email marketing

Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2018

Wow, I feel like I have a little whiplash from 2018. It feels like I’m just getting started, and yet, here it is December again!

My year was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, tears of laughter and tears of joy—much like I’m sure your year was. On one hand, I checked multiple locations off of my travel bucket list, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as a cross-country Amtrak trip. I was also a guest on multiple podcasts and featured in several interviews. And I worked with some amazing new clients, along with some old friends.

On the other hand, while I launched two digital products, I was hoping for at least three. I also didn’t meet a few big numbers I set for myself, including the coveted income goal. And my health didn’t improve as much as I hoped it would.

So, my 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to hang onto the good stuff and learn from the less-than-good stuff. Both of those things will help propel me in 2019.

But before we get there, I wanted to circle back to my five most popular blog posts of 2018. Since I publish a weekly blog post and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it stands to reason that you might have missed one or two along the way.

No worries! I’ll share what others found to be the most helpful in the hopes that it’ll help you succeed as well. Looking forward to a wonderful New Year with you!

Signify’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

1. The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-focused organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Read the full post . . .

2. 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I made a couple of big, small business decisions in 2018, and one of those was to hire interns. I'd know for a long time that I eventually wanted to bring in some spry, young talent, but a couple of things were holding me back.

First, I didn't feel "successful" enough to bring anyone else into the mix. I still don't know what "successful" enough meant/means to me, but I finally decided it was time to put that thought to bed. I had valuable lessons to teach someone, and it was time to start imparting.

Second, I knew it would take some legitimate time and effort to get things in place and delegate. Most of us feel like we move at the speed of light, and slowing down isn't an option. But, again, I needed to take a step back. The reality is that I needed extra help, and there were people available to assist. And once I got things up and running, the hard part was over. So, in the end, I got over myself and found two, fantastic interns. 

Read the full post . . .

3. How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

love volunteers.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.

So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.

Read the full post . . .

4. How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

Read the full post . . .

5. What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal.

Read the full post . . .

Looking for more popular options? Here are some of my readers’ all-time favorites:

12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional (Most Are Free!)


PSST: Don't forget that you only have a few more days to enter to win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2019.



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Resources, Tips, and Ideas for Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

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.


5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



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Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

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.


What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

We've been talking all things content marketing this month, and today's subject is a biggie. Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal. Whether you're concerned about content marketing for your nonprofit or social enterprise, or not, email needs to move up on your priority list.

What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List - For Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

WHY EMAIL MARKETING IS IMPORTANT

Though social media is the shiny object of the marketing world, email marketing should be the staple. It's true that nothing will ever beat in-person conversations; those should always be the first option. But for electronic or online communication, email should be your focus.

Why? You "own" your list. We've already seen a handful of algorithm changes on Facebook this year alone, and they're all making it more difficult for your business to get seen by your fans and followers. That's great for us as individuals who want to see more pics of our friends kids, pets, vacations, or last night's dinner. Not so great from a marketing standpoint.

And as things change again, and they will, you'll be further and further removed from your audience, unless you are paying to get in front of them. However, with an email address, you land directly in their inbox. Whatever you need to communicate to them is front-and-center. They don't have to go hunting for it, and they don't have to wait to just see it occasionally, if the internet powers that be, decide today's the day to show them.

Plus, if one of those nifty social networks goes away tomorrow, or decides to remove businesses entirely, you have no way to reach those people. Poof! They're gone. But you know what you do have? That's right, your email list!

You also have more real estate in emails to get your message across than on social media, and emails still have the highest conversion rates as well. Two, more very good reasons!

Oh, and if you're slightly panicked about neglecting your social media, here's my solution.

(Side note: I recommend setting a reminder to download your list a few times per year so you never lose it either. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed!)

WHAT TYPES OF EMAILS YOU SHOULD SEND TO YOUR LIST?

Okay, now that you understand why you should be making more use of your email list, you might be stuck on what to send. Besides a lack of time, this is the issue I hear most.

So, what should you email to your list? The good news is that the options are pretty limitless! 

Here are just a few examples:

  • Program/product/service updates

  • New hires, job openings, or internship opportunities

  • Recent blog posts

  • Behind-the-scenes details

  • Thoughts from the founder or staffers

  • Links and resources your audience would find helpful

  • Tips and tricks

  • Surveys

  • Needs list (ex: resources a nonprofit might need to further their mission)

  • Staff or recipient profiles

  • Holiday announcements or celebrations

  • Photos or videos of people using your product/service

  • Testimonials and stories

  • End of year impact reports

  • Recent press/media

(Want 85 more ideas? Click here!)

Think about it: These people willingly gave you their email. That means they want to hear from you! And they want to hear from you more than a couple of times per year... So, don't neglect sending just because you don't have any "big announcements." 

I also recommend keeping a list somewhere of topics that would be good for your emails, even if it means they need to wait a while. You don't want to lose any good ideas! I use Evernote, since it's always handy, but you can use Google Docs or Sheets, a Word doc, a sticky on your computer, or whatever is a good fit.

To make things even easier on yourself, you can even set up a template for your regular email newsletters so that all you have to do is just drop in the new content each time. This is exactly what I do with Special Features. I have a formula that I follow of specific things I want to communicate to my audience. Each section has a purpose. Doesn't mean that it'll stay that way forever, but right now, it works for me.

 

A FEW TIPS ON FORMATTING YOUR EMAILS

Photos and graphics, or no photos and graphics? Headers or no headers? Long or short?

The truth is that I've seen emails of all shapes and sizes get the job done. Some are beautiful and some are plain. So, whether you have yours laid out by a professional graphic designer or not is your call. What works with your brand and your voice? That choice is up to you.

Here's what I will stress, however: It needs to be easy to read on laptops, tablets, and phones. (A LOT of people are reading your emails on their phones these days!) That may sound completely intuitive, and like I don't need to say it, but trust me, I do. I have seen some emails that likely have great content, but they are so hard to look at and read that I just hit delete. I'm sure you've done the same.

So, what's the cure? Well, a lot of the advice we've been giving over the past few months for websites and blogs carries over here, too. 

Namely:

  • Write is short paragraphs of one to three sentences. If you're reading anything on a phone, do you want to just stare at a wall of text? Answer: Nope.

  • Use headers where needed for clarity and changing topics, especially if the email is long. People are skimmers, whether we like it or not. Don't fight it.

  • Let white space be your friend.

  • Leave the jargon at the office. Keep the language easy to understand.

  • Give clear calls to action (telling people what you want them to do), and make it easy for them to do it.

  • Make it about the reader as well as your organization. Make the content relatable, and let them feel a part of your work.

  • Go back to your brand standards. All your fonts and photos should match your brand, or be extremely complementary if, for example, you have a really uncommon font. But make sure everything looks like goes together—and matches your brand. Watch out for sizes, spacing, and keep those headers in check, too. Tip: Look at it like a blog post. Get all matchy, matchy.

If you think that you do want to include graphics, but aren't good at design, have a graphic designer create templates that you can use over and over, just replacing text and photos as needed. This is what I did.

I had my designers create a standard template for my monthly newsletter, a couple variations for different categories of opt-ins, and a really generic one for simple announcements. Now, anytime I need to create a new email blast, I just choose the right template and switch out the info and graphics—presto! Now, I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. (Hint: This also makes coming up with your content easier because you know what "boxes" to fill in!)

Your formatting is just as valuable as your content, so don't skip this step.

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU EMAIL YOUR LIST?

As with pretty much everything else, there are no concrete, black and white answers. Sometimes that's a good thing because you may feel bad that you can't keep up with "standards." However, sometimes that's bad because you don't have a guaranteed blueprint to follow for success. What works for some may not work for others.

But, here's what I tell my clients: I'd like you to email your list at least monthly. I guarantee you've got something to share each and every month. If you can email more frequently with smaller updates throughout the month, do it! But if you wait more than a month, you risk being forgotten.

Remember, we're all out of sight, out of mind creatures. So, if you aren't talking to your list, you'd better believe someone else is!

I'd also like you to figure out a consistency or frequency that you can stick to. This is an effort to make sure it happens, and also helps people expect when to hear from you. Both are uber important.

For example, in an ideal world, I'd email my list a couple of times per month with small updates and information that will be helpful to them. But as a solopreneur, I've got a lot on my plate. So, for now, Special Features goes out once per month. Specifically, the first Thursday of the month. I even have a reminder in Asana to help keep me on task. One particularly busy month, I worked late and finally hit send about 10:00 p.m., because come h*ll or high water, that thing was going out on the first Thursday of the month! It's a promise I made to myself and my tribe.

Others I know send emails every Friday, or every other Wednesday. So, make the decision of when you're going press the magic button, and commit to it.

THE NUMBER ONE EMAIL MARKETING MISTAKE

One of the biggest problems in not emailing your list very often is that you only tend to email them when you need something. This is a big no, no.

It takes time to build the "know, like, and trust" factor with your audience. This is what leads them to action.

Like real life, this is a relationship to be nurtured. So, how would you like it if you had a friend that only talked to you when they wanted you to buy something or donate to their cause? Ewwww. I imagine they'd move off your friend list pretty quickly!

Yet, this is what I see nonprofits and social enterprises doing again and again. They get busy, and only email their fans and followers when it's convenient for them. As a result, donations flounder and sales fumble.

The result? Organizations are left thinking email marketing doesn't work. So, once again, they put it off.

But the lesson should be to change the strategy. Begin working on the relationship with your audience regularly and gradually, rather than using it part of the backup plan.

 

EMAIL MARKETING AS A STRATEGY

Here are Signify, we're big on strategy. Yes, it's good to be sending those emails, writing those blog posts, and connecting on social media, but it becomes much more effective when there's a strategy behind it.

Other than, "because I have to," WHY are you sending the email?

Do you need to sell a product, drive donations, announce a new program, or promote an event? All of these are pretty big "asks" and will usually require more than one email. A series of emails primes them to take action. This gives them all the information or motivation they need to make the decision. And this requires planning. You'll need to figure out ahead of time what what to say and when to say it.

Often, once you lay out on a calendar or spreadsheet all the things you absolutely need to say in a year, you'll see how fast space actually fills up. Then you can plug in other types of emails such as the above examples.

Of course, the unexpected will come up, and that's fine! Nothing wrong with a special announcement now and again.

If you find it overwhelming to think about a year's worth of emails, start with six months, or a quarter, or heck, even a month. But it's time to get intentional. Email marketing is too important to ignore or leave to chance.

What questions do you have?

 

Read the other posts in this series:



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Whether you're concerned about content marketing for your  nonprofit  or  social enterprise , or not, email needs to move up your priority list.

Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours 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.


ASK THE EXPERTS: CONTENT MARKETING 101

One of the issues I hear a lot from clients and others is that they don't know WHAT to post on social media, write in their blogs, or send to their email list. They know they should be engaged in content marketing, but when they sit down to think about it, they get stuck. 

Maybe #allthethings come to mind. Maybe nothing comes to mind. And inevitably, if you sit down for more than five minutes, there will be another fire to put out, and so posting on social media and emailing your tribe moves to the back burner...again.

But content marketing is a terrific bang for your buck over the long term. It's an investment. (Don't believe me? Check out this terrific Inc. Magazine article.) However, you have to actually start for there to be a long term, right? So, building on last month's writing advice, this month is dedicated to helping you figure out your content strategy. We'll help you navigate what to say, so that your fans have something to cheer about.

Up first is my friend Jennifer Garrett of See.Spark.Go. To kick things off, she's going to break down content marketing in general so that we're all on the same page for the rest of the series. There is some fantastic information in here, so listen up!

Ask the Experts: Content Marketing 101

For years, marketers have thrown around the cliche that content is king. And in a world of fake news, a new social media channel every day, selfie videos, and the over-saturation of every news feed, good content is crucial.

But the overnight success of homemade videos or that Instagram page with unbelievable photos and no followers proves that the best content in the world does not lead to success—alone.

Content marketing is serving the right content to the right audience at the right time. It’s understanding who you are, who your audience is, and where you intersect. No longer is your competition the person down the street serving the same clientele; you compete against every other message your audience receives on any given day.

Understanding how to create and use your content—and generate content from your audience— to tell your story allows you to intersect your audience when and where they are looking for you.

What are the latest trends in content marketing?

Whether you’re swiping through the news feed of your favorite social media platform, reading a blog, or flipping through a magazine, story-driven content attracts attention and engagement. Stories provide connection, relatability, and drive action. Real people whom your organization serves or stories of those advocating for you or serving with you authenticate your message better than any infographic ever will.

Currently, the mediums that are best telling those stories are video—live in particular—and influencers. The algorithms of the major social media platforms prioritize live content (i.e., Facebook/Instagram Stories), any video, and then everything else.

Even as algorithms change and adjust, social media consistently prioritizes content from a person over a business. Which takes us to the rise of the influencer. A mom of twins with 3.9 million followers or the college student foodie getting 300,000 likes per ice cream cone is leveraging the combination of grassroots endorsements with the type of content their audience wants. An influencer doesn’t have to have thousands of followers, though. They only need to have a voice for your cause. Is there an advocate who reaches a segment of your audience (big or small; existing or potential) who would be willing to post about your organization or someone whose message and platform could be shared through your channels to bolster your message?

 

What is the biggest mistake you see people making in content marketing? 

The hardest decision for the owner of any story to make is what’s most important. So often, we see organizations and leaders who are too close to their story and think their audience needs to know everything about them. Blasting every message, every month with slightly different language becomes white noise in a world that’s already in a shouting match.

A lack of definition of your key messages, spread out in a cohesive, strategic timeline prevents even your most engaged followers from understanding what you want them to do.

What is your best piece of advice?

Know what you want your audience to do before you determine what you want them to know. Everything feels important to you when you developed or own a story—every event, person, donation, result, and new initiative is something you want your audience to know because you care so deeply. Take the request “Tweet about this today” or “make this email really quick” out of your vocabulary.

If you understand your end goal, you can work backwards to take your audience on the right journey and filter out the confusing, extra calls to action that would take your audience away from responding to what you actually want them to do.

 

What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

Create an editorial calendar. It not only allows you to streamline your messaging and tell a cohesive story across multiple channels, it allows you to do more with less. Create big rocks of quality content that can be used in long-form to move followers down a path to action, and then piecemeal the content into chunks to use across other channels (blog > email > social > text).

 

Anything else we should keep in mind?

Mediums constantly change, but the fundamentals of content marketing have not. Understanding who you are, who your audience is, and what you want them to do determines your content. All of the changes in social media, online platforms, print, and video simply change the presentation format.

 

Do you have any resources that would be helpful so people can learn more?

Listening and monitoring tools that tell you the demographics and behavior of your audience is critical. Sprout Social and other social media monitoring tools allow you to see the make-up of your audience and who is engaging with your content. This allows you to strategically write long form captions for the women who dominate your Instagram feed, for example, or add more requests for donations to your Twitter posts if that’s what’s driving results.

Quality content is still king, but it can only reign if you are delivering it to your audience where they are and in a way they want to consume it. Only data and reporting can keep you from throwing spaghetti up against the Facebook wall each month.

If that doesn't seem doable right now, the best resource I can recommend is your curiosity and engagement with content outside of your industry. Consuming podcasts, blogs, social media, and video by successful brands and organizations inspires new ideas and allows you to see different formats (long captions, subject lines, or calls to action) that could work for you. Are quote graphics, short sizzle videos, or profiles of team members what catch your eye when you're scanning social media? Or why do you open emails from certain brands?

Donald Miller's Story Brand and the How I Built This podcasts are two of my favorites, and Fast Company is not only my go-to for what businesses are up to, but I use the way they present content on social, through newsletters, and long-form in their magazine online as an example all the time.

 

Like this post? Stick around for the rest of our content marketing series this month! We'll be covering storytelling as a tactic, along with blog, social media, and email content marketing.

 

Read the other posts in this series:

 


Jennifer Garrett of See.Spark.Go

Jennifer Garrett is Vice President of Content and Creative at See.Spark.Go, a PR agency that provides full-service marketing communications. Her deep understanding of editorial content and process brings structure and vision to SSG’s clients and team. When she isn’t maximizing SSG’s expertise, content creation and ideation, she enjoys playing soccer or tennis with friends, serving on the Refuge Coffee Company board, and gathering friends in and around her Atlanta home.

IG: @jenngarrett

Twitter: @JennG_



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Content marketing is serving the  right content  to the  right audience  at the  right time . It’s understanding who you are, who  your audience  is, and where you intersect.

Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours 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.


7 Simple Tools That Build a Strong Small Business Foundation

It's mid-January, and you may already be struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions. It's pretty common, and I feel the tug backwards too. Staying motivated just isn't easy when it's 20 degrees outside, am I right? But one of the best ways I've found for keeping myself focused and moving forward is to stay immersed in a subject, rather than it being a one-time lesson.

So, for the final weeks of January, I wanted to talk about "small business resolutions" that we should make and keep this year. These are things you may or may not have already thought about, but I believe they are key to a thriving nonprofit or social enterprise.

First up, I want to talk about seven simple tools that build a strong small business foundation. Think of this as putting your best, professional foot forward. You may consider the items below to be the next progression of your organization, or you may even just think of them as resetting to zero because they've been on your list for a long time, and you just haven't made the effort yet. Either way, they'll not only up your game, but they'll also improve people's perceptions of your organization, which, let's face it, is important whether we want it to be or not.

7 Simple Tools That Build a Strong Small Business Foundation

The Contract Shop

Many of us spend thousands of dollars ensuring that we have a beautiful, functional website, but after it's live, we do little to protect it and our business. Enter The Contract Shop. An ingenious way to make legal contracts easy and handy from my friend and mentor, Christina, you can stop by the shop and purchase a terms and conditions template for your website site in a jiffy.

When I launched my site, I knew that I needed to include all the legalese, but had no idea how to write it or what it needed to say. However, once I purchased this template, I had the terms, conditions, and privacy policy online in about 15 minutes! I've heard terrible stories about people's website design and content getting ripped off, and even saw it happen once to a client. This is an simple way to protect your uniqueness, and gives you legal standing, should you ever need it.

While there, you can also grab an independent contractor template, the conference speaker template, or nondisclosure template, if needed.

HelloSign

Along the same lines, I use HelloSign to send contracts via email. There's nothing worse that scanning Word doc pages back and forth, is there? And do you ever skimp and send just the signature page rather than the whole doc, meaning it could really be the last page to just about anything? This is where HelloSign comes in handy.

For those of us who may only need something like this now and again, you can even get three, free uses per month. Regardless, HelloSign makes it super quick to upload or create docs, mark them for signatures, and send. It keeps the entire document together, gives you status updates, and best of all, makes electronic signatures legal. And bonus, you look like a pro and someone to be taken seriously.

 

G Suite

If you're running a professional organization, I beg you to use a branded email. This means, avoiding "generic" emails like Gmail, Yahoo, or something similar. Those kinds of things can cut it when you're only speaking to friends and family, but if you really plan on increasing your reach, and especially taking sales or donations, this just doesn't look good. 

Would you rather give a large donation or make a large purchase to company@gmail.com or customerservice@company.com? With all the data breach issues we've had over the last couple of years, my money is only going to places that I can verify, and I don't think I'm alone in that mindset.

G Suite is a simple and reasonably-priced way to brand your emails. My email technically flows through Gmail, but my URL is in the address, making everything look way more legit. Plus, there are a lot of other benefits that come with G Suite, like Google Drive, which makes storing and sending large files less complicated.

 

Freshbooks

Need to send invoices? Freshbooks is way to go because it's incredibly simple to use. In fact, it's so easy to use that sometimes I double-check it, thinking I missed one of the steps. Nope! 

I used to create invoices in Word or Excel and they didn't look all that great, took some time to edit, and I didn't like the way they were organized. I don't have that problem anymore! 

And I haven't really started utilizing it yet, but Freshbooks also has a time-tracking feature that I want to take advantage of this year. You can even store receipts in Freshbooks as well. 

Note that this isn't a full accounting suite, but it does the job for me.

MailChimp

To be completely honest, I have a mixed relationship with MailChimp. I have used them for years at previous jobs, and currently use them for Signify's email marketing, but that likely won't always be the case. However, for the vast majority of my clients at nonprofits and social enterprises, MailChimp does a good job. If you have pretty simple email marketing needs, and just need to send regular e-blasts, you'll do just fine with them.

I bring this up, though, because I've recently seen a couple organizations that still use Constant Contact, which frankly, I'm surprised is still in business. Their templates and blasts look years behind those sent by MailChimp and it's competitors. And, again, whether you like or not, looks matter. The content and design both speak to where your company ranks in people's minds, even without them realizing it.

Like I said, if you have pretty straight-forward email marketing needs, MailChimp can do the job. And another one of the reasons so many people use them is the affordable pricing. It's even free if you have under 2,000 subscribers, so there's little excuse. Of course, at this point, I'll remind you that you have to actually send emails to your database. But we'll leave that bigger rant till later in this series . . . 

 

Canva

Gone are the days when social media was new and we could just post some simple text online and call it a day. Photo, and especially video, are trends that aren't going anywhere. You need to get people to see what you're doing online, and graphics are one way to say, "Hey! Look at me!" And Canva can help.

Canva is another one of those genius ideas that I wouldn't have a clue how to build, but wish was my idea. It gives anyone the ability to create professional-looking graphics. And they're perfectly sized to wherever you need to post them! It's a free tool that you need to get on board with, if you haven't already. For those of us who don't have a designer on staff, or can't afford to pay someone for our regular, graphic needs, Canva is a lifesaver. 

 

Moo

Part of your business strategy likely includes networking events. And whether you're attending a three-day conference or a two-hour seminar, you need to show up with business cards—unless you don't want to talk to anyone, tell anyone about your organization, or have anyone follow-up with you about how they can support you. Umm, those criteria probably do not fit, correct? (Hope not!)

I attend a lot of conferences and events, and am always surprised when people say they'd like to get my info, or give me theirs, but they don't have business cards. Sure, we need them less and less in today's world, but guess what—we still need them sometimes! 

Moo is where I got my business cards, and I love them. They look (and feel) great, and because I originally needed them for a last-minute work trip, I also received them in just a couple of days. You don't have to order many, but I would suggest always having a few on hand.

And depending on your needs, you'll also find letterhead, greeting cards, stickers, and more on their site. I'm actually thinking of ordering some greeting cards with Signify's logo on them to use as thank you cards. 

 

As you can see, building a strong small business foundation includes a lot of different things. Sometimes you have to think in terms of legal compliance, and sometimes you just need to get with the times. Either way, I hope these seven simple tools help you.

What would you add?

 

Read the other posts in this series:



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Here are seven simple tools that build a strong  small business  foundation. Think of this as putting your best, professional foot forward. You may consider them to be the next progression of your nonprofit or social enterprise, or you may just think of them as resetting to zero because they've been on your list for a while. Either way, they'll not only up your game, but improve people's perceptions of your organization.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours 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.