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Gone are the days when a classic #10 envelope with a provocative teaser on the front prompted someone to open a piece of mail, read a long letter, and donate money to a random organization. Direct mail is dead, right?

But what if it isn’t?

Maybe we’re just looking at this whole direct mail monster a little wrong. Anyone can say that anything is dead at any given moment in the marketing world—and correctly so—anything can be dead if we aren’t adapting to the changing market. So yes, maybe traditional direct mail is dead. But have you considered how updating or completely 180-ing your strategy might make direct mail a prominent player once again? Here’s how.

Step 1: Make sure you actually understand direct mail.

Just like any other marketing tactic, direct mail is continually changing and evolving. What worked five years ago doesn’t work in today’s world. Heck, what worked last month might not work this month. Know the market and be educated. Most importantly subscribe to and sign up for your competition’s mail so you’re always in the know with what others are doing.

Secondly, see direct mail as your starting point, not your end-all. You can’t send a direct mail piece introducing yourself and expect a faithful and dedicated customer or donor a week later. Cultivation and acquisition take a long time. And guess what. To make your job even harder, the tactics you use in one cultivation attempt may have to change several times throughout that one single process. Be flexible, friend.

Step 2: Revise your strategy.

Ditch the four-page letter and the Courier font. I dare you! C’mon, it’s not the 1990s anymore. Give the people what they want. And don’t be afraid to invest a little more by adding in some color or using a unique paper stock. The first step is to grab someone’s attention. Make your mail stand out. If you’re going to venture out onto the direct mail limb, you might as well go all in.

Consider how you can effectively reach different age groups. A letter that works for 60+ year-old donors won’t work for a 20-35 year-old audience. If you have a reach in multiple age groups, personalize the package each group gets. A colorful postcard might work for a younger audience, but an older audience may need a more in-depth, traditional piece.

Which brings me to my third step…

Step 3: Experiment in a different market

Take a few months off from your normal schedule and market to millennials. Keep in mind that they don’t want to hear the same things as your 40, 50, or 60-year-old customers or donors. If you’re a nonprofit, focus on telling the story versus providing the solution. Give them heartbreak and lead them to the “I’m-the-solution” realization while making them feel as if they reached it on their own. Only after successfully completing all of those steps can you properly ask for their money. Millennials won’t give to you because they feel you’re a great organization, they’ll give to you because they’re convinced that they are making an actual tangible difference in doing so.

If you’ve been solely focused on mailing to millennials, do the opposite. Take a more conservative approach to the process and engage with people in an older demographic. It’s amazing what a little refresh to strategy can do!

One word of advice—if you’re a legacy nonprofit organization, be careful with changing up your strategy. Because your support base is probably largely made up of older donors, don’t rock the boat too much. If your current strategy is working, stick to it.

And always remember, when television came onto the media scene; fear said the theater was dead. With the rise of online media presence, fear said the magazine was dead. But in taking a deep look into those markets, we can quickly see that those forms aren’t dead, they’ve just been adapted to meet changing needs. Bottom line is, we can say anything is dead. But if you watch the market and adapt accordingly, you can make anything work for your good.

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Entering into any relationship, in life or in business, can be nerve wracking.  There’s a lot of pressure to pick “the one” wisely because relationships have the power to build you up or break you down.

Since business and ministry is done by and for people, it makes perfect sense that some personal relationship best practices would apply to the workplace. So without getting overly touchy feely, we offer these tips for finding and holding onto a good one (agency, that is).

1) They Get To Know You

You can’t really know someone without investing in learning through listening.  Good agencies ask a lot of questions, from a lot of people (you, your staff, your donors, your customers, etc.).  This takes time.  Though it’s tempting to want to quickly get to the fun stuff like the new logo or the pretty website, don’t overlook research.  It is the foundation from which all work should stand.  Informed work is vastly better, lasts longer, and is ultimately cheaper – saving you from having to redo or undo flimsy communications.

If an agency has a fix for you before having really gotten to know you, chances are they are reheating leftover work for some other client.  In life and in work, don’t gloss over this process; it will pay off in the long run.

2) They Put Your Needs First

You can usually tell when someone is selfish.  Conversations focus inward.  They’re tough to get a hold of, and when you do have their attention, you feel like a bother.  This is never good, from either the person across the dinner table or the conference table.

Does your agency have a servant mindset?  Does it feel like they report to you, or vice versa?  You should feel empowered when calling them.  Count on their respect, timely attention, prompt response, and the occasional favor.  That’s true partnership.  

Another selfish giveaway is being self-congratulatory.  Trophies in the lobby make clients feel like they’re getting better work.  But don’t forget that it is commercial art you paid for…art meant to drive commerce.  Heralded design that didn’t produce sales, drive donations, or encourage memberships, etc. is for a gallery, not a magazine.  Whose accomplishments does your agency cherish, yours or its own?

3) They Stretch You

Allowing someone to speak into your life or your organization can be uncomfortable.  An outside opinion has different experiences informing the advice. You don’t know the outcome, and that makes it a vulnerable place to be.  No one likes to be corrected or told they have room for improvement, but it’s a necessary part of growth. 

A good agency will ask you basic who, what, where, how, and (most importantly) why questions.  Seemingly easy, but tough questions nonetheless.  They’ll pick apart these answers, and it might hurt.  However, this often forgotten process is what sharpens the team and the organization. This push and pull is will stretch you, but in the end, when done in partnership, you emerge stronger and encouraged to make improvements.  

4) They Make it Work

That whole “for better or worse” part of wedding vows is often foreshadowing.  The journey that is any relationship ebbs and flows, requiring commitment on both parties to make it ultimately rewarding.

Does your agency walk with you?  Not on beaches during sunset, but are they with you as time passes?  Do they help you benchmark goals?  And live with the successes and failures of developed campaigns?  Do they dissect outcomes alongside you to understand what worked, what didn’t and why?  That’s something you won’t get from a project-by-project scenario with freelancers or other vendors.  They come, deliver, then go, and are not invested in the outcome. 

Good relationships figure out how to make it work.

5) They Talk About The Future

The “where are we going?” relationship question usually comes up.  Whether you’re the one speaking or hearing it, it inspires anxiety.  But that’s a good thing, really.  It immediately calls attention to where you are, what path you’re on, and if that path needs correction.

Does your agency ask that question of you? Not about a contract, but from a desire to keep you best prepared for meet future challenges. A forward-thinking agency will hear your immediate requests of today and answer them through the lens of tomorrow. Does your agency proactively help you tackle shifts in technology? The latest SEO algorithms? Trends in media consumption? It’s one thing for your agency to put out a fire or meet a deadline. But it’s quite another to have foresight instilled into every deadline that is met.

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It’s hard to go an hour these days without being bombarded with advertisement for products and services. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve conditioned yourself to ignore and avoid a majority of the promotions and language. Truth be known, much of it seems the same anyway. They use similar language, and similar visuals. If you steward a brand (product, service, ministry, church, non-profit etc.) or have been tasked with creating promotional materials and campaigns, the question remains:

“How am I going to get the attention of my audience?”  

Of the few messages and promotions that truly stand out to us, there are some key characteristics that they have in common. As long as we can see these characteristics for what they are, we can unlock greater results and potential in the efforts we make for our own brand’s sake.

And, with that, there is hope and promise!

Let’s look at 3 of these characteristics and find the tips that they give us in accomplishing our own work.

1) Have an Intentional and Specific Target Audience

Notice that I said above "Of the few messages and promotions that truly stand out to US”. I didn’t say “EVERYONE”.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of wanting ALL people to love what you are doing.

As a general rule, when you hope to appeal to a huge audience, you have to start thinking about what this group doesn’t like, and what that group doesn’t like. So you eventually get your appealing characteristics to a place that is very general.

It’s kind of like my mom calling me and saying “How would you like for me to make the dressing at Christmas dinner?” and I reply “with no onions and celery.” Then she calls my brother and he answers “with no chestnuts or gravy”. She wants to be safe and hope to appeal to both of us, so she makes the dressing without onions, celery, chestnuts or gravy. This leaves us with dressing that has very little texture or flavor. Later I find myself at a friend’s house and he’s made the dressing more to my specific liking. So what happens? Well, I would never tell my mother, but I certainly will tell other people that the best dressing is made by my friend’s mom.

TIP: When you don’t target a specific audience, it is difficult to appeal in an exciting way to anyone. AND you run the risk of helping other, more focused brands stand out as the right choice.

Here are some examples of brands with very specific audiences:

  • Axe Body Spray – a product that is intended for use by males (of any age) yet is specifically promoted to young single males
  • Patagonia – a set of products that could be used by anyone, but is specifically marketed to an “outdoor-sy” and environmentally conscience audience
  • Beats By Dr. Dre – anyone can use these headphones, but they are promoted to appeal to young tech-saavy, urban enthusiasts

2) Successful Promotion Plays the Consumer “Long-Game”

Define what long-term result of your promotion is desired. Do you want to impact X amount of lives? Do you want to fundraise $XXXX.XX? Do you want t raise profits by 5%?

After you’ve defined the result, strategically map out a path (or work with an expert who can) of checkpoints that will make up your “user experience” and realize that each checkpoint is a distinct and valuable portion of your brand.

I like to call the first checkpoint, the "dip your toe in the pool” moment. This is the place, product or service that lets your target audience understand more about your brand and get a sample of what the overall user experience will be like.

TIP: Give your consumer that “dip your toe in the pool” moment.

Some examples of a "dip your toe in the pool” moment are:

  • Industry whitepapers
  • Product samples
  • Intoductory pricing for a limited experience

The main benefit of the "dip your toe in the pool” moment is that you will isolate and better define your target audience quickly.

3) Understanding Your Brand SHOULD be Easy

In other words, just get to the point. It can sometimes be a trap to overlook the fact that you understand your brand well, but your target audience may not. Just because this comes naturally to you, doesn’t mean that it will for others. Having an “Intentional and Specific Target Audience” will certainly help if you’ve targeted a group that already has acceptance or knowledge of your type of service or product. Regardless of your audience, it is great to always have a concise, and simple message.

If your consumer or target has to work to understand your brand, trust me… they have other priorities. People have places to go, and people to see! If they can grasp the essence of what you are offering and it can be organized in a simple and visually creative way, you are more likely to make an impact.

Don’t fall prey to fear and feel like you have to explain everything in the first 5 seconds. Remember “dip your toe in the pool”. Once you know what your user experience is supposed to be like you will easily identify the focus of the first, simple touchpoint for your brand.

TIP: Be simple, then BE MORE SIMPLE.

Finding the core of your message or offer can also benefit your ability to consistently come across as confident and knowledgeable. It will position you and your organization as a masters of your product, service, ministry, church, non-profit etc.

It’s not just visual.

Applying these tips across all parts of your brand (your visuals, your messaging, your choice of collateral, etc.) is an easy way to gain the attention of your audience and begin to build trust and "expert" status. While the visual component is a very important one, remember that it is only part of an effective brand.

One of the more rewarding aspects of our work is that we get to help brands like yours everyday, become more effective and focused. And it is always great to see our clients getting the attention of their audience in this time-starved world.

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It’s easy to second-guess yourself when setting up a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, especially if it’s your first time using Google AdWords. Below is all the information you will need in order to stop second-guessing yourself and start creating effective PPC campaigns.

It all starts with understanding the structure and terminology that Google AdWords uses when creating a campaign. Once you are logged into AdWords, click on the “Campaigns” section in the menu at the top. Then hit the red campaigns button to create a new campaign. You must select which type of campaign you want to perform. Here is a video that explains the different types of campaigns for Google AdWords.

For the purpose of this blog post, we will be selecting “Search Network Only”.

Selecting Campaign Settings

Once this is selected you are offered the option to select either “Standard” or “All Features”. Since this is your first time setting up a campaign, we are going to use the standard route. The standard allows you to setup your AdWords campaign quickly without any customization (for the more advanced users, you will most likely choose “All Features” in order to have free reign over the settings of the ads). If you’re interested, here’s a snapshot between the differences of Standard and All Features in Google AdWords.

The most important criteria to set accurately are your default bid and your daily budget. The default bid is the maximum amount you are willing to spend per click on your ad. The daily budget is simply your total daily budget for that particular ad group. The reason this is important, is that once your budget is met, your ads will no longer show up.

Feel free to set a low budget at the beginning to slowly measure what is successful and what’s not before you invest your full budget into keywords that are ineffective.

Creating Ad Groups

Understanding what ad groups are and what they consist of is extremely important to setting up your first campaign correctly.  An ad group is a name that specific keywords live under. So for example, let’s say your ad group name is “Newborn Diapers” and it contains the following keywords: newborn diapers, best newborn diapers, diapers for newborns, and gentle newborn diapers.

Once your ad group is created you must select keywords in which your ads will show up on whenever they are searched. Using the Keyword Planner will help you get a more detailed idea of what are some good keywords to use; this can be found in the “Tool” menu at the top of the page. There you can get information on specific keywords, such as search volume per month, how competitive the keyword is and what you should bid for this specific keyword.

Side note: Once you pick your keywords, it is important to choose the type of “match types” you want for each keyword. This is a great article that helps explain the difference between match types and when you should use one over the other.

Creating Your First Ad

The important rule of thumb to remember when creating an ad is: 25, 35, 35, 35. These numbers represent the character limit that Google sets when you’re creating an ad. It’s a good idea to use the second link as a call to action. For example, “Save 50% Today”.

It’s important to note that the display URL and the final URL are not the same thing. If you were advertising for books, it would be a good idea to have the keyword “books” in your display URL like www.example.com/books. But the “Final URL” may be a lot longer and may include a tracking code that would look very clunky on the actual PPC ad.

It may go without saying, but it is extremely important that you create ad copy that represents the keyword the user searched for and what he or she was likely hoping to find. It’s also critical that your landing page (what your ad links to) gives them the information or products they were looking for.

Monitoring Your Campaign

Now all you have to do is hit that submit button and forget about it, right? Unfortunately, t’s not that easy, but you knew that already. There are four basic metrics that you will want to monitor over the next few days and weeks. These consist of: impression, clicks, conversions and spend.

You will want to combine these metrics into a formula to see how effective each ad is performing. Here are the four calculations you always need to calculate in Google AdWords.

1. CTR = Clicks/Impression

Click Through Rate (CTR) will help tell you whether or not your ad copy is compelling enough for people to click the ad and go to the landing page.

2. Conversion Rate = Conversions/Clicks

Conversion rate is simply the percentage of clicks that turn into conversions. An example of this is if someone purchases a product or downloads something on your website. 

3. Cost Per Click = Spend/Clicks

Cost per click (CPC) is the amount of money it costs to receive each click.

4. Cost Per Action = Spend/Conversions

This calculation is very similar to CPC, but actually measures how much a new customer or lead costs your company. If a customer’s average ticket purchase is $5 and your CPA is $4, that is an ROI of a $1.

By monitoring these metrics you can find which ads are performing extremely well and at that point, can delegate which keywords receive more of your budget than less successful keywords. Now go to Google AdWords, stop second-guessing yourself, and setup your first PPC campaign.

Please feel free to leave any comments below if you still have questions on how to setup your first Google AdWords PPC campaign.

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Easter is often a wasted opportunity for churches.

“Easter attendance looks good in the reports, but the extra people who show up for that Sunday don’t come back until the next holiday” said the disappointed pastor on the other side of the table from me.

Unfortunately, he was right. A lot of people come through the doors of churches during Easter who never return until next year, if they come back at all. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Over the years, I have seen churches of all sizes compel the “Easter Crowd” to return the following weekend and eventually become part of the congregation. With some pre-planning and strategic intent, you can improve your odds at getting back the people who, otherwise, you might not see again for another year.

Start fresh.

Most of the churches I work with will start a new teaching series the weekend after Easter. It’s a strategic move because we know that most people like being a part of something new. A fresh teaching series will give your Easter guests a compelling reason to return during the next few weeks, where, we hope, they’ll enjoy it enough to stay. When planning for a new series, keep in mind that compelling titles and strong graphics are great tools but if you want to maximize your outreach potential, you should try to create an emotional tie between the series subject matter and your audience even before the series begins.

Take a cue from Hollywood.

One of its most successful tactics to promote a new film is through a compelling movie trailer (which quite often is better than the movie itself). Your church could do the same. Create your own video trailer: a two-minute promo or “commercial” that will present the heart of your new teaching series. Show it during your Easter services and reinforce it with any other visuals you might have, such as posters, cards, or stage props.

Don’t be intimidated by budget.

You don’t need to have a big budget or expensive equipment to create a persuasive trailer. If you have a small church and resources are limited, consider doing something simple but effective. I once worked with a start-up that produced a simple man-on-the-street video. It featured the pastor asking one question to random people in his community: “What’s the most hurtful thing anyone has said to you?” The video set up a new series that dealt with relationships. The outcome was powerful. Some of the answers were funny (a woman told him that a neighbor once called her a hemorrhoid!), while others were very poignant (a son recounted how his father told him that he would never amount to much). The video didn’t cost a lot to produce, but had a strong impact.

What’s your church doing the Sunday after Easter?

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What comes to mind when you think about a leader? Someone powerful? Demanding? Bossy?

What about “serving”?

While the idea of servant leadership might be counterintuitive at first, research shows that serving leadership is a highly effective and emergent leadership model that is transforming leaders, organizations, and communities. It has been proven to enhance employee engagement, customer satisfaction and drive results across multiple industries.

If you are interested in transforming yourself, your leadership style and your organization, we invite you to join our partner, Third River Partners, at The Serving Leader Summit this February 3 in Nashville. Hosted by Third River Partners and Lipscomb University and featuring coauthor of The Serving Leader, Ken Jennings, PhD, this conference is devoted to providing you with the practical tools you need to become a Serving Leader.

Through knowledge sharing and practical group activities, you will learn Serving Leadership principles and methods, including:

  • What makes a leader a Serving Leader
  • How Serving Leadership can equip you to manage and lead a multigenerational workplace
  • How organizations like Johns Hopkins and The Cleveland Clinic have been transformed by Serving Leadership
  • How to ignite passion and unite your colleagues and coworkers around a shared goal

You will walk away with a new perspective and practical tools to put Serving Leadership to work, as well as a free copy of The Serving Leader.

If you lead in any capacity, you won’t want to miss this important and transformational event. Make plans to join us on February 3 for The Serving Leader Summit!

  • Who: Third River Partners delivers practical tools and solutions to strengthen leaders, create collaborative teams, achieve shared goals and transform your organization
  • What: Explore the emergent Serving Leadership model and learn practical tools to put Serving Leadership to work for you
  • When: February 3, 2016
    • 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
    • 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. The Serving Leader Summit
  • Where: Lipscomb University
    • The Ezell Center, Room 301
    • One University Park Drive Nashville, TN 37204

To learn more and to register, visit www.theservingleadersummit.com.

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With social platforms now giving priority to video posts over all other types of posts, it’s no longer a choice to avoid including video in your marketing strategy. The effectiveness of video is undeniable. So c'mon, jump on the bandwagon and get goin'. We’d like to officially welcome you to the digital Oregon Trail where the wagons last longer and roll even further. 

If you still need convincing, consider this: "It takes 1.8 million words to match the value of one minute of video" (Dr. James McQuincy, Forrester). Check out just how effective video is in social media.

The rise of video on social media

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Don't have a big budget for a full-time social media strategist? Your organization can still make a big impact.

Your biggest fans are probably already posting, Tweeting, and Instagramming, so why not formalize their fandom and invite them to be part of an exclusive social media street team?

Take, for example, our social media street team at the Christian Leadership Alliance conference. Donned in bright orange t-shirts, our team was responsible for all social media coverage for the conference. We posted live updates and quotes from speakers and sessions, collected photos, shot "man on the street" video interviews, and shared schedules, news, and informational updates to keep a steady stream of posts going around the event.

Equally important was creating conversation among attendees. From our office in Nashville, a social media guru monitored all platforms, sharing and retweeting posts by others and responding to comments.

As a result of the social media at the event, CLA gained 115 new Twitter followers and The A Group gained 65, showing that building a buzz doesn't just engage current audiences but grabs the attention of new potential followers.

Our work with The MET Church in Texas also helped build buzz for the grand opening of their second campus. After equipping the street team with t-shirts, bumper stickers and social media shareable graphics/sample posts, we encouraged them to go out in the community and spread the word in the areas where they were already involved. From running clubs to PTA to random acts of kindness at the coffee shop in the morning, the street team created visibility in the community in addition to online awareness through sharing and posting.

The street team strategy ended up being a simple, yet wildly successful grassroots effort that got the congregation and community excited for the campus launch, resulting in 1700 people in attendance on the first Sunday.

Here are 10 ways for your organization's street team to share your story:

  1. Designate a campaign hashtag to build brand recognition and share it everywhere.
  2. Order branded t-shirts or ball caps for street team and encourage them to post their pics on social media.
  3. Consider setting up a private Facebook group for your team to share ideas.
  4. Design simple branded shareable graphics for posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make it easy for your audience to find and use the graphics.
  5. Post a street team group picture of everyone in their branded t-shirt.
  6. Design street team graphics for social media profiles.
  7. Develop a simple editorial calendar for messaging so every street team member is on the same "page," including sample Tweets.
  8. Post pictures of the street team in action on church or ministry Facebook page, blog, etc.
  9. Host a photo booth (fall/winter) or car wash (spring/summer) run by your social media street team and encourage your community to share their photos or experiences via social media.
  10. 10. Organize an Instagram photo scavenger hunt or contest and give out fun prizes to your community.
  11. 11. Designate one team member to capture the street team in action events on Snapchat. Advertise your Snapchat handle several weeks in advance, inviting viewers to get behind-the-scenes snapshots.

Remember, your best advocates are already active on social media and passionate about your cause. Encourage them to use their social media street cred to take your message to the streets!

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“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” These words spoken by Will Rogers couldn’t be truer when it comes to writing an irresistible email subject line.

You are in a heated competition for people’s attention. Everyday people are scrolling through their inbox, reading text messages, and commenting on their friend’s social media status while watching a video on YouTube. The sea of information we swim through on a daily basis is mind-boggling.  This is why it’s vitally important to write an eye-catching email subject line to help you cut through the noise your email recipients are living in.

Your email subject line is the bait by which you lure in your email recipients. It will determine whether or not your email is marked as spam, opened, or even read. If your email subject line does not catch your readers’ eyes or whet their appetite for more, then you will be marked for their email trashcan or junk folder.

What follows are arguably seven of the best tips to help you write an irresistible email subject line that demands attention. Use these tips as proverbial bumper pads for your emails to help you write emails that demand to be opened.

1. Define Your Audience

Your emails are not delivered to a group of impersonal strangers. Your email subscribers represent real people—not robots. And these people have a particular way they like to talk.

From their choice of words, use of slang, and preference of humor, your email subscribers have a particular way they talk. Defining your audience will help you to better understand these preferences and write an email subject line that they will actually read.

Take a moment to think about a person, real or fictional, who you are writing to. This will help you to ensure that your writing for an actual person—not the “web.”

2. Be Personal

This might be the most important tip of all: stop thinking like a marketer and think like an ordinary person opening emails. This will help you to avoid spammy language, insider language no one outside of your organization understands, or sounding like a robot.

You can personalize your email subject lines by using personal pronouns (e.g., You, Yours, etc.) or the recipient’s first name, and by writing like a real person. These little steps will make big differences in your email open rates.

3. Write a Concise Message

“Trash?" "Ignore? "Delay?” “Read?"

These four quick questions are what we generally ask ourselves of new emails. And this process doesn’t take long either. Think of your own habits. You probably spend a few seconds deciding what you’re going to do with a new email.

Most people will not read the entirety of your subject line. They will most likely glance at it as they scroll through their inbox on their cellphone, computer, or tablet. If you don’t help people to make a quick decision to open your email, then they will most likely trash or ignore your message.

Depending upon whether or not your emails are being read on a computer or mobile device, you have between 25-60 characters to grab the attention of your email subscribers. This means you have between 5-12 words to convince someone to read your email.

Fight any potential rabbit trails in your email subject line by writing a concise subject. Focus on a key term or phrase in the front of your subject. This will let readers know what’s in it for them.

4. Send Timely Messages

Sending the right message to the right person at the right time goes a long way to increasing your email open rates. You can increase your email open rate and further enhance the quality of your relationship with your target audience and customers by emailing them a key message during a specific step in their buyer’s journey, sending them a coupon on their birthday, or providing them with relevant and helpful information.

5. Ask a Question

Asking people questions is not only a great way to get them to talk -- it’s a great way to lead them to open your email, too.

In general, subject lines that are in the form of a question perform better. They have an uncanny ability to pique someone’s curiosity and to compel them to open your email.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every email subject line you write should be in the form of a question. You have to use them sparingly.

6. Use Percentages (%)

Percentages are similar to asking a question in that they spike someone’s curiosity. They convey a sense of authority that leads people to naturally seek where the information came from—especially if it is of interest to them.

7. Test Your Emails

The above best practices are guidelines—not commandments. They are not magical ingredients you can mix together to consistently create an irresistible email subject line. What works for one individual or industry will not work for others. And what works for you one day may not work the next. So, the moral of the story is this: you have to test to find what works best for you.

Use these best practices to help you get started. Test different subject lines. See what works and doesn’t work for you.  

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Ad blockers became a hot topic earlier this year in September, especially in the world of online marketers and among organizations that advertise online. “PPC is dead”, “Banner retargeting ads aren’t effective anymore”, and the comments go on and on.

So you’ve probably been asking yourself “what about my PPC (pay-per-click) and banner retargeting campaigns?” To say AdBlock isn’t affecting your ads would be a big lie. According to a 2015 study by Adobe and PageFair, 16 percent of the U.S. online population blocks ads, which resulted in a global loss of $21.8 billion dollars of ad revenue. Yikes.

So now that you know ad blocking is a thing, what do you do about it? The answer is grow up and learn to adapt.

Ad blockers are a good thing for online marketers because they force us to adapt to the market and what the market wants. When we adapt we become better marketers.

It’s important to know that there are still ways to reach your audience despite ad blockers. You just need to figure out how your audience wants to be reached and reach them through those channels. Here are three examples where, if you have been listening to the market, you should be adapting and preparing to reach your audiences through these channels.

1. Facebook Advertising

Gone are the days where we can post on our Facebook page and reach 95 percent of the people that like our page. Here’s a question for you to think about: you’re more than willing to pay for pay-per-click ads – why are you not willing to pay to be seen on Facebook? While we all loved the idea of free ways to reach fans and followers, we’re not entitled to it. Facebook has done marketers a favor by creating social channels to reach people, and if it brings you value, it’s worth paying for. Rather than hitting audiences with salesy language, create great, relevant content that they want to discover and back it with some dollars to reach a broader group.

2. Text Messaging

Recently I went with my two-week old to see the doctor for the first time and was asked the question, “What is your preference for how we contact you”? The list included phone call, email, or text message. You better believe I chose text messaging and if I was to bet, I would imagine you would too.

I have another question for you and your answer will surprise you. Do you get mad when your mom or dad calls instead of texts you? If you said yes, the reason is because your time is valuable and we know that a conversation with our parents is going to take a long time.

The same goes with our doctor’s office. We still desire to be notified of our doctor’s appointment; it’s just that we (the market) have different desires than we used to. P.S. if you’re looking for a text messaging service, you should check out Textify Mobile.

3. Impeccable Customer Service

We all have our own opinions on what makes a great customer experience. But if there is one thing many people forget when creating exceptional customer service, it’s LTV. That stands for “lifetime value of a customer”.

Let’s say you own a restaurant and sent out coupons to people that live within 10 miles of your location. A customer comes in and wants to use that coupon, but it expired two days ago. So what do you do? Yeah, you could probably say, “I’m so sorry, but the coupon is expired” and they may or may not understand. Or you can create a positive emotional connection to your restaurant by giving them the discount anyways. Which customer do you think is more willing to come back a second time? Point made. The customer’s second trip will easily pay for the five dollars off they received on their first trip.

If you ask me, I think ad block is just another one of those things we as marketers have to respond to; just like we did with using social media as an organization and paying for a mobile-friendly website. Grow up, and adapt.

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According to some projections, by 2017 video will account for 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic. Living in the Information Age, many people choose to fulfill their information and entertainment needs through the easiest medium available right now: video. So the question then becomes “How do I meet my audience where they are and deliver great video content?”

You might say to yourself “I’m not a filmmaker.” And that’s fine. There are a few ways to create engaging content that brings value to the viewer, promotes awareness of your brand and drives people to you website (while keeping them there longer). Here’s how.

1) Work with What You’ve Got

This one is simple. Gear doesn’t matter. Does it help? Yes. Is it awesome? Yes. Do I find myself pouring over forums and reading/watching gear reviews for hours on end? Yes. But does it matter? No.

It’s all about keeping your audience engaged, revealing something new to them, and telling a story – and you don’t need the biggest and newest equipment to make that happen. Even pros like YouTuber and filmmaker Casey Neistat advocate for what can be done with basic point and shoots or starter SLRs (check out his great breakdown of the best starter cameras).

2) Tell a Story

This is the heart and soul of your video. What’s the motive or the message of your video, and how can you communicate this in an effective and engaging way? Pinpoint some characteristics of your brand’s identity and brainstorm creative ways to get that across in your video. It could be through humor, pulling on heartstrings or even through an encouraging message.

Whatever type of video you create, this is the starting point. You have to know why you’re doing it, before you start.

3) Use Different Types of Video To Your Advantage

When it comes to video content marketing, you don’t just have to create beautiful productions or long features. There are many different types of video content that can keep your audience engaged and allow you to produce and release well-rounded material. Taking advantage of different video types also allows you to create shorter, lower cost videos more often, harnessing all that video has to offer.

Here are a few video types you might not have considered:

Behind the Scenes Videos

People love to see the process behind the way things are done in your business. Not only is this engaging for your audience, but it also gives them an insider’s perspective of the day to day of your brand and who you are.

These videos drive traffic to your website, engage potential clients, and create a sense of trust around your brand.

Behind the Scenes videos should be strategically released after a large project, video or event that your brand has promoted, to capitalize on something that your audience has already engaged with or seen.

How-To Videos

Selling by teaching is one of the most effective ways to build awareness of your brand. Not only that, but as you begin to share your knowledge and information with your audience, you establish yourself as an authority.

There are several people who have built an entire business based on How To or tutorial videos. For example, CharlisCraftyKitchen is a YouTube cooking/baking blog created by Charli, a 9-year-old girl from Australia and her 6-year-old sister Ashlee. With the combination of absolute adorableness and cute treat making ideas, the CharlisCraftyKitchen YouTube channel has over 508 MILLION views.

Video Blogs

Video Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. They are extremely personal, and your audience gets to see the human side of you and your brand. In such a visually saturated market, it’s a great way to “show” your audience, rather than just “tell” them.

Through video blogging, you’re giving your audience consistent content that they can depend on and look forward to. It can be a personal blog about your life and family, new video games, music reviews or anything else.

Gary Vaynerchuck started Wine Library TV nine years ago as a way to increase traffic and build brand awareness for his family’s wine business. He grew their company from a $3M to $60M business in just five years. He now owns one of the largest digital agencies in the world and has a new YouTube blog called “The #AskGaryVee Show,” where his audience tweets in questions about business, marketing and social media, and Gary answers them on the show.

The bottom line? Ultimately it comes down to consistently generating great videos for your audience. Production value is secondary to excellent content. And remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you really want to see success, stay in it for the long haul. Grow your skills, your content and your frequency, and watch your audience grow with you.

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If you work in the nonprofit sector, grab a cup of coffee. It’s time we have a chat.

Here’s your life so far: You work long hours and when you finally do get to go home, your phone buzzes constantly, the email box dings, and small (or big) “fires” constantly demand your attention. And at the end of another unbelievably long day, you drop into bed for a few hours of black-out sleep before doing it all over again. We won’t even talk about your weekends.

Pain Points

We get it. The work you do is important, and choosing to turn your phone off when it could mean the difference between gaining or losing a new donor and helping or losing another orphan, can wrack you with guilt.

But here’s the catch: In order to continue investing in people (and we mean really investing in people), you need to stop, take a deep breath, and invest in yourself first.

We know it’s hard to distance yourself from your work and allow yourself to say no. Budgets are tight and there’s pressure to fill multiple roles. But sometimes taking on too much means that none of the work gets done correctly. So be aware of how full your plate is and develop honest communication with your superior about your capacity. When your plate is full, say no to more. You shouldn’t be working 60+ hour weeks every week.

Plus, due to the nature of your work, it’s easy to quickly become very emotionally connected to it. But over time, you’ll start to feel drained and taxed, not just physically, but emotionally. Being emotionally drained not only affects the quality of your work, but it also leaves you with no strength or capacity for personal relationships with friends and families.

Productivity Hacks

You can’t change the nature of your work and you can’t change the type of investment you make, but you can manage it better. With a few little tricks, you can make a day’s work more meaningful. Because you play so many different roles within your nonprofit, you are often required to switch hats at a second notice. Transitioning between different roles requires a mental switch in your train of thought. With switches taking several minutes, even just a few breaks in your workflow quickly adds up to an hour or more of wasted time.

Here’s what we suggest—block off your days. If you’re tasked with running a year-end campaign, maintaining regular email marketing, and servicing major donor accounts, dedicate a day to each. Rather than constantly shifting focus between each project, spend Monday on the year-end campaign, Tuesday on writing and scheduling all emails for the week, Wednesday on major donor needs, and so forth. 

In doing so, you’ll be able to stay focused on the task at hand without having to pause and switch modes several times a day. If you can’t dedicate certain days to certain projects, at least try to break up your day into two to three blocks with dedicated time to just one project in each block.

And remember, regular breaks are a good thing! Take a walk outside, make some more coffee, or leave the office for lunch. These breaks refresh your mind and alertness, giving you more strength to power through the next chunk of time.

Setting Boundaries

It’s okay to say no. Say it with me. It’s okay to say no. I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s worth saying again. Say no. And when you leave work, make sure to actually leave work. Don’t take it home with you. Establish healthy distance between your professional and personal life to make sure your family and friends actually get to see the non-work you. You’ll return rested and recharged the next day, and you don’t need us to tell you that that’s the best way to start off a new day of work.

Because of dedicated people like you, lives are being changed, healed, and saved.  And we know that completely obliterating work stress is impossible. But the only way you can successfully keep up all that work is if you give yourself room to rest. So give yourself freedom to set boundaries and say no. Enjoy your family, take a nap, cook a meal, or go on a vacation. Even God took a step back from His work, called it good, and rested.

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The A Group
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