marketing strategy

How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

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.

So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

If you stumbled upon this post looking for the latest event planning tips and tricks, you might be a little disappointed. But, hang with me, I think you'll still learn a really valuable lesson, especially if you're a beginner to the event planning world.

You see, what I've found over and over again, across many contexts, is that while there are always shiny, new ideas to make your event look awesome, there is one element of event planning that should always get the spotlight.

It's the step that should never get skipped.

So, what is it? Strategy.

I truly believe taking a more strategic approach to planning the 2016 Atlanta Dream Center (ADC) annual benefit gala was key to its financial success.

Here's why.

A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

When I first started as a contractor for the benefit dinner, I was mostly working alongside the development director, who had been in the position less than a year. So, we were both newbies to the event. And even though the dinner was entering its fourth year, I felt like the event was still just trying to get off the ground. 

There was no established model to follow. The ADC staff had tried a few different formats, but hadn't really fallen in love with one yet. That gave us a lot of latitude without a tremendous amount of expectations, except for the fact that this was their largest fundraiser of the year. #NoPressure

There were a couple of things we immediately did to start off on the right foot. The first was to get organized. Those who had been in charge of the dinner previously were no longer with the nonprofit, so we had to conduct a treasure hunt for some of the assets because I really wanted to take a look at what had been done before to assess how effective it was, and ways to build on it.

Once we had them collected, my suggestion was that we move everything to Google Drive so all stakeholders would have instant access. This plan worked great, and allowed us to collaborate well. It also solved the problem of keeping everything in a central location should someone else leave in the future.

The other, main thing we did was set up regular planning and check-in meetings leading up to the event, which was about five months away. Some of those were just between the development director and I, and some involved all department heads for the organization that needed to have a say in aspects of the dinner. 

These two choices may seem easy, small, or inconsequential, but I promise you that they made a big difference in the tone and feel of the event right from the start. And everyone could feel it.

Never underestimate the power of being organized!

STRATEGY'S ROLE IN EVENT PLANNING

Now, we were ready to start the event planning process. And this is where strategy became the star player.

During one of our early meetings, the entire team was sitting around a table discussing the format, logistics, and what people liked and didn't like from previous years. I also started asking them more questions about who would be in the seats.

This proved to be a key moment because, not only should you ask this question every time you plan an event, but that year was a turning point for the organization. The goals for this dinner were bigger because costs had risen, of course, but they were also gaining a bigger reputation in the area.

Previously, it had been friends, family, and close partners who attended the event. That year, however, they wanted to target new individuals and corporations. Essentially, they were ready to broaden their reach.

So, we had to start looking at everything fresh for that year's dinner. What had worked in the past might not work for a new crowd.

We revamped the sponsorship package, added a lot of cold leads to the potential sponsor list, and changed the format of the event to be more forward-thinking and informative, rather than using "insider" language as they had done before.

This new group of attendees might not be familiar with the different ministries under ADC's umbrella, or know why the work is important, or understand how their donations can effect people and programs all over the state. It was a big opportunity, and we didn't want to miss it.

I also created::

  • Positioning language for the sponsorship package, instead of it just be a list of benefits, which helped people understand the what and why of their mission.

  • A formal sponsorship letter that anyone on the staff could use as a framework to solicit donations.

  • Talking points so that anyone who spoke about the dinner to a potential sponsor, donor, or ticket buyer could stay "on message," relaying the most important aspects of why the event was being held and what the money would go to.

  • The text for the website and email/print newsletters, so that everything was aligned and on point.

  • A marketing plan for them to see the event strategically from start to finish, even if I wasn't around.

  • A press release to get the word out about the event's success after it was over, which could bring more eyes to their work, resulting in even more new supporters, donors, or partners.

The ministry also began working on ways they could highlight their uniqueness, as well as how it relates to the overall mission of the organization. We needed to clearly communicate how everything worked together. And it turned out to be a very cool, experiential element of the evening that they now improve each year.

From the initial conversation to the wrap-up meeting, my goal was to bring a new level of professionalism to the event, and a fresh pair of eyes.

Don't get me wrong, their staff is outstanding at what they do, and they are relational to the core. (And a whole lot of fun!) But, like many small nonprofits, they struggled with systems and processes. Strategy wasn't the foundation of the event. 

(Note: Having an annual fundraiser because everyone else does or simple because you need money isn’t a strategy—or even a very good reason. Make sure you truly understand why you want to host the event before you put your staff through the pain of executing it.)

We made a huge amount of progress that year—and it showed. Yes, the final fundraising tally was fantastic, but those who had previously attended their benefit dinners also noted how different everything felt. They could see and feel the shift and intentionality, and they were really looking forward to the next one. That's definitely what you want to hear!

The staff also said that it was the most relaxed they'd felt at the benefit dinner. (<— Also what you want to hear!) Each person knew their role, and were able to connect with sponsors and donors throughout the evening rather than running around putting out fires and pitching in on last-minute logistics. 

One of the other things I suggested to the team was that we not only ask for donations at the end of the event, which was already part of the plan, but we give attendees other ways to stay engaged and build deeper relationships with ADC throughout the year. This was important both for the die-hard fans and the people who were new to the mission.

You don't want to have a great event and captive audience, and then just say you'll see them next year. You want to give them a clear next step, and make it easy to take.

Our answer was to have staffed tables and flyers available in the lobby while people waited in line for valet service. This move gave attendees options for getting more involved with whichever ministry struck a chord with them that night, as well as opportunities to further utilize their time, resources, and funds to support the nonprofit.

DETERMINING SUCCESS

It's absolutely true that sales and donations are important. Those things keep the doors open and the lights on. And it's equally true that people have planned events with far less strategy and still seen great results.

But planning a successful event can be seen so many different ways:

  • Hitting bigger sales and revenue goals

  • Increasing attendance

  • Not driving your staff insane

  • Letting you sleep easier at night

  • Allowing your tribe to take the right, next steps with your organization

That's why I think strategy is the key to making your next event more successful. It certainly worked for Atlanta Dream Center, and I think it will work for you too.

 

“‘Exceed expectations’ is an overused expression with few who can document occasions when they actually did exceed expectations. Kristi Porter is one who can point to the work she did with the Atlanta Dream Center and accurately state that she exceeded all of our expectations. You will be well pleased with the results achieved by bringing Kristi onto your team.” - Mark Northcutt, Atlanta Dream Center

 



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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.So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

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.


7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

These days, the internet is king. If you need to know or find something, you Google it. If you’re looking for a specific product or organization, you visit their website. And there’s nothing worse than landing on a page that’s cluttered, unorganized, and/or hard to navigate. We all know how fast we’ve hit that little red “x” on sites like that.

Designing and writing content for your website can seem challenging, but we’re going to walk you through the most important, and sometimes overlooked, aspects that will make your website effective, navigable, and memorable.

As a nonprofit leader, this is especially vital. Not only do you want to spread your message and goal, you want to raise money, and fundraising online is essential. It’s convenient, fast, and easy, and if done correctly can generate more money, more visitors, and more supporters.

This is important for everyone, though, not just nonprofits! Cause-focused organizations of all kinds also need web content that clearly informs readers of the issue and what they can do to help. You need to make an immediate and strong impression in order to gain supporters and grow your business. Everything must be clear, concise, and always lead back to the cause. So, let’s get to it!

7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

You need to keep all of your web content clear, easy to understand, and catered to your specific audience.

Who are you trying to reach? Who is your ideal donor or supporter? What do they do, what do they like? Figure out these questions and then tailor all your content to reach your audience. In return, answer questions for them. What do you do? Why should they care? How can they help?

Make all of your writing clear and concise, don’t add any extra information that doesn’t need to be there and that may confuse or mislead them. Avoid jargon. You might know the language of your specific industry but others probably do not. Get an outside, third party to read everything over and ensure that it is easy to understand. Your purpose should always be clear.

Additionally, keep all of your paragraphs short and sweet. Break up chunks of writing into easily-digestible content that one can easily scan through should they want to. Highlight the most important information so they can’t miss it. This also makes it easier for people to read and look at if they are on their phone or tablet, which let’s be honest, most of us are.

 

Keep your home page and all of your pages simple, not cluttered with text.

Your home page is the first thing viewers see, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with a ton of written information. They won’t know where to look or what to look for, and probably won’t read much of it at all.

Instead, use images to draw viewers in and interest them. We live in a visual world, so use that to your advantage and choose strong, eye-catching pictures that support your narrative. These will intrigue viewers and guide them to the written information.

This goes for your other pages as well. Save yourself and the reader time and cut the clutter. Only write what is most important, clearly and succinctly. Keep it simple.

Also worth noting: watch the number of pages you have on your website as well. If you have lots of different pages and categories this can also make your site look cluttered, and confuse or overwhelm the viewer. Most people won’t read an entire site as it is. And this means less writing for you too! Sounds like a win-win.

Use storytelling to attract and intrigue readers, inviting them to be a part of your cause.

No one will want to read a bland, boring, or strictly technical website. People respond well to stories, something that draws them in, appeals to their emotions, and makes them think. If you want to make your website more effective, creating a story around your mission and goal is a surefire way to garner more support. Storytelling is powerful.

You’re passionate about your work, so put that to paper (or rather, keyboard) and make it show. Make others passionate too. Tell readers about your organization, introduce a character and a conflict, present the solution, and show them how they can be part of that resolution.

However, choose your words wisely. This isn’t a novel; you only have a few seconds to pique visitors’ interests and keep them on your website. Keep it concise, to the point, and powerful. Every word counts, and you don’t get many. Make sure each one is impactful and furthers your cause.

You may also consider using statistics or numerical data to further your story and prove that readers can make a difference. How will their contribution really help? Show the success and make it real for them. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with stats.

You can find more resources for effective storytelling here.

 

Make your website customer or donor friendly--donation buttons or calls to action should be on every page and easily accessible.

You want viewers to take action, so communicate clearly what you want that action to be and what they need to do. Don’t forget: always keep in mind who you’re writing to! Use action and power verbs and convince them to take the necessary action.

A call to action can be anything from donating, to buying a product, to getting on your email list. Whatever you want your audience to do, this is what you need to call attention to. These are powerful marketing tools, and should get an immediate response from the person viewing it. They should directly let your audience know what to do next if they’re interested in what you have to offer.

These calls to action are what drives donations if you’re a nonprofit, or sales if you’re not. Keep your statements direct and concise. Use “you” to make the reader place themselves directly into the situation. Appeal to emotions, just like storytelling, and create a sense of urgency. This will make your content more compelling and effective.

Your goal should be to keep supporters one click away from donating or making whatever action you need them to make at all times. Design-wise, you need to be placing clear, easy to locate buttons on every page. Make them stand out by highlighting them in a color that is different from your written content so visitors will be sure to see it.

Your “About” page also needs to contain client/customer/donor language.

Did you know that the About page is often the second most visited page on a website? If that’s also the case for you, it should probably be working a little harder on your behalf.

Yes, it’s about you or your organization, but it also needs to appeal to the reader. You’re writing it for them, so they can determine who you are and if they want to support you. So convince them!

Talk about what you do and how it can help them, or how they can help you and why they should. Tell them why they should spend their time reading your website or supporting your cause. Remember what I said before, everything should be about your audience, even your About page.

This is also the perfect place to include your social media. Your website should have clear social media icons sprinkled throughout, but you should also include them here. Don’t be afraid to add a call to action button here as well. (See our About page as an example.)

 

You also need to make sure you establish trust with your audience, whether it be a donor, sponsor, or customer.

Prospective donors and customers are going to want to know where their money will really be going and if their financial information is safe and secure. You need to consider this when writing content and build that trust. Address these issues and put their minds at ease.

Demonstrate your organization’s use of funding, maybe with an eye-catching graph or some other graphic. Make sure your audience knows you value their support as well as their financial information, and take all necessary measures and precautions to ensure that it is secure.

Speaking of graphics...

 

Your content needs to be visually pleasing, so use pictures, graphics, and make it all look clean and appealing.

While your content is obviously important and will ultimately drive visitors to take action and support your cause, things need to be aesthetically pleasing as well, like I mentioned earlier. Choose your fonts wisely. Pick fonts that are easy to read and large enough for all screens and eyes.

Choose pictures and graphics that are also strong and only relevant to your organization. You need these visuals around your website to support your written content, catch the audience’s attention, and generally just look good! Make sure all images are clear and not too distracting. Create a color palette for your website and match your pictures to that palette. Be careful to only use royalty free images as well!

Remember that this is especially important for your homepage and your donation/product page. These need to be clear and visually stunning, but still not cluttered or hard to navigate. On your homepage, make sure your page categories are easy to spot and organized. On your donation or product page, include bold amounts, payment methods, frequencies, and how their donation or purchase will help your cause.

Clear, concise, beautiful!

Your website is the face of your organization and communicates with the world what you do, why they need to know, and how they can help. Make sure your content is powerful and your visuals are stunning, and you’re more likely to reach your intended audience—and your goals!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

Anyone else ever feel like they're caught in a perpetual catch-22? As a small business owner, I feel that way A LOT. For example, I know I need to increase my website views because standard conversion rates are at about two percent, meaning if you have 100 people visit your site, only two will take whatever action you've designated for them, like purchasing, signing up for your email list, or making a donation. But I have so many other things on my plate that are also important. So, which do I choose? Which do you choose?

Even as a marketer, I know that I should be marketing my blog posts much more than I am actually writing them, but they both have to get done, so my time is always split. It's a common frustration many of us share, right?

There are, of course, a lot of ways to get traffic to your site, but for most of us, the day in and day out formula revolves around social media. And if you spend several hours writing a blog post, but only promote it on social media a couple of times, it could easily go to the internet graveyard. #RIP

So, what's the solution? I think it might be a social media scheduling tool, especially if you do not have someone who is solely dedicated to your social media strategy. There are a lot of popular options out there, and I took the time to review 13 of them. None were perfect (though some come close!), and several were quite similar, but I think you'll find some great choices for your nonprofit or social enterprise.

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

First, let me address a hesitation you may be feeling, which I also had for months. This all sounds good, you agree with what I said, and you share the same frustrations, but you know it's going to cost money, which makes it feel more like a luxury, and something you should probably put off for "later." Sound familiar?

For those of us at small organizations, every dollar counts. And this is especially true for those of us running solo businesses or may even be all volunteer-led. We want to look more professional, but we also need to stick to our budgets. I get it, and like I said, I debated with myself about it as well.

However, recently, I've decided to put this in the "you've gotta spend money to make money" category. That, my friends, is unavoidable. And that's also what I'll be talking about for the next three weeks here on the blog.

In order to scale your nonprofit or social enterprise, you just have to be willing to put out some upfront cash knowing that it'll pay off in the long run. If I don't pay for the social media scheduling tool, I will either need to hire someone to manage my social media, or I will always be minimally promoting my blog posts, unless I slow my blogging frequency way down to make time in my schedule for it. 

Granted, my traffic will likely increase organically with time, but it will take a very long time. Like I said, there are certainly other options for increasing your traffic, but for everyday efforts, I think this is the way to go.

So, here we are. This is where I've arrived, and I wanted you to benefit from my research and experience. 

Two other things to note before we dig into the social media scheduling tools.

First, pretty much all of the services below have free versions and higher tiers, but as I am a small business who works mostly with small nonprofits and social enterprises, I had us in mind when I did my research. None of the free versions had the features I was looking for, so I knew I would have to pay. Prices below reflect annual plans, because that is cheaper than paying month-to-month. Also, if you are a nonprofit, most of them have discounts, so be sure to ask!

Second, in case you were wondering, it is always more effective to post "natively." So, for example, scheduling Facebook Page posts directly in Facebook. However, most of us just don't have the time to do this long-term or ongoing with our other responsibilities. But platforms will generally show your Tweets and posts to more people when they are published directly from their own site or app. I get it, I wish I could, but I just can't. 

 

THE WINNER: SMARTERQUEUE

My biggest priority for the search was having the ability to auto recycle content. Meaning, not just schedule Tweets and posts, but once the queue was empty, it would start all over again on its own. This really allows you to "set it and forget it," and just add new content as you go into the mix.

Cost: $17 per month

Pros: 

  • Auto recycling

  • Excellent amount of features without being overwhelming.

  • Works well with short-term promos. For example, you can set a post to expire after a certain date or number of times.

  • Drag and drop content calendar.

  • Utilizes categories for different types of content. (ex: quotes, promos, blogs, etc.). And each category can have its own schedule, and you can set a ratio of how often each category should be recycled. Categories can also be paused and customized per profile.

  • Has content curation features, which allow you to easily add new content from other places you follow or find, which aren't already part of your mix.

  • Easy set-up by analyzing your profile history and creating a schedule you can customize.

  • Helps you find a posting schedule based on analytics. It's always difficult to know "the best" time to schedule per social channel, and sometimes the "experts" disagree on when it is.

  • You an tag others in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • Has a competitor analysis feature so you can see what others like you are doing, and how they're performing.

  • Monitors the mentions you get from other social media accounts. Who doesn't love a shout out!

  • Easy migration from Edgar.

  • Smaller plans don’t have as many restrictions on features as some services.

  • 50% discount for nonprofits—wow!

Cons:

  • Doesn't auto schedule. It won't pick the best time to send your posts so you don't have to. Unless you are really good at reading analytics, this is a big guessing game. So, it's nice when a service chooses for you.

  • Can't upload video directly in the program at this time. I imagine they'll fix this soon, though, since video is winning the Miss Popularity contest right now. They do have workaround instructions in the Help section for now, though.

  • This one seems a little silly and stingy to me, but if you downgrade from a higher priced tier or cancel your account, there are no refunds. Most of the others offer this, I think, so I was surprised to see it.

Lots of pros, am I right? This was only the second tool I originally checked out, and I was pretty smitten with their site. It had enough information to keep me reading and interested, but no so much that I was overwhelmed. I'm really looking forward to using it! You can sign up right here with my affiliate link, which gets you a 30-day free trial instead of 14 days. (By the way, if you need help, my friend, Jennifer Wilder, can help get you set up. She did mine!)

(Update 5/7/18: This year, Twitter, Facebook, and it seems like every other social platform has introduced all kinds of new rules and regulations to keep haters, spammers, and fake newsers at bay. This is obviously a very good thing, but has also been a bummer for those of us who schedule social media using these third-party platforms. However, I'm still sticking with SmarterQueue for two reasons.

First, they have implemented "fixes" so that their software still works. Second, even though I know manually scheduling and posting will yield better results, I maintain my position that if posting frequently on social media is going to happen, then right now, it's going to happen through a scheduler. Maybe that'll change when Signify grows up a little more, but for now, here we are. And I'm grateful to SmarterQueue for their updates and fast, friendly customer service team.)

 

Edgar

Edgar came in at a tie for second place with Viraltag, but I'm listing it first because probably more people have heard of it. It is a really solid option.

Cost: $49 per month

Pros:

  • 30-day money-back guarantee

  • I feel like everyone I talk to that has it loves it.

  • Has content curation through a browser extension

  • Expiring content feature for limited-time promos

  • A bargain for larger businesses since there aren’t other tiers. I actually think they've come down in price since I seem to remember them being $79 when I've looked at them in the past.

  • Has categories

  • Getting started guides and a support forum

  • I've been on their email list for a few months, and find it helpful. I really love it when service providers like this have helpful forums and emails. :)

  • For those who’d like an extra special on-boarding experience, every Edgar account comes with free account setup assistance and a free social media strategy call!

Cons:

  • This is the most expensive option I looked at.

  • Doesn’t sync with Bitly, a link shortener, which I use a lot.

  • Sends performance reports, but no analytics at this point.

 

Viraltag

This was my other tie for second place. It was a much tougher decision once I'd narrowed it to these three! And if you're wondering how I arrived at these 13 social media scheduling programs when there are so many others out there, it was because I asked some social media pros I know as well as in some Facebook groups with social media managers and people more likely to use these kinds of tools. I actually hadn't heard of Viraltag until someone suggested it in one of the groups, and I was very impressed. I think you'll start to see it pop up more.

Cost: $24 per month

Pros: 

  • Learns the best times to post and which content drives more engagement—LOVE this!

  • Specializes in visual content, though you can have plain text posts for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  • Connects with Google Drive and Dropbox and Canva

  • Provides image editing directly in their interface

  • You can customize images per network

  • Has the content calendar feature so you can see how everything fits together rather than just in a list.

  • Really helpful customer service chat, even on the weekend.

  • You can schedule a demo to begin.

Cons:

  • Not sure I like the interface as much from the little I saw on the site, but of course, this is a preference.

  • Managing Facebook Groups is "in the pipeline."

  • You have to manually handle any short-term promos, which means deleting them after you don't want them posting anymore.

  • The site says that this plan has only 30 days of analytics, but the customer service woman told me they could remove that restriction, so just be sure to ask.

Missing Lettr

This is another one I hadn't heard of until I posed the question to a social media manager Facebook Group, and I find it very fascinating. For the right person, I think it would be awesome. 

Cost: $15 per month

Pros:

  • It's good for people who need social support to keep their blogs out there circulating the internet. The gist is that it takes your blog post, cuts it up into bite-sized pieces, and distributes it over the course of a year to your social networks. Cool huh?

  • Looks extremely easy to use, and does a lot of the work for you. You do get to double-check and approve everything before it goes out.

  • It even suggests hashtags for you! #winning

Cons:

  • It does what it does, and that's it. So, it doesn't work with other promotions or content you may want to push. You'd need another service to manage that, or if that's a rare occasion for you, just post directly to your social networks as needed.

 

Social Jukebox

Okay, so your brain may not work the same as mine—fair assumption. This was one of those that several people recommended, but just didn't give me much of an impression after looking at it. It's a very simple site, which sounds like a good thing, except it didn't "sell" me. And because the website is so basic, I didn't really want to contact them with the dozens of questions I had.

Cost: $19 per month

Pros:

  • You can set targeted posts, which seems cool. (ex: send a birthday Tweet to someone every year, etc)

  • Has orientation video

Cons:

  • Again, I just didn't have much of an impression. However, for people looking for a straight-forward way to get the job done without bells and whistles, this will probably suffice. But, for a couple bucks less per month, look at how much more I'm getting with SmarterQueue . . .

 

Recurpost

Even though it's still somewhat basic, this site has a nice layout and design that worked for me. It didn't have all the features I wanted, but a solid option for people wanting to keep things simple while adding some oomph to their social or launch strategy.

Cost: $0-25 per month

Pros:

  • With so many services offering free accounts, you may be wondering why I put the goose egg in this cost category. That's because it actually offers some pretty good features for the free accounts, so if you are really concerned about the price of a social media scheduling tool, or want to start slow, you might check this one out.

  • They predict the best times for you to send, which is nice.

  • Seems like a fairly simple way to recycle posts.

  • Categories, calendar feature, and analytics

  • Has a knowledge base

Cons:

  • Even though it checked a lot of boxes for me, it didn't wow me. Obviously, this is just an impression, and not quantifiable. It may be just the thing you've been looking for.

Buffer

This is one of the more popular options. I've used it myself, once several years back on behalf of a nonprofit and also earlier this year for my Facebook Group (before you could schedule posts there). This is another pretty solid option, depending on your needs.

Cost: $10 per month

Pros:

  • Nice, low cost

  • Probably the simplest tool to set up and use

  • Has image editing and video uploading

  • Lots of resources (blog, emails, guides, webinars, FAQs) to help you get better, and to answer questions

Cons:

  • Less impressive

  • No categories

  • No recycling or auto scheduling

  • No analytics on lower plans

 

Hiplay

Hiplay serves as an add-on to Buffer.       

Cost: $5 per month

Pros:

  • For people who love Buffer, and they do have a big fan base, you can recycle your posts on a service you love without a lot of additional effort or training.

Cons:

  • You're now having to use two programs, yuck.

 

Hootsuite

This is one of the other big dogs on the social scene. I've used Hootsuite for many years, even just for my personal profiles before I had a legit business. Their free plan works pretty well, and served me for a long time. But it just isn't going to get the job done anymore, now that I need to step up my game.

Cost: $19 per month     

Pros:

  • Basic scheduler with analytics

  • Calendar view

  • Integrates with other apps

  • Auto schedules content

  • Analytics

  • 30-day free trial (That's a lot!)

Cons:

  • You get unlimited scheduling with paid plans, but they recently introduced limits on free plans.

  • Doesn't recycle content

  • Once you go past that $19 plan, you're looking at $99 per month!

 

Dlvr.it

They skipped adding some letters in their funky company name, but didn't repurpose them on their website. This is a super basic site, which just gives you the absolute minimum information. As such, it didn't impress me.

Cost: $9.99 per month

Pros:

  • Integrates with Google Analytics and Bitly, which is really nice.

  • It says it's "the easiest" way to post on Facebook and Twitter, so perhaps no explanation needed. ;)

  • Works with lots of social platforms, where others have more limited options.

  • Auto scheudling

  • Affordable

Cons:

  • I just don't know much about them because they didn't take the time to put it on their site.

Everypost

I'd heard of this one, but not much about it. And, honestly, there's not all that much to talk about, in my opinion. Some of the big plans seem to be good options for team collaboration, but I don't know many people that need that. 

Cost: $9.99 per month

Pros:

  • Customize content per channel, which is nice

  • You get 10 channels for $10 per month. Most of the plans I've been touting here are only for three to five profiles at that lowest price plan.

  • Unlimited scheduling. Some of the plans in this post have a limit as to how many posts you can schedule at that price, like 100, 500, or 1,000.

  • You can request a demo.

  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Analytics only for two profiles at that price

  • Nothing super special

 

Social Pilot

One of my friends who is a social media manager loves this one. And it does have quite a lot of features for the price tag.

Cost: $8 per month

Pros:

  • Excellent, affordable option if you don’t need auto recycling

  • Connects to Bitly and Canva

  • Calendar feature

  • Content suggestions if you need some help

  • Analytics

Cons:

  • Again, the big drawback for me was that it doesn't recycle content. I don't want the well to run dry, and me have to go set it all up again.

  • No categories

 

CoSchedule

I've been on their email list for probably at least a year. But if you aren't into marketing or really honing your social skills, it would probably just be overwhelming. They'd definitely fall into the "more is more" category. However, I do recommend their Headline Analyzer for writing titles.

Cost: $40 per month

Pros:

  • They definitely want you to be well-resourced through emails, blogs, webinars, etc.

  • Full marketing calendar available

  • Integrates with Wordpress, Google Analytics, Evernote, Google Docs, and more

  • Live demos regularly

  • Drag and Drop calendar

  • Categories

  • Recycles content

Cons:

  • Second most expensive option I looked at

  • Pricier plans have much more advanced features for entire marketing efforts, not just social

  • In all that information, I couldn't figure out how many profiles or posts the $40 per month got you.

  • Whereas some of the websites only had one or two pages that didn’t impress me or provide me with enough info, this one had so much it was kind of overwhelming to get the full picture. I can see growing into it maybe, but it’s just too robust for now.

  • With a plethora of features, I find it funny that it doesn't work with LinkedIn.

 

And one to grow on: Hopper

This one was also recommended in my research, but in looking at it, Hopper is only made for Instagram. However, it says it schedules "automatically," which I didn't think was possible. It's $19 per month for one account, so I'll let you check it out of Insta is your jam.

 

Whew—are you exhausted!?!? I am! But hopefully I saved you hours of research, or at least narrowed things down for you. A lot of it comes down to what you need, or think you'll need, as well as your preferences. 

Before you go, I want to leave you with a couple other things to consider:

  • While I don’t list every feature here, also take note of things like FAQs and support forums so you don’t always have to reach out to customer service, especially if you work a lot on the weekends when they may not be available.

  • If you are just starting to explore this idea, but aren't ready to make any moves yet, ask to get added to their email lists. Then you can learn more about the company, the culture, offers, and get more information about features. I love to see how people treat their email lists. #marketingnerd

  • If you are somewhat ready to make the leap, almost all of these services offer free trials with requiring a credit card. So, check them out, or at least poke under the hood. You can take a look at the systems and interface without having to upload a bunch of content.

  • Think long-term! This is super important. Look for options you think you might need or would be nice to have as you grow, so you don’t have to through the entire set-up process again. For example, even before I sent my first company email, I knew that I'd want to switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit at some point. But, in the interest of saving a few bucks and avoiding a learning curve when I was already overwhelmed, I went with MailChimp "for now." But I have kicked myself multiple times, and of course, every month goes by, and I will have more to set up later when I do make the switch! Ugh, I'm getting hives just thinking about it. Anyway, learn from my mistake!

See you out there in the social sphere! 

And don't forget to try SmarterQueue! Remember, my affiliate link gets you a 30-day free trial!

(PS: I am a busy solopreneur with limited time on my hands, so my friend Jen is the one who got me set up and running on Smarterqueue. She is available to help you too!)



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A social media scheduling tool might be for you,  especially  if you do not have someone who is solely dedicated to your social media  strategy . There are a lot of popular options out there, and I took the time to review 13 of them. None were perfect (though some come close!), and several were quite similar, but I think you'll find some great choices for your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

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.


8 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Launches (And How to Fix Them!)

Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time and resources, not to mention oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. After all, you don't have time to waste. I know this because I know many others like you, and you've got too much on your plate for missed opportunities.

But what happens when a launch is just okay? Or maybe it's good, but it wasn't as good as you'd hoped. Or, sadly, what if it flops? (Even successful launches have room for improvement.)

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, I've observed a number reasons throughout my career in marketing, PR, and events (among other things) that may be causing you to unconsciously sabotage your launches. I'll touch on eight of them here. But don't worry, there is hope! I'll also show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

(PSST—This is part of a series on launches. View Part 2 and Part 3.)

8 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Launches (And How to Fix Them!)

1. Not Having a Launch Strategy

This is probably the biggest issue I see. From annual events to one-time launches, many organizations don't have a launch strategy in place. The launch is done because it's that time of year, or someone told you it needs to be done, or your visionary leader had another great idea.

None of those are inherently bad reasons, but if you don't know how to integrate them into what you're doing, you'll never ensure success. 

I like to think of launches like a bridge because they should have connection points on either side. This means, you figure out how what you're already doing leads into them, and how to connect people to what you regularly do after they're over. They should never "stand alone" because you'll either confuse your audience by this new thing, or not give them any reason to stay connected to you.

Additionally, you need a plan. It's a bad idea to just do whatever task comes to mind each day, or tackle what seems urgent at the time. This means nothing you do is building on each other, and you'll only ever feel scattered as you work on the launch. Yuck, no one wants that.

The fix: While I don't have time to go into great detail here (and could talk about it for hours), the biggest and best action step I can give you is to ask yourself what you want attendees or participants to do after the launch. Then make sure you communicate that to them and provide easy solutions to make it happen. Launches are short-term, and there's a lot of relationship that can happen after they're over. Having a strategy in place offers you the best chance at turning interest into engagement.

You can also check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.

2. Not Changing Your Regular Promotion Schedule

It doesn't matter if your organization consists of you sitting at your kitchen table or an army of staffers, interns, and volunteers—launches require a lot of extra effort. This means that whatever you normally do for your promotion schedule has to likely be dramatically stepped up for a short time.

So, let's say you send a monthly newsletter, post on social media a few times per week, and write a blog twice per month. And that's already a challenge because of your other responsibilities. Here's the bad news: for a launch, you'll probably have to double that. Here's the good news: it doesn't have to be for long.

If you've been paying attention to social media, you know that those lovely, little things called algorithms are always changing. And this isn't always in your favor, sadly, especially without paying for it. So, you're going to have to fight harder for people's attention. And that means posting even more frequently.

And, unfortunately no, this doesn't mean you just post about your launch a bunch more and call it a day. You need to increase your content marketing strategy so that you can "sell" more without annoying your audience. If you don't increase your promotion schedule, or you only post a bunch more about what you want people to do for you, like buy or donate, you run the risk of no one seeing your message, or even losing fans.

The fix: Gear up, baby—it's go time! Make room in your calendar for the extra time you'll need to increase your promotional schedule. Or, even better, get help. And create a plan for what you're going to say and when, so that you're spreading out helpful, intriguing, or delightful content in between asking your audience to do something that benefits you.

 

3. Not Considering Your Audience

This may seem like an odd one to include, but it can easily happen when you've been doing the same event for a long time. In cases like these, we tend to do what we've always done, without giving it a lot of thought.

The problem here is that things can change over time. Maybe you hosted an event for people who knew your organization well, but now people attend who don't know you as well, or at all. Maybe you launched an awareness campaign years ago, but the issue is widely known now. Or maybe your previous fundraising goals just won't cut it with the new programs you want to include in your new budget, and you need to attract more people, or people with more money.

Without considering this aspect, you may be communicating incorrectly to your audience. Or you may even be drawing the wrong people.

The fix: Spend some time looking at the history of your launch, including examining the original purpose and those who have previously participated. Decide if it's still doing it's job, or if changes need to be made. When we don't continue innovating or evolving, something that was once successful may become mediocre.

4. Having Too Many, or Unclear, Calls to Action

This one is super hard! When we actually have the attention of potential customers or donors, we want to tell them all the things. We want them to buy or donate, join the email list, come to our next event, volunteer, and on, and on, and on. This is because there's so much to do—and it's all great! But the more you give people to do, the less they're probably going to do it. (Here's some sciencey stuff to back me up.)

Even when you have someone's attention, you likely only have it for a short time. So, it's important to not overwhelm them. Additionally, you don't want to make participation hard. Always lower the "barrier to entry" for taking your next step. 

  • Click a link to donate or buy.

  • Download a freebie.

  • Lend your name to the petition.

  • Refer a friend.

  • Share on social media.

  • Register at this link.

These are all quick and easy examples. Unless it's your mom or a super fan, giving them too many options just means you'll lose their attention even faster—and you may not get it back.

On the other hand, maybe your calls to action are unclear. You avoid being super promotional and salesy, which I totally understand, but that could mean your audience doesn't actually know what you want them to do. You can space out the hard "asks" between some softer ones, or work up to it, but you need to leave no interpretation for what action you want them to take.

The fix: Reexamine your process and communication. Ideally, make sure you're only asking them to do one, maybe two things if they're really easy, and double-check that the language is crystal clear. 

 

5. Not Having All Hands on Deck

Launches often fall on the shoulders of a couple of people, and that's okay. Sometimes there aren't any alternatives. But if this is a major initiative at your organization, everyone needs to have a hand in promotion. 

Even at small businesses, people tend to leave the communication efforts to the people working on the launch, as well as the official channels like the company's email and social media. After all, everyone has more than enough to do already, right? But if you think this way, just consider all the other promotional avenues you're missing out on. Everyone has different personal and professional networks they can talk to.

The fix: This post goes into more detail, but make it easy for people to talk about you. This includes internal and external relationships. Especially when we're referring to employees, stakeholders and boards, volunteers, interns, etc, everyone should be up-to-date about how they can help meet the launch goals. And even if you're a solopreneur, you should make sure that you're talking about the launch on both your personal and professional channels anyway. These cross-promotional efforts can give you twice the reach.

6. Not Promoting During and After the Launch

It's easy to think that the end of the launch is the end of the project, but that shouldn't be the case. Instead, you should use that momentum for even greater results, both now and later.

I've worked on an untold number of events over the years, so this is where I see it happen most often. Too many people promote events before-hand, and then the day/night of, don't promote much at all, and even less after, unless it's just to slap a Facebook album up on their page. This is a shame, because it's another opportunity to set up your next event while you have people's attention.

Can you live Tweet or hop on Facebook Live, give people who couldn't attend the chance to see what they missed and make plans to be there in the future? Did you send out an email directly after the event to showcase the highlights, whether written or in video clips, and give links or a save the date for the next event? Have you considered send a press release to local or national media that detailed what took place, and what will happen in the future, to get greater exposure?

And outside of events, this strategy works for other launches as well. Those examples aren't exclusive to in-person events. Let's go back to that first item in this post and think about "what's next" for those who attended/participated, as well as those who are sad to miss out. Using the bridge analogy again, you can lead people where you want them to go with your organization.

It could even simply include thank you notes, following up with large donors and sponsors, or even a survey. All of these are additional "touch points" that allow you to build a deeper relationship with fans and potential fans. This long-term approaches leads to greater sustainability. 

The fix: You've probably heard that it's easier to go deeper with your current audience than it is to fine new ones, and that's absolutely true. You're already spending your time and energy on this launch, so don't miss every opportunity to nurture the relationship. Think of ways you can continue building on the launch, both during and after, to capitalize on the effort you're already putting out. It will likely also make the next launch better.

 

7. Not Taking Time to Evaluate

There are undoubtedly tasks, projects, meetings, and obligations piling up while you're working on your launch. So, it's kind of a big relief when it's over. And you might take some time to celebrate, but it's short-lived because there's something else that requires your attention.

You go-getters may even schedule a follow-up meeting to assess what went right and what went wrong. That's excellent, but set aside enough time to give this evaluation the attention it deserves. An hour before lunch probably won't get the job done when everyone is more concerned with what type of sandwich they're ordering over how next year could be better.

When you don't take the time to properly evaluate your launch, you're doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Heck, you may not even fully realize your mistakes. Ouch. This can lead to all kinds of problems, including spending money unnecessarily, which is probably all of our biggest fear.

The fix: Have people take notes before, during, and after the launch with their suggestions. Also, have them jot down, and voice, what went right. You need to be sure to celebrate the big and little things too. And, as mentioned above, schedule plenty of time for a recap meeting. As time passes, memories get cloudy, so this should happen soon after the launch. Finally, get clear on your action steps, and document them well for the next time.

 

8. Not Getting Extra Help

Um, have we talked about how much hard work it takes to pull off a launch? #understatement

Whether you're flying solo or have a support team, you may need additional help with your launch. It can get overwhelming really fast, especially if you wear multiple hats. I've heard too many stories that include words like, "I meant to do that, but I didn't have time," or, "Oh, I completely forgot," or even, "I have no idea how to do that." 

Yikes, that's not what you want from your launch experience! If you know you won't be able to do it all, don't have the necessary experience, or even if you find out during the process that you can't do it all, don't be afraid to ask for help. I realize it may cost more time or money, but let's face it, your BIG launch is at stake here. This is a short-term investment that could pay off big in the long run.

The fix: Not hard to figure this one out. You may have to be creative in your approach, but there is usually a solution not far away. Think interns, volunteers, co-workers, bartering, and of course, hire if you need to. People like me are available to work on projects, meaning we won't stick around for office pizza parties if you don't want us to.

Your launch is really important, so do everything you can to make it a success.

 

(PSST—This is part of a series on launches. View Part 2 and Part 3. Ready to go to the next level? Check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time, resources, and oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. However, there are at least eight reasons that you may be unconsciously sabotage your launches. But I'll show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

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.