danniewriter

Embrace something new

I’ve been collecting articles and infographics for a while now, searching for resources that will inspire owners/leaders of local small businesses and non-profits to try something new in their marketing for 2019.

Of all the infographics I’ve seen lately, this one from Larry Kim and MobileMonkey, Inc. seemed especially useful. Take a moment to look over each suggestion, and I bet you will find an example in your universe of work or philanthropy.

Can’t see it? Call me and I’ll help you connect the dots. I’d love to meet you, and the first consultation is free of charge.

The second resource comes from Forbes, and is a tad highfalutin in my opinion, but there are some immensely valuable insights here for a business or non-profit that is struggling to make a go of it right now.

Don’t get bogged down with the techno-speak and alphabet soup … yes, I had to look up some of the stuff mentioned here. Instead, focus on those broad principles that the author, Billee Howard, has shared.

Check out the “about” and “services” sections on my blog, then schedule an appointment. I live and work on the Gulf Coast, so don’t let the Kentucky area code confuse you. I’d love to meet you and to learn more about your business/organization.

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Small business marketing on a shoestring

 

May is a time to celebrate small businesses. In our mail-order/drive-thru/cookie-cutter existence, you, small business owners, give our lives and communities character, color, and identity. Thank you.

I’ve written frequently about how tough it is for small business owners to think proactively and for the long-term when immediate concerns are so, well, immediate. I don’t have any answers to a lack of time, but I’ve run across some tips and resources that can help you market on a shoestring.

Writing for Forbes, Mike Kappel has seven tips for small budgets. Note: It has never been easier to start a website or blog than it is right now. If you’ve been putting it off, don’t. Start with a simple, one-page site with a concise description of what you do, where you are, and how customers can reach you. Make sure the site looks good on smart phones and tablets.

If you feel like your business gets lost among your competitors during the big annual sales, consider picking a new date for a promotion. Small Business Trends has some ideas, and a comprehensive list of lesser-known “holidays” and annual awareness campaigns. (Remember, May is National Small Business Month.) Don’t get lost in the crowd; find your own day and start making plans.

Need some inspiration? Check out the companies that the U.S. Small Business Administration singled out for recognition in their annual awards. Read their stories. Take a look at their websites. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m willing to be that you’ll find at least one marketing idea that you will be able to implement immediately.

Are you ready to write a marketing plan for your business? The SBA has a section of its website devoted just to sales and marketing. It includes a sample of a marketing plan to help get you started.

If you know you need to do a better job marketing, but can’t seem to find the forest for the trees, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

 

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Tell your story with enthusiasm

No one “just” runs his own business or “just” leads a community non-profit organization.

Use the word “just,” and suddenly you are saying that who you are, and what you do is ordinary.

I’d be willing to bet it isn’t.

The story of your business/organization is unique. You’d probably be surprised to learn how interested your customers/supporters are to hear those stories.

Business/organizational leaders who wear multiple hats and direct small staffs don’t have much time for brainstorming, or what I sometimes refer to as “bellybutton gazing.” That’s why I really like Tami Brehse‘s approach to storytelling as marketing. Brehse, a former television news anchor, runs her own marketing and public relations consultancy in Florida.

A column she wrote about how to use storytelling to develop your company’s brand was distilled nicely into this infographic:

She also provides a free worksheet that will help you clarify your thoughts. From these simple tools you can develop the story of your company/organization that your audience is itching to hear.

If you need assistance in telling that story, don’t hesitate to contact me. The initial consultation is free.

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Toxic Trolling Takes a Toll

Writing for Thrive Global, Gigi Falk recently shared a post filled with links to great articles about cyber bullying and the generally toxic online environment we have today. There are fascinating advances in technology working to pinpoint trolls and shut them down. Additionally, mental health experts are going on record that the uncontrolled rage exhibited in online discourse is resulting in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other ills. (Go figure.)

It is easy to fall into the trap of passionately arguing a position without listening to those with whom we disagree, however, when that occurs, we are only making noise. If the point of our discourse is to persuade others to agree, or at the very least, understand, our point of view, it makes no sense to unload profanities, obscenities, insults, and other toxic rhetoric. What troubles me is that, for the worst of the trolls among us, there’s really no interest in persuasion. Having been given the capability of free and instant expression, the best that many of us can do is to use it as a weapon.

Falk’s post points out that, in addition to the technological advances in fighting cyber trolling, a group of German activists have developed a program, Zero Trollerance, to actually reform cyber bullies. Time will tell if the program has legs. If so, I hope it will be replicated on a global scale.

Illustration: Trolls don’t think very fast. This one has been caught by daylight and is now becoming a mountain. Lore tells us that most Norwegian mountains are made of trolls like this one. (Copyleft: This is a free work, you can copy, distribute, and modify it under the terms of the Free Art License http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en/)

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ICYMI: Great email tips for non-profits

July is here, so it is all hands on deck for the rest of 2017 for non-profit organizations. It’s time to finalize designs and themes for holiday- and end-of-year giving campaigns. Now is the time to make decisions about direct mail, advertising, and video promos.

Now is also a great time to add potential donors to your email list, and thoughtfully schedule when those messages will be delivered.

Scott Paley, co-founder and CEO of Abstract Edge, has some great advice for both activities.

The blog post, “An Easy Way to Build Your Email List,” is one that must be read in its entirety. Paley makes a clear distinction between adding addresses that might become here-today-and-gone-tomorrow prospects, and real leads that eventually become donors.

A second post from Paley might seem to fly in the face of common sense: Sending the same email to the same contact more than once.

Common sense screams that such repetition invites unsubscribes from your list, but Paley points out that, depending on the size of your list, just about every email you send will result in a few unsubscribes. By adding “ICYMI” or a similar tag to your original subject line, you are letting your contact know that the content you are sending is a re-run. It’s an exercise in integrity, and it lets the prospect know that you really consider the content important, and not something you are trying to “dress up” as something new.

I think this is well worth a try for your next email marketing campaign.

If you need some fresh ideas on communicating with your existing or potential donor base, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

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Take time to get inspired

The U.S. Small Business Administration realizes that small business owners are often too busy to attend the many great activities that the administration offers during National Small Business Week … because you are busy attending to your small business. That’s why they stream many of those events online.

Check out this year’s line-up here.

Why not schedule some time next week to listen to the speakers, and most importantly, fellow small business owners, for fresh ideas on marketing, promotion, and partnerships? Regarding the latter, check out all the resources on the SBA website and start building a network among your fellow business owners to promote Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25) 2017 in a really big way.

Want to learn from some of your peers? There are links to this year’s SBA award winning businesses from this page.

Case studies can be helpful resources, too, if you are seeking new marketing ideas. Here are a couple from Writtent:

And if you need help once you get that marketing inspiration, give me a call. Your initial consultation is free.

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Choose to accept this mission

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Remember Mission: Impossible? I loved that show, especially the opening scene when Mr. Phelps received details about the next Cold War caper upon which his team would embark. The serious voice on the audio tape always told Mr. Phelps that he had the option to refuse a mission, but of course, he never did.

I suppose the creation of a mission statement is, in the strictest sense, optional, but it is unwise to forego the exercise. This is especially important for non-profit organizations. Many businesses are self-explanatory, although many successful businesses also craft effective mission statements, but a non-profit without a clear and compelling mission statement is like a ship without a rudder. Additionally, the mission statement is the point from which your marketing and communications efforts flow. Again and again you will return to it to clarify your strategy when too many ideas, often many of them excellent, muddy the waters.

Always ask yourself, and your staff, if a proposed letter, ad, blog post, project, or event clearly supports your stated mission.

To get started, check out this 75-second (yes, only 75 seconds!) video from TopNonprofits. It’s excellent.

For inspiring examples, follow their suggestion and check out the accompanying article.

Pressed for time? Set a limited amount of time to work on this project, perhaps an hour per week, until you get it nailed down. Bounce ideas off staff, key supporters, and board members.

I would love to assist you in crafting your organization’s mission statement. Please give me a call.

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Writer at work

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I get it. You are a busy small-business owner who is marketing on a shoestring. Or perhaps you lead a community non-profit that relies almost exclusively on volunteer labor. It would take a walk-in closet to store all the hats you wear. It’s laughable to think of taking a class or even attending a seminar to improve your writing skills. English class was a long time ago, and sometimes you aren’t sure about a verb tense or word choice. You know you could get more views and click-throughs on your social media posts if you could punch up your copy, but there’s never any time.

The next time you are in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room, find yourself a few minutes early to pick up the kids, or every open checkout at the grocery store is stacked four deep, take a few minutes to learn, or more likely, re-learn a little something about good writing with these resources:

How Not to Confuse These Commonly Confused Words from Writer’s Relief

12 Twitter Accounts That Will Make You a Better Writer from HootSuite

Be a Better Writer in 15 Minutes: 4 TED-Ed Lessons on Grammar and Word Choice

30 Power Words that Convert on Social Media by Chelsea Alves on Classy.org

Still stuck? A professional wordsmith isn’t as pricey as you think. Give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

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Embrace role of ‘own worst enemy,’ then learn

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The saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

You may think peace, love, and a chicken in every pot when you hear the phrase. It’s likely that was the original intent of the author, however, for someone who frequently shares advice on writing, marketing, public relations, and other topics, the mandate resonates for the more mundane, too. Examples:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Links
  • Contact information
  • Call to action

In other words, the blogger/consultant’s equivalent to making sure the proverbial fly is zipped.

A couple of resources I happened on since last week have driven this point home. Now, both of these authors offer products and services, and if that is off putting to you as a shoestring marketer (such as myself), I encourage you not to tune out. There’s excellent insight here even if you don’t purchase a thing.

First up is Courtney Johnston’s post about email marketing from her company, The Rule Breaker’s Club. I found myself nodding as I read. A bonus is her assurance that email marketing has not gone the way of the Dodo, MySpace, or the Blackberry. Email is free, free, free. If you aren’t using it consistently and strategically (and yes, somewhat sparingly) for marketing and fundraising, you are making life tougher on yourself.

Johnston points out several things I need to be doing, and I also like the fact that she cops to having her own struggles in some of these areas.

A much more comprehensive “best practices” piece comes from Social Media Examiner. It didn’t take long for me to get a bit overwhelmed, and even slightly discouraged, at seeing the number of loops I have yet to close in my own work. And that’s what it’s about, closing loops.

It won’t help your business to introduce a great new product or service if the link to your online catalog is broken, or if the street address ends with the word “Lane” instead of “Boulevard.” (Try doing the latter in Atlanta with the word “Peachtree” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

Are you a non-profit communicator? What good is a heartfelt challenge or appeal without giving your prospective donors and volunteers a starting point to meet that challenge? When is your office open to receive volunteers? How secure is your online giving tool? Where’s the list of donations? Is it posted online and in a print-friendly format?

That’s loop closing.

Are there times when I am my worst enemy? You bet. But rather than be overwhelmed by Ben Sailer’s excellent post on Social Media Examiner, I’m going to print it out and use it as a checklist with the goal of addressing a few of these each week until I knock them all out.

Need some help closing your own loops? Give me a call.

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The power of words

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Writing is a pretty basic skill, yet not everyone has retained spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills from their school days. If you are a small-business owner, or direct a community non-profit organization, chances are you are the primary writer, whether it’s a website, letters to donors, advertising copy, or a few lines of text on social media.

Poorly constructed writing can devastate your brand. It’s money in the bank for you to

  • Take your time.
  • Read your copy aloud.
  • Ask someone to proof your work before you post or print.

Here are a couple of resources to bookmark to provide you with guidance, tips, and inspiration when it comes to wordsmithing.

A Writer’s Relief infographic of commonly misused and confused words is an excellent “cheat sheet” to print out and keep handy, or to bookmark and return to as often as you need the reminder.

In the Mad Men era of advertising, it took big bucks to research the effectiveness of messaging. Today, it’s a matter of a Google search and taking the time to give more than a cursory glance at the reputation of the source you’re considering. One that I’ve found, in addition to Writer’s Relief, is Ellipsis. Ivy Sprague, manager of operations, penned this very helpful piece on words that work. Try to incorporate these in your promotions.

If you still lack confidence in your skills, give me a call. A wordsmith of your own may be more affordable than you think.

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