Marketing

How to Make Time for Marketing

One of the common complaints I hear from clients is that they have trouble making time for marketing. And I totally get it.

Even as a marketer myself, there are weeks when it’s a struggle for me. We are all busy people, and especially when marketing isn’t a skill you already have, it can be hard to move from good intention to action.

No matter what kind of social impact organization you lead or serve at, I know there are a lot of demands on you. A lot of people need your time. A lot of tasks need your attention. A lot of fires need putting out.

But I’d encourage you to make time for marketing. Why? Well, first of all, you’re already doing it in some capacity. If you have any sort of process for communicating with the people who buy from you or donate to you (like social media, email, and events), you’re a marketer. So, you might as well strive for making it more effective.

Second, as you can see from the statement above, marketing is non-negotiable. Your nonprofit or social enterprise may be sitting pretty right now, but that may not always be the case. So, strengthening your marketing muscle is worth the investment. And, just like getting in shape, you only get stronger with time and practice.

Third, and building what we’ve already talked about, if making time for marketing isn’t a regular practice, you’ll never find extra time for it. Like most everything else, something you don’t deem as a current priority will never beat out “more important” tasks. Unless there’s a crisis. So, do yourself a favor and start easing into the habit now, before you’re forced to find the time in a state of panic.

I’ve got good news, though. There are any number of ways to fit marketing into your busy schedule. Today, I’ll tell you about four of my favorites. I’ll even give you a few tools to help maximize your time, as well as a suggested “bare bones” marketing strategy.

How to Make Time for Marketing

Fitting Marketing Into Your Busy Schedule

One simple Google search will probably give you numerous other tools and ideas for tackling marketing on a weekly or monthly basis, but these are my favorites. I don’t take credit for any of them, and I’ve tried all of them. I also recommend them all on a regular basis because I think each one has a lot of value.

1) Planning Your Week in 15 Minutes - Podcast episode + Workbook

I know it sounds too good to be true, but Steph Crowder has come up with a really great process for planning her weeks. Like a lot of us, she has a schedule that fluctuates constantly, so her system accounts for that. it was a technique she developed because she couldn’t find a planner that fit her needs.

Steph’s method is a variation of the popular “rocks, pebbles, sand” illustration. You look at the immovable “rocks” in your schedule like meetings and appointments, add in the “pebbles” which are important tasks that need to get done, and then finally fill up with “sand” which are less important tasks that should get done but take up time, yet remain flexible. Hint: the “pebbles” are where the magic happens. Click the link to hear her explain the process on her podcast. It’s worth a listen whether you decide this is the right route for you or not.

One of my good friends loves this system, and uses it regularly. The other great thing about it is that you only need a sheet of notebook paper. So, you can grab one of those beautiful $70 planners if you want, but it’s totally up to you!

2) Learn Time Blocking

There are a lot of ways to utilize time blocking, which is one of the reasons I like it. You can block minutes, hours, or even days. But the point of it is to set aside a chunk of time for a specific task—and nothing else.

For example, I typically practice “Marketing Mondays” and “Follow-Up Fridays.” On Mondays, I generally write blog posts, schedule social media, create additional content, and things like that. Fridays are for wrapping up anything I need to get done for Signify before the week ends. This leaves Tuesday through Thursday for meetings and client work.

Structuring my week this way ensures I’m working on my business, not just working in it. I can make progress on moving my own mission forward outside of the deliverables I need to create for clients.

For me, it’s just easiest to have these days set aside rather than rotating them each week. That’s why this method ended up working better for me than Steph’s process. It was one less decision to make, and helped me protect my time better.

You can read more about creating themes for your days and weeks in my guest post for Orange. (I love a good theme!)

However, one of my clients sets aside 10:00 a.m. to noon each day for her marketing and meetings. Another generally works from home, so he comes to the office for focused time to work on marketing and communications. His staff knows that when he’s in his office with the door closed, he needs quiet time to get these things done.

Another extremely popular take on this is the Pomodoro Technique. Not to be confused with the sauce, this method has you work in 25-minute chunks. It’s a very hyper-focused session that can be easily replicated throughout the day. (Short attention span? This may be your best bet.)

If this is a method you’d like to test, I also recommend reading my friend Carey Nieuwhof’s post on creating an energy management list. It’s a terrific reminder to keep in mind when you personally work best, and use that to your advantage.

And if you want to become a super time blocker, look no further than Michael Hyatt. He talks a little about his “ideal week” process in this post, among other places, but he’s one of those people who treats his week like a budget, accounting for every hour. Frankly, it was just too strict for me—but perhaps that’s also part of what accounts for the discrepancy in our incomes. ;)

3) Eat the Frog

Made popular by Brian Tracy, “eat the frog” refers to a quote by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Tracy breaks it down here, but the gist is to do the thing you don’t want to do first thing so that it’s done and over with. Then you can move on with your day.

If you have a lot of resistance to marketing, this may be a good option for you. You can remove some of the anticipation and anxiety by sheer will.

Another option, of course, is to use this rule for your biggest and/or most important marketing tasks. Once you’ve knocked them out early on, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment no matter what happens during the rest of the day.

4) Get an Accountability Partner

if you’ve been around me or this blog for a while, you already know that I’m a huge fan of having an accountability partner or group of people you stay accountable to, like a mastermind. These people have been so helpful for me, and I think everyone could benefit from this support system.

I talk extensively about accountability partners and masterminds here, but for the purposes of helping you with your marketing, the short answer is that someone else will ask you if you got it done. You might be much less likely to skip it or move it to the back burner if you know someone’s going to be checking up on you.

Which Method is Right?

Trick question! The right answer is the one that works for you. Chose one of these options and stick to it, or try them all on and see what fits best. I most often use #2 and #3 myself, but that doesn’t mean those are the best choice for you.

Tools for Managing Your Time

Here are a few tools that save me some extra time each week, allowing for important tasks like marketing:

  • Acuity Scheduling: How many of us spend too much time scheduling appointments? Answer: almost all of us. Acuity lets me send someone a link to schedule when it’s convenient for them, without all the back-and-forth. (Calendly is another option.)

  • RescueTime: If you are unsure where your time goes each week, this software will track it for you and send you a weekly report.

  • Canva: I love Canva because it allows me to quickly create graphics for my website, blog, and social media. Once you have a template in place, it takes little time to swap out text and photos.

  • Asana: I keep track of all my tasks, as well as assign tasks to my interns using Asana. It even allows you to set up reoccurring tasks, attach files, and make notes and comments.

  • Smarterqueue: Social media should, of course, be social. But with limited time on my hands, I use this incredible tool to schedule and recycle content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (I compared 13 different software options here.)


Bare Bones Marketing

Note that this is bare bones marketing, not ideal marketing. But if you just need to find a way to make marketing a part of your regular routine, then here are my suggestions for incorporating it into your week. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, narrowing it to the most important tasks you can knock out in one to two hours per week.

Anything you can do on top of it is highly recommended, but this is a good place to start. These are in no particular order, except for #5, so you can move them around to fit your schedule or preferences.

And guess what? This outline also fits nicely with any of the techniques above!

  • Week 1: Email your tribe - Emailing people is much more effective than social media, so be sure to talk to your audience regularly.

  • Week 2: Meet with a VIP - This could include a large donor or customer that you’re wooing, a key stakeholder already involved in your mission, or a potential sponsor or partner. Don’t wait for these appointments; seek them out.

  • Week 3: Be social - Pop into Facebook groups, post on social media, email people who have fallen off the radar, attend an event, and look for other ways to interact with peers and protentials.

  • Week 4: Create content - If you only have an hour or two at your disposal, then writing a blog post may not be possible, unless it’s a short one. But other doable options in that time frame might include a Facebook Live, “mini blog” on Instagram or Facebook, or time set aside to work on a larger content piece or campaign. You could also include being interviewed for an article or on a podcast here. I’m including this item because it’ll give you new things to talk about and promote on a continual basis to your donors, customers, partners, and fans.

  • Week 5: Your choice - Obviously, not every month has five weeks. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t capitalize on it when you get the chance! Use this week to go the extra mile on one of the above items. Alternatively, this could be an hour you set aside to regularly reflect on how your marketing has gone, and what should improve, continue or change. But I’m a big fan of reflecting more than once a year!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

There are any number of ways to fit marketing into your busy schedule. Today, I’ll tell you about a few of my favorites. I’ll even give you a few tools to help maximize your time, as well as a suggested “bare bones” marketing strategy.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

There is a bit of a double-standard in the nonprofit community that I often see. On one hand, “marketing” is usually treated like it’s a dirty word. It equates to greedy, and not worthy of their cause. A nonprofit is a nonprofit because it doesn’t have to do any marketing, right?

On the other hand, there usually comes a point when nonprofit leaders realize, for better or for worse, that they do need to take a second look at this whole marketing thing, and it becomes more important—or even a necessary evil.

And that’s when it happens. All of these sudden, the poor development staff who have been told to look at marketing one way, suddenly find themselves in charge of it. No training, no resources, just figure it out and start doing it.

This needs to change. Why? If you don’t change your mindset, as well as provide budget and resources for your fundraising staff, you’re setting them up to fail.

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

Remind Me, What’s Marketing Again?

As I stated on this blog almost two years ago, marketing is simply the process that creates a relationship between creator and consumer. It includes the creation, promotion, selling, and distribution of "your thing," whatever that may be. (ex: product, service, ministry, outreach, etc.)

Obviously, this gets slightly more complex with social impact organizations because you have two audiences, the people who support your work and the people who benefit from your work. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just refer to those who make your work possible. If you’re a nonprofit who is also a social enterprise, the term “customer” may still apply. If you’re a more traditional nonprofit, substitute “donor.”

Essentially, marketing is the way people find out about your mission (ex: word-of-mouth, email, social media, website, etc). That’s not so gross, right?

You already know those things have to happen, or are happening right now, so guess what? You’re a marketer. It’s kinda like being a poet when you didn’t even know it. ;)

Now, if we agree on those things, let’s talk about where the breakdown occurs.

Why Development and Marketing Are Two, Different Areas

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

According to Wikipedia, a site which I couldn’t live without, “The role of a development director is to develop and implement a strategic plan to raise vital funds for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.” Those last two phrases probably made you cringe, roll your eyes, or nod along—perhaps all three. #nopressure

But, if you’re tracking with me, you probably see that, in reality, marketing and development are actually two sides of the same coin. That’s good news! Both roles have the same result: Bring in money for the organization. However, the way that happens can look different.

The problem here is that, once a nonprofit decides marketing is a curiosity or an even an essential part of growth, they might expect their development person or team to either know how to do it or figure out it out for themselves. It’s like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with no life vest. And, worse still, when the marketing “fails,” there may be a determination that marketing is bad, marketing doesn’t work, or this person can’t do their job.

No, no, no. That’s where I want you to help me change things. And together, we can.

From conversations with friends, clients, and my interns, it still seems that you can graduate with a degree in nonprofit management, or something similar, and receive LITTLE TO NO marketing training. Face palm. I think this is a complete injustice and flaw in the education system, if this is true.

Do you know why? Innovation and longevity.

Nonprofits have the benefit of relying on donations and grants, if they want to. That’s a critical distinction for sure. BUT, they don’t have to rely solely on donations and grants. That’s where good marketing comes in.

By being able to figure out the marketing piece of your organization, you open up more opportunities. You can utilize the aspects of the business world, and apply them to your cause. I think this is why the social enterprise model is so exciting. It’s the perfect intersection of commerce and cause.

And, whether you choose to take the social enterprise path or not, you can still use marketing to your advantage. Many nonprofits to not have a solid content strategy, for example. They have amazing stories to tell but don’t share them well. They only communicate with donors when they need something. They mean to post on social media, send an email, set a meeting, but, but, but….

There are millions of nonprofits in the world, all competing for money and resources. And, all things being equal, I think marketing separates one from the pack. So, remove celebrity spokespeople, millionaire donors, and some of those other wish list items, and marketing is what great nonprofits do well. We’ve talked about Charity:Water on this blog before, and with good reason. Outside of a large personal network, a marketing ad campaign helped put them on the map.

Thinking through the lens of marketing creates a shift. Communication goes from nice-to-do to need-to-do, and donors take notice. One-time donors can become repeat donors. Tribes increase. Awareness grows. More money can be brought in to help programs and services increase. MORE GOOD CAN BE DONE! Isn’t that worth embracing marketing? I think so.

Let’s talk about how.

DIY Marketing

I’m not naive enough to think that nonprofit leaders will read this post, and immediately begin advertising for a marketing staffer. I know that’s not always an option. In fact, most of my clients only have one or two people dedicated to fundraising. And, for some, the nonprofit leader is also a solopreneur, handling development (and everything else) as well. It takes time and money to grow and scale, but with help, you can get there.

The first step is to actually give your development person a marketing budget. Whether this is $5 or $5,000, it’s important that it exists. This is especially essential if your development staff has no marketing knowledge or experience. You can’t expect them to know what the rest of us took years to learn.

So, DIY resources could include books, blogs (like this one!), courses, events, and the like. It’s a place where they can get the information they need to do their job better. It might even be someone like a mentor.

Also, give them time on your dime to learn. Don’t expect that they learn how to be a great marketer in their evenings or on the weekend.

I would even take this one step further and actually help them find good resources. Take an hour or so of your time to search or ask for recommendations, and then pass them along. Be proactive in making sure they have a quality marketing education, and show them that you’re there to support them.

You work for a cause, after all, so demonstrate that you care and are committed to seeing them succeed. And, if you’re the boss, plan for a bigger marketing budget next year.

Hybrid Marketing

Let’s say you’ve got more than a few bucks in your marketing budget, and you’re willing to bring in some help. Great! You’re in a very good place.

Additional help could look like a one-time, ongoing, or once-in-a-while contractor, coach, or consultant, for example. Evaluate not just your budget, but the return on investment from a person who fits this need. Yes, it could be a sticker shock if you aren’t used to working with these folks, but how will they pay off in the long run? Their expertise may just take your organization or employee to the next level. Plus, you only have so much time on your hands. What if someone else can do a better job faster?

This is obviously where people like me fit in. I started my business to fill a need that I commonly saw as a previous employee of several nonprofits, as well as a long-time volunteer. I was regularly asked marketing and communications questions by friends and staff of nonprofits and social enterprises. They had questions, and I was happy to answer. So, when I was leaving my old job, I asked if the would be willing to pay me for project work so that I could help them grow. Those people, including the organization that I was a long-time volunteer with, all became my first clients. And many of them have become repeat clients.

For you, it might be graphic design help to make your marketing look sharp. It could be a coaching program that teaches your development staff how to also be marketers. It could be a social media manager who takes that responsibility off their plate.

One of the fun things that I love about being a consultant, and why I hire them myself, is that they see everything with fresh eyes. You are in the day-to-day of your work, and sometimes, all it takes is an outside perspective and few tweaks to get you on a better track.

If you’ve got a little more money to work with, give this avenue a shot. If you’re nervous, start with a small project. See how you can make this approach work for you.

Hire a Marketing Person

So, obviously, it takes more of a significant amount of money and commitment to hire a part-time or full-time marketing person. But if you’re determine to make marketing work for your nonprofit, this might be the right choice for you.

If you don’t have it already, I’d encourage you to write out the job description for your development director or staff. Is it more than they can handle? Does it include items they’ve never been trained for, and no resources to equip them? This is often the case. If it is, something needs to change.

I know you don’t intentionally want to set up your development department to fail. But I wouldn’t be addressing it on this blog if this weren’t a common issue. What can you do differently?

Leaders, I cannot tell you how often I see comments about this stuff in Facebook Groups and hear about it in conversations. This kind of thing puts so much pressure and burden on your employees, and will lead to burnout and frustration, which won’t serve you, your organization, or your cause well.

It’s a new year, so it’s a great time to make the shift. Set your development staff up to succeed. And make marketing an intentional part of your communication process. I don’t think you’ll regret it.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Whew—you made it! It was a crazy, busy season, but you crossed the threshold into the New Year. Congratulations!

So, once you’ve wrapped up your year-end giving, you can sit back and relax come January, right? Welllll, not quite. I realize you could probably already use a vacation, but one of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

And while I sincerely hope that your nonprofit reached or surpassed your end of year giving goals, these strategies can be implemented even if you didn’t. Either way, they’ll set you up for better months ahead.

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Make Good on Your Promises

First of all, it’s incredibly important to make good on any promises from last year. Leftovers tend to start stinking, am I right?

This could include reports, updates, or any other documentation that you owe your donor base. For example, I’ve seen annual gala sponsorship levels that include quarterly reports to major sponsors and donors. If you’ve got something like that on your plate, take action now before another, “more important” task comes along.

And if you didn’t release an annual report as part of your year-end fundraising campaign, this can be another great tool to start the New Year. Show off the impact your work is having, while highlighting opportunities for growth and engagement.

Keeping and fulfilling any promises you made to donors, sponsors, and partners is just one more way you can prove that you’re trustworthy, responsible, and deserving of their time and investment.

(Tip: If at all possible, never let them have to ask you for this information. That looks bad. Do everything you can to put the information or resources in their hands first. If there’s going to be a delay, communicate that so they don’t have to wonder or, worse, think you forgot.)

Send Those Shout Out’s, High Five’s, and Horray’s

Don’t forget to celebrate those victories! As someone who can easily dismiss an achievement, especially a small one, and move on to the next thing, I encourage you to take the win every time.

Better yet—share it with your fan base! If you met your fundraising goal and are now able to provide more products and/or services to those who benefit from your work, let everyone know! Send out an email blast, post it on social media, host a Facebook Live, release carrier pigeons, shout it from the rooftops, or do whatever you need to do to let your fans and followers know they played a part in getting you there.

This is your chance to say, “We did it!” And when you tell them exactly how those funds will be used, you not only instill a sense of pride in your contributors, but you’ll subconsciously encourage them to give again!

But let’s say you didn’t meet you goals. What then? Well, don’t take that as your cue to forego any updates. You still need to do that, but you’ll obviously need to tailor the message. You can send out a thank you, and tell people what’s on the horizon. Remind them of what’s at stake, and how you plan on serving people this year. Get them excited for the future, and state how they can be a part of your incredible work.

Keeping your fans in the loop is one sure-fire step toward donor retention. When people don’t know how their money is used, don’t know who is being served, and don’t know what’s going on, they are far more likely to take their hard-earned money to someone who can check those boxes for them. So, stay in touch!

(Tip: If you’ve been lax on your marketing and communication in the past, use these kinds of updates to get you back on track in the New Year. Update, rinse, and repeat. Make it a habit you’ll keep going forward. And if you’re not sure what to send them, I’ve got a few ideas.)

Pencil In Your VIPs

Always strike while the iron is hot, as they say, but particularly when it comes to your largest contributors. Take a look back at the previous year (or years), and identify who gave the most, either in dollars or in-kind. Then, get these people on your calendar.

If they’re local, take them to coffee or lunch. If they’re not, opt for a phone call, or even better, a video chat where you can look them in the eye. But make these interactions personal on some level, and don’t just lump them in to a mass email.

Use the opportunities to say thank you, and let them know what’s been going on, especially if it’s been a while. Ask for their input, or get them involved in a deeper level with your organization. If they gave a substantial amount, it’s likely they are very moved by your mission and would be thrilled to hear how they can further meet your needs.

(Tip 1: Don’t leave the conversation without what we in the marketing biz refer to as a call to action. This just means you’ll be asking them to do something. It could be very simple or a bigger ask, depending on the relationship, conversation, or needs. Examples could include setting up a follow up appointment, making an introduction, becoming a larger donor, or a spot on the board. The point is to make the most of the interaction.)

(Tip 2: Create reminders to follow up with these people throughout the year. Whether you’re just personally emailing to say hello or sending them some sort of update, check in with them at least once a quarter to let them know your nonprofit values their relationship. This will also take some of the stress and pressure off of having to squeeze everyone in at the end of the year—bonus!)

How will you communicate with year-end donors in the New Year?



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

One of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Wordpress: The Pros and Cons

Last week on the blog, my friend Madison tackled all things Squarespace. As you already know, I’m a fan! But, I also realize that Squarespace doesn’t fit the needs of every nonprofit or social enterprise. So, to present you with another popular option, my friend Alison is here today to give you the pros and cons of WordPress.

Alison Chandler is another immensely talented graphic designer and website builder, and WordPress is her fav. In fact, it’s the only platform she designs in. And, I have to admit, she makes quite the case! So, if you need to review WordPress basics, or are on the hunt for the perfect space to show off your cause, take a gander.

(By the way, you can watch us chat about this post and more on Facebook Live.)

Wordpress: The Pros and Cons

I’m a very meticulous person who makes careful, calculated decisions (even when it comes to what to make for dinner). So, for a big decision like choosing the best website platform, I took my time. After much consideration—and some good and bad dinner choices—I chose WordPress.

In fact, I love WordPress so much that I changed my whole career to work with WordPress websites. But is it ideal for everyone? Maybe not. Today I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of using WordPress so you can figure out if it’s right for your needs. As for dinner, one of my easy-to-make favorites is Garlicky Grilled Tilapia with Couscous.

A few fun facts about Wordpress:

  • WordPress started in 2003 as a simple blogging platform, and has evolved into a website-building platform, which essentially means you can use it to create any kind of site.

  • It is an open source, 100% free project created by hundreds of dedicated volunteers that continually improve the code.

  • WordPress powers almost 30% of the entire web, from free styling hobby blogs to some of the biggest corporations.

  • From bigger names like TED, AMC, and Lollapalooza to local brands like Atlanta’s very own Refugee Coffee Company and the Atlanta Tech Village, there are about 75 million WordPress websites.

  • Because it’s open source, WordPress has one of the most awesome and supportive communities anywhere.

 

PROS

Ready to illuminate your cause? WordPress is brilliant because:

  • Updating content is easy. Whether you want to add new blog posts, incorporate a new donor button, update testimonials, or add new products and services, WordPress has a very user-friendly content management system which enables you to log in, update, and publish.

  • The opportunities are endless. You can create any kind of website with WordPress. Whether you’re creating your first site, an online store, or a landing page for a new social impact organization, it’s super-flexible and integrates with so many add-ons.

  • There are themes galore. WordPress.org has more than 3,000 themes available. Additionally, there are thousands more available independently. So, the theme that suits your needs may very well be available . . . it’s just important to choose carefully.

  • It can grow with you. WordPress is extremely customizable and can grow with you as your organization grows, especially if you’ve created a custom website.

CONS

WordPress may not be the best platform for you because:

  • Themes galore can be limiting and overwhelming. While I’ve included the wide selection of themes as a pro, it can also be a con. The right theme might exist, but it might be difficult and time-consuming to find. And if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed by too many choices (Does the cereal aisle make you want to run and hide?), the array of WordPress themes may be a major con. Fortunately, with WordPress, you have the freedom to create a completely custom website, which can eliminate this issue.

  • Maintenance and updates can require some tech-savviness. To keep your site updated, backed up, and protected from viruses, you’ll need to ensure you stay current and updated to the latest version of WordPress. Honestly, this isn’t unique to WordPress because there is ongoing maintenance associated with any website platform.

 

Tips to Maximize the Pros and Minimize the Cons

If the cons I mentioned don’t scare you, here are a few tips to really leverage the pros of WordPress: 

  • Put strategy first. The most important way to maximize all of the benefits of WordPress is to start with a plan—know what you need before you dive in. Begin by establishing the goals for your website and prioritizing the content. Think about what your users are looking for and what kind of user experience they will expect on your site. Determine what features you need. The most beautiful, easiest-to-update site will do you no good if it isn’t serving the needs of your audience and your organization’s bottom line.

  • If you use a theme, choose wisely. While there are a plethora of themes to choose from, an out-of-the-box theme may limit you, so do your homework. See how often your prospective theme is updated. These updates are important for continued security and functionality. Investigate how customizable the theme is. If you’re not careful, your site will end up looking exactly like the other thousand sites using the same theme. Once you have chosen a theme, I recommend sticking closely to it—things can get tricky when you start customizing an existing theme—especially when it hasn’t been created using best practices.

  • For the most flexibility, opt to build your site from the ground up. Want a website that is totally customized to fit your needs, developed using best practices, and flexible enough to grow with your evolving small business? Hire an expert to build exactly what you need—and you’ll have total freedom and flexibility.

  • If you’re not tech-savvy, hire someone to maintain your site. You can absolutely update the content of your website yourself, but when it comes to the back-end (the stuff you can’t see), it may be best to hire someone. Many web designers, myself included, have packages so you don’t have to worry about web maintenance.  

  • Get involved in the community! The number one thing I love about WordPress is the fun, gracious, and inviting community. When I started using WordPress, I learned through attending meetups, WordCamps, and from people I met along the way. I love to give back by speaking about design at the Atlanta WordCamp. If you start a WordPress website and run into a problem, there are always loads of people willing and able to help. Want to see an example of this awesome community in action? Check out 48 in 48. This amazing initiative mobilizes marketing professionals to build 48 websites for 48 nonprofits in 48 hours. Here’s the site of one local nonprofit that benefitted from this initiative: Fourth Ward Alliance.


Remember, the pros of WordPress can be maximized by having strategy, carefully choosing your theme (or going custom!), keeping the site well-maintained, and getting involved with the community. Your organization may very well be able to handle all of this and build a website on your own.

If not, and you choose to engage outside help, here’s a tip: ensure your chosen designer’s website is well-designed. Like Kristi said in this blog post, Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help, “before reaching out to an expert, spend time on their website and consider how it resonates with you. If it makes a great first impression, is engaging, and leads you to a clear call to action, you know they can do that for you. “

Choose someone who puts strategy FIRST.


Alison Chandler

Alison Chandler is dedicated to helping mission-driven entrepreneurs attract higher-level clients, make more money, and increase their impact with better brands and websites.

Alison has over 15 years of experience designing for businesses ranging from Fortune 500 corporations, to social entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. She uses that experience, and her MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, to help business owners create memorable brands and effective websites to help them succeed. 

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WordPress powers almost 30% of the  entire  web, from free styling hobby blogs to some of the biggest corporations. But is it right for you?

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Squarespace: The Pros and Cons

Today’s post comes from my friend, Madison Beaulieu, who is a graphic designer and half of the dynamic duo, Mad + Dusty. She and her hubby created not only my logo and branding, but my website as well.

Madison and Dusty only design in Squarespace, and because I wanted to work with them, I went with SS as well. It’s been a great decision, and if re-branding or launching a new website is on your list for 2019, I’d urge you to take a look at this platform as well.

And to get you started on your research, I’ve asked Madison to review the pros and cons of Squarespace. No website platform is perfect, but there are a lot of features she and I both love about SS, and maybe you will, too. Let us know if you have any questions!

(By the way, you can catch Madison and I talking about this post and more on Facebook Live.)

Squarespace: The Pros and Cons

I first discovered Squarespace while working at a marketing agency. We were investigating more, low cost ways to design websites for nonprofits and causes. Before Squarespace, we’d been using a Wordpress template, but found out that we loved the flexibility and freedom Squarespace allows you to have in the design while still creating quickly.

I then started my own site at home to experiment with it, and fell in love further. It was pretty intuitive to learn, and there are tons of tutorials and helpful articles available online as well.

The first site I designed for a client was for Paint Love, and they have been updating it as needed ever since. It’s been great to see the site evolve and change to fit their needs. Another good, nonprofit example would be Miles4Major because it’s such a beautiful, simple site. And if I remember correctly, that one came together in less than a month!

Squarespace Pros

Effective, Beautiful Sites Fast

If you need a great-looking website fast, Squarespace is the right place to start. It’s is the best “drag and drop” website builder around, and they can be created relatively quickly, especially when working with a designer. And all templates are mobile-ready, meaning they can be viewed just as well on small screens like smartphones and tablets. No pinch and zoom necessary! These features also generally make them less expensive than your typical Wordpress site, which is often made by a designer/developer duo.

Customer Support

One of the reasons I initially fell in love with Squarespace, and stayed for good, is their customer service. I’ve solved many technical issues with their team on chat. Wait times are not too bad, and they are always helpful and kind. I feel so much better designing sites for clients knowing there is an added level of help available after I’ve finished.

Easy Edits and Extensive Resource Library

Another reason I stuck with Squarespace is that it’s fairly easy to edit when the initial frame is built out. Most of my clients are startups, and they rest a bit easier knowing that they have the keys to their web city. They can often make any changes needed on their own without my help. And, when needed, there’s also an extensive resource library with a how-to on just about everything.

Integrations

Squarespace has so many integrations, such as Mailchimp, Acuity Scheduling, SoundCloud, and OpenTable, to name a few. You can even set up your Gmail through Squarespace. Because these are true, approved integrations, everything looks seamless and beautiful. Having all of your tools talk to each other is a #blessing.

Pricing

Squarespace pricing is about what you can expect for a website these days. But here’s a quick rundown on pricing so that we’re on the same page: When you pay for a site, you’re typically paying for hosting and a domain. Squarespace’s pricing is for hosting—basically renting space in servers around the world so that your site will be able to arrive in web browsers everywhere. Domains are like a forwarding address, directing any requests to the right rented space.

Yes, there are “free” hosting options, but honestly the “free” options are doing you more harm than good. At this point, we’ve probably all been to a Wix site and seen the banner announcing, “This site was designed on Wix!” front and center. Or a Wordpress site with clickbait links and ads hiding out. No! Please resist! Get out of there, friend. I promise it’s worth the investment.

If you want to be taken seriously, and especially if you’re trying to sell something or collect donations, you need a professional-looking website—and, yes, that costs a few bucks.

Squarespace Cons

Not Enough Options

In Squarespace, you are limited by templates, yet have an overwhelming amount of options. You do have to design within the template, and this means that initial template choice is a MAJOR part of the web design process. I spend a lot of time working with clients on what functions they need from a site before even talking about what it will look like. Form has to follow function with Squarespace.

Too Many Options

Hopping into Squarespace for the first time can feel like diving into an Olympic-sized pool. Or maybe the ocean. There are a lot of choices to be made once you get in there. If you go in without a plan, you can get lost in options, a whirlpool of minutia. Again, form has to follow function.

Photo-Based Design

Photo-based design should be totally great, right?! Well, if you have the photography to back it up, then yes, it’s a huge perk. But many brands struggle with photography. It’s a little tougher, but not impossible to create a pleasant text-based site. Fortunately, though, Squarespace has recently added a few, text-focused templates as well as an Unsplash integration to make finding free stock photography easier.

Requires (A Little) Training and Web Proficiency

You really do need to watch some videos or do some reading to get the most out of the platform. Every one of my website projects ends with a training session for that very reason.

Once you understand the building blocks of the site, it is pretty easy to navigate, but I’ll admit there can be a learning curve. The best place to go to learn is their Getting Started Guide. Then look into page types, followed by design. And one of my favorite resources is the template comparison chart from Using My Head. I’ve used chart that countless times to nail down the right template for my clients.

Glitches

Squarespace has only improved over the years, but it’s still a web-based editor and has some web-based hiccups. I’ve designed a few pages only to click save and realize that not going to happen. So, save often. And in case you didn’t catch that—save often.

I’ve also noticed that when uploading multiple photos or doing a lot of work in galleries, the upload time can be quite long. Squarespace processes each photo you upload to save space and help with site load time, but that can take a bit more time on the editing side.

To wrap up, if you don’t have a massive amount of content, and are looking for a lower-cost and beautiful way to get your cause on the web, Squarespace all the way! But if you’ll need to have archives of information on your site or will need special functionality, then WordPress might be a better option for you. The best way to know for sure would be to talk with a designer!

Most of us design folk take free introductory meetings. We also want to find out if we’d be a good fit, and you’d get to learn some new stuff—and maybe even get some free advice! Why not take advantage of that? You’ll walk away having learned something, and possibly also gain a great partner moving forward.


KP note: And if you’d like another Squarespace review, check out this podcast episode from Femtrepreneur. They also have a free Squarespace course, or you can catch one the Squarespace webinars as well.

Next week we’ll learn the
pros and cons of Wordpress, so stay tuned!


Madison and Dusty Beaulieu

Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands. Starting in 2015, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu have worked with over 40 purpose driven organizations to tell important stories through art and design.

Find them online at www.madanddusty.com.



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No platform is perfect, but here’s one website designer’s review of the pros and cons of Squarespace.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.