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If you’re in the business of marketing, customer service, donor development or relationship management of any type, you may be familiar with customer relationship management software or, as we commonly refer to it, a CRM.

At its simplest form, a CRM system allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them. Some of the most common off-the-shelf CRM software programs include Salesforce, Hubspot, InfusionSoft, and Insightly.

Not a fan of off-the-shelf products? Many for profits and non profits alike use custom-built CRM systems, either headed up by their internal IT guru or in collaboration with a CRM software developer. Whichever route your organization has gone, as new technology and marketing techniques emerge, it’s important to carefully review your system’s capabilities and ask yourself if your CRM is standing in the way of you and your customer. If so, it may be time for you to let go of your old system and upgrade to a new one. 

Here are nine telltale signs that you need a new CRM:

1. Your CRM is a glorified contact database. While CRMs should keep information such as contact information, emails and email history, phone calls and in-person meetings, your CRM should also help you interpret trends and draw insights about your consumers’ behaviors. If it isn’t telling you anything about WHO your customer is, their preferences or their purchase or registration history, you may be missing out on marketing and communications opportunities.

2. Your system doesn’t play nice with ANYTHING else—even you. If you’re finding it difficult to add, input or update data, it may be time to start considering alternatives. On a similar note, if you’re struggling to integrate your system with your website or your contact or RFI forms, we strongly recommend a new system. When you can’t easily integrate other efforts or technologies to your CRM, this can become a barrier to you reaching your audience.

3. Only Jim or Pam knows how to use your CRM. If the guy or gal who built it is the only one who knows how to use or interpret it, it might be time for a new system. It’s critical that your team knows how to use, interpret and navigate your CRM with or without the person who built it. And if you’re paying Jim or Pam to primarily keep up your homebrew system, it’s time to move on. Instead, consider using a system like Salesforce or Hubspot where a professional will not only build it, but they’ll keep it running and maintained, AND they’ll provide troubleshooting support for you.

4. Yes, we can do that, but it’s going to cost you money. If you’re always hearing this answer when asking a question about whether or not your CRM has XYZ feature, it may be time to start researching new software options. We recommend that as you are selecting a CRM, you take a close look at the feature list. If your organization is complex, a short feature list likely won’t cut it. Instead, make a list of the key functions that you utilize in your current system or need in a new one. Keep this list handy as you’re researching CRM alternatives and feature lists. If you don’t see a key function on the feature list, we recommend that you contact the developer to see if it can be built in or cross that software off your list and keep looking.

5. You have a registration system, an email system, a scheduling system and a billing system. But they are all separate from one another. We see this all the time, and we can tell you right now, this is one of the biggest red flags when determining whether it’s time to let go of your CRM. If your organization has systems that need to communicate with one another, but are currently working those functions in silos, it’s time to move on. The problem with siloed systems is that it forces manual exports and imports of information from one to the other to “update” data. Having a one-stop shop for all your information and marketing efforts will not only streamline communications, but it will save your team hours of unnecessary (and may we say painful!) work.

6. You’re using an Excel spreadsheet to track customer contact, demographic and psychographic data. We want to say this with all due respect—if your organization wants to grow and market effectively to your audience, customers and constituents, keeping information in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as a substitute for a CRM will not cut it. We’re not saying that Excel spreadsheets don’t have a place in data collection—they certainly do! But managing this type of information without a system is too manual. CRMs can help automate and speed up communications and reporting processes. There are many CRM options out there that are cost-effective, user-friendly and offer customizations that can be added as your organization’s needs grow.

7. You’re running reports from multiple systems to find the information you want. We’ve all been there: in this system to get that number. Logout, but now need to login to another system to get different data. Logout of that system and finally, login to one more to get the final piece of the puzzle. Must we say more? If you’re tracking sales, running reports or reviewing analytics, a CRM is essential! Not only will all your data be housed in one system (say goodbye to all those other systems!), you will easily be able to pull reports and key metrics to review performance and determine effectiveness.

8. You don’t have segmentation capabilities. In other words, your organization has several audience segments that need different types of communication and with your current CRM, you are unable to accommodate this. This is a HUGE feature of a CRM and a critical component of a successful content marketing strategy. Without the ability to segment, your organization is forced to blanket market with impersonal mass messages that can leave users feeling disconnected, alienated and even angry. When determining whether your system has this functionality, ask yourself: can I segment my audience into lists based on the data I’ve collected in this system? Be that a behavior (purchased this book), geographical location (all customers in the Southeast) or demographics (parent, teen, donor, etc.). Your system should be collecting this data so that you not only can segment your audience, but you can communicate with them from within that system.

9. Your CRM is standing between you and your customer. We saved the best for last—or in this case, the number one reason to let go of your current CRM and move on.  As an organization, if your CRM is prohibiting you from connecting with your customers, generating new leads or cultivating relationships with potential leads, it’s time to walk away. We know it’s not easy to say goodbye, but we promise you’ll thank us later when you’ve implemented your new system, connected with customer in ways you never thought were possible, automated once tedious tasks and communications, built relationships with key stakeholders and audiences and have increased conversions, registration, sales and more!

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Lunch and Learn is a monthly learning experience where our team dives deeper into a popular marketing or technology topic to continue sharpening our own expertise to stay ahead of trends and changes in the industry. 

For our first Lunch & Learn, we snacked on deli sandwiches and shared our knowledge about the ins and outs of SEO, plus some helpful tips and tricks. Our goal with each Lunch & Learn is to provide recap videos of highlights (keep an eye on our social channels for more!) and an easy-to-use cheat sheet of information that you can quickly implement in your own marketing and technology endeavors. Check it out and start boosting your site traffic today. 

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You probably spend a lot of time on social platforms spreading your message, sending out updates, and posting inspirational quotes. But how much time do you spend actually listening to your followers?

Perhaps even more important than daily updates is the habit of tuning in to what people are talking about and what needs they’re expressing with the goal of tailoring your content to answer those needs and address their concerns.

It’s basic social engagement 101, and there’s no better place to start than with Twitter.

Yes, Twitter. Let’s do this.

Twitter Search

The easiest first step to take is to begin with a simple search in Twitter. It seems obvious, and yet so many people never take advantage of this feature.

Think through the topics you speak on frequently, list them out and then search multiple keywords and hashtag combinations around those topics to see what other people are saying. Note if the talk is positive or negative, if people have questions/concerns about it, or if there simply is no interest about it at all.

If no one is actually engaging with the topics you frequent, re-evaluate your strategies and find something different to talk about, or find a new, more interesting angle to speak about the topic to begin generating interest.

Using Other Tools to Listen

One of our favorite ways to listen on Twitter is by using the social tools in our Hubspot account to monitor activity. You can set up specific threads to listen in on a topic of conversation or a certain hashtag and then monitor that thread for as many days as you want. It gives you quick and easy access to see what people are saying in real time.

Plus, with just five minutes every hour or couple of hours, you can quickly favorite all the relevant tweets, respond to the especially intriguing ones and retweet a few others right from the dashboard. You never actually have to sign into Twitter.

All these actions work to pull users back to your own profile where you should already have a steady update of your own tweets on the topic to maintain your credibility. The goal is for these users to see your thoughts on the trend, and then engage with you further or follow you. This type of listening is especially useful during conferences, trade shows, events and local happenings (or national and international happenings—when it applies and makes sense in conjunction with your brand) because it allows you to reach a specific demographic of people who are ready to engage with an organization or business like you about a pain point or trend.

If you aren’t a Hubspot customer, you can enlist other tools with similar capabilities like Hootsuite and Buffer. It’s an investment worth making.

General Ways to Listen Actively

  • Respond to people’s tweets as much as you can. If your following is smaller, focusing even more attention to responding to and favoriting every single tweet that gets sent your way.
  • Ask questions. If you have followers who consistently tweet at you or favorite your tweets, send them some questions. Start Twitter conversations with them and learn as much as you can from them on what they like about your organization, what they wish they saw more of, what they need, etc. A simple “How can we help you more?” can begin a great learning experience for you both.
  • Host at Twitter talk. Choose a topic most of your audience would be interested in and advertise that you’re hosting a Twitter talk during a specified time. When that time opens, encourage people to tweet questions and let the conversation flow!

Here’s the bottom line: Listening to your audience is always a good venture. And with Twitter’s ease of access and informal engagement, you can quickly engage, teach and learn from your audience.

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Project management is simple, right? Not so fast. Over the past few years, we’ve seen similar challenges pop up in our clients’ projects, so today we’re tackling five problems and giving you the necessary tools to tackle them head on. Check out these five best practices for project management to help you conquer your hiccups and avoid them in the future. 

Problem: You’ve just been handed a very large project. Where do you begin?

Solution: Break it down.

No, we aren’t talking about the dancing kind. We’re talking about breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Understand all of the parts and pieces at play and determine who will play a role in the execution and implementation of that project or event. And if you need help managing that project or putting that event together, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Even Batman needed Robin from time to time.

Problem: You’ve broken down the project or event into something that’s easier to digest. Now what?

Solution: The project timeline.

The project timeline is the equivalent of a road map in a cross-country adventure. Not only does it tell you where to go, but it helps you estimate when you’ll arrive at your destination. About to launch a marketing initiative or campaign? Putting together your store’s anniversary open-house? Organizing a gathering or event at your church? Create a monthly project timeline with deliverables and milestones listed for each month. These include dates you need to book vendors by, expected inventory arrival, your website launch, RSVP deadlines, or when you need to start distributing print collateral to promote your event, product or service.

This project timeline should be easily accessible (scribbled on a scrap sheet of paper won’t cut it!) so that you can refer back to it when needed.

Problem: Life happened and you missed an important deadline. How do you prevent this?  

Solution: A physical calendar.

We know—it sounds simple and old school, but hear us out! Every day when we step into the office and settle into our chairs, our account managers look up to view a dry erase calendar of the next two months with website launch dates, direct mail drop and in-home dates, meeting reminders… and the list goes on! We don’t want to sound dramatic, but we live and die by these calendars. That’s not to say that we don’t use our Outlook or Gmail calendars to also manage our projects or daily lives, but by using this combination (and governing it with our project timeline!), we have a 360-degree view of a project or event and can plan ahead. And the best part? A fail-safe system that helps prevents us from missing deadlines and ultimately, disappointing our coworkers and clients.

Problem: You have a lot of tasks and to-dos that need to be completed and they’re starting to pile up. How do you restore order to the chaos and catch up?  

Solution: Make a list.

Whether you put pen to paper or open Notes, make a list. List all of the tasks that you need to complete. But don’t stop there. A running list of 30 to-do items will only add fuel to the fire and make you wonder how you can get it all done. Instead, once you’ve made your list, review all of the tasks that you’ve listed and determine what the top three to five are that you need to complete THAT day. Ask yourself the question: What do I HAVE to get done today? What are the items that MUST get completed so the show can go on? Tackle those items first! While you may not cross off 20 items (kudos to you if that’s EVER happened!), you’ll rest easy knowing that you accomplished the most important items pertaining to your project or event.

Don’t have any “must complete” items for that day? Great! Work ahead! You’ll be thankful when you aren’t crunched for time and can be proactive instead of reactive!

Problem: You know you need accountability—for yourself, your team, your clients and constituents. How do you provide it?

Solution: Status reports.

We love status reports. Not only does it help our clients to see what we’ve completed, but it also helps our internal team understand their role in that project, provide a snapshot of what’s pending, what we need approval or feedback on and what’s coming down the pipeline.

Whether you’re communicating internally or externally, a regular report and status of a project or event is critical information to provide. If you’re a church or nonprofit, think about your annual report. You provide this because your donors want to see how you’re stewarding their financial resources. The same is true for your internal team. Wondering what Bob’s workload looks like? Is Jim drafting that email or is Tammy? Did Susie get the programs printed for the gala? Status reports will quickly tell you:

  • Who's handling what
  • If you’re on schedule
  • Utilizing your time wisely
  • If your team (or you!) are being productive (hours put in does not equal tasks completed!)
  • Or if you’re working on a priority item

So the next time you’re handed a project, organizing an event or managing a campaign and are wondering where to start, refer back to some of these best practices and we promise that you’ll feel organized, empowered and ready to execute!

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We have a secret. We love old wives’ tales. Often times you'll see parents cite old wives’ tales, either because they have a love of them, or because they just like anything that would keep a houseful of rowdy kids somewhat in check.

A few along the way have proven to be helpful, but most were just tales… the equivalent of ancient urban legends, passed down from family to family, with a few twists along the way.

Which of these do you think are true?

  • It takes seven years for chewing gum to pass through your digestive system.
  • Hair grows back darker and thicker after it has been shaved.
  • Storing batteries in a refrigerator or freezer will improve their performance.
  • Going swimming less than an hour after eating will cause cramping and drowning.
  • Earthquakes are most likely to happen when the weather is hot and dry.
  • A baby born in-flight is given free airfare for the rest of his/her life.
  • Little Mikey of Life Cereal fame died from eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda pop.
  • Unwary travelers wake in their hotel bathtub full of ice to discover a missing kidney, a phone and a note instructing them to dial 911.

Perhaps the last two tipped you off, but none of the above are true.  In fact, Snopes, the popular website that debunks urban myths, is easily accessible and includes facts to back up the untruth of each of these.

So when data and facts are so easily accessible, why do we continue believing legends and folklore?

Now we would like to give you a few examples of some of our favorite “Non Profit Urban Legends.”  Be honest. Take a moment and note how many you’ve believed.

  • Donors like to give to projects but don’t want to give to general operating support.
  • Donors who support missionaries or missionary staff will stop supporting them if the organization solicits them.
  • Donors get excited when they see detailed information about how the non profit works on the inside
  • Facebook is a great place to share pictures of our non profit having a Monday afternoon team-building exercise.
  • Likes on social media are the equivalent to engagement.
  • People don’t give online.
  • A great way to show good stewardship is to let volunteers create the organization’s website (or outbound communications of any type).
  • Major donors don’t like hearing from our organization unless it’s through their major gift officer.
  • A board member who hates direct mail is the best person to listen to when it comes to deciding how frequently we should send mail to our donors.

Get the idea? None of these are true either. We need to take these with far more grains of salt than the few grains of truth that may be part of the origination of any of these.

Lots of good opportunities are missed because we insist on believing non profit urban legends instead of finding good, empirical data and evidence that tells us a different truth.

No, donors don’t want to see you and your organization having a cookout on Monday. You may get a lot of Facebook likes, but barbeque pictures don’t speak at all to the lives being changed through the dollars your donors provide.  Likes don’t equal engagement, unless someone actually DOES something because of the information you’re providing. 

Ok, that was a two-for-one... BUT, now that a few of the urban legends are debunked, go put your renewed knowledge into action! 

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Answer: Optimizing past blog posts. That’s it. That is the one SEO tip very few people are talking about. So if you’re interested in learning more about what that looks like, then keep reading. If you’re one of those people who reads the final chapter of a book before you even start the book, first of all shame on you, but I saved you from skimming all the way down to the “conclusion.” You’re welcome.

But why?

There was a recent study performed by the HubSpot blogging team that showed that 76% of their monthly blog views came from "old" posts (in other words, posts published prior to that month).

So we decided to do some data research of our own, and guess what we found. More than 80% of our monthly blog views came from “old” posts. We were shocked.

But we shouldn’t have been. This is exactly what inbound marketing is about: Creating SEO optimized blog posts that will continue to accumulate search traffic over time.

Why it’s important

We want to ask you a question. Have you ever found yourself considering the publish date listed in search engine results pages (SERPs) in order to determine which one you will consider clicking? We know for a fact that we have done this, and some of you may have too.

seo-tip.jpg

With more than 80% of our monthly traffic coming from old blog posts, people are searching on Google and our blog posts are recommended to them. But what if the content that is provided is outdated and irrelevant? Worst case scenario, that visitor will read your blog post for a few seconds, see that it’s outdated and may subconsciously see your company in the same light. No one wants that to happen.

That is why making sure to update and optimize old blog posts for today’s reader is so important.

So, where do I start?

Login in to your Google Analytics account or any other reporting tool you use to measure website traffic. Determine which blog posts have brought in the most traffic, but lowest amount of leads in the last year and consider doing three things to those posts:

  1. Accuracy: Update any information within the blog post that is no longer accurate
  2. Optimize: If you have access to Google’s Keyword Planner tool, do some keyword research for your blog post and find the most optimized keyword that is already included in your blog post. If there are none, look for keywords that have a decent search volume per month and are considered to be low competition, then make that the primary keyword for the post. 
  3. Freshness: When re-publishing the blog post, make sure to change the publish date to the current day. Updated content is Google gold.

Should I be doing this?

This all sounds fine and dandy right? However, in order for this to work, your blog has to have history. You will see the best results if you have lots of old blog posts that need updating and are already generating a lot of organic traffic. If you are just starting to blog, then focus in on those keywords for each blog post. This will make the process of optimizing the past in a year or two much easier.  

Optimizing past blog posts unfortunately isn’t the answer to all of your SEO questions. It is just one piece of the puzzle in order for you to keep having good ranking results within Google. Optimizing the past shouldn’t be your foundation for good SEO, but it is an added strategy that will surely get you results.

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There’s an art and a balance to bragging.

Brag too much and you repel people. Don’t brag enough and people think you aren’t accomplishing anything. Find the sweet spot and your non profit stays top of mind.

Why You Need to Brag

How many non profits do you follow and stay consistently interested in that never provide any updates on how their outreach is changing lives? I’m going to take a wild guess and say none. After awhile, those non profits drift to the back of your mind and soon you forget they even exist.

Sharing your stories of impact immediately boosts the health of your organization:

  • It puts donors’ minds at ease: “My money is being used wisely.”
  • It inspires people and reminds them that hope exists, even in the most desolate situations.
  • It builds loyalty. People don’t get tired of hearing about changed lives. Your consistency in sharing stories ties readers/followers/donors to you, because they want more, more, more.
  • It attracts new donors. Now that you’ve inspired people and built loyalty, you can start making small, non-urgent asks and you’ll see that people are willing and ready to give—all because you’ve cultivated them well with powerful storytelling.

How You Should Brag

However, the way you share those stories impacts whether or not you see inspiration and loyalty and new donors. Here’s where the “art” part of bragging comes into play.

1. Success Stories

Success stories of any kind are always powerful, but be careful of the language you use when sharing that story.

Let’s say you have a story of child being rescued from poverty and finding a loving home. If you say “Our team did ____” and “We went and helped _____” then the focus is ALL about your organization and what your team did. It takes attention away from the issue and the resulting solution.

Flip that thought on its head and instead try focusing on the individual that was helped. Tell his/her backstory, share what the child was rescued from and then THANK the reader because, after all, it’s only through your donors’ dollars that your non profit is able to do anything at all.

So let’s get the priorities straight:

  • Focus on the person who was impacted—tell their story, include vivid details, and always end with hope.
  • Focus on the donor or reader’s part in making the story possible. Use language like: “Because of you…” and “Thanks to you…”
  • Never turn the spotlight on yourself. Your non profit should only be in the story as the vehicle for change with the reminder that readers’ prayers, dollars, and resources are the fuel driving the vehicle.

2. Gather Statistics

A story can inspire, but stories only go so far for the skeptic wondering: Is that story just one stand alone instance or is it representative of the non profit’s consistent efficiency and effectiveness? That’s where numbers come in. Numbers are proof, evidence. Numbers can be even more powerful than stories.

So set some data points and gather intel. How many hungry children were fed? How many orphans found forever families? How many youth accepted Christ during camp? How many years has this continued? What’s the total number of people you’ve helped?

It’s all about data, data, data. Even a pessimist can’t deny the truth behind a powerful statistic. And to the outside world, strong numbers give your non profit undeniable credibility. 

For more on the power of data, see how you can discover your story through data and  learn how to tell it better because of data.

Now go get your brag on.

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“I” before “E” except after “C”. Easy as 1-2-3. The horse before the cart. Some things just go in a certain order.

Marketing is no exception. While it might appear as a creative endeavor on the surface, marketing actually requires ordered steps and strategic workflows to be effective. If you find yourself doing a whole lot of work without a lot of results, your marketing might be backwards. This most often occurs when organizations place too much of an emphasis on tactics without thinking through some of the key questions behind them.

The next time you find yourself wondering what comes first, ask yourself these three questions to keep your marketing focused:

1. What goal does this support?

This sounds like a simple question but it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing marketing for marketing’s sake, until you forget where you were going in the first place. Being specific (and realistic) in your goals will help you strategically map out what it takes to get there and prioritize your efforts to achieve the goals that are most attainable and impactful.

You should have a list of short- and long-term goals and be able to list out what goal each tactic in your marketing plan supports. If an idea does not support a goal, toss it – your time and money will be better spent elsewhere.

2. Who is my audience and what do they want?

Before creating tactics, it’s critical to understand who your audiences are and what they want from you. At the core of every marketing plan is an understanding of the different groups your organization serves, how you serve them and what it is they truly want from you. If the message isn’t right, all of the money and impressions in the world won’t get you the results you want.

Make a list of the primary groups you currently reach and the groups you want to reach. Some groups might have traits in common and can be reached with similar messaging, while others will have different needs and desires that warrant different messages, even if they all are promoting the same offering. The key to developing strong, audience-centric messaging is to understand your audience’s pain points and what they really want from you – the promise behind the promise. For example, the promise behind a new Bible study isn’t additional translations or added commentary; it’s a closer relationship with God. The promise behind addiction treatment is not just sobriety; it’s a happy future filled with healthy relationships and stability. You get the picture.

If you’re operating off of blanket messaging or broadcast tactics, or if you can’t define which audience a tactic reaches, your marketing might be backwards.

3. How will we get that message to them?

Here’s where the tactics come in. Things like direct mail, email, social media, advertising and content marketing are simply delivery systems to help you get the right message to the right audience in order to reach your marketing and business goals. Your tactics will be far more strategic when selected based on what audience you want to reach and where they live, work, play and get information.

If you’re letting tactics lead your marketing efforts, take a step back and think through your goals and audiences. Over time the tools may change, but the core principles of knowing your audience, speaking to their pain points and offering real value into their lives does not.

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Does your organization have a social media policy? In addition to your process for posting to your official organization social media accounts, it's important to think about what type of guidelines you want to provide employees and representatives of your organization for posting to their personal accounts. With everything being publicly available online, if people are posting about your organization, it should be done responsibly and respectfully.

While you don't want to be overly restrictive, your organization and its staff/volunteers need to take responsibility for what they write, and exercise good judgment and common sense when it comes to social media content. An official social media policy will effectively communicate your organization’s expectations regarding staff and volunteer use of social media.

As you draft your organization’s social media policy, here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Choose your audience. Begin with a broad and basic policy that applies to your staff. Once you’ve established that, then consider drafting a follow-up policy for volunteers, which is especially pertinent if your organization works with minors and volunteers actively use social media during events.
  • Know your target audience. If you’re primarily communicating with youth, know the channels they use. Be familiar with the latest stats and slang concerning social media networks.
  • Consider additional audiences. Remember that your readers include current potential registrants as well as current/past/future employees. Consider that before you publish and make sure you aren't alienating any of those groups.
  • Keep it simple. You could have sub-policies for every social media network under the sun (from Twitter to Tumblr) but an overall policy that applies to all social media posts and digital communication in general suffices.

Now that you’ve considered your audience, you’re ready to write your policy. Here are some key points that should be included:

  • Exercise good judgment and always proofread what you post. It’s very easy to misinterpret online communication.
  • Use social media to edify and encourage.
  • Social media can never replace face-to-face communication. Social media is a great tool for ministry but it has also, in many ways, taken away much of our personal connections. One-on-one personal interaction is still best for reaching the heart, minds, and souls of your audience. It’s still pertinent to focus on small group sessions, activities, and other in-person interaction.
  • Before posting to social media, ask: Would this person be happy with am posting or comment? If there is even a hesitation, don’t do it. Once a comment or post is published on the Internet you cannot take it back.
  • Always think twice before hitting send. Consider what could happen if your organization sees what you publish on the Internet and how that may reflect not just on you, but the organization.
  • When texting, be cautious about autocorrect, popular abbreviations (such as LOL, JK, LMAO, etc.), and emoticons. Auto-correct can often change the entire meaning of a message to something unintentional and even damaging. 
  • Respect copyrights. Always give people/organizations credit for their work and make sure you have the right to use something with attribution before you publish. Properly link to source URLs in blog posts.

Once your social media policy is approved, be sure to share it with your staff and volunteers and remember it’s a working document. The social media landscape is constantly changing so be sure that you continually review and revise your organization’s social media policy.

Does your organization have a social media policy? What best practices do you find essential to include?

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Taking time to pause… For me, that is the biggest motivation in hosting a retreat for the company.

It is always a bit nerve-racking to close the office for two days, but our annual company retreat is one of the most important things we do each year. Taking two days to focus on ourselves as individuals and as a team only serves to positively impact the way we serve our clients. 

We work hard every day with very little time to catch a breath between projects and tasks. These two days force us to unplug from work and just be together as a team. 

Celebrating the Past

Since we move so quickly from project to project, we sometimes miss all of the great work that happened in the last 12 months. During the retreat, we take time to deliberately celebrate all of our accomplishments. It also allows both our marketing team and our technology team to learn about other projects—projects that they may not have even had a chance to work on.

Learning from Mistakes

We also talk about things that did not go well. Doing so is just as important as talking about our accomplishments. We get to look at various projects as a group to try to figure out why it didn’t go well so we don’t fall into the same trap this year. 

Taking Time to Dream

Dreaming as a group is very important – we are not a large agency and, as a leader, I want to be sure that each person knows just how important they are to the overall success of our business; what each individual does can make or break our year.

We see every person on our team as an “owner” of the company, and each individual has the power to make The A Group great. With everyone’s active participation in setting the direction and goals for the upcoming year, we help set the tone for showing team members that they are invaluable to the team and what they do matters.

When we leave the retreat, we know that everyone is on the same page for the future and what it will take to get there. 

Why do a Retreat?

Yes, the retreat is a great time to look back on highs and lows while simultaneously looking forward to the new year with great anticipation. But taking time out to intentionally interact with team members outside of the office is perhaps the biggest reason for our annual retreat.

Watching our team interact and get to know each other on a personal level is so rewarding. The simple act of preparing a meal (or cleaning up) brings out different aspects of one’s personality. And all that interaction translates to a healthier office atmosphere; the better we know each other the better we work together. 

Over our two days out in the woods, we had focused sessions for learning, but some of the best spent time was the down time, giving folks time to interact together – be it over a board game, ping pong competitions, a disappointing Predators loss, cards or impromptu dance parties.

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Back in the good old days, marketing and campaigns were synonymous. You developed creative, purchased ad space and hoped for the best. In true Draper fashion, creative and “the idea” were the center of your world, while placement options were relatively limited and straightforward.

Today, with new digital channels creating a “24 hour marketing cycle”, it’s easy to feel like you need to be in constant communication with your audience. Because you can connect with people anytime and anywhere, and because marketers now have to manage multiple roles and areas of expertise, the focus often shifts to the channel – the Facebook post, the free download, the email blast – seeing it as the end rather than the means.

Call us old fashioned, but we still believe in the power of the campaign – perhaps more than ever. A targeted message to a targeted audience with a clear call to action and consistent visuals is, in our opinion, the only way to truly cut through the clutter created by advertising overload. Here are three reasons why marketing campaigns are critical to success.

Integration

Isolated marketing messages can be effective, but only in isolated scenarios. Someone sees your ad and makes a purchase, or Likes your Facebook page and gives you a call. But if you want to make a wide and lasting impact, you need integration.

Because audiences are bombarded with more marketing messages than ever, drip marketing is easily forgotten. To keep up with the pace of information, audiences need to be seeing your message across multiple touch points and through every interaction with you. There is nothing more powerful than mail, email, your website, your social media and your advertising working together to make a memorable impression.  A campaign helps you streamline your efforts and creates a messaging “home base” that informs each individual tactic and channel – helping you better reach your audience AND saving you tons of time.

Consistency

According to the old marketing “rule of seven,” a prospect needs to hear a message at least seven times before they will take action. With that theory developed in the 1930s, it’s likely that the number has increased due to the constant clutter presented to audiences. If you’re sending a different message with every piece of communication you release, it’s going to be much more difficult to truly make an impression on your audience.

Brand awareness is one of the primary factors in audience behavior and purchasing decisions, and it takes repetition and consistency to build awareness. When you’re getting sick of your message or art, your audience is just starting to recognize it. A campaign helps you stay consistent in your visuals and messaging, ensuring that you’re making multiple impressions on your audience, building brand awareness and inspiring action.

Measurement

Because campaigns are contained by theme and timing, it’s easy to measure how different efforts perform to reach your goals. Rather than just look to your overall bottom line as a gauge of marketing success, measuring campaigns – and each distribution channel within them – can provide us with a wealth of information and keep us agile. Measuring campaign performance allows us to test how different messages perform and which audiences are most engaged, while data from each channel can help us determine the best way to reach those audiences and the best places to put our dollars.

The best part? The real-time nature of digital marketing gives us data fast, meaning we can adjust efforts, move budgets and tweak messages as we go – saving money and maximizing opportunity.

The next time you’re struggling to keep up with the pace of marketing or feel like your efforts are all happening in a vacuum, take a breather, channel your inner Mad Man and think in terms of campaigns rather than channels. A great message backed by consistent visuals and strategically distributed to reach your target audience beats out clutter every time. 

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Since the very beginning of The A Group, our team has been focused on maintaining excellence in our industry and staying educated on changing trends and new marketing developments. 

This year is our 15 year anniversary (woohoo!), and we are so blessed still to be working with incredible clients passionate about making a difference and affecting change in the world. Recently, we attended the Christian Leadership Alliance conference and our president and founder Maurilio Amorim had the chance to share his vision for The A Group. Check out what he has to say about staying innovative and top of mind, even as times change.

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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:
© 2016 The A Group