danniewriter

Old school still works

mailbox

Small businesses ignore social media at their own peril, however, so-called “old school” communications still have a part to play in promoting goods and services to your potential customers.

The United States Postal Service has seen better days, and like many governmental entities, the post office can be a headache to deal with, but in some cases there simply is no substitute.

Every Door Direct Mail is an example of what the post office does effectively. If you depend on holiday sales for your bread and butter and only do one mailing annually, the EDDM method could be perfect for your business.

The biggest advantage of EDDM: You don’t have to create or purchase a mailing list.

Like a social media presence, an up-to-date mailing list for your small business is a must, but if you are just getting started, the Every Door method is definitely the way to go.

It’s a no brainer for grand openings/re-openings, too.

The online tool helps you focus your efforts within a few miles of your small business by city and ZIP code. There is a minimum mailing of 5,000 pieces and EDDM offers a great deal of flexibility on the size and design of your mail piece. The tool guides you through the entire process.

Fill up those mailboxes in advance of Small Business Saturday Nov. 29. Need help developing a plan? Contact me at danniewriter@gmail.com or (502) 432-8725.

 

Giving Tuesday is Dec. 1

givingtuesday

I’ve written about Small Business Saturday, a campaign to get holiday shoppers to support local merchants. It’s sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and this year falls on Nov. 29. It is a great opportunity for small, local businesses to work together to promote their products and services.

After Cyber Monday is a relatively new initiative, Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1 this year), which encourages shoppers to support worthy causes in their communities, across the U.S. and around the world. It’s a great way to give people an altruistic outlet for the season of “good will toward men.”

Established in 2012 by the 92nd St. Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday encourages shoppers to include worthy non-profits on their gift lists.

Last year, I gave gifts to World Vision on behalf of my close family members. Sure it’s fun to buy questionable sweaters and other gifts to place under the tree, but in recent years I’ve found myself purchasing more and more gift cards, which is pretty much the definition of impersonal. I’ve made plenty of missteps in the gift giving department over the years, so it is gratifying to purchase a piece of a reputable non-profit’s mission.

There are many free ideas and resources to help promote Giving Tuesday 2015 at www.givingtuesday.org. I also ran across an interesting infographic on the subject by MobileCause, a cloud-based fundraising and marketing program. The data in the infographic came directly from Giving Tuesday’s records. What impressed me most in the data:

  • Giving Tuesday donations jumped from $19 million in 2013 to more than $45 million in 2014.
  • Last year there were more than 754,000 Tweets posted with the hashtag #GivingTuesday.
  • To generate buzz about the effort, Giving Tuesday challenged supporters/donors of non-profits to post an UNselfie explaining why they choose to support their organization or cause.

If you are part of the leadership of a local non-profit, or if you donate your time and money and want to find out how to encourage others to come on board, visit the Giving Tuesday website. There are many resources for download at no cost.

There’s no time to waste! Dec. 1 will be here before your know it.

If you need assistance email me at danniewriter@gmail.com or call me at (502) 432-8725.

 

Meet Chip

chip

For years I’ve been visiting a local pet supply store across the street from my home. The Kentucky Humane Society has a small headquarters there, as it does in other Feeders Supply stores throughout Louisville, and always has several cats and dogs available for adoption.

In all my previous visits, the canines up for adoption have been too large and/or high energy for my small place, or the animals were up in years and I didn’t feel as though I had the financial means to give them the care they would require.

Last week, though, I saw Chip.

He’s about two years old and in good health. The vet tells me Chip was born with the problem to his right eye. I’m not sure if he can see anything out of it, but as far as I’m concerned, it only adds to his character.

While I do not condemn others for dressing up their pets, I’ve always done a little eye roll when I’ve seen photos of dogs and cats subjected to such treatment. However, now that I have Chip, I admit there is an urge to get him an eyepatch and pirate costume for Halloween. I hope I can contain myself.

He’s quite the charmer and was already housebroken, so I almost feel guilty for getting such a great pet so easily.

If you are looking for a pet, I encourage you to try adoption first. Sure everyone loves puppies and kittens (and quite often there are some fur babies at the KHS) but there are so many “extra” adult dogs and cats out there today, it is a great way to fill your need for canine/feline companionship while also doing the right thing for your community.

Connecting with donors

switch

There’s a great Far Side cartoon that depicts a man trying to correct a dog for an offense. In the first panel, titled “What we say,” the man is scolding: “I’ve had it, Ginger! Stay out of the garbage. Do you hear me, Ginger? Bad dog, Ginger.” In the second panel, titled “What they hear,” the dog interprets, “Blah, blah, Ginger! Blah, blah, blah, Ginger,” etc.

Working for non-profits for many years, there were times when I thought my communication skills were no better than that guy’s. Every message sounded the same to my ears.

To my surprise, I learned that, in a lot of ways, it was supposed to sound the same.

Because I was working for a non-profit with a clear and compelling mission statement, I discovered that it was a sign of having your ducks in a row if the main point essentially sounded identical from donor letter to donor letter, feature story to feature story, video to video. Supporters prefer to contribute to organizations that know exactly what they are doing and why.

What should change is the way in which a non-profit frames it’s consistent message.

It is in that re-framing that a wonderful thing often occurs: The switch is turned “on” and suddenly someone who was on the fringe of your audience buys into the message that they really can be part of your mission. That, dear readers, is exciting.

There are several ways to re-frame your message to get those exciting moments of resonance with your audience. Priority One is to include in every exchange a specific call to action. People want to help but most don’t have a lot of time so it’s up to you to give them solid suggestions. (I’ve altered my examples below for a variety of non-profits.)

Get specific with what a gift can do.

  • How much does it cost to care for an abandoned dog or cat for one week? Make that exact figure, or one like it, a giving option in print and online forms.
  • Itemize a grocery list to feed a family of four for one week and ask donors to provide it for your food pantry.
  • What does it take to fill a bag of personal-care items for a homeless man or woman, a nursing home resident, or the single mom of an infant? Get specific with the items and give supporters the option of contributing money or in-kind donations.

Provide something tangible for your donors as a way to keep your mission in front of them.

  • Bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, bracelets and more can serve as reminders to donors to continue their support. (Regarding give-away items such as pens, magnets, etc., don’t get the cheapest item available, no matter how tempting the price may look.)
  • Some items, such as bookmarks, can be incorporated into print materials. A creative graphic artist can help you brainstorm.

Tell stories

  • Brief stories about someone your organization has helped can be the approach that flips the “on” switch for many donors. Leave out identifying information to protect your clients’ confidentiality. Tell their story with accuracy as well as heart.
  • For those who are open to telling their own story, give them an opportunity to say “thank you” to donors. This could be done by publishing excerpts from letters, original art work, brief snippets of a video interview, etc. Be sure the client is informed and agrees, in writing, to the ways in which you intend to use what they share with you.

The year-end giving season is practically upon us. Don’t miss an opportunity to re-tell your mission in creative ways. If you need help, email me at danniewriter@gmail.com or call (502) 432-8725.

 

Laboring on Labor Day

shop

If you are working today, this post may be for you.

But first, a history lesson, because I’m a geek that way.

Most people probably know that Memorial Day and Labor Day were not created as bookends to the unofficial summer season. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that most people know the history of those holidays.

As an unapologetic history nerd, here’s a link to the story, as told by the U.S. Department of Labor: http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm

And on an almost completely unrelated topic, PBS is releasing the re-mastered “The Civil War” beginning tonight. If you’ve yet to see Ken Burns’ groundbreaking series, shame on you. Check out the story on remastering a masterpiece: http://tinyurl.com/pwstpx6

Now, back to Marketing Monday!

If you are working today, thank you. More than likely you are in a job that makes it possible for millions of other people to have just about anything and everything at their fingertips for the holiday. If you are hoping to snag tourists at your restaurant, bakery or specialty store, I hope you’ve had a steady stream of customers.

Labor Day marks the start of the sprint to the finish for retailers everywhere. Maybe this year you meant to tear yourself away from the everyday bustle of the business in order to develop a marketing plan, explore online opportunities or rally the retailers in your area for a blow-out holiday promotion.

If some of that happened, good for you! If not so much of that happened, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t throw in the towel just yet.

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 29.

American Express is the “proud sponsor” of Small Business Saturday, and I’m sure they’d love nothing more than for you to start accepting their cards from customers, as well as, you starting a small-business account with them, but you don’t need either of those things to take advantage of the website, shopsmall.com.

There’s a section on how to rally merchants and the community together to make the day fun and rewarding. The recommendations don’t come from some snooty economist or the like, they come from people just like you who got together, decided to try something new, and it worked.

If nothing else, visiting this site should get your creative juices flowing to generate your own ideas. You are the expert on your business, sometimes it’s just a matter of taking the time to step away from the store, the cash register or the computer to think about these things.

Find a quiet place, grab a cup of coffee and a legal pad and get thinking now. The grunt work comes in November but you should have your plans and your print promotion and advertising mapped out and budgeted by Oct.1 at the latest.

Happy Labor Day.

 

Suddenly, it’s September

sept

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” is one of my cousin Larry’s favorite quotes. Author and cartoonist Allen Saunders first penned the saying in 1957. Later, John Lennon tweaked it a bit for his 1980 song, “Beautiful Boy.”

Our family has had our fair share of unexpected twists and turns, so Larry has had good reason to use this particular nugget of wisdom often over the years.

The Yiddish proverb, “Man plans; God laughs,” is equally apropos at times, although I reject the notion that the Lord laughs at our misfortunes.

This year, I experienced the unexpected, which is one of the reasons that I started a blog only to temporary abandon it.

But, for better or worse, I’m back!

My hiatus taught me many things. Some of these lessons were pretty tough. Others were remarkably pleasant. The loyalty of my friends falls into the latter category.

My college friend, Kathy, was my most faithful pen pal during this time. She’s a busy woman, running her own pet-sitting business while also living and working her dream-made-reality as a professional musician. She also teaches clarinet to some lucky students in Atlanta.

Each card and letter she sent was cross between a lifeline and a Christmas present. And now it’s early September, which is about the time 32 years ago that we became friends. I wish I could pinpoint the date so I could send her a card every year thanking her for the gift of her friendship.

I treasure Kathy and my other friends who shared my journey from afar and have welcomed me back with open arms.

And now it’s September, a time of year I usually wring my hands and lament being late (or completely absent) for self-imposed deadlines, milestones and short- and long-term goals set early in the year.

But not this year.

So far in 2015, I’ve experienced life in all it’s absurdity, wonder, pain and joy. And I don’t think I would change a thing even if I could.

I figure I’m one of the last persons on the planet to give “life advice,” to anyone. As a wordsmith, PR officer and marketer, I have plenty to offer, so I’ll stick to that. But, if there’s anyone out there who may be tempted to wring his or her hands: Let’s make it a great September!

Thanks for reading.

 

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