Archive for the ‘Non-Profit Marketing’ Category

Is Online Writing Real Writing?

December 11, 2008

Seth Godin had a really interesting post today about how the Pulitzer Prize committee is finally getting (sort-of) hip to the fact that online writing is making a huge difference in the world – and is, therefore, worthy of being recognized with their fancy-schmancy award. The screwy part is that only writing associated with big outlets will be considered.

The web is a huge place. A lot of the content on it obviously isn’t associated with those big outlets. And a lot of important work is happening outside those big outlets.

Here in GrafiQa Land, a lot of our clients are having great success positioning their businesses or not-for-profits as the leading experts in their fields through business blogs or e-news tools. Some of them have experienced such success that we think they should get an award. I guess it just won’t be the Pulitzer.

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So you want to hire a consultant?

April 2, 2008

We hate to see good businesses taken in by bad consultants. I recently wrote this piece on how to avoid predatory consultants for a Binghamton, NY, business publication:

Hiring Consultants: The Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly

We’ve seen ’em all.

The explosion of self-styled consultants in the business world has led to a serious side effect: Consultant fatigue.

No doubt you’ve seen it or experienced it yourself. Consultants come in with guns ablaze, dispensing big insights and making big promises. Six months later, either nothing has changed or things are actually worse.

You move on to the next big idea, the next consultant with a new spin on lean management or six sigma or the latest buzz biz model.

It’s enough to make business leaders wary of all consultants and their promises, which is unfortunate because there are talented and insightful consultants whose fees could be the best investment you’ll ever make.

We have worked with many consultants over the years because of our large client list and the type of work we do. Some of the consultants have been a pleasure to work for, grow with and learn from. Others have been mediocre, but they have served a purpose. And then there is the type of consultant who seems to have a stranglehold on an organization and actually does more harm than good.

You can find the good ones and avoid the ugly ones by following a few guidelines when hiring a consultant:

The Big Talker
It should go without saying. Before placing your trust and your company’s future in the hands of a consultant, ask for references and check them. Has the consultant worked for an organization like yours? What were the goals and outcomes? Who is a reference? A good consultant will be more than happy to share success stories, and will have plenty of references to back them up.

Track Record
How successful are the consultant’s own business practices? Are you going to trust the wheel of your million-dollar company to a consultant whose own business model seems to be lacking?

The Never-Ending Consultant
This is the worst of situations. Some consultants see businesses as endless supplies of revenue. They are adept at finding ways to extend projects far beyond their natural life or creating projects that spawn a litter of new projects. It’s important to examine how successful  Phase 1 was. If the project was wildly successful, then maybe Phase 2 is a good idea. If you’re lining the consultant’s coffers at the expense of your company’s, it might be time to move on.

The No-Duh Consultant
It is very easy for any competent businessperson to look at an organization from a third party perspective and see the strongpoints/flaws, Sometimes a lot easier then the person inside the business – this is the core of a consultants silver lining– The true effective consultant will have the ability to administer effective change through their observations. Many consultants seem like visionaries for basically pointing out the obvious – it’s important to take a step back and not be too impressed with observations – again look at the track records.

The No-Goals, No-Problem Consultant
If your consultant is quick to promise actions but slow to outline the goals and measurable results, take it as a big red flag. A good consultant listens to your goals and delivers a service designed specifically to move those goals forward.  A great consultant will outline very clearly from the beginning how you will be able to measure the value of that service after it has been delivered.

As in any industry, there are good and bad apples in the consulting field. We’ve worked with great consultants who are innovative, insightful and incredibly proficient. And if decision makers could more quickly differentiate between the good and the bad, things would never get ugly.

Christopher Quereau is founder and creative director for GrafiQa Creative Services, a marketing and brand development firm with offices in Binghamton and Oneonta. He can be reached at chris@grafiqa.com or 607.433.8837.

Is Web site optimization a competitive advantage in Upstate New York?

November 7, 2007

We recently met with a client to discuss ways to make her site more findable in search engines like Google. Like most businesses, our client wants to appear on that first search results page, right up at the top above her competition. Who wouldn’t?

Despite the fact that our client works in a super-competitive industry; and despite the fact that the Internet has become so saturated with sites (and other media) that even well-optimized pages face major challenges ranking well, I was optimistic that we could make it happen for her. Why is that?

When it comes to search engines, Upstate New York’s Web sites appear to be under-optimized. In normal human-speak, this means that many organizations in Central New York and the Southern Tier aren’t doing the things they need to do to ensure that their page listings appear in Google’s search results when prospective customers type in appropriate keywords or phrases.

For example, many sites in this area lack basic on-page optimization features like:

  • Unique page titles
  • Unique page descriptions
  • Keyword rich copy, headers and editorial links
  • Streamlined information architecture
  • Navigational aids like redundant text navigation, breadcrumbs and site maps

I also see little evidence of local and regional companies, non-profits and public-sector institutions taking advantage of social media marketing opportunities (like blogs, community sites, sharing sites, etc.) in order to increase the number incoming links to their sites. This is an extremely important feature in any search engine marketing strategy.

Why does this matter? I’m sure that many of the organizations that fall into this group spent considerable time and money developing professional-looking sites in an effort to attract business. If those sites aren’t findable and effective, then the return on those investments is likely to be poor.

Nobody likes to waste time and money (unless they’re on vacation).

If you think you fall into this group, then you should consider this present climate a huge opportunity to elevate your organization’s visibility and attract more qualified visitors to your site.

Seize the opportunity to beat out the competition while it still exists!

Go forth and optimize.

Tips for creating a better Email newsletter

September 18, 2007

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of our clients about his new Email newsletter. He’s in the process of transitioning from a print newsletter and was planning to apply the same approach to the electronic version.

Big mistake.

If you try to remake your print newsletter in electronic form, not only will you ensure that no one will read it, you’ll also be losing out on many of the benefits email newsletters have to offer.

Here are some tips for creating an email newsletter that your users will actually subscribe to and read.

  • Make it easy to scan and read. Subscribers are busy people. They’ve got a lot of Email to wade through on a daily basis. You’ll increase chances that recipients will read your newsletter if you make it easy for them to scan by bolding key statements or offering bullet points, and if you keep it short.
  • Make it worth reading. We’re used to thinking about newsletters as vehicles to share information about our companies – basically, another PR tool. This thinking ignores the basic fact that subscribers are self-interested. Subscribers who offer up their Email address and who take the time to read your content, expect that the content they receive is going to benefit them in some way. Fail to meet that expectation and you’ll notice subscribers removing themselves from your mailing list faster than rats jumping off the Titanic (not that subscribers are rats, mind you).
  • Try using a single article format. Most of the newsletters I subscribe to don’t do this. They opt instead for the multiple-article-summary-paragraph-click-to-read-more approach. While this approach seems to work for a lot of people (because they keep using it), as a subscriber, I find that I rarely click through to read the entire article which means that I’m probably missing out on some good information. Plus, having multiple article summaries to review makes it very difficult to know what’s important and what’s not. A better way to capture subscribers’ attention and deliver your message in its entirety is to concentrate what you want to say in a single article format. Not only is this more effective, it also allows you to title your articles something other than “September 2007.”
  • Send it out on a regular basis. Let’s remember that one of the advantages of having an Email newsletter is that it gives you the opportunity to reach your clients and prospects on a regular basis, and drive qualified traffic back to your site. In addition, unlike its print cousin, sending out an Email newsletter is relatively inexpensive and the costs are pretty much fixed. Thus, the more newsletters you send out (within reason, of course) the more you stand to gain, and the less you will pay to produce each newsletter.
  • Archive old newsletters on your site. Email newsletters can help your company long after they’ve been published. By adding newsletter content to your site, you’ll be creating new pages containing valuable keywords (not to mention internal links to those pages from other pages on your site). This will help you optimize your site for search engines. Also, users who aren’t subscribers will appreciate having access to this free resource material. They may even decide to subscribe to your mailing list after reading it. This is where it helps to have a descriptive title. To receive the search engine optimization benefit and to compel your users to click though and read the article, you’ll want to make sure that your title is descriptive, compelling and keyword-rich. So opt for a title like “Use Your Brand To Make Money” over “Vol. 2, Issue 1.”

Developing and writing effective Email newsletters isn’t easy, but the benefits that your company stands to receive from this low-cost marketing tool is worth the time and effort required to do the job correctly.