Thursday, July 16, 2009

Co-op advertising is a green choice

Despite the huge growth in online advertising, paper ads are here to stay. Magazines, direct mail, flyers, newspaper ads and inserts all remain popular choices for getting messages to potential buyers. Even green companies need to advertise.

But as a green business, we face a unique dilemma. How can we reach the print media reader without compromising our green standards?

Think about it: Sending out 100,000 direct mail pieces touting an environmentally-friendly company raises a host of issues, from paper choices to the carbon impact of the delivery vehicles to waste generation. And yet, we cannot afford to miss the chance to reach customers, if we want to remain in business.

While we can make greener choices in the paper and inks we select, the old-fashioned practice of co-op advertising can offer an even greater benefit for the earth, and potentially, for our businesses.

The concept is simple. Two or more companies offering complementary services or products advertise together on one flyer or in one magazine or insert ad.

The immediate benefit is less paper, less ink and less trash generated to have two or more on one page instead of each separately. But there is another plus....

Co-op advertising allows businesses to offer a more complete line of services or products to each customer. For instance, a green lawn care service can co-op with an organic plant nursery, so potential customers can buy the plants they need and find the service to care for their landscaping, all in one ad. A green energy products company could co-op with a contractor who uses environmentally friendly building methods. By meeting both needs, you increase the chance that a customer will act on the ad.

This works for B2B clients, too. In the case of the sponsors of this blog, MyStatePosters, they could do a co-op ad with a green cleaning supply company giving restaurant owners a way to buy green cleaning products and green labor law materials, all from one ad. Both are necessary but not exciting products a restaurant needs -- how convenient to find both in one ad.

Co-op advertising isn't new. I have paper church fans and ad cards from the late 1800's and early 1900's that used the same technique to draw customers into related stores, or even into the same part of town (shop here, eat next door.) Who knew they were so green way back then?