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The Ultimate Guide To A Successful NPO Email Strategy

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The Ultimate Guide To A Successful NPO Email Strategy

Effective email and newsletter marketing is crucial for a nonprofit organization’s (NPO) success. With scarce resources, limited staffing, and divided leadership attention, investing in marketing efforts can often take a backseat to more urgent matters.

Luckily, email marketing is both cost-effective and less time-consuming than other NPO marketing strategies. Regularly sent out, well-crafted newsletters can give your nonprofit authority while also helping you stay at the forefront of your donors’ minds.

Download Now: Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising  Trends for 2022 [Free Report]

By reading this post, you will discover how your nonprofit can stay connected with donors and attract exciting new prospects through personalized and meaningful email marketing.

Table of Contents

Why does email work for nonprofits?

Studies show that email continues to offer the highest return on investment (ROI) of any outreach strategy. TruConversion reports that an email marketing campaign can deliver a return of $40 for every $1 spent. This makes email the channel with the highest ROI that nonprofits can use to reach prospective donors.

Additionally, 91% of all US consumers still use email daily. Email can therefore enable NPOs to reach audiences that might not otherwise engage with their marketing efforts on social media.

Pro tip: Before starting a new email campaign, make sure it aligns with your nonprofit marketing plan and helps you reach your organization’s goals.

onprofit newsletter, 91% of US consumers still use email daily. Use email to reach new audiences.

Email Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits

1. Commit to regular sends.

Nonprofits are often stretched for resources, and it’s easy to set marketing aside for matters that seem more pressing. However, regular email marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow your organization. A content schedule for your emails can keep you organized you can frequently engage with and steadily grow your donor base.

Making email sends an “always on” part of your marketing strategy will play a big role in your success on the channel. “Always on” doesn’t mean that you’re bombarding your email list with constant messages — it means that you’re committed to consistency in how often you send your emails.

Send informative emails on a predictable schedule, instead of only when you’re actively running a campaign or seeking donations. This will help nurture your audience towards deeper forms of engagement (like donating or attending an event) in the future. Remember: the goal is building long-term relationships.

Setting the right cadence for your emails is important to keep the members of your list engaged with your organization. When you’re first starting out, this requires a careful balancing act. You don’t want to send too few emails, but you also don’t want to veer into potential spam territory. More on that in the next section.

Pro tip: Double-check that your email offers value to your readers before sending. Value could include the latest information about your nonprofit, ways to get involved, upcoming events, or recent projects your organization has completed.

2. Be wary of spam folders.

If your audience is only used to hearing from you on a one-off basis, you’ll need to gradually shift to sending more emails. A sudden switch could trigger some users’ email clients to send you to the spam folder.

Email deliverability can be a complex subject, but here are a few important things to remember if you’re transitioning to more frequent email marketing.

  • Don’t directly embed forms or include attachments in your emails. Linking out to web pages with forms is a better practice.
  • Send your emails from a recognizable address. If you can, avoid sending from a [email protected] address. Use a name your readers will recognize.
  • Lead with informative subject lines instead of direct calls for donations. Check out our blog post on picking great email subject lines.
  • If you’re emailing a list that isn’t used to frequent sends, let them know what’s going on. Tell your readers that you plan to start sending more informative emails, and most importantly, allow them to opt out. It might seem counterintuitive in the short term, but cleaning disengaged folks off your email list is important to the long-term health of your email program.

Pro Tip: Assign a staff member to send your monthly newsletter using their name. This increases your chance of avoiding donors’ spam folders.

For more tips on improving your email deliverability, check out our blog post on the subject here.

3. Leverage personal connections with your audience.

Personalizing your emails is a simple — but powerful — step that you can take to create a personal connection with readers.

First, make sure you’re using an email tool that enables personalization. It might be an investment upfront, but having access to personalization features will greatly improve the value your audience gets out of your email sends.

Worried about coming off as creepy or not sure where to start? Focus on personalizing emails based on actions your email recipients have taken on your website, advises Rachel Leist, a VP of marketing, automation, and demand generation at HubSpot. Instead of using personal data in your contact management system, perhaps thank them for a donation or downloading a report.

“If a person receives an email that refers to an action they took on your website, they will not be as nervous as they would if you were personalizing around specific personal information you happen to have on them,” Leist explains.

Pro tip: Personalize your emails by using first names and interesting taglines. Emails with personalized subject lines generate six times higher transaction rates.

4. Segment your database.

A segmented email list can help you ensure that the right person receives the right email at the right time. While everyone on your email list believes in your organization, you don’t need to send every email to everyone. Each person in your database is at a different stage on their journey with your organization, and the emails they receive should reflect that.

For example, someone who has donated $5 to your organization in the last year is probably not as engaged as someone who has donated $1,000 to your organization in the last month.

Factors like donation amount, events attended, and actions taken on your website or social media channels can all be important indicators of engagement level, and shouldn’t be ignored when you’re sending out emails.

More engaged audience members will likely respond more positively to more frequent emails, while folks with fewer touch points should receive fewer emails giving them more basic information about your NPO.

Pro tip: When people download your content or subscribe to your newsletter, make sure you enter them into a specific drip campaign that sends them automated emails relevant to the topics they are interested in.

5. Test, analyze, and adapt accordingly.

Finally, running an email program is not a “one-and-done” marketing strategy. You’ll need to note key performance indicators and make changes to your approach based on real-world data.

If you’re just getting started, industry benchmarks can be a useful point of comparison. But remember, not all NPOs are the same, and not all NPO audiences are going to respond the same way to emails.

To start, keep track of a few key email metrics, measure them with each email send, and look for trends over time. Our article on email marketing metrics for beginners offers a helpful starting place if you’re not sure what to track.

Pro tip: Regularly monitor your email open rate using the Hubspot email health tool.

How to Write an Amazing Nonprofit Newsletter

1. Write an eye-catching subject line.

Subject lines can be tricky. You’re looking for a short phrase that communicates your intent while retaining your non-profit’s unique voice. An interesting subject line should include the following elements.

  1. Urgency. You want recipients to feel the urgency to both open emails from your NPO and take action.
  2. Specificity. If you have an interesting statistic or data point to share, be sure to put it in the subject line.
  3. Upcoming events. To increase engagement, your newsletter should let people know what upcoming events they can attend or volunteer at.
  4. Name recognition. Pique your audience’s interest by including their name in the subject line (when appropriate).
  5. Relevancy. If current events or politics influence your nonprofit’s goal(s), referencing those events can make your newsletter more relevant and timely.

Pro tip: 46% of email opens take place on mobile, so be sure to make your subject lines 50 characters or less so mobile viewers can read the entire message.

Explore this blog for more subject line best practices.

2. Give compelling updates.

An amazing nonprofit newsletter should include the latest and greatest from your organization. Inform your recipients of recent goals reached, heartwarming stories of those you help, life updates of staff and volunteers, and anything else of note.

Pro tip: To make your emails visually interesting, take pictures during events to include in your newsletters. With permission, include the names of the volunteers pictured and describe what activities took place.

3. Have an attitude of gratitude.

Your cause is near and dear to those who subscribe to your newsletter. Their time spent volunteering and money donated should always be received with a spirit of gratitude.

Let email recipients know the immediate impact of their donations with interesting data points. For example, “Your donation helped x number of families” or “Your volunteer efforts fed x number of children.”

Pro tip: Some of your newsletter recipients will be more involved than others. Consider opening the line of communication with these donors by sending a personalized, non-automated email that references their specific efforts to the cause.

4. Include a Call-to-Action

A call-to-action (CTA) is an invitation to your audience to do something. In an email or newsletter, your CTA should be a button that links to the action you want recipients to take next.

Examples of CTAs for your nonprofit email could be “Subscribe to the newsletter,” “Donate now,” “Refer a friend,” or more. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your CTAs, and be sure to measure your conversion rate.

Pro tip: There are lots of CTA tools you can use to make linking to the next step easier. Explore common options here.

Examples of Nonprofit Fundraising Emails 

Want to put together an effective fundraising email? Check out some examples to get a sense of what your newsletter can look like.

Alzheimer’s Association

This Welcome email from the Alzheimer’s Association doesn’t lead with a request for a donation. Instead, the team connects recipients to the cause by providing them with resources to learn about the disease.

The main CTA urges readers to “learn the facts.” By gaining a greater understanding of Alzheimer’s email recipients are encouraged to act — either by advocating for the group, volunteering, or donating.

What we love: There are several resources shown in this email, targeting different groups affected by Alzheimer’s disease. A loved one could access a support group. A family looking for care solutions can explore their options. Most importantly, people living with Alzheimer’s are given autonomy and can get matched with a care team.

nonprofit newsletter examples, Alzheimer’s Association

Black Girls Code

This email from Black Girls Code focuses on one webinar that is open to all. By including events and participation opportunities, the nonprofit demonstrates value to those on its email list. As a subscriber, you’ll make sure you never miss an event.

What we love: This email utilizes design to strategically focus readers’ attention. The graphic that includes the panel’s speaker information and time are beautifully designed with eye-catching colors that pop over a black background. The only other colorful elements? Two bold registration CTAs in lavender.

nonprofit newsletter ideas, Black Girls Code

The End Child Poverty California Coalition (ECPC)

ECPC’s email demonstrates the importance of keeping your donors and volunteers informed. This section of the group’s newsletter explains how much the coalition’s Imagine Campaign secured and where funds were used. An infographic makes understanding the complexities of state budgeting easy.

What we love: ECPC has mastered transparency. The group acknowledges that not all of its priorities were included in the state budget. After, the coalition celebrates wins they were able to achieve. The use of honesty makes the nonprofit feel trustworthy and garners even more support.

nonprofit newsletter ideas, The End Child Poverty California Coalition

The Trevor Project

Awareness days, holidays, and important anniversaries offer special opportunities to engage your audience. This is especially true when you can tie the event to your nonprofit’s mission or research.

The Trevor Project sent a dedicated email on Intersex Awareness Day. In the email, the organization explains what it means to be intersex and the importance of acknowledging this community. Then, it links to a report where people can learn more about the well-being of intersex youth.

What we love: Not only does this email highlight Intersex Awareness Day, it also reminds recipients that October is LGBTQ History Month. Readers who didn’t have their calendars marked are now informed and will be more likely to engage with other Trevor Project research.

nonprofit newsletter ideas, The Trevor Project

The International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) faces the urgent task of assisting people in conflict zones and disaster areas. This email both explains what the organization does and its historical impact.

What we love: Highlighting articles and the organization’s history increases the subscriber’s emotional investment. Readers will also have a better understanding of the IRC’s values.

nonprofit newsletter example, the International Rescue Committee

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is one of the largest museum and research networks in the world. Keeping up with each museum and department would be exhausting. Luckily, the nonprofit’s marketing team has gathered the highlights into one, easy-to-read newsletter.

What we love: When we go to museums, we marvel at the artifacts and objects on display. The Smithsonian newsletter uses photographs to replicate this experience on any device.

nonprofit newsletter example, smithsonian institute

Save The Children

When folks first sign up for your emails, it’s a good indicator that they’re feeling engaged with your mission. Check out this automatic welcome email from Save the Children introduces the organization to a new subscriber and requests a donation at the end. Your audience wants to help — don’t make them wait!

What we love: Save the Children created a simple infographic to show how a small donation can make a big impact. This can encourage supporters to contribute.

nonprofit newsletter example, save the children

Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) demonstrates in the email below how to update subscribers on important current events. By referencing recent policy changes that were helpful to their cause, CCL can both thank their email subscribers for their hard work while getting them excited about future progress.

What we love: This email does a good job of providing relevance and timeliness to the nonprofit’s conversation. nonprofit newsletter example, Citizen’s Climate Lobby

826 Boston

826 Boston is a writing, tutoring, and publishing nonprofit that works with students and community members. As a local nonprofit, community events offer an opportunity for Boston residents to get involved and learn more about the organization. This email highlights Books for Breakfast, including critical information about where the event is held and when.

Pro tip: If your organization relies on donations from corporate sponsors, email offers an opportunity to showcase your partnership. This creates added value for the businesses you work with.

nonprofit newsletter example, 826 Boston

Wikimedia

Not every donor or subscriber should be emailed every day. Wikimedia is sparing with its calls for donations, making their infrequent sends more impactful. By highlighting a past action and demonstrating urgency for a repeat donation, recipients will be more likely to give.

This type of email works best for past donors and less active members of your email list. Even though they don’t visit your website daily, they may be willing to donate on occasion.

What we love: This email from Wikimedia shows what percentage of your donation goes to which parts of the organization. This creates transparency and makes donors feel good about their contributions.

nonprofit newsletter example, Wikimedia

Free Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

Want to use professional email software for your nonprofit without breaking the bank? There are several free versions of professional marketing software that you can use. Check out what some of the most popular programs offer. Then, decide which option works best for you.

1. HubSpot Email Marketing Software

HubSpot offers a free version of its paid email marketing software that integrates with its free CRM software. Users can run a sophisticated marketing campaign and get access to forms, landing pages, and Facebook, Instagram, Google, and LinkedIn ads, as well as templates.

HubSpot also has access to contact management and live chat capabilities. These tools allow you to optimize the experience for each subscriber. There are also traffic and conversion analytics capabilities for campaign optimization.

2. Sender

Want to reach lots of people with beautiful, personalized emails? Sender could be just right for you. This program has extensive HTML editing and personalization capabilities. Sender also has impressive analytics capabilities that allow you to track the delivery and opening of individual emails. You’ll also be able to build individual recipient profiles to further optimize your strategy.

3. Sendinblue

If you’re looking for variety in your emails, Sendinblue has you covered. This program includes over 70 responsive templates for emails that can be designed for any screen. The free version gives you the ability to send 300 emails a day.

You also have the ability to use A/B testing to find email content that works and segmenting options to make sure the right person receives your message.

4. SendGrid

SendGrid specializes in email campaigns that are tailored to individual preferences. Its free version gives you access to a wide range of personalization tools, including APIs, Webhooks, and STMP Relay.

You’ll also have granular control over who receives your emails with a wide range of delivery optimization tools. Plus, you can access sophisticated email editing and analytics tools that allow you to optimize sends for your target audience.

Start Today

You don’t need to be a professional marketer to get professional results from email marketing. However, you do need to set some time aside to get started.

Remember, email marketing when done thoughtfully, can have a big payoff. Get started today if you haven’t already, and you could generate more buzz for your organization than ever before!

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Top 6 SEO Tips for Bloggers that Will Skyrocket Google Rankings

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Top 6 SEO Tips for Bloggers that Will Skyrocket Google Rankings

The majority of blogs rely heavily on search engines to drive traffic. On the other hand, there is a misunderstanding that creating “SEO-optimized content” entails stuffing keywords into paragraphs and headers, which leads to barely readable blog articles.

But that’s not what SEO is all about. In this article, you’ll discover the top 6 SEO strategies and how crucial they are for improving your blog posts rank in Google search results.

How Important Are Google Rankings For Your Blog?

Search engine traffic is essential if you’re blogging in hopes of growing your business. After all, what’s the point in writing content if no one is going to see it? The higher your blog post ranks in Google search results, the more likely people will find and read it.

And the more people who read your blog post, the more likely someone will take the desired action, whether signing up for your email list, buying one of your products, or hiring you as a coach or consultant. So, it is essential to have SEO optimized blog.

How To Incorporate SEO Into Your Blogs?

It would help if you started putting these six pieces of constructive SEO advice for bloggers into practice immediately:

1. Write For Your Readers

The standard of blog writing started significantly declining when “SEO content” became a buzzword. Instead of writing for people, they began to write mainly for robots in search engines. Unfortunately, some bloggers still express themselves in this way nowadays.  

But luckily, things have greatly improved, especially since the Hummingbird update and the rise of voice searches. The Hummingbird update was developed to assist Google in comprehending the purpose of searches.  

For instance, Google would understand that you are seeking nearby restaurants if you Googled “places to buy burgers.” It influences SEO because search engines are now more geared toward providing answers to queries and supporting semantic search rather than merely focusing on keywords.

You typically utilize Google, Bing, YouTube, or even Siri to find answers to questions. Take that idea and use it to improve your blog. Your writing should address the concerns of your intended audience in detail.

Your blog shouldn’t exist solely to help you rank for a particular keyword. Instead of concentrating on keywords, shift your attention to creating content that addresses the issues of your target audience.

2. Link to High-Authority websites

Don’t be scared to use external links when you construct your blog content. In addition to giving blog visitors more resources to read and learn from, linking to reputable websites demonstrates to search engines that you have done your research.

Research-based statistics from reputable websites are the best way to support blog content. Using compelling statistics will help you create a stronger, more specific argument that will help you win your readers’ trust.

3. Design a link building Strategy

Your search ranking is significantly impacted by link building. Why? Consider search results a contest where the people who receive the most votes win.

Google considers every website that links back to you as a vote for your website, elevating your content’s credibility. You will move up in ranking as a result. Here are some starter ideas for your link-building:

  • Communicate to other bloggers in your niche and offer to guest post on their website. Include a link back to your blog in your guest post.
  • Participate in online and offline community events related to your niche. For example, if you blog about fitness, you could attend a trade show related to fitness or health.
  • Create helpful resources that other bloggers in your niche find valuable, such as an eBook, cheat sheet or template. Include a link back to your blog on these resources.
  • Leverage social media to get your content in front of as many people as possible.

4. Learn About Google Webmaster Tools

Do you remember getting a warning from your teacher when you did anything incorrectly in elementary school? Your opportunity to clean up your act and get back on track to avoid punishment was given to you with that warning. In a way, Google Webmaster Tools serves that purpose for your blog.

Google Webmaster Tools will warn you when something suspicious is happening with your blog by giving you diagnostics, tools, and data to keep your site in good condition.

What you can observe in the Webmaster Tools Search Console is:

  • The percentage of your pages that Google has indexed
  • If your website is having issues with Google’s bots indexing it
  • If your website was hacked
  • How search engine bots see your website
  • Links to your site
  • If Google penalized your website manually

The great thing about Webmaster Tools is that it informs you what’s wrong with your website and how to fix it. To resolve any difficulties Google discovers with your blog, you can utilize a vast knowledge base of articles and a forum.

5. Include Keywords in your Meta Description

Does your post include meta descriptions? If not, you’re probably not providing your content with the best chance of being seen. Google also analyzes meta-descriptions to determine search results. The one- to three-sentence summaries beneath a result’s title is known as meta descriptions.

Use meta descriptions to briefly summarize the subject of your post, and keep in mind to:

  1. Make it brief.
  2. Use between one and two keywords.
  3. Since there will likely be other postings that are identical to yours, you should make your description stand out from the competition.

6. Establish Linkable Assets

A linkable asset is a unique, instrumental piece of content that’s so valuable people can’t resist linking to it. It’s similar to dining at a fantastic restaurant and a merely adequate one. You’ll go out of your way to tell everyone about the excellent restaurant, but if someone asks if you’ve been there, you’ll probably only mention the merely adequate one.

The ProBlogger job board is an excellent example of a linkable asset. For independent bloggers looking for compensated writing opportunities, it’s a terrific resource. The page is constantly linked in blog posts on monetizing your blog or websites that pay you to write for them. Why? Because it is rare and costly.

You can build the following linkable assets for your blog:

  • Free software or apps
  • Ultimate guide posts
  • Huge lists
  • Infographics
  • Online guide
  • Influencer tally reports
  • Quizzes
  • A case studies
  • Industry studies or surveys

Final Thoughts

By following these six SEO tips for bloggers, you’ll be well on your journey to improving your blog’s Google ranking. Remember that SEO is an ongoing process, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. The key is to be patient and consistent in your efforts, and soon you’ll start reaping the rewards of your hard work!

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B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research]

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B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research]

In The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath illustrates all competitive advantages are transient. She contends everybody understands that. So why hasn’t basic strategy practice changed?

As Rita writes:

Most executives, even when they realize that competitive advantages are going to be ephemeral, are still using strategy frameworks and tools designed for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage, not for quickly exploiting and moving in and out of advantages.

That last part resonates after working with hundreds of enterprise brands over the last 10 years. Most businesses think about how they can change content to fit marketing’s purpose, not how they might change marketing to fit content’s purpose.

Guess what? Your content will never be a sustainable competitive advantage or differentiator – all content assets are easily replicable and, at best, only transient in differentiated value.

In the newly released Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs B2C Content Marketing Benchmark, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2023, I see it’s time to feed the content giant that awakened last year. But be careful not to get so distracted by the food you fail to cook consistently over time. All too often, content marketers get wrapped up in content creation rather than in the ability to lead the capabilities to create consistently.

Content should be a strategic activity

Look at content operations as the catalyst that can change everything for your content marketing challenges. You should recognize the activities you perform are a competitive advantage. Success hinges on the ability of a team (of one or 100) to be dynamic and fluid – moving in and out of “arenas” (as Rita calls them in her book) of content and creating temporary advantages.

Here’s the real takeaway: Ask everyone in your business – including your CEO – if they believe compelling, engaging, useful, and dynamic content-driven experiences will move the business forward.

If the answer is yes, then the strategic value lies in your ability to evolve and coordinate all the activities to create those content-driven experiences repeatedly. It does not lie in the content or the distribution plans. Your team’s job is not to be good at content; your job is to enable the business to be good at content.

#ContentMarketing’s strategic value lies in the ability to repeatedly deliver content-driven experiences, not the content itself, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Consider some highlights from this year’s research.

Struggle is real for content marketing strategy

Content marketing remains important.

Seventy percent of B2C marketers told us that content marketing has become more important to their organization over the last year. (Only 4% say it’s less important.)

Importance of B2C Content Marketing in the Last Year

With an increase in importance comes a need for more resources. When asked what they would change about content marketing in their organization, they say they want more staff, more budget, and better access to subject matter experts.

70% of #B2C marketers say #ContentMarketing is more important in their organization than last year according to @CMIContent #research via @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Yes, content marketing is more important, but content marketers struggle to keep up with the demand.

Why?

Because so many businesses treat content marketing as a campaign-, project-focused effort that requires different “assets.” Content marketers are so busy churning out projects of content that they haven’t figured out how to make it a repeatable, consistent, and scalable process.

As far as their biggest challenges in content marketing, 57% of B2C marketers say creating content that appeals to different target audiences. Rounding out the top three: developing consistency with measurement (44%) and differentiating our products/services from the competition (40%).

B2C Organizations' Current Content Marketing Challenges

57% of #B2C marketers say they are challenged to create #content that appeals to different target audiences according to @CMIContent #research via @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Solving all three of these challenges centers around strategic content operations – setting a consistent long-term strategy to differentiate, developing a measurement plan that stands the test of time, and scaling to meet the needs of different audiences. But most marketers aren’t planning to acquire the help to tackle those challenges. Among the resources they plan to hire or contract in the coming year, almost half (45%) say they will look to grow writers, designers, photographers, and videographers.

It’s like trying to design a bigger house by simply adding more bricks.

45% of #B2C marketers plan to hire content creators in the coming year. @Robert_Rose says that’s like designing a bigger house by adding more bricks via @CMIContent #research. Click To Tweet

But B2C content marketing is working

Despite their challenges, talented practitioners find success. Overall, 81% of B2C marketers rate their success as either moderately, very, or extremely successful. Only 2% say they were “not at all” successful.

How B2C Marketers Rate Their Organization's Overall Level of Content Marketing Success in Last 12 Months

And 86% say content marketing provides a “meaningful/purposeful career path.”

These results align with the research discovered in CMI’s Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook (registration required). We found though content marketers are generally happy in their current roles, they would be happier if their organizations prioritized content marketing, backed it with strategies and resources, and invested in technologies to help them do their jobs faster and more efficiently.

The final bit of good news? Almost three-quarters (73%) of content marketers expect their organization’s investment in the practice will increase or remain the same this year. Only 3% believe it will decrease.

Different activities, not more efficient ones

The B2C research presents some interesting insights into the priorities for 2023:

  • Businesses must increasingly stop organizing and scaling new marketing teams based on platforms, technologies, or inside-looking-out views of the customer journey. The format and placement of those experiences on multiple channels will always be temporal. Success happens when the business becomes skilled and integrated at operating and managing all manners of content-driven experiences.
  • Businesses must stop looking at content from a container-first perspective – designed solely to support marketing tactics or initiatives. Success happens when the business recognizes content operations as a function, supporting the fluid use of content to fuel better customer experiences.
  • Businesses must not say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” when one experience no longer works. Success happens when the business can healthily disengage and dismantle experiences that aren’t working. They can constantly reconfigure their activities and manage portfolios of content-driven experiences.

Starting with the wrong premise

Often the first sign of trouble in any content marketing approach is when you hear, “How do we get more efficient at content?”

Efficiency involves changes to a process to remove friction. The question often assumes a working, standard operation providing value already exists. But if there is no repeatable standard operation, efficiency ends up meaning producing the same or more content with the same resources.

That rarely works out to be better for the business.

The more difficult task for content marketers is to determine the different activities necessary to create or augment the processes and identify the activities to undertake differently.

The content you create provides no sustainable competitive business advantage. But a strategic content operation just might.

Get the latest Content Marketing Institute research reports while they’re hot – subscribe to the newsletter. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Renting vs. Owning the Post-Review Local Consumer Journey

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Renting vs. Owning the Post-Review Local Consumer Journey

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Technology can be a conductor or a barrier. Everything we do to market local businesses is meant to culminate in a human encounter. When we get our part right (and external forces smile upon us), technology connects us. When we get our part wrong (or external forces impede us), technology can have the frustrating effect of sundering local brands from their customers, with everybody losing out on the deal.

The modern phenomenon of local search exemplifies the concept of a “mixed blessing”. Loss of control over significant parts of the customer journey can be a source of legitimate stress for owners and marketers. Stress isn’t good for us, of course, and that’s why I’m hoping this message brings some welcome relief: control of the most important aspects of the consumer journeys remains strongly on your side, and you can thrive without the parts you have to give up. We’ve got data to back this up, thanks to Moz’s recent report, The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior, and I’m hoping today’s column will lift some burdens that may have been weighing you down.

The data

Let’s start out by taking a moment to really reflect on what it means that 96% of adults read local business reviews. Basically almost everyone in your community is perusing this content, making it the widest possible road to your front door, but the truth is that it exists in a space you only partially control. Given that only 11% of review-readers trust brand messaging over public opinion, reviews matter greatly, and it’s a tough reality that they mainly happen in digital spaces you rent rather than own.

If something goes wrong with your reviews on third party platforms like Google, Nextdoor, or Yelp, such as a spam attack, or the random disappearance of your reviews due to a bug or update, or a single irate customer shouting half-truths or downright falsehoods through a megaphone amid a small number of reviews, you have limited direct recourse for resolution. Platforms may or may not respond to your pleas for help, and some customers may ignore even your best offers to resolve their complaints – the sense of lost control is not imaginary.

Here is the good news: for 91% of your potential customers, the very next step they take after reading reviews will land them in spaces you own. 51% will head to your website, which you fully control, 27% will visit your place of business, which you also fully control, and 13% will contact you, and it’s you who control your phone and text lines, your email, forms, and live chat. Apart from the 8% that will move from reviews to the profiles you rent on social media platforms, management of customer experiences is almost all on your side and in your house.

Barring mishaps like your website being infected with malware, a temporary closure of your premises due to illness, or a power outage bringing down your phone lines, it turns out that you remain in charge of key customer/brand experiences during nearly all of the post-review consumer journey. Great news, indeed! But it carries some big responsibilities with it.

Converting on the next step after reviews

The wide funnel begins to narrow as consumers transition from reading reviews to their next steps. Winning maximum conversions from their next actions depends on having the right welcome in place in all three of these spaces:

The local business website

Whether customers click from the review profile to your website homepage, or to a landing page your listing is linked to, prepare this welcome for them:

  • An accessible, secure, technically-clean, optimized website housing the multi-media content and features the customer needs to take their next steps towards a transaction.

  • Highly visible information on every way in which the customer can contact and visit you, including phone, text, chat, messaging, email, forms, hours of operation, maps, and written directions.

  • Additional first-party reviews to provide further proofs of your good reputation and tide you over in times when bugs make your third-party reviews go missing.

  • A unique selling proposition to seal the deal.

Your place of business

Whether your place of business is your physical premises, or your clients’ locations, you can shine on this main stage with the following:

  • Exceptional customer service based on the training of your staff and good management of the entire customer service ecosystem. With 65% of review writers saying they’ve written negative reviews because of experiencing bad or rude customer service, building an employee-centric company that radiates both happiness and helpfulness is your best bet for building an excellent reputation.

  • Careful guardianship of your supply chain. 63% of review writers say they’ve written negative reviews after purchasing bad products. The quality of your inventory supports both repeat purchases and high ratings.

  • Accurate online local business listings. 52% of survey respondents have written negative reviews after encountering incorrect business information on the Internet. Use of listings management software like Moz Local can ensure that what’s published about your business online (like hours of operation, addresses, and key services) matches what the customer will experience in the real world, preventing inconvenience and disappointment.

Your contact options

Whether a review reader turns next to your phone line, text line, live chat, website form, or email, assist them towards a next conversion by:

  • Reducing on-hold times on your phone line to the bare minimum

  • Ensuring all public-facing representatives of the business are well-trained in your products, services and policies

  • Providing realistic estimates of when a customer will hear back if they are required to leave an email address on chat instead of speaking immediately to a live person

  • Reducing the number of form fields the customer is required to fill out before reaching you

  • Offering an after-hours support option

  • And, of course, for the 8% who will visit your rented spaces on social media platforms as their next step after reading reviews, be sure your full contact information is included on your profiles.

Despite the market disruption of the Internet, so much about local businesses remains the same

Infographic depicting the cycle of consumer engagement. Top middle: blue circle with image of person working at a computer, text:

While technological innovations are ongoing, it’s apparent that deeply-rooted consumer behaviors continue to follow a traditional pattern that’s existed for hundreds of years. In summary, people in your town want to know what others say about your business >>> people want to connect with your business for a possible transaction >>> people then tell others about what they experienced with your business. All of this cycle has always happened offline, and the only real change is that the means for some of this communication has partly transitioned online.

Just as business owners always had to do without the ability of controlling the word-of-mouth reputation their community was creating for them on front porches and over fences, modern business owners can live without directly controlling the online brand sentiment that exists in spaces they have to rent rather than owning. While it’s true that traditional PR may have had more power to shape public perception before online local business reviews made individual consumer voices so loud, the not-so-secret ingredient to brand longevity and loyalty remains unaltered: great customer experiences at and around the time of service are the foundation of success.

What every local business needs today is a thoughtful plan for managing the digital assets that now contribute to these positive consumer experiences. The winning recipe, then, is developing high standards for the spaces you own (your website, place of business, and most contact methodologies) and being as hands-on as possible in the spaces you rent (the online profiles containing your local business information, reviews, and social content). With a workable strategy and good quality tools for managing this ecosystem, the development of your good name in the community you serve will follow.

Knowledge is power; read Moz’s full survey report: The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior

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