April 19, 2011


reams of paperAre your biases getting in the way of your revenue? We each have our pet peeves.

This week, I've been criticized for using paper. Twice. Here are the crimes
  1. using 31 sheets (one per attendee) to collect feedback on a new talk
  2. using a personalized folder with 14 sheets of paper and a 32 page booklet to market my services
Please forgive any errors. I'm rushing to finish this post before the tree police arrive.

Touching A Service

The importance of saving trees varies with the situation. One meeting took place in a coffee shop. We used paper napkins, paper tea bags and paper cups. The connection is writing a book intended for print. Yet paper wastage was an issue.

Let's ignore other environmental issues, such as the consequences of driving. Neither of us arrived on foot or cycle.

If you sell an intangible service, paper is essential. Prospective clients like having something to touch. The quality of your printed material is a proxy for the quality of your service.

You may think that ditching paper means you're saving trees. Your clients may think you're scrimping, especially if your competitors have handouts. You lose. Explaining your rationale puts you on the defense. Even worse, you're wasting valuable time and attention. How does that bring in revenue?


Hotels tell us to reuse our towels to save the environment. Wonderful. They don't mention that they make more profit. We paid for daily towel changes but get no discount for saving the hotel money for laundry and room-cleaning.

Have you seen the "green" business cards that sell at ultra-premium prices? The vendors make much more money and some stick their advertising on the back. The cards look cheaper than usual and lack a nice semi-gloss (water-based) coating. If the vendor is committed to green, why not find ways to eliminate business cards, reduce the size or donate proceeds to environmental causes?

When you cut back on paper, you're reducing your costs for material and labour. Where's the corresponding benefit for your clients? Cutting back can look cheap and lazy. How would you know? Why take that risk?

Your Biggest Loss

The worst part is that you become judgmental. You look down on the paper-users. A non-green business card? Disgusting! One presenter told her audience that smoking is bad and to quit. She even pointed out smokers. That's offensive even to nonsmokers.

You may feel superior but when you judge others you risk revenue.

Other Ideas

You can save the planet in other ways. How about using recycled paper, printing on both sides of the page and making donations to environmental causes? You needn't tell anyone either.

As the world becomes more high-tech and cost conscious, the impact of what we touch grows. Maybe it's time to switch to higher grade paper. Remember the days of watermarks and fountain pens?


PS Money is still made with paper. Sorry trees.

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