Are you missing the boat with your marketing message?

Is your marketing message missing the boat?

Marketing is not an easy task because it is a moving target. The reason why someone buys from you today can be completely irrelevant in a few years. Your marketing message must continue to adapt or else it will be buried by a competitor that is willing to recognize and adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

It is easy to pick on others 

The neccessity of re-assessing your marketing jumped out at me when I received an email offer to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune. It has been a long time since I have picked up a printed paper, but I am still regularly  bombarded with offers to subscribe.

They are consistently focused on how low the price is. I am sure at one time this was an effective strategy, but the reality is that the price is not the issue at all. 

Dissecting the problem

The reality is that I am inundated with information. For better or worse, that convenient little device I carry around is constantly assaulting me with information. I cannot possibly consume more information, and the thought of a pile of unread papers laying around my house only would make me feel guilty for not making time to sit and read the paper. 

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The recent revelations of "fake news" is a golden opportunity. Trusted journalism is what I am looking for, and I would actually pay more if I could get it. In fact, this ad would perform better if they focused exclusively on providing trusted journalism (mentioned in small type) instead of highlighting the price. The price actualy makes it harder for me to believe their claim of trusted news, and they would probably do better by charging more. 

Bringing it home

I recently helped a client who sells an expensive education program. For years we knew cost was a hurdle. I recommended that we create resources for those who want to attend, but need to sell it to their employers. I thought it would be easy, but quickly realized their marketing focused heavily on the value of the program for the individual. I will soon start incorporating the value of program for the employers of those who attend. I have a feeling it will be particularly beneficial to a particular niche of our target audience. Looking at their marketing from a different angle was enlightening.

Improving your marketing message

Sometimes the clues are all around you, and you just need to take the time to look at your organization differently. My best clients are ones that enjoy spending time talking about their marketing message, and recognize that their experience and expertise makes it hard for them to see their business the way prospects do.

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Financial advisor marketing: Is your bio doing its job?

Financial Planner bio

One of the most important aspects in financial advisor marketing is building trust. The truth is that for financial planners, the number one page visited is the "team" or "about us" page. Getting this page right is a critical component of your online marketing.

Make sure you have considered these three aspects on your bio page:

1. Lead with personality. If a prospect is thinking about trusting you with their financial life, try to make sure they feel comfortable. The temptation is to try to be neutral to attract everyone. The reality is, neutral attracts no one. Who would you rather do business with anyway? People you have something in common with are much more fun to work with.

2. Make it skimmable. Paragraphs about every credential you have are enough to put even the most interested prospect to sleep. Bullet points are your friend — use them. Speaking of credentials, don't assume everybody knows what all those letters mean. At least make them links to the credential sites.   

3. Don't just say it — show it. Most people know it is important to have a photo, but did you know that there is a word to describe the right picture? Warmth. If your photo does not exude warmth — get another shot. 

Don't forget the most important thing on your bio page

Your bio needs a call-to-action (CTA). As one of the most visited pages on your site, make sure it is easy for people to connect with you — don't forget to tell them what to do next. 

Will you be my friend?

While credentials and experience are important, don't forget that people do business with people they like. If you keep these three aspects in mind, your bio page will be an important step in converting traffic into customers and it might just lead to some new friends.


Think your marketing might be falling short? Channel Balancing is a proven tool to assess where you are and what you need to be doing to create a stronger lead generation program. It is not right for everyone, but I would be happy to have a short conversation to determine if it might be right for you. Give me a call at (630) 923-5009 ext 700.

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

6 easy steps to write better content for nonprofit websites

How to write content for your website

People are online for a variety of reasons. It is important to deliver content about your nonprofit in a way that encourages the reader to take action.

When working on websites, I often ask clients to provide a draft of content as they will always know their organization better than I do. Even though I assure them I will edit and work with content, they often approach the task with a bit of anxiety. Below are a couple of key points for writing content I always share upfront and when clients start managing content themselves.  

Not too much information

I am not making a comment about the length (as shorter is not always better), but for most web content you only need to tell the reader enough to inspire them to take the next desired action. It is tempting to tell the reader everything, but good copy is focused on getting someone to take an action.  

Spend more time writing headlines

It is more important than the content. You won't get eyeballs if your headlines scream "ignore me." Questions are awesome, but whatever you write, it should compel the reader to continue reading. 

Start with the value

Begin with the key benefit you want reader to take away from your content. This should be done in the subhead or the opening sentence. 

Break up copy with subheads

Subheads should help people keep moving forward. If someone can skim your page and get the gist of your content, you have succeeded. 

Don't forget a call to action

Every page should end with a clear call to action. People online want to be told what to do — don't miss your opportunity. Be direct and clear, and it is alright to give them more than one option.

Think like a reader

Always asking yourself if you would read what you just wrote is a great final test. If you can't get excited about reading it yourself, it likely will not get the results you are looking for. I am being gentle here, but maybe I shouldn't be. You are making the world better by not polluting the internet with crude content.   

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Which metrics should you be tracking? Ignore Google Analytics until you do this.

Which analytics are worth worrying about?

These days, the ways to gather analytics and stats about your online presence are nearly as plentiful as apps in the app store. From Google Analytics to various social media channels to built-in stats from your content management system, we have enough data to fill a book. We all know we are supposed to be data driven, but where should one start?   

Vanity metrics won't buy you much 

Even though the question "What should I be tracking?" is valid, it can often lead you down the wrong path. Traffic and likes are a trivial measurement of success. Though it is nice to say that your web traffic is increasing it can easily be caused by simply running a pay-per-click ad. The increase in traffic is a waste of money if it is not having business results. 

I’m guessing your organization's mission is not to acquire thousands more Facebook followers or increase your website traffic. In the marketing world, these certainly give that warm fuzzy feeling, but in the end they are simply vanity metrics. Even if they sound nice and get you pats on the back. 

It is all about conversions

That is why it is so important to have a lead generation strategy. Until you do, no other measurement is going to have a significant marketing meaning. 

The goal is always to get visitors to take action, but since most people are online to gather information it is important to focus on helping them start a buyer's journey with you. Of course if they are ready to buy, you want to be ready also, but there is a much bigger audience of people who are just thinking of buying.  You want to get as many people as possible to start a buyer's journey (conversions), so your focus needs to be on something that provides perceived value. Track that first, and then build from there.  

So what should you be worrying about?

Once you start tracking conversions you can track all other marketing activities to see if they are increasing your conversions. Focus on information that gives you the necessary insights to adjust your strategies based on what is working and what is not. 

For example — let’s say you are running an A/B test for a new offer. Group A resulted in nearly double the conversions than Group B. By measuring this, you know the message Group A saw should be the message for everyone visiting your site. Similarly, if you put the same offer in multiple places, keep an eye on where the offer is converting the best. These are actionable metrics.

Nothing wrong with data 

Traffic spikes and social shares and undeniably exciting but should be kept in check. Keep your eyes on focused on what is generating conversions, and you will be way ahead of the game. 

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Fix your email marketing: Why your monthly newsletter needs to die!

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When you see an invitation to join an organization's monthly email, what is your response? If the word "groan" came blazing across your mind, then I would suggest it is time to make some changes to your email marketing program.

Is the monthly newsletter idea dead?

Nope, but calling it a monthly newsletter or putting those words in the subject line of your email is a sure way to find yourself ignored, and scratching your head wondering why no one joins. Please, I beg you, stop using those words right now. Email marketing is changing, but a few small tweaks can breathe new life into your emails and help you start building a more robust inbound marketing program.

The next generation of email marketing

As email tools become more advanced, your emails need to move away from the "blast and pray" style. People are going online because they are looking for information — your emails need to be tailored to meet them where they are in the buyer's journey, and they need to provide value. If this sounds like segmented lists and content that is tailored to a narrow audience you are right. If that sounds overwhelming and like too much work, have no fear — keep reading! 

Do something before you do everything

Most organizations feel overwhelmed at the prospect of using an inbound marketing philosophy. I get it. The good news is that you can start small and build on success. All good inbound marketing starts with a great offer. By starting with your signup form, you are not only going to be improving the growth of your audience, but you are creating the fundamental building block of an inbound marketing program. 

Focus on benefits and offer value

Most sign up forms are descriptive instead of emotive. Your signup form needs to make people believe that by giving up their email address, you will provide value. Shape your invitation around benefits and create something they will receive when they hit submit.

Since most people are online looking for information, I would focus on content. Take your best blog post, an article you wrote or even the presentation you gave at a conference and create a PDF guide. Be cautious of coupons and discounts; they work but as you probably know, most people have an email address they check infrequently and basically ignore — you don't want that email address. Even the most basic email programs allow you to set up an automated email to deliver content once someone takes your bait.

Don't forget this

An email address is a social contract. Seek to delight those who have given you theirs. Ask yourself this before you hit send, "Would I want to receive this?" If there is any hesitation, you better hit edit instead.

I can guarantee your new signup form will outperform your monthly newsletter signup. Will it fix your email marketing? It is a great start. When you start seeing results, you will be inspired to take more steps in building a better email marketing program.   

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Email Marketing, Marketing

Marketing and sales are changing. Is your financial planning firm keeping up?

Evolution of the marketing and sales funnel

Marketing and sales go together like peanut butter and jelly. You need both, but because they are both responsible for sales there is often a tension between the two — one gets the blame or glory (depending on the situation).

The balance has shifted

The reality is that the internet has been changing the game. How people make purchasing decisions has radically shifted as people now want information and are more adverse than ever to traditional sales. 

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As you can see above, marketing used to play a smaller role. 'Awareness' and 'interest' were the primary role of marketing, maybe a little 'consideration'. Marketing used to more clearly serve sales.

Now sales plays a much smaller role. In fact, I think this chart is a bit generous as making a decision before they call and are only looking for confirmation that they are making the right choice.

This dramatic shift in sales and marketing has allowed a different methodology of marketing to flourish

This methodology is called inbound marketing. I don’t want to say it is new because inbound marketing is the next generation of information marketing which has been around for a long time — think late night infomercials or the Home Shopping Network. But the internet has made it easy and cost efficient – and a bit more respectable I might add.

It is not either/or

Inbound marketing is often pitted against Outbound marketing (traditional interruption marketing). The boundaries between Inbound and Outbound are a bit artificial. The reality is that they work together  — and  Outbound (interruption) marketing is most effective when it is supporting an Inbound marketing strategy.

The Inbound advantage lies in aligning with people's buying behavior (looking for information). It is measurable so you can learn and incrementally improve what you are doing – Inbound marketing makes marketing more data driven. While there will always be room for instinct and creativity, Inbound methodology provides the path to track that 'X' amount of money will generate 'X' amount of sales.

Inbound also more easily integrates with the sales process. When more and more sales are being made electronically this integration directly impacts sales.

The sooner and more in-depth one engages someone electronically, the more likely it is that they will complete the sale. At the least, Inbound is taking prospects on a journey with the end of the journey being a purchase decision. 

Is Inbound marketing right for every financial planning firm?

I would not be a good marketer if I suggested that the same advice will work for everyone. I think the overarching theme of how people's buying habits have changed needs to be accounted for in every financial planning firm, but how to utilize Inbound or Outbound marketing depends on a thoughtful examination of all the ways you communicate and what you are trying to promote.

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

Download free Website Must-Haves

Posted in Marketing

3 questions every financial planner must ask before any marketing initiative

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We live in the information age, and it seems like the rate of change continues to accelerate. This acceleration poses a significant threat to effective marketing. I see financial planners and advisors jump on the latest trends before they get results from the last shiny marketing initiative. The worst part is that they often cannibalize resources and energy on basic things that should already be in place in an effective marketing program. The thrill of trying something new is a blessing and a curse.
 

Don't violate the most basic marketing principle

Neglecting what is working and abandoning things that have more potential for showing a return is a threat to a basic marketing principle – repetition. Consistent exposure builds awareness and trust in financial planner marketing. Trying something new all the time is a rather lousy way to market something.
 
So before you are enticed to try something new, ask yourself these three questions.
  1. Will it work for me? I too often have conversations with people who say, I want to do “abc” because it works for “xyz”. Before you pick up a strategy, you better examine the criteria that made it work for “xyz”. What works for “xyz" — who has a huge house list, and who has built a strong personal brand — will not work for someone who doesn't have a personal brand or even a house list of prospects. The factors that make something work need to be identified and examined before one tries to mimic the success. 
  2. Do I have have a plan in place? Trying new things all the time is not a plan. Do you have a solid website that clearly communicates your value? Do you have an offer that entices people who are not ready to act, and a path to lead them up to a sale?
  3. Am I measuring something? Most are not ready for deep analytics, but it is just not acceptable to have no measurement in place. Is your blog traffic growing? Are you getting more email subscriptions than last year? 

Experimenting is not bad

I am not proposing that one sticks their head in the sand. The truth is that it is more important than ever to be aware of how the world is changing and how this effects communication and marketing. A portion of your marketing should be invested in trying new things. 
 
Make sure you check out our portfolio with examples of branding and marketing work we have done for financial planners. 
 
Do something before you do everything. Download our free resource below:
 
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Posted in Marketing

Nonprofit Website Mistakes and How to Get your Website on Track

Nonprofit Website Mistakes

It is still shocking to me that most nonprofits view their website as an informational tool. They describe the mission of the organization, how it was started, and a phone number to call in order to donate or volunteer. 

But if your website is set up like this, you're hurting yourself and likely killing the opportunity you have to gain new donors. A successful online strategy is one that attracts visitors to your website, engages them with content they want, and converts them to act

A nonprofit website should advance your mission, not simply state your mission — it is a huge mistake if you miss this point.

The baseline for an effective online marketing strategy has been raised for all nonprofits. A site that builds trust is important and I don't want to underestimate how important it is, but now you need to do a bit more.

Getting your donors and your audience to act is everything. I am not talking about a donation either – that is super unrealistic.

You need to be asking yourself: "What will site visitors find valuable and how will I get them to move closer to making a meaningful connection – giving me their email address?"

Ways to empower your audience

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to make your website more interactive and how to get people to take action towards your nonprofit:

  • Social Plugins: Adding a Facebook “like” button and including the ability to share a page on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest is an easy way to add some basic interaction. Do it yesterday. There are no excuses. I love Addthis as it has a lot of great functionality.
  • Incentives or Freebies: Offering something for free is the baseline to get people to give you their information. It's a win-win; they get something for free, and you get their contact information. It's a building block towards building a relationship with your customers. The deliverable can cost you nothing, as long as premium has perceived value to your target audience. A nonprofit I work with has an online store; I included a popup window with a 10% off code when you sign up to receive their free content email. We went from getting almost zero subscribers from their online store to getting several a day. The interesting thing is that only 23% took advantage of the offer — well worth the small discount to get highly qualified leads.
  • Share things: Most feel that marketing now means you have to generate the content yourself. You can get a lot of engagement by sharing other people's content. If it is content that would interest your supporter base, sharing it makes you seem more the expert.

 

If you wish someone could look and evaluate your website for free and tell you what you're doing right and wrong, then click below and sign up for our free website evaluation!

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Posted in Marketing, Web Design

Common Nonprofit Communication Pitfalls You Must Avoid

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If you've ever been in the nonprofit for any length of time, you've probably heard at least one or more of these sayings. They are often said with the best intentions, but they end up feeling like you been hit with a bucket of cold water.

"We'll just do what we did last year."

It's a pretty basic concept: if you're not testing new strategies, you're organization is living in the past. Just because you had a communication strategy that worked a few years ago means that soon it is going to lose steam.

Marketing is always evolving and over a span of even a few years, the platforms through which people communicate can change drastically. Paying attention to these trends and changing the communication of your organization accordingly will keep your nonprofit communication effective.  

"Someone on the board knows someone who does graphic design for cheap."

While it is great to use the resources that you have at your disposal, its more important to spend careful and conscious time on the communication and the marketing you are sending out to your audience and donors. 

Just because someone has the interest in art or is creative doesn't mean they have experience to think ahead and grasp your short and long term goals. What is the cost of a haphazard visual brand? Strategic deliberation needs to be applied to graphics, websites, and communication materials.

"It's free, so we should use it."

This is a pitfall that many nonprofit organizations succumb. A board member says, "why are we not using – name of latest social media platform– It doesn't cost anything to use and it would be great."

Many nonprofits set up their social media quickly and without much thought because its "free." In reality, setting up your social media correctly and effectively takes time, energy, and resources and by the end, you really don't own those channels. The path of social media darlings is hook with free and then become pay to play.  

"We'll get the volunteers to do that."

As much as we love our volunteers, the truth is you can't always control what they do. If you're handing off your communication content to your volunteers, you can't build solid branded communication. Your marketing resources and content needs consistent and methodical attention, and your volunteers can't give that like a nonprofit marketing agency could.

"People love us, so they won't care what it looks like."

Nonprofits have some of the most loyal donors and members. However, we live in an environment that is over saturated and inundated with so much content, if your organization's communication and marketing is not up to snuff -reality is- it just won't get seen. 

What pitfalls have you experienced? Let us know in the comments below! And if you'd like to start a dialogue with us on making your website better, then click below for a free website evaluation!

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Posted in Marketing

4 Tips for How to Create Great Inbound Content for Your Business

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Behind any effective inbound marketing strategy is great content. Content is the foundation on which you communicate and engage with your audience, customers and leads. But so often, you can hit a wall when you're creating content, and you need some help getting started. We've narrowed down just a few tips that help us when we develop our content whether its blog posts, white pages, or an ebook. 

1. Center your content around goals

The first place you should start when developing your content is your goals. Once you've established the goals of your business, organization, or company, you can begin forming content that branches off from your core goals. You can also set milestones for your content which will keep you on a schedule and challenge to reach your ideal audience. 

2. Care about your keywords

A keyword is a word or phrase that people search for on the internet. By doing research and finding what people search for within your industry can be a great opportunity to capture more views. 

If you'd like more information about keywords, read our article on SEO and keywords.

Once you've established some good keywords, start forming content around those keywords. When you find one that draws in traffic, don't be afraid to come back to it and create more content and more articles for that keyword. 

3. Find engaging topics

Your business has a great wealth of knowledge within your industry. Use that knowledge to create solid content based around questions that your customers have. Do researched based on the painpoints that customers and buyers have indicated and build the core of some content to answer those questions and solve problems. 

A great question to ask when creating content is, will my audience want to read this?

4. Quantity and quality, conversions matter more than traffic

How much and how often should you post? Well, it depends on the goals and expectations of your inbound marketing strategy. The more you are active online, the more attention you'll receive. Consistency is very important, but posting two quality blog posts a week can be more effective than ten quick posts. Don't just post any and every blog article; make sure they are well thought out and quality pieces.  

Conversions matter more than traffic. Its great to get people visiting your website, but if you have no one taking action, then its all for nothing. Create content that is focused on empowering buyers to take action, not just read an article or two. 

The first step in creating good content is to create good inbound goals. If you want help developing your first inbound marketing SMART goals, then click here for our free template that will get you started in inbound marketing!

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Posted in Marketing

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