Several readers and fans have asked before, what is with the "Green" in Green Leads? What does b2b lead generation have to do with being green? Other than the obvious connection between green and money, the real inspiration for the name Green Leads was to build a marketing services company that was conscious about our community, the environment, our clients and people, and unlike other marketing services companies, operated in a sustainable model. Employee turnover and client retention is a huge issue in our industry and Linda and I wanted to combat those issues head on. Responsibility and quality was key to this decision, and it all stemmed from our practices of green living.
On the surface, an appointment setting company has little it can do to be green, but if you look under the hood, there are lots of things our company does that are positive decisions, practices, and beliefs that do not negatively impact the environment in ways that traditional companies do. There is a partial list on our website.
This post isn't about Green Leads though, it is about Green Marketing and how markets react to it. We've all seen it, the use of "environmentally conscious" messages to sell, brand, and market numerous products and services. It is obvious with products that have primary impact (cars, computers, energy, food), but there is also the not-so-obvious such as what we do (virtual office, recycled computers, carbon offsets, tap water). The question I raise, and I believe I've seen answered over the past few years, is "does the market react to green marketing in a social way, as a movement, in a way outside their traditional behaviors?"
A couple points from recent experience, which in the most part is b2b:
- One of our largest projects last year came to us because the client had a massive investment in their own green initiative and wanted to make choices along the same lines. The directive came directly from their CEO.
- A survey we conducted in IT departments asking about green computing initiatives in IT show that 70% of IT executives consider environmental issues important, and 48% have active programs or budget allocations promoting green initiatives.
- My green blog posts have higher traffic patterns than my marketing posts.
- Most people we talk to that find out about our philosophies want to engage in a conversation about green issues. Is the topic alone enough to cause positive impact on society?
- The Green Gap seems to exist between those that have completed higher education and those that have not. Those with higher educations seem to have the interest in green and the economic ability to make green spending decisions. Also, most b2b buyers do have higher education backgrounds.
- Green is a topic of conversation. It is trendy to be green. The topic comes up in business during normal conversation, it comes up in social settings. Green is in.
- Obama and McCain both brought green issues to the forefront of their campaigns, right behind the economy. And talk about a social movement - Obama followers were acting as a social organism, not just a population sampling.
- Beware of Greenwashing. Have a solid plan with proof of your strategies and practices. Create materials that document your green work. Copies of certificates, offset purchases, internal plans and procedures, vendor choices, etc.
- Recruiting and employee retention has been impacted by green practices. In our case, we have only lost 1 employee of their own choosing in three years. For the b2b lead gen industry, that is unheard of.
My verdict lies in the fact that we have gained clients due to our green practices and messaging. We have made some impact through the socialization of our messages. Our community of employees, contractors, clients, and vendors have recognized the practices as important to them. The market seems to react in a way not traditional with typical b2b marketing tactics. There is an upswell, a desire, and an interest in green. Clients want to work with companies that are doing the right thing. It is a deeper desire and behavior than a product evaluation or price decision. It breeds loyalty and market growth, and ultimately contributes to the branding, growth, demand creation, and generation of new and repeat business.
A few articles worth reading:
The Environmental Leader, a green briefing for executives, states that more than 70 percent of directors at U.S. publicly-traded companies said they believe sustainability is important to profitability.
The Ecoprenuerist's Megan Prusynski wrote an article that introduces Sustainability in Business Planning.
Business of Design Online's Jess Sand wrote about How to Find Green Vendors.
World Aids Day.
Thinking of my Uncle Eddie today. Always laughing, always having fun...passed away on June 3, 1998. He was 51.
Having already experimented with outsourcing some database work to India, we thought we should give a try to Amazon's Mechanical Turk. From the FAQ page:
"Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it's convenient.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is based on the idea that there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings, or researching data details. Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale) or have gone undone."
So I decided to to load up a database project. The project is comprised of thousands of repetitive tasks and some research that anyone with basic business background can accomplish. We get these projects every week and have interns on staff to tackle them. I figured if an intern can do it, I'm sure some stranger a world apart can do it.
I proceeded to loaded the project which consisted of: look at the data, research a piece of the data, post the results. It probably takes 1-2 minutes per piece of data. Getting the project ready was fairly easy using the site's WYSIWYG form builder and data mapping. I posted a price of $0.15 per piece of data researched (in mturk terminology, each task is a Human Intelligence Task, or HIT). For this project there were 1,000 HITs so $150 was available. You hit "Publish" and it is live. 48 hours later, the project was complete. Interestingly, most of the work was completed by the same three people, yet an additional 5 participated in a smaller way. Also, most of the work was done in the middle of the night. The workers were most likely from the other side of the world. Total cost: $150 even and the workers invested 25 hours. That's $6 per hour. Comparitively, this would have taken one of my interns six or seven half days and cost me possibly more than twice as much. It's off-shoring for the masses. It works and it is cheaper, and the networking of multiple people get the tasks done much faster. Still checking on quality, but thus far the random spot check looked good.
That was the Wonder, now for the Ethics. Is what I paid for the work a fair price? If the person is working in India, for instance, the average white collar wage is $2 per hour. In the US, a white collar, non-managerial worker, earns $11 per hour. So I think my $7 per hour is fair, considering cost of living differences and the fact that the workers earned more than they could have working full time for a company. mTurk also gives them the ability to work their own schedule, be entreprenuerial, and in this case make more than they would have otherwise.
A friend asked me what my interns would do now that I off-shored their work. Well, I have some proactive marketing projects that might not have been funded had it not been for this project, so I'll assign it to them. The mturk workers win, my interns get more challenging work, and my company gets additional marketing. I think this is good for everyone.
I'm still not sold on the fair trade aspect of this, although the economics look fair. So as a feel good, I made another kiva.org micro-loan to a woman in Equador starting an egg business. I'm sure she will learn how to market with courage! Kiva is so addictive.