Foundations

Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help.

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.

 

Here's one thing I know about you: You want your business to grow. 

Not everyone does. In fact, some people are quite content for their small business to stay small, which is totally fine. They're just looking for some extra money, and a side gig or a "professional hobby" will do. But I know you want to grow your business because it's not just about you. It's about your cause.

Whether you're a nonprofit or a for-profit with a social mission, you want to increase your organization's capacity and influence because you're fighting for something. You may not have a desire to become the next TOMS or Habitat for Humanity, but you do have a desire to help more people. You want to have a bigger impact. You want to do more good.

So, how do you grow your small business?

There's one simple way that I recommend you start thinking about today: Get help. Yes, it may be simple, but I realize it's not easy.

It's not easy to decide to spend the money. It's not easy to allocate your resources differently. It's not easy to bring someone new into your process. But I believe this one decision can make all the difference. 

It has for me, and I think it can do the same for you. And guess what? It may not even require hiring more staff.

 Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help.

First of all, I realize it's a bit of a Catch-22. You'd be happy to spend the money to get more help...if you could only make more money in order to do so!

I've been stuck on that hamster wheel myself, and some days honestly, I still am. But there is also something to be said for the old adage, "You have to spend money to make money." And I believe that's true. Maybe deep down, you do too.

But, like I said, there's also plenty of good news! It may not require hiring more staff to get your organization to the next level. It may just require some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Or some networking. Or some short-term effort. Regardless, though, it will require help.

Why? You can only do so much at your current level—even if you already have a small staff. 

The Facts About Small Business

  • The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council states that 89.4% of small businesses have less than 20 staffers. 

  • The Small Business Administration notes that about half of all small businesses make it to the five-year mark, with approximately one third seeing their 10-year anniversary.

  • When looking at just women-owned businesses, Small Business Labs tell us that 41% of my #girlboss peers only have between two and four employees, while 51% are solopreneurs!
  • Finally, this report by Babson College tells us that 70% of the small business owners they polled found it difficult to hire qualified employees.

Besides throwing a lot of numbers at you, what am I trying to say? First, growing a business is hard, but I don't have to tell you that! Second, there is another way to get the help you need and grow your business without necessarily growing your staff, at least in the early stages when bootstrapping is the name of the game.

So, how do you grow your business without hiring more staff?  Keep reading.

 

Getting to the Next Stage of Business

Check out an awesome article from Todd Herman on the "Five Stages of Business Growth." In it, he shows you exactly what you should be focusing on for each stage, which is incredibly helpful. I'm in Todd's program, and I can say that he is an very smart guy. Learning from him has been definitely benefitted my business.

If you want to make it to that five or ten year mark, you need help. If you want to make a bigger impact, you need help. And if you want to avoid burnout for yourself or your staff, you need help.

What does this look like? I think it looks like finding interns, learning from mentors, bartering for services, and/or hiring independent contractors. It could even mean a combination of all of those things—it has for me.

You only know so much. You only have so much time. Why not fill those gaps with people who are there to assist you or are better suited for those tasks? Be the leader who sees the forest, not just the trees.

As I talked about last summer, work ON your business, not IN your business.

Why Is Getting Help for Your Organization So Important?

Right about now, you may be asking yourself why you should be hiring interns, consultants, or indepdendent contractors, especially if it's going to cost you hard-earned money. I mean, what's the big deal? You can just look up a few more articles or take a few courses and figure out everything you need to know, right? Anything you need to learn is just a Google search away.

Yes, that's pretty much true, and I'm guilty of the same thoughts and questions. But there are some INVALUABLE assets that come with these roles. And I’d like to explain by telling you how I've utilized consultants/interns/contractors in the past, both personally and professionally.

  • They provide a set of fresh eyes. We can often lose perspective as we work on our own projects day in and out. Allowing someone to see them objectively can provide insight we couldn't gain otherwise.
  • They cost you less than you might think. While the initial investment may seem significant, especially if this process is new to you, remember that these people do not cost you insurance or other full-time employee perks. You also don’t have to take taxes from their payments.
  • They don't have to stick around long-term. Sometimes you just have a short-term need, or a season that requires an additional set of hands. These people rally around you when you need it, and not when you don't.
  • They can relieve stress from you and your employees. Often small organizations rely on a limited number of people to do a wide variety of tasks. Sometimes, however, these tasks are not suited to their skills. Consultants and third-party contractors who specialize in certain areas can be invaluable to helping you reach your goals, while taking the pressure off your team. This will either allow them room to breathe, catch up on their primary tasks, or take on new assignments within their wheelhouse.
  • They allow you to focus. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. You need to be working on the tasks and goals that specifically require your time and attention. If you have the ability to outsource beyond that, do it. Focus on the things no one else can do for your business.
  • They can provide expansion. These folks allow you to “go beyond” what you’ve already been doing. You can dream bigger, cast your net wider, and experience results you could not have had before at your current pace. But the ROI (return on investment) may be significant. Yes, it's important to consider the cost, but if you make more sales and donations than you would have without their help, it will be worth it!

 

Where Do You Find These Magical Creatures?

Well, of course, if you're looking for someone to help you with your writing, marketing, or communications needs, I'd be remiss not to mention that I can help you with those tasks. Whether you hate doing those kinds of things, or just need to focus on something else that's more deserving of your attention, I'm here. 

I launched Signify almost two years ago to help nonprofits, social enterprises, and other for-profits with a social mission with their marketing and communications. It’s been a crazy adventure! But I love being able to fill the gap for these types of organizations, especially the small ones that need my kind of help, but can’t afford a staffer or an agency.

Most of the people I work with just need help for a short period of time, so I have the ability to pop in and out, as needed. And, during that time, I can help move their mission forward. My goal is to make cause-focused organizations look and sound more professional so they can build a larger audience, increase sales or donations, and do more good.

But here are a few, other resources:

When in doubt, ask around. We all have our own networks, and most people are happy to suggest someone or something that might be able to help you. I also love asking in Facebook Groups because they're already built around tribes.

The point, though, is to not just sit and wonder. It's time to take action.

Hiring Tips From The Pros

I asked a few friends in these roles to share some advice with you. Keep these tips in mind when you hire independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants, so that you can make the best decision possible.

When hiring a graphic designer...

"The first step is to make sure you (and most importantly, your audience) enjoy their overall style. They don't need to have an exact portfolio example of what you're looking for, but the general tone should feel right. Second, I'd look to see if they've worked with similar organizations or have experience in your field. If you're a nonprofit, for example, it can be so helpful to work with a designer who already understands the nonprofit language. Third, consider the energy: the design process requires a lot of honest and open communication. It requires vulnerability on both sides. I think it's important that you feel comfortable with your designer and would enjoy meeting with them! So, ask for a discovery call or meeting to see if the right energy flows!
Your budget may require you to work with a less experienced designer, or a designer who doesn't have a distinct style yet. I wouldn't rule them out for those two reasons, but the energy has to be there."
- Madison Beaulieu, graphic designer and co-founder of Mad + Dusty

 When hiring a web designer...

"If you’re ready for your online presence to capture the essence of your brand, and work to attract clients, you’re ready to hire a web designer. 
Before reaching out to an expert, spend time on their website and consider how it resonates with you. If it makes a great first impression, is engaging, and leads you to a clear call to action, you know they can do that for you. Having a beautiful website is one thing, but having one that works is another. My tip for you is to know that you need both!"
- Alison Chandler, website and visual brand identity specialist

When hiring an event planner...

"I think that a lot of people are naïve when it comes to the budget for any event. Many clients don’t know how much it costs to hire a good photographer, caterer, etc. so, they’ll spend money on little things and before they know it, they’re way over budget.
My advice: choose your top three Items and spend the bulk of your money there. My top three are always food, music, and alcohol. I like invitations, but they aren’t the most important item to me. Now, if you’re a graphic designer or your company sells paper, the invitations are probably really important to you and that’s ok. Make invitations one of your top three. The important thing is to focus on what’s most important to you, and then build the rest of your budget from there."
- Kristi Collins, certified wedding and event planner at CoCo Red Events

When hiring voice talent...

"It’s often easier to grab the admin assistant with the great phone voice, or the singing maintenance man for a quick 'read through' of your outgoing message, but resist the urge. It’s not enough to have a nice voice. A quality voice talent must be able to tap into the audience your trying to reach with the feelings you want to convey, so that anyone who hears it will want to take action.
Your message is too important for it to sound like it’s being read from a handwritten notebook. With intentional script writing and the right voice, you’ll move beyond your customer or donor’s heads and into their hearts."
- Jennifer Wilder, voice talent

When hiring any freelancer/contractor/consultant...

"When you hire an expert to help you in a certain area of your business—listen to them. Trust them. You hired them for a reason, so let them do the job they were hired for. Sometimes that means taking a leap of faith and doing something different than you're used to. Sometimes it means trying something new that you're not entirely sure of. Experimentation is what business is all about—trying something new to take your business to a new level."
- Kristen Miller, Sales Funnel Strategist | Social Media Manager | Digital Marketing

I echo all of these ladies, and many of the same principles apply to copywriters as well!

 

If not now, then when?

You may be stuck thinking that you don't have the money or time to find and hire contractors/consultants/freelancers/interns. I get it, and I've been there too. Plenty of times.

And I'm not discounting those statements. They're valid concerns. But here's what I will ask you, "If not now, then when?"

Make a plan to begin your search or interviews. Make a plan to save the money. Make a plan to ask for help. Otherwise, time will continue to fly by, and you'll be no better off in six months than you are today. After all, where were you six months ago, having these same exact thoughts?

I don't want that for you. Your mission is too important. I want you to grow, have a bigger impact, and do more good. 

You've got a cause that you're fighting for. It's time to fight just a little harder.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Whether you're a  nonprofit  or a for-profit with a social mission, you want to increase your organization's capacity and influence because you're fighting for something. So, how do you grow your small business? There's one simple way that I recommend you start thinking about today: Get help. Yes, it may be simple, but I realize it's not easy.

 Kristi Porter, Chief Do-Gooder at 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.


How to Generate and Organize Content for Your Blog

This month we’ve made our way around the revolving door that is content marketing. If you haven’t had a chance to review Kristi’s take on email marketing, or our other posts on storytelling, trends in content marketing, or social media’s role in content marketing, then give those a rundown.

Among topics in the inescapable tide of content marketing is the importance of blogging. Blogging is the “meat and potatoes” of the internet right now and, if it’s not already, it should be an important tool in your marketing tool belt. 

Blogging builds your audience (in our case, Signifers), brand image, and increases your visibility on the internet. It’s also a very easy and practical way to show off your expertise. But don’t take our word for it—talk to our friend SEO. “Who’s SEO?”, you may ask. Well it’s not a “who,” but rather, a “what.” SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization

In layman’s terms, SEO is your visibility and popularity to followers, fans, and partners online. This is how you get to sit at the big kid’s table of websites and gain a following on the interwebs. Blogging plays a far more crucial role in you getting the attention you deserve than we sometimes like to believe.

Tech guru Larry Kim says, “If you’ve done any SEO at all, you’ve probably noticed that the stories that rank well tend to have high social share counts.”

 How to Generate and Organize Content for Your Blog

Blog Consistently: Start with Objectives in Mind

Search engines like Google and Bing use algorithms that discover analytics about your website. The more recurring visits, frequency of clicks, length of visits, and perpetual content (like blogs and social media) that these algorithms discover, the more likely it is that your website will be placed in an optimal position on search engines (hear: the coveted front page). Therefore, blog consistently. And, of course, make sure the content is good!

Soooo then, how do you blog consistently? To do this well, it begins with organization. If you want to blog well, you must plan well. 

You can’t assemble a car without the engine. You can’t construct a skyscraper without the frame. And you can’t create a phone without a silicon chip. Each of these objects has a core element—an piece that it can’t operate without. And each design is planned carefully around this centerpiece, knowing full well that the screen wouldn’t light up without the chip, the building tower go up without a frame, or the car fire up without an engine.

In the same way, you should create objectives and goals for your content. Start with a broad goal in mind and then move into the specifics required to accomplish it.

Objectives should be succinct, specific, and inform everything else. For example: 

  • Increase monthly sales by 5% in 90 days through increased blogging content about products
  • Increase email sign-ups by 150 in 60 days through increased exposure on your blog

Objectives exist as the frame for the overall picture. By setting clear objectives, you have a directed vision of where you’re going. Otherwise, it might lead others to believe that there is no consistency, thought pattern, or organization in your company’s writing. However, objectives require specific content. Starting from your objectives, first assess content that you have currently and then generate new ideas or improvements.

 

Auditing Previous Blogs: A Plan for Improvement

Last week, our other intern, Megan, suggested conducting a simple audit of all of your social media platforms. Through this process you can use an easy analysis—like SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)—and revamp the existing content on your website. You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.

In the same way you can analyze and improve Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can evaluate the current content on your blog. Take an hour or so to study your websites analytics. (Google Analytics is a great, free tool!) See which content performed best, what is now off-brand and may now need to be removed, and what can be updated and reused. Also, take note of what content should’ve been included, but wasn’t, what’s new with your nonprofit or social enterprise that should be discussed. You can certainly do a more in-depth audit, but that’s probably the quickest way to evaluate your current and previous edits. 

So, now, how do you generate new content?

 

Moving Past Writer’s Block: Here’s What to Blog About

In her guest post,  Ask The Experts: Content Marketing 101, Jennifer Garrett addressed the issue of content oriented writer’s block. Yes, there’s a solution to the cry, “I don’t know what to blog about!” 

Currently, the content that is the most valuable online is the content that tells a story and intersects with your audience. However, you also need to make them take an action as a result of reading your stellar content. This could be signing up for your email list, purchasing a product, registering for an event, or making a donation. Remember, it’s a mutually-beneficial relationship. So, start with your end goal and make a list of ideas that both aid that goal and serve your audience. 

Here are just a few types of blog post examples: 

  • Surveys
  • Feedback or answers to customer service questions
  • Holiday-oriented content
  • Transcript or summary of your podcast episodes
  • Product or service spotlight
  • Successes or updates
  • Year-end giving campaign
  • Tell people about what problem you solve and give examples
  • Confronting objections people may have to your work
  • Questions that prompt ideas or actions
  • Guest posts
  • Updates to old posts (revive if outdated and repost; from your audit)
  • Upcoming events
  • Partnership or sponsor highlights
  • Grants or awards won
  • Member or staff profiles
  • Insights into your culture
  • Your organization’s history
  • Mention influencers or celebrities that recommend you
  • Milestone celebrations

(Want 80 more idea? Click here.)

Also check out this previous post on 12 Questions That Inspire Content Creation.

After establishing each objective and writing a list of topics, create specific content to support it. For the example of “Increasing monthly sales by 5% in 90 days through increased blogging content about products,” you might create a month-long blogging series on popular products your company sells. So, if your social enterprises sells jewelry to fight human trafficking, talk about your cause and how the product will aid in that process. By talking about what you know, you will become an authority in that topic, and people will follow you and come back to your blog to read more about subjects that interest them.

 

Plot and Plan Ahead

Plotting out blog content six or 12 months in advance can seem like a tall order. However, there are a variety of tools to help aid and hone your marketing skills and consistency.
Google Sheets or Excel are easy to use, often recommended, and even utilized by a lot of pros. A simple Excel doc is even what we use here at Signify. It has simple headers for the date, topic, the action we want people to take as a result of reading, if a supplemental piece is being created for the post (like a checklist), relevant holidays to tie-in, and notes. And here’s an example that’s broken down by the team at Edgar.

By organizing your content, you’re creating a strategy for your organization. You’re telling yourself and your team what’s important to talk about right now, and in the future. It’s relevant and actionable. Creating a professional editorial calendar will also aid in this process.


I prefer to use Google Calendar or a computer’s calendar to amplify the benefits of an Excel sheet. Google Sheets are nice, but it’s additionally helpful to have your deadlines and purposed content stored in a calendar somewhere so you can see it visually and even add reminders. The combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar can be a powerful planning tool. There are plenty of how-to’s on the internet for merging Google Sheets with Google Calendar. Take a look at this example. As always, the idea is to find a system that works for you, and that you can stick with.

 

Maintaining Frequency in Your Blog Posts

But what about frequency? We recommend blogging a minimum of once per month. But remember, this is a minimum, not ideal. But start something, and build on it. Create the consistency for yourself and your readers. This gives them an expectation of when they’ll see new content from you, and allows them to eagerly anticipate what you’ll be talking about next. A by-product of this is that you’ll start sticking to a schedule, when it might have previously been easy to let it slide. Plus, Google’s algorithm loves frequently updated content!

You may also be asking yourself when you should post? After researching the best times to post and surveying analytics on your website or blog, you might realize that Wednesday and Tuesday mornings are great times to post because your audience is online around that time. These analytics vary by audience, demographic, and region. Research your audience a little bit, look for the right times to post, and then maintain a consistent schedule. 

This research can be done through your website analytics, social media analytics, and even reading experts online. But don’t get too hung up on the analytics portion if that seems overwhelming. (Totally get it!) We’d rather you get started than put off regular blogging for another month or two because you don’t feel like you have all the information.

While you may have some topics that need to post at certain times, like sales or giving campaigns, you’ll also have gaps on your calendar to fill in, or loads of ideas you aren’t sure what to do with. Don’t let those ideas past or go to waste! Be sure to capture them so you can fill in your calendar as needed. You definitely want to have a reservoir of topics to choose from so the supply doesn’t run dry. 

 

Helpful Tools For the Planning Process

Here are a few tools to help you jot down those notes as well as plan your content: 

  • Word doc - See, it doesn’t have to be fancy! You can just keep those “extra” ideas here for safekeeping.
  • Evernote (or Microsoft OneNote) - Not necessarily the best platforms for specific date planning, but can be helpful for simply jotting down ideas. Kristi uses Evernote, and loves it.
  • Asana.com - Good for planning specific deadlines and tasks, and delegating to specific employees or yourself. We use this here at Signify.
  • Monday.com - Stripped down planning software

Through consistency and effectiveness in your planning, you can ensure greater success for your blog and begin to implement a strong content marketing strategy. It will begin to feel more intentional to you, and that feeling will also translate to your readers. That blog doesn’t need to stay bare! 

This practical approach of generating ongoing content can increase your company’s visibility, which is exactly what you’re looking for because that results in more sales or donations. And that’s why content marketing is so important.

 

Read the other posts in this series:




Boost Your Content Marketing Through Blogging

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Michael Griffith Banks is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, having served as an Orientation Leader for the University.


What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

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

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

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

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

Any of this sound familiar?

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

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

WHY EMAIL MARKETING IS IMPORTANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT TYPES OF EMAILS YOU SHOULD SEND TO YOUR LIST?

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

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

Here are just a few examples:

  • Program/product/service updates
  • New hires, job openings, or internship opportunities
  • Recent blog posts
  • Behind-the-scenes details
  • Thoughts from the founder or staffers
  • Links and resources your audience would find helpful
  • Tips and tricks
  • Surveys
  • Needs list (ex: resources a nonprofit might need to further their mission)
  • Staff or recipient profiles
  • Holiday announcements or celebrations
  • Photos or videos of people using your product/service 
  • Testimonials and stories
  • End of year impact reports
  • Recent press/media

(Want 85 more ideas? Click here!)

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

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

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

 

A FEW TIPS ON FORMATTING YOUR EMAILS

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

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

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

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

Namely:

  • Write is short paragraphs of one to three sentences. If you're reading anything on a phone, do you want to just stare at a wall of text? Answer: Nope.
  • Use headers where needed for clarity and changing topics, especially if the email is long. People are skimmers, whether we like it or not. Don't fight it.
  • Let white space be your friend. 
  • Leave the jargon at the office. Keep the language easy to understand.
  • Give clear calls to action (telling people what you want them to do), and make it easy for them to do it.
  • Make it about the reader as well as your organization. Make the content relatable, and let them feel a part of your work.
  • Go back to your brand standards. All your fonts and photos should match your brand, or be extremely complementary if, for example, you have a really uncommon font. But make sure everything looks like goes together—and matches your brand. Watch out for sizes, spacing, and keep those headers in check, too. Tip: Look at it like a blog post. Get all matchy, matchy.

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

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

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

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU EMAIL YOUR LIST?

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NUMBER ONE EMAIL MARKETING MISTAKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EMAIL MARKETING AS A STRATEGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

What questions do you have?

 

Read the other posts in this series:



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

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

 Kristi Porter of Signify

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


How Screenwriting Can Help You Better Communicate Your Brand’s Story

Today's post is by my friend and former co-worker, Hudson Phillips. Though he's continuing our series on content marketing, he's bringing us a whole, new slant on the topic that you might not have heard before. You see, Hudson's a filmmaker.

While you may not be making movies about your nonprofit or social enterprise anytime soon, you do need to learn to tell the story of your organization in a compelling manner. And a great way to share your story isn't just once a year at a big, annual event. It's over and over again, in small ways, on your website, blog, emails, and social media. This is the cornerstone of your content marketing, and the thing that makes you utterly unique.

So, grab some popcorn and chocolate covered almonds (or substitute your personal fav), and learn to how screenwriting can help you better communicate your brand's story. 

 How Screenwriting Can Help You Better Communicate Your Brand’s Story

When we get cut off in traffic and storm into work ready to complain about it, we become expert storytellers. We establish the setting, we build the tension, and we arrive at the resolution. So when it comes to telling the story of our brand, why does it get so complicated?

The problem, I think, lies in knowing TOO MUCH. The more details that are swirling around in your head, the more difficult it becomes to hone in on the most important parts of your story. When telling your cut-off-in-traffic epic, do you go into the details of what color the “villain’s” car was? Do you go into your “back story” about styling your hair differently that morning? No. Because you have a point to get across (probably something like, “Can you believe that guy!”) and only the details that help further that point matter.

I wear a lot of hats between a marketing day job, a screenwriting gig by night, and running my own writing organization. But what surprises and thrills me is how often these worlds cross over. All of the above jobs require storytelling, and one of the greatest things I did as a marketer was start to apply my knowledge as a screenwriter.

The one key skill of a screenwriter over, say, a novelist, is screenwriters have to be brief. While a novelist can tell a story over hundreds of pages and a dozen hours, screenwriters have about an hour and a half (or 100 pages of script) to tell a full story. This requires some tips and tricks to stay on task. We don’t have the time or space to veer off into tangents.

That’s why when I sit down to write a script, I start with a logline. A logline is one or two sentences that sum up your story. Think of it as how you would quickly describe a movie you just saw to a friend.

The point of a logline is to better understand the story you want to tell. It becomes your story compass. When you start to get bogged down in all the details, your logline is what helps you find “north.”

A great logline covers three things: WHO the story is about, what their GOAL is, and what OBSTACLES they face along the way.

For instance, the logline for the film Jurassic Park might be: “A rag-tag group of scientists struggle to escape a remote island park whose main attractions—genetically restored dinosaurs—have been set loose by a power failure.”

For Indiana Jones, the logline could be: “A swashbuckling archeologist seeks to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can use its supernatural power to take over the world.”

You may have a tough time translating the word “swashbuckling” to your own company’s logline. I get it. So how do you apply this to your own organization? Start by asking three questions:

 

1. WHO is your story about?

The hero of your story is not you—it’s your clients, customers, or donors. They are the ones on a journey, and it’s your job to help them realize their goal. (And hopefully you’ve got the expertise because you’ve been on the journey, survived, and come back to tell about it.) Really try to hone in on your target audience and make it personal and unique. (Hint: your hero is not “everyone”—not even “everyone with money”). Think back to when you were at their stage in the journey and empathize with that moment to best understand them.

For my writing organization, ScriptBlast, it’s not just an organization for writers, it’s an organization for struggling writers who are learning how to navigate the rollercoaster of rejection and failure that all writers face. And I can best understand where these writers are coming from because I’ve been there, too.

 

2. What is their GOAL?

What do your donors/customers/clients want? Where do they want to be five years from now? What do their “before” and “after” pictures look like? Hopefully your organization has a clear path of getting your clients to their goal. (If not, you might want to add that service!)

The goal for any amateur writer is to become a professional writer. The problem is, unfortunately, most amateurs give up after their first taste of rejection! ScriptBlast exists in order to help writers get over these bumps through empathy, encouragement, and resources to help them a long the way.

3. What are the OBSTACLES standing in their way?

What is the biggest struggle for your audience? What’s getting in the way of their goals? How are you helping them overcome it? These are the kinds of answers that come only from experience. What expertise do you offer and how can you empathize with them?

At ScriptBlast, we recognize that failure and rejection are a regular part of a writer’s life. They get bad feedback, they get turned down by an agent or a manger, they have their film deal fall through, maybe they even have their movie made, but it turns out terribly and not what they envisioned. The obstacles are never-ending for a writer and if they don’t learn how to navigate it early on, they’ll burn out quickly.

So . . . the logline for ScriptBlast might be: We give struggling screenwriters the motivation and resources they need to become professional, working writers as they face the emotional ups and downs of failure and rejection.

Okay, now that you know how to create a compelling logline, what exactly do you do with it? Do you just post it above your desk and hope for the best, or is it something you can actually use in your daily grind?

Here are three, practical uses:

1. A logline gives you a clear path for your website.

Struggling with writing marketing copy for your landing page or home page? Cut and paste your logline! It's a perfect hook that tells your audience exactly what you do and what problem you can help them solve.

2. A logline gives you a checklist for social media.

When you’re creating weekly content like a blog or social media posts, your logline acts as a guide. Before scheduling out your posts, you can ask yourself “does this support my logline or take away from it?” A logline helps keep all of your content focused and your messaging clear.

3. A logline gives you an elevator pitch for investors.

You’re probably already familiar with the term elevator pitch—reducing the mission of your company to a short enough time-span that it can be explained in a brief, elevator ride. A logline gives you a script for your elevator pitch. Memorize it. Have it ready to go next time you happen upon an investor or potential client/customer/donor and need to get your story across before the instrumental version of The Girl from Ipanema finishes.

Now, take a moment to write your own logline. I’d love to see examples in the comments below!

 

Read the other posts in this series:


 Hudson Phillips of ScriptBlast

Hudson Phillips is a designer, screenwriter, and producer living in Atlanta, Ga. His first produced feature film, This World Alone, will be released in 2018. As founder of the organization ScriptBlast, he cultivates community and creates resources to help screenwriters navigate their careers. He also produces and co-hosts the podcast Four Friends Fight About Film.

ScriptBlast.com

Facebook.com/groups/ScriptBlast

@hudsonphillips



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 When we get cut off in traffic and storm into work ready to complain about it, we become expert storytellers. So when it comes to telling the story of our brand, why does it get so complicated?

 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.


5+ Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Blog

If you're like many nonprofit or social enterprise leaders I meet, you have a beautifully designed blog, but it's a little barren. In fact, you really struggle to get your blog updated. And when you finally do, you check the box, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. But it's not enough to just write the post—it needs to get read. 

Before we even address any potential issues with your marketing and promotion of the blog post, let's first address the readability. (And, yes, that's a thing.) Does this sound familiar? Someone lands on your little labor of love, maybe skims a little, and then promptly leaves. All without taking action, or worse, even taking in your content.

Here you find yourself with a post that took precious time and energy, but didn't actually get the job done. It's finished, sure, but it's not effective. It's not working hard enough for you. Houston, we have a problem.

You can sit around all day long, cross your arms, and shout, "It's not me, it's you!" ... but is it? Here are a few blog writing tips that will help ensure your post gets read, and better yet, acted on. 

 5+ Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Blog

Formatting Your Blog Post

Not sure if you've noticed, but the the look of blog posts has changed quite a bit over the last, few years. They are no longer just little (or big) essays waiting to be consumed. Everyone's vying for your attention, and here's how the winners are getting noticed.

Sub-heads or headers: Like it or not, people often skim content, so after your introduction, use sub-heads in the body text to preview what's coming up. This also helps with SEO, so it’s good to use keywords (the main topic of your post) in sub-heads as well, or at least use a few words to describe what you’ll be talking about next.

Short paragraphs: Because it’s common for people to view websites on smaller screens, like cell phones and tablets, use smaller paragraphs of just a few sentences. If you write a long paragraph, how you can break it up so that it’s more readable on any sized screen? People don't want to look at a wall of text on a small screen.

Images: We may be living in a material world, but we're also living in a visual one. You need at least one image/video/graph/etc. to accompany your post. Not only does this illustrate your topic and help grab someone's attention, but for anyone who wants to save your post to a site like Pinterest, it makes things easier.

Keywords: You also want to make sure and mention your topic several times in the body copy for SEO. And you can use it in different phrasing, too. For example, if your post is about “content creation,” you can use that phrase, as well as “creating content” and “content marketing” and similar things. Once again, we're trying to appease and appeal to the almighty Google in hopes that it will recognize us and call us worthy. Agree or disagree, it's the world we live in if we want people to find our little corner of the internet.

CTA or Call to Action: At the end of every post should be a CTA. (You can also sprinkle them throughout.) What do you want people to do as a result of reading your blog post? You can lead them to additional content, make a donation or purchase, give you their email, sign up for your newsletter, download something, etc. There are a lot of options, so be sure to include one. Get them to interact with your content to make it, your cause, and your organization more memorable. This helps you build a relationship with someone.

Don't Forget Consistency

If you've read even a couple of posts on this blog, you've likely seen some form of the word "consistency." It is a huge soap box for us—because it's that important! So, along with formatting your blog post to make it more read-worthy, let's take a look at a few things that should always remain the same, even when the topic changes.

Remember your audience: For this blog, we consider our audience to be leaders or key employees of nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission. They're typically at a small organization where people wear multiple hats. And they have a desire to improve their marketing and communications. Everything we write keeps these folks in mind in order to serve them better.

Tone and voice: If you haven't done this yet, determine how your organization "sounds" so that tone and voice remains the same. Here at Signify, we want to sound friendly and professional, with a side of humor. (Because humor just makes the world better.)

Refrain from jargon: Unless you have a very narrow niche that understands your jargon, like rocket scientists or brain surgeons, stop using words and phrases specific to that group. Don't make your audience strain to understand what you're saying or you'll lose them. For example, here on this blog, we try to make marketing and communications easy for anyone in our target audience to understand and act on.

Grammar, punctuation, and similar do-dads: We touched on this last week, but for repeat readers, you need to make sure your style is always the same from post to post. Go read that post with advice from editors. It has some great advice!

Pro Tips for Your Blog Posts

We know, we know. You already have a long list to work on where your blog posts are concerned. But for those of you who may be a little further ahead, or think overachieving is a way of life, here are a few other things to make your words stretch further.

Work on your headlines: You already know this, but your blog headline is super important. We use this headline analyzer to help determine if our headlines will entice readers. Aim for a score of above 70, just like in school!

Add internal links: Link to other posts or pages within your site. Like when you talk about promoting a launch, you can link to another place where you talk about that same subject. ( <-- See what we did there?) This keeps people on your site longer because they're looking around at all the pretty content you've created. This is obviously great for your website, but when people stick around, it also tells Google that your site is a good one, and they should recommend you more.

Add external links: On a similar note, link to other websites when you can as well. It helps build the credibility of your own site in Google's eyes. So, when you mention that you're attending the Plywood Presents conference in a few months, make it easy for people to get there. ( <-- Did it again!)

Briefly consider length: There are MANY opinions about what the "right" length of a blog post should be, but here we ascribe to a single philosophy: cover the topic well. We write a minimum of 500 words, because again, you want to have enough content for Google to search, but past that, there aren't a lot of length requirements. Just deliver on the promise of your headline to keep your readers happy.

Maybe add a bio: Unfortunately, the sales cycle isn't like IKEA. Potential customers and donors don't all show up on the same page of your website, walk through it in one direction, and then end up on your sales or donations page. (Sigh.) For that reason, every blog post contains a short bio and photo of the writer. So, if I (Kristi) only get someone to read one post on this blog, they can at least also catch a little bit about me and what my company does. 

SEO and Keywords: To be completely honest, we don't focus heavily on SEO around here right now. As the team grows and capacity expands, we'll work on it, but for now, we've just dipped our toes in. If you feel more fancy than we do, take a look at Google’s Keyword Planner and Buzz Sumo.

 

Promoting Your Blog Post

We'll just cover this briefly here, but you can have the best-written, most beautiful post in the world, but if no one reads it, it won’t do you much good. Here are some of the ways we promote our posts, and you may think of others that work for you as well.

 

Read the other posts in this series:



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

 Blog writing tips that will help ensure your post gets read, and better yet, acted on.

 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.