by Bekah Porter

CORRIDOR – Mike DeMuth could pass his top clients on the street and not recognize them.

“I’d say that more than 90 percent of my clients I haven’t met in person,” he said.

This lack of face-to-face meetings by no means signals a diminished capacity of caring for people. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

By doing business as he does, Mr. DeMuth says he is showing his clients just how much he cares for them and their environments.

Combining two niches

In 2005, Mr. DeMuth founded Eco Friendly Initiatives, a Hiawatha-based web site marketing and design company focused on search engine optimization.

But he did so with an unexpected twist.

In addition to designing web sites and making them appear higher on Google’s search engine list, Mr. DeMuth also wanted his new business to help clients be more environmentally friendly.

“We’re a green web site company,” he said.

This unique pairing of marketing and environmental focus came as Mr. DeMuth joined forces with longtime information technology worker Jeff Carey, who had started the grassroots environmental organization the Iowa Green Team. Mr. Carey wanted to branch out and provide businesses and schools with the awareness, tools and initiatives to become a bigger part of the green economy.

Thus the company was born, as well as the duo’s initiative, Turn Iowa Green, which fell under the marketing company’s umbrella.

Labeling itself as a “green marketing company,” Eco Friendly Initiatives went on to gain a couple hundred marketing clients nationwide.

Going green

Being a green marketing company does not mean only catering to environmentally friendly businesses.

“That’s absolutely not the case,” said Mr. DeMuth. “We have clients who by no means seek us out for our green certification.”

Instead, the company is green because of the environmental practices it implements, including:

Using a 100 percent e-mail-based billing and invoicing system
Using a Certified Green Hosting Company
Encouraging the use of web-based proposals instead of printed proposals
Reusing shipping materials
Participating in local recycling programs
“For me, it’s about doing more while using less,” he said.

This is why the company that does business nationwide works mainly from Mr. DeMuth’s Hiawatha home.

“Instead of jumping into our car and driving into Minneapolis to do business, we use e-mails and phones and other things that allows us to communicate without having a huge carbon footprint,” he said.

Additionally, by having the 15-plus employees work from their homes throughout the nation, the company manages to use less space, which in turn cuts down on company costs.

“I used to be part of a big advertising agency that had the great big offices and the huge board room with the large projection TV, and what we found out there was that we only had two or three people stop in and visit at this building that was costing a substantial amount of rent,” Mr. DeMuth said.

As web sites are meant to be an extension of the physical business, much of the company’s work is seeing the actual business in order to get a feel of what the site should contain.

“If it’s local, we can go and meet them, but otherwise, we have them send photos of their locations or we use web cams,” he said. “But we don’t have to have that huge building, and the nice thing about not having that large overhead is that we do the same amount of work and the same quality of work as the big agency, but we do it for a lot less. By being green, we are keeping our costs down and are passing along that savings to our clients.”

Another aspect of being a green company is reducing print marketing.

“There is definitely a time and a place for advertising in newspapers and magazines and trade publications,” Mr. DeMuth said. “In some cases, you need to use these mediums, absolutely. But for other clients, the print medium is not a great medium. It’s all about finding what works for you.”

While this green emphasis has attracted several companies, it has been just a perk for others.

“Some companies seek us out because of our green practices, but usually my clients don’t come to me because of these green initiatives,” Mr. DeMuth said. “They are coming because they want a good web site designed or they want a web site that’s not on Google’s fifth or sixth page.”

For this reason, marketing takes up almost 100 percent of his work schedule.

“Obviously, we’re spending all of our time on the marketing,” he said. “However, we are surrounded by our environmental practices. We’re recycling. We’re not using paper. We’re not commuting a lot. But it’s not a separate practice. It’s part of what we do every day.”

Strong future

Mr. DeMuth sees himself as strategically positioned to see the future for two niche markets — online marketing and green industry.

“I really do think that web sites are going to be on the forefront, and, if done correctly, they are going to stimulate job growth,” he said. “Think about this. If your presence online is your main image, then you can have a storefront off the beaten path, and that’s going to be cheaper. Nowadays, people will often see somebody’s website long before they go to the store and use the products and services. Web sites will become the number one image for a company.”

As for the green industry, Mr. DeMuth anticipates more companies incorporating environmentally friendly practices for one reason — cost savings.

“Especially since the economy is down, I think people are going to start realizing that they can save money in the long run by going green,” he said. “I think people are going to start paying attention to the type of windows they buy, the amount of paper and ink they use, the amount of energy used in having so many computers. I think you are going to find that green products are going to be more prevalent as time goes on.” CBJ