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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!)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

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.


12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

Everyone wants to grab their piece of the pie when it comes to market share. No matter the business model, we all need money to keep the doors open and the lights on. But the competition is fierce . . .

In 2015, the United States Small Business Association noted that 400,000 small businesses opened that year—and about the same number closed. (This number includes nonprofits.)

And launches present their own opportunities and challenges in the life of a small business. On one hand, they're often exciting, and a great chance to build buzz and get people's attention. On the other hand, they're usually short-lived, so you have to make them count because they may only happen once, annually, or at most, a couple times per year.  So, if you have an event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, book, or course launch on the horizon, pay close attention.

There are definite trends you want to ride when it comes to launches (ex: email sequences and social media blitzes), but you'll also need to be creative. Innovative ideas are more likely to make people take notice—and bring in the sales or donations. 

Below you'll find 12 unique launches ideas worth copying. But, here's my caveat: don't just copy and paste. Put your own spin on them. They'll only be successful if they align with your own social enterprise or nonprofit.

(PSST: This post is part of a series about launches. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Or take it to the next level with my launch strategy guide.)

12 Unique Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

Event Launch

Idea 1: Meet Ups

I was the Event Marketing Director for The Orange Conference for almost six years. And for several of those years, one of the ways we helped people get excited about it was to host local meet-ups all over the country. The catch: we didn't have staff all over the country. So, we let people in our tribe host them for us.

We hosted several here in Atlanta, as well as in locations across the US where we did have staff. But there were a lot of places we obviously couldn't reach on our own, and our fans were more than happy to jump in. They wanted to meet others like them in their hometowns, and we were thrilled they wanted to connect with each other. So, we provided downloadable flyers, social media images, guidance, and even allowed each gathering to give away a ticket to the upcoming event. So, whether people came to win a free ticket or to network with peers, we still got to build community and talk about our event. It was a really fun way to get our fans involved.

Idea 2: Membership

It can be very difficult to get and sustain momentum for your launch when your entire business model rests on one, big event. Yellow Conference is one of those. Yes, they have a regularly-updated blog, social media, and things like that, but in a sea of events, blogs, and social media accounts, your message can get lost or forgotten, even by your fans.

One of the ways they fight through the noise is the Yellow Collective. It originally began as a subscription box, which I thought was very clever for their business model. In its second year, it has evolved into a membership group that includes many of the original elements: in-person, at home, and online resources. And it also includes discounted tickets to their annual conference. They've done a really great job at keeping their community connected throughout the year so that, when it's event launch time, their fans are already primed and waiting.

Fundraising Launch

Idea 1: Get Out of the Office

Sometimes all you need to do is change the scenery. For Atlanta Dream Center's "48 in 48" Campaign, the founder of the nonprofit lived on the streets for two days. One of their three primary ministries is focused on homelessness, so it made perfect sense with their mission.

And because the founder had the past experience of being homeless himself, it magnified the story. He made the issue relatable and gave first-hand insight. Leading up to the event, a lot of buzz was generated among their supporters because it was not something you expected to see from the founder of an nonprofit. During the 48 hours, he also did a lot of Facebook Live videos so people could follow his experience, and that generated additional donations once people saw it in action. He talked about his life, what he was seeing, and interviewed others on the streets with him. It was a brilliant way to shed light on their cause.

Idea 2: Shared, Uncommon Experiences

Similarly, Nicholas House has an annual fundraiser where their supporters can sleep outside in an effort to raise awareness about homelessness. Each participant is asked to raise $2,500, taking some of the annual fundraising responsibilities off of the organization itself.

What I liked about this event, in particular, is that my friend who participated is a board member. Often, events like these attract more adventurous high school and college kids. But seeing adults with their own families involved was special. Yes, the environment is more controlled in this case than compared to above, but unless you're big on camping, sleeping outside on the ground without all the luxuries just isn't much fun. (At least in this girl's opinion.) And because of the individuals raising support, that provides more "social proof" for the organization because someone else is doing the talking, and her fundraising letter conveyed her heart and excitement for their work. That's not something you can force or buy.

 

Book Launch

Idea 1: Blog "Book Tour"

Unless you have the full might of a traditional publisher behind you, it can be difficult to get the word out about your book. And, even so, today's publishers want authors to take an active role in their own marketing. Enter the blog "book tour."

My friend Katrell, who owns Dr. Bombay's tea shop here in Atlanta, participated in one of these for her book. Even though it was set up by her publisher, it would be relatively easy to pull off for just about anyone. She didn't have a big name or a big audience, so this was a fantastic way to spread the word without a big budget to travel around the country to book signings and interviews. Instead, you'd just set up a series of book reviews or guest posts during a defined time period leading up to the book release, such as two or three months. This strategy definitely helped her sell books.

Idea 2: Galley Copies

If your social enterprise or nonprofit has one or more large events each year, you probably already know that it's best to release new products there, while you have a captive and engaged audience. But once-in-a-while, the timing just doesn't quite work out.

This was the case for the latest book by Growing Leaders about inspiring and mentoring today's students. So, what they decided to do was to give all 200+ attendees at their annual conference a galley copy of the book. This opportunity allowed them to talk about and promote the book, and build interest for it's release the following month. They also had a special pre-launch price with bonuses. Nothing replaces a face-to-face pitch, and by giving out galley copies, they were still able to capitalize on a live audience for future sales.

Awareness or Community-Building Campaign Launch

Idea 1: Recreate an Experience

Many of the causes that you all work on require you to protect those you help. Some of those include victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence, or homelessness. Not only do you want to avoid capitalizing on someone else's tragedy, but you want to keep them safe.

Street Grace launched Suburban Horror Story as a way to accurately portray the issue of sex trafficking for the community. You can watch videos online that are recreations of actual events, and also learn more about the issue. They also had "tours" to houses where arrests had been made and to show them what traffickers, victims, and warning signs look like, and what actually happens. This gave those in attendance (donors, potential donors, and media) an up-close look at the problem, and showed them how they could be involved in the solution. It is a very effective way to talk about the people behind the issues without actually involving victims.

But just the quality (and frankly, scariness) of the website did a lot to stir up interest for people to take a tour, learn more, and get involved in the work of Street Grace, or even donate to their cause. So, make sure that even when you're actually promoting an in-person event, that the promotional materials, like the website, do a good job in drawing people into your cause, and make them want to get involved. This site did a fantastic job. They could've just splashed up a single page with with stats and a description, but they definitely took it further to great results.

Idea 2: Take Advantage of (or Declare) a Holiday

I've talked about the idea of taking advantage of holidays—both official and unofficial—on this blog and my newsletter before, but it's always important to bring it up again. Because there are so many to choose from! People love celebrating special occasions, so take note of any that you can work into your launch plan. It often gives you a new way to talk about what you're doing.

There are, of course, plenty of legit options like Christmas, Halloween, and Fourth of July that might play nicely with your launch. #GivingTuesday to kick off your year-end giving campaign, anyone? Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Black History Month, and White Ribbon Against Pornography are a few others. However, there are plenty of wacky observances as well. For example, you can try World Kindness Day, Adopt a Rescue Pet Day, Digital Detox Day, or Read a Book Day. (There is literally a day for just about anything you can think of.)

And there may be even times when you need to create your own holiday. When I worked at Captain Planet Foundation, we created a Captain Planet Day. We had a formal ceremony down at Atlanta's City Hall, received a proclamation, and the whole nine yards. It was to celebrate a milestone in the foundation's history, but also garnered attention for the organization as we kicked off promotions for the annual fundraiser.

 

Product Launch

Idea 1: Giveaways and Contests

My friend, Jen, just wrapped her first successful Kickstarter for her physical product called the Hope Deck. One of the strategies she used to get attention for her campaign was by doing free giveaways on influencer social media accounts.

For example, she used both existing relationships and good ol' fashioned research to locate a handful Instagram accounts that fit her target market and were interested in doing a giveaway. She allowed them to give away a couple Hope Decks in exchange for pointing them to her account or campaign page. This allowed her to easily expand her audience, and when she was directly promoting that people fund the campaign, she had more eyes on what she was doing. It made a difference! 

Idea 2: Giveaways for Reviews

This isn't really a new trick, but I'm surprised at how little it's used, so I thought I'd bring it back up. I think most of us feel we need to bootstrap everything and get by on our own, but why? Getting help is often way better. Now, I do know that people often launch in a rush and that may be a factor. (That is definitely one way to sabotage your launch!) 

But when you can get someone else to talk about your launch—you should! Yes, sometimes you may have to pay people to review your product, but again, using existing relationships and research should also turn up plenty of free opportunities. There are so many blogs, magazines, newspapers, YouTube Channels, etc. A few of those leads are likely to respond and participate.

A client and I recently talked about this because she's launching soon. (Can't divulge yet, but it's gonna be cool!) She thought she would have to pay for people to review or talk about her product, but I named a handful of people in just a few minutes who would do it for free. Just put your thinking cap on, and I bet you'll come up with your own list too.

Tip: We often want to target the Oprah's of the world so we can make it to the top faster, but these folks are just plain hard to reach. Find people with a few thousand followers, or depending on your product, up to 100K followers. Sometimes those with bigger reputations get contacted very little so they're happy to participate. But often the "littler guys" rarely get contacted, would love to participate, and have a few thousand have very engaged fans who would love to hear about your product.

Course Launch

Idea 1: Facebook Groups

Facebook groups have become ALL. THE. RAGE. over the past couple of years. I even have one. But course creators are cleverly using them to their advantage now as well. Typically, they are meant to accompany an online course, or at least that's how I see a lot of those playing out. Especially when the courses are written or video-based, this allows the creator to interact with the students, and students to interact with each other. I am a member of a couple of these, and they're really fun.

But there are other ways to use them as well. Take the Myth of Balance, for example. Originally, it was released as a book. It's a very short, but actionable book. And, like most things, the information isn't the transformation—it's the action. So, the author created a Facebook Group to serve as the outlet for the course, which he refers to as a workshop series. Sample principles that I mentioned in the first paragraph, but much easier. He can release worksheets, weekly videos, polls and questions, etc, created right there to the group rather than having to build an online platform for the course. Much easier and more DIY.

In the Myth of Balance launch, we used a lot of traditional marketing techniques to get the word out initially. Most of the other course creators do the same. But the difference in having a Facebook Group is that you don't have people just sitting at home, having a great experience, and then moving on with their lives. You have people who've been interacting with the course creators and other students for a period of time, getting great results because they've had community and accountability built-in, and now you literally have a group of evangelists who will help you promote when you're ready to relaunch!

Idea 2: Involve Others and Let Them Promote

Putting a course or curriculum together is no joke. I plan to do it in the future, but find it overwhelming to think about. And then, when you have your shiny, new curriculum, you still have to get the word out! It's a long process.

But the folks at Plywood were really smart. They have a lot of knowledge and know-how on their staff. However, they also know one of their strengths relies in their ability to connect people and showcase others. So, for their video-based curriculum course, they featured not only the founder, but individuals from their Plywood People Community. Each module features different social entrepreneur interviews talking about that week's lesson and showing it in action.

Besides making it easier on themselves as far as content creation, Plywood now also has a group of people willing to help promote it because they are featured. This was especially helpful for the first launch when it was brand new. The people in the video are founders that are known in the Atlanta-area, with their own distinct audiences, so it helped get the word out quickly about this course.

By now you'll definitely notice a common theme in recruiting others to help you spread the word. It's just one of those techniques that can look so different each time, but is always effective.

 

What about you? What unique launch ideas have you come across? I'd love to hear them!

(PSST: This post is part of a series about launches. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Of if you’re ready to take it to the next level, check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



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Have an event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, book, or course launch on the horizon?There are definite trends you want to ride when it comes to launches, but you'll also need to be creative. Innovative ideas are more likely to make people take notice—and bring in the sales or donations.

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.


What do successful launches have in common?

Do you watch other nonprofits and social enterprises launch their campaigns, products, or events to great success, and then wonder what it took to make that happen? Do you assume it's beyond your capability?

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of them share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a solopreneur or a team to make your next launch your best yet.

This is really good news, people! There's hope for all us little guys! So, allow me to give you a shortcut to what works for some of the big dogs.

(By the way, before we get started, this post is based on the assumption that your product, service, campaign, event, etc. has already been "vetted." Meaning, we're assuming that it's something people want.)

Let's continue . . .

(PSST—This is part two of a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3.)

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of successful launches share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a  solopreneur  or a team to make your next launch your best yet.

A Plan

This is the not-so-dead horse that I will continually beat on this blog, and in any conversation that you and I ever have. You'll also see it woven into a lot of the items below too for good reason. Successful launches don't just happen unless you have an enormous audience or tremendous amount of influence. And how many of us do? Planning includes the details, tasks, and, yes, even the right headspace. 

At the very least, be sure to write you plan down. The list-maker in me would love to see your timelines too, because I think organization is a key to success. But push yourself to at least be more organized than you were the last time.

Don't just let all the ideas float around in your head. I'm guilty of that because I'm naturally an organized person. But it's incredibly helpful to see everything laid out in front of you, whether it's on paper, on a Word or Google doc, in Evernote, or a project management system. (I'm currently loving Asana.) Simply creating some sort of plan will make you feel so much better about your launch.

 

Time To Make It Happen

Launches take a lot of time and energy. It doesn't matter if it's for a fundraising or awareness campaign, book, event, course, or other type of product. Chances are that you already have a full calendar. So, it's important to make space in your schedule as you're preparing for a launch. Either get some work out of the way prior to the launch time period, or start weeding out tasks that can wait until after the launch.

You may need to work longer hours to prepare for your launch, just to ensure your day-to-day responsibilities get taken care of when you're attention is focused on the launch. Not a fun thing to think about, but remember, it's only for a short time. 

The other option is to move items off your plate. This can be done through delegating, reassigning, nixing it, or putting it off to a later date. Sadly, most of us live our lives in response to either the urgent or shiny object syndrome. But people who plan successful launches know that they are focused on making the launch a priority. 

Plenty of Preparation

Not too far off track from the items above, launches take special preparation. It may mean author interviews, gathering testimonials, selecting a location, writing emails, scheduling social media, or any other number of To Do's. These can feel never-ending.

The point is that launches aren't to be taken lightly. You'll need not only the space in your calendar, but all your ducks in a row. It's highly unusual to launch last-minute and make it a success, unless every waking moment is dedicated to that project, the goals are small, or there is a team of people that can help pull it off.

Think farther out. Your launch may be six months away, but what can you start doing right now to make it a success?

 

Head and Heart Information

I don't have to tell you that people learn in different ways. So, unless you are talking to an incredibly niched and small group of people (like vegan, Tabby cat lovers who only wear purple on Thursdays and have a side photography business) you'll likely need to communicate your message in multiple ways. Usually, this is done not only by having both visual and written content, but also by speaking to both the head and the heart.

Because I work around the social justice space, statistics are thrown around quite frequently. And while stats can be compelling, most people really need to see the faces behind the numbers to make it real for them. So, definitely include the facts and figures that make your cause unique and worthy, but don't forget the stories. You'll probably need both of these things to make the sale or donation.

 

A Variety of Communication Means and Methods

Circa 1990, we were just delighted to get a plain text email in our newly minted Inbox. Boy, how times have changed! (And frankly, some of you reading this weren't even alive then to remember! I feel incredibly old all of the sudden . . .) 

Now, just to be heard, you need to talk to people in a variety of different ways to get their attention. At the very least this means email and social media. But, as you already know, there are lots of other fancy techniques you can try as well.

While this isn't groundbreaking information, the problem I see from too many organizations is that they just send one or two emails and post once or twice, and then sit back and expect they've done their best. But, guys, that's juts not going to cut it. 

Your launch emails need to be set up as a series of emails that build on one another. And in social media world, you need to consider ever-changing algorithms and short life spans. I've heard that the average Facebook post has about a two-hour shelf life, and Tweets are only 18 minutes! If you don't have money for advertising, to keep it in front of people whether they want to see it or not, you need to be posting much more frequently.

This doesn't even take into account people's good intentions. If you only send one email a few weeks before your book launches or your event tickets go on sale, for example, it's going to dog-piled by hundreds of other emails. Then, it just ends up as something someone once wanted to take advantage of, but never got around to. 

Stay top-of-mind by showing up repeatedly wherever they happen to be, either in-person or online.

And I mentioned this above, but you also need to make sure you're incorporating text, video, and images into whatever is going out. Some people are more visual and some prefer to read (me!). Keep in mind that social media platforms are also giving more preference to images—and especially video—right now, which means that they'll show your content to more people.

I know this can be overwhelming! However, the good news is that we live in an age where there are a lot of DIY tools to do things on the cheap. If you can't pay for it, take the time to learn a new skill you can implement into your next launch to ensure more people see your message.

(Side note: A giveaway would also fall under this category. People love winning things, and it creates a buzz!)

Launch Help

Successful launches are never a one-man (or woman) show. Even if no one is helping you promote, you may still need advice from others, or to pay to get graphics done, or have an intern that helps create and schedule content. I know a few unicorns who have an unbelievable amount of skills, and can function pretty autonomously, but even they can't do it all.

Outside of help getting all of the tasks done in time for your launch, public relations is another worthy addition. This may come in the form of setting up guest blog posts or podcast interviews, Instagram takeovers, being featured in magazines or on blogs, speaking gigs, and things like that. These are free opportunities that showcase you, your organization, your cause, or your launch specifically. The trick here comes back to preparation. Some of these need to be scheduled months in advance. Start making a list of places you'd like to be featured so that you don't have to scramble when you're ready to take this step.

And another vital piece to the successful launch process is word-of-mouth. This may be by friends and family, co-workers and staff, or sponsorships and partnerships. If you can get more people to talk about you, the wider your news will spread. You may need to tell them exactly what to say, create social sharing buttons, or be okay with them winging it in their own words. But always make it easy for them.

 

Extras

Depending on your type of launch (book, event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, etc), you may also want to consider other types of add-ons that will help you get your message across. Here are a few ideas:

  • Meet ups

  • Posters/flyers in local businesses

  • Conference, event, or tradeshow booths

  • Kick off and celebration events (ex: book signing or launch party)

  • Affiliate links for sales

What's helped make your launch a success? I'd love to hear!

(PSST—This is part two of a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3. And if you’re ready to take it to the next level, check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of them share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a  solopreneur  or a team to make your next launch 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.


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

I wrote last week that my business just celebrated its first birthday. That was a milestone many of you are eagerly awaiting, or remember fondly, as well. And for those of us who work solo or with only a small team, it's extra special because you not only don a party hat for yourself, but also for the dozens of hats you wear on a daily basis.

I'm not sure it will ever get a lot easier, because I don't really know anyone, anywhere, at any size company who wishes they had more to do. But when you have a larger team, you at least have more of a division of responsibility. So, it can be challenging to look like a larger organization when it's just you at a desk in your guest bedroom, or just you and a few friends who decided to jump in and solve one of the world's problems over coffee one afternoon. However, looking more professional, like a large business would, can often mean more sales or donations, more support, sponsors, and more attention. 

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional

So, how do you make that happen? I still have a lot to learn myself, but here are just a few of the tools that help my one-woman show look a wee bit bigger and more professional.

1. Unsplash

It's more important than ever to utilize images in your content. In fact, did you know that Facebook will show your posts to more people if you include images? Yep, true story. Additionally, blog posts with images are more engaging to look at, and it's also easier to share them on sites like Pinterest. But if you aren't a photographer, or can't continually pay for stock images, you may feel a little stuck. Well, Unsplash is one answer. They have beautiful stock photography completely free of charge. You don't even have to credit the source, if you don't want to. Unsplash is my go-to, but there are oodles of other options if you Google "free stock photography." (It may take a bit of searching to find a site with the kind of photography that matches your brand.) Oh, and here are a few other sites, including a few that have video.

2. Canva

Having a designer on staff isn't something that all of us can afford. Heck, we can't even hire a designer for every little thing we need on a weekly basis like blog posts, newsletters, email blasts, reports, flyers, or social media prompts. So, we need a workaround. Enter Canva. It's not perfect, but it is pretty user-friendly, and allows you to make pretty graphics without the use of a designer. One of the best features is the pre-built templates that make it quick and easy to get started. They have templates for social media, presentations, eBooks, infographics, flyers, brochures, postcards, ads, and much more. You can also buy additional templates, photos, and illustrations for just $1. I currently use the free version. 

3. Bitly

Space on social media is limited and valuable. So, why take up half the allotted real estate with a hideously long link? Bitly is a terrific, free service that shortens links to usually around 15 characters. Now you can actually say what you need to say on Twitter, and leave room for sharing and hashtags too. Plus, it gives the indication that you actually know how to use social media. A number of companies also use Bitly, but have branded URL's that make them look extra spiffy. I'm going to try and learn about this soon, and if I do, I'll be sure to let you know on this blog. Until then, the free version is a great option.

4. Hootsuite / Buffer

I recommend these two services to small business owners and employees a lot, but I think they scare those who don't feel technologically inclined. I get it. When your To Do list is already piling up, it's hard to think about sitting down and learning new programs or software. However, most of these same small business owners know they need to be more consistent and present on social media, but struggle to do so. That's where these two gems come into play. By taking 30 minutes or an hour to schedule your social media ahead of time, you can knock it out all at once, and just return to it on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis without letting time continually pass you by as you do nothing or let it remain sporadic. I use the free version of both of these because the free versions have limits to the number of accounts you can link. I use Hootsuite for LinkedIn and Twitter, and Buffer for my Facebook Group. (Side note: these two also have their own capabilities to shorten links.)

UPDATE: Check out this post where I compare 13 social media scheduling tools! 

5. Contracts and Such

Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses of all kinds tend to fly by the seat of their pants. Behind-the-scenes, there's some duct tape, hopes, and prayers holding things together. So, one not always easy, but simple thing you can do—and need to do—is protect yourself legally. All my clients, including friends, sign a letter of agreement when I start a project with them, which explains everything clearly so we are on the same page. And one thing I put off for too long, but have since rectified, is adding terms and conditions to my website. No matter if you're a nonprofit, or for-profit, you need to make sure you're up-to-speed legally. And The Contract Shop has helped me do that.

Most of my friend Christina's clients are in the creative and wedding industries, but there are also multiple offerings for the rest of us including terms/conditions/privacy disclosures for websites, affiliate agreement, collaboration contract, coaching contract, graphic design contract, independent contractor template, LLC operating agreement, no disclosure agreement, conference speaker contract, and much more. These templates are incredibly easy to use! I had my terms, conditions, and privacy policy on my website in less than 15 minutes!

6. HelloSign

Should you ever need to have people outside your organization sign legal documents, HelloSign is a great route to take. And you get three free documents per month. This is how I facilitate my client contracts and letters of agreement. It's also a much better option than emailing Word docs, having parties sign them, scan them, and email them back. Once all parties have signed electronically, each get a notification, and can download a signed PDF. Voila!

7. Google Voice

For years, way back before it was popular, I've only had a cell phone. No home phone, and now, no outside office to host a phone anyway. But there are certain times, like on a public website or business documents, that I don't want to give out my cell. Google Voice is the perfect, free alternative. When someone calls my Google Voice number, it still rings my cell phone. It works a bit like call forwarding in that way. And you can also get voicemails transcribed and emailed to you. You can even select your phone number to make sure it's geographically close to you, or has a particular set of numbers that you'd like to use. 

8. PO Box

I work from home, except when I'm at a coffee shop. So, much like the Google Voice, there are times when I don't want to list my home address on public or professional documents. So, I use a PO Box instead. I have the smallest box available at $38 for six months, which was the cheapest price in my research. And, the good ol' USPS has now gotten on par with other PO Box providers by allowing you to use a street address in case you don't want to list a PO Box. 

9. Squarespace

A decent looking website is non-negotiable these days. No one will take you seriously otherwise. So, the two most affordable and popular default options are Wordpress and Squarespace. I choose the latter for this site and am really happy with it. Both make it pretty easy to DIY a site if you can't afford a designer (or to update it after its been designed), but I prefer the options, security, and customer service that come with Squarespace. (And should you need a designer, I recommend Mad+Dusty.) Regardless, pick something that works well for you, and invest the time into making it look good.

10. G Suite

If you're running an organization of any size, I'd really love to tell you to stop using something like yourname@gmail.com. I think if people are donating to you, or buying your products, you need to kick it up a notch. They should feel safe in giving you money, and having your own branded email address gives a sense of comfort and professionalism. I pay just $5 per month for this service and it's well worth it. G Suite comes with other features as well, but the branded email is my fave. 

What have I missed? What helps your small business look more professional?

(Note that some links are referral links.)



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For small businesses, looking more professional can often mean more sales or donations, more support, and more attention.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.soluti

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 Lessons From the First Year of Business

I tend to get a little sentimental this time of year. Sure, there's the Fourth of July, which many people across the US celebrate. I, too, am deeply grateful for all of the people who made (and make) our freedom possible. But I also moved into my first solo apartment on a sunny Independence Day weekend in 2003. And last year, I officially launched this business on July 1. So, the beginning of July has many layers of significance for me. Freedom takes on many forms.

Naturally, I've been reflecting a lot on this first year of Signify, which was created to help small nonprofits and social enterprises get noticed and grow through effective marketing and communications. It's been my desire to help cause-focused organizations like these succeed because they are making positive impact on the world. They are the types of businesses I support personally, and now I'm able to support them professionally as well.

So, here are seven lessons that I've learned over the past 12 months. I think you might find them helpful as well, whether you're just starting your organization or need some additional perspective as a seasoned business owner.

7 Lessons From the First Year of Business

1. You must start, and remain, flexible.

One of the hallmarks of tech companies, which continually sets them apart from other businesses, is that they're pretty nimble because their feedback loops are small. Meaning, they put something out there, which isn't necessarily perfect, then they gather feedback, make improvements, and relaunch. They live in this mode.

However, most businesses tend to try and perfect their product or service prior to launch, gather feedback slowly, and then might make some adjustments over time, and eventually relaunch. It's usually at a snail's pace, especially for nonprofits. But if you haven't noticed, your phone's Facebook App is updated every two weeks! They don't wait for major fixes, they test and tweak along the way.

I get it. You don't want to be a tech company. Neither do I. But I think there are some valuable lessons here. Less than six months into Signify, I hired a business coach for a short-term project. I would've actually hired her earlier, but I had to meet certain qualifications to work with her.

One of the first things she told me was rethink my mission slightly. She was afraid I'd narrowed my niche a little too far to be profitable. And it was a good point. So, before I even had a website, I made the shift. It was a relatively small step, but it did make a difference, and has brought in some fantastic additional leads and clients that I might not have had the privilege to work with otherwise. 

Startups tend to bend toward flexibility because almost everything is a learning process. My story above is probably not unlike one of your own. However, startups later become big girl or big boy businesses, and with experience, they tend to slow down in adulthood. I could see myself doing the same because I might feel that I have things "figured out." But the lesson for you and me is keep the mindset of the youngster. Organizations that stay agile are more connected to their audience, willing to learn, and lesson the pains of having to make large changes after heading down the wrong path for too long.

2. Even solopreneurs don't work completely alone.

When you're just starting out, the thought of hiring people, event to do small tasks, seems like an absolute luxury, doesn't it? And today's technology makes it easier than ever to learn things out of your depth, like using Canva to design graphics when you aren't a designer. 

So, most of us cobble everything together, using bandages and duct tape to run our business. We declare it good enough for now, and when we _____(insert milestone), we'll hire someone else to improve it. 

However, the ability to scale your business often means relying on others, and we all started our business to eventually scale, if only by a little bit. My website is built in Squarespace, which prides itself on putting the capability to design a website in the hands of the everyman. And, as a project, I actually designed a simple website for a client in early 2016 using Squarespace. So, I knew my way around it. 

But I also knew there were better things to spend my time on, like working on paid projects and writing my site. And I wanted it to look better than anything I could do myself. So, this was the first thing I hired out. Yes, it was scary because it was a big expense for me, but I've been really happy with it, and again, it allowed me to do tasks that actually paid me rather than spending my time designing a site, and taking much longer than a pro. (Thanks, Madison and Dusty!)

I've also hired an account because I'm world-class terrible with numbers. And I spend a lot of time asking and listening in Facebook groups to learn from others as well. None of us can do everything. It's just not possible. My clients are often looking for the unicorns that can do it all (and I don't blame them), but the truth is, they don't exist. So, be humble enough to learn from others or ask someone else to do the work. You'll relieve a lot of stress when you cross this line.

3. Relationships are everything.

You've already realized this, but sometimes listening to "experts" can be a little misleading. For example, I was under the impression that I would build this business differently than I've built the rest of my career.

There are a lot of people online touting that if you just put great content on your blog and promote it on social media, your email list will just steadily build and those people will become clients. It seems so easy, and guys, I fell for it. #goodmarketing

I have no doubt that this is the case for some people. It has, however, not be the case for me. Instead, I spent years freelancing while I had a full-time job, volunteering, giving free advice, and building long-term relationships. These are the amazing people who have become my clients

When I first started talking about my business, they were excited for me. They asked how they could be a part of it, and were thrilled to have more of my dedicated time—and, low and behold, they were happy to pay me! For the first three months, they sustained Signify. I thought it was incredibly wonderful, but it wouldn't last. I needed to do what those experts said instead. So, I did, and while I've made some great new relationships and a few potential leads, it hasn't been everything those experts said, at least so far.

Six months. Nine months. Now twelve months. My business is still running because of people I know first-hand and referrals. Helping people is an amazing thing. Helping friends is even better. With the exception of two jobs, one of which was at a restaurant, every job I've ever had has come through a personal relationship. So, for me, this new endeavor shouldn't be any different.

Think about who you know. Be good to your friends. Try to be helpful. It will come back around!

And do yourself a favor, and get a mentor if you don't already have one. These relationships have been invaluable for me.

4. To some extent, organization determines your success.

This may seem like an odd inclusion, but getting organized has come up several times over the past year. I'm a pretty organized person by nature. It's just part of my personality. And I can't work in a messy environment, whether that's on my physical desktop or my computer's desktop. However, it's also something I often end up discussing with clients.

I've heard stories of people losing leads because they weren't organized enough to find the right documents to send to these potential clients. They simply took too long, and the lead moved on. And I've known clients who weren't very productive because they were unorganized. It stopped them from making much progress, whether they were gathering sales or donations.

I also worked on a fundraiser that started out fairly disorganized. Employees left the organization, and files were everywhere, changing hands year-to-year, getting scattered throughout the organization along the way. I felt like Gretel chasing crumbs down the hallways. There were a number of things we did differently last year, and organization was one of them. They actually ended up grossing 400% over the previous year in donations! Yes, there were absolutely other big things involved in making last year different than previous years. Otherwise, this girl would be on her way to the millionaire's club. But the staff all noted that organization helped the process feel more smooth and professional. It showed to them, and to donors.

If organization doesn't naturally come to you, I urge you to find a system that works. It doesn't have to work for everyone, but it has to work for you. Your productivity will increase, your stress and that feeling of scrambling will decrease, and you'll look and feel more professional. And I think those are two keys to success.

5. Comparison really does kill.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy," and Teddy was right. Recently a friend and I were talking about this subject. It's difficult to look on the internet and see emails, ads, and posts by people who are doing similar things—and thinking they're doing them better.

One of the proposals you have to continually make with your business, whether starting out or just seeking out a new client, is your position. You have to declare what makes you different, which helps build your case.

This is easier on some days than others, depending on your mood or how business has been going lately. But the thing my friend and I reiterated for each other, and what I want you to hear as well, is that what makes your organization different is you. The service or product may be the same or similar to someone else, but no one can take away your individuality. YOU are what you bring to the table. Be confident in that.

(But if you want a few ideas from nonprofits and social enterprises that you can tailor to make your own, take a peek here.)

6. Without strategy, your plans have no purpose.

I'm a huge proponent of strategy, but even I lose my way. (Like, a lot.) It's just so easy to see the To Do list building and get distracted by tasks. But if you never move from small tasks to actually accomplishing your goals, you're just going to spin your wheels. And that's the opposite of progress.

This is actually a series I'm planning to do soon because it's occupied my mind during June. I can't stop thinking about it . . . likely because of this season of reflection that I'm in. And I'm grateful for it. This is a prime time for learning.

To keep your business moving forward, you need a strategy. This may be a marketing strategy, refining your products or services, growth or expansion in general, bringing on additional help, etc. There are a thousand things this could include. You'll have to decide for you. For me, it means adding to my 1) client base for revenue and 2) email list so that I can continue being of help to others through my blog and Special Features, my monthly newsletter. That means I need to make all efforts concerning those two goals a priority, and figure out how to handle everything else. This will likely mean some outsourcing. Again, scary, but good. I'll keep you posted.

Consider your strategies. Are they working? What can you to do improve them?

7. Even in "failure," show yourself some grace.

I have a confession to make. And it's a hard one for me. 

I didn't meet all my goals this year.

A year ago, when I looked forward to this time, I thought I'd be in a different place. I thought I'd have some digital products, an online course, a larger list, more income, etc.

Some of this realization has been difficult for me. As a goal-oriented person, it really is a hard confession to make. You may look at it and think it's no big deal. You may even think that yes, of course, things look different after a year. We can't predict the future. And, if it were you saying these things, I'd say that you're absolutely right.

Sure, these things might not officially be labeled "failures," but they were for me.

It's always different when it comes to ourselves, yes? I've always been my toughest critic. 

During the last year, I've had to adjust goals, timelines, and so much more. Some of these have been incredibly difficult because consistency is the pulpit from which I preach. But I know there was a good reason I made each and every one of these changes. I didn't take them lightly. I had me in mind, and I had you in mind. 

I have to continually remember that I've also had some great successes. I've helped out friends with their projects, launched my website and online presence, improved my health, and sustained myself financially, to name a few.

On the days that I remember my failures, I also have to remember my wins. Not to do so is a disservice to myself and my clients. We've done some great things together. I have to show myself some grace. I'll use the past experiences to propel myself forward.

I encourage you to do the same because the world needs our work. No one else can do it.

Here's to year two! Wishing you abundance and joy as well.

If your organization is new, did any of these surprise you? If you're a seasoned business owner, what other advice would you give?

NOT-SO-SIDE-NOTE: a HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past 12 months. I have amazing family, friends, and clients. I'm more grateful than I can say! 



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Here are seven lessons that I've learned, and I think you might find them helpful as well, whether you're just starting your organization or need some additional perspective as a seasoned business owner.

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.