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Relationship Building in the Digital Age

18 Jun

Monday, June 18, 2012

To follow up with the series “It’s All About Relationships”, I wanted to offer some tips on forming relationships in the digital age. As you know, networking is vastly different than it was even 5 years ago. With the explosion in popularity and efficiency of social media, most networking is done via these platforms. You have the opportunity to build relationships every day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Are you taking advantage of these interactions? What follows are a few tips for each of the popular social media platforms to making connections and building relationships that last. 

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking tools online. It has a more professional environment than Facebook and Twitter.

  • Join groups that are applicable to your industry and/or interests.
  • Within those groups, post relevant and original content.
  • See who is connected to your the people in your network and ask for an introduction if you think it would benefit both of you.
  • Comment regularly on articles with intelligent responses or arguments.

Facebook
Though you can be more relaxed on Facebook than on LinkedIn, it’s still an opportunity to impress. 

  • Post regularly. That means something different to every company or individual so research the best days and times to do so.
  • Photos and videos draw people in more than words.
  • Dare to have a little fun by offering anecdotes, polls, trivia, etc.
  • Don’t oversell. Use it as a platform for a message.

Twitter

  • If you’re not using @ in your tweets, you’re probably missing opportunities to connect. Even just a ‘thank you for following, @…’ can go a long way.
  • Consistency is the key. Create a queue with tools like Tweue or Timely to make your program more efficient.

Pinterest

  • Post pictures that stir an emotional response.
  • Categorize pictures so they’re easier to look through and repin.

Blogging

  • Consider asking a guest blogger to write an article or series. You’ll automatically have a wider network.
  • A good headline to a post will get 5 times more readership than the article itself!
  • Comment regularly — and strategically — on other blog’s posts. (Follow the link for some really great tips.)

The Bottom Line:[Relationships are]… a collaborative bond, fostered via meaningful and well-timed communications and recognition.” 

Your turn: How do you network online? Which platform do you find most effective?

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It’s All About Relationships Part 4 – Marriage

4 Jun

Monday, June 4, 2012

You’ve met Mr. right. You’ve dated. You’ve proposed. Now, how do you sustain the relationship through til the ‘Golden Years’? In the same way a marriage takes a lot of work, so does a business relationship. It requires patience, understanding and compassion. (For this, I can claim extensive experience! Though I’ve only been married 6 years, I’ve learned a lot.)

Numerous external influences (i.e. children, in-laws, friends, etc. = competitors) will be at work throughout the lifetime of the relationship. So how do you ensure that you’lk keep your constituency? It comes down to maintaining customer loyalty.

Maintaining Customer Loyalty Through Customer Experience Management
One of my favorite college professors used to talk incessantly about what is now called Customer Experience Management or CEM. He totally believed in the power that relationships provide to the success of any enterprise. The more time I spend in public relations, I absolutely agree.

Non-profits especially carry a large burden because of their very nature. They survive on the generosity of individuals, charitable businesses and philanthropic organizations. Ensuring that their experiences at every touch point are positive — and rewarding — should be THE top priority.

Today’s business experiences happen not only in the office or storefront, but in the virtual world. According to Bain & Company’s report ‘Putting social media to work’, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20 percent to 40 percent more money with those companies than other customers.”


What does that mean for a non-profit organization? It means that to meet and interact with potential donors you have to have a presence in the social media-sphere. Not just a presence, but a personality, a purpose and a plan. According to the research, your donor are going to meet you online. So…

  • Create fangelists
  • Make social media platforms places where people feel comfortable coming and sharing
  • Run exciting campaigns to attract to constituents – contests, initiatives for donations, fundraising competitions
Customer Experience Management Also Means Customer Service
Also included in Customer Experience Management is customer service. It is 5 times more expensive to attract new clients than it is to retain the ones you already have. I know that in the non-profit world things don’t work the same as for-profit business, but the same principles apply. Every person who walks through your door or comes to an event or visits your website should receive the utmost customer service. If they feel unimpressed in the least, that’s it – you’ve probably lost them forever. People may approach you with an interest in the organization and not necessarily want to give yet. Have patience and offer them the same service you would a business sponsor or major gifts donor. I talk about customer service all the time with my clients because I realize its benefits on a regular basis.
 
***How do you know if you’re being successful? By completing regular SWOT analyses of touch points to see where you’ve excelled and what aspects you might have to re-evaluate. Always make sure what you’re doing is measurable so you can look back at trends and missed opportunities.***
Tracking Customer Experience Through Customer Relationships Management
It’s not only important to be on social media recruiting, but you have to track customer touch points through a Customer Relationship Management system. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a method of tracking customers and interactions with them for future reference. CRM systems for marketing purposes are used for things like:
  • Identify potential donors or influential fundraisers
  • Segmenting mailing lists by demographics, giving history, etc.
  • Recording all interactions whether phone calls, face-to-face meetings, social media, etc.
  • Analyzing customer data like giving history, fundraising dollars, participation, etc.
CRM platforms can be anything from Excel spreadsheets, databases, existing CRM platforms and any proprietary systems. By tracking the data, you sill be able to see and analyze trends.

Your turn: Do you use a CRM system to track interactions? If so, what do you use? What successful campaigns have you run on social media?

More from this series:

It’s All About Relationships – Meeting Mr./Miss Right
It’s All About Relationships – Courtship
It’s All About Relationships – The Proposal

Other related posts:

Customer Service and Its Place in the Public Relations Mix
Good Customer Service = Customer Loyalty

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It’s All About Relationships Part 1 – Meeting Mr./Miss Right

2 May

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 

The foundation for any successful business is relationships, whether we’re talking about a for-profit company or a not-for-profit organization. Lets think of it this way: You wouldn’t say yes to a marriage proposal on a blind date, would you? (Ok, I understand that there are some…er…adventurous?…people who might. But the general population would at least consider a second date first.) Maybe that example is a bit of a stretch, but it gives you a good idea of how to approach business relationships. For the purposes of this series, I’m going to use the premise of a non-profit organization. I’ll take you through the courtship of potential donors. Today we’ll start with ‘The Search’.

Meeting Mr./Miss Right = Cultivation

Before you can court someone, you have to find the right person, make connections, which is called cultivation. During the cultivation stage you are simply putting forth information out into the world and letting your “wing man” (to borrow a phrase) talk you up. How is this done? I’m glad you asked…

Fangelism
I believe that the foundation of cultivation should be this amazing principle called fangelismthe idea that existing volunteers and constituents, who already have a passion for the cause, engage people, initiate conversation and, ultimately, ignite excitement and promote action. All the other pieces should then fall into place. Consider this: If given a choice between a self-serving advertisement or an amazing recommendation from a third-party, which are you likely to trust more? Create fangelists to be the voices of the organization and help build relationships. Those people will then come and form relationships within your organization in an organic and personal way. They participate because they don’t feel pressured or conned. 

Social Media 

 People listen to each other more than us, so we need to stop viewing social media as another form of getting our message out…Its primary value is that it allows other people to get the message out, for us. – Katya Andersen   

This is particularly pertinent for those in the non-profit realm. After all, your ultimate goal is to promote your cause. The best way to do that is to support relationship building. Relationships are formed every day on social media. Donors don’t need another organization telling them why they should donate. Instead, give them a platform to share with you and other donors about their experiences — their stories, their souls — which will foster the support you need. Now, social media is just one platform non-profits have for cultivation, but it’s hugely relevant in our digital world and probably a good place to start. Use it to inform potential the community, promote events, stimulate thought, ignite movements, etc.

Ideas for Success
The key is to make people feel welcome to share on your social media pages and keep that momentum going. 

  • Make your Facebook timeline look and feel like a safe haven for story sharing. Timeline gives you ample opportunities for creativity. For ideas, check out other non-profit pages.
  • Have a current fangelist initiate discussion threads, themed posts or polls.
  • Invite a guest blogger to write about their experiences, which encourages others to share. 
  • Use Twitter hashtags (#) to initiate a collection of short stories.
  • Sign up for Pinterest and post relevant pictures that will cause people to dig a little deeper.
I would love to hear your ideas. Please share them in the comments section below so that others can benefit from your amazing creativity. Check back next week for the next installment in the series. 
Thanks for stopping by.
~Laura~ 
 
Other related blog posts:
Fangelism

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Reflections

31 Dec

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I learned a lot about myself personally and as a business owner in 2011, things that I will take with me into the new year and beyond. I learned that you have to anticipate problems and plan for unexpected changes. It’s all about being flexible. Not everything is going to go as planned, but having a contingency plan in place can save a lot of time and headaches. I was also reminded that public relations is a 24-hour business. It’s not something that ends when the business day is over. Instead, it takes constant strategy to maintain a brand. A brand’s character can be destroyed in a second…and it’s difficult to recover from. There’s a lot left to be learned on this journey of owning a business and I am so thrilled to be on it. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me. Thank you to all of my wonderful clients – and friends and family – for believing in me!

I can’t believe this year has come to an end already, but I am so excited for what’s in store for 2012. Happy New Year to you. See you in 2012 (by now, only a few hours away).

All the best,
-Laura

SWOT Analyses

3 Mar

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I just posted a few things on my Facebook page and Twitter feed about conducting SWOT analyses for your business. So I thought it might be beneficial to follow that up with a quick overview of what a SWOT analysis is and how it can help you make some important decisions within your business operations.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s utilized to examine the productivity of your business practices (i.e. marketing, publicity, finance, operational, etc.). The goal  is to determine how to better use these practices to your advantage while conducting them more efficiently. It will give you a general direction for pursuing your short- and long-term goals. And it’s simple really. You’ll have to set aside some time and commit to being brutally honest, but in the end, I think you’ll find that it was very much worth it. I would encourage you to try this at least once per year.

Here are just some of the questions to ask yourself for each item:

Strengths:

  • What are my advantages?
  • What do I do well or better than someone else?
  • What unique resources do I have?
  • What is my financial picture? (also applicable elsewhere)
  • Do I have an arsenal of new/innovative ideas?

Weaknesses:

  • What improvements could we make?
  • Where do I feel we are falling short?
  • In what areas do competitors have an overwhelming advantage?
  • What could/should I avoid doing?
  • What is my financial picture?

Opportunities:

  • Are there any interesting or promising trends?
  • Do I have beneficial partnerships on which I can capitalize?
  • Can I identify any untapped talent/markets?
  • Are there any advantageous changes in society, technology or media?

Threats:

  • Is there a competitor in my market that is better equipped?
  • How is staff morale?
  • What are my most immediate obstacles?
  • Is my changing financial picture affecting the long-term position of my business?
  • Will some of my products/services become obsolete because of technology, social changes, etc?
  • Do I have a contingency plan?

And it can be that straightforward. A simple list for each item is all you need. Audit your situation today for a more secure tomorrow. Good luck. Until next time,
~Laura~


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ABCs of Fundraising: Best Practices for a Successful Event

22 Feb

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fundraising, in some respects, is like an art form. It needs to be learned, appreciated, mastered. It’s true that anyone can ask for money; but, successful fundraising is more than that. It’s building lasting relationships for sustained giving and support. And even given the circumstances of our fledgling economy, charitable giving is up in the United States – over $300 billion!1 It’s time to harness the opportunity. Below are some of my suggestions – alphabetically, of course – for any fundraising campaign. (Note: All of these suggestions can apply to both fundraising campaigns and events.)

Awareness – Creating publicity for the event is first and foremost. If people don’t know about it, they won’t be there to support you.

Best-Practices – Establish a list of best-practices – a list of methods, activities or processes that will ensure a particular outcome – following your event/campaign that you can reference in the future.
Budget – Establish a budget during the planning stages. Consider including staff time and resources to establish a baseline which should make planning in the future easier.

Committees – Establish specific event committees, give them exact expectations, coach them and maintain Communication.
Confidence – Have confidence in your mission. Uncertainty will come across in your ask.

Donations – Obtain as many donated items as possible for the day-of (e.g. tents, AV equipment, photography, etc.). The less you have in expenses, the greater your profit. Or ask local businesses if they would be willing to donate a portion of proceeds for a particular product towards the event goal.
Donors – Make a list of your biggest donors and those people you have identified as the most potential donors (e.g. business owners, well-known society figures, etc.).

Efangelists and Fangelists Employ your brilliant efangelists and fangelists to spread the word for you. Remember that word-of-mouth is a highly effective tool.

Goals – Set realistic goals based on previous experience or similar events done by other organizations. Make sure everyone involved in planning the event knows your goal and your strategy to execute it. (Tip: Typically you don’t communicate this goal to the public, but do reveal the amount raised  and other pertinent details in a press release following the event.) Estimate your expenses for a more accurate picture of net income.

Honor – To bring in an even wider range of participants, honor someone who has been fundamental in mission integration and/or volunteering. Another idea is to honor someone who has been affected by your cause.

Innovation – The walk-a-thon is over-used, and let’s face it, kind of boring. Launch a new idea or even a variation of one that’s being done.

Jobs – Delegate specific jobs to day-of volunteers. Make sure they know explicitly what you need them to do. That way they’re not asking you questions every few minutes and you can concentrate on running your event.
Join – Have a station where people can join your advocacy network or sign up for membership and volunteering.

Keys – The key to any successful event is planning. Don’t rush into an event or campaign without having done research and planned every detail.
Keep – Following your event, hold a wrap-up meeting with your committee. Keep a record of everything that was positive and received good comments as well as the things that need improvement.

Leadership – It’s very important that your organization be visible in every way. That includes your board members. Have at least two or three  (board chairperson and vice-chair would be awesome!) attend your event to talk with constituents and, most importantly, donors and sponsors.

Mission – It’s not just about the money, but the mission. Ultimately, a fundraiser is conducted to further the mission of the organization. Therefore, the mission statement should be prominent in promotional material and at day-off activities.

Network – Join the local Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups, and non-profit organizations. The point is, be visible in the community in order to develop an extensive network.

Opportunity – Take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your programs and services, staff and even facilities. It’s ok to brag a little!

Purpose – Clearly define the purpose of your campaign. That sounds obvious, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Once you have it in place, everything else can be planned around your purpose statement.
Partnerships – Benefit from partnerships with organizations that share common values or that are willing to align themselves with your mission.

Quality – Quality over quantity. Yes, it sounds cliche, however, designing an event that is both exciting and entertaining will ensure that people come back. Your goal is to raise money, but retaining supporters is easier than recruiting new ones.

Research – Research your ideal donor. Research similar events to see how you can improve on the idea. Research, research, research. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Strategy – Plan your strategy detail by detail ahead of time so there are no surprises. You’ll want to have a contingency plan in place as well in case of bad weather, cancellations, etc.
Sponsorships – Approach potential donors and present the opportunity as a benefit to both their company and your organization.

Timeline – Formulate a logical timeline. This goes for the planning stage and the implementation of the event.
Third-Party Events – Third-party events are excellent ways to meet fundraising goals. Just make sure that the group you are working with aligns with your core values and mission. Not only is this a way to raise more money, but it’s great public relations for everyone involved.

Unique – A great way to get more participants? Make your event unique. Do something that hasn’t been done yet. Stand out.

Volunteers – Recruit a hard-working and trustworthy core of volunteers to plan and run the event. At some point, you may even be able to turn the event over to your volunteers, freeing you up for other  fundraising activities. (Tip: Don’t be opposed to holding informal interviews and having them fill out surveys to ensure they are a good match.)

Walk – Think outside the “walk”. How can you update it to better represent your purpose or brand? Better yet, come up with something altogether original.

(Sorry folks. There just isn’t much you can do with “x”.)
eXperience –  Capitalize on the experiences of your volunteers and supporters. Listen to their suggestions because in all likelihood they have some really good contributions for the planning and execution of your event.

Yield (results) – From year to year, you want to yield greater results. This may mean setting your goal higher, adjusting your strategies and/or updating your best-practices. Yield the results you want, but be proactive about it. A fundraiser is a 24/7, year-round event.

Zeal – Capitalize on the zeal and energy of your volunteers, supporters and attendees. Ask them about joining the committee, helping next year or just completing a survey of the event.

For more in-depth details and consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I want your event to succeed just as much as you do. Let me know if I can help.

~Laura~

1 Great American Merchandise & Events

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“Fangelism”

10 Jan

Monday, January 10, 2011

What is the one thing that all non-profits have in common? They all need money to fund mission-enhancement projects. And how do they acquire this lifeblood? There are thousands of non-profit organizations across the country that do all kinds of amazing work. They’re also vying for people to help. So where do you go for volunteer recruitment? How can you reach new donors?

Expand your search through “FANGELISM” of course.

The principle of “fangelism” is very simple really. But it’s implementation must be well-thought and seamless. The idea is: Existing volunteers and constituents – who already have a passion for the cause – engage people, initiate conversation and, ultimately, ignite excitement and promote action.

“They turn strangers into friends. They turn friends into volunteers.
They then do the most important job – Turn your volunteers into advocates for your mission.”*

This could take many forms. It used to be by way of traditional word-of-mouth promotion – friends telling friends telling friends…well, you get the idea. Word-of-mouth has evolved into the use of social media networks making it super viral and immediately accessible. I call it “E-fangelism“.

How do you create a successful e-fangelist?

Well, not all of this is totally in your hands. You might already have e-fangelists in the social-network sphere that you don’t know about. But what you can do is offer ways to coach and encourage your fan base. You want to make them feel that they have freedom in disseminating the message, but ensure that they do it with tact.

1. Confirm the core group of efangelists. Gather your development team and discuss which volunteers you would like to approach. These should be trusted volunteers who have a history of helping toward mission delivery and development goals. Create a list of best practices and guidelines for success. (Note: These will vary from organization to organization because expectations and goals are distinct.) Familiarize yourself with the platforms available to you: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, Foursquare, etc. You don’t have to be an expert in the various functions, but you ultimately want to know how each network can work for you.
2. Approach the volunteers and inquire about their interest in helping. Make sure they are aware of the full commitment.
3. Host a training session emphasizing key terms and concepts. Make sure they know the mission explicitly. Be prepared to do a tutorial for each social networking platform for new users.
4. Maintain regular communication with your team in order to circulate important messages and updates, offer encouragement and send reminders. (Tip: You will want to “monitor” new followers so you can follow up with them and, ideally, turn them into e-fangelists also. The key is to stay involved! Or if that’s not a feasible option because of time constraints, consider appointing a volunteer to serve as coordinator to organize the activities.)
5. Track your progress using features such as TweetReach.com and Facebook’s built-in insights attributes.
6. Tip: Always thank your advocates!! It goes a long way to hear that your work is appreciated. They will reciprocate by working harder.


What are the benefits?

1. The internet is more wide-reaching than traditional direct mail pieces. Most people in America participate in social media in some capacity. In fact, Facebook has more visits per week than Google in the United States.** You can reach more people in a shorter amount of time.
2. Volunteers can help do some of the work you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had time to commit to. You likely have many projects going on at once. They have one mission, one project to which they can devote their time and energy. A wider network of people doing one job should result in greater outcomes.
3. It’s legitimate “advertising”. E-fanglism is volunteers vouching for your successful programs. People value the opinions of friends and peers over the persuading of advertising from the source.
4. The message you communicate is immediate. And, therefore, you’ll be able to measure your return on investment (ROI) instantly.

You already have the most amazing, fervent sales team. Now, with a little coaching and encouragement, you can expand that network and continue to grow. If you’d like to know more about implementing e-fangelism into your development plan and for more tips, please contact me at 610.393.4430 or LRDConsulting@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

~Laura~

*adapted from Seth Godin’s concept
**Hitwise blog

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Happy New Year!!

31 Dec

Friday, December 31, 2010

It is officially the last day of the year. We’re saying goodbye to one year, but embarking into a one…with renewed optimism and the anticipation of inexhaustible possibilities. On this New Year’s Eve, for 2011, make a resolution to renew your dedication to your mission; fulfill your promise to customers; and above all else, be highly successful through strategic marketing and publicity planning.

I’m so excited to see what we can do as a nation built on the foundation of small and family-owned businesses to spark the economy! I can’t wait to work with fledgling non-profit organizations in order to perpetuate their missions to help others. And with so much loss, devastation and war, I can’t wait to work with churches, ministries and other religious organizations that support and offer hope to us all.

When you’ve made your resolution, contact me so we can talk about your unique situation. For more information on how I can help, please visit the “Services” page. I can’t wait to work with you in 2011. Happy New Year and may you and your family be blessed in 2011!

~Laura~

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Merry Christmas

23 Dec

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas!! I hope you enjoy the time with family and friends. May your Christmas season be blessed.

I can’t wait for the new year and for the exciting things to come. When you are ready to talk about your marketing, publicity or business development plans for 2011, don’t forget to contact me. I’m excited to see your achievements exceed your expectations. Your ambition for success is my motivation and I can’t wait to work with you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
~Laura~

Wacky Business Ideas!

14 Dec

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 (In case you didn’t read that right, there are only 11 days until Christmas!!*)

Are you thinking of starting a new venture, but just need a little encouragement? Here are some recent ventures that you will enjoy. The entrepreneur in me LOVES these ideas. I love and am always amazed at people’s creativity and can appreciate each of these enterprises for how they have made dreams come true, stimulated the economy and even (hopefully) brought joy to the consumer. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Imagine: chicken diapers and a construction vehicle playground! Amazing.    (Note: By clicking on the link below, you will be taken to another site.)

http://businessonmain.msn.com/browseresources/slideshows/print.aspx?cp-documentid=26600537

I’m always totally encouraged by stories like this. We live in an amazing country!! And when you’re ready to market and publicize your new business and want some help, contact me. Check out the “Services” page for details on how I can help. Until next time, be well and happy shopping!

~Laura~


*Just a side note: The reason for the season goes beyond presents, trees, lights and even family. The Reason left perfection in Heaven to be born into this imperfect world – to make us complete. Consider what CHRISTmas is all about this year. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Eternal life in the One true God. May God bless you and your family this Christmas season!


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