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Carrier makes big impression with smaller carbon footprint

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Objective: First Global Xpress needed a way to differentiate itself in the crowded and competitive courier market. Strategy: The company altered its business model, reducing its carbon footprint by reducing the number of miles it flew, and communicated the new strategy in its print, search, e-mail and Web site marketing. Results: The courier company has seen an influx of new customers that also care about reducing their carbon footprints. First Global Xpress (FGX) CEO Justin Brown wanted his business courier company to be on the short lists already occupied by two industry giants, FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service. But Brown, who also handles the 8-year-old, New York-based company's marketing, knew that whatever strategy he used had to be completely different than those of his big-league competitors. After trying to determine the direction the business courier industry might take over the next two to five years, he decided that greening FGX was a good place to start. About 18 months ago, FGX “lopped off” mileage from its existing courier flights by offering a service that would ship customer packages predominantly on direct flights. (Typically, courier packages pass through three or four waypoints before reaching their final destinations.) Almost immediately, the company's new direction created unique business opportunities and a ready-made marketing strategy. “Our clients are strategizing on how to operate a business in a carbon-regulated environment,” Brown said. FGX advertised its new business model in print as well as on a completely redesigned Web site, e-mail marketing, thank-you cards and other sales-related collateral. The result of the new strategy has been savings—both in time and money. Interestingly, however, even though FGX has reduced its customers' costs and shipping times considerably—one fragrance manufacturer actually saw a 30% cost reduction and deliveries that are 24 hours faster—the company's marketing underplays cost savings. Instead, it focuses on its green orientation because, Brown said, customers respond to “authenticity and humanity” more than to slick marketing messages. “The way [the new strategy] looks and feels, and the conversations it starts, are completely opposite of what we used to do,” he said. FGX's Web site is one example. What had been a quintessential shipping company site—featuring lots of hard lines, white and blue colors and messaging about quick delivery—became a site characterized by green, plenty of white space and the new tag line, “Ship greener. Ship direct.” There's also plenty of green-related copy as well as a “green thermometer” that displays FGX's efforts to make its own operations greener and a ShipGreener blog, which often introduces information about environmental and humanitarian topics. A link that allows site visitors to sign up for a free green audit is another feature. FGX supported the Web site by adding a dozen green keywords and phrases—especially in its blog, which is written by Brown. One recent posting discussed how the company switched to an Energy Star-compliant air conditioning unit. Today, 55% of FGX's Web traffic comes directly from organic search results. While Brown didn't track Web site traffic origination before the site redesign, he believes it has increased. Other marketing programs are benefiting from the greening as well. Measurements of the company's e-mail marketing, which goes out via Salesforce.com's e-mail marketing tool, have improved. Click-throughs are up considerably, Brown said, noting that eight months ago the company's e-mail marketing campaigns saw a click-through rate of 4%; that is now at 12%. It all comes back to the green positioning, he said. “Two years ago we would have had e-mail subject lines like "Shipping faster; shipping cheaper' but now it's "Routing optimization' and "How can we help you green your supply chain?' The customers really love it,” Brown said. M
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