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Online Content: Back to Basics

Online Content: Back to Basics

How is social media influencing our perceptions?

Trust in social media is low, and Americans have been spending less time on Facebook, partly because so much of what they see online is negative and dubious, a recent article in The Economist says. Globally, users spent around 50 million hours less per day on Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2017, which translates into a 15% drop in the time spent year after year, according to Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for relying too much on social channels to get your message out. Let’s be clear: social media is nowhere near dead. But it does suffer from a major credibility problem. Many people no longer trust the platform to deliver high-quality content or persuasive messaging because it is simply too easy to manipulate by nefarious actors.

That’s one reason we always advocate for a direct-mail component in every campaign–fundraising or political.

When your organization’s constituents cannot be safe in the certainty that the appeals and ads in front of their eyes are not the work of propagandists or fake news peddlers, then your online campaign will suffer. Donors will close their wallets, not wanting to chance being duped into funding a scam.

A beautifully written personalized appeal letter, on the other hand, addressed to your donor buys you instant credibility in a way social media simply can’t.

Using today’s digital channels—from Facebook to e-mail—is wise to consider when putting together your distribution strategies. But don’t forget to complement those efforts with tactics that offer a contrast, both in where they will be seen, and how people feel about them. Direct mail fits right in here.

It’s time to get back to the basics. Let us show you why high-quality direct mail still delivers.

Keeping Members On Track

Another long-time client of ours—a performing-arts venue—faced an interesting challenge. Its primary venue was undergoing a major renovation, but the shows had to go on! A temporary venue would host events while the main complex was being improved.

The situation created two immediate needs. First, patrons had to know what was going on—how long would the temporary venue be used, what were the changes coming in the new venue, and the like. Basically, expectations had to be set and managed.

The second need was more subtle but no less important: The organization wanted to make it as easy and convenient as as possible for customers to use the temporary venue.

Working closely with the client’s marketing and outreach teams, we developed a multi-channel strategy designed to get customers excited about the new venue and keep them engaged during the transition.

Membership Appeal

A direct-mail campaign used personalized URLs—or PURLs—on postcards that gave each recipient a customized web page that had directions from their address to the temporary venue and back. It also included recommendations on where to eat in the area.

The site also gave customers a customized view of the new theatre from their future seats.

All of it was backed with reminder emails to keep the information handy—and provided easy access to the PURLs.

“The idea was to turn an inconvenience into a chance to elevate member service, while getting members excited about the big picture,” Rapoport says. “The client was happy, and most importantly, so were the customers.”

Chapter-specific Membership Drives

If you’ve spent any time in association marketing or membership-recruitment, you’ve no doubt heard about the advantages of using data. Whether you’re looking to build your membership, retain members, or simply serve them better, data can help. Or so you’ve been told.
We’re not going to disagree. As our strategies have evolved over more than two decades, data’s importance as a marketing tool has steadily grown. One thing we’ve found, however, is that while our clients understand that they can be using data more productively, they’re not always sure how to go about it.

While there are myriad ways to leverage datasets, we wanted to present two recent real-world examples in which, working with association marketing executives, we helped develop data-driven campaigns with very specific goals.

Data Drive Recruitment & Retention

Our first example is a large professional organization with more than 100 regional chapters underneath a national governing body. Their goal: increase membership through a coordinated campaign that also worked in targeted messaging on, in many cases, a chapter-specific basis.
The task was a challenge, but well worth the effort. Coming up with chapter-specific messaging helped prospects feel more connected to the organization—a simple yet effective example of personalization. Delivering chapter-specific messaging also allowed letters to come from chapter presidents, rather than the national leadership.

Execution required driving messaging based on ZIP codes, which were grouped based on the chapters they are in. The effort was coordinated through the national organization—this ensured that messaging, while customized, had common content that was relevant to the organization as a whole.

“By having the national organization drive the campaign but programming it by demographics, a unified message could be sent out that appeared to be coming from the local chapter,” Grassroot VP-Sales and Marketing Sherene Rapoport explains. “There was enough customized content to make the messaging unique, yet the underlying theme supported the national organization’s goals.”
The campaign was a success, driving membership numbers up from across the country

More Data Isn’t Always Better Data—Why Quality Matters, Too

If you’re a marketer and you haven’t been hiding under a rock for, oh, the last decade, you are well aware of how important data has become in developing successful campaigns. For a long time, the battle cry was, “More data!” Capture information from your customers and prospects–the more, the better.

But data quantity is only one ingredient in the recipe for successful analytics-driven marketing. Data quality matters as well–and it’s arguably more important as your dataset grows.

Why? Because data is only as good as it is accurate, and customer data points change over time. The simple act of getting older shifts a person’s data profile through the major stages of life: student, young professional, parent, retiree, and so on. An analysis by Biznology found that data can decay at a rate of 70% per year if left untouched.

Decaying data simply leads to more problems. If your team is working with bad data, they will get bad results, or the equally undesirable task of trying to hunt for better data to make the campaign work. The Harvard Business Review estimates that inaccurate or incomplete data can lower a marketing team’s productivity by as much as 50%.

Fortunately, a few simple steps will ensure that a good quantity of data will keep its quality over time.

  • Ensure duplicates are removed. It’s easy to get the same person on your list multiple times. Maybe they sign up twice, or they appear in two different lists you aggregate. Regular de-duping is a must.
  • Consider removing inactive leads after a certain period of time. Yes, pulling potential customers out of a database is painful, but so is messaging lots of people that are not, and never will be, interested in your message.
  • Collect the same data from different sources. The concept of “uniformity” is important to collecting quality data. If one lead-generation form collects ZIP codes and one collects email addresses, you will have great, but incomplete, data. One way to help fill in gaps: encourage your customers to add bits of data each time they interact with you, perhaps in exchange for something of value (e.g. a case study or white paper.)
  • Audit your data regularly. Putting your data set under the microscope on a regular basis is a prudent way to maintain quality. This is often best done using outside expertise (and it’s something we do often for our clients).

One other strategy worth considering: Automation. Processes such as de-duping can be done automatically. Use the power of digital not just for outreach, but to sharpen your outreach tools!

Developing and maintaining quality data sets is one of our core competencies. We’d love to talk to you about your challenges, and work with you to create more opportunities. Contact Sherene, our VP of Sales and Marketing, to start the conversation!

For more data-quality tips and insight, see the related infographic from our friends at Connext

Grassroot Communication | Quality Data

Using Digital To Connect With Your Members

Savvy association executives know that technology is a key driver in serving membership—from user-friendly websites to apps that help keep members connected and engaged. What may be a surprise, however, is how pivotal technology is at making a member feel like they are part of the community.

A recent study by software provider Community Brands makes strong links between how well associations leverage digital tools to serve members better, and how connected—and satisfied—those members feel.

The study, Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology, surveyed more than 1,000 members of professional associations and 400 staff members in fall 2017. The takeaways show that associations have significant opportunities to drive member loyalty through technology, but many organizations are not taking advantage of them. The ones that are investing in technology to connect members—primarily through personalization of communication and content—are reaping tremendous benefits.

“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, membership software evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization.”

The survey shows that most associations—at least 60%–are using four primary digital tools: email marketing, CRM software, events-related tools, and webinar services. Other tools that align with member needs and priorities—such as job boards and learning management systems for training–are less common. Mobile apps are used by only half of the organizations surveyed as well.

A look at the members’ desires shows a disconnect. Among those born from 1965 to 1999—think Generation Xers and Millennials—at least 65% say technology plays a “big role” in their lives. More than 80% use a mobile device every day, and the same number pay for at least one digital subscription, such as Netflix.

Data Mobile Devices

It’s no surprise, then, that among the different ways that members can connect with their associations, the mobile option is the only one where more respondents said they wanted to engage than were actually engaging. This shows a gap between what associations are offering, and what members want.

“Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do,” VanDamme said.

What’s the easiest way to begin closing these gaps? Start with personalization. More than 70% of respondents said that personalized content appeals to them and makes them feel more connected with their organization. The type of content can vary—from discounted offers to conferences based on a member’s history or skill set, or specific articles on topics of interest based on a member’s profile.

“A majority of members (69 percent) feel more engaged with an organization after receiving personalized content, based on their past activity, because it shows the organization is interested in meeting their needs,” the study said.

Start small: birthday wishes, congratulatory notes when certain certifications are reached, or even products and services that align with the member’s profile. The key is to ensure the data you have is up to the task.

Grassroot Communications specializes in data analytics—and our team would be happy to help you! And if you’re wondering how to jump-start building a valuable database that stretches beyond your membership, contact us.

Community Brands Study

7 Reasons for Repurposing Your Organization’s Content

As we discuss content planning and continue the conversation about creating content that will allow your association to engage its target audience, it’s important to emphasize the idea of repurposing.
In an age when data, information, and records are amended and updated regularly, content creators are left with a dilemma – due to no fault of their own. Like anything else, content ages. It grows old, and this can be reflected in a few different ways:

• Your content likely has a timestamp.
• Your content might discuss “current” events that are no longer current.
• Your content’s legitimacy might be affected by a recent study or new discovery.

And these are all reasons why you should make time to replenish and improve your archive of aging content. But repurposing – the idea of recycling old content and marketing it as new content – is something entirely different. It doesn’t just
“save” your content from growing old. Instead, repurposing gives you a plethora of marketing advantages.

 

Grassroot Communication | Repurpose Conetent

Let’s take a brief look at several of these benefits.

1. Cover topics more comprehensively over time When you revisit something – whether it’s an article, an ad, or a graphic – you can almost always find ways to improve on it. The same goes for your content. So, next time you rewrite an old article with the intention of publishing it as brand new content, see whether you can dive a little deeper. Elaborate further on a particular point or add a couple of new facts.

2. Improve your SEO ranking by reinforcing keywords and using backlinks In terms of marketing, many would argue that search engine optimization is where repurposing presents its greatest advantage. By covering one topic repeatedly, you’re able to use the same keywords and include backlinks to your original content. This strategy will help you increase your SEO ranking over time.

3. Gain greater credibility on a subject The more you cover a topic, the more authority you’re going to gain on that subject. This becomes especially helpful when a reader is interested in a topic and chooses to reference your content as a constant source. With enough time, you build a specific audience for a niche that you know inside out.

4. Remain current on a subject And you can’t build credibility without being accurate, right? When you revisit a subject repeatedly, you’ll be able to improve your knowledge on that topic but picking up new facts and ideas along the way.

5. Save time spent researching and writing Of all repurposing’s benefits, the time you save might provide the biggest payoff. If the content is yours, why not simply rewrite it? Why not make minor tweaks here and there? You have the ability to use your content over and over again – in ways that allow you to bypass a few steps in the content creation process. Cut down on research. Cut down on writing. Focus on marketing.

6. Increase your creative palette by utilizing different content forms There are so many ways to tell a story. Perhaps you wrote an article, but you know that the same information might be just as effective when presented as a short video. Maybe the information in your short video can also be presented as an infographic. Don’t settle for one creative form when you have a variety of methods at your disposal. Use repurposing to experiment with these different forms.

7. Tailor the same content to different audiences Once you’re knowledgeable about a topic, you have the ability to narrow or broaden your target audience. A short blog post directed to a handful of your association’s members might also be repurposed as a white paper made that you make publicly available in the future.

Are you using the power of repurposing to reap the 7 benefits we mentioned above? If not, why not start today? Dig up one of your old articles or videos and see how you can reuse that information to publish something fresh and exciting!

(The Right) Content Is Still King

Have you ever come across appealing content only to find that you can’t actually access it?
When this happens, you probably spend the next minute or two troubleshooting potential ways to bypass the block, only to confirm that this content is indeed “member-only”.

To the outsider, this can be extremely frustrating; but to the insider, member-only content is an exclusive benefit. As an executive, leader, or marketer within your association, you may have trialed member-only content in the past, and those results may have landed anywhere on the spectrum spanning from “enormous success” to “utter failure”.

But if you’re new to the idea of member-only content, it presents a decision that you and your team will likely need to make at some point. Member-only content or public content? It’s a seemingly binary decision, but there are greater implications that come with the choice you make. So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of member-only and public content so that you can make the right decision for your organization’s content moving forward.

Let’s start with member-only content. If you’re on the fence about producing content that only members are able to access, you should ask a few questions. The very first of these questions is: what is the purpose of my content? Are you looking to inform your readers of a particular issue? Are you trying to drive more traffic to your site? Are you simply issuing content as an incentive for membership? Are you trying to monetize your content by teaming up with other influencers, sponsors, or brands?

Depending on how you use your content, you can start to determine whether your content should be made available to the masses, or to a handful of devoted members. If you’re using content to drive traffic, it would make sense for your content to be published publically; but if your content is a membership benefit, however, then perhaps your association should place restrictions that hide your content from non-members.

But that leads us to a second question: How effective is my member-only content? As a leader of an organization, you know that people give, donate, or sign up for membership for a number of different reasons. Some are actually incentivized by your membership benefits. Others care primarily about your organization’s cause and aren’t as interested in your membership benefits. As you’d imagine, this plays a huge role in whether or not your content should be exclusive. Are you staying current on your content’s data? Most website hosts can provide you with real-time analysis of your content. How many of your members read your emails and announcements? How many click through to your content? Think about it – if your members aren’t paying much attention to your content, is it really a valuable benefit? So, if you’re not finding success with your members, it may be time to open your content up to the public – or better yet, improve your content.

A third basic question to ask is: how relevant is my content? And this is when you have to take a good look in the mirror. If not even your members are clicking through to read what you have to say, you might have to consider whether there’s a greater issue with the content itself . . .

Are you covering subjects that are helpful to people, or are you producing content for the sake of producing content? Does it feel stale? Bland? Uninspired? Gather some feedback by doing any of the following:

• Ask your members what topics they would like to see covered.
• Poll your members on which content type they prefer to consume (i.e. video, graphics, blog posts, etc).
• Issue a survey with a list of potential topics and use that information to plan out future content.

With a little homework, planning, and communication between your organizations and its members, you can prime your content weeks – perhaps even months – in advance. And the best part? You’ll have valuable, relevant content that you can use however you wish. There’s still a market for member-only content, and of course, there will always be room for content that is made public as well. But when you identify your content’s purpose, its effectiveness, and its relevancy, you’ll be able to make adjustments that will improve its influence.

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Jack Keil, the advertising executive who created and gave voice to McGruff, the cartoon hound who exhorts Americans to “take a bite out of crime,” died on August 25th at his home in Westminister West, Vermont. He was 94 years old. (The New York Times Obituaries Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Public service announcements are, by their nature, boring. Being told to be careful around strangers, or not to feed the bears in the woods, or to take care not to start a forest fire, is all perfectly sound advice. But it’s not a way to keep top of mind. Moreover, most people don’t like being told what to do; it comes across more like nagging than providing a friendly reminder.

Clever marketers, guys like Mr. Keil, understood this problem and devised a clever way around it. Mr. Keil’s basic insight was recognizing that the most memorable way to present information – any information – is through a story. Taking this idea one step further, Mr. Keil realized that creating an unforgettable character who would act as the spokesman for the cause – in this case, relaying tips and advise on how to reduce neighborhood crime – would give the message the needed “sticky-ness.” And, thus, McGruff, a tall, tough, trench coat wearing dog detective was born. “He wasn’t vicious, not tremendously smart, maybe, but he was no wimp either, “said Mr.Keil about his canine character. “He was a father figure, or possibly an uncle figure.”

Giving the message a mascot and a catchphrase was a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of brushing off warnings to lock your doors and advice to start a neighborhood watch, people would see McGruff the crime-fighting dog, and they would immediately remember it was incumbent upon them to “take a bite out of crime.” In fact, McGruff is so iconic that most people forget (or simply don’t know) that there is an actual nonprofit organization he represents called the National Crime Prevention Council. According to three studies conducted by market research firms on behalf of the NCPC, 8 out of 10 children recognize the crime-fighting dog as do 9 out of 10 adults. And remember, the mascot was created almost 30 years ago. That’s stickiness!!

The point is that associating a cause or message with a loveable mascot endows that cause or message with a provocative narrative element that’s impossible to ignore. As a result, the exhortations to pay attention to something or take action for someone are softened in just the right way for an org’s target audience to process, absorb, and respond to.

Jack Keil understood better than most that the better a story-like element can be woven into an organization’s pitch, the more powerful it’s “ask” would be. He was truly a pioneer or message marketing, and he will no doubt continue to live on through his most beloved creation: McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog.

See article: ‘Jack Keil, 94, Who Created McGruff, Crime-Fighting Dog’ by Daniel E. Slotnik; The New York Times 9/10/17

Exciting News!! We’re Moving!

GRC will be down on Wednesday February 21st as we will be moving to our new location! We will be back up and answering emails and phones on Thursday February 22nd. In the mean time, please feel free to email us and we will get back to you as soon as possible! – GRC Team

 

We’re reaching out to you with some very exciting news: we’re growing!
After nearly 18 years at our current location, we’re moving to a new, expanded location.
Our new address is:
9203 Mike Garcia Drive, Manassas VA 20109

We will have lots of news in the upcoming months on how the move will help us serve you better. For now, however, the most important information we want to convey is how the move will affect you.

Our final day of production in the current location is Wednesday, Feb. 21.
We then move our entire operation to our new facility. We expect to be up and running 100% by March 1 at the latest. Our goal is to minimize the production downtime, but for your planning purposes, please assume that no jobs will be delivered from Feb. 21 – Feb. 28.

If you’re working on projects with us that you need before March 1, we encourage you to reach out to us asap to ensure we can meet your timeline. Simply put, the sooner you get current projects in to us, the better!

Please reach out to us with any questions. We appreciate your patience during this process and are looking forward to serving you from our new location!

Sherene Rapoport
VP of Sales and Marketing
Grassroot Communication

Ph: 540.428.7000 x3032
Fax: 540.428.2000
E: sherene@grassrootcommunication.com

We’re now Grass Root Communication.

Ever since our company was founded in 1986, we’ve been helping organizations grow by creating compelling, results-oriented outreach campaigns. We’ve continued to evolve, and—responding to our clients’ needs—take on larger roles in helping them with their outreach strategies.

As part of this evolution, we’ve rebranded our company to better reflect the role we play in supporting you.
We’re now Grass Root Communication.

While our name has changed, our goal remains the same: we’re completely focused on helping organizations of all types share their core message with their supporters.

One thing that our 31 years in business has taught us is that grass-roots strategies play integral roles in almost all outreach efforts—from initial pushes to campaigns created for large organizations that have been in business for years.

Equipped with that knowledge, we’ve shifted our focus to ensure that every campaign we touch benefits from both our production skills and our strategic insight. Our new name reflects this change.

Effective grass roots outreach involves a large degree of personalization backed by data gleaned from impeccable sources and accurate lists. Finding that data to empower personalized communication has long been a hallmark of our approach.

For instance, our targeted direct-mail campaigns take advantage of persuasive appeal letters designed to inspire our org’s constituents to take bold action-adopting the organization’s goals as their own. Thus, just as grass roots movements aim to mobilize citizens from the ground up, our personalized direct mail campaigns target those very same people on the ground in their homes by engaging them in an honest conversation.

As we continue to sharpen our focus on creating and managing complete campaigns, you’ll be getting the same high-quality offerings you’ve come to expect from GRC, just more of it. More data, more personalization, and more original content creation.

In the future, we will continue developing our social media and email marketing services to synergize with our micro-targeted direct mail strategies. We will find new ways to combine data science with content marketing so that we can deliver a highly effective omnichannel engagement experience for your org’s donors and members.

So from all of us, we officially welcome you to the new GRC.
We look forward to playing a role in your continued success.

GRASS ROOT COMMUNICATION

DESIGN. EXECUTE. ENGAGE.

Sherene Rapoport
VP Sales and Marketing

sherene@grassrootcommunication.com