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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A Dickens of an impact

The frontispiece of the original printing of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (public domain photo)

I love movies, but am no longer someone who “must” see a film on opening weekend; sometimes I’m even a year late.

Falling squarely in the better-late-than-never category is The Man Who Invented Christmas, which I missed in 2017 but now intend to add to my “best Christmas movies” collection.

The film follows Charles Dickens’ frantic and very bumpy road in writing A Christmas Carol. His family in dire financial straits, Dickens needed a bestseller. A frequent speaker on the charity circuit after the tremendous success of Oliver Twist, Dickens was keenly aware of society’s poorest of the poor, even as he wrestled with personal money woes.

In reference to the title of the film, obviously, the celebration of the birth of Christ pre-dated Dickens’ lifetime, but how the day is celebrated definitely was impacted by the novella.

With the success of the small book, Dickens inexorably linked the holiday with overt expressions of compassion and generosity toward the less fortunate. In a 1998 article, The Washington Post shared examples of the book’s instant impact in 1843. Here is just one:

A young Robert Louis Stevenson was beside himself after reading A Christmas Carol for the first time: “I want to go out and comfort some one; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell me about not giving money— I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now.”

The book has never been out of print. It has been adapted for the screen dozens of times. It is performed on thousands of stages, small and large, every year. I would argue that every red kettle, every toy for a tot, is linked in some way back to this small book with its huge message.

I read it every Christmas, for no particular reason other than the sheer joy of experiencing Dickens’ words. Now, having watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, and having dug into the story behind the story a bit deeper, I love and appreciate it even more.

Just as the fortunes of every retailer rise and set on the period of Black Friday through Dec. 24, non-profits depend, mightily, on the public’s generosity this time of year. Without Dickens and his novella, how different that picture might be.

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Trends: Looking back; looking forward

Do a Google search on 2018 marketing predictions, and you will read about IoT (Internet of Things), Chatbots, live streaming, virtual reality–and that’s just scratching the surface. For small businesses and organizations, all that techno-speak can be overwhelming, especially if you handle your own marketing and public relations.

Take heart. In the midst of all this gadgetry and constant change, the experts also have a great deal to say about foundational, even old school, marketing techniques.

Here are some insights on 2017 marketing trends that came to pass, and predictions for 2018.

The site, B2C: Business to Community, shared a very helpful column by Sarah Hanney that focuses on marketing for small businesses. A blogger for Signkick, it’s not surprising that Hanney has something positive to say about outdoor advertising, but her perspective is sound, and there is a new take on how billboards, bus signs, and the like, can work in concert with digital media.

There are other approaches that Hanney, and other experts, mention that are as old as movable type, although the names have changed: purpose-driven, and influencer, marketing.

Mathew Sweezey puts it this way in a post for salesforce: “Marketing of the future must have a heart.” Now more than ever, consumers want to do business with companies that care about the communities in which they operate, in addition to a national, and sometimes, global community.

That sense of mission and integrity is really in demand today, and marketers and influencers are responding.

Consider Virat Kohli, a pro cricketer from India, who turned down what must have been a highly lucrative deal with Pepsi because he wanted to promote a healthier product. Read S. Swaminathan’s piece on Campaign India. His insights are helpful to all of us.

Celebrities are not the only “influencers” you can call on to market your products, services, or organization. Find out more about influencer marketing in a blog post by Joshua Nite for TopRank Marketing.

If you need help marketing your small business or community non-profit, give me a call. I can develop a plan for you that uses old-school and new-school media to get your message to the right audience. The initial consultation is free.

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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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The ‘old’ that is ‘new’ again

Previously I’ve mentioned in this space that print and direct mail are still viable marketing options. The USPS has recently compiled a great deal of research that drives that point home, but the specific audience consuming these hard copy communications methods might surprise you.

Millennials.

Yep, today’s “young-to-youngish” adults (born in the mid-1980s to early 2000s) are looking forward to going to the mailbox, just like I did when I was a kid.

Make no mistake, millennials are still plugged in. They likely are texting while going to the mailbox, but they are interested in catalogs, mailers, and old-fashioned letters. This is the crowd that, despite the affordability and availability of e-readers, likes the feel of a book in their hands. And because there is less material arriving in mailboxes today than in decades past, consumers are paying more attention to what is there.

As you develop your marketing and communications strategy, embrace the multi-channel approach, and include print and direct mail in the plan. Below are links to a couple of related posts on this topic that I have written previously. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like assistance in promoting your products, services, or causes.

https://danniewriter.com/2015/09/28/old-school-still-works/

https://danniewriter.com/2015/10/05/egon-got-it-wrong/

 

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A festival of failure

I ran across a couple of articles related to a new museum opening next month: The Museum of Failure.

Psychologist Samuel West came up with the concept. Here’s a takeaway for you as reported by Leah Fessler of Quartz Ideas: Every failure is uniquely spectacular, says West, while success is nauseatingly repetitive. True innovation requires learning from the complexities of each failure—a skill that, he says, most companies fail to hone. (Word of caution, if you are offended by f-bombs there are a couple in the last paragraph of the story. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2ouLvIa)

Examining spectacular failures is not a new way to turn a corner. Many brave people have done so as a prelude to major breakthroughs.

Running a business, or managing a community non-profit, isn’t easy. Everyone goes through times of doubt, and even setbacks. I encourage you to look for stories of big comebacks. Here are a couple to start:

If you need a fresh look at your marketing and promotion strategies, or maybe you need to create a strategy for the first time, give me a call. I’d love to help. The initial consultation is free.

 

 

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The point about touch points

In an exercise in taking my own advice, I’m

  1. Recycling content that I think has value, and
  2. Attempting to share posts that are concise … and brief.

A trendy term tossed around marketing circles is “touch point” which is mentioned in Dale Partridge’s excellent article on branding that I shared previously. Simply put, a touch point is every point in the customer/donor/employee process where those individuals interact with the company or organization. For example: Touch points for a small business could be a newspaper/TV/radio or online ad. A catalog, printed or digital, is another touch point. The process of making a donation and receiving an acknowledgement letter are a couple of touch points for non-profits. For your employees, touch points are the interview, hiring, training, performance evaluation, payroll and benefits processes.

No matter how small your business or organization is, it is a system that needs to be analyzed and reviewed frequently. You may find that your advertising and social media presence are effective, but customers are frustrated by the lack of parking near your store, or the online catalog that frequently times out before a sale is completed. Maybe your non-profit does a great job of quickly processing financial gifts, but it takes too long for acknowledgement letters to go out for in-kind donations. For your staff, maybe a failing touch point is in training or performance evaluations.

It’s easy to see that there are dozens of touch points that can impact your business/organization’s brand. As you gather data and feedback from customers/donors and staff, and make improvements, your brand will begin to stand out among your competitors.

If you need some assistance on finding out what your brand really is, give me a call. I’d love to help.

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The challenge of simplicity

Late last year, freelance content creator Matt Mansfield distilled 151 articles projecting marketing trends for 2017 into a glorious infographic. (I love infographics!) The article even comes with instructions on how to use the infographic depending on your interests and needs.

I’m glad there are marketing experts out there such as Mansfield, making sense of everything from analytics and chatbots to “ephemeral content,” but I’ll never be a Matt Mansfield.

I started this blog for small businesses and non-profits operating on shoestring marketing budgets that focus on free and do-it-yourself communications.

In short: I’m a peanut butter and jelly marketer.

As “the” expert about your business or non-profit, and most likely the “chief marketing officer,” it’s easy to lose a straightforward message amongst your intimate knowledge of all things organizational. That is when it is necessary to take a step back, remove your CEO hat and try to think like a consumer of that message.

A piece from Flee app creator Didac Hormiga on LinkedIn really spoke to me. Yes, there are marketing lessons to be learned from fortune cookies:

  • Make your message applicable to everyone.
  • Combine a product with a message.
  • Make your message short and sweet.

Nolan Berg, head of his own marketing consultancy, penned an equally straightforward and practical column after attending a Garth Brooks concert. I appreciated his insights.

If you own a small business, or are working to sustain a vital non-profit in your community, I encourage you to get organized and develop a marketing/PR plan to communicate a positive and compelling message. I think you will be amazed to see how it takes your mission to the next level. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me. My rates are reasonable and the initial consultation is free.

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Keeping track of success

Cute dog puppy

Last week we explored the myth of “truthful hyperbole” and I made three distinctions about content that passes the smell test. As a review, it should be based on:

  • internal research of my business and non-profit
  • statistics, other facts and opinions of reputable, and cited, sources
  • fairness and contextualization (Am I comparing apples to apples or applies to garden hoses?)

Let’s look more closely at the first item, internal research.

Those in public relations and marketing, as well as grant writers, are internal customers of business owners, key employees, CEOs, boards of directors and others. Our ads, press releases, billboards, videos, grant proposals, and social media posts are only as good as the data we are provided by an organization’s leaders.

Keeping track of the cost of your advertising and other marketing activities and calculating your return on that investment is vital, but that is a blog post for another day. I’m asking that you instead focus on data that you use in those advertising and marketing endeavors.

Rather than looking at data collection for public relations and marketing as a task separate from other necessary bookkeeping and record-keeping, look at the data you keep track of in the natural course of your work or mission.

For non-profits, the information on your IRS Form 990 can be a great source of positive statistics, if those facts are in line with characteristics sought most often by discerning donors. What are those? This article from Charity Navigator shares several, such as: “What is the percentage of every dollar donated that is spent on fundraising,” and, “How much does the CEO make annually?”

For small businesses, the approach is a little different. Are you tracking customer satisfaction through surveys, follow-up emails and phone calls? If you have a high percentage of your customers expressing enthusiastic satisfaction with their experience at your business, that’s a statistic worth sharing often and to a great many people.

Is your small business a major employer in your community? Are you recommended by the Better Business Bureau? If so, for how many years? What about positive ratings or accolades from the local Chamber of Commerce? Do you hire a significant number of military veterans, or perhaps individuals with disabilities? What other positive contributions do you make to your community through philanthropy, partnerships, and other initiatives?

Maybe you’re so busy running your small business you aren’t sure exactly where you stand? Here are a couple of articles that might help you gain perspective:

How To Know When It’s Time to Expand Your Business, from Value One

But Am I Making Any Money? from The Balance

Sharing positive, specific, and credible facts about your organization or business is a must for an effective communications strategy. Think of these facts as credible, reliable evidence submitted to the court of public opinion.

If you are ready to explore this or other marketing and communications issues for your business or non-profit, give me a call. I’d love to help.

 

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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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