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The Edelman Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding contest is awarding the nonprofit organization with the best brand presence two national advertisements in USA Today, and BLab is up for the running!If you get your votes in by midnight tonight, you’ll help  BLab get exposure to 3.3 million readers who will learn why it’s important to have B Corporations be part of our economy.

ifPeople’s support of BLab comes from being a B-Corporation ourselves.We have seen the benefit of being part of a community of like-minded companies who are deeply committed to using their business to support social objectives as fervently as financial ones. With 377 BCorps and counting, BLab isn’t just building a network of social entrepreneurs nationally, they are also providing tools to social businesses that help them become more competitive, more profitable, and more successful.

BCorps secure immense savings on products that are central to making a business run smoothly. Through discounts on systems like Salesforce or Inspire Commerce BLab has helped companies save $1million annually. They also give BCorps an edge in recruiting since some of the top business schools in the country offer loan forgiveness to MBAs who work for a BCorp upon graduation.

Lastly, BLab has built a brand that truly sets their businesses apart from a company that occaisionally dabbles in corporate social responsibility when they need good PR. BLab is a brand that encourages the public to hold business to a higher social standard and makes business owners accountable for their responsibility to their communities and environment.BLab’s brand has the power to propel us past greenwashers and instead, build a legion of companies who are fundamentally committed to building a thriving social economy.

Now if that’s not a good reason to vote for BLab I’m not sure what is. Get your vote in today!

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Social media has clearly made its way into mainstream marketing strategies for a wide range of companies, nonprofit organizations, personal brands, and everything in between (if you missed that, check out our Social Media 101 resources). What does that mean for business-to-business (B2B) companies selling green products? While social media plays a different role in mass consumer brands, this doesn’t mean you should count social media out! If your audience is online, chances are there is a role for social media channels to play in enhancing your marketing and sales process!

Take for example Kinaxis, a tech company specializing in supply-chain management, that has seen how social media can help B2B companies reach their goals. In this interview with the director of corporate marketing, Kirsten Watson discussed three main strategies that lend themselves to Kinaxis’s success in social media.

1) Connect with very targeted niches

As a business that’s not consumer oriented, it’s even more important for you to be really specific about the social niches that you want to build a presence in. As green products tend to fit very specific uses, such as materials within a green building project, you are likely selling to really specific customers in very targeted markets. Our advice: Maintain that laser focus and identify the specific communities that you want to connect with. Kinexis narrowed down their target audiences by the company’s industry classification (NAIC). Regardless of how specific, be sure to use criteria that works for you to define a market and make the social networking more manageable.

2) Choose the right channel for your tone, message, target audience, and goals.

After identifying the specific niches you are targeting, think about the goals that you have for connecting with each of those communities and the messages and tone that will best resonate. What channels are the best fit for what you are trying to accomplish and where your audience is listening? Sometimes it’s best to leverage more established channels like email or your website, while other times you need niche blogs, social media, or even mobile tools. How will you use each channel to achieve your goals? Kinaxis uses their email campaigns (which go out to the largest cross-section of customers) to let their community know about the range of content in their other communication channels. By planning which channels your message will go out to, you increase your chances of getting the attention of your prospects.

3) Integrate social media with marketing automation tools

Some companies post content on Facebook and Twitter and cross their fingers, hoping something will come of it. Kinexis got more proactive about their social ROI by integrating their social media with Salesforce in order to gain deeper insights about their leads. By keeping track of the quality of interaction between potential customers and your various vehicles of communication, you can easily identify who are the best prospects, get more insight into what would get their attention and engage them in the content your company is producing. Social media is useful, but paired with a strong CRM system like Salesforce, it can become a great tool for nurturing leads and closing sales.

While social media may be more common (especially in the news!) among consumer businesses, it needs to form a part of the marketing strategy for B2B companies as well. For green companies, it can be a key way of educating and engaging prospects. Just remember to limit your target audience so it doesn’t get unmanageable! If you are ready to take a deeper dive, consider using our Social Media Planning workbook or contact us to find out how to boost your business through more effective online marketing.

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IfPeople made it to the SJF Summit on the New Economy in Durham, NC this September and found it

to be a truly inspiring conference. It was a strong showcase of how diverse and robust the new economy is. There were really incredible solutions in every area of clean tech from energy and waste water treatment, to irrigation and air filtration.  Counter to many misconceptions about green solutions, these businesses were showing the energy and water savings from these solutions is so great that the payback is often less than a year! 

Stop Leaving Money on the Table!
Companies that are using traditional means of addressing this issues are literally leaving money on the table. If installing a green air filtration system costs you a $100,000 investment up front, with a 1 year payback, your future savings after that first year are $100,000 a year before calculating in inevitable rises in energy costs.

So why aren’t these solutions already the norm?
Systems change is always on our mind…and our work is about giving companies that are bringing breakthrough solutions with a solid business model the sales and marketing tools and processes to succeed. So we hate to see good opportunities for going green go to waste! Here’s some of the barriers we see to that:

1. Resistance to change
We are resistant to change even when the dollars and cents add up. Take, for instance, a new approach to maintaining good air quality. Air quality in most factories is maintained by constantly turning over the air inside a building. Forcing air from inside a building to outside requires a tremendous amount of  energy. Not only that, but the air brought into the building must be climate controlled which also uses up energy.  A company we met at the conference has a different approach. Instead of moving air in and out of the building, they focus on changing existing air into something breathable and environmentally friendly.  They attract indoor pollutants into a bio-digester, which breaks down the compounds into inert particles.  It’s a completely different approach that doesn’t just require a cost-benefit analysis, but calls for a paradigm shift. 

People are resistant to such shifts. If we are going to meet the challenges of climate change, peak oil and water and other challenges, we will need to be ready to embrace the new paradigms required to make these shifts a reality.

2.  Poor sales process
Even if there’s a great opportunity to save money with a product, if the sales force behind that product is not effective in selling, there won’t be product uptake. People make decisions for different reasons depending on their role in the company, their interests, and their priorities. It’s important to understand what is relevant to the various parties in a sales pipeline and to make sure your company can systematically engage decision makers until they make the sale. Having strong systems for automating your marketing processes can make a huge difference in how many prospects you convert to customers. Without these processes it is even more challenging for innovative companies to bring their constituents along and help the masses embrace the changes you are bringing to market.

3.  Poor Key Messages
Different decision makers have different concerns that must be met before they invest.  The person concerned with compliance wants to know that your air purification system is going to work, and meet all regulations and standards.  The CFO wants to know that your ROI numbers are real and reliable.  And the maintenance staff who took care of the old system wants to be secure that they are not being put out of a job. Make sure that the messaging is right at the right time based on where you are in the sales process and who you are working with!

Alright green product and service companies…we hope that’s helpful insight from our takeaways from the SJF Conference. Hopefully we’ll see you there next year! And in the meantime, contact us for help on marketing and sales for your green products!

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Want to work at an exciting company and make the world a better place? Check out our current openings, which include a full time CRM Consultant for our Atlanta office as well as interns in the area of Communications, Marketing and Web Development. More info at http://www.ifpeople.net/about/work

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twitterIf you’ve involved in marketing for a small business or nonprofit, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the buzz around Twitter. Tech savvy social networking aficionados sing endless praises about the microblogging site, and cite case study after case study about how Twitter is changing the way businesses communicate with potential clients. Meanwhile, sceptics shrug and dismiss Twitter as a passing fad, or as the black hole of productivity — a thinly veiled time waster that has usurped the water cooler as the epicenter for mindless chitchat.

The truth, however, is that both can be true. Twitter can be a valuable marketing tool, but only if those using it (a) understand how the system works and (b) know how to manage their time. Small business and nonprofits must understand that tweeting is not a random process. It’s a calculated, strategic communications effort that involves meticulously tracking conversation threads and responding to posters when appropriate. The first step to using Twitter successfully is knowing how to find the conversations that are useful to you and then participating in those conversations.

In other words, it’s all about the hashtag.

What’s a Hashtag?

Hashtags (#) differentiate Twitter from other social networking sites. They are a simple way to catalog and connect tweets about specific topics. Perhaps most importantly, however, they help filter out unrelated tweets that might randomly contain a misleading keyword or two. Hashtags are inserted into the tweet itself, usually before or after the main message. A hashtag is a single word or phrase preceded by the pound sign (#).

It looks like this: #mozservice09.

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Recent posts with #mozservice09

This hashtag was created by Mozilla and used by the company and their partners to catalog tweets about their 2009 community service week.

Users can search for hashtags on Twitter and catalogue tweets based on particular hashtags.

You can use multiple hashtags for a single tweet. For instance, Mozilla Service Week is about helping nonprofits who need technology assistance. So it makes since to categorize a tweet about that event under both Mozilla Service Week (#mozservice09) and nonprofit technology (#nptech). Now, that single tweet appears in multiple conversation threads, and is viewed by more people as they track and participates in the conversations that interest them.

How Can Small Businesses Use Hashtags?

There are two main ways you can use hashtags.

1. Track existing hashtags, then respond to relevant tweets.

One of the main obstacles with Twitter is that many new users find it difficult to locate hashtags relevant to them. Trending sites track the most popular hashtags, but most small businesses and nonprofits don’t care about what someone was wearing on Larry King or which b-list celebrity was arrested last night.  You’re looking for the hashtags used in your niche, not necessarily the ones that are uber-popular.

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Twitterfall

We’ve found the best way to identify relevant hashtags is to start following people or companies in your industry and make a list of hashtags they use to categorize their tweets. After you find a hashtag that’s relevant to you, start tracking it with a third party site like Twitterfall. This site has a wide range of functionality, including:

  • easy-to-use interface
  • tracking of multiple hashtags simultaneously
  • color coding of tweets by hashtag for easy identification
  • Twitter login options so you can tweet within the application

Another similar site is Monitter.

When you experiment with either of these sites, you’ll find it’s easy to see what people are talking about and to respond to relevant tweets. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll start to see how Twitter connects you to conversations you wouldn’t be having outside the microblogging site — and allows you to network quickly and efficiently.

2. Create your own hashtag, then tweet with it

Once you’ve used Twitter for a while, the time will come when you’ll want to begin a conversation thread that doesn’t exist yet. This means creating a brand new hashtag, and using it in your tweets.

Say you’re heavily involved in NTEN’s upcoming 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference. Right now it’s fall of 2009, so there’s not a lot of conversation on the subject. This is the perfect opportunity for you to start a conversation thread by creating a hashtag (like #nten10, for example).

However, before you create a new hashtag, make sure that another hashtag for the same conversation thread has not already been created. In the example above, it’s possible that someone has already created a hashtag such as #nten2010 or #ntenten. Paying attention to already created tags helps avoid duplicate conversations and makes it easier to track what’s being said about topics of interest.

hashtags.org

hashtags.org

There are a few ways you can search for these already existing hashtags. You can look on a site like hashtags.org, which is basically the wikipedia of hashtags. The problem with this site, however, is that users have to add entries themselves, so hashtags for more obscure topics are often missing. We’ve found the best way to find out whether a hashtag exists is to use advanced Twitter search or simply pay attention to your Twitter stream.

Does anyone else have suggestions about how to locate hashtags?

Final Words

If you’re interested in using Twitter as a marketing tool, start playing with hashtags — and let us know what you find.

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Picture 2Running a Google AdWords campaign can be tricky, especially if you’re just beginning. Here are a few lessons we’ve picked up doing our own campaigns. Let us know if you have any tips we should add.

1. Use Dynamic Titles
Dynamic titles enables you to utilize a web user’s search query as the title of your ad. For instance, if someone searches for “nonprofit grants,” “Nonprofit Grants” will appear as your ad’s title.  This is a great way to make your ad appear relevant to users, especially if you’re promoting something specific.

To create a dynamic title, simply make {keyword:} the first line (or title) of your ad. Because search queries can exceed Adwords’ modest character limit, you should also create a backup title. To do this, simply type {keyword: followed by the title you want to appear if the character limit is exceeded, then the close bracket ( } ) symbol.  For the example above, you might write {keyword:Nonprofit Grant Deals} as your backup title.

2.Use Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are often underutilized by AdWords beginners. If there are certain words or phrases you don’t want associated with your campaign, you should include them in your “negative keywords” list. This prevents your ad from appearing in undesirable queries.

For example, if you’re trying to promote a paid workshop, you would want to include words like “free” or “discount” as negative keywords. If someone searches for a free workshop, your ad won’t appear. This way, you’re less likely to waste money on someone who’s not willing to pay for your services.

3. Create a Landing Page
When someone clicks on your ad, they’re interested in what you’re specifically promoting, not necessarily your business or organization as a whole. In most cases, it doesn’t make sense for your ad to link to your homepage. Give users what they’re looking for by creating a landing page that features the product or service your ad is promoting. This makes it easy for users to check out what you’re selling without getting lost or frustrated on your site.

4. Make Your URL Specific
When you create an ad, you can list a URL for your final line of copy. Most companies tend to use this space for their generic web address. This is fine if you’re selling your company as a whole. But if you’re promoting something specific, consider putting your landing page as the listed URL to reinforce what you’re offering. If a user is searching for a grant writer, for instance, seeing the URL www.swansonassociates.com/grants affirms that this site has what they’re looking for.

5. Duplicate Campaigns
AdWords has numerous settings (ie keywords, geotargeting, dynamic titles) that can drastically alter when and where your ad appears. Because of this,it’s useful to duplicate your ads, using the same copy but altering the settings.
Say you’re promoting a summer sports camp for kids in Austin. First, you can geotarget your ad so that only users in the Austin area see it. Then, you duplicate the ad, insert “Austin” as one of your keywords, and allow anyone in the US to view the ad.  Although the content of the ad is the same, each duplicate will attract different, potentially valuable users. After running duplicates for a few weeks, you can look at the stats and spend more on the duplicates with higher click through rates.

6. Use Keywords in Your Ads
For every campaign, you’re bound to have a handful of really great keywords. When possible, include these keywords in your ad copy. If someone’s search query includes some of your keywords, Google will bold those words in your ad copy. This is a great way to make your ad stand out from the crowd.

7. Keep Your Copy Simple
Word real estate for AdWords campaigns is very limited.  All the more reason to make every word you use count. When possible, delete unnecessary words like “a, an, the, it, on, of, in,” etc. Use active, engaging verbs like “coach, deliver, encourage, overcome, restore,” etc.

8.  Bid High Initially
AdWords determines placement by bid and click through rate (CTR). So the higher you bid and the more people click on your link, the better placement your ad will receive. When you’re launching a campaign, it’s best to start out strong. Bidding high on prized keywords at the beginning will give your ad a prominent placement in early search results. Hopefully, this will generate a high volume of clicks. Once a high volume of clicks is achieved, you can lower your bids without compromising your placement.

9. Set Your Budget Higher Than Google Recommends
If you set your daily budget too low, Google will only display your ads sporadically. Setting a higher budget helps ensure that your ads appear every time someone searches for your keywords. If you’re worried about spending too much, you can control your budget by using negative keywords, geotargeting, or adjusting keyword bids.

Any other suggestions? Leave your comments below!

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We’re excited to see our local trainings and webinar series shaping up quickly in 2009! Our first training at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits in December was a big hit and we were asked to do six more, each on a new topic. We thought that was plenty for the year…but they are all scheduled between now and June! The new lineup includes Social Media, a primary theme for GCN, which we will cover in an intro training and a training to create marketing plan. Other trainings include online fundraising and Open Source Content Management. We get started with 2 in February – hope you can join us! Have a look out our training lineup in the Learn section of our site.

If you have any suggestions for trainings or topics, please feel free to use the comments section here.

RSVP info for the GCN courses is forthcoming. You can sign up for ifPeople’s monthly newsletter to receive updates when it is available.

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