Easy Ways to Green Your Small-Business Communications

When economic times are good, the spirit of altruism seems to come to the fore. Individuals and organizations look for ways they can make a positive impact on other people and their surroundings – even if it costs them a little more. Making sure the business is environmentally-friendly is one of those activities.

In times like we’re experiencing now, however, the instincts run more toward survival: Large and small businesses place their focus on keeping the doors open until the crisis passes. It’s not that they don’t care about the broader issues – they still do – but they often feel they have to place those initiatives on hold until things improve.

While it’s true that some environmentally-friendly approaches to business can cost a little more, there are many others that can actually help you save money as well as the planet. Here are a few ways you can make your business communications greener while reducing your costs and increasing your efficiency.

Move from Direct Mail to Email

Keeping in touch with customers and contacts is vital to the success of a business under any circumstances. But when there are fewer customers and prospects out there, it’s critical.

It’s obvious that you can reduce paper waste (and save money) by using email instead of direct mail. The trouble has always been how to manage an email campaign effectively. After all, you don’t want to become known as a spammer – you want your emails to be opened and read. In addition, prospects and customers seem to be a lot more forgiving of junk mail they receive in their mailboxes than unwanted emails that appear in their in-boxes.

The barrier to entry for a lot of small businesses has been the campaign management technology. A sophisticated CRM system is great for major retailers or large multi-nationals with thousands or millions of names on their customer/prospect list. They have the professional staff, not to mention the network bandwidth, to cost-effectively develop attractive promotional pieces, create and update lists, track campaign success, and run reports that help them refine the entire process.

But what about the five-person real estate office, or the local specialty retailer with an owner and a few part-time employees, or the charmingly rustic, family-run bed and breakfast on the coast of Maine? How do you create not just a random email message here or there, but a powerful, cohesive campaign that helps drive business?

The answer lies in new Web-based applications designed specifically for the needs of small businesses. These tools help non-experts build and manage professional-looking email campaigns, and even run a variety of reports that show the ROI on each. Most services allow you to send an unlimited number of emails for a single monthly fee.

One of the most important benefits of these applications is they make it easy to build and update opt-in email mailing lists, assuring you are only sending information to people who want it, and that you’re complying with current CAN-SPAM laws. They also make it easy to segment and build multiple lists to be sure the right people are receiving the right type of information.

Their tools let you continuously refine your lists, helping you target more of the right people. And any recipients who aren’t interested in this particular offer (but want to remain on the list) can just hit the “delete” key without adding to the waste stream. It’s the ideal solution for small businesses that want to market greener – and more effectively – while keeping their budgets under control.

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