Green is good — and smart

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Curt Bloom
Curt Bloom

Kermit was wrong. Despite the emerald Muppet's protests to the contrary, it can be easy being green. There is great opportunity for companies to strengthen their image by demonstrating a strong commitment to the environment and leading by example, but they need to act quickly. A good database strategy and intelligent marketing can go a long way toward reducing the environmental impact of an organization.


Direct mail has raised legitimate concerns about waste, but it's only junk mail when it is not targeted. Using an intelligent marketing solution, marketers can analyze an individual's behavior, including buying habits, and target only the customers who will want the message — cutting the amount of material sent out and improving ROI.


The Direct Marketing Association reports that the amount of direct mail being sent out is down to 88% of what it was three years ago as a result of targeting. As more businesses embrace targeting, the DMA expects that figure to drop even further.


Even with targeting, direct mail campaigns still generate physical material. The DMA also reports that 95% of paper used in direct mail campaigns is recycled or comes from managed sources. If a business can encourage the recipient to recycle the correspondence, that's even better. In 2003, research showed that only around 13% of direct mail was being recycled, and the DMA committed to increasing this to 55% by 2009, and 70% by 2013. By sending a message encouraging people to recycle their mailing pieces, an organization can help these goals be reached.


A single customer view can ensure that customers do not receive several copies of the same mailing. Many large organizations have customer databases dedicated to different divisions or product lines; consolidating customer data from across the enterprise enables you to eliminate duplicate mailings. Impersonal communications like product catalogs can be reduced by only sending one copy per household.


E-mail campaigns can also help an organization cut down its environmental impact, eliminating physical material, reducing the carbon that is released through printing and manufacturing processes, and reducing the amount of material that needs to be disposed of or recycled. Digital distribution means costs are significantly reduced too.


E-mail marketing should allow businesses to target specific users, reducing the possibility of sending an unwanted message to those who will react negatively to it. By tracking open and click-through rates, you can identify those who respond warmly to your e-mail messages and those who never open them. Where your e-mail seems unwelcome, you can try reactivating the customer using other channels.


Perhaps most importantly, companies can save money and resources by ensuring that every message they send has value for recipients, engaging them in true communication. 


By making sure all physical material is recycled and all messages are relevant, and by targeting the right people through the right channel, a business can significantly reduce its environmental impact while increasing the return on investment for marketing campaigns.


Curt Bloom is managing director, international, at SmartFocus, headquartered in Bristol, UK, with offices in the US and continental Europe. Reach him at



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