5 Steps for Marketing Planning Success

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When it comes to marketing your business, you’re only as effective as your marketing plan. Without a set of concrete goals and detailed steps for achieving them, it’s difficult to stay on track and impossible to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

For many businesses, a new year is a natural time to plan for the year ahead and begin implementing new strategies and schedules. Whether you’re in the midst of planning your marketing for the year or are waiting for a slower time to plan, the following tips can help you begin to think about making this year the best yet for your marketing.

1) Look Back on Your Marketing

To plan effectively, you have to know where you stand. This is the time to compile the data available to you regarding all areas of your business, including:

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  • Customer demographics and purchase history
  • Website visitors and SEO strength
  • Social media strategy
  • Direct mail response rates

You may already have ways of keeping track of these figures, or you may want to invest in a software that helps to compile and analyze the data for you.

Also evaluate last year’s campaigns:

  • What strategies brought in leads and engaged customers?
  • What techniques missed the mark?
  • Are there strategies that used to generate business that are now dead ends?

Because there are so many aspects to marketing, and your time is limited, you may not be able or want to examine all areas at once. Sometimes, to be efficient and effective, you need to focus your efforts on achieving a few key goals or improving performance in one area. Whatever you decide to work towards this year, make sure you have all the data and information necessary to begin making thoughtful, achievable goals.

2) Set New Marketing Goals

Now that you’ve established where you are, where do you want to go? Before you enact any changes to your marketing, it’s important to set goals. In a marketing plan, goals are sometimes referred to as Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Certain markets have KPIs that are recognized across the industry. However, when it comes to a KPI, specific is always best, and specificity means examining your business’s unique situation, separate from the market as a whole.

Whether you think of your desired outcomes as goals or KPIs, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself. Say your goal is to generate more repeat business from your current customer base. Consider:

  • What steps should be taken to achieve your goal?
  • Who within your company will be responsible for each step?
  • How will you measure progress towards the goal?
  • How often will you review progress?
  • How will you know you achieved the goal?
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Again, specificity is key. And make sure you are focusing on goals that are actionable and realistically achievable (whether they seem small or they’ll need a lot of work to achieve). Your efforts are best spent on a focused, targeted approach. Achieving a small goal this year gives you the boost to keep improving that metric next year.

And, let’s revisit the second point from above. It’s critical that each member of your team knows what their duties are and when they need to be completed. If everyone is on board, your path to success will be a lot smoother.

One last thing about goal setting…write your goals down!

3) Stick to The Plan

There will be times when following your marketing plan will be difficult, or even impossible. You may miss writing a blog one week or forget to post on social media for a few days in a row.

It’s likely this will happen, but don’t let it steer you off course. To truly understand the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, you must be consistent with it. Consistency creates expectation, so that potential customers see your content on a regular basis. If you’re producing compelling content, and distributing it on a regular basis (though email, social media, or direct mail) recipients will [hopefully] look forward and expect to hear from you. Having a detailed plan and executing those steps makes the entire marketing process easier, so that missed deadlines happen less often.

4) Don’t Wait to Plan During Slow Seasons

While there are benefits to using slower periods to plan or overhaul your marketing strategy, it’s important not to wait until a slow time to get started. The best time to start is now! Even if you aren’t able to execute a fully-fledged marketing plan during a busy season, try to keep one or two marketing strategies consistent. This will give you a solid foundation to work off from and allow you to maintain a consistent marketing presence in your community.

5) Plan Ahead!

Chalkboard plan ahead

If you’ve got an event planned 6 months from now, it’s easy to tell yourself you have plenty of time to get all the details right. Though you may be able to take your time, think of this as a chance to make your marketing materials the best they can be. You may need some design work, which can be time consuming, and which may need editing and approval from other members of your team or a board or committee before the go-ahead.

Giving yourself the greatest amount of lead time is also crucial when it comes to promotional products. Making the effort to identify the item that’s the best fit for your event, audience, and budget, as well as getting all parties on board with imprint and pricing, takes time.

Branded_Promotional_Products_Paw_Print_And_Mail
Order your promotional products early, to meet longer lead times and avoid rush orders.

While many promotional items have production times of between 5 and 10 business days, some items, notably more custom orders, can take over a month to fulfill. Adding to the lead time is shipping, which can take 5 business days depending on location. Since many blank and custom items come from China, the recent tariffs have increased lead times in terms of product availability. 

Ready to plan your marketing strategy yet? Paw Print & Mail can help make marketing easy. Contact us today for assistance with print collateral, direct mail fulfillment, graphic design, promotional products, and more!

5 Key Digital Marketing Trends for 2019

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New Year’s resolutions have a reputation of being short-lived. Make a resolution for 2019 that you’re sure to keep—a commitment to marketing your business better! These 5 trends are on our radar for the coming year. Incorporating any one of them into your digital marketing strategy can help 2019 be the best year yet for your business.

1) Keep Creating Killer Content

Advertisements used to rule the marketing world. But consumers today are skeptical: 42% of Americans believe brands are less trustworthy than they were 20 years ago.

This doesn’t mean you should stop using ads altogether. It does mean your business should maintain a focus on creating content that is less ad-heavy and more information-based. The more informative, engaging, and helpful your content is, the better. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates 3 times the leads of paid advertising.

If you’re already a content marketing king or queen, keep up the good work! If you don’t know a lot about content marketing, or want to up your game, try one of the following:

  • Start a blog page, sharing content about your industry, how customers can make best use of your products, and related topics
  • Develop a social media strategy to post more regularly
  • Begin using video marketing
  • Start a podcast
  • Add email marketing to the mix

2) Video Marketing

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If you’re on social media regularly, you’ve seen that video tends to dominate our news feeds. Videos regularly outperform content that is just text or a mix of text and imagery. This is because videos have high entertainment value, and as a result tend to be more engaging than a text-heavy article (though those are effective, too!)

A 2017 study reported that 64% of consumers were influenced in their purchasing decisions from viewing a marketing video on Facebook. And, 75% of millennials watch video on a social media site daily. Video is a major opportunity to get your brand in front of a large audience, with the potential to have a significant impact on sales.

If you’ve never created a video before, don’t be intimidated. Working with a professional video production company can be an effective route to take. But even simple content can be engaging. If you have a smart phone, you can easily take short videos of what’s going on with your business. Live video is growing in popularity, allowing you to easily stream from any location at any time. Or, you can take a personal approach and speak directly to the camera about a new development you’re excited about or helpful tips you want to share.

Take a look at this infographic and article for helpful information on how video marketing will be used in 2019.

3) Voice Search

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I’ve recently begun to use voice search, and I’ve got to say, it’s handy. It’s certainly faster than typing in a long search query. And, my phone will read the result to me, so I can keep working on whatever I’m doing while getting the information I need.

It’s estimated that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. That’s huge, and it’s important for marketers because a voice search reads differently than a text search. If I want some sushi, I might type into Google, “sushi restaurants Burlington.” But, in a voice search I might say to my device, “Hey Siri, what sushi restaurants are near me?” or “Okay Google, where can I order sushi now?”

Voice searches tend to be longer and take more of a conversational tone. That wording difference is a big deal for SEO. If you’ve optimized for keywords that people type into a search bar, you may not be optimized for words that would be used in a voice search.

To fix this, think about the phrases a potential customer might speak when voice searching for your product or service. Then, work to incorporate those phrases/words into your website, whether through meta content, blog posts, or a FAQ page where you can type out those questions in full.

4) Chatbots

When it comes to a business, nothing beats having a face to face conversation with an employee. But in some cases, when your customers are regularly ordering online and you’re receiving a lot of orders, chatbots can be a solution. A UK research group, Juniper, estimates that chatbots could help save businesses up to $8 billion annually by 2022.

A chatbot acts like a human but is not meant to be one. It can be used to answer repetitive, data-based questions, schedule appointments, and find products, among other tasks. The intention of a bot is meant to make each website visitor’s experience more personalized, as well as smoothing the path to a sale. Thought not yet at the level of human communication, bots are improving quickly, allowing them to connect with potential customers in an increasingly conversational way.

5) Artificial Intelligence

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Last on our list, but certainly not least, is artificial intelligence. Chatbots are a form of AI technology, but artificial intelligence has abilities that go beyond chat functions.

When we hear the phrase “artificial intelligence,” we may envision a futuristic world where robots live alongside us, performing many of the tasks we do currently. But AI is already at use in many areas of our lives. Think of Amazon’s Alexa, a personal assistant that understands what we say and learns our preferences—over time, assistants like Alexa come to anticipate our needs. And, ever heard of Tesla? The self-driving cars are another example of AI.

So, how can AI be used for your business? One helpful way is by analyzing data. An AI program can be used to examine a set of data or a customer list, identifying similarities and indicating which individuals you should market to. It can also look at data from social media, blogs, and internet searches to give you a better understanding of how customers are finding your business, what they are searching for, and how they interact with your marketing content.

While certainly not the only trends to keep an eye on in 2019, these 5 are getting increasing attention, with results to back up the hype. Follow the Paw Print blog for tips on keeping your marketing fresh in the coming year!

Build Trust with Education-Based Marketing

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Are you tired of sales pitches? Do you hate feeling like you’re being sold to? So do I. Like many consumers today, I want more from the companies I choose to do business with.

There are two key things you need to know about consumers today:

  • They make purchases and do business based on trust
  • Purchases are made on their own timetable, whether or not it aligns with your business

In other words, traditional marketing styles no longer have the impact they once did. Consumers are more discerning and focused on the value your company can give them rather than simply the products or services you provide. If traditional marketing is sale-based, today’s approach is education-based.

What is Education-Based Marketing?

An education-based approach to marketing means moving away from a typical sales pitch and messaging. Instead, you’re providing consumers with valuable information related to your industry or products that allow them to make confident, informed purchase decisions. By providing consumers with a wealth of information related to your market, you establish yourself as an authority in that field. You show that you are knowledgeable about what you’re selling. You know what you’re talking about, and now your customers will, too. In creating this sense of authority, you build trust with your audience.

Education-based marketing is also a long-term strategy in that it allows consumers the freedom to learn about and purchase when they want. With an education-based approach, you create content that can then live on your website, so that consumers can access it whenever they like. It allows you to have a constant pipeline of prospects accessing the information without you having to seek those prospects out.

Know Your Stuff

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To implement an education-based approach to your marketing, you’ll need to know your product and your customer well. Consider what a customer who purchases your product would want to know about the product, its uses, and any problems that often come up. Speak to their specific challenges and goals to develop a message that will resonate with your target audience.

Depending on what industry you’re in, lack of knowledge can be a significant hurdle when it comes to making a purchase. If a consumer feels overwhelmed at the thought of encountering your service, providing them with clear, concise information in various forms can help to ease that fear, making the consumer feel more comfortable with your industry. This article from Forbes outlines an effective example of using education-based marketing in the financial sector, to educate retirees.

Trust typically takes time to build up, and you won’t create trust with every consumer overnight. However, consistently providing potential customers with helpful, informed content will help to build trust faster than you may think.

How to Implement an Education-Based Approach

With any marketing campaign, you’ll need multiple touches before a consumer will engage with you. Education-based approaches are no different. Once you’ve identified your prospect and your message, put content out on all channels available to you. Make sure your message, tone, and imagery are consistent to make each touch point meaningful.

Some effective ways to provide educational content include:

  • Regular blog posts
  • White papers
  • Hosting a seminar for potential customers
  • An e-book
  • Short, informative videos
  • Webinars
  • Emails with links to relevant content

A Compelling Example: Carpet Cleaning

 

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In this podcast, business strategist Tony Robbins talks with the late Chet Holmes about the power of education-based marketing. Holmes discusses a carpet cleaning company that he worked with to increase sales using an education-based approach. In this case, the company worked to fulfill a need after they established what the problem was.

 

First, the company took research from the EPA regarding indoor air quality. The study found that in buildings where the carpets were vacuumed daily, there were still high levels of bacteria and other unwanted organisms in the carpets. When the carpets were removed from the building, people got sick 4 times more often than before. Essentially, this research concluded that carpets act as a filter to keep harmful bacteria out of our bodies. But to maintain a healthy level of bacteria, a carpet should be cleaned every 6 months.

When they presented the facts, people were pretty grossed out. The company was marketing to clients who typically had their carpets cleaned professionally once every 3 years. The company established a problem which consumers didn’t know they had, but immediately wanted to solve. Then, this company was poised to offer the solution.

By presenting the research alongside a membership plan that offered twice yearly cleaning at a better than average rate, this company, which had been around for 100 years already, found a new way to grow their business. The final tally? Business increased by 100%.

You may not see quite as dramatic growth when you add education-based marketing to your business strategy. However, over time, incorporating educational content alongside traditional marketing techniques will help to build your company’s reputation and value for current and potential customers, giving you a competitive edge.

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Does Your Multichannel Strategy Need an Update?

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When was the last time your print marketing strategy was freshened up? When was the last time you looked at your creative approach, value proposition, and media mix with fresh eyes? If it’s been a while, maybe now is the time.  Here are three areas to consider to improve your multi-channel strategy.

1) Does Each Tactic Prove its Worth?

Technology is cool, but don’t throw new things into the mix just for the sake of doing it. Test, evaluate, and incorporate new components in ways that create results.

Say you make your first contact with a customized postcard, direct mail letter, or self-mailer that drives the reader to a personalized URL.  Offer the option of connecting to the site by either entering a web address or scanning a QR Code.  Track your metrics to see which channel recipients do and do not respond to.

No matter which response mechanisms you use, be sure to look at more than top-line numbers. You might think that a response rate is “low” until you discover that it gets the most responses from a segment of your target audience that is particularly important to you.

2) Go Further with Demographics

It may be tempting to base your marketing efforts on the most readily available information, such as gender, age, and income. For the best results, however, take it a step further. Seek to understand what your prospects care about. Today’s consumer wants to be an individual, not a segment.

3) Track and Measure Your Results

Which elements of the campaign do you track? How do you determine a “response rate”? Is it a click or a scan? Is it the completion of a form or a purchase? Connect your marketing goals with clear metrics, so you know which of your marketing efforts are working and which are not.

Marketing is about results, and consumers often respond to different tools and tactics at different times. Track, test, and measure so you can keep up.

Ready to create a marketing campaign that will get people talking? Paw Print & Mail can provide you with the design, print, mail, and promotional product components to develop a truly memorable marketing experience. Contact us today!

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Experiment With Your Marketing

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Picture your marketing strategy 10 years ago. It probably looked a lot different than your strategy of today. Now imagine you were still using the same marketing content and tactics from 10 years ago. Do you think you’d be successful?

Probably not. Marketing is constantly changing, as new technologies are introduced, new trends appear, and younger generations enter the market. To be effective, your business must change, too.

Recognizing the need to change your strategy is the first step. But change isn’t always easy. How do you know what to change? And how do you make it happen?

Experiment for Excellence

One of the best ways to enact change is to experiment with your content marketing. You can’t know which strategies will best fit your business without some testing.

Experimenting can be a fairly simple process, but it’s important. By now, you likely have routines you’re comfortable with when it comes to marketing. But sticking with a long-standing strategy that’s no longer performing, while it may be easier, can only hurt you in the long run.

Doing a major overhaul of your marketing can be expensive and may be impossible to coordinate. The good news is, you can improve marketing success with smaller, incremental changes, just as much as with big ones. In fact, smaller changes can be the key to significant growth.

Data Driven

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So, you’re ready to experiment. Great! Before you get too far, it’s essential that you examine your data. You cannot effectively improve your marketing if you don’t know where you’re starting from. To truly measure the success of a campaign, you need to have a goal. And not a vague goal either, but a specific, numerical goal that you can strive for.

We’re all working to achieve a 100% response rate and double our sales, right? Marketing success can be astronomical, but usually it takes longer periods of time to show steady, significant growth. You want to set goals that are achievable for your business. If you’re seeing a 12% open rate on your emails, work to consistently have 15%, then 20%. Don’t be afraid to try something new, but always keep an eye on data and metrics.

However you go about collecting and reviewing your data, your analysis will likely reveal areas in which you want to improve. These areas are where you can start some experimenting.

Making One Core Change

You’ve identified a marketing goal. Now, it’s time get to work. It’s possible to run experiments across a variety of platforms. But what you change, and how much, is of key importance.

When it comes to improving your marketing, you’re trying to understand what resonates with your specific audience. There may be times when a sweeping change is necessary and welcome, whether you’re unveiling a new website design or new application for your business. But on a day to day scale, experimentation is all about making small tweaks to fine tune your strategy.

Here’s a core tip: change only one element per medium at a time. Let’s take email again as an example. If you’re incorporating a new template, adding a CTA button, and drastically changing up your subject lines, you may start to see some change in open and click through rates. Hopefully those rates are increasing—they could decrease instead. Either way, it will be impossible to pinpoint exactly what caused that change if you make several changes at one time.

However, say you change one element of your email marketing—replacing a hyperlink in your email template with a bright, eye-catching button. If you start to see an increase in the click-through rates of your campaigns, you can attribute that change directly to the addition of the button. Once you’ve established the button as a consistent part of your emails, and are seeing a consistent click-through rate, you can adjust another email element to continue improving.

A/B Testing

digital artwork two open laptopsA/B Testing is one of the most popular forms of experimenting. An A/B test involves creating two versions of a piece of content that differ in just one element. For email marketing, A/B testing is frequently used to test subject lines. The entire body content of the email will remain the same, but you’ll create two different subject lines. Split your email list in half, so half receive the email with subject line A, and half with subject line B. Whichever email is opened more has the best performing subject line. Read here for what makes a compelling subject line.

When it comes to email marketing, you can also test:

  • Imagery
  • Button Use/ Button Color
  • Time of day/ day of the week you send the emails
  • Who the email is sent from (a company vs. an individual)

While popular for email, A/B tests can also be implemented throughout marketing, on landing pages and in direct mail campaigns. It’s important to remember that you’re focusing in on what your audience responds to. Certain words or tactics that work for some audiences may not resonate as strongly with others, so it may take some testing to determine what your recipients favor.

Time is of the Essence

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Think back to your science classes. Often, an experiment would be run for a set amount of time, whether several minutes or several days. You should run your marketing experiments on the same principle.

Let’s look at an example. Say you want to add a banner to your website’s homepage using a Call to Action (CTA), with the goal of increasing conversions through the site. To measure the effect of the banner, take a set period, like one month. Place the element on your homepage at the beginning of the month. At the end of the month, examine how conversions varied from the month before.

And, don’t change anything else on the page until your experimentation period is over. This is important, because any other changes you make during that time will make data regarding the effectiveness of the CTA void. Was it the CTA or another element that brought in those leads?

Analysis

The results are in! Whatever you discovered from your campaign, take note of how the process went, what you learned from it, and what the data tells you. Analyzing your results is key to determine the effectiveness of your experiment and to plan your next steps, as you continue to improve your marketing and increase sales.

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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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

young woman holding binoculars
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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Business vector created by Freepik

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

cartoon magnifying glass analyzing email data
Infographic vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com

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

Group in office discussing blogging content
Business image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

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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