The Clean and Green Club, September 2016

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Shel Horowitz’s Clean and Green Marketing Tip, September 2016
Exercise your brain for a good, green cause: Visit and enter your fun/outrageous AND your most practical ideas for what to do with a nuclear power plant that is never going to be finished. The best one in each category get a bunch of goodies from me as well as media publicity.
This Month’s Tip: Event Planning and Marketing Lessons from a Wedding, Part 3
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Marketing/addressing audience needs
The first two parts of this three-part series focused on the logistics of a complex event. But typically, you have an event in order to further your organization. So even if it’s only for your own employees, it serves a marketing purpose. This final installment will look at the marketing aspects.

As a Vendor, Be Agile and Adaptable

The caterer we chose was remarkably flexible, and that’s why this organization—a high-end restaurant in the area—got hired. My daughter is vegetarian, gluten-free, and rice-free. Her first criterion was that she could eat all the food. As a trained chef and food blogger (see her yummy recipes at, her second was that all the food conformed to her own tastes.The restaurant chef was willing to

  • Do a tasting of the exact proposed menu in the restaurant, and even surprised us with an elegant custom-printed menu just for the four of us who attended
  • Modify her recipes based on Alana’s suggestions following the tasting
  • Negotiate the scope of services

And that’s why they got a $12,000 gig. Another caterer disqualified herself by being rigid; she was not willing to adjust her recipes or her policies to meet our needs.

Be Accessible and Communicative—Build Client Confidence in You

Two other caterers lost out because one of them never returned multiple phone calls, and the other (the least expensive) would take weeks to answer email and his answers lacked understanding of our needs. Even though he would have saved us thousands of dollars, we weren’t convinced of his ability to serve us.

There were communication issues on our end, too. For example, Bobby and Alana ordered compostable plates, cutlery, and napkins—but no one thought to communicate with the catering staff about how waste would be handled. So compostable dishes, food waste, and general trash all got lumped together and hauled off to the dump. Ooops!

As a Client, Find Out What Can Be Negotiated

The restaurant’s catering staff originally returned an estimate of $22,000. We cut that almost in half by negotiating down from what they originally planned to include; we rented our own chairs, tables, tablecloths, and tents, brought in our own liquor (which we paid their certified bartender to serve) and ice, and supplied high-end compostable plates and cutlery. Even adding back in the $3,000 we spent to obtain these items elsewhere, we saved $9,000—and they still got $12,000 (by far the largest expense).

As a Marketer, Be Creative but Stay on Message

Alana and Bobby wanted a wedding that represented who they are, individually and as a couple. They themed the entire event as a Broadway musical, complete with a Playbill and brief clips from several musicals. They wrote their own vows, scripted and rehearsed a ballroom dance, chose an officiant who would honor their cultural and personal traditions.

The finished wedding canopy

Build in Interactivity and Social Media

The wedding couple provided numerous ways for attendees to get involved, starting some months ahead by asking people to decorate a square for the wedding canopy they would be standing under (a traditional Jewish custom). They also built in several events around the wedding itself, ranging from a pizza/taco party the night before to a hike or drive up our local mountain, with its 4-state view at the top, the day after. They created a fun website just for the wedding, providing not just logistical information but two fanciful stories of their coming together. They encouraged attendees to take pictures and post them on a specific page of a photo website. And of course, there were numerous posts and new friend connections on Facebook (the right social media network for this type of event). A table was set up with Polaroid cameras and a hand-made guest book.

Honor Diversity

This wedding brought together a conservative Anglo-Mexican Christian family from Texas and a liberal Jewish family originally from NYC but living in rural New England for 35 years. Friends and family came from a dozen states. Ages ranged from preteen to people in their 80s. This diversity was reflected in the wedding ceremony, the menu, and the music (the band learned two klezmer and one mariachi songs for the occasion). Diversity was also honored in Dina’s and my decision to personally cook for the six of my relatives attending who kept Kosher—after discovering that the caterer’s option was frozen dinners that she described as similar to airplane food. We cooked four courses and supplemented that with some properly certified houmous (you may know it by its usual English spelling of “hummus”—my spelling is closer to the way it’s pronounced in its original Arab culture), cheese, and crackers. The effort we made to make sure that everyone felt welcome regardless of religion, politics, or culture was clearly appreciated by all who attended.

Honor Your Commitments—and Go the Extra Mile

The liquor store we chose had already promised to take back unopened bottles. When our ice vendor fell through a week before the wedding, we called the liquor store. The owner cheerfully agreed to sell us ice, and deliver both the ice and the booze the day of the wedding, for a very reasonable price. There was no problem returning the extras and she even waited to be paid until after the event, rather than collecting our money and refunding an unknown chunk of it. That liquor store now has our party business (and our recommendations) pretty much forever.

By contrast, the shuttle van service we hired did not honor its commitment. Both the runs back from the venue to the hotel drop-off points were made substantially earlier than the agreed time, and with no warning from the driver. As a result, three people had to stay at the site overnight instead of in their hotel rooms, and we negotiated the service to half of the agreed price, because we felt only half the service (transportation TO the wedding) had been properly provided. That company will never get a call from us again.

One final lesson: Use your powers of observation and treat everything as a learning experience. If I can get three months worth of marketing advice for you out of just one event, you can find lessons all around you.

Hear and Meet Shel
I’ll be a guest on Nicole Holland’s Business Building Rockstar Summit sometime the first 10 days of November. We taped an AWESOME deep-dive interview–and I’m in awesome company of rockstars including Marisa Murgatroyd, Dorie Clark, Lou Bortone, and several other very cool people. Each call will be available at no charge for 48 hours. If I don’t have it nailed down by press time for the October newsletter, I’ll send out a special bulletin when I have the details.

Also in November, I’ll be a guest on Jena Rodriguez’s The Brave Entrepreneur podcast. Details next month.
Friends/Colleagues who Want to Help
These days, we’re all bombarded with marketing messages–most of which are digital and lack a personal touch.

By accurately replicating handwriting, Thankster gives marketers a unique advantage through personalized handwritten cards. The result? Happier customers and higher conversion rates.

Order your copy of Shel’s newest book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World

Learn how the business world can profit while solving hunger, poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change (hint: they’re all based in resource conflicts). Endorsed by Chicken Soup’s Jack Canfield, business blogger and bestselling author Seth Godin, and many others. Find out more and order from several major booksellers (or get autographed and inscribed copies directly from me).
Download a free sampler with several excerpts, the complete Table of Contents and Index, and all the endorsements.
Another Recommended Book—Connect
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Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society by John Browne (with Robin Nuttall and Tommy Stadlen) (Public Affairs Books, 2015)

Yes, I’m recommending this book by the former CEO of BP—but there’s much in here I disagree with, and I want to get that out of the way first.

Browne has a big set of blinders. He shows an awful lot of reluctance to question technology, even going so far as to embrace highly dangerous technologies like fracking, pesticide-saturated GMO crops, and nuclear power. And while I agree with him that business can be a major part of the solution to our toughest problems—like hunger, poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change—I’m less convinced than he is that business opposition to regulation is necessarily coming from a principled place.

Browne was no longer the CEO during BP’s massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, having left three years before. He watched from afar as his corporate child withered under the helm of Tony Hayward, who had told an audience at Stanford a year before the spill, “We had too many people that were working to save the world”—and notoriously pleaded, “I want my life back,” during the Deepwater crisis.

However, Browne was in charge during the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 people and an Alaska oil spill the following year (p. 121). To his credit, he understands that these incidents damaged BP’s stature and credibility, so when the rig exploded in the Gulf, the reservoir of goodwill had been sorely depleted.

So there’s a lot to set aside, and you’ll want to take this one with at least a spoonful of salt. Still, it provides a remarkable look into what it means to be a “forward-thinking” CEO of one of the largest fossil energy companies in the world—and the book contains good doses of both insight and wisdom, even if you have to filter out a good deal. He also interviewed many other big-company CEOs including Hank Paulson (later US Treasury Secretary) and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, and Indra Nooyi of Pepsico (among many others).

He points out that seeing business as the villain is nothing new; it dates back at least to the Han Dynasty in China, a century before Christ was born (p. 3). Browne includes a great deal of (very disturbing) detail on the racist, brutal, all-powerful imperialism of the British East India Company—the first modern corporation (pp. 49-57)—and of Cecil Rhodes’ equally barbaric activities in Africa (pp. 36-38).

And using business to achieve social good is nothing new either. Chocolate barons George and Richard Cadbury (UK) and Milton Hershey (US) set up humane conditions right from the get-go and saw their companies as benevolent intervenors, providing excellent working and living conditions (pp. 21-28). Henry Heinz was a strong advocate of food labeling laws, knowing that his preservative-free catsup using quality tomatoes would do better than his sodium benzoate-containing catsups of his competitors (pp. 42-43). Even many of the worst of the Robber Barons—like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick—men with blood on their hands and horrible working conditions for their employees—tried to rehabilitate their reputations through massive philanthropy (pp. 17-21).

What about our current century? Browne says the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) department is an outmoded concept; siloing social responsibility doesn’t create effective change. Enron, he points out (p. 139) had a great CSR-focused mission statement. Real change has to percolate throughout the organization: in the C-suite, in operations, in marketing…not just in its own department.

And when we have this integration, he sees incredible rates of progress. He says US industry can easily reduce carbon emissions 3 percent per year, meet the 2°C limit on climate warming just by going after “cost-negative” (in other words, profitable) low-hanging fruit, and save $190 billion a year in the process (p. 88). A great example is the way Paul Polman turned Unilever around when he became CEO, with his Sustainable Living Plan:

To double the size of the business while helping 1 billion people to improve their health and well-being, halving the environmental footprint, and enhancing suppliers’ lives. Each of these three goals is directly related to Unilever’s core business activities… By using its Lifebuoy brand to improve hygiene habits, the company sells more soap and helps to cut in half the number of people who die from diseases such as diarrhoea. By investing to reduce carbon emissions and water usage, it lowers costs and minimizes its exposure to water scarcity, an issue that poses a serious risk to consumer-goods firms… (p. 158)

We already know Browne is an unabashed booster of technology. Technology contributes heavily to Browne’s view of the three most important trends that are changing the business world: artificial intelligence, a shift of the economic center of gravity from the US and Europe to Asia, and the growth of the global consumer (pp. 213-246). While I don’t share Browne’s unmitigated embrace of technology, I agree that when used properly, technology empowers people, moves them out of poverty, and cleans the environment all at once. As one example, he cites the very positive impact of mobile phone access on the fishing communities of Kerala, India (pp. 108-109). I also agree with his strong emphasis on open communication, collaborative culture, and including all stakeholders—and, of course, that business will not only be instrumental in solving these enormous challenges, but does and will benefit enormously by doing so.

Business actively contributed to many of these problems in the first place—of the top six social problems, he sees four—smoking, obesity, alcoholism, and climate change—as created by business (pp. 243-244). I’d say that another of the six, war/terrorism/violence, is largely a corporate creation as well. This is a moral justification for business working to fix them; there’s also the practical reason that fixing them can help the bottom line.

Finally, he concludes the book with a call for justice, based in corporate self-interest:

Mistreating any constituent of society eventually leads to collapse, while successful connection is rewarded with lasting commercial success…Future global development will be constrained just as badly if business is hamstrung by the hate it generates so self-destructively…I am optimistic that companies will be an enormous force for good in the future…The connected firms of the future will push the boundaries of human possibilities in their quest to contribute. They will not fracture their bonds with society (pp. 247-248).


Recent Interviews & Guest Articles: 

Shel’s done 13 podcasts recently, ranging from 5 minutes to a full hour. Click here to see descriptions and replay links (scroll all the way down to Recent Interviews & Guest Articles).

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About Shel & This Newsletter

As a green and social change business profitability/marketing consultant and copywriter…award-winning author of ten books…international speaker and trainer, blogger, syndicated columnist – Shel Horowitz shows how green, ethical, and socially conscious businesses can actually be *more* profitable than your less-green, less-socially-aware competitors. His award-winning 8th book Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet was a category bestseller for at least 34 months (and is now available exclusively through Shel). Shel also helps authors/ publishers, small businesses, and organizations to market effectively, and turns unpublished writers into well-published authors.

Shel Horowitz’s consulting firm, Green And Profitable, is the first business ever to earn Green America’s rigorous Gold Certification as a leading green company. He was inducted into the National Environmental Hall of Fame in 2011.He began publishing his monthly newsletter all the way back in 1997, making it one of the oldest marketing e-zines (it’s changed names a few times along the way).
“As always, some of the links in this newsletter earn commissions—because I believe in the products and services enough to promote them (I get asked to endorse lots of other programs I don’t share with you, because I don’t find them worthy).”
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