Tag Archives: nonprofit

Are You Ready for Launch? A Checklist for Success

I haven’t posted a new article for a while as I’ve been super busy launching my first video game app Cavity Dragons, designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. I co-founded my business Gooseling, Inc. with my sister and fellow Mompreneur Vicky Keston to teach children social and life skills through Gooseling Logovideo games with the on-the-go convenience of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. So I thought what better topic to share here then tips based on my experiences launching new products and services.

When you’re getting ready to launch a major new product or service whether through a start up or established business, making sure you have thought carefully through the various aspects will prepare you for the busy whirlwind to come – and most importantly for success.

Here is a checklist of the key issues to make sure you have covered before you officially launch:

Your unique message and brand.  How will you differentiate your product from the competition? What is the branding and feeling you want to paint paletteevoke? What need does it fill? How does this messaging fit with your organization’s overall brand and messaging? Plan and articulate the messaging and make sure everyone has it to ensure cohesive, strong communications.

Your potential customer’s needs and wants. How you will reach them and why should they buy/use your product?

Review the resources, people, and skills needed to ensure a smooth launch.

Your publicity, marketing, and social media tactics which flow from your overall business and marketing strategy. What are the communication outlets (including the social media sites/communities) and tactics you have decided will have the best impact to meet your goals? How will you use content marketing – providing truly useful information – to help solve your customers’ problems and answer their potential questions that will help build your brand and business? For example, my sister and I started a parenting blog at gooseling.com/blog to provide useful information and advice on a wide variety of parenting issues in an effort to help parents, teachers, and practitioners while also building trust and our community.

Predict potential problems or issues that might arise and how you will handle them. We want to think everything will run smoothly, but in our question markimperfect world it is most likely that you’ll encounter some glitches. Watching for possible pain points and thinking about how and who might handle them will help you respond quickly if something does go wrong in the busy midst of launch. What are likely questions or issues might customers might have? Envision each step of the process from attracting their interest through serving their needs throughout the sales and service process.

Customer service, fulfillment and operations processes. Make sure all processes of who will do what are clearly articulated. You might think it should be obvious but in my experience surprises can arise when we assume everyone knows what their role is and it hasn’t been talked through. Visually mapping out the processes from when a customer inquires through completion of an order or delivery of a service labeled with the names of individuals or teams who will handle each step can help avoid last minute glitches.

How will you measure success? Sales and revenue are obvious , but are there other measures that will be important to show whether you are reaching your goals? For example, if you are a small start up with no name recognition building that reputation can take some time, so having some measures around chart baraudience engagement could be pivotal. If you are a larger, well established company you might have other related goals for your product launch such as how it helps sales in an ancillary product line or in addressing a concern customers have expressed in the past that you will want to measure response to.

Be flexible and prepared to change your marketing plan or other key strategies based on market response and the results you see.

Keep some work balance among key players to avoid burnout during the busy long days of launch. It’s an exciting but stressful time that usually involves crazy long hours, some time for rest and staying healthy is important.

Make sure you have a solid business plan, marketing plan, contracts, legal (including copyright/trademark issues), and other business aspects nailed down.

Plan how you’ll share the key documents like the marketing plan and task list and keep each other posted on progress and the sales and audience response.

What have you found most important in launching your new products or services?

Are You Working Toward Your Most Important Goals and Dreams?

Are you making the impact you want? Are you doing what is most important  to you?

When was the last time you stepped back and reflected on what your most important personal and professional goals and aspirations are?

chair_on_the_beachBeing more than midway through the year, take a few minutes to think about what inspires you, what you care about. What do you love doing, and wish you could stop doing? What gives you joy versus heartburn?

When you pause between the overflowing virtual inbox, emails and daily crises, are you making progress in making your dreams come true?

Think about it – three years from now where do you want to be? What are the big things you’ll need to do for that to happen? What will matter most that you are doing now? What are the stepping stones that will get you there?

Whether you take a long reflective walk or think about your inspiration in the back of your mind while enjoying a wonderful summer vacation, regularly reflecting on the big picture will help you from getting too mired down in the every day to build the future you are dreaming of.

What do you do to keep an eye on what you want to accomplish amid the every day rush of things?

Integrating Social Media into Your Overall Marketing and Organizational Goals

People often ask me questions about how to “do” social media right as if it is an amorphous separate new task we need to do well to succeed, disconnected from the other things an organization does.

network combs ball imageSocial media is a powerful platform and tool to build community, interactively communicate, and share useful content that supports what we do. However, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To be most effective, it is critical to use social media strategically to meet the goals and mission of the whole organization.

How you use social media should be integrated into your organization’s marketing and PR plan, along with your other communication vehicles, which all serve your strategic goals. Social media and more traditional marketing efforts can reinforce and support each other, for example in spreading your key messages and promoting products and services. Your emails can share content from your web site/blog and encourage people to “like” your facebook page or highlight specials only available on facebook or twitter. Your posts on facebook and tweets should drive traffic to your web site and share content related to your goals.

gauge_markingMeasuring and regularly reviewing how the different approaches and tactics are doing allow you to make changes on the fly to get the best results. My related article featuring tips for getting the most out of social media with limited time and resources offers highlights on using the most common social media sites for which purposes.

Social media especially lends itself to marketing and public relations but there is more and more emphasis today of the value of becoming a social business from leaders such as Brian Solis. They discuss the  impact of social media and this new age of transparency and easy interactive customer/constituent communication on the organization as a whole. In this previous post I shared ideas about how social media can be used for various sectors of an organization such as HR, customer service, crisis planning, product development, and knowledge sharing.

How do you use social media to meet your organization’s goals and mission? 

 

Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have enough to do in any given day. Since most of us are instead trying to figure out how the days fly by so quickly, regularly assessing what we can stop doing is vital to make more time for what matters most.

Clock showing time flyingA stop doing list is crucial to free up time for all the exciting new things we could be doing instead. But that can be easier said than done in the nitty gritty of the endless daily to do’s and urgent last minute small and big crises that come up.

Take a step back and think honestly – if your mentor or best friend was looking at what you do in a given day, what advice might they give? Are all your meetings, processes, and day-to-day tasks truly necessary? What role do they really play? How do they help you accomplish your most important personal and professional goals?

checkbox ticked offSo many organizations get enmeshed in processes, forms, and a meeting culture that can sap too much energy and time that could be used for getting the actual work done. It can be very easy to feel tied to these daily and weekly procedures and hard to see the forest for the trees. But reflecting on what purpose they serve and discussing them with colleagues can open up new possibilities. Just try to resist the temptation to substitute one process or procedure for another one if it doesn’t serve an important purpose.

Seek out efficiencies at work and in your personal life whether reserving certain times of the day for email and social media or grouping errands. Think about what times of the day you are at your best for creative activities like writing or strategic work like imagining what the best future for your organization would look like and developing new products or services. I try to reserve those times for that higher brain creative work and do more rote work at other times. It’s hard to feel productive if I do the rote things when I would have been at my most creative, and then try to be creative when I am tired.

In my previous post I discussed the process for regularly assessing your products and services to decide when it is time to stop providing something that is no longer profitable or meeting the goals you had for it. But  seeking out the opportunities to cut out some of those hundreds of little and big tasks and routines we all do can be equally fruitful.

What strategies do you use to make the best use of your time?

 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of a Product or Service?

As challenging is it can be to develop great new ideas, it seems even harder to discontinue a product, service, or event. Reflecting on what is really working and not working is crucial to the future of any organization. Nonprofits and associations also need to keep an eye on whether each membership benefit and program is still serving its purpose.

Whether your products, services, and events are profitable is the obvious, critical measure but other factors include:

  • stop red_buttonWhat do your most important audiences want and need? What problems do your key customers or members need help solving? Do all your current products and services still meet these needs?
  • Given changes in technology and how people live and work, are you delivering the right products and services in the right way?
  • Do they fit with your organization’s mission and priorities?

Products developed a long time ago may no longer fit those parameters but it can be very difficult for staff to step back and have an objective perspective, especially those who are closest to developing and maintaining them. It is natural for people to be emotionally invested and to fear change and how it might affect their jobs.

Graph ImagesUsing data that clearly illustrate the trends over time for sales, usage, expenses, and net revenue can help keep the conversation on the facts. Look at the role the product was designed to serve versus what is currently happening, and how the marketplace has evolved and is likely to change in the next year or two.

Honestly assessing what is working vs. what might be best to transition to a different iteration or to discontinue is critical to the future of the organization. It can affect people’s perception of your brand if they think you are stuck in the past with outdated products. Consider how discontinuing or revamping a product that is no longer fruitful can free up time and resources for exciting new ventures.

If you decide to discontinue or change the product, a careful transition plan that involves all affected staff is critical to success. Think through potential pitfalls and reactions and be prepared to be responsive, caring, and follow through effectively so that your provide as smooth a transition as possible. Testing the transition plan either casually or more formally with a small group of customers can help you anticipate issues and questions that might arise and how to best communicate the changes.

How do you periodically review your products, programs, and events to ensure they are still compelling and worthy of continuing?

Treat Your Customers How You Want to Be Treated

What does excellent customer service feel like? Think about your recent experiences as a customer or member and what was most important to you.

Thank you signatureWhich moments made you feel valued and happy? Smiling to yourself did you think I need to do more business with that organization?! Which experiences made you wonder to yourself why is nothing simple anymore?

What Kind of Experience Do You Offer Customers?

When was the last time you thought about what your customer, member, or donor’s experience with your organization is like through each potential step of the process? Whether it’s to make an inquiry or a purchase, check out what it is really like anonymously. What are all the points of potential interaction someone can have with your organization and where are the potential annoyances?

Two people with talking thought bubblesCall your reception desk or call center, email from an anonymous personal email address, place an order, test your e-commerce or online donation system. What impression did you get? Where are things going smooth as clockwork? How were you treated? Were there some surprises, bumps or bruises?

Watch for potential points of frustration and think about what you need to do to ensure your customers feel appreciated.  You know what superlative customer service feels like, envisioning how to offer that same level of service is a matter of commitment  to anticipate and avoid those aggravations you wouldn’t want to experience if it were you.

Another strategy I always suggest is to ask staff to share comments and feedback they hear from customers. What are the most important trends that members, customers, or donors praise or complain about? What the pressing issues customers talk about? In so many organizations this feedback is never shared so decisions are made that ignore the reality that customers feel and express to first line staff they talk to. Social media listening, that is monitoring customers’ conversations online, is another important way to hear feedback in addition to whatever regular market research you conduct.

Not every organization has the budget to offer superlative Nordstrom level customer care but it doesn’t cost a lot to make people feel special – starting with just how they are treated. For example, the tone everyone in your organization uses with customers is free — and imperative.

What are the strategies you use to make sure your customer service builds strong relationships and leaves your customers and members smiling?

8 Tips to Build a Large Facebook Following

With 1.06 billion active monthly users as of December 2012, facebook is an important marketing outpost for most organizations to build community and engage people in your mission, services, and activities. However, you want to have  a sufficient sized audience who “like” your facebook page to make your time spent using facebook worthwhile.

It is also critical to clearly articulate your goals for being on facebook so you and your team know what you are trying to achieve. Plan how you will provide compelling, fun content that will engage your customers, prospects, members, or clients which I discussed in this previous blog post.

Here are eight tips to attract people to “like” your facebook page so you build a good sized community:

  • Make sure your web site features a facebook social sharing icon link and that all your printed materials promote liking you on facebook.
  • Include a teaser promoting your facebook page in all staff members’ email signature blocks.
  • Share excerpts from your most recent facebook postings anywhere possible such as your email newsletter, with a teaser to like your facebook page so they can get more news like this.
  • Encourage people to share your postings with their facebook friends, periodically explicitly asking people to “pass the word on to your friends about the great news/photos we have so they can see it as soon as it’s posted, too!” (Or whatever other content you want to mention that you think is high value.) 
  • Mention liking your facebook page at meetings and events whenever appropriate. Consider having a laptop available for people to log onto facebook on the spot and “like” your page.
  • If you have a physical location put posters up at each door and by cash registers or other prominent areas promoting liking your facebook page. Hand out a postcard to each person along with their purchase that promotes your facebook presence, upcoming events, and other important things you want to highlight. 
  • For online purchases show a teaser at the last page of the checkout process thanking them for their purchase and encouraging them to stay in touch by liking your facebook page.
  • Seek out opportunities to share highlights of the kinds of content they’ll get if they like your page to make it seem enticing, for example videos, special offers, case studies, how to’s and tips, solutions to problems your customers have, etc.
What strategies have worked for you to increase your facebook following?

 

8 Ways to Develop Facebook Content that Drives Engagement and Sharing

As the largest social media site, facebook can be an ideal platform for building community, engaging people, and promoting what is unique and different about your organization, products, and services. Sharing compelling stories and entertaining posts on facebook reinforce your organization’s messaging and brand.

To make the best use of your time and resources, it is important to think through your goals for your organization’s facebook presence, such as increasing sales; driving attendance at events, attracting new members/donors, and providing customer service. What kind of people do you plan to reach and what are their needs and interests?

The temptation is to focus on the number of “likes” you get on your facebook page, and it’s true that having a good sized community to communicate with matters. But once people “like” your facebook page, they usually will not come back to it. The value of each “like” is that your postings will show up in your fans’ individual news feeds, so that when they go to facebook they see your messages along with what their friends and family are doing and postings from other facebook pages they have liked. But that value is meaningless if people don’t pay attention or respond to what you post.

shadows of two hands reaching for each other over background of stonesEngagement and sharing is your mission. Ideally what you are posting so interests your facebook fans that they “like” or comment on your individual messages, but the real nirvana is when they share them with their facebook friends. This way you are reaching new audiences while getting an implied endorsement from the fan that shares your message.

So what are the best ways to develop content that drives engagement and sharing? Here are 8 tips:

  • Use photos and short video clips, especially of customers, members, donors in a range of ages and demographics you are trying to attract.
  • Tap emotions such as funny, sad, touching, fun, vivacious, or hopeful.
  • Use active verbs and friendly, warm, more personal tone…avoid posts that just promote a product or simple solely sales-oriented statement like this is a great event to go to, instead highlight something interesting from or about it, give useful tips or other content addressing a problem or need your audience has.
  • Celebrate success stories, testimonials, achievements, social service projects, especially that reinforce your organization’s brand and messaging.
  • Share a fun meme (a funny or touching statement or quip with or without a photo or graphic) related to your organization’s mission, industry, or products whether you create one or use a public one.
  • Ask questions or use fill in the blank statements (such as my favorite memory/book/movie about xyz topic related to your organization is ___________) that engage and encourage conversation.
  • Share links to interesting articles or other content with a short, intriguing intro.
  • Gauge and test different approaches, days of the week, and time of day for your posts when they get the best attention and engagement.
  • Regularly review the traffic your postings are getting and focus on the strategies and timing that seem to be working best.

Which approaches have you found to be most effective for engaging and building your facebook community while meeting your organization’s goals?

Maximizing LinkedIn to Reach Your Career Goals

Networked SpheresLinkedIn can be a powerful tool for networking and enriching your professional life. But to really capitalize on its strengths it’s important to reflect on your professional goals and what you want to accomplish by using LinkedIn. You can spend a lot of time exploring the different features of LinkedIn but to be successful, know what you want to achieve:

  • Meet new professional contacts within your field
  • Attract new clients, customers, members, or donors
  • Find a new job
  • Gain visibility for your business or start-up
  • Recruit new employees or partners

The more you can articulate about that big picture purpose and then the specific outcomes you are seeking, the easier it is to finetune which tactics and LinkedIn features are best to use to accomplish them. For example, if you want to use LinkedIn to find new clients or business contacts, think through as many details about who your ideal client is as possible, such as industry sector, organization size/type, geographic area, job type/titles, interests, past experience or education.

Then picture what success will look like. How can you measure that?  An example might be that your active engagement in LinkedIn would result in 6 prospective clients and 3 confirmed new clients of XYZ type in the next six months.

Key Steps to Maximize Your LinkedIn Presence

Explore how you can use the different Linked features and functions to make your goals a reality such as:

Review your profile. Does your profile position you with the right keywords and accomplishments to appeal to people in the way you wish to be viewed? Use your headline as your personal brand and emphasize concise highlights of your results and impact. Complete your profile sections such as education, certifications, honors and awards, volunteer roles, and interests to reinforce your expertise while also showing that you are a well-rounded person. Do the same review of your organization’s LinkedIn page, taking advantage of features like the ability to highlight your products and services.

Regularly share useful information related to the expertise you would like to showcase, such as links to insightful articles, data, or research. Give an update about an important project you completed or that you are giving a presentation at an upcoming conference.

Join the right groups and engage in conversation. Search for groups related to your interests and professional goals, looking to see if they have active discussions happening. Show your expertise by answering questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn.

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7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media Presence With Limited Time and Resources

Which social media sites are best for reaching your customers, members, donors or clients?  With the constantly evolving landscape of social media sites and communities it can be overwhelming to feel you should have a presence
Person facing flight of green steps heading upeverywhere when you already have never ending to do’s and an overflowing email inbox. Yet you don’t want to miss an important opportunity to promote your organization and reach your current and potential customers. How do you choose how to best use your time on social media?

1. Think about your goals and what success will look like.

Even if you don’t have time to think through a full blown social media plan, it is important to at least briefly reflect on your most important goals for why you are using (or want to use) social media and how you can measure it. Is it generating
revenue, building community, providing customer service, getting new World globe map made up of puzzle piecescustomers/members/donors/sales leads? How can you use social media to share stories and content that support your brand, what is unique about your organization and products and services? What would success look like if it works the way you are envisioning? Be realistic as it takes time to build your presence and start to see results. Flexibility is key to try different approaches, testing various ideas and messaging is relatively easily through social media.

2. Where is your audience? Be sure to use “listening” tools.

I am often asked if organizations need to have a presence on “all” of the social media sites (accompanied by an overwhelmed catch of breath). The question I 6 different colored talk bubblesalways raise after asking about their goals and mission is do you know which social media communities your customers and potential customers use? Have you started “listening” on social media, that is, exploring what people are saying about you and discussing with each other regarding your industry or business where? Free tools like google alerts (for the general web) and twilert (for twitter) provide easy ways to monitor your brand name and business sector by signing up with them to email you when keywords you select are mentioned.

3. All or nothing? Refine your presence on one or two social media sites first.

It is hard especially when you are a social media beginner and/or have limited resources to have an effective presence on lots of social media sites. It is better to pick one or two sites that you think will have the best impact for your goals and audience and do them really well, then to spread yourself thin doing a little bit all over the place ineffectively. You can add other sites as you build success where you started.

4. Think about the unique environment of each social media tool you’re exploring and which is best for meeting your goals. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular social  media sites:

Each social media community has its own character, look, and feel, and type of audience or purpose which you want to become familiar with when you start posting there.

Facebook has the biggest audience with one billion members, a casual friends-oriented environment, and loads of tools and functionality you can use to build a vibrant community.

For professionals and business-to-business organizations, LinkedIn offers a powerful way to network with people in your industry, stay up-to-date about news in your profession. It’s truly become a replacement for the resume and crucial for recruiting talent.

Twitter gives you the opportunity to share short, snappy news bytes or updates that can be a very effective way to drive traffic to your web site as well. It’s also a great way to follow the organizations and people you are interested in and find out the latest trends. You can use hashtags (words preceded by the # symbol) to search for information or to join a tweetchat, a twitter discussion held at a set time on a particular topic (for example, most Monday nights at 8pm Eastern there is a marketing #MMchat sponsored by The Social SMO).

Google Plus while a smaller community than facebook has developed a passionate following among those who enjoy its design and environment. Your Google+ presence enhances how easily people can find your key web pages when doing google searches because for obvious reasons google gives preference to results from Google+. Google+ Hangouts have intriguing potential for a wide variety of uses, giving you the option of having free online video discussions with up to 10 people or hosting virtual meetings to an unlimited number of people by broadcasting a Hangout to them.

Pinterest is the hugely popular visual pinboard site in which community members “pin” photos that they like in different interest areas and categories. Closely intertwined with facebook, people are using Pinterest creatively to share everything from recipes to home design tips to business and technology advice.

Instagram is another widely used social media tool to create smartly designed graphic representations that express information and data in an easy-to-understand visual way, or to add special effects to your photos. People share instagrams through the instagram app itself, facebook, pinterest, their blog, or anywhere else they want to online.

5. Plan your staffing, who will listen, engage, and make decisions on the fly for your organization?

The main “cost” of engaging in social media is time and effort rather than “hard costs.” Social media gives the power to any size organization to make an impact but it takes time…and it is very public so you want to make sure that whoever posts on behalf of your organization understands your goals and what is appropriate in tone and substance.

6. Plan your customer service approach and proactively anticipate issues that might arise. 

Be sure to plan how you will respond to any customer issues that arise as people expect if you are online at a site that you will answer questions or concerns they post – and if your social media “listening” uncovers problems then address them as quickly as possible. Proactively prepare for what you think could arise, based on your audience and what you observe people “talking about” online. People can get nervous about the risk of social media uncovering issues but whether your organization has an official presence on a social media site or not doesn’t change that customers are online and they like to discuss whatever issues are on their minds on any particular day.

7. Gauge your progress and continuously test and update it as you go along.

Seek ways to monitor your progress, such as how you are engaging with current and potential customers in whichever social media communities you are using. Engaging people in an interactive, social way is a key benefit of social media that can help strengthen your brand, building loyalty and community.

How has your social media presence helped your organization spread the word about your services and products, or retain and strengthen customer relationships?