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Benefit from clear writing

Nearly all corporate and nonprofit communication sucks.  And, I’m serious.

Almost everything I read (or skim) is not compelling, written for me (or to me), and impersonal.

Actually, try this fun experiment.  Print off an “About Us” page from a Fortune 500 corporate website.  Then, read it aloud to a colleague and ask your colleague to identify the company.  In most cases, you could get 10 different answers from 10 different people.  This is because the writing is so standard that it could apply to any company in that market segment.

Since you don’t have much time to research effective writing methods or spend hours online looking for great web copy, I’ve pasted two links below to great business writing.  Both examples tell stories, are personal and are clear.

CEO from Nokia’s CEO to all employees: http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/08/nokia-ceo-stephen-elop-rallies-troops-in-brutally-honest-burnin/

Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2009ltr.pdf

Please post a comment with other links to great corporate writing.  Hopefully, more people will see “the light” after reading these great examples of effective business writing.

What the Super Bowl ads can teach us about social media

Brand Bowl 2011 is ending and the winner is Chrysler (see ad on YouTube here).  According to the Mullen/Radian6 Brand Bowl tracking, the Chrysler spot was tweeted over 33,000 times during the Super Bowl.

No longer is marketing allocated by channel, but built on collaboration across channels.  This is the single best way to increase ROI, which is always a goal of marketers.

This is a perfect case for an integrated marketing strategy.  Just compare Chrysler’s social media buzz to GoDaddy.com.  GoDaddy.com did another “racy” commercial starring Danica Patrick, directing people to their site for “more.”  Obviously, they didn’t have near the social media strategy that Chrysler did, or maybe they didn’t create a new conversation topic quite as effectively as Chrysler.  In the new age of social media, all other channels need to be re-evaluated based on the lift or buzz that social media can generate.

The best marketers will get the best ROI with a coordinated strategy.

Tips for evaluating events

How you evaluate your events matters.  Some nonprofits are built to use events as a financial mean to a financial end.  However, many others use events as part of their strategy and/or to further enhance their brand.  The challenge is to make the decision, “why do we do events.”

By asking this question, you can readjust your performance matrix to be in line with the goals of your events.  This will better align your organization and get everyone on the same page, particularly if it generates a great debate about “why.”  Just remember, you can’t fix the “how,” unless you address the “why.”

This isn’t to be overlooked or done once and then put to bed.  Due to the rate of turnover in many nonprofits, many staff people inherit events that they didn’t launch.  Is your staff clear about the goals for events and is that what you are using to evaluate results?

What to do about too many member benefits

Intuitively you know your organization is trying to do too much, yet it seems like every force of nature keeps you from cutting back on your number of products, programs and services.  It is easy to ask “why do we have so many offerings or benefits,” but very difficult to make a focused change.  For instance, view the York County Regional Chamber website, full of member benefits.  I had to point out one organization to make my point, but this list of benefits is more common than not.

Prune your benefits

Look no further than the city of Boston to get a sense of what you up against.  Have you ever wondered if they knew the concept of “city planning?”  Have you wondered who designed their roads?  The answer is very insightful.  Years and years ago, early city developers and city officials paved over cow paths to create many of the roads that still make up the streets of Boston.  I’m sure you could do some research in your organization and find interesting answers to “why did we start this offering?”

Sometimes, the answer to these challenges can be found in nature.  Taking a hard look at programs and services can be equated to pruning.  Spend 3 minutes reading the Wikipedia.org entry for pruning and you can begin to understand why this exercise is so important.  Remember Pareto’s 80/20 rule.  I believe you will find that new benefits have been added because new leadership or staff have wanted to “make their mark.”  I’m sure you’ll also agree with the observation that a board has never seen a program or service that it didn’t like.

If you want to make a significant improvement in your organization, build a case for “pruning” your programs and services.  Because of the recession, you’ve never had a better time!

How nonprofits can segment and deliver value to members

If you Google “how to segment members,” you will see 36.6 million search results.  However, many nonprofits struggle to find the best way to target their communications through segmenting members.  The degree to which you segment members should be based on your marketing and communication plan, not simply the size of your nonprofit.

A few suggestions about how to segment your members in your database:

  • Reason members invest/join/contribute to your organization (capture at time of sale and update regularly, at least at time of renewal)
  • Demographic factors that are important to your organization (i.e. industry, size of firm, location, type of business, etc.)
  • Issues the member is interested in 

Also, a few rules of the road are important to consider.

  1. Make sure you have a marketing and communication plan built around these targeted segments, and commit to it.
  2. Build your segments grounded in the present with an eye to the future.  For instance, if your marketing plan is to recruit more churches, but you don’t have many now, include this as a segment and build as you go.
  3. Start with a few, known segments and build from there.  Focus on your most mission and funding critical audiences and build out from there.

Segmenting members is a great way to increase relevance, provide more value to your members and engage your membership.  Another great result is that you can worry less that you are “sending too much,” if what you are sending is extremely timely and directly in line with the members interests.

How nonprofits can segment and deliver value to members

If you Google “how to segment members,” you will see 36.6 million search results.  However, many nonprofits struggle to find the best way to target their communications through segmenting members.  The degree to which you segment members should be based on your marketing and communication plan, not simply the size of your nonprofit.

A few suggestions about how to segment your members in your database:

  • Reason members invest/join/contribute to your organization (capture at time of sale and update regularly, at least at time of renewal)
  • Demographic factors that are important to your organization (i.e. industry, size of firm, location, type of business, etc.)
  • Issues the member is interested in 

Also, a few rules of the road are important to consider.

  1. Make sure you have a marketing and communication plan built around these targeted segments, and commit to it.
  2. Build your segments grounded in the present with an eye to the future.  For instance, if your marketing plan is to recruit more churches, but you don’t have many now, include this as a segment and build as you go.
  3. Start with a few, known segments and build from there.  Focus on your most mission and funding critical audiences and build out from there.

Segmenting members is a great way to increase relevance, provide more value to your members and engage your membership.  Another great result is that you can worry less that you are “sending too much,” if what you are sending is extremely timely and directly in line with the members interests.

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