Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Raising a "green" flag - B2B Greenwashing

B2B Greenwashing....I feel that this subject is of highest urgency in the business community today. This week alone two cases of blatant greenwashing in the B2B community have caught my attention. Both cases involved marketing professionals jumping on the bandwagon and marketing themselves as green/environmentally concerned agencies to businesses and individuals who are naive and unsophisticated in the marketing arena.

In today's economic environment there are some people who will do anything to make a buck. You have to prepare yourself and your business to be able to evaluate who is sincere and who is trying to pull a fast one.

These things should raise a "Green" flag:

- Too much talk. The business talks more about being green, eco, environmental than they talk about their results. Afterall, you want to buy their services to achieve results. Being green doesn't mean that you'll produce. You can't afford to waste money & time these days. When people ask if I have a "green" agency, I tell them I have an agency - which just happens to have extensive experience in the environmental arena.

- Do they walk the walk? This doesn't mean that they have to be wearing Birkenstocks at the meeting. Go to their offices and take a look around. Ask questions. Has the business looked at their own carbon footprint and taken steps to become more environmentally responsible? How long have they been environmentally aware or concerned? Find out about the hobbies and interests of the executives to find out if they are sincere.

- Past, Present & Future...If they are telling you that they can make your company more green or have worked with green companies they should have examples and references readily available. If they don't have a green examples...pass on their services. If they do have examples, don't be afraid to call a client listed on their website or one of their connections from LinkedIN. I have more respect for business owners who do the footwork and check on my services. Those are the people I want to work with.

- Lack of Innovation - They use standard practices as the primary method of demonstrating environmental practices. These are the people who tell you that a website makes your company green. Well, maybe 15 years ago. We now use electronic communication because it is how the world communicates and its less expensive - not an example of being green. A truly green focused company should be bringing new and innovative practices and products to your business. If they aren't doing that, then they are just like everyone else.

- Birds of a Feather Flock Together. Its true you know. Are they members of green or environmental organizations? Do they attend seminars & meetings? Do they have like minded people around them? You can easily find out this information without their knowledge through social media sites like LinkedIN or Facebook.

If you have a tip to spot greenwashing in the B2B community please share with a comment. Afterall, we are all in this thing together.

** My friend Jim Newbury with Tin Roof advertising contributed to this post. Check him out at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's in a Name?

Do we need these names, labels, brands? At lunch today an associate said that he was concerned that the trend of "unbranding" or "private labels" on the grocery store shelves might spill over into other areas of our lives and become a trend. I have to say that a "private label" on the grocery shelf is still a label and extension of a brand created by the store.
I contemplated the possibility of no brands and impact on our daily lives. My thoughts went something like:

"I need a hotel for my next business trip to Wichita. Who do I know who has a relative there who can recommend a clean & safe hotel?"

"Just give me the black tires."

"I remember some strollers were recalled for folding with the kids in them. I hope Johnny isn't sitting in one of those."

"I like beer. It is all is the same."

Okay I might have taken the last one a little far but we can all agree that brands help us be informed and make purchasing decisions. Branding sells stuff.

In America the brand wars between things like soft drinks, computers and cars has gone a little past helping consumers make an informed decision. These brands can define a person, their ideas and their socio-economic circle. We see those people with the little apple stickers on the back of their cars. All the luxury cars are parked by the valet right next to the entrance of the restaurant. Let's not even go towards the Coke/Pepsi debate. I live in Atlanta.

If branding is such an important part of our daily lives then why are there still businesses and organizations who don't take a careful strategic approach to creating their own brand? After all...if the bag just said "chips" on the store shelf you wouldn't know if it was potato chips or wood chips.

Small and mid-sized businesses need careful branding even more than their larger counterparts. Customers (b2b & b2c) rely upon clear concise communication to learn about what you can do for them and why they should invest in your company's products or services. You must communicate and do it well...if not a competitor will and take the sale. There is no better way to deter a potential customer from spending their money with you than by not communicating your brand - virtually hiding and taking your products off the shelf.

I shared this hiding theory with a client recently who told me that they hadn't been hiding from customers...that customers knew where to find them. I had spent months helping to define their brand - creating the logo, website, talking points and position in the marketplace. I'd written press releases and articles on their products. I created videos and took pictures. I wrote strategy. They have the tools and now its time to use them - not wait for them to call you.

This same client told me five minutes later that he had received calls from potential customers immediately following the email blast that I created for them. I count that as a success in my book. They used the tools, communicated their brand, customers understood and wanted their products and responded.

Now its up to them to close the sale.

Are you ready to close a sale?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Do What You Love...And Keep Loving It

Over the past week there has been a constant theme running through my life and work..."Do What You Love."

The problem is that when a person makes the leap to make what they love their life's work that they often are saddled with additional duties that they loathe in order to make doing what they love happen. Stress and stagnation in a business often follows because people have the tendency to avoid certain activities that simply are a necessary part of business. Then the entire house of cards falls because they didn't take care of every aspect of the business.  The business wasn't nutured properly. Can you follow that? Does that sound familiar?

Some people loathe a task so much that they even avoid hiring someone to do it for them. They just ignore it and hopes that it really isn't necessary. This week I've talked with people who are avoiding the following knowing that it will be detrimental to their businesses:

accounting, billing, taxes
sales calls, sales emails, sales letters
collateral materials, website redesign, promotional materials
media relations, social media, blogging, any sort of public mass outreach
networking, connecting with others live and in person
strategic planning, non-strategic planning, keeping a calendar, making any goals at all
....and more.

I understand that in this still recovering economy that people don't have the cash flow, they can't do everything, they have to cut back. Unfortunately some businesses are simply cutting OUT what they should have simply cut back.

These same people are now freaking out because they have a year's worth of accounting, marketing, networking or planning that has been missed and their bottom line is suffering because of it. They are ready to throw their dream of doing what they love away and think it isn't possible.

What I've learned is that you can do what you LOVE but you have to ask for help from people you trust to keep the other areas going. Please don't wait until you have an entire year of receipts, no new business contacts, clients have forgotten about you, or you no longer love what was once your passion.

Just like in a relationship with a human, the relationship with your business needs to be nurtured in order to grow.  You don't have to anything trips to Paris on a private jet. Just make sure you pay attention to the needs of your business so you can stay in love into the golden years.