Small-business Expert Interview: Shel Horowitz

DollarDays Blog is pleased to share the expertise of Shel Horowitz, ethical/green-marketing expert.

DollarDays Blog (DDB): Please describe your background and business expertise in a nutshell.

Shel Horowitz: I founded my own business in 1981 with a total investment of $200, of which $12 went for initial marketing. I am still in that business, although it has morphed several times and bears no relation to its original incarnation. These days, I break down the bulk of my work into these areas:

  • Marketing consulting, strategic planning, social media/PR strategy and copywriting emphasizing frugal, ethical, green approaches. My clients are primarily authors and publishers, small or micro-businesses, and nonprofits.
  • Helping unpublished writers become published authors.
  • Writing and speaking about frugal, ethical and green marketing and/or book publishing and marketing.

DDB: You describe yourself as an ethical/green-marketing expert. How does ethical/green marketing differ from ordinary marketing?

Horowitz: Ethical marketing does not overhype or mislead. I help companies find and harness the marketing value in the green initiatives they’ve undertaken [or] could undertake.

DDB: People tend to think of “green” anything as being more expensive and more complicated. Is that the case when it comes to marketing?

Horowitz: Nope. Done right, green and ethical marketing can cost less, build customer loyalty, open doors to strategic partnerships, and even turn marketing from a cost that brings in income only from its results into an actual revenue stream that brings in income through both the marketing itself and its results. For instance, you can get paid for speaking and writing, and those activities can lead directly to attracting more clients or customers.

DDB: One of your boldest arguments is that companies shouldn’t worry about marketshare because “marketshare doesn’t matter.” How can you say this? Shouldn’t small-business people be focused on becoming major players in their market? Or is this a comforting message for small-business people who generally don’t have the lion’s share of their markets, anyway?

Horowitz: Look at it this way. There are millions of people who need quality copywriting or who are trying to organize their thoughts into a published book. I can only serve the tiniest portion of them, anyway. If my calendar is full, what does it matter how much marketshare I have? This is true for all service businesses and many product businesses. The former CEO of Southwest Airlines criticized his competitors for chasing marketshare at the expense of profitability. Maybe it’s not a surprise that his was the only airline to stay profitable in the aftermath of 9/11. And yes, I think small businesses can take comfort from that.

DDB: Next year, you have a book coming out called Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green. First of all, please explain a bit about the definition and history of guerrilla marketing. Next, what does green guerrilla marketing look like?

Horowitz: Guerrilla Marketing is a concept invented by my co-author, Jay Conrad Levinson, in the mid-1980s. It’s the idea of being nimble in our thinking and our actions, seizing opportunities that are not open to big, cumbersome organizations that lack the agility to move fast. Guerrilla marketing is cheaper, more efficient, and makes it easier to build relationships with customers.

For instance, I can demonstrate guerrilla marketing in action by seizing this opportunity to tell your readers that they can get notified when the book is available by leaving their e-mail address at

Green guerrilla marketing takes it a step farther: as consumers become more aware of issues like climate change, buying local and so forth, they want to patronize companies that understand these green priorities. The new book shows a whole lot of ways to use green principles and commitment to ethics in order to place your company front and center in the prospect’s mind, so when that prospect is ready to become a customer, you’re the company that gets seen as green. If the customer knows your company is concerned about doing the right thing, you are well-positioned to get the sale.

DDB: You claim that businesspeople can slash their advertising costs while seeing better results. How?

Horowitz: I discuss many, many ways to do this in the book and in my individual consulting. Here’s one of my favorites: find a company or organization that already reaches your perfect audience, and show that company why they will benefit from exposing that audience to your message.

DDB: Let’s say I am a small-business person who wants to try something green in my marketing efforts, but I don’t where to begin. Where should I start, and how can I get my customers to notice and to care?

Horowitz: Start with an initiative that not only wins your customers’ hearts and minds, but also saves you money. For example, the hotel industry has successfully positioned their don’t-change-the-towels initiative as a green move, but it also gave them enormous savings on energy, water and labor costs.

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