How is your business known? What do your customers say about their experience with your product or service? Branding goes way beyond a logo, color scheme and brand usage guide. Before you get to any of that, you have to decide how you want to be known and go for creating that climate for your customers.
For example, when I get my hair done, I have a pampered experience with lots of fun conversation with my stylist. Of course, I come out with a great product – no more roots and beautiful highlights! – but what I also take away the memory of the experience and its something I look forward to every few weeks. Its not the stylist’s logo that keeps me coming back, its the experience she provides and that is her brand.
The same is said of Starbucks, Apple and McDonald’s. The Starbucks brand begins with the social model they’ve created in each store. You want to have that bold cup of coffee with the chance to meet up with someone you know while working on your laptop or smart device. Starbucks is selling you a social experience. And while Apple might be selling technology and innovation, what you’re buying is innovation and an obvious “cool” factor. McDonald’s isn’t selling you the greatest burger on the planet, nor are they claiming to. McDonald’s brand is consistent flavor and a generally speedy experience.
How do you want to be known? Are customers coming away from your business saying they want to shop with you again? Are you providing a consistent experience that people are talking about?
Branding includes many elements including your logo, advertising, store layout & lighting….and the consumer experience. Starting with the question “how do I want to be known?” will guide decision making in these other areas. For instance, your logo should try to reflect your brand’s personality. If your retail establishment prides itself on minimalism with a lot of space, flat edges and dark lines, your logo shouldn’t embody a lot of noise, curves and color.
Consistency is the key to successful branding. Decide who you are and how you want to be known, and from there your brand identity, advertising and other marketing materials will be easier to make decisions on without being entirely random or arbitrary. You won’t just pick a logo because its pretty, you’ll choose it because it coheres with the image you want to communicate about your business. Your brand will be remembered for the experience you provide. That experience is what differentiates your product or service from the competition. it will be recognized by your company or product logo.
These are non-negotiables. If you struggle in any of these areas, your ability to build a business will be seriously challenged. Of course, some entrepreneurs and long-time business owners are better at some of these points and build a team to close in on the other areas that are necessary for a successful business. For instance, if you’re not good at training staff, you can hire that out if your budget allows. But some things can never be outsourced. If your’e unable to make friends or even deal with failure, you’ll only be in business for a short time. What areas do you need to work on?
- Ability to manage money.
- Ability to raise money.
- Ability to relieve stress.
- Ability to be productive.
- Ability to communicate effectively.
- Ability to make friends
- Ability to identify strengths & weaknesses.
- Ability to hire and train staff.
- Ability to manage staff.
- Ability to do digital marketing.
- Ability to connect via social marketing.
- Ability to focus on your customers.
- Ability to close a sale.
- Ability to spot new trends.
- Ability to deal with failure.
- Desire to improve your world.
Nonprofit organizations are businesses, not unlike where you buy your groceries, get your hair done, or buy your kids school supplies. But what makes your nonprofit corporation different from those is that you prioritize revenue in terms of fulfilling your mission whereas the for-profit business prioritizes revenue for the sake of the revenue itself.
How your nonprofit is EXACTLY like a business is that you need to utilize many of the same tools for successful start up and growth. You need a business plan, a marketing plan, a budget, and staff or volunteers….all for the purpose of executing and accomplishing your mission and goals. Because nonprofits are often providing for a cause or a service and not a tangible, out-the-door consumable, generating revenue can be a challenge. So I want to share a few ways to overcome challenges to growth at any stage in the life of the non-profit.
Donor Development. Because donors are the lifeblood of your organization, you need to be meeting with them as often as possible, thanking them for past support and updating them on your organization’s status. While you can’t have lunch with everyone who has written a check, you can be sure to connect with those who are top level donors. Share with them the stories about the people you serve who are at the heart of your organization’s mission and get them excited about their involvement in those successes. Let them know their dollars were well spent, thank them for their commitment and partnership and continually inform them about the great things that are happening. But no matter what, make sure you are thanking every single donor who supports your organization in some way, shape or form.
Marketing Strategy. Make sure your marketing materials are current and that you have a robust communications strategy that: 1) keeps your donors informed 2) provides opportunity for new donor acquisition 3) interfaces with the media and 4) continually communicates your mission and shares your stories. Email marketing still plays a significant role for nonprofit organizations as it provides a means to stay in front of your supporters without anything more than their consent to receive emails. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp, Constant Contact and AWeber are examples of affordable options for every size organization and provide templates for the less experienced email designer as well as professional services for getting the custom design you want.
Your website needs to be designed in a responsive format. This means that when its viewed on smaller devices like phones and tablets, it adjusts to its environment instead of becoming impossibly microscopic. The reason this is important is because so many more internet users are looking at websites on their mobile devices and not always their desktops. Don’t make the mistake of losing supporters and followers because your website is difficult to view on these smaller devices. Yes, this will mean a website redesign is in order, but it will be an investment worth making. Don’t cut corners on your internet presence, that’s often how the people in your community first come to know you.
Valued Volunteer Resources. Create a culture where your staff and volunteers can’t help but to share your mission with the people in their world. They love what your organization stands for, that’s why they are involved. Create incentives like volunteer appreciation events and monthly recognitions so that they get more than lip-service for their time – they need to actually feel appreciated and valued. When its clear that an organization values all of its resources and prioritizes its “human” resources, this can inspire others to get involved as well.
Leadership. The face of your organization, whether an Executive Director, board president, operations manager, or marketing/PR director, needs to be someone who reflects the values of the organization, is able to provide clear and concise information about its mission, goals and needs, and is capable of inspiring others to participate, support or just simply share about the organization to other people in other spheres of influence. This person is the ambassador for your cause, so if they struggle to lead the organization internally or externally, they may not be the right person for the position. Don’t underestimate the need for someone who can speak to a crowd of 20 or 200 who also has the disposition to connect with volunteers.
Co-Branding & Collaboration. Find ways to collaborate with other groups and organizations in your community. Doing so doesn’t mean sacrificing current or potential donor dollars to other nonprofits. You want to be seen as a member of an interactive community, not like you’re living on a nonprofit island and no other mission matters. An aspect of reputation management for any business or organization is a willingness to be altruistically involved in a community. If you are involved in an art museum, you could plan to collaborate with local children’s organizations to do workshops. If you represent a cat rescue you might find ways to work with local medical facilities to fulfill animal-assisted therapy needs. In the world of marketing, this is called “co-branding,” a strategic marketing partnership between two separate organizations who collaborate to generate interest from their respective customers. The success of one brand provides for the success of the partner brand.
Growing your nonprofit organization requires a great deal of attention to donor development, volunteer management & support, community engagement, strong leadership, and marketing. Every nonprofit who wants to fulfill their mission and achieve their goals needs to work hard in these 5 areas. I hope the ideas I’ve shared help you to continue to grow and move your organization forward to the next level.
There’s nothing more important to the success of a nonprofit organization than the quality of its communications. From your brochures, website, and public speaking events, your message has one shot at being received. Once you lose someone’s attention, whether because of poor presentation or inaccurate information, its difficult to get it back. The same is true for your digital email campaigns. Don’t underestimate the impact of a quality e-newsletter. Though your organization is considered a charity, people are often not that charitable if content is sloppy, poorly formatted…..or worse, out of date. The following 5 tips will help to improve your organization’s email campaigns and make it easier to reach your intended audience.
1. Design Emails to be Mobile Friendly (Responsive)
By the end of 2014, 66% of emails were opened on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet and that number is only growing. Designing your emails to be mobile responsive helps them make the most impact when opened by your supporters. Emails that lack the responsive design are impossible to read, creating a lost opportunity. Don’t encourage your readers to hit the delete button, give them something they are able to read. Platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact offer free or affordable options for setting up your email the right way.
2. Quality Content
Email is an opportunity. Once an email is opened, you have a real chance to make an impact on a supporter. Be sure all information sent is up to date including upcoming events, schedules, donation figures, etc. Share stories about your volunteers, or if possible, features about the people your organization serves. Donors want to know that their money is going to work for the stated cause of an organization and email is one way—and an easy way—to deliver those details.
3. Send Email Campaigns with Regularity and Respect
Have an email campaign schedule that your supporters remember. Its recommended not to send on Mondays and Fridays, and when you send do it early enough in the day that they will be opened and read. If sent too late in the day, your readers may not get a chance to look as their day comes to a close. You should also avoid sending too frequently. As soon as someone believes their email box is being inundated with email blasts, they will unsubscribe.
4. Always Include a Clear Call to Action
One of the ways you can determine the success of an email blast is by looking at which links were clicked or actions were taken. For example, if you put out a call for new volunteers and include a link or email address for those who are interested to respond to, you can begin to see the effectiveness of your emails. Give your readers something to do in each email! This will become a helpful metric in determining your overall success.
5. Make it Easy to Opt In to Your Organization’s Email List
Make it easy for your supporters to opt-in to your email list via social media and your website. Have it on the contact page, footer and even on Facebook. Once they are on the list, encourage them to forward it to friends so that they can opt in too. Your supporters are your biggest advocates and can be a huge benefit to your cause.
Email campaigns can assist an organization in expanding its reach and effectively promoting its cause. Contact us to discuss how Sarah Flashing Creative & Consulting can help you be more successful in promoting your cause.
Marketing is a fun, creative activity that can also test your patience, especially the area of reputation management. Everything is marketing, not just your logo, your business card and advertising campaigns. Everything your audience sees you doing both personally and professionally represents your work. So your personal life can become a marketing asset or even a liability if you have any activity in social media and/or are visible in your community. Your brand identity is ultimately the experience your customers have with your product and any time they interact with you as a person. This can lead to your corporate identity being synonymous with your personal public image. To be clear, how people know you CAN impact your business, so it’s crucial to think before you speak, as the saying goes.
So you’re wondering the obvious question, where is the line between my public and private life? Clearly everyone in any business just wants to shed themselves of their work and do their own thing on their own time and not be seen, even if it’s just for a little while. Those days are over. The era of social media has essentially eliminated the privacy anyone ever really enjoyed. Unless you’re inactive on your social channel profiles, the world has access to your pet pictures, social vents and your personal beliefs and values. And because they won’t ever really go away, your words and images on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have the potential to define your brand identity and overshadow your products and services. As soon as you start to share all things personal, the line between your public and private life has essentially been erased.
So the concerns you may have about how to maintain your positive standing as a business owner are best answered by how you choose to be visible. Here are 6 tips to managing your reputation online and off, and preserve a bit of that line that separates the personal image from the public.
- Avoid public discussion on deeply controversial topics. Many families still adhere to the maxim “don’t discuss politics and religion” at holiday gatherings. The point is clear. You can’t change who your family is but you can avoid conflict with the people who are always yours. Do the same with your customers and community. Your business is about selling a product or service you believe in. The second you walk into a dispute entirely unrelated to your work, it may mean a loss in revenue. If someone wants to buy a dozen cookies from your store, should it really matter who they voted for in the last election? You may never restore a relationship with a customer or client if all they remember how angry you got in social media or the argument they witnessed in your store.
- Don’t share your boudoir photos. If you’re on social media and you like to post selfies, be sure that the context in which they are taken doesn’t morally compromise any projects or products you’re involved with. For instance, if your work entails counseling people with alcohol addiction, don’t post images of yourself drinking 6 martinis. If you are the president of a local nonprofit aimed at helping underprivileged children, you should reconsider posting anything that has sexually explicit themes. People shouldn’t judge–but they do.
- Get out in front of a story. If there is some bad press coming your way about something you may or may not have had control over, be the first to address it. Don’t hide from it or give people time to make up their own mind about why you’re not addressing the issue. Take responsibility and practice transparency. Make all apologies that are necessary and take appropriate action to rectify the matter. It’s important to listen, respond and show your willingness to alter policies or procedures to inspire the confidence of your audience, especially those who are paying real close attention to the matter at hand. Marketing strategy often involves crisis communications. To stay in business, you need to be able to manage a crisis and not let it manage you.
- Privatize your emotions. If something or someone on social media or in the community upsets you, don’t fly off the handle. Give serious thought to your reactions and responses. Always keep the long game in mind, because people remember who the keyboard warriors are. If you must address an issue, make sure you’re addressing it with facts. Avoid attacking and insulting people, keep the focus on the issue. Remaining cool, calm and collected in your community is the recipe for a solid reputation.
- Be positive and supportive. If your local and social footprint is known for being an encouragement to others, you really don’t have anything to worry about. Be a team player in the community and in social media. Support the great work that others are doing. This is another great way to get your name and business out there, too. Show empathy when necessary and be a person known for charity and courteousness. People love to support businesses who are known for supporting a community and its causes.
- Keep your social posts to a minimum. Whether for personal or business purposes, if it seems that all you do is hang out on Facebook, this probably is not helpful. Push your business posts only as frequently as necessary. People who follow your business online don’t want to see their feed filled with just your content. Be strategically discreet on the social channels so that people remember who you are instead of wishing you’d go away.
Typically, my business is not focused on what differentiates men and women in the workplace or any other societal space we share. In fact, I quite enjoy what I learn from other leaders–predominately men–in the online community on coaching, marketing and web technology. Duct Tape Marketing, WP Elevation, Marketing Over Coffee and The Tim Ferriss Show are some of my go-to’s for insight, (more…)
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Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart because leaders must be courageous. Daily, you are faced with challenges that require an immediate response, and when you fail to act it becomes easy to spiral into fatigue and a sense of failure. Self doubt often sets in and you don’t challenge your own negative thinking, because second guessing yourself seems like the right thing instead of leaping to action. Sometimes we buy into the negative self-talk that we really can’t do what we set out to do and this happens at both the conscious and unconscious levels and can be debilitating. I’m not suggesting we should never challenge ourselves and re-evaluate things. What I mean is that if you don’t have confidence in the decisions you make and the reasons behind those decisions, you’ll lack the courage to act and finding forward momentum will be next to impossible. You need to confidently make a decision until you need to confidently make the next decision. That’s how we learn to lead. (more…)
You don’t have a blog on your website? Blogging isn’t for you? There are so many reasons why you should blog and zero reason to wait. It doesn’t matter what industry you represent, blogging is one way to keep the traffic coming to your website. And its not like writing a book – a blog post can be as long or short as you want. It can be funny or serious. Your blog can even include pictures! Blogging doesn’t have to be a synonym for boring. Here are your 10 great reasons why you should blog and add a new dimension to your marketing strategy.
1. Search engines are watching for fresh, new content on websites. Whether its written content or even video, keep the content coming because search engines like Google and Bing look more favorably on sites that are regularly updating content with original material..
2. Blog content can be used across various channels. Use the same content it in a newsletter, a podcast or even a public presentation that you would in a blog. You can get a lot of mileage out of one blog post!
3. Blog posts give you more opportunity to connect with your customers. You can tell them exactly what you want them to know! If they’re reading, they’re paying attention. Give them reasons to visit your blog like upcoming sales, special event announcements, and even human interest stories. By keeping their interest on your website you have more opportunity to draw new visitors to your website.
4. New, quality content means repeat visits. Keep writing and they will come back!
5. You become known as an expert in your field. If your writing regularly on philosophy, golf, event planning or whatever your favorite topic is, you can bet there’s an audience looking for it. There is always someone who shares your same passion, don’t lose the opportunity by maintaining a stale web presence.
6. Blogging keeps you connected with your community, especially to the media. You’re having a ribbon cutting, a fundraiser or a special performer at your business – don’t forget the press release! A website properly set up will allow press releases to run through the general blog feed as well as post on a separate press release page. I can help you with that!
7. Writing is good for you! It can be beneficial to your mind, body and spirit. Writing can teach you to communicate better in general and build confidence. It can also be therapeutic, providing an outlet for emotional energy. And if your goal is to write well, it can also make you smarter.
8. Blogging will eventually force you to learn something new. Unless you have nothing else to learn, chances are you’ll have to research something about your topic to deliver a great piece.
9. Blogging creates the opportunity to engage your clients and customers. When they leave comments you can engage them and find out what other help you can provide. Its another way to stay connected!
10. Blogging can be a means to financial growth, not just because it brings more people to your business, but monetizing a blog is an actual option. If you can build a substantive readership, sponsors are out there and interested in clinging to your success with paid advertising. Affiliate marketing is another option. Definitely something to consider!
I could probably list 10 more reasons why blogging can benefit your business or organization, but even my first 5 were sufficient in making the point. But you need to make sure you’re blogging at your website, not somewhere that takes people away from your business, geographically speaking. Your work will be enhanced simply with you engaging the writing process, but don’t limit its impact to the professional development side. Blogging can have a real impact on your bottom line, too.
U2 stated the problem but never really offered us a solution. Your potential customers may be climbing the highest mountains and scaling city walls looking for you. But if in the spirit of creativity or so-called “trends” you’ve obscured your brand in such a way that you’ll never be found in searches on Google, Yahoo or Bing, you’ve created a problem that needs to be fixed.
While involved in a recent networking conversation, a question was posed about whether a personal coach should continue to use “coach” in her title or should she get with the times and adopt the language of “consultant.” The answer to the question is ultimately another question: what are potential customers searching for?
It’s true that titles and terms get overused or stigmatized. In the world of “coaching” there is concern it is being overrun with unskilled and untrained people lacking certifications and tarnishing the reputation of the industry. Here’s a newsflash for you coaches, this is true in every industry – but changing your name from “coach” to “consultant” may just create confusion.
If at some point all restaurant chefs wanted to change their title from “chef” to “meal constructor” and began promoting their services with this new title because a chef somewhere brought shame on the entire industry due to some rookie mistakes, potential employers would be very confused. They aren’t searching Indeed or LinkedIn for “meal constructors.” Restaurants look for chefs.
People who look for coaches are familiar with the word coach – don’t miss the opportunity to expand your business by obscuring yourself among your competition. But don’t take my word for it. Do the research and see what your most successful competition is up to. Where are they located? How much business are they known to be generating? Are they a coach or a consultant? Whatever you’re doing to promote your brand, unless you have unlimited financial resources, breaking new ground by repositioning the entire industry within a new framework because of a trend you heard about is not what’s going to lead you down a path of success. You need to market yourself so that when potential clients are visiting Google, Yahoo and Bing, they can find exactly what they are looking for and you are included in those search results.