Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Growth of Mobile

Digital marketing can expect to do well, but the mobile channel will outperform the online segment of digital. Its all about numbers, compared to laptops and PCs, mobile users are much more numerous, and this makes mobile's growth potential seem almost limitless. As reported in a recent Mobile Marketing article "Mobile has both the greatest potential for advertising growth and one of the best current growth profiles in the near term, surpassing even the online segment"

The same article quotes IDC numbers which show slower growth for online spending in the second quarter of 2007 (18.9 percent, compared to 25.9 percent in the second quarter of 2007). According to the author, mobile will continue to grow. Mobile's growth is attributable to the number of users it can claim. There are 2.4 billion subscribers worldwide and "between 80 percent and 49 percent actively using SMS on a regular basis. Western Europe boasts 80 percent usage, while the United States lags at 49 percent, though usage here is growing steadily. Advertising spending on mobile is slated to approach $1 billion by the end of this year, according to Juniper Research, and surpass $7.5 billion by 2013."

Mobile is growing in the U.S. and across the globe, a trend which is increasingly being recognized by advertisers and marketers. Developed Asia is expected to increase from a 2008 level of $414 million to $2.1 billion by 2012. China alone saw mobile and online revenue growth of 65 percent between 2007 and 2008, with a corresponding ad spend increase of 20 percent, according to

The Mobile channel has unprecedented growth potential. "Mobile is, in any climate, the channel of the future."

Next: Making Mobile Marketing Work for Your Business

Friday, September 26, 2008

Digital Marketing Will Thrive in a Downturn

Digital marketing is poised to grow during this downturn. Although the marketing world has been hit hard, as reviewed in a recent Convince & Convert article some marketing channels will thrive in this environment. During the last recession, online advertising, plummeted 27% over two years. But according to the author, this time will be different. "Not only will online marketing survive, it may actually thrive during the lean times, continuing its inexorable theft of ad spend from traditional media tactics. Online is far more mature and proven now"

There are several reasons that account for digital marketings viability in a downturn. Online does not require a long term commitment and it is typically less expensive than an offline campaign. The predictable shift in a downturn is to focus on expanding sales with existing customers and email is the perfect vehicle for this group. Reduced marketing dollars can be focused on likely prospects rather than wasted on the disinterested. When compared to traditional tactics, online marketing offers superior measurability and trackability.

Next: The Growth of Mobile / Making Mobile Marketing Work For Your Business

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mobile is Green

Mobile is Green because it eliminates the need for paper. In the financial world Mobile banking and payments is changing the way banks communicate with their customers. As reported in a recent mobilemarketer article, “Mobile banking in general is gaining a lot of traction, all billers and financial institutions are realizing the importance of mobile and they want to make it as easy and convenient as possible to pay bills...the power of the mobile [is that] people have their phones all the time."

Demand for Green banking is strong. According to a recent study by Javelin Research, 43 percent of consumers would rather do business with a company they perceive to be “green.” Javelin Research stresses in the study that simplicity and convenience are what will drive adoption of green banking initiatives.

Customers are being offered more environmentally friendly banking options. In return the banks are benefiting from new revenue streams and cost-savings. For many businesses mobile represents an ideal win-win scenario. By providing these services, financial institutions enhance customer loyalty while reducing costs and complexity.

Next: Digital Marketing Will Thrive in a Downturn / The Growth of Mobile Marketing / Making Mobile Marketing Work For Y9ur Business

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Making the Most of Your Marketing in a Downturn

Digital marketing is changing the landscape because it is low cost, targeted and trackable. The state of the economy appears to be accelerating this change. It is said that advertising spending is like the proverbial canary in the economic coal mine – when the national ad spend goes down, it is time to worry about the prospects of the economy as a whole.

As reported in a recent mobilemarketer article, the ad industry can be generally described as sluggish, but for non-traditional media it is positively bullish. "Non-traditional media is the engine of growth in the national ad market, outstripping traditional channels in terms of incremental increases and approaching giants such as print and television in terms of total spending. Mobile is the epitome of [a] non-traditional media [and is] the only channel with the ability to interact and integrate with all other channels. [A]dvertisers prefer cost-effective online, mobile and voice strategies in a slowing economy. Those channels provide quantifiable results with shorter turnaround and lower overhead than their traditional mass-media counterparts."

Difficult times require the most effective mediums. When money is tight, marketing efforts must maximize return, to this end marketing initiatives must be targeted and trackable. Digital marketing strategies can measure and define success. The inherent measurability and relatively low cost of digital tactics are more attractive when the economy is less strong, which is why digital will be amongst the few sectors that will grow this year. Digital also provides some affordable promotional tools (Web 2.0 is a great example). Because of its unprecedented reach, mobile is perhaps the most exciting. Mobile is a lower cost, targeted channel that can be part of unique, dependable results-oriented marketing campaigns.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Surviving Economic Volatility

Small (Green) business can ride out a bearish economy. While I encourage businesses to actively manage hardships, others are looking to ascribe blame. Witch hunts have even identified suspects. Short sellers are this week's new pariahs on Wall Street, but neither they, nor speculators in agricultural commodities, are to blame for global economic volatility. Although government bailouts have mitigated some of the ill effects, global economic instability is part of Greenspan's legacy of indiscriminate lending. Global economies are undeniably volatile, but as evidenced by todays historic rally in the stock market, there are opportunities as well.

Difficult times can be deadly to many businesses. This is particularly true for small business. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, a downturn can be a good opportunity to expand your capabilities and grow market share. Although most industries shrink in the face of economic difficulties, success can best be achieved by refining your capabilities and focusing even more intently on what you do well. A business that maximizes the opportunities during hard times can gain serious ground over competitors who are simply trying to tread water.

The fundamentals of your core mission should see you through the rough times. Re-identify those values, then apply them. Review your business and your business relationships. Re-evaluate these relationships to determine if you are getting the most for your money.

As explained in a recent FUEL LINES article, difficult economic times increase the number of businesses re-evaluating their relationships. While everyone is trying to get the most for their money, success will follow those that focus their efforts on providing more value to their clients, and those that work in concert with their clients to ascertain where they can contribute. Hard times are the right times to develop creative strategies/branding to differentiate your brand and impact sales, volume and profits.

The best strive for excellence everyday. For Green businesses this implies quality products that deliver on their promises. This also implies a strategy that both enhances and clearly articulates their value propositions. Those who are greenwashing or those who are simply complacent will lose ground to the competition or cease to exist.

Next: Making the Most of your Marketing in a Downturn

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Financing A Green Business

Obtaining financing is an essential part of launching a new business or expanding an existing company but increasingly cautious lenders are making borrowing difficult. The process of applying and gaining approval for business financing is challenging and this process is compounded further by the deteriorating state of the global economy.

According to congresswoman and entrepreneurial advocate Nydia M. Velaszquez (D-NY), Chair of the House Small Business Committee, "Each business owner must determine whether or not securing financing is the right step for your business. While additional funds may help your business grow, they will also increase your debt and eat into your company's profits." More money does not help if your processes are not sound or your business model is not viable. If you determine that your business needs financing, congresswomen Valaszquez makes these recommendations to help improve your chances of getting approved.

Determine what type of financing you need. Lenders can assist you by providing funds through different types of business loans. In general, types of business loans include term loans and revolving lines of credit. In addition to these traditional forms of debt financing, you may want to investigate whether equity financing, also known as venture capital, is a viable option for your business's capital needs. Become knowledgeable about these types of credit products and choose which one is right for you. For more information on different types of loan products, contact your local lender or visit the SBA's Web site.

Prepare a business proposal. A well-thought-out and detailed business proposal is one of the most important items you can bring to a lender or investor. The proposal should include a description of your business, the amount of funds requested, the purpose of the funds and the amount that you will contribute. The proposal should also include a description of collateral and the sources of repayment. This proposal will serve as the basis for your financing application.

Have a third party review your proposal. Before you meet with a lender or investor, you may want to have an experienced evaluator review your business proposal, especially if you are a start-up or a first-time borrower. By doing this, you will be strengthening your application, making it easier for the lender or investor to reach a favorable credit decision. There are several business support groups whose members could counsel you on how your proposal looks. One source of counseling available to small businesses is the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which is sponsored by the SBA. Other counselors might include accountants, financial advisers or more experienced entrepreneurs in your line of business.

View your credit report. A borrower's credit history will provide a lender or investor with important information concerning your ability to meet your commitments. Be sure that you are aware of what is in your credit report in advance of your meeting with a prospective lender or investor. This way, you can correct any errors or prepare explanations for any anomalies before they ask you about them.

Locate a lender or investor. Shopping around for a lender or investor is an important process. At your disposal are banks, credit unions, specialized commercial lenders and venture capital companies. In addition, you may want to consider lenders that participate in the SBA's 7(a) loan program or a venture capital company participating in the SBA's Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program. If you are having difficulty securing financing, institutions participating in SBA's programs may be willing to work with you.

Character counts. When evaluating your application, lenders or investors will of course look at your business proposal, your financial condition and projections, and your credit report. However, they will also pay attention to your character. As a result, be sure to present yourself and your business well--be professional, organized and confident.

If you are not approved, get feedback. If your application is not approved, ask the lender or investor to provide you with the reasons why. Some of the reasons they may give for denying financing include: insufficient owner's equity in the business, a lack of established earnings record, a history of slow or past-due loan or credit card payments, or insufficient collateral. Make sure you find out the reasons why you were turned down, as this information will help you qualify the next time you apply.

For Green and other socially responsible businesses seeking financing, the ecoentrepreneur has published a short list of financing strategies and resources.

Licensing a product to a larger company which would put up the money for both production and marketing and would then pay the inventor a licensing fee, (i.e. based on the volume of sales). The downside of the arrangement would be a loss of control over the production and marketing.

SBA Loans are not actually given out by the Small Business Administration. Applicants work with local banks to secure loans, which are guaranteed by the SBA and are offered at favorable interest rates and often with better terms than would be available elsewhere. These loans may not be appropriate for startups, but I would encourage all entrepreneurs to at least be aware of what is available. In addition, the SBA runs Small Business Development Centers, which can be helpful in writing a business plan.

There are now a number of venture capital funds and angel investors who are looking for companies with a double bottom line—both a potentially high financial return and a social, environmental, or economic benefit to a particular community. Often these investors will fund companies with smaller capital needs than they would consider for investments that do not have a social-benefit mission. I know about a number, many of which are focused on Northern California, so consider this list only an example to show that these funds exist. You may need to do some research to find similar investors in your area:

DBL Investors’ Bay Area Equity Fund, supports businesses with many social missions, including environmental ones but is focused on the San Francisco Bay Area. The Omidyar Network funds both nonprofit organizations and businesses. This sentence from their About Page, sounds like the inventor who emailed us: “Omidyar Network believes that all individuals have the innate potential to make life better for themselves and their communities.” Khosla Ventures funds microfinance ventures and health projects in addition to environmental concerns all over the world.

Many startups, green or otherwise, are initially funded by accredited investors that know the founder or who are friends of friends. Oftentimes the initial funding is in the form of convertible debt, which is converted to equity when the Company goes through another round of funding, with angels or venture capitalists. Although not all entrepreneurs may not know accredited investors or be comfortable raising money, I think this is the most common way to start a business. Sometimes a small amount of money will get a company off the ground and prove to SBA lendors or other investors that the company is worth financing at higher level.

Some nonprofit organizations have as part of their mission the goal of providing job training or employment for disadvantaged workers, so they operate a business as one of their programs. I think this option could be particularly interesting for ecoentrepreneurs.

Another option is Social Venture Partners, which has chapters in many locations around the world and provides what they call venture philanthropy–both cash and management expertise to nonprofit organizations.

Next: Surviving Economic Volatility

Why Green Remains Viable Even in an Economic Downturn

Environmental Leader cites a Christian Science Monitor report that predicts that today’s Green wave will survive, even in the current economic downturn. The reason Green will survive has to do with growing market demand. Many Americans, including those who are enduring financial hardship, are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products, according to a survey conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

“In a downturn, some would back away from their current commitments,” says Dan Esty, a professor of environmental law and policy at Yale University. “There could be stress in the next year or two, but I’m confident that investment in the environment will be higher.” He estimates that 80 percent of corporations’ green plans will go forward.

[Although] executives who have announced green projects admit that some spending might be tempered at least over the short term depending on the economy...economic uncertainties make energy efficiency a less expensive way to go, says Mr. Chesser. “When you build a major baseline plant, that’s a commitment. It takes five years to build, and it’s a big risk if the economy goes south,” he explains. “With energy efficiency, you don’t have that…. It has a lot of flexibility.”

As cited in another Environmental Leader article from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, a GfK Roper survey indicated that half of the respondents said they would “definitely” or “probably” pay 15% more for eco-friendly articles like clothes and cars. Forty percent said they would spend 15% more on “green” computer printer paper and 39 percent would do the same for “green” wood furniture. Americans who said their current financial situation is “fair” or “poor” were just as willing to spend 15% more on environmentally-friendly detergent or wood furniture as those Americans more confident of their current financial situation.

Moreover, a majority of Americans said it is important to them that a number of products they purchase be environmentally friendly — automobiles (66% say it is “important” or “essential”), clothes detergent (62%), and computer printer paper (51%).

The survey also reveals that Americans want additional information about the environmental impacts of products to appear on labels. Solid majorities say that it is either “important” or “essential” to have eco-labels that describe the environmental impacts caused by product manufacture (73%), use (73%) and disposal (79%).

“These results suggest that manufacturers who offer high-quality and credibly labeled eco-friendly products will have opportunities to gain a competitive edge,” said Graeme Auld, a doctoral candidate at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Next: Financing a Green Business

Monday, September 15, 2008

The State of the Economy

The current economic climate poses a serious challenge to many businesses, but Green businesses may be somewhat insolated from all the negative effects. The US Labor Department indicates that unemployment is on the rise (6.1% in August, while consensus estimates were calling for a 0.1% increase to 5.8%). This is the highest unemployment rate since 2003 and some are predicting unemployment rates of 8%.

A recent survey from the Association of National Advertisers indicated that, "The latest trend in advertising: budget shearing." Even more surprising, online add growth may also be stalled. According to an article, July results for The New York Times internet ad revenue grew less than 1% following significant increases in preceding months.

As I write this the Dow Jones industrial average has fallen nearly 350 points. Big losses are also being reported across much of the globe as we assimilate the news of Lehman and Merrill Lynch's forced sale to Bank of America. The American International Group Inc. (AIG) has asked the Federal Reserve for emergency funding. The world's largest insurance company has announced a major restructuring today. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 3.95 percent, Germany's DAX index lost 3.17 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 3.64 percent. The European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the Swiss central bank stepped in an attempt to calm markets by making more short-term credit available to banks. Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 434.1 million shares.The news is the same for small business. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 8.88, or 1.23 percent, to 711.38.

Investors have been worried since the collapse of Bear Stearns. And there is fear that AIG may be subject to downgrades from the credit ratings agencies. Many have had to shut down their businesses. Large companies are having problems staying afloat, and many smaller companies are in even worse shape. Because of the lower margins in the small business community, it doesn't take much for a profit to become a loss.

Some of the biggest problems are in sectors, like housing, construction, finance and travel. Even though crude has now fallen to less than $100 dollars a barrel, gas prices keep rising. These rising energy prices are compounded by higher commodities adding to an already difficult situation.

The state of the global economy does not look very good. But there are opportunities even in this troubled economic environment. Although I am concerned about the popular media's sensationalistic coverage of the economy, I concede that volatile oil prices, declining retail sales, layoffs, and American foreclosure rates have buoyed talk of recession. However, historically some of the most successful businesses emerged from such times. Microsoft, NASDAQ and Oracle started during a similar period during the mid 70s. Despite the economic woes in the wider environment, Green continues to grow as many consumers remain committed to buying environmentally less harmful products and services.

Next: Why Green Remains Viable Even in an Economic Downturn

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biden's Green Record Speaks for Itself

Joe Biden, Obama's running mate is a friend of the environment, he has represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 35 years, during this time he has consistently voted with environmentalists. A brief summary of his environmental record speaks for itself.

"I personally believe that the single most important step we can take to resume a leadership role in international climate-change efforts would be to make real progress toward a domestic emissions-reduction regime. For too long we have abdicated the responsibility to reduce our own emissions, the largest single source of the problem we face today. We have the world's largest economy, with the highest per-capita emissions. Rather than leading by example, we have retreated from international negotiations."

- Joe Biden

Key Points

- Primary cosponsor of a "Sense of the Senate" resolution calling on the U.S. to participate in U.N. climate negotiations.

- Cosponsor of the Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, the most stringent climate bill in the Senate. It would establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions and require the U.S. to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

- In 2007, during his most recent run for president, called for raising fuel-economy standards for automobiles to an average of 40 miles per gallon by 2017 by increasing fuel-economy targets within vehicle classes by about one mile per gallon per year.

- Called for increasing ethanol and biodiesel production by upping the national renewable-fuel standard to require that the fuel supply include 10 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year by 2010 and 60 billion gallons a year by 2030.

- Called for 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply to come from renewable sources.

-Sponsor of the FLIP-to-SAVE bill (clever acronym alert! FLIP to SAVE Fluorescent Lightbulb Implementation Program to Save Americans Value and Energy), which would provide $50 million in grants to states to distribute compact fluorescent light bulbs and educate people about them, giving priority to low-income households.

- Cosponsor of the bipartisan Fuel Economy Reform Act, which would raise vehicle fuel-efficiency standards by 4 percent, or approximately one mile per gallon, each year. The measure includes tax incentives to help automakers retool their factories toward this goal.

- Sponsor of the American Automobile Industry Promotion Act of 2007, which would support research and development of electric car motors and batteries and would define the term biodiesel to include diesel fuel made from municipal solid waste, animal waste, sludge, and oil derived from wastewater or the treatment of wastewater.

- Sees a potential role for nuclear energy, but says the problem of how to store nuclear waste needs to be dealt with. Says he would invest heavily in finding a safe storage solution and developing ways to reconfigure spent fuel into reusable fuel

- In 2007, during his most recent run for president, proposed requiring that all cars marketed in the U.S. be flex-fuel capable by 2017.

- Wanted to require major gas stations to add more biofuel pumps.

- Proposed requiring the federal government to get 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and gradually increase to 20 percent after that.

- To promote energy efficiency, wanted to update building codes, expand the Energy Star program to include more appliances and commercial systems, and increase incentives for more efficient commercial buildings and manufacturing systems.

- Called for the U.S. to spend $100 million a year on research and development of lithium-ion batteries, which could be used in plug-in hybrids.

- Wanted to reinstate Superfund's "polluter pays" fees -- a tax on chemical and oil companies that goes to pay for cleanup of toxic sites around the U.S.

- Opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

- Voted against the final version of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, a sweeping, oil-friendly energy bill opposed by enviros. The act passed, and Bush signed it into law in August 2005.

- Cosponsored the Clean Power Act of 2005, which would have implemented a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

- In 2002, voted against storing nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain repository now being built in southern Nevada.

- Cosponsored legislation in 2001 and again in 2004 to renew a debt-for-nature program that allows some debt owed to the U.S. to be put into forest conservation funds.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin is No Friend of Green

Sarah Palin's environmental record gives us reason for concern. Palin sued the Interior Department over its decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species and she supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. According to Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of Earth Action "[Palin] supports the brutal aerial hunting of wolves. And she has been a friend of Big Oil, opposing a windfall profits tax on the oil industry that could fund affordable clean energy for more Americans. Palin’s addition to the ticket underscores the difference between the candidates on environmental issues. The McCain-Palin ticket is a recipe for energy disaster."

"With the pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his running mate, John McCain's race towards the Bush administration's failed energy policy is now complete," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "He has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding Big Oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts...."

Next: Bidon's Record on Green

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Drill Baby Drill

The McCain/Palin energy policy is best summarized by the "drill baby drill" chants heard at the Republican National Convention. As one conservative commentator put it "We should drill like a field full of randy rabbits." Given McCain's position on energy and the Bush administration's abysmal environmental record (including recent efforts to undo the Endangered Species Act), the Republican position on the environment is clear. Defiantly pledging to drill for oil in ecologically fragile areas does nothing to address the real energy challenges of the future. Even amongst Republicans it is widely accepted that "We can't drill our way out of this."

The McCain energy plan to drill for oil ignores the important efforts required for a sustainable future (through modest conservation efforts alone it is entirely possible to reduce energy consumption between 7-10%). We need legislation that reflects an energy strategy, we need to increase renewable energy sources, and energy efficiency. Reducing oil consumption also has the additional effect of stabilizing pricing.

Rather than further eroding delicate eco-systems by drilling for oil, the Republican presidential hopeful should be focusing on diversifying America's energy economy by encouraging venture capitalists in the renewable energy sector. McCain does not get it, America needs to focus on energy in a methodical way, this entails federal support for innovation, conservation, and alternatives. McCain's energy strategy is not a strategy at all, it is yet another installment of Republican subterfuge.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School

Educational establishments from grade schools to universities are increasingly going Green. These efforts include the small things like conservation and recycling all the way up to building more energy efficient infrastructures. Many employ diligent recycling programs for paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, and cans. These recycling programs benefit the schools by reducing waste transportation expenses and by generating cash through the sale of recyclable materials. Others work on more comprehensive carbon reduction programs. Some schools are now using geothermal energy for heating and cooling, urinals that don’t use water and furniture made from the trees felled to make room for the school.

Some school cafeterias have switched from Styrofoam to washable and reusable trays, cups and flatware. Others have replaced paper handouts with CDs, online forms and email memos. Still others use VOC-free materials, cisterns to capture rainwater from the roof, solar tubes to minimize the need for artificial lighting and preferred parking spaces for low-emissions and fuel-efficient cars.

The Princeton Green Review rates institutions of higher learning on a Green scale. Recently they indicated that 11 colleges received a perfect score. Arizona State University (Tempe campus); Bates College in Lewiston, Maine; College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine; Atlanta’s Emory University; the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; State University of New York at Binghamton; the University of New Hampshire in Durham; the University of Oregon in Eugene; the University of Washington in Seattle; and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Harvard has instituted a $12 million revolving loan fund for green campus projects. The University of Miami has banned on-campus cars for all incoming freshmen. Instead students are encouraged to use fuel-efficient cars available through a university partnership with Zipcar. The Zipcar option will also be offered at Maine’s Bowdoin College. Other institutions like The University of Florida in Gainesville, have launched a campaign entitled “One Less Car Challenge” to encourage students, faculty members and staff to reduce individual car travel. Students and teachers appear to be making an effort to limit the amount of paper we use. Teachers are now using more electronic media. And some students are being given the option to turn in assignments electronically. Teachers can also using the blackboards rather than handouts.

It is not only the older kids who are interested in Green. Younger children play important roles, both as catalysts for change and as Green consumers. New on the market this fall is the “Big Kid Eco Pack” a backpack made with nylon which is created from recycled plastic drinking bottles, trimmed with naturally biodegradable canvas.

When paper is necessary many are using recycled paper and using less of it. Small changes can make a big difference. Educational establishments also play a salient role in raising awareness and this is perhaps the most important role they play in support of the Green revolution.