Save the Trees! Tools to Prevent Paper Abuse
In my last nonprofit job, I worked for a direct response fund-raising agency, which was a fancy name for charity junk mailer. We used to buy mailing lists on behalf of notable charities and mail people fund-raising appeal letters.
At a average 2% conversion rate, unsolicited mailings would generate millions of dollars a year for a large, well known nonprofit. Yet ironically, many of the mailers sent on behalf of a well known environmental conservation agency came back with angry scrawled words, “Save the Trees! REMOVE!”
This tree means business. Better do what it says next time!
In a way, it was almost futile, as some of these people had donated to different charities, and the charities regularly sold their lists to each other. On top of that, if you were a subscriber to, say Outdoor magazine, your information would also eventually be purchased by one charity organization or another.
After a while, I eventually transitioned away from dead tree media and onto digital marketing. Since then, I’d given a lot of thought to how businesses can “Save the Trees!” To help you do just that, here are five tools you can use to avoid paper abuse.
1: A Web Information Portal
Rather than using handouts for all your company documents, try setting up a web portal. This can be done with paid software such as the Microsoft SharePoint platform, a free but difficult to navigate option like Google Docs, or — better — a choice that’s free and easy to use, like a WordPress site. All you need is a good business theme (such as Business Turnkey, which you can download for free), and you can integrate all your documents as pages within the blog.
There are various eFax services that let you send and receive faxes from a computer. Considering that these services start at just a few dollars a month — possibly less than you spend on paper and ink right now — signing up should be a no-brainer.
3: Store Sales Info Electronically
The sales process often gets involved in gratuitous paper abuse, and it’s probably not just because salesmen are pure evil (although, yes, they usually are). It’s because the “lead division” process (as well as other sales steps) is usually done by print.
Lead division can easily move to an electronic medium. A full-fledged system like SalesForce can even be integrated with WordPress-to-Lead to automate the contact-to-sales-call process, while other contact forms like Contact Form 7 and Easy Contact provide a more bare-bones but still functional alternative.
4: PDF Everything
PDF documents are the bread and Hershey’s chocolate sauce of the paper-saving process. These stable, well-formatted versions of your documents are easy to use, send, and view. What typically stands in the way is an inability to convert files to this format. Well, languish in despair and paper-wastage no longer! PDF995 is a “printer driver” that lets you convert anything you can print into a PDF document.
5: eSign Contracts
Need a document to be legally binding? Well, that doesn’t require paper and ink; in fact, it’s more likely that your finely scribed scrap of paper will be mauled by a rabid walrus, or otherwise suffer some terrible fate. Use an electronically signed document, such as those obtained through the EchoSign service instead.
You’ll save paper and make these important legal docs easier to organize and retrieve.
Keep on using services like the ones listed above and you may just avoid incurring the wrath of the trees. Even if not, at least you’ve saved a few dollars in office supply expenses.
Lorna Li is a social media expert and founder of a green marketing blog for green entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. Visit Green Marketing 2.0 for more great tips on how to use social media for green business. Follow Lorna on Twitter @lornali.
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