It's easy being green - with the right tactics

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Reducing your company's negative environmental impact can be cost-effective and efficient if you choose the best strategies. Four industry experts discuss the top ways to wise up and eliminate direct mail waste

Phil Brown
SVP of marketing, RR Donnelley Response Marketing Services

The most profitable mail campaigns incur the lowest cost per response and minimize waste, which helps the environment. So approach your greening task through these tactics: list, offer, format and copy.

The more targeted your list, the lower your downstream costs. Employ model­ing techniques that will identify the high propensity responders. Merge-purge your multifile mailings. Use suppression files to weed out “no-mail” addresses, especially the Direct Marketing Association's mail prefer­ence file. Zealously update your address files with the US Postal Service's NCOA link so you keep up with your prospects. Always run your address files through CASS/DPV/LACS address standardization software.

A good offer will generate responses. To accelerate response, use early-bird incentives. For example, offer a donation to an environ­mental cause on behalf of every responder. An intimate knowledge of your list allows you to customize an offer that works.

Changing the format design is generally considered a green mail solution, but beware of false economy. Look for ways to make an unusual presentation that piques recipi­ents' interest. Consider certified sustainable resources. Optimize your press sizes and bleeds to avoid wasteful trims. Test marginally smaller dimensions and lighter weights.

Copy can support the environmental cause while boosting response. Include environmental themes, green tips; ask for mail preference and opt-out responses

Improve list hygiene, format and copy to naturally minimize waste

Susan Kelly
CEO and president, K/P Corporation

When going green, marketers must con­sider all aspects of direct mail production, including paper fiber content, carbon emis­sions of printing presses, and waste issues.

While many direct mail marketers today are anxious to implement green efforts into their overall marketing plans for both good corporate stewardship and marketing objectives, becoming green is a broad, all-encompassing company effort that takes time, research and resources to make it a reality. Meanwhile, costs continue to rise and budgets continue to be cut.

So what's a marketer to do? Simple – go digital. Digital capture of creative assets and list databases actively leverage “reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle” tactics. For example, centralize and catalog digital assets to begin a new era of content awareness and collaboration. Many users across organiza­tions can immediately reduce costs, time to market and the volume of printed, stored and distributed material and subsequent waste with this tactic.

Better yet, implementing personalized direct mail campaigns can help marketers realize improved return on investment while making sound environmental choices. Digital print-on-demand offers marketers the best flexibility during these tough times. Messages will be more customer relevant than ever before and there's no inventory on the shelf to end up in the landfill. Excess digital capac­ity with “smart” automation to print and mail is driving down supplier prices.

Look to digital solutions, which actively leverage green tactics and reduce costs

David Lowndes
Director of product dev., Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services

By making communications with pros­pects and customers more relevant, you will reduce the amount of material sent. Using digital and offset print in the right combinations will allow marketers to make these communications more personal.

Benefits of this include cost savings — because we print and mail less — and increased response rates through more effec­tive communications. Also, it is inherently green because we reduce the amount of print, storage, shipping, mailing and destruction.

A comprehensive evaluation and ratio­nalization of all communication materials and distribution options is a key element. Its goals are to increase the production efficiency of the communication process and to only produce the materials that are needed.

For example, health insurance companies typically print a huge policy book, listing every one of their providers and then send it to every individual they insure. This is an expensive and wasteful tactic. Instead, by using the ZIP code of the insured, you can digitally print and send each person a unique list of providers within a 25-mile radius of their home or work. The insured person gets just the information he or she needs, and the company saves money on printing, mailing and obsolescence.

By choosing appropriate production and delivery methods and producing only needed material, marketers are able to reduce print­ing and delivery volumes and costs, reduce or eliminate storage, and eliminate waste.

Targeting the right audience will reduce the materials sent and make mail greener

Carolyn Goodman
President/creative director, Goodman Marketing Partners

Software giant Autodesk was participating in the Greenbuild Conference. The chal­lenge was to drive traffic to their booth while generating awareness that Autodesk is a provider of software capable of helping with sustainable design. We designed an invitation for attendees that was printed on “seed” paper. Instead of simply discard­ing the invitation after the conference, it could be planted, watered, and beautiful wildflowers would result. It was the ideal way to showcase how Autodesk thinks “green” with an audience interested in sustainability.

If you're going to print anything, first you should think twice about what kind of volume you have to print. Don't get overly aggressive. Always consider recycled paper and soy-based inks.

You should spend more than just a few minutes on doing your list homework. Make sure you identify the selects on list because you can get a smaller and smaller number of names for you so you're reduc­ing the amount that you're mailing. Make sure you're doing a merge/purge process to eliminate duplicates and records that don't make sense to mail to.

I think a company has to be committed to going green, but you always have to look for a client that is also willing to go green. Often the green solutions are still slightly more expensive than the non-green solutions. So the clients have to understand that there may be an impact to the bottom line.

Make sure you do your list homework —eliminate duplicates and identity selects


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