Blog

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What is THE most important thing your brand can do right now?

As a Creative Director, I have the privilege of working with a variety of organizations that all have very different needs and goals and assets. When you are exposed to so many different problems to solve and so many different clients to serve, you start to notice patterns in activity, choices and behaviors.

Think about it. Any given day, I can hear questions like the following:

  • How should we say the things that are really important to our audience?
  • How should things look if they are to really connect with our audience?
  • Do we already have the assets (logos, messaging, photography, “look" etc.) that we need to make the most of the moments where we might engage with our audience?
  • How do we make the most of our visual assets and voice so we can reach our goals?

These are all really great questions that all need answering but, they only address a symptom. They are “band-aid” solutions for what are typically deeper desires and problems that organizations face like:

  • We are not seeing the results we want to see.
  • The world is passing us by and we don’t know what we can do to change that.
  • We’ve noticed that our audience has decided that a different organization is better than ours (or, better said as “we are losing relevance and influence among our audience”).
  • We are just starting out and we want to make sure that we are off to a great start!

Being able to articulate bigger picture problems and goals is how you take a huge step toward identifying a path to success. Why is it so important to talk to a marketing and technology agency like The A Group about these deeper issues, as opposed to just requesting the “band-aid” project? Because you will get a more effective solution that will conquer the deeper issue and set your organization up for long-term success! Wouldn’t you want that?

This leads us the the biggest question of all: What is THE most important thing your brand can do right NOW?

The answer might not be what you expect, but here it is:

Get your bearings. Triangulate your brand. Figure out where you are.

So what in the world does that mean?

When I think about my own life and need to “get my bearings” I will usually write down my accomplishments, write down my goals, figure out my resources and look for examples of success around me that could help me learn. I put together an informed plan to get to my goals and get to work. I think the same could apply to your church, nonprofit or ministry’s brand. You have to look at those around you that seem to be getting it right and ask “what is the difference between what they are doing and what we are doing?” Ask yourself questions like, “has my audience/community changed?” or “are we still doing, what it is that we do, for the right reasons?"

Once you are armed with that information, you can decide if you want to create an original, more unique pathway to success, or emulate a path that has been proven.

Every brand has a life-cycle. Every brand is experiencing something that seems unique to them, but many have been there before and found success…or failure. Figuring out where your brand is in its life-cycle is a good way to make an informed decision about your next steps.

If you need help answering these questions and "getting your brand’s bearings”, know that The A Group works with brands like yours every day. When you work with an agency like The A Group, the answers you will get, while tailored to you, are informed by an awareness of the many other clients we’ve served that were standing right where you find yourself, and have found success. Let's chat!

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We’ve all heard that there are no dumb questions. That may or may not be true, but there are certainly some questions that are much better than others.

Every once in awhile, I get the opportunity to talk on the phone or possibly even in person with someone I greatly admire. It’s often a pastor I look up to or a leader who I want to learn from and when I get my window of time with them, I want to make sure I take full advantage of it.

If you want to grow in knowledge, skills, and leadership you’ve got to learn to make the most of these incredible opportunities.

Here are a few guidelines I use to make sure I capitalize on the opportunity and ensure they know their time wasn’t wasted with me:

1) Don’t ask them a question that can be answered on their website.

For instance, if you get 30 minutes with a pastor who you really admire, don’t ask him or her how many campuses they have or where the campuses are located. All you have to do is go to their church website for that information. You’re wasting their time (and yours) with questions like that. Do your homework in advance and make sure you're asking them questions that can’t be easily accessed elsewhere.

2) Don’t spend the majority of your time telling them your story.

As much as we all love talking about ourselves, this is not necessarily the time and place. Here’s a measurement I use: spend 20% of your time asking questions and sharing and the other 80% of your time listening. Remember this isn't an opportunity for you to tell them about all the incredible stuff you feel like you're doing. This is your moment to learn from someone who's willing to download to you the experience they've accumulated over time. Take advantage of every second and if you utilize that conversation to its maximum potential and hit it off, the likeliness that the relationship will continue increases (which will likely lend itself to those more personal conversations).

3) Don’t waste time asking questions that someone else on their staff is better suited to answer.

If your meeting with a CEO, don't ask them questions about development. If you want to learn more about development, meet with the VP of Development. Tap into the relevant space they operate and lead in- this is where they will have the most useful advice to offer.

4) Respect their time.

Some advisors and leaders may take your occasional phone call, but this doesn’t mean he or she can talk to you on a monthly basis. Be appreciative and respectful for the time you received and don’t waste it by using it to try to get more time out of them in the future. If they have additional time to offer, I promise you they’ll graciously offer it.

5) Don’t ask them questions about someone else.

If you’re talking with Leader A, don’t ask him or her questions about Leader B. Ask questions about their life, their leadership, and their influence. This will make them feel valued and appreciated for their time with you.


If you want to be a good leader, you’ve got to be a great learner. If you want to be a great learner you’ve got to be an exceptional listener. Make the most of these opportunities to sit down with a mentor because they can become foundational to the future of your leadership.

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It’s easy to ask people for money. As a non profit, it’s what you do day in and day out and your livelihood depends on it. But donors can get exhausted easily when asked over and over and over to empty their wallets yet again. There has to be another way, right?

You’re never not going to ask your donors for money, but there are some ways that you can alleviate the constant nagging with more fun and creative ways for people to get involved in your organization and your work.

Donate Expertise

Your supporters all have their own careers, experiences and talents. Why not bring that into your organization? Just because someone can’t donate to you doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything that you can use. So ask them to donate their knowledge or their talents. A well-organized and managed volunteer team can bring fresh vision and depth to your team like nothing else can.  

For example, say you can’t afford to hire someone to enter data. Ask a volunteer to do it. Doing so will not only allow people to be a part of your vision without having to sign a check, but it’ll also free up your internal team to take care of tasks that can’t be passed on to a volunteer.

Or perhaps you need someone to man your information booth at a fundraising event. Get volunteers to do easy tasks like handing out postcards, taking photos, and updating social media to free up your team to have meaningful conversations and interactions with event attendees.

Donate Feedback

Ask your donors to donate their feedback. This can include surveys of how the organization can be even more impactful or effective or feedback from donors on how they want to be talked to, what communications they prefer, etc. Thank donors for their feedback and keep them in the loop as you make efforts to create changes within the organization based on their thoughts.

You can even ask your donors to share their personal testimonies or stories of impact. Ask them to share how being a donor has affected or changed them and share those stories (with permission) on your social media channels, email communications and website. These can all work together to help you build stronger relationships with your donors AND inspire other people to become donors as well!

Donate Pride

Ask your donors to do something silly and share it with their friends and family via social media or email to bring awareness to your organization and introduce their network to your work. For instance, your promotion of this could look something like the following:

“Want to be involved, but unsure of how you can help? Donate your pride! Tell your family and friends that for every $20 you receive to be donated toward (insert organization’s cause or mission or current project), you’ll take a cream pie in the face! Film the pie event and share with your online community. Together we can bring an end to (reiterate cause/mission/project).”

Something simple like this gives people a fun and exciting way to be involved in your organization while also rallying their personal network for your cause! For this kind of approach, be sure to build out a landing page and email communications that include detailed terms and directions of how this type of donation should work.

It’s inevitable that your donors will go through periods of their life where they can’t possibly write out another check to you. Giving these people an alternative way to stay involved in your organization promises longevity of your donor base and provides people with an easy way to stay loyal to you and plugged into your mission. 

If you're working through all things donor development and are looking for resources to help you along your journey further, be sure to check our New Donor Welcome Kit below! 

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It’s Valentine’s Day, so we’re spreading a little love, particularly in terms of social media. In the midst of your last minute Valentine’s Day shopping scramble, we invite you to take a breather and check out some of our favorite social media tips!

It’s all in the name of spreading the love.

1. Listen to your people. What are people responding to the most? What are they re-sharing, what are they commenting on, what are they clicking through? Pay attention to their activity and adjust your content strategy likewise. If your people respond really well to client testimonials and you’re only sharing those a few times a week while burying people in stats and education about your service or product, you’re likely going to lose them in the sea of oversaturated noise.

What do people want to hear more about? If people are emailing you or submitting contact forms—then think through the questions and comments they share. Are they responding to a certain kind of post or news more than others? Share more of that same kind of content. Are they requesting more information on certain products or services? Publish and share how-to guides and free informational downloads.

2. Don’t overthink it! At the end of the day, sometimes we get buried so deep in all of the details that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Details are good, but when everyone on your team is down in the weeds and no one is looking at the situation from a 30,000 foot level, you’ll miss big opportunities.

Make sure you have visionary people who can speak into the general social media strategy. If you don’t have enough capacity on your team to do so, then make an intentional effort at pulling yourself out of the data and the analytics a few times a week to take in the full picture and evaluate what other brands and competitors are doing. You need a bigger vision to follow in order to have a successful social media strategy—it isn’t just about the clicks and the impressions and the followers—it’s about carving out a space for your brand to flourish and grow by cultivating a welcoming space for all who are interested in what you’re doing.

3. Ignore the one-size-fits-all mentality. Beyond having an editorial calendar and actually updating your platforms, you need to take social media advice with a grain of salt. There are so many experts and thought leaders all sharing what they think you should be doing, but it’s important to keep in mind that everyone is speaking from their unique experiences and the results that they’ve seen. So what worked for a shoe brand to cultivate engaged customers on social media might not work for a new non profit that’s just desperate to generate some awareness.

Social media seems like it’d be a no brainer and super easy to implement, but it can be tricky! With the three tips above in mind, approach your social audiences with a renewed spirit and determination to meet THEIR needs. 

Need more help with your marketing? Check out our library of free resources to help you along the way!

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You just left Amazon without purchasing that exciting new book, and now it’s popping up in your Newsfeed. You see a sponsored post from a company that sells products you purchase frequently (even though you don’t like their page), and not only that, you see that your Facebook friends John, Mary and Sheila like the company too!

Whether you like it or not, Facebook knows A LOT about us. Think about it. When you create a Facebook profile, you’re providing your name and your birthdate, but you’re also adding work and education, places you’ve lived and interests—books, movies, television shows, magazines, activities, hobbies—to your profile.

As Facebook continues the pursuit for digital domination, you’ve probably heard (and seen!) quite a bit about their powerful ad targeting capabilities.

While it can be scary personally to think about all of the data Facebook has collected about us, as marketers, we should be rejoicing! Now, we have the ability to reach our target audience with tailored messages and relevant content in a very affordable and measurable way.

Facebook has a lot of advertising options for how you can reach these audiences—target by demographics, age, gender, and even location.  And now you can take it a step further. Download our Complete Guide to Facebook Ad Targeting today and learn how to use powerful ad targeting options you may not already know about. 

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Valentine’s Day isn’t just for chocolates and roses (but don’t forget those!); it’s also the perfect opportunity for you to stand out to your customers and your donors.

And with the big day only a week away, we want to give you some simple ideas that you can put into play to make your audience feel loved this Valentine’s Day.

1. The Simple Approach

Those fun little Valentine’s Day cards aren’t just for the kiddos—they can be for adults too! So why not design your own? Make it personal and try to include some of your culture and personality in it to give your audience an insider view of your team. We know that one week is a tight squeeze to get a card designed, printed and mailed, so if you can’t pull that off, then consider an e-card.

You can even record a fun video to blast out to your online subscribers to wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day from your team to them.

2. Freebies

Everyone likes freebies! What kind of freebie can you give your audience? Whether it’s a free download, a free resource or a small free product (like a dentist giving away Valentine’s Day toothbrushes!), you can pair your freebie with Valentine’s Day to not only bless your customers or supporters but also make them feel loved and appreciated.

If you don’t want to or can’t give away a free service or product to every single one of your followers, then a discounted service or product might be a little more realistic for you. For instance, if you have an event going on, send a discounted second registration to people who have already signed up. It’s little gestures like these that show your people that you value them!

3. Contests

Rather than sending something really small to your entire audience, do a giveaway instead. The prize for the giveaway doesn’t need to be something from you company, it can simply be a fun giveaway to score an iPad or a $500 shopping spree. You can use the contest to achieve some marketing goals. For example, if you need more Facebook likes, require each contestant to “like” your FB page in order to enter the giveaway.

4. Go Big 

If you have a major client or donor that really helps you keep the lights on and consistently supports you with big business or big donations, take an extra step for them. Send a box of local homemade baked goods or a big bouquet of flowers thanking them for their business or support. Such a gesture might seem small to you, but it will feel huge in their eyes.

Whatever you do to show love this Valentine’s Day, we hope you have a blast doing it!

And from all us here at The A Group, we wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day! We so appreciate each and every one of YOU.

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Are you throwing ad dollars down the drain?

Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads for your organization or even convert leads into customers, advertising can be a powerful way to reach your target audience.

But are you making smart media buying decisions?

Think about this scenario:

You’ve finally gotten your leadership team to sign off on an advertising budget for the year. GREAT! Now you’ll be able to buy that full page, glossy ad in the industry magazine you never put down. Or perhaps you’re convinced that display ads on the website you most frequent would be perfect to spread the word about your upcoming event. You’ve seen sponsored e-blasts and partner promotions in your inbox highlighting eBooks or competitor products. You think it might be a good avenue for you.

But before you go on a media buying spree, let’s pause for a second and consider an important question: What spawned the need for the ad purchases?

Was it brand awareness? Needing to get the word out about who you are and what you do?

Did it come from reviewing website analytics and realizing that virtually no one is visiting your site?

Did you determine that you need to generate more leads, and get perspective audience members into the sales pipeline or funnel?

These questions herald back to the ultimate strategy and goal that advertising supports. What was the goal you set out to accomplish? Your answer should influence every single step of the planning and execution process.

If your goal is conversion or even lead generation, that full page, glossy ad might not be your best purchase. So before you lockdown placements, consider your end goal and ask yourself if the ad you’re purchasing will help you actually accomplish that goal.

Got it. NOW I make the ad buy.

Not just yet. Stay with us here.

After you’ve determined your goal for the campaign, a critical next step is determining your target audience. Just because your target audience is made up of women, doesn’t mean they’re all reading FamilyCircle.

We’ve all gotten those emails that were clearly not meant for US. From retail promotions to poorly segmented emails from the non profit organization you support. We’ve all been there and moved them to the “Trash” folder quickly.

That’s why it’s so important to do your homework and compile your research to make sure you’re actually reaching your audience where they are with the information they want.

So, stop throwing your ad dollars down the drain. Find out where your tribe is congregating and what type of content they’re engaging with. THEN make the strategic decision to purchase that ad, show up, speak their language (with messages that matter to them!) and offer them value.

Not sure who you target audience is or how you should be talking to them? Checkout our FREE Audience Matrix Worksheet below. This worksheet helps you identify your audiences and how to speak to them!

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Imagine that you’re planning your dream vacation – the trip of a lifetime! You decide to go in June and be away for six days. You plan to spend $1,500. You also plan to Airbnb for two nights and stay in hotels for the others. You decide to travel by train, and then rent a car to get to your final destination.

The only problem: you haven’t decided where you’re going. Which makes all of the other details pretty obsolete.

After all, without a destination, you really can’t plan for budget, travel arrangements, accommodations, activities or timing...or if you do, you certainly can’t be sure it will get you anywhere.

You might laugh at the idea of planning a trip that way and wonder what sort of person – especially an intelligent planner-type – would ever take that approach. But chances are, you’re likely doing something very similar when it comes to your marketing.

You see, the items most often associated with marketing – things like websites, advertisements, billboards, SEO, Google ads, mail pieces – are the details, or tactics as we call them in the marketing world. They’re tools to help you get where you’re going, but they’re not the destination. And without a destination or a plan for the best way to get there, those tactics alone end up taking a lot of time, energy and money without delivering a lot of results.

Many organizations make the mistake of starting with tactics without investing in strategy: the plan that outlines organizational goals and then details the steps to reaching them by putting all the tools within your toolbox to use in a meaningful and smart way. It’s so simple that it’s often overlooked, but it’s absolutely critical to success. Here are five reasons why strategy is a MUST:

It creates a sense of direction – and gets you where you want to go.

Strategy begins by setting goals, and then mapping out the best way to get you to those goals. In short, it’s your road map to get from Point A to Point B. Without a strong understanding of where you are (Point A) and a clear (and, dare we say, realistic) vision for where you want to go, you cannot figure out how to get there – which will have you driving in metaphoric marketing circles, not ever really going anywhere.

It integrates your efforts.

Rather than investing in one-off tactics, having a strategic roadmap ensures that all your efforts work together to accomplish a purpose or achieve a goal. Focusing on your audiences rather than the tactics ensures your marketing includes multiple touch points with an audience and moves them through a process of awareness, cultivation and engagement. It’s the difference between sending a random email, running an unrelated ad and buying a billboard or an integrated campaign where an audience member receives a mail piece with a corresponding email, sees a Facebook ad with the same message online, and then receives a series of strategic communications after he or she fills out a form. Which do you think is more effective?

It helps you prioritize – and know when to say no.

In marketing, there is always more you can be doing – more ads to run, more

pieces to create, more places for your brand to show up and more dollars to be spent. Especially in a cluttered digital world, prioritizing your efforts keeps marketing cost-effective and keeps you focused on the efforts that will drive results. When you invest in strategy, your marketing plan becomes your plumb line, with every decision being filtered through the questions of “Is this in line with our strategy?” and “Does this help us get closer to the goals we’ve set?”. It frees you up to say no to ideas (even good ones) that aren’t part of the bigger picture.

It provides accountability.

In the past, marketing’s success was primarily measured by impressions: how many people saw an ad or campaign. Measurement often took months, and it was difficult to tell what was really working: you had to do marketing for marketing’s sake, hoping to see the bottom line increase over time. But with today’s technology, measurement happens in real-time, and we’re able to not just measure the reach of a campaign, but its effectiveness –  everything from how many people clicked on an ad to what pages on your website they went to and if they filled out a form or made a purchase. Having a strong strategy in place gives you a baseline to check these real-time KPIs against. You can quickly see if your efforts are working – and if they’re not, you can hold your team accountable, shift directions and adjust your tactics to align with your strategy.

It saves waste.

The bottom line: tactics take time and money. If they’re not part of a larger strategy, it’s likely that you’ll invest in tactics that are unnecessary, ineffective or meaningless in context of the bigger picture of where you’re headed. While strategy often requires an upfront investment, it saves you money in the long-term and helps you be the best steward of your resources and your mission as possible.

At The A Group, we often say “we’re a strategy first organization”. Everything we do, whether mapping out a website or developing a multi-year marketing plan, begins with strategy. If you come to us asking for a website or a brochure, our first question will be “why?”. We’ll want to know what goal you’re trying to reach, what campaign it’s a part of, what other communications the audience receives. And whether that leads us to a strategy day together, a full marketing plan or years of partnership, there’s nothing better than embarking on an adventure with a clear plan and a couple good companions for the journey.

Have more questions about where to go from here? Click below and we will be more than happy to answer any questions, have a quick chat or walk further through this process with you! 

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This phrase was made popular by Verizon Wireless, but it has some real implications to all of our ministries and organizations.

Every day, intentionally or unintentionally, you’re communicating to your audience. Here at The A Group, we’ve discovered that most organizations tend to think that they have only one audience when in reality, most of us have multiple audiences.

Okay, great. You have a lot of people listening to you, and that’s good, right? Well, sure. But only if you’re tending to each one. The problem arises when we use just one blanketed message for a multitude of audiences, when in fact each audience needs to be communicated to in a unique way if we want them to listen and respond to our message.

Here’s a great example from my own life: I spent years speaking to a church each weekend that was full of 20-something singles. This was the core audience that I had at the forefront of my mind when I was putting together my notes for each teaching and thinking through relatable topics. So, my natural inclination when I began writing my first book was to write to that same audience. It just made sense to me. But I couldn’t have been more inaccurate when trying to assume that my readers were all to be labeled as a “25-year-old hipster”.

Come to find out (after the book was complete and published- sigh) the majority of people who bought and read my book were women in their mid to late-30’s. Wow, was I off.

Why were my audiences so different? Because the outlet in which I was releasing content was utilized by a different generation entirely. The 20-something sitting in the chairs on a Sunday wasn’t going to run out to the bookstore and pick up a hard copy of my book. That’s not how they are primarily accustomed to consuming information; they prefer a medium that stimulates them visually or audibly. The 36-year-old mom, however, prefers a physical book to read that she can hold, highlight and carry with her to pull out and read in her free time.

Heck, had I written to that audience, maybe the content would have gotten into more hands. Here’s what I learned: we have to speak to the ears that are open to see results.

When we do a “Strategy Day” with one of our clients here at The A Group, we often take them through what we call an “Audience Matrix.” This exercise helps them identify their unique audiences and then prompts two questions of each audience.

1)    What do we want from them?

2)    What do they want from us?

This was something I put into practice years ago when I was trying to lead a more effective church. One of my many audiences (and probably my broadest) was our Sunday morning attendees which was comprised of thousands of people, in seven different locations (including a women’s prison), covering all age groups and backgrounds.

When trying to decipher how I needed to communicate to these people most effectively, I had to ask myself these 2 crucial questions:

1) What do we want from them?

Well, that was easy for me. What I wanted from them was an attentive audience who took seriously what it might look like to apply Scripture to their life and live like Jesus did.

2) What do they want from us?

Now this was a little more difficult for me. Especially given how broad this particular audience in my ministry was. But I spent time talking and listening to a variety of people in that audience and discovered that they all basically wanted two things from me. They wanted authenticity and empathy.

Through that discovery, I found that there were really only two questions I had to answer for every single person in that particular audience if I wanted to be effective. They were all asking:

- Is this guy real?

- Does he care about me?

If I could get them to answer “yes” to those two questions in the first five minutes of my sermon, then I knew I had a chance at being effective with my content. If not, then I lost the majority of them within the first few minutes and it really didn’t matter how great the content of my message was past that point.

At the end of the day, if you’re not identifying your different audiences and asking yourself what you want from them and what they want from you, you’re likely sending out messages that aren’t actually resonating with the people you hope to impact. And if you’re in business, this means money. If you’re a ministry or nonprofit, this means life change.

So here’s what I want to encourage you to do. Click below to download a free PDF of the Audience Matrix. We made it editable so you can customize it for your business or ministry. This can be a difficult process as we are often unaware of who our audiences actually are (i.e. I want to help keep you from publishing a book written to the wrong people). If at any point in this exercise you realize that you may need some strategic help in assessing who you’re actually talking to, answering those two crucial questions and what to even do with that information, we would be more than happy to walk alongside you through that process. 

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New donors can be hard to come by.  

Even though oodles and oodles of people scramble to get their year-end gifts in right before the New Year’s fireworks go off, many nonprofits still struggle meeting their giving goals by the end of the year.

But here’s something we want you to think about—while year-end giving can and should be a big part of your donation goals, we don’t want you to put all your eggs in that one basket that’s still 11 months away. Instead, by cultivating the givers that you gain throughout the year, you can grow individuals to monthly or major donors while simultaneously taking a little bit of the pressure off of year-end giving.

Consider this: how many times do your new donors give a one-time gift only to never return or make another gift?

It can be downright discouraging.

That’s why we created the New Donor Welcome Kit. We don’t think the donor gold hides just inside year-end giving, but also inside cultivating current donors to return and give again or move up a level in giving.  

We want you to make the most out of every donor interaction that you have, and all of that takes just a little bit of work.

In our FREE New Donor Welcome Kit, you’ll find all the tips and tricks you need to set up a thoughtful onboarding campaign to welcome new donors to your organization, teach them your values and make them aware of your needs. The presence of an onboarding process is not only helpful in showing people who you are, but it also keeps your new donors plugged in and reminded of your mission. All of which is so valuable in retaining your donors and making sure that your donors don’t drop off after a one-time gift.

It’s never too late to begin. Download the kit and start cultivating your donors today! 

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You know it’s time for a new website, but figuring out HOW you’re going to build your site can be quite the undertaking. Not all websites are alike, and today’s market gives us a wide array of choices, from template-based do-it-yourself options, to hard coded sites to fully customizable sites built on easy-to-manage platforms.

The most important thing to consider when building a site is a content management system, or CMS. Unlike hard coded sites, which require a web developer for every single update to the site, a CMS gives you an administrative platform from which you can make updates and add new content to the site. The level of editing ability you have depends on scope of the CMS, which is why this decision is so critical in choosing a web platform.

To help you cut through the clutter, we’ve broken down three of the most popular CMS platforms, ranging from simple to fully customized, to help you understand what they offer, what they lack and when to use which one.

Squarespace

Squarespace, a DIY website builder featuring a drag-and-drop editor and simple CMS, was founded in 2004 but has recently risen to the top due to aggressive advertising and beautiful site templates. With Squarespace, you begin with your template of choice and use a drag-and-drop editor to add pages, sections and “blocks” to each site page, which can include images, videos, galleries and text. Some basic functionality such as adding metadata and forms is available, but Squarespace is primarily used for small, informational sites that fit well into their collection of template designs.

When to Use It:

  • When what you need is a small, informational site with basic functionality (limited customizations)
  • When launching a simple site quickly is critical
  • When you do not have web knowledge and cannot afford to pay a designer or developer to build a site

Best Features:

  • Good designs for a template-driven builder
  • “Building block” style editor can be used by people with very basic tech knowledge
  • Good SEO; settings allow you to add metadata and URL structure is set up for SEO
  • All sites are mobile-friendly
  • Low cost. You can host site through them for as low as $16, and they integrate with common registrars for easy site launch

What It Lacks:

  • The designs are very templated, and you are locked into the template. You run the risk of your site looking like everyone else’s or not being able to organize content in the way you really want.
  • It’s a very manual, time-consuming process to set up the site, and it can be slightly more cumbersome to add and update content on an ongoing basis.
  • Its drag-and-drop builder, which is the only way to edit your site, can be a little finicky.
  • Advanced features, such as integrations with CRM or email marketing tools are limited and may cost extra.

The bottom line: Squarespace can be an inexpensive option for getting a basic site with limited content and little to no advanced functionality up on the web. Think startups, simple business pages, portfolios or wedding websites – sites that are designed to be temporary or be outgrown. There’s a time and a place for doing it yourself, but understand that someday you will want to rebuild your site on a more versatile, easy-to-use and customizable platform.

WordPress

Perhaps the most ubiquitous blogging platform, WordPress had turned into a popular CMS for building content sites and websites alike. There are two different versions: WordPress.com, which is a template-based solution hosted on WordPress’s servers, and WordPress.org, which offers a true CMS for designers and developers to build on. One of the most popular features of Wordpress is its plugins, which allow for expanded features and functionality created by a network of users. But are plugins really all they’re cracked up to be? Read on to find out.

When to Use It:

  • When you’re building a blog. WordPress still remains one of the best blogging platforms out there; there’s something to be said for doing what you were designed to do.
  • When if you don’t want to do it yourself, but only want to pay side hustle prices. WordPress is popular among freelancers, so it’s likely you’ll end up on this platform if you work with an independent designer.
  • When flexibility is critical. WordPress is always growing and changing.

Best Features:

  • Open source, meaning that the source code is openly shared and designers and developers are encouraged to build on it and improve it
  • Easy for the user to add text content in the form of posts and pages
  • Plugins – features and functionality built by individuals on the open source platform – allow for a lot of features

What It Lacks:

  • Central control. While the concept of plugins sounds awesome, in real life it means that your site is basically hacked together using code created by multiple people. Plugins often break and you can’t guarantee that whoever built it will manage it.
  • More advanced content management, such as resources, files, media etc. is not as user friendly
  • Customer support. There is no phone number or email to call to get help with WordPress questions – and with so many different developers contributing to the platform, it can be difficult to even figure out where your root issue lies.

The bottom line: WordPress can give you advanced functionality without the premium of building it from scratch. However, there are no guarantees that it will work or that you will be able to get support if it breaks.

TAG Tools

When you want a truly custom solution with unmatched support, going with a proprietary system such as The A Group’s TAG Tools is the way to get exactly what you want out of your site – from beautiful custom design to a CMS that’s built to power your unique needs. TAG Tools is custom built for each organization using modules, meaning you have sections in your admin to control each piece of the site or type of content you want to update (e.g. staff module, news module, blog module, photo module, video module). Designed to offer advanced functionality and to be easily managed by someone with no web experience at all, TAG Tools is extremely versatile and powerful, while offering a beautiful user experience for both the visitors and the admins.

When to Use It:

  • When you need to easily manage advanced site features without web/technical knowledge
  • When you have an organization that produces a lot of dynamic content and needs to update the site regularly
  • When you want it the way you want it (fully customized for your needs and wants)
  • When you want to do more than the basics (integrations and complex, custom solutions don’t scare us)

Best Features:

  • Fully customized – no two sites are alike
  • Module-based for easy content management
  • Can add or create new modules at any time as the organization’s needs grow
  • User permissions allow you to give people in your organization access to as much or as little of the site as you want
  • Mobile-friendly guaranteed
  • Amazing user interface, with gorgeous custom front end designs and a highly visual admin for easy management
  • A team that stands behind it – always available by phone or email to answer questions or discuss new needs

What It Lacks:

  • Call us biased, but TAG Tools is so incredibly customized that the sky truly is the limit. We try to scope out all needs from the start of the project, but as other needs arise, our team is here to find a solution and build anything that’s needed.

The bottom line: Investing in custom solutions can come with a higher price tag but you’ll get unmatched support, long-term savings by managing the site yourself and unmatched, personalized support.

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BONUS ROUND! What exactly is the difference between a blog and a post? A fan and a follower? Here are a few other terms you’re likely familiar with, but are easy to get mixed up. Ahh, clarity!

Blog vs. Blog Post: A blog refers to the website itself – typically an informational site focused on a particular topic or topics, with content appearing in date-driven, diary-style entries. These entries appear chronologically, typically from most recent to oldest. A blog post refers to the individual entry.

Follower vs. Fan vs. Subscriber: While all these terms refer to essentially the same idea – an audience member who has engaged you to receive more information – the channels of information are different for each. “Subscriber” typically refers to someone who has signed up to receive emails, blog updates or other more direct forms of contact. Fans and followers typically refer to social media audiences – “fans” is used to describe people who have liked your Facebook page while “followers” is more commonly used for Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Marketing vs. Public Relations: While marketing and public relations certainly fall under the same umbrella, there are key differences between the two – both of which are important for success. Public relations focuses primarily on messaging, reputation management, publicity and media relations. Marketing encompasses a larger suite of services, including branding, design, digital, social media, direct mail, email, advertising, events and other tactics that support sales. Think of PR as reputation and relationships, and marketing as activities that drive revenue.

B2B vs. B2C: B2B stands for “business-to-business” where B2C stands for “business-to-consumer”. These terms refer to the primary type of target audiences your organization reaches: other businesses/gatekeepers or direct consumers. For example, a production or wholesale company that reaches retailers who then distribute products to consumers will invest primarily in B2B marketing; an example of this could be pharmaceutical companies marketing to hospitals and doctors. Organizations that sell product directly to consumers, such as restaurants and retailers, typically engage in B2C marketing.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Most of the common traditional marketing tactics are categorized as “outbound marketing”, or marketing efforts where you intentionally put your brand out into the world and attempt to start conversations with customers. Think advertising, commercials, mail pieces, etc. Inbound marketing is setting up your brand to be found by potential customers—such as creating great content that can be found online or investing in SEO so you can be found in online searches. Technology has made inbound marketing easier and more effective; marketers love inbound efforts because they are often lower cost, reach more targeted audiences and are easy to measure. But don’t slash your ad budget yet! Both outbound marketing and inbound marketing are critical to discovery, brand awareness, engagement and conversion.

Alright, now you should be up to speed on marketing terminology that you need to know to at least sound like you know what you're talking about. If you missed out on the first round of marketing terms, be sure to check those out here!  

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The A Group
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Suite 100
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone: (615) 373-6990
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Email:
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