Tips to make people want to read your blogs

Posted by: on Thursday, September 6, 2012

What makes people want to read your web content? Just remember the last time you read an interesting blog or article and you shared it on Facebook, or forwarded an email to a friend with a "you need to read this!!"

Most of the time, it will be for one of the following reasons:

  1. It was surprising, unexpected or weird
  2. It was remarkably good or bad
  3. It was a great story
  4. It was visually striking - cute, beautiful, moving, funny or compelling
  5. It was helpful or solved a problem
  6. It was personally perfect - it made you think of someone and so you just had to send it to them

Next time you need to write some web content, use the list above and decide which direction to go with. You can choose one or several. It could be a great story with an unexpected twist. It could be helpful & funny. You get the point, right?

Now, why should you do this, simply because:

  • Boring doesn’t get read
  • Boring doesn’t get shared
  • Boring doesn’t get funded

Happy web content writing! 

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Four easy ways to take advantage of LinkedIn

Posted by: on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I know a lot of organizations & businesses that have a LinkedIn personal page or an organization/company page....but then what? What should we do now? How is this helping me, my organization, my business? The answer is simple: you need to participate, provide value and be active.

Did you know that many large organizations have staffing who sole job description is to manage their online social network? So here are 4 things you can do to take advantage of Linkedin without spending hours on end scanning pages:

  1. LinkedIn Answers (10-15 minutes/week)
    One of the best and under-utilized tools. Ask a question, once a week that is relevant to your industry and answer a few. Be relevant, be helpful, people will relate to that and see you as an expert.

  2. LinkedIn Groups (10-15 minutes weeks)
    You should join several groups  that are relevant to your organization. Consider joining groups that are not related to your industry as well but where you be a contributor. For example, if you are a meeting planner, don't just join meeting planning groups, join groups for entrepreneurs, marketing, etc

  3. LinkedIn Direct Ads 
    LinkedIn has a great advertising program that can can be used to drive new members or prospects to your website or groups. LinkedIn Ads work the same way as Google Ads work: you write a headline, add a sentence promoting your next large fundraising event, annual convention, etc. Then you bid on how much you'll pay everytime someone clicks on the Ad.

  4. LinkedIn Mobile
    LinkedIn has a great mobile application and you should download it for free. This App is best used at an event or networking function. If they have the app on their phone, just bump the two phones lightly and it will transfer your contact information between phones using blue tooth. No typing, no misspelled words, you got it all in an instant.

Have fun and happy networking!

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Seven ways to improve your landing page

Posted by: on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do you know that you have less than 10 seconds to make a new web visitor stick around? So the question then becomes: "how to make them stay?". It's easy: make sure it's not dull & boring and covered with all kinds all marketing blah blah blah.

Your landing page should be informative in tone and targeted to your specific audience. Here are few things that we find missing in many sites that would make a huge difference in increasing the number of visitors that stick around longer, translating in more sales/registration/inquiries, etc

  1. Use a clear Page Title & Description for your website:
    Why? Because this is what they'll see first in the search engine. Consider this: before they land on your website, they see your Google search result first. Try googling your company or organization and see what comes up in the search results. Is it descriptive? fun? informative? does it include an offer? 
  2. Have a self evident call to action button:
    It always baffles me to land on a webpage and have to seriously look around to request more information. I'm always left with: "why are you trying to make it hard for me to do business with you?" The call to actionshould be so self evident that your legally blind grand father could point it out to you! Color matters too, red gets better results than green or blue in A/B site testing. Not sure why but it does.
  3. Have multiple way for people to take action:
    Don't you hate when you can't find a phone number or even a simple address on a site. I may want to talk to someone, or even drive there if it's not too far. All that information should be on the landing page without having to dig. Yes, some people actually want to talk to a live person before they make a decision.
  4. Include social media links:
    Encourage people to check you out and possibly like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. Consider adding a "Like" button on your page so people can post it on their FB page.
  5. Include a quick & easy way to sign up for more info:
    No big commitment, just a name and an email is enough....we barely know each other, let's just start easy is the way to go.
  6. Respond quickly to all inquiries:
    78% of sales that start with a web inquiry get won by the first company that responds. Do you want to impress people? Respond within 10 minutes and see your sales increase dramatically.

  7. Have a great Thank you screen and awesome confirmation email:
    A lot of time is spent on design and layout but once I made my online does it look? You should make both the thank you page and confirmation email count. Include valuable information, make them feel like they have made the right decision by contacting your company or organization. Too many times, both those pages are overlooked and too often flat out boring.

Got it? Now go optimize your website and measure the results.

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Get a mobile strategy going before your competition does

Posted by: on Friday, August 31, 2012

In case you haven't heard, digital marketers are predicting that mobile searches will exceed desktop searches by 2014. In terms what that means for you is: "you better be ready!".

Look at the charts & stats below to get an idea of how it looks today. To get you started in the right direction, you should ask yourself the following:

  1. Is my website mobile optimized (mobile app vs responsive design)
  2. Are my email marketing campaigns mobile optimized 

Mobile strategy

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How to select the right colors scheme for your website redesign

Posted by: on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A lot of people we talk to struggle with choosing the right color scheme for their website redesign. Sometime it's simply with the color on our logo and other times, it's more like it's been like this since Nixon was in power...

But, there is a science to what makes a good website design and the color chart below can help you select the right color for your company or organization. Pay attention to the international significance if you have an international reach.

1-Pick the main color for your company or organization

2- With a couple of colors in hand, we would recommend that you go to your local paint store and create a combination of 5 to 6 colors to create your color voila, you have an official color scheme for your website.

You can view more palette samples on the Branded Out Loud Pinterest page at

Have fun!

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6 Membership Renewals Tips for a Non Profit Website

Posted by: on Friday, August 24, 2012

As hard as it is to believe, there are many associations and nonprofits that do not commit to the work needed for making their annual membership renewals a priority.

Many organizations simply send out a generic once-a-year renewal notice without any additional effort. This business-as-usual approach is a big mistake.

Member dependent groups are seeing an increasing number of individuals who are questioning the continuation of their memberships. And our current economic climate is another reason this is not a time for a passive approach to renewals.

You can improve improve your member retention if you use a structured focus that emphasizes personal contact.

Here are six tips that will increase the effectiveness of your renewal efforts. 

  1. Organize your renewal campaign as if it's your most important activity of the year. Create definite goals with an action plan for achieving your numbers.
  2. Recruit persistent people who are your get-it-done folks for follow-ups. Identify and assign personal connection match ups, and then do the follow up to make sure the contacts are being made. Remember, the everybody-try-to-call-somebody-on-the-list routine rarely works!
  3. Individualize renewal requests; and certainly don't address them to Dear Member. Supplement initial communications with telephone calls and personal visits.
  4. Communicate specific value and benefits to your members. What problem do your members have that being a part of your organization will solve?
  5. The best renewal activity is one that is ongoing. Work to get members engaged. Reach out to those whose attendance has been declining. Make sure you regularly let your members know they are appreciated. It's difficult for people to feel valued if they hear from you only when it's time to ask for money.
  6. Be sure to acknowledge each renewal with a personalized thank you, and have a process that ensures your members are getting the positive experience they paid for. 

Original Blog by Hardy Smith

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What should I share on social media? Here are 10 ideas...

Posted by: on Thursday, August 23, 2012

At a recent event in Chicago, I explained to the audience that social media sharing should be a daily activity (not a weekly or monthly activity), several people came to me afterwards and asked me what should they be posting. I could tell that they were puzzled and rather concerned about what to share.

So here are ten quick ideas if your creative well is dry.  

  1. Offer a sneak peek of an upcoming newsletter, event or program.
  2. Show what goes on behind the scenes at your office via a picture.
  3. Introduce a member of your staff.
  4. Report from the scene of your work or event.
  5. Share photos of your members/volunteers in action.
  6. Connect your work to a news story, trend or meme.
  7. Ask a trivia question related to your cause.
  8. Share a testimonial from a beneficiary or supporter.
  9. Choose a “fan of the day” and give them a shout out.
  10. Celebrate a success story.

If you start your week looking at this list, you will be able to quickly come up with at least one share a day, maybe even two.

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Quit Social Media? Not so fast…

Posted by: on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I just ran across an interesting post on The Agitator by Tom Belford on quitting social media.  Tom cites Erik Sass’s 9 Reasons to Quit Social Media Now … a thoughtful take on why social media isn’t always a net positive.  In closing, Tom calls for rebuttals, so here’s mine:

I absolutely appreciate the lead in to Tom’s post; at this point, social media is not a major medium for fundraising.  If you look at response rates and dollars generated by social media, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to email fundraising – which itself is only a fraction of the donations received via direct mail.

I would argue, however, that it misses the larger point of how social media is best used by nonprofits. 

First and foremost, social sites like Facebook and Twitter are best used by most organizations as a branding and engagement tool.  For most organizations, there is no quicker, cheaper way to communicate with donors than posting on your favorite social media site.  This truth is only becoming more prevalent as the stereotypical donor group (read: older donors) move online.

Social media sites are also one of the best ways to motivate the elusive 40 and under donors.  Dunham+Company’s recent study of online donations makes the point quite succinctly:

Social media motivating more donors under age 40

Social media shows no real improvement in motivating an online gift among donors 40 years old or older (10 percent in this survey versus 8 percent in 2010).  However, social media giving continues to grow among donors under age 40, as a full 30 percent now say they have given online because of social media compared to 24 percent in 2010.

My co-worker at New River Communications Christa Chappel just shared the perfect example of social media as a direct response channel:

…Florida Yorkie Rescue continues to engage and involve people (donors or prospects) on Facebook and the owner Kit has said that if it weren’t for her doing that on Facebook she wouldn’t raise as much money.  She doesn’t have funds nor time probably to participate in direct mail or do a major fundraising event but she posts about a situation (dog needing surgery), the goal amount to solve the problem, and all of a sudden within 48-72 hours she hits her goal.  I am a donor and have given to almost every one of her cases…

Bottom line, it’s a multi-, multi-, multi-channel world out there, and the prospect of quitting social media – even if we wanted to – isn’t really an option.  The only question now is: what do we do with it? The answer isn’t the same for every nonprofit, but I believe nearly all can find ways to enrich their relationship with donors who use some form of social media – and isn’t that just about everyone these days?

Now, off to tweet this to the masses…

Guest Blog Post by: 
Shaun Petersen 
New River Communications Account Supervisor 



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How often should you send email marketing?

Posted by: on Monday, August 20, 2012

According to ClickZ, a whopping 97 percent of consumers check their email every day. If you’re emailing members or clients, and I hope you are, that’s the good news.

The bad news, also according to ClickZ, is:

  • 72 percent of consumers state that they have “deleted email from a marketer that wasn’t relevant to me” 
  • 69 percent of consumers state that they have “deleted email from a marketer because I get too much email from them” 
  • 66 percent of consumers state that they have “unsubscribed from email that I had opted into because it wasn’t relevant”

Clearly, it’s not good practice to send people irrelevant email - or to send them too much.

But what does that mean exactly?  David Daniels of the aptly named The Relevancy Group offers the following tips.  

  1. Segment your audience and messages.  Not everything you email is relevant to everyone on your list, so the only way to improve your relevancy is to divide up your list and do the best job you can speaking to sub-groups of people based on their interests.  Before you say you don’t have the time for this, remember what Daniels says: “The cost to generate a dollar even from the inexpensive email channel is higher for marketers who do not segment or target their subscribers.”

  2. Focus on behavior. So how do you know what interests which people?  Pay attention to their reactions to the email they get.  Are they clicking on certain articles?  Use this information to group your supporters according to what interests them, and tailor your content to those groups.

  3. Incorporate testing and frequency caps. Set goals for your email campaigns.  How many people do you want to open?  Click?  Give?  Now try changing some variables and see if they work better against your goals - like the time of day you send, the type of content you include and the frequency of messages.  This can help you determine how much email is too much email - and how much is not enough.  I wouldn’t email people more than once a week except in very special circumstances, but your testing will give you the best answer on frequency.
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Words - the secret sauce in website marketing

Posted by: on Friday, August 17, 2012

Website marketing is about getting people to your site, then convincing them to take action: buy, join, subscribe, read more, etc. I'm going to give you the secret to unlocking the potential in your website. Right now. Absolutely free.

The secret is words
Hmmm... not very exciting, is it? Perhaps you were expecting something flashier and unexpected... like special META tags or coding or a secret search engine ranking recipe. The truth is that many websites just need more descriptive copy.

When many business owners set out to build a website, they start by looking at images, themes, and colour schemes. They worry over technology like Flash and JavaScript, wanting their site to be ‘cool’ and out-do the competition. Their focus is on the visual and the interactive elements of the site. They pony up thousands of dollars to designers and coders to get that cool, interactive site they feel they must have, then they get someone in the office who's not busy at the moment to throw together some copy. It's almost an afterthought.

All you need is words
OK, maybe that isn't all you need, but words are the most important aspect of your site. The professional that most people think they can do without - the copywriter - is the one who can have the biggest impact on the success of your site. No matter what your website looks like, plain and simple or a triumph of visual graphic art, if the words are right it will convert.

Search engine rankings & customer conversions
Search engine spiders can't read pictures. They can't read Flash very well, although they are making strides in that direction. The same goes for JavaScript and other non-HTML technologies; for the most part search engine spiders ignore what they don't understand and look for what they do understand - text.

The words that are visible to people reading the page are the key element that search engine spiders use to determine what your page is about (the other key element is links). Once the engine knows what the page is about, it can show that page to people who are searching for the words found on that page. That sounds pretty simplistic, but it's amazing how many pages only contain a picture and a few words, or Flash animations, or other non-text items.

Sometimes the text on the page is really an image and not text at all, making the information virtually invisible to search engines. Some designers will tell you that putting the text from the image into the ALT attribute of the image will solve the problem, but ALT text is virtually ignored by the major search engines these days. It's too easy to put irrelevant information in an ALT attribute.

While the site owner often thinks the picture says it all and the web designer thinks it's cutting edge, the site visitor wants to know more. The web is a research tool as well as a marketing medium and when viewing a commercial site people want to know all the benefits, sizes, colours, and configurations.

Words Make All the Difference
A company rents cotton candy machines in Kalamazoo. Their Cotton Candy Machine page has a big picture of a Cotton Candy Machine with ‘Cotton Candy Machine - $45’ under it. Their page title says ‘Cotton Candy’. That's all. A searcher typing in ‘cotton candy machine rental Kalamazoo’ will never be able to find this page, because the search engine doesn't know what this page is about!

A potential customer who does find the page may look at it and think, "Hmmm... the other rental place has their machine for $40, I'll call them instead."

You need pictures and words in order to sell effectively. Let's take our cotton candy example and redo that page in order to get more search hits and more customers calling to book it:

Page title
‘Cotton Candy Machine Rental in Kalamazoo’

Nice photo that we already had

‘Cotton Candy Machine Rental’

Add excitement to your next party or event with our Cotton Candy Machine for rent! The sweet aroma and taste of fresh cotton candy can turn any party into a festival.

You can also raise funds for your organization with our Cotton Candy Machine! Sell cotton candy at your next carnival, festival, or even gatherings such as school PTA meetings or church get togethers.
The low rental price of just $45 includes delivery, and we can even supply you with cotton candy floss sugar and cones.

Why Rent a Cotton Candy Machine from Our Company?
We are the only company in Kalamazoo that offers a Cotton Candy Machine with a safety bubble for your protection. Our Cotton Candy Machine is cleaned and sanitized after every use and inspected for proper operation before delivery. We'll even review the operating procedures with you when we drop it off.

Page footer on every page
Our Company Party Rentals in Kalamazoo. 
Call us today! (800)712-4567

The Payoff
A search engine will know that page is about cotton candy machine rental in Kalamazoo and your customers will know the benefits of renting from you. By taking the time to put all the information about a product or service and repeating the key terms where they make sense you can:

  • Help search engines to know what the page is about
  • Give people a reason to buy
  • Reinforce your company services or offerings
  • Spend less time on the phone/sending e-mails giving out basic information
  • Identify the location for local businesses

None of that requires a special copywriter, designer, or programmer. You can do it yourself!

Don't be tempted to sneak in extra words - hidden text is penalized these days and stuffing words in your image ALT attributes is a waste of time - most engines completely disregard it. And semi-visible or tiny text looks very unprofessional to your clients - it's just not needed. If you can't work it into the visible copy, you don't need it on the page.

Write a page title that reflects what the page is about, a good META description, keywords that appear on the page, then put all the information you have about the product or service on that page in visible text for your visitors to read. If your writing skills are lacking, hire a web copywriter, or even better a search engine optimisation copywriter. It may very well be the best investment in your web marketing strategy.

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