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For most of human history, culture was built on proximity. We spent time with people who lived like us, looked like us and talked like us…quite literally, we were made up tribes. 

Which must have made the jobs of early marketers much easier. All you had to do was carve a hieroglyph into the biggest rock on the block or post a flyer in the neighborhood or tell the town gossip, and word would spread to the only people you really needed to reach – the people around you.

But with globalization, urban sprawl and advancements in technology, audiences are more fragmented, with your best customers often scattered all around the world, plus countless ways to reach them. It can make marketing more overwhelming, costly and, in the case of blanket techniques, ineffective.

The good news is that people still congregate in tribes; they just look a little different than they used to. These tribes are philosophical, interests-based, values-based, and behavioral in nature. They congregate in forums, at coffee shops, in the corners of the Internet and in meet ups – both virtual and tangible – all around the world. All it takes is one visit to Reddit or stumbling across a group of LARPers in your local city park to realize there really is someone out there for everyone.

In fact, these tribes – the tribes we get to choose for ourselves – might be even more meaningful than the tribes life prescribes for us. Unlike groups based on geography, age or socioeconomic status, the tribes we form today are personal, affinity-based and full of passionate advocates – giving your brand the opportunity to connect and build loyalty among a niche of people who are highly engaged with what you have to offer.

Here are four simple steps to finding your tribe:

  1. Figure out what type of tribe you appeal to. As we discussed in our lifestyle brand series, tribes are typically formed around interests, opinions, values, identities, aspirations and affinities – and the brands that can speak to these emotions win the game. In order to identify your tribe, you first have to understand what type of tribe you reach. Perhaps the easiest to spot are interest-based tribes, centered on hobbies or activities such as outdoor enthusiasts or book nerds or film buffs. Others are behavioral, such as people who belong to country clubs or college students or professional associations. Still others are philosophical in nature, such as homeschooling families, tiny house owners and people who choose to live off the grid – all behaviors that are inspired by philosophical values. Your brand might connect on multiple levels, but often, your product, service or offering speaks specifically into an interest, behavior or philosophy around which your tribes congregate.
  2. Determine your tribe’s markers. Most tribes have markers beyond just their obvious traits, such as other values and behaviors that members of that tribe collectively share. For example, most outdoor enthusiasts have a deep respect for nature and value things such as preservation, preparation, environmental initiatives and fitness. Many homeschooling families share traditional and religious values that inform their educational choices. You get the picture. Understanding your tribe’s markers allows you to speak more comprehensively into their lives, emotions, pain points and needs beyond just “you like to run” or “you like to shop”.
  3. Speak their language. Respect their customs. To gain access and speak relevantly to a tribe, you have to connect with them emotionally and do this authentically. Any hint of insincerity or values that don’t align with the tribe’s values, and you’ll quickly be voted off the island.
  4. When it’s time to grow, find other tribes like yours. Most organizations reach a point in their life cycle where they must reach new audiences and grow their base. Rather than taking a blanket marketing approach or marketing to broad demographics (such as “women” or “Christians”), expand marketing within your current tribes or subcultures or look for subcultures that share similar philosophical or behavioral characteristics to the tribes you know. For example, if you reach people who are into nutrition, you might also be able to speak to people who are into alternative medicine, fitness and general health and wellness. Within these tribes, you’ll find subcultures such as paleo eaters and Crossfitters and other niches your brand can reach. When seeking to expand your reach, begin with the “lookalike audience” approach – both online and offline.

And finally, don’t be afraid to be a big fish in a little pond. Technology has allowed people who could have never found each other before to connect and form tribes, and it allows marketers to find and reach them. There is no longer a need to tell the world about your organization with the hopes you’ll reach a few when you can reach the people who truly care through targeted, cost-effective marketing tactics. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, find your tribe and be fiercely loyal to them. They will reward you for it.

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Do you need help managing your volunteers?  Whether you’re a business or a school with a major philanthropic arm, a church that functions through generous volunteer help or an organization with an emphasis on supporting the community, managing all of those people can be a full-time job all by itself.

So if you’re tired of all the sign up sheets, excel documents and endless emails it takes just to organize one volunteer event, worry no more. We’re excited to introduce you to our newest project—the TAG Volunteer Platform.

This new platform is a giant organizational machine that takes all of the hours of coordination out of the volunteer equation.

Here’s how it works:

Everyone—users and administrators included—logs into the same platform, accessible anywhere at any time on both desktop and mobile. Each person has his/her own profile usually set up with employee IDs—a set up managers can easily complete with a simple file import.

After department managers set up events for their team, team members log in and sign up for the events they want to serve at. After an event is completed, everyone logs back in and tracks their hours under their respective events. Your team members can even add notes, stories and photos from the events, giving you easy access to distribute updates about the volunteer team on your website and social media channels.

Your users can even create their own events if they volunteer for an event not created or run by your company or organization. At one glance, managers can see the total number of hours logged for each given event and the total amount of hours each individual team member has logged. Mangers can even export total number of volunteer hours to use for your organization’s or business’s volunteer stats. With such streamlined access to reporting, managers can easily and quickly promote the volunteer time of the organization!

The TAG Volunteer Platform gives you peace of mind, collects and keeps all your volunteer data in one place, saves you time, and streamlines the entire volunteer experience from beginning to end.

Plus, right now we’re offering you a FREE demo of the platform to show you exactly what we’re talking about! Click below to get your demo process started. 

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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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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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Here at The A Group, we’re always looking for better ways to serve our clients and that includes answering your most burning questions. Questions like: 

How do I increase year-end giving for my organization?
How do we get more people to open our emails?
Does our organization really need to take part in Giving Tuesday?
What about this new social media platform?

And occasionally questions like…

What’s up with that T-Rex in your office? (Yes, we have one of those.)
Are you dog or cat people?
Do you take your coffee black or with cream and sugar?

You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers.

So today, we’re announcing #AskAGroup, a forum where you can ask all of your most pressing marketing and technology questions. This is your perfect chance to get all of your questions answered for FREE.

Tweet at us using #AskAGroup or drop us a line here and once a month, we’ll round-up of all your questions and get them answered. So what are you waiting for? Ask away! 

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Last week on the blog, we took a look at what your camp marketing should look like for the next year. This week, we’re diving in further to share five dos and don’ts of camp marketing. Are you making these mistakes? Are you leveraging opportunities to market and sell your camp? Let’s find out!

DO highlight your earlybird pricing or special offers. Can your audience save $50 or more by registering early? Great! Tell them about it, and not just in an email or on social media. Big savings call for big buzz. Utilize postcards, emails, text messages, social media and even ads to alert your audience to a special savings opportunity. But always be sure to give your audience plenty of notice to take advantage of the offer.

DON’T wait until the last minute to tell your audience about a savings opportunity. With the exception of a one-day only a sale (think Black Friday or Cyber Monday), audiences need time to research, prepare and potentially save, so that they can register their child or family for your camp. If moms and dads are thinking about summer camp in February, don’t wait until March or April to start talking to them about your camp. Get ahead of the game! Committing to a week of camp is a big decision not only for children and teens, but for parents who are often footing the bill or putting in time-off requests for the week.

DO host a contest. Who doesn’t want to win free camp gear or even better, a free week of camp? Let’s face it: it’s hard to say no to a free week of camp. Whether you’re trying to increase your camp numbers by filling spots with new or returning customers, everyone loves the opportunity to win a FREE day, weekend or week of camp. Not only does a contest increase engagement, but it’s also a great way to generate leads so that you can market your youth or specialty camps to them in the future. NOTE: Don’t forget to ask for, at minimum, first name, last name and email address when you’re collecting contact information.

DON’T waste contact information. All of those leads that you generated with that contest? They need communication from you right away: onboarding for new audiences and cultivation for existing. Don’t let the contact information you collected sit in a database or on an email list and forget to communicate to those folks. Congratulate the winner, inform the others that they didn’t win, but that they can still save with earlybird pricing.  You can even offer them a 10 percent off code just for their participation.

DO provide your audience with ways to interact with your camp. Camp is FUN! And not just for those that are attending. We have all grinned ear-to-ear watching action-packed recap videos of youth at camp, laughed at children or shed a tear while listening to a moving testimonial from a teen who found Christ during the summer. All of these interactions with camp deepened our relationship with and increased our affinity for that organization. If you’re a camp, make sure you’re providing ways for audience members to interact with your camp and have these same experiences. Develop a special camp app, create social media photo albums, offer live streams of camp activities or speaking sessions and design graphics or quotes that your audience can share when excited or moved by your camp content. 

DON’T keep them in the dark about what’s happening at camp. Parents love real-time updates about what their children are doing, learning or participating in at camp. Friends of youth or teens at camp may also want to see what their friends are doing this summer. Don’t keep your camp videos, photos and stories to yourself. Share them!

DO explore and utilize a variety of advertising. If you’re just using print, or exclusively using display ads, you’re missing out on great (and affordable!) advertising options. Internet radio platforms such as Pandora or niche podcasts, dedicated e-blasts, sponsored social media posts, print or digital advertorials, Google AdWords and Facebook pay-per-click campaigns can all be successful in delivering target audiences to your camp registration or info sites.

DON’T wait until the last minute to secure advertising. This seems like a no brainer, but it’s easy to get busy or sidetracked by all of the other items that need to get checked off the list as you’re marketing your camp. Do yourself (and your camp!) a favor and secure your advertising months in advance. For instance, if you want to secure a print ad for April, you’ll likely need to reserve this space with your outlet anywhere from 4-6 months in advance. This will not only ensure that you’re in that print issue with a spotlight on camps or featured in that coveted e-newsletter you’ve been dying to get into, but also gives you the chance to negotiate rates, take advantage of advertisers’ earlybird offers on packages and build a stellar and, most importantly, strategic ad campaign for your camp.

DO market your camp all year long. Communicate and talk about your camps before, during and after camp season. Share camp testimonials, videos, photo albums, camp themes or highlights with your audience to keep them looking forward to and excited about attending your camp again next year.

DON’T limit your marketing to summer season. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And filling your camp this summer is the same way. Relying on a short-term push or campaign only in the spring or summer won’t give you the same results as will marketing your camp year-round to current and prospective audience members. Plug your camp into your marketing communications and editorial calendar throughout the year, sprinkling in camp mentions and content where appropriate. Check out this post for what you should be doing during every season of the year.

So how does your current camp marketing strategy measure up? Are you failing in the dos, forgetting about the don’ts? Don’t be afraid to make changes, to try something new. Now is the perfect time to celebrate the impact from this past summer and start building up anticipation for your next year’s summer camp.  

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Camp is finally over. Ahhh. Deep exhale. You’ve spent the last six to eight months preparing for camp and ensuring that this summer was the #BestCampYearEver. Now it’s time to kick back and relax before the next camp season. Right?

Wrong.

Although the kiddos, teens and parents have exited the campground for the summer, the camp marketing cycle is just beginning again! Think about it like this.

Let’s say that your camp starts the first week of June and ends the first week of August.

Your first earlybird camp registration deadline is December 1—and your audience can cash in on some serious dollars off camp (think $100+).

Your second and final earlybird camp registration deadline is March 1—and your audience can once again cash in on a camp deal (think $50 off).

The final day to register for your camp is May 1—exactly one month before camp starts.

Take a look at that list again. Seems simple enough, right? What about the promotional emails you need to highlight your earlybird special, or getting those same emails to your web designer? And the catalog for your summer camps? Is it written? Designed? Ready to mail? When should that go out? The postcard with camp dates? Parent correspondence? Student or teen correspondence?

If you’re breathing has become shallow, take a deep inhale… and… exhale. It WILL be okay!

Friend, we aren’t trying to overwhelm you with these questions—in fact, we’re trying to HELP! Nothing is worse than getting to the first week of camp without an agenda or camp schedule, counselors haven’t been selected or worse—you don’t have many folks signed up to attend.

Let’s look at what your camp marketing should look like for the next year, starting with this fall: 

Fall

While now might seem like the perfect time to rest, relax and restore, it’s actually the best time to start working ahead. Make a list of all of the larger camp collateral pieces that you will need for next year. This can include your camp catalog, brochures, postcard mailers or banners. If you need to compile content or get something into design, now’s the time to do it! Don’t wait until the winter or spring when you’re rushing around and moving heaven and earth to get your deadline reminder postcard out. Save yourself some time (and stress) by working ahead on the large projects now.

And don’t forget also to capitalize on the timeliness of the fall—when many are just returning from camp, carrying precious memories made with friends and family. Use this as an opportunity to get them excited about next summer. While it’s not necessary to open registration for next summer the moment camp is over this year or email folks everyday about attending camp, it’s important that you keep your audience engaged, plugged in and looking forward to what next summer holds for them.

Winter

In the winter, you should be pushing out content related to your camp(s). This is a great time to start sending out those earlybird pricing offers, your camp catalog or camp brochures. The promotions should be light, plugging your camp where it might make sense—a callout in your monthly e-newsletter, a back matter ad in your magazine or books.

This time of year is also a great time to begin pitching and securing media opportunities. Whether you’re working with an in-house PR team or outside partner, long lead publications are often working three (sometimes even four!) months in advance. Make sure you’re using this time to pitch outlets and secure advertising or PR coverage for early spring.

Spring

Push. Push. Push.

The springtime is your opportunity to give your camp marketing everything you’ve got. Your camp catalog or brochures should already be in-homes, allowing you to begin sending camp registration, deadline-driven postcards to audience members. Social media content and graphics should highlight and direct people toward registering for camp. Unveil your camp theme and promo videos for the summer to get those who have registered early excited about the summer. Begin blasting out more email and blog posts focused on camp-related content, always with the goal in mind of moving folks one step closer to registration.

While the bulk of your marketing takes place in the springtime, if you’ve prepared properly in the fall and winter as we noted above, springtime will feel less chaotic.

Summer

It’s finally here. Camp is underway and all you have to worry about is managing internal camp activities, right? Try again.

Friend, please take note. We can’t tell you how important it is to maintain and provide ongoing conversation and correspondence with your audience during this time. Parents should be receiving daily or weekly updates about what their child or teen is doing at camp. Lessons learned, new activities that they’ve tried, the crazy food contest they participated in, and the testimonies of those whose lives were forever changed because of their experience that week. Every bit of this should be shared with them. The same can be said for those actually attending camp. These are some of your biggest advocates and supporters, those who are likely to go home from camp and tell the whole block how much fun they had at camp this summer. Send them a recap video when they head home or text them about how excited you are to have them back next summer. Encourage them to share camp with others through shareable social media graphics.

You get the point. Talk to your tribe. Without correspondence from you during camp, they may feel disconnected, distant or even irritated that they don’t know what’s going on. With so many stories shared around the campfire, don’t keep yours to yourself. [Tweet this]

So now, go ahead, take another deep breath and let’s get back into swing of things. We promise that you’ll feel more prepared, less stressed and even see greater results when you are focused on camp marketing year round. 

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Non profits often find themselves asking for donations, but what if you could raise funds for your organization by giving back?

Funds2Orgs, a new venture by Wayne Elsey, founder of Soles4Souls, lets you do just that! Here’s how it works: Funds2Orgs pays organizations for collecting gently worn, used and new shoes. Those shoes are then distributed to families in developing countries all around the world as a source of capital for them to start their own small businesses. As these families sell shoes in their communities, they are able to build a sustainable source of income and provide a product/service to their neighbors.

Organizations are paid based on the total weight of the shoes collected, and some F2O partners have found they can raise $3,000, $5,000 or more simply by hosting a shoe drive! Funds2Orgs will even send you all the materials you need to host your drive. Here are some other reasons to partner with Funds2Orgs:

  • Easy way to fundraise without having to ask for money
  • Expands pool of potential donors
  • Unique opportunity to involve those you serve in your mission
  • Opportunity to make a bigger impact by helping families around the world

Partnering with Funds2Orgs is perfect for churches, camps, non profits, adoptions and anyone who wants to rally their community for TWO great causes! Visit www.funds2orgs.com to learn more or start your shoe drive! 

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As we approach the last quarter of 2016, we begin to change our mindset from planning for the year to finishing strong. To think about how we can maximize this season and make the most of what’s been given to us.

One of the most important ways to do that is through the year-end giving appeal – perhaps the most critical donor development effort that all non profits must do. With increased generosity during the holidays, plus the need for donors to meet budgets or secure tax deductions, the year-end offers the perfect opportunity to create urgency, reach donors and get your organization into a strong position for the upcoming year. In fact, according to a 2011 Charity Navigator research report, charities reported that they, on average, received 41 percent of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year!

But with every organization out there vying for funds this season, how do you stand out from the crowd? Follow these four tips to make this year your best year-end ever!

      1. Start NOW.

Sure, it’s still 95 degrees and humid out (at least here in the South!), and you’re probably far more focused on planning your Labor Day cookout than thinking about the end of the year. But creating a great campaign takes months of preparation – first taking time to plan, then time to develop assets, then time to actually run and promote it. Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of December, trying to throw together an appeal in the last two weeks of 2016. Get started now to get the results you truly want.

        2. Give people a reason other than a tax write-off.

Most year-end appeals focus on the oh-so-altruistic motivation of getting a tax deduction – because nothing is more compelling than giving someone other than Uncle Sam your money! Okay, we’re half kidding, but using the tax write-off hook to create urgency can be a highly effective tool and very real reason for donors to give. But don’t stop there. Give your donors a compassionate, emotionally-compelling, life-changing reason to give as well. Tell your story. Reinforce your mission. Create a real movement. There’s no reason your year-end appeal has to be contained to the “December 31 at midnight” formula. In fact, while donations do reach a high in the last few days of the year, many donors cite other factors such as transparency, impact and their relationship with an organization as their primary reason for giving.

         3. Don’t make it all about you.

Another pitfall organizations fall into is using their year-end appeal to talk about everything THEY need. Maybe you are operating at a deficit and need to reach your budget. Maybe you were hoping to buy this or do that or expand here or start there.  Guess what? That’s not your donor’s problem. While there is nothing wrong with presenting a specific need or cause, asking your donors to do something for you is not as compelling as making them the hero and showing them the impact they can have. Make it about your donor and how he or she is making a difference, not about your financial concerns or strategic plan for 2017.

         4. Take an integrated approach.

Don’t be basic when it comes to your year-end appeal. Yes, you should send a direct mail piece with a complementary email, but think about the countless other tools you have available as well: storytelling, social media, graphic design, text messaging and so many more ways to get your message out. Put all of these tools to work, and make them all work together with consistent visuals and a campaign leading up to your year-end ask.

For example, last year, our friends at Reach Youth Global ran a storytelling campaign throughout the holiday season, themed “All I Want”. During this campaign, the organization shared stories from children around the world as they shared their hopes for the holidays: peace, joy, education, family, God, a future. The All I Want campaign was supported by emails, social media graphics and a fundraising platform where supporters could help make these children’s dreams come true by planning fundraisers on behalf of the organization. As the year’s end approached, the organization’s founder, Sal Sberna, planned a fundraiser himself with the goal of raising enough funds to help 20 orphans by the end of the year. After a month of hearing children’s stories, donors were given the opportunity to participate by making a tangible impact on the lives of orphans who needed their help.

This integrated approach, telling stories across various channels leading up the year-end along with the compelling and specific ask, made for a much more engaging campaign than the standard year-end appeal.

If you still feel a little unsure about where to start, we can help, whether you need someone to look over your plan and offer suggestions or you need a complete campaign. Don’t wait to start planning and making this your best year yet!

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Do people even pay attention to letters they receive from non profits and ministries? Has direct mail run its course? Some say so, but we say… if you’re seeing profitable donations coming in from your direct mail efforts, don’t stop.

NOW, we all agree that many direct mail pieces often leave a lot to be desired, so instead of declaring the entirety to direct mail dead, let’s focus on improving it. Putting together a brilliant direct mail appeal requires a lot of steps and great attention to detail, and sometimes really important elements get skipped over—we get it.

Here to help you is our handy-dandy Elements of a Great Appeal download. In this download, we’ll cover everything from content to design to strategy to help you put together a stunning package that’ll spike the donation dollars.
Download it today and enjoy!

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In our latest installation of Lunch and Learn, Chris Ward, our Creative Director, talked about all things branding, creativity, and design. Here are just a few of the highlights from his presentation and some key takeaways for you!

Defining Design

To dive into the world of branding and design, we must first differentiate between fine art and design. In fine art, we often see pieces, paintings and structures that may not make any sense to us, and that’s okay. Fine art isn’t designed to be logical, but rather promote thought and introspection.

In design, the complete opposite is true. Everything you do has to make sense. Design is for the user, the customer, the consumer. Because it serves a specific function (brand awareness, event advertising, etc.), it has to be purposeful. Design has to solve the problem it was structured for. 

The takeaway: The next time that you start planning out a marketing campaign, or when you sit down to design a brochure, an ad, or a billboard, make sure that your piece is serving a specific function. Don’t use a color or graphical element just because it’s the current trend or it’s cool. Every time you employ design, the final piece should make sense, it should promote your message in a meaningful way.

What is creativity?

We all know that defining creativity is difficult. Many people have tried to define it, but often those definitions end up sounding too abstract without any real application for what you’re doing right now. Here at The A Group, we believe that every single person in the world can be creative, and our definition of creativity cuts straight to the point:

Creativity is simply holding yourself to a standard. (Sounds easy, right?) Let’s dive into what that standard looks like.

To harness creativity, the standard that you must hold yourself to requires utilizing the influences around you and pairing those with your life experiences and your capabilities to come up with creative solutions to issues, problems, or needs. Whether the final product be a painting, new software, a restorative policy, donor development tactics, etc., creativity lives within each of us and can be uncovered by holding ourselves to this standard every day rather than resorting to random impulses or senseless ideas.

The Takeaway: Creativity is not wizardry. When someone comes up with a seemingly more creative solution than yours that makes your head spin, it is usually the result of them having broader influences or greater capabilities or different life experiences. That’s why The A Group digs so deep to understand our client's perspectives and challenges. We are building the creative bridge from problem to solution!

What is a brand?

Your brand is what your consumer thinks of when he/she hears your name. In the past, brands were just names necessary to differentiate one product from another one. As more and more brands filled various industry spaces, pre-existing brands were forced to evolve to keep up with their competitors. Now, brands are much bigger than just their name and what they do.

Take for instance: Starbucks. Starbucks consistently offers a luxury “fast food” experience that puts pressure on other fast food players to up their game. At Starbucks, you can sit for awhile, relax on a couch, enjoy some music while you drink your coffee. Until recently, no other fast food or drink company had ever offered that to its customers before. The Starbucks standard was a luxury standard. 

Now when you walk into a brand new McDonalds, you’ll see leather sofas in the corners, giant televisions flanking gorgeous walls—all to compete with the customer experience Starbucks has been offering. Because we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths, we have come to expect this standard from the brands we love.

The Takeaway: What now seems normal to us once used to be a luxury experience. With high competition, today’s brands must offer an unique experience, share the same values with their target audience, be invested in their consumers’ lives, offer inspiration, etc.

The Big Takeaway:

So how is your brand doing? Is your team channeling creativity and employing design correctly? Are you offering an unforgettable experience to your audience? It does not matter what industry you are in, if you’re lacking these elements, your brand will fall behind.

But you can avoid that. Take stock of your competitors, see what is working for them. What are they doing that you aren’t doing? It is successful?

Making key creative decisions for your brand, early in the process, can build the foundation for your brand's success!

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Today we are excited to welcome a new face to our office—our marketing intern, Lorena Djuknic!

For the next four months, Lorena will be working with our team on all internal marketing initiatives, so keep an eye out for her on our social channels, email, and blog posts!

Offering internships not only allows us to give young aspiring professionals a look inside the working world, but it also helps us to stay on our toes. Fresh faces often bring new ideas to the table and help us see our own world in a new and different way. One of our daily guiding philosophies here at The A Group is that anyone can learn from anyone. Your interns not only have a lot to learn from you, but you can learn a lot from them too—even if you’re in the C-Suite!

Our EVP, Diana Marsh says, “It is important to give college students a glimpse into what their future might look like in their chosen profession. Internships give students the chance to see if they have made the right choice, and offering these opportunities allows us to create a talent pool for new positions.”

Originally from Croatia, Lorena made the move to the U.S. after receiving a tennis scholarship from Lipscomb University here in Nashville, Tennessee. On her first day in the office, we got a chance to learn a little bit more about her, and we’d love to share a small part of her story with you as well.

1. Where are you from?
Zagreb, Croatia.

2. What brought you to the United States? 
Tennis Scholarship to attend Lipscomb University.

3. What are you studying? 
Double major in marketing and entrepreneurship with a minor in internet and social media.

4. How did you hear about The A Group? 
I met Holly Grenvicz at a Lipscomb Presidential Ambassador event, and she introduced me with The A Group. I did my research and was particulary intreaged by The A Group official website - the way it looked and the way it was written for TAG’s audience.

5. What are you hoping to bring to The A Group through this internship? 
Being a tennis player, I want to use my team experience in helping strengthen this company’s environment that is based on teamwork. Hard work and dedication as my strengths can help me overcome many challenges that arises. I wish to bring fresh ideas about connecting with younger audience through the use of social media and internet platforms. I would hope that my international background and cultural differences may add to that aspect as well.

6. What are you hoping to learn from this internship? 
I hope to learn how things are done in the real world, how everything connects in order to fulfill the needs of a client, and to discover in what aspect of marketing I am preforming the best in order to be a perfect fit for the company.

7. What do you like the most about the marketing world?
That is changing DAILY. I prefer a fast pace, and as an athlete, I like the aspect of competing against daily changes in order to provide our clients with the best possible solutions.

8. What do you like most about the United States? 
That hard work and dedication in the work environment is noticed. Based on my experience so far, when a person is willing to put in the work, only the sky is the limit in U.S.

9. What’s one interesting or surprising thing you have learned about U.S. since you have been here? 
Hmm. Definetely that food in the South is done only one way: fried! (which is really delicious!) And that Apple products are a number one go-to tech devices.

10. What do you miss most about home when you are here? 
Our coast. Croatia is known as a country of thousand Islands, so its coast and Adriatic Sea are absolutely stunnin which makes it perfect summer location. (If you ever need ideas on places to go, please let me know!) I also miss seafood. 

11. Tell us three fun facts about yourself:
1. I went skydiving after getting this internship!
2. Any sport, just name it, I will play it!
3. I can’t sing, but I love to. Sorry TAG team!

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The A Group
320 Seven Springs Way
Suite 100
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone: (615) 373-6990
Toll-free: (866) 258-4800
Fax: (615) 373-6991
Email:
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