reading the contents at least exposes him to your message. This may influence a later decision to purchase from you.  If so, it’s still valuable as advertising.

Increase your open rate with lumpy mail

There are many things you can do to encourage your prospect to open your piece.  Some of these include using unusual envelope sizes or colors, hand-addressing the envelopes, using “live” stamps instead of bulk insignias, and using “teaser” copy on the envelope to encourage your prospect to open it.  But one of the most effective techniques is known as “lumpy,” “dimensional,” or “3D” mail.

Have you ever received a piece of mail that had some sort of object in the envelope?  It’s pretty hard not to open, isn’t it?  Three dimensional objects (including packages as well as lumpy items sealed in envelopes) pique the prospect’s curiosity and increase open rates.  Another advantage is that other envelopes also tend to slide off them, so they are likely to end up on top of your prospect’s pile of mail.

Of course, exciting your prospect’s curiosity with lumpy mail won’t guarantee a great ROI for your mailing.  You will still need a promising list, a captivating headline, persuasive copy, and a tempting offer.  But adding a 3-D element to your mailing is quite capable of turning losers into winners, and winners into superstars.

And of course, that’s not just good for your bottom line, but for the environmental impact of your mailing as well.  Because anything you can do to increase your open rate not only increases your chances for immediate profit, it also decreases the waste factor represented by unopened mail.

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