Should your organization invest in social media marketing?

I want to attempt to answer the question for any nonprofit leader or marketing director out there who is wondering- Why should we be investing in social media marketing?

I’ll illustrate with a story that happened to me a couple months ago. I was at an event and noticed an individual I’d worked with some years back. I went over to him with the idea of asking if his company needed any marketing. Before I could even get to hello, he said, “oh, I have a client to send your way!” He ended up sending us quite a significant amount of work since then. He knew about us, he had been happy with our work – but until there was a visual reconnection, we were not on his mind!

Not that long ago, nonprofit marketers and fundraisers had to rely solely on extremely inefficient methods to remain at the top of their stakeholder’s minds; phone calls, which are tedious and time consuming; print ads or billboards, which are expensive and time-limited; or spammy and irritating email campaigns, for example. The popularity of social media has given us a gift; a relatively inexpensive way to potentially reach thousands upon thousands of people by providing them with relevant, interesting content that feels more like engagement and less like advertising. So if you are not on social media, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to visually and emotionally connect with your target audience in a way that allows you to be at the ‘top of their minds.’

The ROI of social media is very difficult to measure, which is one of the reasons many organizations shy away from even attempting it or give up after only a few months. We measure social media results in terms of engagement, not dollars; but by running a multi-channel marketing strategy simultaneously, you can actually put a dollar value on your efforts.

Looking for help with your next nonprofit marketing campaign? Schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help.

How to decide if you should use print as part of your marketing strategy

Print ads can be costly, so here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding to create print ads.

  1. Is what am I trying to promote targeted to a broad or a niche audience? If you’re looking for, let’s say, Frum people between 45-50, who are bird watching enthusiasts and take cruises once a year to Alaska, well then, you’re looking for a needle in a haystack and you’ll likely be throwing away your ad budget.
  2. Does what I am offering help people solve a problem or fill a need? If you are promoting a commodity, no matter how ‘pretty’ your ad is, people will likely flip past it. For an ad campaign investment to pay off, you need to be promoting something that will help people improve their lives in some way.
  3. Do I have the resources to create an ad with professional copy and design? If you’re going to create it yourself in Microsoft Paint, you can just throw the ad dollars out the window and save yourself some time. Professional marketers can craft a convincing, well designed message that will get the right results.

Any questions? As always, feel free to email me at

Thanks for reading!

MindBite: Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

Do you know the difference?
Customer Service: The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services

Customer Experience: How customers perceive their interactions with your company.

I’m reading a great book called “Never Lose a Customer Again” by Joey Coleman- and this line is worth printing out and hanging above your desk:

“Customer service is reactive, while customer experience is proactive.”

What does your business do to improve customer experience?

How to build your stress free, one page marketing plan

Adapted from an email marketing series that was sent to 14Minds email subscribers.

Part 1: Company Statement
You know you need to be investing in marketing, and you know how important having a plan is; nut where do you start? Don’t be deterred by the term ‘marketing plan’ – it’s really not as intimidating as it sounds. You don’t need to create a 30 page manifesto – in fact, a simple, one page plan is actually a much better idea! You can stick it to your wall, refer back to it, and easily change it up if the need arises.
Still feeling overwhelmed? I’m going to walk you through it, step-by-step!
> Open up a fresh google doc (or a Microsoft Word Doc, if you’re old school, or a paper, if you are REALLY old school!)
Answer the following questions:

  • WHY do you do what you do? (Hint: Making money is not the right answer).
  • WHO do you it for? 
  • HOW does it help them improve their lives?
  • WHAT differentiates you from the competition.

Now, look at what you’ve written and summarize your response into a brief paragraph. For example, this is my summary:
14Minds believes that every company should have the ability to market themselves as intentionally as the world’s largest brands. We implement strategic marketing campaigns for forward-thinking businesses & non-profits via a streamlined process that minimizes stress while maximizing ROI, allowing our clients to focus on achieving their dreams. 
The purpose of this summary is remind you of your mission and keep you focused. After all, if you don’t know who you are and why you are in business, you can’t really expect anyone to buy in! 
Take 10 minutes to work on this right now – no procrastination! And feel free to send reply here with your statement if you’d like a second opinion.

Part 2: Setting Goals

Imagine packing up your car and heading out for a road trip…with no planned destination. It might seem like fun at first – taking in the sights, exploring new places, and meeting new people. After a while, though, you’re probably going to get bored and tired. 
This is what you’re doing if you are trying to market your business without setting goals. You know you have somewhere you’d like to get to- you just don’t where that is! 
You want to set goals that are ambitious and will challenge you; but you also want them to be realistic. The best way to set a goal is to do an honest analysis of your current business. What do your customers really love about your business, and what can you do better? Which areas have shown growth, and which need improvement? If you’re not sure, ask! Make some time to speak to customers, non-customers, employees; look at your data, online reviews (if relevant)- until the insights you need make themselves clear. These insights will help you clarify your business goals; your marketing goals are the activities you will do to help you achieve those business goals.

Confused? Here’s an example. Let’s say I did research and discovered that a lot of customers in my target audience simply don’t know that my company exists; I would set a business goal to increase brand awareness. One example of a relevant marketing goal that I could set would be to grow my social media following by 1,000 followers within 3 months. 

>Do an impromptu situational analysis of your business. Based on the insights, write down ONE marketing goal for your business to work on achieving in the next three months. Next week, we’ll break down your marketing goal into small, attainable steps.

Part 3: Do the Math

Congratulations! If you’ve gotten this far, you now have a clear handle on your marketing goals*. That means you are setting yourself up to:

  • Use the time you have to work on marketing your business more efficiently 
  • Get everyone involved (partners, employees, etc) on the same page and working towards the same result
  • Actually see the fruits of your labor instead of just guessing

At this point, you should now have at least 1 realistic, measurable goal that has a specific end date. In order to get started on actually achieving it, you now just need to do some simple math! 

Example: To reach my business goal of increasing brand awareness, I want to grow my Instagram following by 1,000 followers within the next 3 months. 

Let’s say I currently post on Instagram once a week and engage for about 2 hours a week, and am averaging 20 new followers/week. I need to do approximately 4x the amount of work to get  >80 followers per week, so for the duration of the 3 month period, I will focus on executing at least 4 posts per week and engaging for 8 hours. This is obviously a very simplistic way of looking at things, and you should be taking other factors (such as strategic content marketing, which we’ll discuss in future emails) into account as well; but if you follow this basic outline, you should be well on your way to achieving your goal. This would work regardless of whether you’re trying to grow an email list, increase traffic to a physical location, reach a specific target market, increase your conversion rate etc. 

Q: What if I’m maxed out on the time I’m putting into something already and can’t make the math work? 
A: Your goal has to be attainable, so you either need to adjust your numbers or choose a different goal.

Q: What if I’m trying something completely new and don’t have previous numbers to base my math on?
A: Start with educated guesses, and give yourself a longer timeline to track results and tweak the numbers accordingly.

If you’re new to this, start with one simple marketing goal. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to have at least 3 strategies working in tandem to help you achieve a specific business goal. 

> Look at your marketing goal. Write down the amount of effort you are currently putting in, if any, and what the average results are (it’s ok if you need to guesstimate!) Now, figure out the multiplier by which you need to increase your efforts to reach your goal number.

*Note: There are many different ways to define marketing goals and differentiate them from marketing objectives, so don’t get sidetracked by terminology. My aim is here to keep this process as easy as possible, and to help you go from zero to focused without getting overwhelmed. If you feel like this is too simplistic for your business, and are interested in a more sophisticated marketing plan, let’s talk.

Part 4: Choose your Marketing Channels. 

What do I mean by marketing channels? Your website, email, print ads, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, messaging platforms such as WhatsApp – these are all examples of marketing channels.

Many marketers skip over this step or treat it as an afterthought. However, if you’re a small business owner managing your marketing on your own, your resources are limited. Keeping your marketing channels in mind when developing your plan will make your efforts more effective overall. Here are some tips:

  • Choose up to 3 channels (excluding your website, which is a necessity). You’ll only see real success if you can fully commit your time (and money, where relevant), so it doesn’t make sense to spread yourself too thin
  • strongly recommend choosing email as one of your channels. It may have been around for a while, but it’s still the best way to elicit a direct response from your market. Also, if you build an email list it is yours forever, while other channels force you to rely on a third party business.
  • Choose your remaining marketing channels based on where your target audience spends the most time

Now, this doesn’t mean you can never use any other marketing channels besides the three you’re committing to now. These three will be the foundation of your core, long term marketing strategy; you can always run additional campaigns to boost your efforts throughout the year.

> On your one page marketing plan, write down the three marketing channels you will focus on.


Part 5: What messaging should you be distributing on each on your marketing channels?
It’s really important to think this through. Best case scenario, the alternative is a lot of wasted time and efforts; worst case, you alienate potential customers. Here are some simple ideas to factor into your messaging:

  • Figure out what your audience really wants. Chances are, there are plenty of competitors who sell exactly the same things as you do, so simply describing what you sell isn’t going to get you far. Instead, tell people how you are going to help them get what they really want, which is not your end product or service but the benefit they’ll get out of it. Here’s an example; if you sell car seats, don’t talk about how you sell the latest styles with the highest safety ratings. Tell your audience how your car seat installation service, free with any purchase, will give them the peace of mind to know they’ve done all they can to keep their children safe. 
  • Always focus on ONE message at a time. It’s tempting to try to give over a lot of information at once (We’re having a sale! And we have a new product! And by the way you can visit our store for a special event on Sunday!) but that will only lead to your message getting lost entirely. Instead, choose one single action to focus on and include a clear, simple CTA (call-to-action) for your prospects to take the next step.
  • Tailor your message and tone to the channel. Each marketing channel has its own etiquette. For example, posting an advertisement on your Instagram feed is kind of like walking over to someone at a party and trying to sell them on the latest multi-level marketing scam you’ve bought into (#awkward). If you’re not sure what goes on what channel, spend some time browsing other websites, social channels, email, etc in your industry. 

Today’s task: On your one page marketing plan, write down the following three points: 1. What is the ultimate benefit my customers receive from my product service 2. What is the one action I want to focus my current marketing message on 3. What tone/style of content is appropriate for my marketing channels.

Part 6: Put your marketing plan in action with a simple sales funnel
Sales funnels CAN be complex and involve lots of different complicated tools, but they can ALSO be really simple and still get results. At its core, a funnel is just a sequence of communication – anyone can do that! Here are 3 steps to a basic funnel.

  1. Create a Lead Magnet: Offer potential customers something in exchange for their email address (or other contact info) and permission to receive additional emails. Anyone who fills out your lead magnet should be subscribed to your email list; the relationship is now yours to develop. (Lead Magnet Examples: Webinar, downloadable report, recipe)
  2. Nurture your Subscriber Relationships: The way you nurture these will vary depending on your industry, but the basic concept is to gradually break down all barriers to a purchase. For example: If you sell something complex, a buyer might be worried that they won’t be able to figure out how to use it. To alleviate this concern, you can follow up with a product demo. Providing testimonials or case studies is also a great way to move leads down your funnel.
  3. Have a Strategy for Sales Conversion: Your sales funnel allows you build trust and alleviate concerns, but most customers will need a final push before you can close the deal. Choose and commit to ONE strategy that will allow you to get over the final hurdle.
    Examples: Allow customers to try before they buy; offer a money back guarantee if the product/service is not as described; have three package options so customers can choose the one that feels right for them; offer an unlimited service.

Today’s (final) task: Determine your lead magnet, and list three ways you can nurture leads once they are in your funnel. Then, commit to one sales conversion strategy.

Tip: Today’s task is the only one that requires a bit of technological know-how, but don’t let that scare you away. If you don’t have a website or resources to set one up, there are simple tools such as LeadPages that will create a lead magnet on a landing page for you.

That’s it, our one page plan is done!

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Top 5 reasons (a.k.a. poor excuses) why small business owners don’t invest in marketing:

  1. I don’t have time
  2. I can’t afford it.
  3. My business is doing well already.
  4. My customers only come through word of mouth.
  5. I don’t have any competition.

Got an excuse? I’ve heard ’em all. Let’s break them down, one by one.

#1: I don’t have time.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you don’t have time because you’re busy with…your business? No doubt running a business is very time consuming, but it’s extremely short sighted to think that’s a valid reason to skip out on marketing. If you want to be just as busy, if not busier, in 6 months, a year, 5 years, it is a MUST to invest in marketing because that is investing in the future. Strategic marketing can actually free up some of your time. Are you busy pitching potential clients or customers, or chasing leads that don’t pan out? A proper sales funnel can filter qualified leads, so all you have to do is close the deal. Do you find yourself bogged down trying to explain your complex services? An effective awareness campaign can educate your target market before they call.
  • Investing in your marketing infrastructure is as important (if not more) than investing in active promotions. By infrastructure I mean branding, a website, social media, customer service, etc – these all the tools you need to ensure that when leads come in, they are impressed, informed, and eager to move on to the next step.

#2: I can’t afford it.

Here is one of my all time favorite quotes by Henry Ford: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” This statement can easily apply to all of marketing, not just advertising. The real response to “I can’t afford it,” is “You can’t afford NOT to.” It may help to look at marketing dollars as an INVESTMENT, not an expense; the same way putting savings into a 501K is not an expense. 

  • Every business owner has to figure out what ‘afford’ looks like for their business. There are varying industry standards but in my experience, allocating approximately 10% of revenue to your marketing budget is a good place to start. Looking to really grow your business? Figure out the revenue you’d like to reach (and have a reasonable plan to achieve it) and take 10% of THAT number. 
  • Even if you don’t have a lot cash to spare, there are plenty of free/low cost ways to market your business. Emails, social media, partnerships and incentive programs require little cash investment but can add up to major rewards for the health of your business overall.

#3: My business is doing well already.

It’s important to keep in mind that marketing is NOT advertising; according to The Wharton School, “Marketing is the process of anticipating, managing, and satisfying the demand for products, services, and ideas.” This process is NOT something you implement when you have a problem. Instead, marketing should be a fundamental part of your business operations.

Waiting until things go wrong to start investing in marketing is like waiting for a toothache to go to the dentist; lots of pain, wasted time (not to mention money!) just to hopefully get back to status quo. Like flossing and regular checkups, being proactive about the health of your business is the only way to avoid unnecessary problems- so you can focus on moving forward.

#4: My customers only come through word of mouth.

Word of mouth is very powerful and can actually be a viable part of your marketing strategy. However, it has to be an ACTIVE part of your strategy, not a passive one. Crossing your fingers and hoping that current clients will recommend you to future clients is NOT an active marketing strategy, and is not sustainable for any business that wants to grow.

What does active Word of Mouth marketing look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Encourage and share user generated content
  • Share reviews and testimonials
  • Create a referral program with incentives or hire brand ambassadors

Whatever you do, make sure it is AUTHENTIC – fake reviews, stock photos passed off as real projects, or brand ambassadors that don’t align with your brand – will do more harm than good. 

#5: I don’t have any competition.

You mean you don’t have any competition….yet? You can be the king of your industry one day, and the very next day someone decides to open a business and do exactly what you do…but better, or cheaper, or faster. Or maybe, someone invents something that makes your entire business model completely irrelevant! (Raise your hand if you remember those stores where you went to get your camera film developed?)

Investing in marketing keeps you one step ahead, and here’s how:

Clear Messaging: If your customers understand WHY you do what you do, if there comes a time when you need to pivot for any reason, they’ll still have a reason to believe in you. 

Customer Relationship Management: Truly loyal customers are not likely to jump to the nearest competitor, but will keep going to back to the businesses they trust.

Market Research: Stay up-to-date on industry trends, listen to the conversation on social media, run surveys, focus groups, etc, so you can predict the next trend before it goes mainstream.

Innovation: Think of new ways to improve or enhance your product/service – before someone else does.

It isn’t meant to be easy!

I was reading Seth Godin’s book, This is Marketing, over the weekend, and stopped short when I came to this page:

It takes a small amount of energy and guts to be authentic. You need to feel confident enough to let your true feelings be exposed, knowing that if you’re rejected, it’s personal. 

But there’s a lot of hiding involved as well—hiding from the important work of making change happen. If all you do is follow your (make-believe) muse, you may discover that the muse is a chicken, and it’s steering you away from the important work. 

And if the authentic you is a selfish jerk, please leave him at home. If you need to be authentic to do your best work, you’re not a professional, you’re a fortunate amateur. Fortunate, because you have a gig where being the person you feel like being in the moment actually helps you move forward. For the rest of us, there’s the opportunity to be a professional, to exert emotional labor in search of empathy—the empathy to imagine what someone else would want, what they might believe, what story would resonate with them. We don’t do this work because we feel like it in the moment. We do this work, this draining emotional labor, because we’re professionals, and because we want to make change happen.”

The use of the word authentic here is arguable; on his blog, Seth Godin defines real authenticity as “consistent emotional labor.” So I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that in the book, he is referring to the lazy version of authenticity, which is simply what feels comfortable and natural to someone.

Many entrepreneurs (or wanna-be entrepreneurs) use the excuse “it’s just not me” when it comes to marketing their businesses. I am including myself in this generalization! For example, putting myself on social media does not come naturally to me; but I have accepted that this is simply an EXCUSE, not a valid REASON not to be doing so, and am actively working to come out of my comfort zone. I’m definitely not saying that everyone has to be doing the same things to promote their businesses; in fact, that is the opposite of what you should be trying to do. To differentiate yourself successfully, you have to find what works best for your particular strengths, but don’t limit yourself to the confines of what feels comfortable. True marketing, as Seth Godin says, is “emotional labor” – it isn’t supposed to be easy!

What have you done lately to come out of your comfort zone? Comment below!

MindBite: Partnership Marketing

Let’s talk about partnership marketing.

Long before there was influencer marketing, social media marketing, and even email marketing, there was partnership marketing; a collaboration between businesses with overlapping target markets for the purpose of mutually beneficial promotion. I just saw an ad for Verizon Fios – they’re offering a free year of Amazon Prime if you switch to their service. If two giant companies like these are partnering up, why aren’t you? This is my number one advice to small businesses trying to ramp up their marketing efforts with a small budget. Find a complementary businesses and take advantage of their existing customer base, while giving them access to yours.

Some examples:

– A wedding photographer partnering with an event planner to offer clients a discount when using both services

– An ecommerce fashion business including free samples of a beauty companies products; in exchange, the beauty company displays stacks coupons for the fashion site in their storefront

The scope is unlimited- partner with another company to share the costs of a marketing event; go live together on social media, cross promote content, etc, etc!

What to think about before starting a new business

Many entrepreneurs call me on a high.

They have an amazing business idea that they just know is going to be huge. They want to hit the ground running, so we jump on board. And then, a few weeks or months later, or even longer, things grind to a halt. Why? Very simply, it all comes to down to a lack of research. Before getting started, these entrepreneurs didn’t take the time to really understand what they were getting into.

So in honor of the #newyear , here are (some) vital questions you need to answer before you start a new business.

1. MARKET NEED: Do people want what I am selling? If someone else is already offering my product/service, is there something significant that differentiates me from the competitors?

2. NUMBERS: How much is it going to cost to get the business off the ground, from the initial investment to the marketing and daily maintenance? How many customers would I need in what period of time to break even, and can I afford to carry the costs for that long?

3. TIME: Do I have the time to devote to getting a new business off the ground? Is my current family/business/social obligations going to allow for another major priority in my life?

Any other questions that you think are important to answer before you start a business?