Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

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Is your website ADA Compliant? Did you know it should be? If not, you aren’t alone. ADA compliance marks a major change to the digital marketing world. It’s important to know how your website stacks up.

What is ADA Compliance?

Years ago, we didn’t have designated parking spots for those with disabilities, or ramps to allow wheelchairs easy access to buildings. Today, it’s common to see these, which is due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law was enacted to ensure that all individuals have equal access to a business’s goods and services.

Under the law, a business is considered a place of public accommodation, and must remove any barriers that would keep a disabled individual from accessing that business’s offerings. While this has long referred to physical barriers, in 2010 there was a request from the US Department of Justice to amend the law to include the digital realm, namely websites.

Currently there are no strict guidelines that legally require websites to be accessible for people with disabilities. However, lawsuits have been successfully made against companies that lack accessibility features.

What do you need to know? Don’t be caught off guard. Until recently, most marketers didn’t know about ADA compliance. This gave them no way to prevent lawsuits, because they lacked the knowledge that there even might be a problem.

The ADA status on websites was expected to be finalized this past January. While that fell through, the courts continue to step in and file lawsuits against companies whose websites are found to violate current ADA guidelines. Be proactive by making changes to your website now. Besides potential legal issues, it’s good business practice to make your site as accessible and easy to navigate as possible for all your customers.

Make Your Website ADA Compliant

drawing of man building a websiteThe best way to understand how your website stacks up against compliance standards is to do a comprehensive assessment of your site. You may want to contact your website service provider for more specific information, and to make changes you’re unsure how to enact. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 give a comprehensive overview of what is required for different levels/standards of compliance.

Some common adjustments you can make to your site include:

Alternative Text

Each image you include on your site should have an alt text description. Visitors to your site may be unable to see images, or the images themselves may not render on all devices. Alternate text will fill in the blanks, allowing visitors to understand the content presented in the image and what information you are trying to convey. Website builders like WordPress clearly identify where to place the alt text when adding an image. The words you use in your alt text descriptions are also important–learn how to write effective alt tags. Effective alt text labels also serve to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Audio & Video Transcripts

For every video or audio clip you include on your site, it’s helpful to include a link to a page with the content transcribed into text, for those who can’t hear the audio or who cannot view the video properly on their device. Also include captions on the video itself.

Contrasting Text

Your website will be more functional for all visitors if text is at a high contrast to the background, making it easier to read. If the background color of your “Products” page button is too close to the text color, it will be difficult for visitors to read the text and understand where that button would take them.

Keyboard Navigation

Some people must use a keyboard rather than a mouse to navigate on the web. So, your website must be fully navigable using only a keyboard. Some websites are set up so that just by pressing the “Tab” key, a visitor can move across the heading and sub heading categories of your site, easily finding which page they want. To make this function easier, it’s important to have consistent navigation throughout the site. All headers and footers should appear the same on each page, with the same buttons linking to the same pages.

Links

Include clear links to your home page as well as to a site map page. From the site map, visitors can easily find the page they’re looking for without navigating through your entire site. Don’t underline text that is not an actual link. And, do not include redundant links to the same content on the same page.

Page Titles

Ensure your page titles clearly and accurately describe what is found on that page. Also, your pages will be read better by screen reading software if you give different weight to your titles and move in ascending order as you go down the page. For example, the title of the page should be designated as H1. Your major subheadings should be H2, and secondary headers should be H3.

Forms

Forms must be clearly labeled and readable by screen reader software. Make form submission buttons specific; rather than “Submit” try, “Place an Order” “Contact Us” “Sign Me Up” etc. This ensures clarity as to what process that form is completing.

Developing a website that is easy to navigate for all visitors creates a win-win situation. When potential customers have a pleasant experience visiting your website, they’re likely to stay on your site for longer periods of time and come back to you when they’re searching for something new. More traffic means more business, and more happy customers.

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4 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

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It’s hard to believe the holiday season has arrived once again, and before we know it we’ll be ringing in 2018. After a busy holiday season, a new year is an opportunity to refresh your marketing priorities. Marketing objectives and strategies are constantly evolving, and certain approaches that worked last year may no longer be best practice today. Here are 4 things you should know about marketing for 2018.

1) Amazon is King:

White-Amazon-LogoWhen you have a question about something, what do you do? Usually without thinking, I turn to Google.

So, would it surprise you to learn that Google is surpassed by another search engine? Currently, Amazon holds the crown as the most used product search engine, with 59% of product searches happening on their site. And they’re not only a resource for products—Amazon also offers a wide range of services, including AmazonFresh grocery delivery, web cloud storage, and TV, movie, and music streaming. It’s even possible that Amazon will be offering prescription medications in the near future.

But as a business owner, you should know about Amazon Services. It essentially works as an Amazon search engine for professional services. Whether you’re an electrician, computer repair person, or pool cleaner, your customers can search for, purchase, and review your services, all through Amazon. This is already taking off in larger cities across the U.S., and will likely be popular in our region in just a year or two. If you want to get ahead of the game, it could pay off to claim your spot on Amazon today.

2) Website Accessibility:

Have you heard about the Web Content Accessibility Guideline? If you plan to have a website in 2018, listen up. While there are no standardized rules for what a website must have to be considered “accessible,” the web has been labeled as a “place of public accommodation.” Essentially, you could run into legal trouble if your site isn’t accessible or functional for people who use assistive technologies, like browser reading software, when on the web. You’ll probably want to refer to your website provider for specifics on how to adjust your page for accessibility, but some things to start with include:

  • Ensuring all your images have alternative text
  • Including subtitles for your videos and/or a link to the video’s transcript
  • Creating obvious links to your home and site map pages for easy navigation
  • Give every page a primary title (H1) and as you move down the page present headlines in ascending order (H2, H3, etc.) without skipping any (i.e., don’t go from H1 to H3)
  • Make link text descriptive (Learn about SEO on our Web Tips page rather than Click here for SEO tips)

3) SEO Factors: 

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Background vector created by Makyzz – Freepik.com

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the fastest changing aspects of marketing. It is always evolving, and your website must evolve with it or be left behind. Focus on these factors:

Improve Site Speed

A load time between 2 and 3 seconds is considered excellent. The average webpage loads in between 5 and 7 seconds. Nearly 1/3 of web users will leave a site if it takes 7 seconds or more to load, and that number increases for every second longer it takes to open your page. There are number of free web tools you can use to determine the speed/loading issues of your page.

Relevance > Key Words

Search engines have gotten smarter at being able to determine the intent of your page. This means that the heavy use of keywords isn’t as critical as it used to be. In fact, 35% of top search results don’t include any keywords in the title of the page or article. You can focus more on being readable to your human audience rather than including keyword-heavy titles and anchor text.

Keep Using Meta Data

Title tags and meta tags are still effective SEO tools. A title tag should be no longer than 70 characters, while meta tags shouldn’t go over 175 characters. Alt tags are essential too, not just for accessibility, but also for improving search rankings.

Social Doesn’t Improve SEO

Social media is an effective marketing tool, but having a strong social strategy won’t improve your search rankings. However, don’t neglect it all together; it’s a great tool for building trust with prospects and current customers.

Be Clear and Concise

Just as web users expect your page to load fast, they expect to find what they need on the page quickly, too. Make your page navigation simple and straightforward. And, if your web page will be answering a question, make sure you answer that question in the first three sentences of text, or you risk losing the reader’s attention.

4) Marketing with Facebook Ads: 

If you haven’t started advertising on Facebook, get ready to jump right in. There are over 200 million active Facebook users in the U.S., active for an average of 50 minutes per day. That represents a significant number of opportunities for you to connect with your audience.

Facebook ad targeting strategies have become more specific than ever. You can air different advertisements based on your goals, whether it’s to increase brand awareness, traffic, lead generation, or conversion rates. You can segment your ads to only be seen on mobile devices, and even to reach an audience based on life events. If an individual puts their location information on Facebook, its algorithm can tell that he or she moved from Florida to Vermont, and ads will appear to them for things they’re likely to need, such as snow removal services, winter tires, or cold weather gear.

What marketing trends are you noticing or trying, and how do these trends relate? If you’re looking to enhance your marketing strategy for 2018, contact Paw Print & Mail to start the conversation.

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6 Strategies for Engaging Millennial Donors

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People image created by Freepik.

What does the term “millennial” mean to you?

For many fundraisers, it means a struggle to find ways to connect with a diverse generation that has different expectations than those established by their parents and grandparents.

But millennials don’t have to mean a struggle, and they can mean the future of your organization. Millennials currently make up 25% of the U.S. population, and will compose half of the American workforce by 2020. It’s essential that you’re able to reach this generation with your fundraising efforts. It represents a significant number of potential donors that may be interested in giving now, and for many years to come.

More so than previous generations, millennials are very receptive to cause marketing and fundraising. Nearly half of millennials are more willing to purchase from a company if that company supports a cause, and 37% will pay more for a product or service if it will help a cause they believe in.

Millennials’ desire to do good makes them qualified potential donors for your organization. But to reach them effectively, you may have to adopt some new practices.

1) Invest in Digital Marketing

Millennials grew up using computers, and they’re quick to adopt new forms of technology. If you want to make millennials aware of your nonprofit, you have to be tech savvy, too. You can:

  • Be active on social media by sharing, posting, commenting, and responding to any actions on your page.
  • Ensure your website is updated regularly, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile devices.
  • Set up search engine optimization (SEO) for your nonprofit’s website.
  • Try using or creating a mobile app so that it’s easy for potential donors to give at any time (millennials tend to be impulse donors).
  • Develop consistency across marketing channels so that potential donors will have a seamless experience.

2) Millennials Like Direct Mail

Though millennials are digitally focused, they place value and trust in direct mail. 84% of millennials regularly read through their mail, and 64% would rather find useful information in the mail than from an email. Part of the reason is that direct mail can be extremely personalized for the recipient. Personal touches give your nonprofit a human, friendly side that millennials will connect with.

3) Be Approachable

Present your organization as approachable and encourage potential donors to engage in frequent conversations with you, whether on a blog page, social media site, in an email, or in person.

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Business image created by Peoplecreations – Freepik.com

By connecting with millennial donors now, you are beginning a long-term relationship with them, that will hopefully transition to a regular gift. Many younger people may not be in a position to make a financial gift, but are still passionate about helping. Encouraging them to volunteer with you keeps them involved while creating a deeper bond between them and your organization.

4) Think Global, Act Local

Millennials have a global consciousness, and they want to feel they’re contributing to a larger cause. If you can, connect your mission to a larger issue, and show how an action in your community can relate and support a global need.

5) Enhance Trust

42% of Americans believe brands are less trustworthy than they were 20 years ago. A good practice for reaching donors of any generation is to be transparent. Millennials want clear and specific information on the impact their individual contribution will have.

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Business card image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

Building trust also means staying in touch with donors on a regular basis. Since millennials value the relationships they build with organizations, it’s essential for you to communicate with them for more than just an ask. Reiterate the good you’re doing with regular updates on the impact you’re having.

6) Step Up Storytelling

Millennials tend to feel connected to causes rather than individual organizations. But you can use stories to show the impact, importance, and personal side of your nonprofit, helping millennials to build a stronger connection to you. It gives your organization a human side, and potential donors can see and hear from specific individuals they’ll be helping. Use a lot of images and videos in your fundraising materials to help your stories make an impact.

At Paw Print & Mail, we specialize in nonprofit fundraising appeal production. Contact Paw Print today to enhance your nonprofit’s fundraising approach.

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The Essentials of Email Marketing Automation

email marketing automation graphic205 billion. That’s the number of emails sent every day around the world.

Some days it seems like I receive a billion or so myself. If you’re actively using email for work and to receive information from companies that interest you, your inbox is probably pretty full, too.

Two of the largest complaints consumers have about email are that they receive too many emails (44%) and the emails aren’t relevant to them (37%). Even when an email has relevance for a consumer, it’s easy for it to get lost in a crowded inbox.

To market your business effectively, your emails have to offer timely information that resonates with the recipient. They must be compelling enough to be opened over the dozens of other emails in an inbox. So, how can you make email marketing work for you, connecting with clients on a more personal level?

There’s a lot of talk about marketing automation these days, and for good reason…because it works. At its most basic, email marketing automation allows you to create and schedule emails to be sent out when they are relevant. This saves you time, makes your communication strategy more efficient, and generates more leads or sales for your business.

How Does Automation Work?

Effective automation requires tracking and analyzing data so that your communications reach customers at the right time with the right message. Marketing automation can track prospective customers from their initial visit to your website all the way to post-purchase and beyond. When you track the behavior of leads and customers, it makes it easier to see which of your marketing strategies is most effective, what the typical path from search to sale looks like, and what triggers customers to convert.

You can set up your automation to contact potential customers throughout the sales process. For example, if they’ve spent time searching for a product or service but haven’t yet purchased, automation software could trigger an email that will remind them of their interest and highlight the benefits of what you’re offering. Once they’ve made a purchase, you could send information about how to make the best use of the product. Down the road, your automation could suggest similar products that may interest your customer or upgrades to their current memberships or subscriptions. One name for this kind of triggered marketing campaign is a drip campaign.  Personalized emails generate 6 times more revenue than non-personalized emails, and this can have real benefits for your business.

The core of the effectiveness lies in the trigger. You can craft emails that are specific to what the lead is doing and what you hope them to do in the future. It’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure” book. Each action a lead takes brings them further down their own path, and that path may be slightly different than everyone else’s.

Segment for Success

In addition to sending emails on a trigger system, you can segment your email lists based on demographic factors like location, age, or sales history. This will help to increase sales and generate leads, as your audience will be receiving more relevant content. You can also use automation to ask your contact list what their content preferences are, to further target them with the right content.

A key point to remember is that automation is aimed at engagement. With automation, you are contacting prospects and customers when it is most relevant to them, with the goal of them completing an action so they will further engage with your company.

Types of Automated Emails

If you want to send automated emails but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some examples:

Welcome

A welcome email is one of the most basic forms of email automation. You may even have come to expect such an email once you’ve subscribed to an e-newsletter or opened an account. It’s a great first touch, and you can use it to express gratitude or include a special offer. Craft the email to encourage the recipient to take some further, immediate action. Include a “Shop Now” button, or a link to a compelling piece of content on your site.

Enhance the Purchase

While a simple “thanks for your purchase” on its own doesn’t hold much engagement value, you can make this type of email into something more. A key purpose of content marketing is to offer customers information and value. In a thank you email, you can include links to tutorials, guides, blog posts etc., which will help customers to get the most out of their purchase, drive traffic to your site, and position you as an authority in your field.

Feedback

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Another effective way to step up a thank you email is to ask customers for feedback. Encourage recipients to answer one simple question about purchase experience, satisfaction, or what they hope to get from the purchase. An email like this will get recipients to engage and provide you with valuable info.

Complete a Sale

The internet is a prolific resource for shopping, but there is also a lot to distract us. I can think of many times I’ve shopped around or filled a web cart, but not completed a purchase. You probably have, too. Whatever your business, there will be visitors who come to your website and consider a purchase, but don’t follow through. These are very qualified leads, who may need just a little push to commit to a sale. Automation software can easily track these visitors and abandoned carts, and send emails to the individuals to bring them back to your site and continue on.

Renewals & Expirations

Retaining current customers is much easier than searching for new ones, and automation will make this process easier. Automation software keeps track of when renewal payments are required and subscriptions are due to expire. It will then send your customers an automatic reminder to make a payment.

Birthdays

People love special attention on their birthdays, and you can use this occasion to offer something extra to your customers. The software will track birthdays and send communications accordingly, giving a fun and personal touch to your emails.

Appointment Reminders

If your business schedules recurring appointments on a regular basis, email automation can remind customers when they are due for their next appointment. You won’t have to call each patient or customer individually, and you’ll be encouraging your current customer base to return to your business.

Events

Automation works great for event reminders. Once someone signs up to attend an event you’re hosting, you can periodically send them emails with date reminders, additional info they’ll want to know, and other events they may be interested in based on the one they’ve registered for.

Tips for Email Marketing Automation

Write Enticing Subject Lines

It’s as simple as this: if you don’t have a compelling subject line, your email will not be opened. Take the time to hit just the right note.

Have a Clear Call to Action

Automated emails are specific to the customer, and you need to be specific in what you’re asking them to do. Have one clear goal for each automated email. And make sure it is obvious what response you are looking for from the recipient.

Write Compelling & Concise Copy

Connect with your readers using persuasive and engaging copy, and keep it short. Most readers will scan for relevant info, so make use of bullets and bold text to get your message across.

Measure, Measure, Measure

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Like any marketing strategy, automation can and should be tested. You can split test your email message content to see what is more effective. And it’s essential to analyze your data (like open and response rates). Marketing automation is meant to operate on its own. But it still requires adjustments on your end to ensure that your content is performing the way you want it to and is aligned with the marketing goals you have for your business.

Let Subscribers Manage Preferences

The worst thing you can do is offend or annoy your audience. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they want to see from you and how often they want to see it. Having them engage less is better than an unsubscribe. But, make sure every email includes a visible opt-out link.

Start Simple

There are many different ways to implement marketing automation, and many opportunities you can make use of. But if you’re just starting out, don’t try to do it all at once; rather, focus on only one or two automation campaigns in a comprehensive fashion.

Don’t Forget Your Purpose

Always remember you are looking to engage and nurture relationships, and ensure your emails are consistently doing so.

According to The Direct Marketing Association, segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue, which is huge! While this is a great reason to use marketing automation, we recognize that it can be hard to get things started. Paw Print & Mail is fully equipped to help you develop an automated and multi-channel marketing strategy. Contact us to get started on your marketing campaign.

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What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About Blogging

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If you’re regularly on the internet, you’re probably encountering blogs on a daily basis. Blogs are everywhere—some people even blog for a living. Content development has become an established piece of marketing and fundraising strategy. It’s important that both for profit and not for profit organizations can give their audience value and information, and blogs are a popular way to do that.

Blogging is an effective way to stay in touch with your donors in a format that is informative and engaging. Whether you have an established blog for your nonprofit or you’ve never written a blog post in your life, these ideas can help you create a top-notch nonprofit blog page so your organization will stand out from the crowd.

1) To Blog or Not to Blog?

It’s important to consider a few things before you get down to blogging:

  • What host will you use? WordPress is a popular website tool, but there are other options.
  • Do you have a goal or goals for your blog? Have key members of your organization sit together and come up with some concrete guidelines for what you hope to get out of blogging. Maybe you’re trying to attract volunteers. Over time, you can measure whether your blog is succeeding based on the numbers of new volunteers you’re seeing.
  • Who will be in charge of posting? Maybe one person is always in charge of blogging, or duties are shared throughout your nonprofit. Whatever you decide, ensure everyone knows their role and the publishing timeline.
  • Does your organization have the time and resources for a blog? You can read more about this below. But if you know upfront that regular blogging is not a feasible possibility for your nonprofit, it’s best to focus on other projects. Having no blog is better than having a lackluster one.
  • Who is your audience, and what questions will they have? Different causes appeal to different groups of people. You know your donors, and you’ll want to consider what language/tone you should use to speak to them in your blog, as well as what they want to know about your organization.
  • How will you promote your blog? You can share your blog on social media, include a link to it in an email newsletter, feature it on your website’s homepage…think about what channels you have a following on, and use them to your advantage.

 2) Consistency is Key in Blogging

Blogging requires frequent updates of fresh content to keep followers engaged. If you’re going to start blogging for your nonprofit, make sure you have the time to regularly devote to it.

Part of being consistent is publishing content on a regular schedule. It could be once a week, twice a week, a few times per month—whatever timeline you feel you can keep up with. When you update on a regular basis, say, every Wednesday, your audience will come to expect your posts on Wednesdays and will be more likely to come back to your site looking for them. A blog that is only sporadically updated is not going to receive that kind of attention. Readers won’t view it as a reliable, regular source of content.

You’ll also want to be consistent in the feel of your blog. You want your readers to come to see your blog as a friendly and trusted resource. Keep your tone of voice and the look of your blog similar from post to post. For instance, if many of your posts start with an image, make sure to include an image at the beginning of every post.

3) Blogs Give Your Nonprofit Authority and Build Trust

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Business card image create by Katemangostar- freepik.com

There are a lot of nonprofits out there—1.5 million in the U.S., in fact. And it’s likely there are other organizations with goals and missions that are similar to yours. Blogging is a way that you can showcase your unique story, while also establishing your knowledge of your field.

You can use a blog to inform your audience on topics centered around your nonprofit’s mission. By showing you have an extensive knowledge of the issue and topics surrounding it, you present yourself to donors as an authority in your field. This helps to give your organization credibility, and donors will feel that you have the experience to put funds to best use and truly solve problems.

By showing your knowledge, along with proof of the work you are doing, you build trust with your audience as well. It’s important to think of your donors as friends, individuals you’re building a long and sociable relationship with. Typically, we trust our friends. Blogging is a way to deepen that trusting relationship by showing that you’re listening to what your donors have to say and are actively working to achieve goals they’re looking to you to solve.

Consistency helps build trust as well. If you are consistent in your efforts and consistent in your blogging, your audience will rely on you to provide them with regular information that they want to know about your organization and its work.

4) Engage your Audience with Blogging

Enhancing donor loyalty requires you to think of your donors as friends and develop relationships with them. One of the best ways to do that is to create opportunities for donors to engage with you and share their thoughts.

Blogging is an effective way to enhance your engagement with a wide audience. People can comment on your blog, contact you based on a post they found interesting, attend an event or volunteer after reading a post, sign up for your email list, and share your content on social media. Sharing is huge for blogs. It allows people to see your blog and learn about your organization who might not come across you otherwise.

Engagement is truly one of the main goals of blogging, and while everything you post won’t lead directly to a donation, giving people exposure to your organization and getting people talking about it is going to have an impact.

5) Blogs Tell Your Story

Stories are a compelling way to give your nonprofit personality and heart. You may have stories that you regularly use in fundraising and marketing materials. But there are all kinds of stories you can tell about your employees, volunteers, and beneficiaries of your nonprofit that make for great blog posts.

Event coverage is an effective blog topic. You can show who is involved, how you’re working to make an impact, and what you achieved. Your events may not get a lot of coverage from external media groups, so covering them yourself ensures people will see the good work you’re doing.

Talking about the stories and goings-on at your nonprofit shows your audience that you are actively working to achieve your mission and that your efforts are effective at doing so. Being able to communicate that you are active and making a difference is important to donors, because they can be sure their donations will be making an impact for good.

6) Blogs Convey Your Purpose

Your nonprofit is up against a lot of competition. Your blog is a place for you to separate yourself from the pack and convey not just the story of your organization, but also its purpose. Why does your specific nonprofit need to exist? How is it going to provide something different than organizations with similar goals? What is your blog’s purpose? How will it work to contribute to your mission and the betterment of your community?

7) What Types of Content?

smiling woman blogging on laptop
Background image created by Senivpetro – Freepik.com

You want to achieve consistency in the look and feel of your blog. At the same time, you’ll need a variety of content to keep your blog interesting. Sometimes you may want to share an interesting article you find, or you’ll be writing your own. Some posts will be more text-heavy, but visuals are helpful for readers to visualize what you’re writing about. Take lots of pictures and videos of different events and happenings you’re involved in. That way, you’ll have a lot of content to draw from.

You may also want to feature a guest blogger occasionally. A board member or a volunteer could write about their experience with your organization and why they’re so passionate about helping you to achieve your mission. Or an expert in the field related to your nonprofit can contribute a post to help further educate donors about the issues you’re working to solve.

Another great post idea is to address frequently asked questions about your organization. If it’s content that people are regularly looking for, a blog post can pull double duty.  While contributing to your regular posting schedule, it will also provide evergreen content that can regularly be referred to.

And as we know a thank you is always welcome, your blog is another way to show gratitude and appreciation for your donors. Make a fun video with volunteers, employees, and beneficiaries saying thank you, and weave a tone of thankfulness throughout all your communications.

Paw Print & Mail specializes in nonprofit appeal production services and copywriting and content marketing, including ghost blogging services. If you need assistance with your nonprofit appeal strategy, contact Paw Print today.

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5 Ways Marketing Automation Delivers Qualified Leads

Generate Qualified Leads with Marketing Automation

woman holding card reading wanted: more leads

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to marketing your business? According to HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound Report, 63% of marketers say their top marketing challenge is generating traffic and leads. Even if your company is doing a robust business now, it’s important to think ahead. Always have strategies in mind for how you will generate future leads and sales.

But not all leads or lead generation strategies are created equal. It may seem like the best way to increase business for your company is to send your message through the most channels. That way, it will be seen by the largest number of people possible. However, this method will spread your efforts too thin. It will likely end up costing you money rather than increasing sales.

The secret is to direct your digital and direct mail marketing so that you are specifically targeting fewer, more qualified leads. When you are able to more personally connect with potential customers that you know are or have been interested in your services (based on things like past purchase history, or tracking visitor activity on your website), you enhance the effectiveness of your communications.

Targeting qualified leads in a personal and timely manner is essential. But it can be hard to keep up a consistent strategy when you’re working on a case-by-case basis. Marketing automation allows you to generate qualified leads in an efficient and effective manner.

What is Marketing Automation?

At its most basic, marketing automation is the use of a software platform that replaces repetitive manual processes with automated solutions. It can be used across channels, including direct mail, email, and social media, to help to provide information to and maintain contact with leads and customers for a variety of marketing purposes.

When someone completes a certain action, such as opting in to an email list or searching your website, they will trigger the automation system, which will automatically send a message to them. Think of the last email newsletter you signed up for, or the last web purchase you made. You probably got a welcome or thank you email pretty fast, right? That was thanks to marketing automation. You can learn more about the specifics of marketing automation in this post.

Since you aren’t personally sending out these kinds of communications yourself, you create greater efficiency and have more time to focus on high-gain activities. Another major benefit is that you will be generating qualified leads to enhance your sales process.

Why Use Marketing Automation for Lead Generation?

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Background vector created by Dooder – Freepik.com

Say you’re in the apparel business, selling inexpensive, fun clothing designed for teenage girls and young women. You likely have a list of current and past customers, and maybe an email list. You want to send out a mailing advertising a sale. You’ll provide an exclusive coupon or sales offer to get customers in the door.

If your goal is to increase brand awareness and find new leads, you need to expand your mailing list. But how will you decide who to mail to? If you have the ability to mail to every household within a 5-mile radius of your store, it’s easier to do that than to manually sort through a gigantic mailing list looking for leads.

But it doesn’t make sense to send a campaign targeted at young women to every person in town. It isn’t relevant to many people and will be disregarded. Marketing automation software will solve this problem for you. It can easily sort through a mailing list, to only send your mailing to female recipients. You may also have enough information to further pare it down by age. And if you’re selling products for multiple demographics, it’s easy to segment mailing lists. You can then send two selective, targeted campaigns rather than one large generic one.

And what’s the purpose of targeting a more specific audience? Qualified leads increase sales.

Benefits of Marketing Automation for Qualified Lead Generation

1) Automate Your Marketing on Schedule

Time is truly of the essence in marketing. When a lead is looking for information or considering making a purchase, you must connect with them in a timely manner to retain their interest. You need to be able to contact your leads with information when it is most relevant to them. This is hard to do if you are personally sending out every communication.

With automation, you can schedule out communications so that when a lead completes a specific action, such as signing up to your email list or creating an account, they will automatically be sent an email. Even with a scheduled system, you can make your communications personal.  Leads won’t feel they are being contacted by a robot.

2) Know Your Prospects

Before you begin any kind of marketing campaign, you need to know your prospects. It’s helpful for you to dig deep and understand the demographics, needs, and wants of your prospective customers. That way, you can make your marketing message most effective at connecting and driving action.

However, this is just a first step. Once you know your message, you need specific individuals to communicate with.  Marketing automation brings it all together by helping you to identify these individuals. The software provides you with comprehensive information about prospects. Targeting becomes much easier when you know your prospect’s location, purchase history, and when they last purchased from you.

3) Segment Communications for Relevance

target leads with marketing automation
Background vector created by Makyzz – Freepik.com

Because automation can give you such in-depth information about leads, you can specifically identify where leads are in the sales process. Your leads will be at all different stages, so sending them all the same message doesn’t make sense.

When you send more personalized and relevant information, you increase the chance that your lead will respond. Automation software makes it easy to segment communications so that smaller groups of leads are receiving content tailored to them. You can easily craft a more compelling and specific message or call to action for each of the segmented groups you’re reaching out to.

More comprehensive automation software helps you generate leads through website visitors, traffic from pay-per-click advertising, email responses, and any other inbound marketing that you’re using. This will help increase your number of qualified leads while providing you with specific information, such as what pages they visited, to help personalize your messages to them. You’ll always be finding new leads who were interested specifically in a product or service provided by your company.

4) Deepen Relationships with Leads and Customers

When you have business coming in, you need to focus on fulfilling those commitments and working with those specific customers. But once a sale has been fulfilled for a customer, they don’t disappear from the sales cycle. And they shouldn’t vanish from your radar. Your best customers are going to be those that frequent your business. You need to nurture your customer base just as you would any other group of leads.

Marketing automation takes some of the stress out of this process by identifying when past leads and customers should be contacted again, and offering them content to enhance their experience with you. For instance, once a lead has made a purchase, automation can be used to send them information on how to get the most from the product they purchased. Down the road, automation can suggest similar products they may be interested in. This helps to deepen the customer’s relationship with you, especially as personalization is the preferred way for leads to receive communications from brands.

5) Save Money While Targeting Better Leads

Automation processes make sales more efficient. Rather than spending money across channels on a wide reaching but low target message, you’re spending less and sending out fewer communications. Because these marketing messages are highly targeted and sent to a specific audience, you are reaching out to leads that are better qualified to make a purchase, and are sure to see results.

At Paw Print & Mail, our marketing automation services are capable of effectively using cross-channel touches, like email and direct mail, together in harmony to put your message in front of your customers and prospects in an orchestrated fashion. To learn more about the specifics of marketing automation and how it can generate leads for your company or organization, contact Paw Print today.

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Step Up Your Website’s SEO

Search Engine Optimization key words

I don’t know about you, but when I think about buying something, I like to do my research. It’s important to me to know a bit about the company I’m doing business with, and to see if their product or service is truly the best option. And with a world of information available just a click away on the internet, it’s easier than ever to find the information I’m looking for.

According to HubSpot, 81% of consumers do online research before making a purchase, especially for larger investments. And, 64% of web traffic comes from organic searches, rather than ad clicks. It’s critical that consumers are able to find your website during a web search. You can drive more traffic to your site using search engine optimization (SEO).

What is SEO?

SEO involves strategies to ensure your website will be visible in search engine results. It’s usually possible to find the information you’re looking for in the first page or two of search results. Consumers aren’t going to go through multiple pages of results if they don’t have to. Sites that appear higher up in a search are going to have the most visitors. How do companies get their sites to appear first? They’ve implemented SEO.

You can also increase SEO value with paid advertisements and by sharing content on social media. But today we’re going to talk about how you can make changes on your website to achieve a higher SEO ranking. You’ll start generating more traffic and more leads organically, without the expense of a paid search.

1) Track Web Visitors

To get the most value out of optimizing your site, you’ll want to keep track of the numbers. You can use software like Google Analytics to determine how many web users visit your website, how long they stay on the site, as well as what pages they visit the most. If you know before making any adjustments to your SEO what kind of traffic your page sees, it is easier to measure the effectiveness of your efforts, and test different words and phrases to get better results.

2) Use Title Tags

SEO title tag descriptions

The title tag appears in two places. In a search result, it’s the headline text that you see and can click on. Once you click on the link, the title tag also appears in the tab at the top of the web browser.

A title tag should be a concise and accurate description of what the webpage is about. For instance, our website’s homepage title tag is “Printing & Mailing Services, South Burlington, Vermont | Paw Print & Mail.” The title tag picks up on key words that a prospect is likely to put into the web search bar.  If someone were to search “printing services Burlington Vermont” the search platform would pick out those words from our title tag, and our website would appear higher in the search results.

When creating a title tag, you’ll want to keep it under 60 characters so that it is easy and quick to read. Also make it readable, as if you’re speaking or asking a person a question—a list of keywords won’t do. Instead of “SEO title tag keywords web search,” or something along those lines, try “How to Optimize SEO with a Title Tag – ABC Company.” Web users may be looking for information related to the terms in the first example. But it isn’t user friendly and doesn’t tell you what the web page is actually about or who created it.

Another important tip is to give each of the pages on your website a unique title tag. This increases the phrases and keywords associated with your site and the chance that your site will appear in search results.

3) Write Meta Descriptions

This is the text that appears below a title tag in a web search. It’s usually a sentence or two that gives users an idea of what they’ll find on your site, so keywords are important here too.

SEO meta description examples

While not as closely tied to a search result ranking as a title tag, the meta description allows a web user to determine if your site is relevant to what they’re searching for. It can be the factor that leads someone to click on your site, or not. Using action oriented words and phrases in the meta description will help compel a web user to go to your site and take action.

Google allows meta descriptions to be up to 320 characters long. But you may find a shorter description conveys your point more concisely. Like the title tag, meta descriptions should be different for each page on your site. A generic meta description for every page on your site decreases the relevance for web searchers, as it is not descriptive enough.

4) Add Internal Links

Internal linking means including links on each of your pages to other pages on your website. You can include them in the main navigation bar and throughout the copy. Your home page has the most SEO value of any page on your site. When your content can be easily reached through links on the homepage, it has greater value in a search result.SEO spider

Think of it like a spider crawling through your site. A web search sends out spiders to every search result. The spiders are happy when they can easily crawl to the bulk of your site’s content just by accessing the home page—like a well-designed web! The happier the spider, the more search value your site will have.

Make it easy to navigate your site, too. Clear headers in your navigation bar and a consistent layout on each page will allow visitors to quickly find the information they’re looking for. When your website is easy to navigate, spiders will like it, and so will your prospective customers.

5) External Links

These are links that go to any site or domain other than your own. Search engines place greater value on links that lead to separate sites than internal links to your own site. External links add to the authority of your site, especially when you link to a reputable source, and add to the relevancy of your content in the search engine’s eyes.

Linking to another site can also help you to develop a relationship with that site. By sharing their content, you make them aware of your webpage, and hopefully they will see you as a source to link to for the future.

External links are enhanced when you focus on the words you are using to hyperlink, the anchor text. Rather than hyperlinking the words “click here,” make your anchor text descriptive. If you’re linking to a source about increasing SEO value, your anchor text could be “top ways you can increase SEO value.” These are the kinds of keywords people will use to search for information about the topic, and it helps give a sense what the link is about.

6) Generate Fresh Content

The marketing climate today demands that companies be producing fresh content on a regular basis. In addition to supplementing your overall marketing strategy, new content can help to increase traffic to your webpage. One of the best ways to do this is by regularly publishing a blog. Writing about topics that your audience is interested in and searching for will allow you to appear in a wider range of search results, giving web users greater exposure to your brand. Blogging also builds your authority as an expert in your field or industry.

7) Include Image Descriptions

Images are a key part of a website’s content, but a web search looks for text only. “Alt” tags are a way to add SEO value to the images on your site. Including a tag for each image can help increase the search ranking of your site, especially when you write it with SEO in mind. The alt tag should be specific and include key words but, like the title tag, should be a readable/conversational phrase. Alt tags are also a critical piece of website accessibility, as they ensure visitors who can’t view the images can still understand what your content is about.

8) Test Your Loading Time

While not directly related to search results, the time it takes for your website to load can also be a factor in the level of traffic you’re seeing. 40% of people will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.  And the longer the site takes to load, the higher that percentage gets. Make sure that your prospects can not only find your site, but can get to it as well. Try some of these strategies to speed up loading times.

9) Create Search Friendly URLS

Create a standard system for naming your page URLS. Often when a page is generated, it will be a random mix of letters, numbers, and symbols that are not attractive to a search engine. If you sell apparel, for example, a friendly URL could be “www.apparelcompany.com/women/tshirts.” The search engine will put that site high in the search results when someone looks for women’s t-shirts.

Writing compelling web copy isn’t easy, and Paw Print & Mail is here to help! Contact us today and ask about our professional copywriting services.

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5 Steps to Writing Compelling Web Copy

Website_Copy_Paw_Print_And_Mail
Infographic vector created by Freepik

When you write something good, you feel proud. You want to share it with the world, and you hope everyone will read it.

In a business environment, compelling copy is critical, as is a well-built website. When you combine the two, you create an effective lead generation tool that will increase your company’s sales.

But how much of your copy is actually being read? According to Hinge Marketing, visitors only read an average of 28% of the words on a web page.

The good news is, this is an average, and won’t be true for every website. While some websites aren’t user-friendly, your site doesn’t have to be one of them. You can increase the percentage of words read on your site, generate more traffic, and drive more sales using these 5 tips.

1) Know your SEO

Driving traffic to your web page is the first step, and it’s an important one. In order for this to happen you’ll want to know a bit about search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO involves implementing strategies on your website so that it will appear higher up on a list of search results. It’s based on how search engines like Google use words on a web page to locate the content you’re searching for.

Some places to implement SEO are:

  • Title Tag: Text that appears in the tab when a page is open in a web browser.
  • Meta Title: This is the clickable link that appears in a search result.
  • Meta Description: Text that appears under the meta title in a web search.
  • Page headlines
  • Keywords sprinkled throughout the page

Check out this site for some helpful tips to better understand SEO.

You can also use software like Google Analytics to track the number of visitors to your site. Analytics can tell you what pages visitors are looking at, what links they are clicking on, and how long they are spending on your web page. And you can test out different title tags, headlines, etc. to see if it affects the traffic being driven to your page.

2) Concise Content Converts

Next time you’re on a webpage, consider how you’re reading it. It’s highly likely that you’re skimming the content, looking for key words and important points.

The reality is, most web users skim. They are generally not going to read dense paragraphs of text, as it is time consuming and they are eager to get at the facts.

The layout of your page is key for ensuring the content is read. Too many words and not enough spacing will give you low read and response rates.

Strong copy relies on brevity. Make your web copy concise, removing unnecessary words and breaking it up into short paragraphs. Start with a solid lead, the most compelling and interesting sentence, so that readers will want to continue down the rest of the page.

You should use headings and bullet points to make it easy for visitors to find the information they’re looking for as they’re skimming. And present key terms you know your audience is looking for in bold so they will stand out.

Also include links to other pages on your site that offer in-depth information. While you help grab a visitor’s attention with short copy, they will eventually want more information about a product or service you’re offering. Links will bring them directly to what they want to know. External links are also helpful, as they can bring credibility to your claims.

3) Speak to the “Experience”

Copywriting is all about selling an experience, and that’s critical to your web copy, too. You may be tempted to write copy that focuses on the intricacies of your company and its products/services, because it’s what you’re dealing with every day. However, your website should have an outward focus rather than an inward focus.

Why? Web users take between 10 and 20 seconds to decide whether or not to stay on a webpage. That means you have to communicate value to them fast. Your prospect is searching for an answer to the question, “how will this site help me?” If they’re not finding answers right away, they’re going to look to another website, and another company, to solve their problem.

Make your copy about the prospect and the experience they are going to get from your product or service. Simply listing the features offered is not going to keep the reader’s attention in the same way as showing the value the product offers, how it will give the prospect what they want.

This is a great place to include a link to a separate page with more details about the features and benefits of the product. Once you’ve emotionally hooked the reader with your initial copy, they’ll be looking for more information to rationalize why your product is a good buy.

4) Know Your Audience

Any copy you write needs to be understood by your audience. Your website is no exception. When you know your prospects and can visualize who will be visiting your website, you can write web content with that demographic in mind. What words are they using? What ideas/concepts are important to them? And why are they searching for your product or service?

Most businesses use internal, industry-specific language to refer to their products and processes on a regular basis. It may be easy for you to talk and write about your company this way. But technical terms mean little to your audience. Think about the search terms your prospects will use to find your page.  Incorporate that kind of language into your copy, rather than writing jargon-filled sentences that are likely to confuse and lose visitors.

You also connect with your audience better when you write like you talk. While keywords are an essential piece of driving traffic to your site, overusing them or using them in a manner that reads awkwardly will make prospects stop reading.

5) Always Include a Call to Action

Call_To_Action_Paw_Print_And_Mail
Business vector created by Freepik

While some of your web pages, like blog posts or an About Us section, are meant to inform, your website’s main function is to generate leads and sales. Every page that includes a product or service you are selling should include a call to action (CTA). You don’t want your prospects to read your web page passively. Instead, you want copy that intrigues them and language that compels them to take action and make a purchase.

You should also make it easy for the prospect to take the desired action. Create a button in a contrasting color with text like “Order Now” or “Learn More.” You can make the CTA more compelling by adding value—try “Order Now to save 20%” or “Get Your Sample in 24 Hours.” A CTA becomes stronger when your webpage includes testimonials and reviews, guarantees, and/or generates a sense of urgency (buy now or miss out!)

Well-written copy is essential for your website, but it’s challenging to find the time to give writing the attention it deserves. Paw Print & Mail offers professional copywriting services, so contact us when you’re ready to give your writing a boost.

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Reaching the Elusive Millennial

Who Are Millennials?

What goes through your mind when you hear the term “millennial”? It’s a word that seems to be everywhere these days. But who are millennials? What makes them tick and drives their decisions? And how can you communicate with them?

group of young millennial people
Created by Javi_indy – Freepik.com

Understanding what a millennial is and how exactly you can reach them is an elusive concept. It’s one that is often frustrating to marketers who are trying to connect with this generation. You may have experienced this yourself. If so, I have both good and bad news for you. Since they are a very diverse group, no single marketing strategy is going to allow you to reach every millennial.

But the good news is, there are several approaches proven to resonate with millennials. And they’re not as hard to grasp as you may think.

Watch this video to get a clearer idea of who millennials are and what’s important to them:

Millennials have a different world-view, and need to be marketed to differently. They are a demographic that, in sheer numbers alone, is more populous than the baby boomers. This gives the millennial generation significant purchasing and decision-making power, a power that continues to grow annually.

Since millennials currently make up 25% of the U.S. population and will compose half of the American workforce by 2020, it’s important that marketers understand the best way to reach this demographic. Though they cannot be defined by income, career choice, or marital status, there are a few generalities that can be made:

  • An individual born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s is a millennial.
  • As the first generation to grow up in the online era, they are used to digital communications and having more choices than previous generations.
  • Millennials are the most educated generation, though they also have more student debt.
  • Meaning, experiences, and causes are all important topics/ideas for them.

So, how can you successfully market to millennials?

1. Enhance Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Millennials are used to receiving information from many channels. They tend to be multitaskers, plugged in across devices and sharing content across media. Consistency across platforms is key for engaging millennial consumers with your marketing. Having a constant message and representation of your brand helps them to connect with your company.

Since so many millennials are accessing content on smartphones and tablets, you need to adopt a multi-channel strategy focused on mobile optimization. That may mean reworking your website into a responsive template. This will make it accessible and easily readable across devices of any screen size.

Millennials spend 48% more time watching video than the average online user. And 60% of them upload their own video, images, and blog content to the web. According to Hubspot, millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by digital resources like blogs and social networking sites than previous generations.

That’s huge! And, it means that connecting with millennials requires you to develop a social strategy. Find the social media sites that work best for you and make them a part of your daily marketing plan. Adding a YouTube account or creating your own video content for Facebook or your website can also be effective. Millennials want to see helpful, informative content that they can engage with. Make sure your digital strategy offers them more than just what you’re trying to sell.

2. Embrace User Generated Content

The Baby Boomer generation relied on traditional forms of advertising, like radio and television ads. Marketers could expect that running an ad on TV would lead to many new sales and customers. Millennials, however, are much less likely to make a purchase decision from such an ad. What do they like? Brand interaction.

User generated content is one of the top ways that millennials make purchase decisions. They want to read honest reviews from customers who have purchased a company’s products or utilized their services. A study by Bazaarvoice found that 84% of millennials are influenced by user generated content when making purchase decisions. And 73% believe it is important to read others’ opinions before making a purchase.

Traditional ads are all about getting consumers to pay attention. Utilizing user generated content in your business is about building trust, which is high on the list of what millennials want from businesses. They like to do business with brands that are authentic and human. And they want to be able to interact and have a conversation with those companies.

What does this mean for you? Make it as easy as possible for public discussions about your brand to happen. Whether it’s on your website, a blog page, or your social media sites, get customers talking about your brand.

Facebook gives you the option of allowing reviews on your page, and this can be a great place to showcase what people are saying about your business. They might not always have good things to say. But a public forum is a place where you can show your willingness to resolve issues and take customer suggestions. Potential customers will see this, and it will help you to appear more human in their eyes.

Millenial giving 5 star review
Business image created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com

Customers that love your brand will want to say so. They will become brand ambassadors by talking to their friends and family about their experience. This group is more likely to respond to a peer review than a pop-up ad. You can also invest in influencer marketing, essentially building relationships with individuals that have influence over your customer base and can reach them through mediums like social media, in ways that your brand may not be able to.

Try giving customers a chance to bring their personality to your brand and be a part of brand decisions. For instance, Lays has given customers the ability to choose the next chip flavor. Coca-Cola ran a campaign asking fans to get creative and interpret what the brand means to them in an artistic medium of their choice.

3. Personalize Direct Mail for Millennials

Millennials are used to digital marketing channels, and they rely heavily on what their community has to say about a brand. However, this does not mean that online methods are the only way to reach your millennial audience. US Presort, a direct marketing company based in New York City, conducted a surprising study about millennials and direct mail. Check out some results:

  • 84% of millennials regularly read through their mail, and 64% would rather find useful information in the mail than from an email.
  • 50% of millennials ignore digital ads, while only 15% ignore direct mail.
  • 90% of people between 25 and 34 believe direct mail is reliable.
  • 77% pay attention to advertising through direct mail, and over half have made a purchase from a direct mail offer.

Those are some pretty compelling statistics in favor of using direct mail to market to millennials. As we learned above, millennials like to hear personal stories when considering a brand. One of the reasons direct mail is so popular is that it can be extremely personalized based on categories like purchase history, interests, and geographic region. Printing technology is also considerably advanced. You can add to the tactile benefit of direct mail by incorporating creative folds, colors, and textures that will make your mail memorable.

4. Increase Millennial Engagement & Market an Experience

Millennials feel trust when a brand’s values align with their own. Those values often include a desire to support a cause or charitable mission. Nearly half of millennials are more willing to purchase from a company if that company supports a cause, and 37% will pay more for a product or service if it will help a cause they believe in. Philanthropy adds to the human side of your brand that is so important for millennials. If your business supports a cause, make sure people know about it.

Being able to give back while conducting business with your company changes the brand experience. For millennials, experience carries more weight than a physical purchase. 78% of millennials prefer spending money on experiences rather than purchasing an item. Over half are spending more on events and experiences now than they ever have.

This may seem hard to work with if you’re in the business of selling a product. But it’s all about how you market it. Millennials are very receptive to storytelling in advertisements, and you can use that to your advantage. If you sell tents, for instance, make your ad about the experience of camping, how it allows you to relax, have fun, and connect with friends and family, rather than focusing on the physical and monetary benefits of the product.

You can also hold an event to get prospective customers more excited about the buying process. Attending the event heightens the experience of shopping, It’s also a great opportunity for millennials to connect to the personality and human face of your business.

We recognize that crafting a marketing plan can be a challenge. Contact Paw Print & Mail and let us help you find the right strategy to market your business to millennials, or any demographic you are trying to reach.

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