Someone asked me recently where the Green in Green Leads came from?
It originally was a name that sounded great for a demand gen company, and "green" had lots of connotations: Money, greenfield opportunities and of course living green, which my wife Linda and I believe in and do our best to do our part.
Last week's blog post sparked another discussion at a client meeting. Lead Gen Tip for Q2: Face Time and an article from last year, C Level Prospects: Make Your First Appointment by Phone, can be summarized with two bullet points:
- Introductory sales appointments are effective if done by phone, and executive level prospects are more willing to do first meetings by phone
- Second meetings are more effective if done face-to-face
The conversation went from business to environmental impact when someone offered, "Besides, phone meetings are better for the environment, too."
Green Leads has been buying carbon offsets over the past year as a way to reduce our own carbon footprint. We calculate this number based on the number of employees we have as well as the square footage of our offices. We have also kept our footprint about 50% less than companies similar to ours by implementing our Virtual Hybrid Office Space concept (reduced space, commutes and other waste).
We're in the business of B2B appointment setting, and meetings can often mean travel -- travel impacts carbon footprint, be it by car or plane. Green Leads has decided to let our clients help with our green initiatives by using a portion of our meeting revenue to purchase carbon offsets:
| ||Phone Meetings :||0.002 tons CO2|
| ||Face to Face by Car :||0.08 tons CO2|
| ||Face to Face by Flight :||0.29 tons CO2|
| ||Green Leads (Employees & Space) : || 142 tons CO2|
It is estimated that Green Leads and our clients will purchase estimated carbon offsets to cover between 500-600 tons of CO2 footprint in 2010. Green Leads will be making these carbon offset purchases through CarbonFund.org and will post a chart on our blog to track the impact we've made over time.
So take those first introductory appointments by phone. If we reduce face-to-face meetings by 50%, we can reduce our impact by 175-225 tons of CO2. Let's put the Green back in Green Leads.
A while back, I read an article by Chris Brogan that discussed 19 chores we could each do daily to help us maintain an online presence. I was already doing a majority of the list, but then it got me thinking. What if I had my browser setup so when I wake up in the AM all my daily tasks for maintaining my social media prowess were just lined up waiting for me to get my coffee? Here's my Lead Generation Tip for today.
I've never been one to clutter up toolbars in a browser, but this seemed like a great reason to do it. So I bookmarked the following links and turned on the bookmarks toolbar. This allows me to wake up, sip my Greenest Bean coffee (organic, locally roasted), and make my presence known. I come back to it during the day when I need a break and hit them again.
- HootSuite - been using this since I uninstalled tweetdeck for locking up my system every day. I've got it all decked out with columns, tabs, subjects, friends, you name it
- Google Reader - still the easiest RSS reader going. Read up, schedule the best for tweets on HootSuite with Send Later. Comment on a few relevant articles
- Hubspot Dashboard - finds daily chores for me to do around blogging, keywords, search rankings, etc.
- LinkedIn Q&A - to maintain my top Lead Gen Expert status and to accept invites and other LinkedIn goodness
- Personal Facebook - post some drivel
- Company Facebook Fan Page - post some value
- Fast Company Blog - share an article
- Smashmouth Marketing Blog - write an article
- FriendFeed - check out friends thoughts
- SocialOomph - vet my new twitter followers
During the process, I usually digg or stumble a few articles as well.
ps. Look at the other top experts in the Lead Generation section of LinkedIn. I'm in good company!
What other daily tasks do you do to keep yourself in the frontlines? Leave a comment
Green Leads has recently been doing a team micro-lending project. Our employees can donate on a regular basis, we match dollar for dollar, and then we decide as a team what Kiva borrower to invest in. It's a great cause, and in the current economy, a great way to push from the bottom. One of the best parts of doing this is getting updates from our borrowers. Finding out that the boat someone purchased is now harvesting fish for the fish market. It closes the loop and makes a good thing a human thing.
Kiva has just added video to their site for borrowers to provide updates and enrich their profiles. What a fantastic addition to an already impactful concept.
Posted on Kiva's blog this week: Video on Kiva Borrower Profiles
"Kiva's engineering team has been working on an experiment for the last few weeks to see how we can bring borrowers and lenders closer. In the past, we've seen that photographs have been one of the biggest ways for our lenders to feel connected to our borrowers.
We decided to take that a step farther by experimenting with a new medium: video!"
I have my notebook of ideas for when Linda and I build our green home. It's a few years off, I'm sure, but it's full of sketches, articles, diagrams and some day, this wish book will be our home. I just added the article Eco Principles for Community Living from Treehugger. An excerpt from the article:
"Acclaimed green architect Michelle Kaufmann is now trying to parlay her success with prefab homes into green community living in her new white paper Embracing Thoughtful, Walkable Neighborhoods. Green communities are critical to changing the face of American growth because currently "if everyone in the world lived in a style similar to that of an average American, we would require three Earths to support the demand on our natural resources,” says Kaufmann."
Many of you have seen my tagline "Market with Courage!" This emerged as a saying of mine back in the 90's and has stuck ever since. The Market part started with my love of marketing. The courage part came from several life changing business events. These events set the groundwork for how I work with clients today, and how I expect them to work with me, and are what I believe keep our client relationships long lasting.
Marketing vendors (agencies, PR firms, consultants, list brokers - you name it) have for decades, and occasionally still today, been treated by some with disdain - a necessary evil. Many companies simply try to extract their pound of flesh with every contract. The best marketing service providers, however, rarely suffer this pain. That said, some folks still need a lesson in change. I was reminded of this last week when a young gun manager of demand generation turned on me with a rude, "I just got a quote from your competitor that was 30% lower than your price. I want a discount." It was an opportunity to share one of my "courage" stories.
I had started my career as a $7.00 per hour software support engineer at Modicon, and soon enough I was dabbling with sales and marketing, which led to me closing the largest ongoing contract the company had at the time with Mars (as in M&M Mars). When we showed up in Hackettstown, NJ to negotiate the contract, the first thing I noticed, besides the wonderful smell of chocolate, was a sign in the lobby referring to The Five Principles. These were the five guiding concepts that Mars ran their business by and expected all of their associates to follow. These were: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, Freedom. Being a young and brash sales guy who was admittedly a bit intimidated to sit face to face with the same guy that negotiates peanut and chocolate contracts all over the world, I immediately honed in on the word "Mutuality." Next to it was the following paragraph:
"Mutuality: We believe that the standard by which our business relationships should be measured is the degree to which mutual benefits are created. These benefits can take many different forms, and need not be strictly financial in nature. Likewise, while we must try to achieve the most competitive terms, the action of Mars should never be at the expense, economic or otherwise, of others with whom we work."
My nerves subsided in seconds. They wanted me to negotiate a win-win deal. There it was in writing. They wanted the value we could bring to the table, and they were willing to compensate us fairly to get it. This one paragraph gave me the courage, as a vendor, to structure a relationship that is still, almost 20 years later, benefiting both companies. Still to this day, I always have the courage to ask for, and maintain, a mutually valuable relationship.
By the way, I also shared my client Mars' first principle, Quality, and how it is mandatory for Green Leads' appointment setting service, added to my ability to disarm the situation and maintain my margin (my half of the mutually beneficial relationship).
So back in November I posted a couple articles about Apples and Oranges and how the industrialized US agriculture market has warped our natural foods. Since it was around Thanksgiving, I made a point of telling our thanksgiving dinner guests all about it, and my niece and nephews heard the story. I had hoped they listened, but like most things out of my mouth, I expect only a small portion to actually stick.
Then earlier today I got an email from my sister with the following picture of Ben showing me their version of the bionic orange versus the normal orange. The kids may not have remembered the story, but they certainly got a total kick out of discovering it themselves.
Did they understand the ecology issues? Maybe not. But something stuck. I predict that the excitement of finding the big orange, recollecting Uncle Mike's story, grabbing the camera, sending me the picture, and enjoying the moment may have sparked some thought on the matter. Our next generation WILL figure it out if we keep taking the lead.
I guess that's the only thing we can hope for with a blog post. Someone, somewhere might read it, benefit by it, and possibly remember it. If they can draw the same conclusions I did with the same information, then maybe I accomplished something. If they simply thought about, debated, or pondered the issue, then I accomplished something there too. Always give an apple to the teacher.
Do you trust the statistics you use when you are making marketing decisions? Yahoo recently published a research study claiming that "77% of consumers identify themselves as green." They go on to state that "23% claim to be deeply committed to environmental issues," and that "71% have an interest in purchasing an environmentally sound car." And, that "72 percent saying they get (green) information in traditional media and 68 percent citing online," and tout portals as still being strong sources of information (of course).
Then there is one very important piece of data buried at the bottom, "respondents were recruited ONLINE." Could this possibly be tainted NOT to represent consumers as a whole? I think so. Online respondents could possibly be on the upper end of the economic scale, education, and already interested in green if they decided to respond to a green survey.
As a marketer, I dig through numbers all the time. Analyst reports, claims on blog articles, even conversational stats. Having taken a handful of probability and statistics courses, some market research courses, and having wanted to make a point or two with numbers myself in the past, I always look for the source. Knowing the source is like knowing the butterfly in the butterfly effect.
Stephen Dubner, one of the Freakonomics co-authors, stated in Global PR Week Blog, that, "The three things marketers can mainly learn from our book include
- realizing conventional wisdom is often wrong;
- dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes; and,
- knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.
But, keep in mind our methods in “Freakonomics” actually counter intuitive marketing thinking."
My message to marketers and analysts (especially the analysts since they publish most of the data), is when you're trying to make educated decisions and conclusions based upon numbers that figures don't lie, but liars can figure. Check your sources, and if you don't like the source, simply explain why and let others make their own conclusions.
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.
I just made Alton Brown's Fruit Cake recipe again. All organic, btw. I've done this for several years and not only is it incredibly good, the apricot brandy I spray on it brings extra holiday cheers. Ok, so the brandy wasn't organic and was shipped from somewhere far away, but you can't green everything. Seriously, this is NOT the fruit cake you know with the artificial colored fruit bits in it. This is Good Eats!
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.