Green marketing: Sustainable print marketing ideas

green marketingAt some point, whether on a continuous basis or as a one-off project, you’ll have (or already have) a need for printed marketing materials. Maybe your message warrants print. Maybe your audience prefers it. Maybe you have a lot of technical information to relay. Whatever the reason, you need print. But, you’re also mindful of what can many times be a higher price tag or even push-back from customers who might think you’re spending resources frivolously or wasting paper.

Here’s my take on simple ways you can implement sustainable print marketing. Tricks of the trade, so to speak, that can save you money and save a bit of the planet.

Thoughtful planning = money savings

Don’t discount a good marketing plan. The more you’re able to plan ahead for the types of printed materials you’ll need, how long it will take to design them and how long the printing process will take, the better off you are. In fact, when I work on client print projects, I start by having a conversation with our print vendors to get their suggestions on material size, paper and where cost-saving factors may come in to play from a design standpoint (there’s nothing worse than being the client and getting excited about something your designer has presented to you, only to realize after the fact that it’s going to cost you double your budget to have the piece printed). Planning is a money and time-saver. Period.

Planning ahead also provides you with longevity of a print piece. For example, lets say you are putting together a view book or brochure for your organization. If you knew that you would be using this piece over the next year, you’d want to think about print quantity and assess all the potential ways this piece could be used. Likewise, if you are unsure of whether or not your budget is going to allow for you to update this piece on an annual basis, you may want to also stay away from putting any kind of dated material within the piece (including actual dates such as “View Book 2012,” etc.)

Watch your mailing lists

Whether you own your lists outright or rent them from other sources, make sure your contacts’ information is current. Keep your master customer or client lists updated so you don’t waste time printing materials for items that are going to bounce back to you from the post office. A good printer that offers mailing services will also be able to walk you through the standardization and requirement process for USPS mailing.

Also, think about using an ink-jet process to print addresses directly on your piece. This eliminates the need for labels and, in my opinion, looks cleaner.

Multi-purpose design

Work with a designer who can offer you a strategy and concept for multi-purposes. That may mean using the piece for multiple events, mailings or promotions. It might also mean using the piece as a way to provide multiple messages (from the fact that you chose an FSC printer to pointing out the piece is printed on recycled materials). If budget is what you’re concerned about, talk about using a digital press versus four-color process. Even the design file itself (heavy versus medium ink/color usage) will make a difference in the “green” factor of the piece. Talk to your printer about using water-based or aqueous coatings and ink.

I alluded to this above, but the size and shape of your material plays a role in sustainable marketing and multi-purpose design. Think about standard sizes for mailing, think about the shape and if you can use it as a self-mailer and/or stick the piece in an envelope. And don’t be afraid to let your audience know about the efforts you’ve made to provide information in a green way.

Digital proofs and printing

Not all print projects can be handled through a digital PDF proofing process, but if you’re able to do so, it’s going to save you time, money and use up less ink/paper in the long run. If you’re concerned about color proofing and you’re printing similar pieces on a regular basis, consider a mix of hard-copy proofing and digital proofing. For example, we have a client that prints a monthly color newsletter. The template we use is the same for each issue so every two months or so, we request a hard-copy proof to double-check colors. The rest of the time, we proof digitally to save time, money and other resources.

Talk to your printer (or designer) about the possibility of using print-on-demand. Print-on-demand can vary between printers, but it’s more or less a way to store your electronic design files and print them in the quantities you desire (digitally) when you need them. It lessens the burden of having too many extra pieces (paper waste). It also helps if you’re not entirely sure how long of a shelf life your piece will have.

Know your audience

Don’t underestimate the power of social media or other electronic mediums. Sometimes there are valid points and reasons for choosing to run your marketing materials in print. Just be sure that you’re confident about the audience you’re trying to reach and how responsive they’ll be to the tool of your choice. If it makes sense to allocate resources into great online graphics and design in order to present your message electronically, I say go for it. And sometimes, it’s a mix of both–electronic communication and print. Know your audience and your desired outcomes and you should be well on your way to eliminating unnecessary waste and maybe, keeping a few bucks in your own pocket (or budget).

Melissa Harrison About Melissa Harrison

Melissa Harrison is CEO of Allée. Named a 2012 “Mover & Shaker” by the Star Tribune, Melissa has more than a decade of experience in content management and strategy, branding and design, working with SMBs to build strategic social media and online content strategies. Also listed as one of the “Top 36 Content Marketers Who Rock” by TopRank and Content Marketing Institute, Melissa believes that businesses must adapt to what customers want, which includes using social media and creative online content to provide relevant, consistent information, in order to survive. Melissa is a four-time recipient of the Hermes Creative Award and a regular speaker on the topics of branding, content strategy and social media. She is also a mother of four, a certified fitness instructor and book lover.

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