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Four Keys to Writing Good Marketing Copy

How do you write good marketing copy?cartoon person holding a pen

In a nutshell:

  •  Think about your audience. Who are they? What do you know about them? Use that information to craft a personalized message.
  • Talk like a real person, and write like you speak. Shorter and simpler is better than longer and more complex. Don’t be excessively formal, don’t use jargon, and don’t use undefined acronyms.
  • Focus on benefits not features. Present your offer from your audience’s perspective, not the association’s.
  • What’s your call to action? If the answer is, “I don’t have one,” don’t send the message.

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Seven Keys to Great Testimonials

One of the best ways to promote your association and its programs, products, and services positive testimonial comments in word balloonsis to let your members, customers, audiences, and other stakeholders do it for you.

In other words, to use testimonials.

ASAE’s June 2010 Communications Section newsletter (login required) listed 7 key questions to ask to generate compelling testimonials:

  1. Why did you choose to participate with <your program>?
  2. What are your 3 favorite things about your participation and why?
  3. What’s the most valuable aspect of your participation and why?
  4. Please tell us about any specific success you’ve experienced because of your participation.
  5. How has your participation benefited your organization?
  6. Is there anything we could do to improve your experience?
  7. May we use your comments, with attribution? [VERY IMPORTANT]

So where do you find people who might be willing to answer these questions?

  • Your feedback forms, like post-conference and post-webinar evaluation forms. Make sure you have at least one open-ended question with a comment box (rather than all Likert scales), as people will often leave comments you can use almost verbatim once you have permission.
  • Your unsolicited praise. Did somebody say something nice about your programs, services, or customer service, either verbally or in writing? Ask them if you can use it.
  • Your loyal fans – and you probably already know who they are. When you’re looking to generate fresh testimonials, they should be the first people you ask.

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The Mission Driven Volunteer Rides Again!

Earlier this month, Mission Driven Volunteer co-author Peggy Hoffman and I had the opportunity to present about our research on this topic for Wild Apricot. As is often the case with webinars, we weren’t able to get to all the questions during the Q&A. So we’re answering them now.

What do I do about volunteers who are invested in the old way of doing things (standing committees, hierarchy, “paying your dues” before you can get involved, etc.) and don’t want to change?

PH: Start outside the system. That is look for places where you haven’t used volunteers to try new ways. Create a writers’ pool to invite members who are willing to comment on and contribute to your publications by responding to questions and inquiries on a monthly email distribution list. Or if you don’t already have a young professionals (or other targeted audience) group or committee, use the opportunity to set up a task force to assemble recommendations.

EE: See if you can get them to agree to an experiment. Pick one small task of the committee and involve ad hoc/micro volunteers in getting it done. Even better? Actively reach out to younger members for those ad hoc/micro tasks. Most associations are eager to bring more young members into the volunteer fold. Assuming it works well – which it likely will – pick another small task, same process. Nothing convinces like demonstrated success!

How do I get volunteers to follow through on their commitments?

EE: That is maybe the most intractable problem in volunteer management. We’re all familiar with the 80-20 rule (or perhaps it should be the 20-80 rule): 20% of the people end up doing 80% of the work. That’s exacerbated when, as with volunteers, there’s no real “stick” you can wield if people don’t follow through.

But Peggy and I feel that’s one of the biggest strengths of the mission-driven model. By increasing the number of small commitment volunteer opportunities and decreasing the number of large commitment jobs, you naturally work your volunteers through a ladder of engagement, with different volunteers electing to stop on different rungs. Because there are so many small-scale opportunities, people who want to contribute don’t end up accidentally taking on a role that’s too consuming for them, and the association has ample low-risk opportunities to see who does and doesn’t follow through, which helps you do more efficient and effective succession planning for those large commitment roles.

PH: And stop recognizing individuals who don’t follow through. One of the biggest mistakes we make in volunteer management is often overlooked but has huge unintentional consequences. By routinely thanking and acknowledging everyone on the committee equally we send the message that “sitting” on the committee is all they have to do.

How do I balance mission/big vision and the practical things we need to do to keep the doors open (like make sure we have a positive revenue flow)?

PH: Assuming you are talking about getting volunteers to do the operational work, tie even these “licking the stamp” jobs to the larger picture. For example, we have a tough time getting a treasurer for our small board because it’s a heavy lift in many ways. We had much more success when we talk about helping the organization use member and donor money effectively to meet member needs and drive the organization to success.

EE: Also, the two shouldn’t be incompatible. But it’s important to remember what’s the means and what’s the goal. Your mission is your association’s goal. A positive revenue flow is a means to that end, but it is not the end in itself, which is one of the things that ostensibly distinguishes us from the for-profit sector. If you feel like or experience that what you need to do to bring in revenue is incompatible with your mission, it’s probably time for your Board and senior leadership to do some serious soul-searching about why your organization exists and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Our association has more than one mission. How do we orient our volunteer opportunities appropriately?

EE: Despite our often-extensive lists of benefits, members generally join for one or at the most two reasons. This presents an opportunity for you to learn what your members really value, based on what they actually sign up to help with, and then to target mission-based opportunities to the specific members who, by their behavior, demonstrate that they’re particularly concerned about that specific aspect of your mission. And if you discover, based on observing behavior, that one aspect of your mission just isn’t resonating, that’s probably a clue that it’s time to re-examine that item.

Having a “volunteer coordinator” seems like a great idea. Is this a position that has to be filled by a staff member, or could it be filled by a volunteer? How would that work?

PH: Yes, the volunteer coordinator can certainly be a volunteer. It’s not an ad-hoc position obviously, so you do need a volunteer who’s willing to take on a big job. There are a couple of ways to handle this which I shared in a recent blog post. If you have a solo position, the person essentially operates as the match maker. They work with each program area (aka committee or project team) to identify volunteer positions. They interview members on interest areas and then forward names of possible volunteers to committees and teams for follow-up. Another strategy is to tie the volunteer coordinator to the member welcome or engagement team. So as your welcome team meets and greets members they essentially do the intake activity which is feed into the system.

Should we propose ad hoc/micro volunteering projects ourselves, solicit them from member volunteers, both, something else…?

EE: YES! That’s one of the key points of the National Fluid Power Association case study in the whitepaper: good ideas can come from – and should be solicited from – anywhere. To quote the charming children’s movie Ratatouille: “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” One of the best things about involving large numbers of your members actively in the work of the association is that it creates a culture in which it’s permissible for anyone to have a good idea.

PH: And Yes! It is a little like the chicken and egg question as you get started in opening up volunteering. You have to show members the possibilities and encourage members to offer ideas. So steal ideas to get started (here’s a list). Consider asking a group of members to get together and draw up a list of neat ideas.

We like the Mission Driven Volunteer concepts, but do you have any specific tips for implementing them in a really small staff association? An all-volunteer association? An association that has a really small pool of members to draw from?

PH: Think small. And focus on catching members on their way – that is ask them to help on something they are already participating in. For our monthly events, we started simply by sending an email accompanied by a list of small on-site jobs to all who registered for the event with the message that we needed a few helping hands at the event and since they were already coming could they help. To put together our social media pool, we pinged a few active members on social media and asked them to be part of a pool for six months. Tapping a volunteer coordinator to manage the effort is a great way to relieve staff of the primary duty. Finally, the main concept is to focus volunteer activity on mission – so you might want to simply start by having your volunteers rate their experience and tell you what will make it better.

If you are starting with a small pool of members, you might want to really focus on adhoc or task volunteering so you don’t tie up members on long-term commitments. And look for ways to involve people outside your membership. If you are a cultural group for example, there may be educators or students who aren’t members but could help the association.

We’re a mostly traditional association when it comes to volunteer structure, but we’re intrigued. How do we start moving down this road?

EE: I’m going to go back to my first response and urge you to start small, with a single experiment. Learn, succeed (hopefully), grow, gather supporters, continue to iterate. Change doesn’t come overnight, but it does come, if you are persistent.

PH: And read the Maryland CPA case study … they started with asking questions and then made changes slowly.

Listen to the full webinar:

Get the slides:

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Five Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Sales

One of the toughest things in marketing is crossing over into sales. While our end goal is to Used car salesmanget people to buy what we’re selling, no one wants to be this guy –>

So how do you get one (sales) without the other (obnoxious dude everyone avoids at parties)?

  1. Understand that selling is really about matching problems to solutions. (Which also means that if your solutions don’t match their problems, you need to be willing to walk away.)
  2. Realize that selling = making connections.
  3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. (Exhibit booth pet peeve #1: the exhibitor is doing all the talking. NOOOOOOO!)
  4. Invite people to participate in offerings that will help them succeed. (Again, you’re not trying to push product – you’re looking for fit. You only want want customers who are going to be happy, which means you’re willing to let the marginal ones go.)
  5. Be yourself. (Unless you’re that guy. Don’t be that guy.)

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More Tips to Improve Your Open Rate

Tips to help your blast emails shine, Part 2:80% Open Rate Baby

  •  Personalize it – It’s 2014. We all have the ability to send emails to “Dear Elizabeth” rather than “Dear Colleague” so be sure to call people by name.
  • Be a real person – Write like you would talk to someone, not like the first draft of a Business Communications 101 project.
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms – This is hard in associations, but do your best and be sure to define any acronyms you do use.
  • Short paragraphs – People scan emails, so you need to write in a scanable way, which means short sentences and paragraphs. Even better? Bullet points!
  • Keep it short overall – This is not a scholarly treatise – or the last time you’ll ever speak to your reader. Keep your emails as short as possible while still conveying your message. Edit, edit, edit!
  • Call to action – What do you want your readers to do? If the answer is “nothing,” you probably don’t need to send the email in the first place. Always have a call to action, and if it includes a link (and it should), make sure you include the link more than once in your message.
  • TEST! Don’t just send it out – send a test run to a small group first to make sure everything’s showing up the way you think it should. Problems happen, and it’s WAY better to catch them in an email that went to five of your fellow staff members than when the message has gone to hundreds – or thousands – of your members.
  • Test it to more than just yourself, and more than just internal association email accounts (i.e., include a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. account in your test group). It’s really hard to spot your own mistakes, and you want to make sure that your email is going to look OK and get through even for people who aren’t using Outlook.

Get Part 1 here.

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How Do I Know What to Charge?

One of the hardest things to do in creating a product or service is to set the price – too Price tag with question markhigh, no one will buy because it’s too expensive; too low, no one will buy because they think what you’re offering isn’t valuable.

So how do you determine your pricing strategy?

  1. Determine whether this is something that can be a “loss leader” or whether it needs to break even or turn a profit. That will help you determine your floor price.
  2. Think through the amount of resources that go into creating and maintaining what you’re offering – make sure you account for both *direct* (aka, actual money) and *indirect* (aka, things like staff time) costs. This also helps set the floor price.
  3. Look at what your sister organizations/competitors/collaborators are charging for similar products. That will help you figure out what the market is expecting and will bear. It will also help you figure out demand.
  4. Forecast whether or not you’re going to want or need to offer any sort of discounts (i.e., for bulk orders or member versus non-member pricing). If so, the price for the first one needs to be high enough that you can discount later on.
  5. Determine your marketing goal.
  6. Make your best estimation based on all the above!
  7. Test it! Get your product out there and see what happens.
  8. But remember – it’s much easier to drop a price that was initially a little high (or offer discounts) than it is to raise a price that’s too low, without some sort of major relaunch of whatever the product is with some ostensible reason it should now cost more.

For more information on pricing strategies, see:

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Five Tips to Increase Your Email Open Rate

Want to increase your bulk email open rate? Of course you do!man with slingshot firing envelopes at a computer

  1. The subject is the most important part of the email. Spend time writing a meaningful one that will ensure your recipient will open and read more.
  2. Stay away from wacky typefaces, odd or excessive use of bold and italics, and weird capitalization in an email. Not only do these formats shout “advertisement” they also make it difficult to read.
  3. For the highest response rates, send email on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  4. Offer a link to something FREE if you want your email to be passed along. Something that’s free – and desirable – has a good chance of going viral.
  5. Focus the main point of interest on the copy that will appear in the preview pane of your email. Most people decide if an email is interesting by previewing it, without opening it.

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The Truth about Bad WOM

There’s a dark side to Word of Mouth, too. Negative reviews are inevitable. So what should dislike thumb downyou do in response?

Develop serenity to accept the things you can’t change: You WILL get negative reviews. Expect them. You can make some of the people happy some of the time, but there’s always that one guy who just wants to complain.

Realize what’s actually going on: People who are taking the time to complain share another trait – they actually CARE enough to share their feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to slavishly follow every single suggestion that comes in (which would be impossible anyway, since at least some of them will be directly contradictory), but it does mean you should think about whether there is a nugget of truth and, if so, how you might be able to incorporate that into improving your program or service.

Remember: “most companies don’t have a negative word of mouth problem – they have a lack of positive word of mouth problem.

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Getting Good WOM

Want to increase your sales, market impact, and online search? According to MarketShare/Keller Fay, word of mouth has a significant, measurable impact on your peopel sharing a secretmarketing. A 10% lift in WOM leads directly to a 1.5% increase in sales and up to a 54% increase in marketing impact. That’s big.

But what makes a great Word of Mouth topic?

  1. It’s emotional – it connects with people
  2. It’s portable – they can share it easily
  3. It’s repeatable – the message is not too complicated

Want to find out more about WOM? Check out Andy Sernovitz’s blog or sign up for his GasPedal e-newsletter (at the blog). A lot of the examples he uses are corporate/consumer, so may not suit the association industry directly, but they’re always inspiring.

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Seven Keys to Marketing Success

Recently, on ASAE’s Collaborate Community, someone asked for examples of other Key to successassociations’ marketing plans. The things is, marketing plans are less about taking some other organization’s plan and swapping your acronym for theirs and more about answering some key questions:

  1. What do you know about your audiences? Who are they, who are the key decision makers, what and how and when do they buy, etc.? (Capture EVERYTHING you know and always look to be adding.)
  2. What are you trying to market to them? Make sure you’re clear about your program, product, or service and can describe it in benefits to your audience, not in features you offer.
  3. What are your goals? Remember, they should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).
  4. Do you have any competition? If so, what do you know about them?
  5. What assets do you have at your disposal (website, email, direct mail, social media, in person events, etc.), and how do you plan to use them? This is the place where you set your strategies and match tactics to them.
  6. What’s your budget? Don’t forget to think about staff time as well as money.
  7. How will you know you’ve been successful? What will you be tracking and monitoring, and how will you do it and report on it, and to whom, and on what interval?

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