Johnson's World: Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Is being "green" always keen?

March 1, 2014
Steve Johnson10912079

Shooting yourself in the foot is an old expression about handgun safety. It references those eager beavers who think they are Quick Draw McGraw and in their haste pull the trigger before they get their gun out of the holster. Such folks are easily identified by their limps and missing toes and should probably not play with firearms.

These people may be fine upstanding individuals, but they should make a point (pun intended) to avoid explosives and sharp objects.

So it is for those enthusiastic overachievers in sales and marketing who spend much time and effort creating brand awareness while they themselves seem unaware of what their own brand stands for.

Recently, I received an email, forwarded to me by the owner of an ad agency I know who was in turn doing someone else a favor by passing along their marketing message. The someone else in question was a salesman of human resource consulting services. His title was listed as Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships.

His email message explained that he didn’t know if I was a member of a certain printing trade association but that he could get me into an upcoming event at member rates. A quick web search would have told him that I was not only a member of the association his firm had just joined but that my firm has been a member for decades; that I have served on many association committees, including the board of directors; and that our company has won many awards from the association.

His email further explained that his company “focuses exclusively on the printing industry,” which was why his firm had such a print-sounding name.  (Names are withheld since our object in Johnson’s World is to teach, not humiliate.)

The email closed with what I assume to be a standard signature. Very likely his email software adds his signature info without his even knowing. The signature included his name, his title, and the real name of his company which sounded very generic and very different than the print-centric name he used in his message. There was also a link to a generic website with no sign of specialization in the print industry, and, oh yes… a hip tag line:

“Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to -- it’s keen to be green!”

I’ll make a few observations. One, if you are trying to impress Steve Johnson (and that is exactly what this email was trying to do) this is certainly not a good tag line to use. Second, if you are trying to impress printers in general, this is not a good tag line to use.

Third, do your homework! Whether you are trying to impress a single new prospect or break into a whole new market, do a little bit of research. Cold calling is hard enough without sabotaging your own efforts.

This sort of thing happens too often. A paper mill (who shall once again go unnamed) is working very hard to conquer the envelope business. No more, it has decreed, shall its paper be sold to converters to be made into envelopes. It will make all of its own envelopes and sell them itself, by the billions! Envelopes, that is the future, or so it says.

This very same paper mill recently sent a note via email to one of its distributing merchants:

“Hi, my accounting department would like to transition you to receiving invoices via fax or email.  Thanks, Customer Service.”

This is from a paper company. They make and sell paper. And envelopes that are used to mail things, like invoices. Their very existence depends upon print and mail.

They should know better. Yet their people think it is keen to slander print and mail with gratuitous greenwashing.

The moral of our story is that everything you do is sales and marketing, especially in this viral age. The signature line appended to your email? Marketing. Your billing clerk? Sales.

Acquiring and retaining customers is tricky business. Don’t make it harder by shooting yourself in the foot.