Implementing a Grassroots Outreach Campaign to Attract Customers

????????????????????????????????????????????Any business trying to promote their services to attract new customers can sometimes get frustrated with the amount of noise they need to compete with on a daily basis. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get your message heard.

But with a properly executed grassroots outreach campaign, you can generate awareness of your business and slowly bridge that gap between your company and your target audience. It all starts with building a strong, long-lasting relationship with the residents and businesses of your community. This can not only enhance your reputation in your marketplace, but it can lead to loyal customers, referrals, and more importantly, increased traffic through your doors.

A grassroots outreach campaign is just the opposite of a traditional marketing one, which typically broadcasts your message to a wide population in the hopes that it will reach a portion of your target audience. For example, many of the television commercials you see today are part of a traditional marketing campaign. On the other hand, a grassroots campaign uses low-cost outreach tactics and focuses more on building relationships. 

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This is NOT an Anti-Ice Bucket Challenge Post But…..

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Photo From www.Penguins.nhl.com

This is NOT one of those anti-ice bucket challenge blog posts that some have written in order to try and gain as much notoriety as the challenge videos themselves.  Most of those anti-icers are from individuals or groups that are jealous that they didn’t come up with something so simple to execute and successful… in my humble opinion.

But was the campaign successful?

The videos have whipped up a social media storm, and the Ice Bucket Challenge is making a major splash in Minneapolis. In just 2 weeks, more than $13 million has been raised — and so has awareness of ALS.

Since July 29, the ALS Association has welcomed more than 250,000 new donors.

Details here

It certainly seems that it was.  And it was all based on the fact that people love to perform and show themselves on social media having fun, doing funny things and doing something to help.  Even for the ones who didn’t donate, they still raised awareness.

So the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon has done what it was supposed to do….increase donations and increase awareness of ALS.  Now, under the theory of our OutreachU principles of building Authentic Appropriate Relationships and the Targeting Matrix, it is up to the ALS folks to take the data (emails, demographic info, etc), put it into some type of CRM or Donor Management System and leverage the data.

That does not mean start sending pesky email blasts to all of the new email list-ees.  This means learning more about those who donated, why they donated, what is important to THEM and then use that information to build a relationship with each donor…. just as a for-profit company, like Amazon or QVC might do to move a customer’s feelings toward the brand from a neutral “I-kind-of-now-about-ALS” to a loyal “I-did-the-ALS-Ice-Bucket-Challenge-and-now-I’d-like-to-be-and-advocate-for-ALS” position.

Retaining some of the new donors is the real challenge to the ALS organization.

Thoughts?

BTW, in case you live under a rock, the Ice Bucket Challenges are being done to raise awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

DONATE TO ALS HERE

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12 Steps to Bridge the Customer Engagement Gap

We have high regard for Virsys12, an award-winning technology consultancy and a Nashville-based salesforce.com Cloud Alliance Partner, and are collaborating with them on potential future projects that involve SalesForce. Below is an excerpt of a recent blog post that we thought our readers would enjoy:

Using technology to bridge the customer engagement gap is critical, but we’re not talking about the “rise of the machines” here. The best technology solutions are about elevating thehuman touch between the people inside your company and their customers, prospects, vendors and partners.

Here are Virsys12’s 12 moves for humans using technology:

1. Use the cloud. It’s hard to know your customer when information is scattered across multiple computers, spreadsheets, notes and systems. Using integrated cloud technology is the game changer, consolidating what we know about customers and keeping that knowledge current across people and platforms.

2. Upgrade for speed. According to a Kissmetrics study, 47% of consumers want web pages to load in two seconds or less. Patience is gone among your customer base—if it ever existed in the first place. If your technology is behind, so are you.

3. Collaborate. Today’s social collaboration tools make it easy for people to sync up and work together on customer issues, sales opportunities and other campaigns, whether the team is internal, external, virtual or all of the above.

4. Curate collective intelligence. There’s a wealth of knowledge that’s locked up inside your team. Social and online collaboration tools mean people can share and learn from each other’s experiences, and if someone leaves, their knowledge won’t leave with them.

Read more.

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Do You Have 12 Minutes to Learn How to Be More Persuasive in Your Outreach?

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5 Outreach Efforts That Can Get Your Healthcare Business in Trouble

As the demand for healthcare practitioners continues to grow because of our aging baby boomers, increased population, better and more innovative technology as well as the Affordable Care Act, competition among medical practices continues to be as fierce as ever.  Practices with more resources are hiring advertising agencies and PR firms to manage their Outreach strategies.

Smaller and mid-size practices are doing what they can to keep up whether it’s by hiring an internal Outreach director or working with an independent consultant. No matter if you hire the best agency in town, using an Outreach intern from the local university, or just managing your own efforts, bad Outreach practices can happen if you’re not careful. Below are five Outreach efforts that can mar your organization’s reputation and hurt your bottom line.

Failing to asses your population’s language needs

One of the biggest mistakes medical Outreach professionals make is failing to do a complete assessment of their population’s language needs. This includes an analysis of not just the language, but the country/region of origin, health beliefs and health literacy level. Bridging the language gap is key to ensuring your culturally diverse communities enjoy equal access to healthcare.

For example, if you can’t apply an Anglo marketing model to reach Latinos. Family is center with most Latinos, and often the Latino family isn’t the traditional family by Anglo standards.

Instead it’s an extended family and community with a belief in the collective ‘we’ and a focus on cooperation instead of competition. In many cases, Latinos buy to enhance experience with family and community. Decisions are based on cultural norms and word of mouth. Plus, brand loyalty is high compared to Anglos and passes from generation to generation.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield, the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain region, learned this lesson when they discovered that their previous brand tagline “Together we can take charge” didn’t resonate well with Latinos. So they worked with the marketing department to keep the brand but modify it to “Juntos podemos” or “Together we can,” which was a more suitable message for their outreach to the Latino community.

After making this change, Regence’s net promoters score (NPS)—a customer loyalty metric—grew exponentially, confirming that Regence was communicating the right message.

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New Outreach Strategies to Improve Your Bottom Line

With stretched budgets and fewer personnel dedicated to delivering advertising and marketing messages, small businesses have become more creative in targeting their audience. From social media to content development to mobile marketing to outreach, companies are looking for the biggest bang for their buck.

Engage in social media

Social media continues to change how businesses communicate and share information it’s also an inexpensive way of reaching your audience. Each social media channel has a different function so understand what each channel does and develop a plan on how to use it.

Exposure to social media’s large user base is another reason to have a presence. However, social media is not for everyone. Not every business is meant for social media because some businesses cannot take advantage of the instantaneous feedback each platform provides. Examine your audience to see if you could benefit by having a presence.

If you use social media, choose the channel appropriate for your business, and then develop a strategy on the type of content to share, the frequency in updating your content, and how to respond to messages or comments on your pages. 

Assign someone on staff or an outside consultant who will be responsible for maintaining your account and keeping your content updated. It’s also a good idea to monitor the competition to see what they’re doing.

Update your website

A website or a blog is another important component to your marketing initiatives as long as you keep it updated with fresh content. When you provide customers with quality content, you’re gaining their trust and establishing your credibility. It can also boost your rankings in search engines. Today, businesses can manage their own content through content editors.

A content management system, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, is very empowering for a small business and there’s no reason to rely on an outside organization to maintain the site.

One way to keep your website updated is by writing blog posts weekly. Your content management plan should include a communications calendar. As an added bonus, you can aggregate those posts into a monthly e-newsletter for your clients.

Conduct a keyword analysis—using tools such as Google Analytics—to discover how customers are finding your business and incorporating those keywords into your content.

Incorporate mobile marketing

Small businesses should also embrace mobile in their outreach efforts which also means that your website should be optimized for mobile. Small business marketers are presented with a powerful opportunity to reach specific customers at the right time and place with the right offer.

Register your business with Google Maps, and sites like Yelp and Foursquare, to harnessing the power of smartphones. Sixty percent of all cell phones sold today are smartphones. Not only do you have to be thinking about a mobile version of your website, but how consumers will use their phones to find products or services that they need.

Connect through outreach

Outreach is another effective method to reach your audience. In our OutreachU Programs, we define outreach as a two-way, community-based, customer focused effort which is distinctly different than the one-way message traditional marketing offers. In a one-way marketing strategy, businesses push a message to customers using methods such as direct mail or print ads. 

You’re pushing this message constantly, one way, and then hoping people will take action. Outreach is a two-way conversation with your customer—learning about them, their needs, and their desires through regular conversations.

Outreach is similar in some ways to social media, but even without social media, businesses can still interact in a two-way manner with potential customers through methods such as face-to-face networking and permission-based, email marketing.  

Plan a strategy 

No matter which marketing or outreach channels you use, planning is critical. 

With marketing messages splintered in terms of different channels, develop a strategy that incorporates different delivery mechanisms. We also still think we’re controlling the message. That clearly has changed. The brand does not belong to us anymore. It belongs to our customers.

Once your plan is in place, establish goals and stick with it. Outreach usually falls on the list of priorities during the day. People tend to dabble in it rather than commit to it. When they dabble, they don’t have the patience to let it work.

Lack of consistency is another problem that plagues businesses. 

Some businesses don’t have a consistent message and broadcasts it out there in the hopes that it lands on someone’s ears. Figure out your message, which vehicles to use, who you’re targeting, and allocate time to commit to this plan.

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Is Your Blog Failing You?

Social media can often seem overwhelming for even the most experienced Outreach professional. There are thousands of tools and applications that you can use to enhance your use of social media. But we recommend sticking to what works best for your organization. Oftentimes, this includes blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter—the Big 4.

As we mentioned in this blog previously, your own, original, content is critical in social media. Sure, you can post articles from other sources on your Facebook Page, you can participate in a few LinkedIn groups, and you can retweet your favorite expert on Twitter.  Which is all perfectly fine to do, and encouraged. Social media, after all, is about being social. But to improve your Outreach communications, you need to drive people back to your website or blog as well. Social media, particularly your blog, can help you generate leads if used properly. 

By writing on your blog regularly, you’re creating content that you can share with your followers. They’ll come to look upon you as an expert within your field. We’ll discuss some writing tips in a future column as well as some ways to generate blog topics. 

Below are some tips on how you can instantly improve your blog to ensure that your readers keep coming back:

Add a sharing widget—On the Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News website and its sister publications, LakeOconeeBoomers.com and PittsburghHealthcareReport.com, we like using Shareaholic. But any social media sharing tool will work fine. The goal is to just make it a little easier for your readers to share your blog content with their own friends and colleagues. Limit your sharing buttons to 5 or 6 so it can stay on one line and keep a clean look. Our sharing buttons include: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. 

Install a email subscription form—Your readers should be able to opt in and register to receive your blog posts via email or an RSS feed. Feedburner is pretty good for this and is what we use. Other clients we have worked with prefer using MailChimp or Constant Contact.  Each time a new blog post is posted, your subscribers will automatically receive a notification via their email address that something new was added to the site. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your readers.

Resize your images—I often hear clients say to me that their blog is taking too long to load. Oftentimes, the culprits are the image files. Always be sure that the size of your image matches the exact size you want to use within the blog post. For instance, a good size for our site is generally 300 x 200 pixels for head shots. But we tend to receive these image files as high resolution such as 1,200 x 800 pixels which is perfect for the print publication. Print needs higher res photos; websites do not. Most blogs allow you to upload your images and then resize the images within its application. We recommend  not to do this; instead, always resize the photos before you upload them to the blog. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra to get more bandwidth from your hosting provider.

Edit and edit some more—Unless you’re operating a magazine website, try to keep your blog posts short, no more than 400 words. People’s attention span are much shorten when they are online. You are competing against incoming email, social media feeds, and anything else on the Internet that could be distracting to your audience. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even though these posts are short, use headers and bullets as often as you can. 

Post more often—Out of sight is out of mind. If you’re writing a new blog post once a quarter, you’re going to quickly lose your audience. They’ll probably seek out your competitor if you’re giving them good, quality information on a frequent basis. How often should you post? I’d recommend at least once a week if you are able. But keep it consistent. Pick a day you will write and post your new piece and stick to that schedule. 

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LinkedIn 101

Along with Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is another popular social media site, mainly used for outreach. It’s an essential, low-maintenance tool for Outreach professionals even if all you do is a set up a simple profile, which is mainly an online version of your resume, as a way for you to be contacted.

If all you do is set up your name and address and accept connections from people you know, you’re at least making it easy for you and your colleagues to stay in touch after a move.

Building Your Network

As a LinkedIn member, you maintain a list of contact details (such as name, address, email, etc.) of your friends, colleagues, or anyone else you’d like to stay in touch with. These contacts are called Connections. You can invite anyone to become a connection.

Through your Connections, you can begin to build your contact network, comprised of your direct connections (1st degree), the connections of each of their connections (2nd degree) and their connections (3rd degree). 

One of your degree of connections can be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to be introduced to. It can also be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one’s contact network. Healthcare employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. As an Outreach professional, you can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of your Connections can introduce you. 

Company Research

LinkedIn also allows users to research organizations you may be interested in partnering or doing business with. Simply, type the name of the organization in the search box and you’ll be able to see relevant statistics about that organization, such as their employee size, revenues, the location of the company’s headquarters and offices, and a list of present, past, and former employees who are on LinkedIn.

Other Ways to Use LinkedIn

These are just some of the basic ways you can use LinkedIn. Jason Alba, CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com and author of I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?, offers six other advanced ways that LinkedIn can be an effective networking tool for you.

Create a LinkedIn Poll.This is a fairly new and limited feature in LinkedIn, but it has the advantage of notifying (softly, not via email) your first degree contacts by allowing you to post a poll. The poll will appear off to the corner of their LinkedIn landing page when they sign in. It’s a nonintrusive way to get your brand or offerings in front of them. You can do this as often as you want, since it’s not intrusive.

Join a Group. It’s like joining any message board or forum. You’ll need to request to be part of that group. Once you are a member, be sure to contribute to discussions or start a new discussion. But don’t spam. Be a part of the Group, don’t preach or pitch to the Group.

Start your own Group. When members join a Group they typically leave your image (logo or photo) on their own LinkedIn Profile landing page–this image usually points others back to your Web site. 

Change your status frequently. As with Twitter or Facebook, you can post a status update. Try to post regularly. Through a free application like ping.fm, you can write one status update which ping.fm then sends to any of the social media sites you belong to. Each of the social media sites also offers an application allowing you to tie in your Twitter tweets with Facebook and LinkedIn, and vice versa.

Give LinkedIn Recommendations regularly. Through this feature, you can write a recommendation or a testimonial for someone you worked with. It does wonders for your relationship, putting your ink on someone else’s Profile, and sometimes your Contacts reciprocate.

Browse network updates to see who you could or should communicate with. If you’re connected with that ideal prospect or customer, browse through their connections, you’re to find other prospects who you should be talking with.

Of course, the best way to learn more about LinkedIn and its wonderful features is to dive in and explore it yourself. 

Are you using LinkedIn? What are some of your tips and advice?

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SEO Techniques to Improve Your Search Capabilities

One of the greatest Outreach tools at your disposal is your website. More consumers than ever are using the web and social media applications to gather health information about you and your business.

Many are using search engines, particularly Google, to not only scope you out, but your competitors as well. How well do you rank in search engines? Are your potential customers able to find you easily? Research indicates that visitors rarely go past the 2nd page after Googling a search term. With proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriting techniques, you can greatly improve your organization’s ranking on search engines and get a step up over the competition.

Need some help? Here are some ideas.

Keyword Search Tool

First, you need to know what keywords to use. There are many keyword search tools out there to help you select the keywords you should be sprinkling throughout your content. Google’s tool is one of my favorites and it’s free: https://adwords.google.com

Work on Your Headlines

Once you decide on the keywords, add some of these to the Headlines of your content. Search engines love this. For instance, instead of writing the header, “About Acme Homes,” on a retirement community website, you can write, “Acme Homes: A Retirement Living Community.”

Also, since search engines read content on a website page the same we do—left to right and top to bottom, position your headline on the top left side of each page. Be sure to add a headline to each page of your website. Make sure these page titles are clear. Always ask yourself if the title of the page make sense if it is the only thing you see.

Think of Number One

Remember to always focus on the number one: one topic, one page; one idea; one paragraph. This aids scanning and makes it easier for search engines to find.

Additionally, the most important information on that site should be located at the top of the page. For all you outreach practitioners, it’s like writing a press release. Think of the inverted pyramid. Also, use keyword phrases as intact when possible.

Include Bullets

  • Bulleted and numbered lists make information easy to scan and quick to understand.
  • Be descriptive—not clever.
  • If you need to, punch it up with question words or numbers.

Add Internal Links

It’s frustrating (at least to me) to visit a website and see a lack of hyperlinks to the internal pages of a website within the body of the copy. For example, if you own a medical practice and mention your dedicated staff of highly qualified physicians on the home page, be sure to add a link to that page within the content. What will be most effective is if you can link the keywords to other pages on the site.

Forget Meta Tags and Keyword Density

One thing to keep in mind is that keywords in the Meta Tags (the coding behind websites) are no longer important. In fact, Google basically said they’re ignoring keywords because of bad apples abusing them. Yahoo stated that while they still index the Meta Tags, the ranking importance given to them receives the lowest ranking signal in their system.

Another practice that is no longer as important is keyword density. However, it is important that your keywords appear naturally in the content. Add the keywords in the content as early as possible (again, think inverted pyramid), and make sure it doesn’t look too spammy. Google and Yahoo hate that and will ignore your site.

Other SEO Copywriting Considerations:

  • Chunk your paragraphs so they are between 150 and 300 words.
  • Cut the fluff and get rid of empty words and phrases.
  • Short pages may be 400 words or less. If you have less than 200 words, you might not have a page.
  • Keep longer pages around 600 words.

Have any suggestion of your own?  Let us know in the comments below!.

Using Pinterest in Your Outreach Efforts

With an average of over 12 million unique monthly visitors users and counting, Pinterest (www.Pinterest.com) has become the latest social media darling. In fact, according to Lemon.ly, a visual marketing firm, Pinterest was the fastest independent website to reach 10 million unique monthly visitors—faster than Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

So what’s all the fuss about the site? And more importantly, how can your business take advantage of it?

Basics of Pinterest

First, let’s discuss what Pinterest is. Simply put, the social networking site is a virtual pinboard. Members register for free and upload their own photos or post links to photos of products or images they want to share with their followers. This is called “pinning.” 

When you pin an image on Pinterest, you can embed a link to the site where you found that particular image. As a result of allowing users to embed website links, a Shareholic study found that Pinterest is now generating more referral traffic to websites than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn combined. 

Get Involved and Be Engaging

As with any social media site, the more engaged you are, the more beneficial it is for your brand. This means commenting on images posted by your Pinterest followers and sharing their images with your own followers. In order to establish your presence on Pinterest, become engaged. 

As we mentioned in a previous article, think of social media as a big party. The more you interact with others, the more exposure you’ll receive. If you’re not participating, you won’t get noticed. 

Pinning your Images

Whatever images you decide to pin to your board, just be sure it’s visually appealing. You want to give your followers a reason to comment on your images or share your images. If you work for a healthcare construction firm, you may want to pin your completed projects. 

Show off your best work—and write a brief caption of what that project is and maybe what makes it unique. Want to share some real estate design tips with your readers? Create a visually-appealing image with some tips and pin it to your board.

Since you are driving people back to your website or blog with some of your pins, I also highly recommend that you have an interesting site or blog to entice people to want to come back. If you just have a static, boring website, you run the risk that people will stop following you. 

Promote More than Just Your Products

You don’t necessarily have to pin images related to your business of course. Did you snap a photo of that tree now blooming in the front of your office? Pin it under the “Outdoors” category on Pinterest. Took photos of a cool office party to celebrate a holiday? Pin it under “Holiday.” 

The beauty of Pinterest is that you can categorize your images under several topics such as architecture, art, people, photography, products, sports, and technology. Not sure where your image fits? There’s an “Other” category. 

If all you are doing is pinning your own images and refuse to share other images, you’ll appear to be too self-serving. That defeats the purpose of any social media site. The goal is to share so don’t be afraid to post images from other sites, even if they may be from another organization. 

Allow Others to Pin Photos

Pinterest allows you to let other contributors post images to your pinboards. If you’re part of a hospital or medical practice, your pinboard can contain photos from your patients and employees. Invite your followers to pin pictures of themselves or their favorite things on your pinboards. Some great photos are patients coming home from the hospital.

Are you a manufacturer? Invite followers to post images of your products being used. You can even hold contests on your pinboard and each month select the best photo pinned to your pinboard. The goal here is to just get your fans involved and help spread the word about your products.

So what do you think of Pinterest? Are you using it? If so, share with us some of the creative ways you have used it? 

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