The blog ChurchMarketingSucks had a recent post on creating your congregation’s brand. Here is my response to their key questions of:
Should you find your church in need of an effective brand management strategy, here are three questions that I submit as points to start the dialogue:
- What is your church’s brand?
- Who is specifically responsible for managing your church’s brand?
- How do you effectively communicate your church’s brand internally and externally?
Another way to put the concept is, how can you meet the needs of your audience. For example, if visiting seekers are looking for your services, what can you do to help them understand what you have is what they are looking for?
The post’s questions are a great start. Let me just highlight that branding is not a one step effort but an ongoing process. You don’t just put up a sign with a simple logo and call it done. You don’t just put a logo on the bulletin and call it done. You need to do more then add a color to the name tags to be finished. Branding is a process of communicating what the values, ideal and aspirations of an organization through symbols as well as words. Do you know any other process that has been ongoing for say about 2000 years?
Communicating the truth of your services will take time and effort. You need to put it in the language of your seekers, not the internal shorthand of those inside. You need to share the joy and fun of joining. But then some causes are worth a little effort aren’t they?
The idea of working in collaboration has been around for a while, and CharlotteOne has a great idea. Notice how well McDonalds and CocaCola have been working together for a few years. Both win by meeting the needs of their customers.
I also remind others that defining your brand can be a significant effort. Especially for those not practiced in brand development work. But the beginning approach is to look at what the value is to a new guest to your house. Consider how their needs can be met better, or more uniquely then the other choices a visitor has. Every town has a variety of churches sharing the word of Christ. Again the key is to look at it through the visitors perspectives. Your perspective can provide hints. But more importantly look at what you valued when you 1st entered your congregation and what your needs were then. Consider what you were looking for, and how you choose to attend.
Branding can be a great way to define what your value can be to a new seeker. This effort can be lead by others or used as a team development project that can truly inspire all to greater sense of clarity to what the value is to the seeker.
One of the great parts of a trade show is being able to quickly do the ‘who are you and why should I share my secrets’ dance. On the phone, it seems to take forever. In email it feels like you never get real trust and open communication. And websites always feel distorted from the reality of what really happens at a company.
At IRCE 2012 (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, I met Brian Gibbs of Refund Retriever. One of the many logistics services company looking to assist businesses in the ecommerce channel. As you may guess Refund Retriever audits your shipping bills with FedEx and UPS.
One of the takeaways for me at trade shows is learning what you should be concerned about in your business. If there is a business performing a function, there is a good chance it is an issue that should be looked at. If you are shipping and don’t know your costs, it seems logical that you are not paying attention to a major cost center. While UPS and FedEx have incredible world class IT systems, there are still incredible number of hands in the system that can make mistakes. The amount of speed means that mistakes can and do happen. That is OK is there a need to audit?
What does become clear is that all businesses need to spend at least a few minutes looking to see what if they could improve their shipping costs, or reduce their error rate, or improve on time delivery. All of these can be improved by improving correct addressing. So while not the core of Refund Retriever, it is an idea to consider. So here are the different ways Refund Retriever will look at your invoices:
- LATE DELIVERIES (GSR)
- BOGUS ADDRESS CORRECTIONS
- RESIDENTIAL vs. COMMERCIAL SURCHARGE MISTAKES
- INCORRECTLY WEIGHED PACKAGES
- UN-SHIPPED/UNINVOICED PACKAGES
- DUPLICATE INVOICES or CHARGES.
But there is also the question of auditing your bills in the 1st place. Most services do it on a split of the refund, so the cost to your business to keep UPS and FedEx ‘honest’ is not a cost to you but a savings. Typically the auditors will use your account information to review your information online to perform the audit. Refund Retrievers is different from other auditors in that they are more focused on the low hanging fruit of just these two vendors. As a result they are better able to work with smaller ecommerce concerns. There is no minimum, since their model uses a simple account set up. Other auditors have a lot more effort in getting set up for each company that affects overall price. I have not had a chance to use them yet, but will be curious to see how they actually perform. Additionally, they have helped me in understanding what I should be doing on my shipping auditing by who ever I use internally or externally to manage my customers satisfaction.
Another perspective to look at for every business, is how would a service affect the customer. In this case, I would suggest that for every error caught, to pass on the savings directly to the customer. Lets face it, you really did not loose anything, your customer did. I would send a gift and or a refund to every customer that did not end up with the excellent service you intended when you shipped your product. Even if the customer did not complain. It is a way to show your customer that you care about them, not their money and orders. When you care about your customers, they will be far more likely to care about you.
So what do you think, is there value in auditing your vendors to keep them on the straight and narrow?
As a SaaS, they will verify your data as it comes in from forms (API call, XML return) or files:
- IP Address
- Score your leads
Like other solutions I talked to, pricing starts at a penny ($.01USD) per verification and goes down with quantity. The need for solving the age old problem of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) becomes more significant now that we can base entire campaigns and strategies based on data that may or may not be valid. Everything we can do to remove bad data from our warehouses is as important as removing the bad apples from our barrels. Our data warehouses can be corrupted by untrustworthy data just like our inventory warehouses can be corrupted by mice.
A cost effective solution that helps keep the bad data out of the warehouse in the 1st place can save us money for years to come. Imagine not mailing to a just 100 bad addresses for 5 years at 1.15 per catalog quarterly. Now imagine how your reputation will improve by not frustrating that bad address for 5 years and the other 3 people that tend to see each mailing and think your organization is inept. Imagine not calling that wrong number for years and bothering the wrong person.
But that is only looking at it from our perspective. From the users perspective, what if you can be helpful and let them know they made a mistake. Before the order is shipped to the wrong house. Before they never get the email you promised them. Before you are unable to call them back and they are waiting for your call. Before you disappoint them one more time and destroy the relationship before it ever gets started. Customers know you are tracking them. Most assume you have great skills to look into their credit card, because sites are tracking them around the Internet. If you don’t verify the simple stuff, how will they trust you with the important stuff (credit card number). Verification is coming (just as AMEX who bought Accertify), so start looking at the solutions now and planning or even start implementing.
These tools have great potential. Of course nothing is perfect, but the accuracy of your checker is key. I have not had a chance to test XVerify out yet, but I look forward to it and plan to report back when I can.
While reading a discussion on using auto-responders for visitors to church congregation websites, I felt compelled to share my thoughts.
The ideas apply not only in email relationship building, but also in all online relationship building. The core is building trust.
As was stated, the concept of auto-responder email is good. It has been proven effective repeatedly in the for-profit world, because it can build trust. However, most implementation in secular and non-secular of auto-responders is terrible. Just as a greeter at a store can totally change the experience for the better or sink the relationship with the whole chain, so can poorly written email generic auto-responders. A poorly written email auto-responder can seem like a chain letter or worse.
There is a reason why communications professionals will write 50 drafts. They are working to get the best chance to communicate the intended tone and message to their audience. Just like a minister will often spend all day or all week writing a sermon to get it ‘correct’, and it still evolves through multiple services on a Sunday (or Friday or Saturday). Even the Bible has gone through a few revisions of the centuries to make sure its message and tone is unmistakable (perhaps it may not be done being revised to tell its story based on the number of interpretations of its messages in different denominations across the country and world).
More Recent Data – Direct Marketing
I would recommend that we look at what has a longer history then email auto-responders for how to most effectively communicate with new relationships. While still much newer then the Bible, direct marketing or direct mail has a much longer history then email. Direct marketing studies performed decades ago realized that it took seven (from letters, TV spots, Radio or in-store visits) ‘touches’ to get the optimum amount of interaction with a perspective person to solidify the relationship (relative to invested cost of each piece). New studies increase that to 9 or 11 touches with the increased onslaught of communications and greater sensitivity to building trust.
That is much of what is at issue here – trust. Does the new guest trust that you understand them? And do they trust they understand the ‘real’ congregation you represent? It becomes hard to trust that you understand someone who may not understand themselves (as may often be the case of shoppers/searchers). It becomes hard to trust, if they only meet a few people in a congregation. It becomes hard to trust if they don’t have a solid referral from someone they trust (especially if they are coming from a place that did have solid referrals and it did not work out). A congregation is where many people put more trust then most any other relationship they have (including family or spouses). Visitors may not know they are looking for a place to put that much trust, but often they are.
Have you earned that trust?
Look at how would you build trust with a new relationship in an off-line manner and consider how to translate it to written form. That may include some disclosure yourself and the congregation (when the annual meeting is, how the board is elected), but often not on the 1st touch. It may include offers to be inclusive, but just as you would not propose on the 1st date, you may not invite someone to lead a group in the 2nd email. The building of trust is based on a mutual exchange of signals that show commitment on both sides. If you don’t properly respond to a visitors signals you are being as rude as kissing someone who shows no interest in a physical relationship.
Of course in the age of digital tools like Constant Contact, iContact, HubSpot, InfusionSoft and many others, the best practice is to consider not creating a single one size fits all approach. Again the lessons and proof go back to the early days of direct marketing and have shown a segmented approach is best. Send a different series of letters to parents then young adults (possibly both if they are indeed young adult parents). The relationship of an empty nester will be different then many 30 year old divorcee’s.
If they overlap, consider staggering your send times. Don’t send them all on Mondays, send the parent letters/auto-responders on Wednesday, Young adults on Friday, etc.
Look at the rules of etiquette in similar online venues (online dating is probably the most clearly documented) and use them to create an appropriate method to build trust with new visitors and you will create many new relationships.
Auto-responders (multiple with proper spacing) can be a great tool in developing mutual trust in a new congregant, especially if it is integrated with personal touches along the way. Especially if it is show ing of the care you would take for a new parishioner. This is your chance to show you care. Does that not deserve a little more effort then 10 minutes for a one size fits all generic letter.
How much time and effort do you typically spend on your auto responder emails? How many do you use? Join the conversation below and share your wisdom.
Are you trying to develop your site’s SEO because your new business is growing? Are you getting ready to move to the next level with your start-up?
I am constantly trying to see what tools are available to ease my work, and my clients efforts (especially after I set them up for success). I run across a variety of sites that are successful in short-cutting the learning curve. Instead of having to read 2 books, or sit through 5 months of classes or pay $10,000 in consulting fees, there are a plethora of solutions to help you get at least a cursory education on a variety of challenges for start-ups.
Here is another website that I found it has a great deal of wisdom in short nuggets. It is GUST.com, a website that matches investors and start-ups in one place, creating a clearinghouse for entrepreneurs to look for angel investors in a single location. But the nugget that I found that was really valuable was the hundreds of videos that they have as short 1 to 3 minute nuggets of wisdom from those that have been through the trenches before.
These are investors that most often have sat on the entrepreneur side of the table. They have learned the lessons of start-ups. Most often they learned the hard way. They are often boiled down in the way investors talking to many perspective start-ups can grasp most quickly from practice and repetition. The repitition of dealing with many pitches throughout the day, giving the same advice over and over. Their wisdom tends to be in short little nuggets that you can walk away from with your mind clearer and more focused then the cup of coffee you sipped while watching. These might even be good nuggets to put around your management tables to start out at different meetings. It might also be an interesting way to kind of go through and bring in an outside person to lend some advice to some of your conversations/arguments that you and your management team are having as to how to solve a problem. Certainly, they’re not the absolute perfect answer to everything, but I do find some thought-provoking ideas in there that can be helpful in trying to map out your course, and stay on path to growing your start-up.
I know what you think about gust.com, and the idea of looking at short videos for gaining wisdom and keeping your energy level up as you go through the challenging days of marketing your business to the world through search engine optimization.
Do you understand specifically what your website visitors are looking for or do you only have a generic idea? If you understand what they are specifically looking for to meet their needs, you have a much greater chance of true engagement. When you have true engagement, your odds of a sale increase dramatically, if not today, then on the next visit.
But if you don’t understand how to look at the trends and numbers, you will have a challenging time understanding what your visitors are really looking for.
That’s why retailers count how many people are coming in and how many people are coming out there also counting how many of them are actually purchasing. I have worked with over 100 different retail chains from single store retailer to office supply big box stores. They are counting by the month, day of the week, hour of the day (I know, I installed the counters that go back to the corporate databases with these body counts). They are counting how many of purchasing customers are actually signing up for the e-mail list. They’re counting how many of purchasers are return customers from previous orders. There also counting what is the average amount of each visitor’s spending. Retail stores count the numbers in so many ways you would be amazed. Just like you need to on your website. Your website is not a black box. You need to be paying attention to what’s happening.
If these types of customer engagement don’t make absolute clear sense to you, then I would suggest you go and spend some time and with brick and mortar retailers. Consider even working as a retailer. Learn how retailers convert the looky loo’s into true engagements. Yes we have all been shopping, but look at how retailers work with other customers not just yourself. Learn how retailers try to customize to the needs of each person, not a one size fits all. It is important that you learn how to look through a store or website through the eyes of a customer. It is important that you understand that the customer is always right in their perspective, and how they are looking at the world. And if you don’t understand their perspective, it will be very hard to understand why they’re not buying from you. If that same attitude of understanding is what a potential customer or visitor is looking at when they see a store and their perspective also becomes very useful.
This attitude of looking at your website comes into play in how you design your SEO and SEM. Did you need to present the right kind of signage from the street to get the customer to pull into the parking lot? Once they get inside the store, they need to see what the sign promised is fulfilled. SEO and SEM is about creating it signage from the street. You can fake a man once or twice, but once you do, they will ignore your sign for the rest of their life, because you made them cut across left-hand lane and pull into your parking lot. And they will tell their friends to ignore you or worse. You need to create a good ‘sign’ in your SEO/SEM to attract your visitors into your store. But you also need the sign to be a good indicator of what is in the store.
Just as stores don’t (at least those that survive long term) have the same layout year after year, websites also must evolve and continue to improve based on what works and what does not. This should be done as measured experiments. You can follow the models used in Lean Start-up (Eric Ries) and E-Myth Revisited (Micheal Gerber). Those experiments need tools like Google Analytics and other tools like ChartBeat. Topics of other blog posts.
Oh, not selling products on your site? I would place heavy odds that you are selling your ideas – be they the idea that your service is better then someone elses, or your idea is more important then the next bloggers. Remember to look at the website through your visitor’s eyes in the path they took to get to your website, and your pages.
“A feature that you built and tested, but didn’t deliver yet because you’re waiting for the next major release, becomes inventory. Inventory is dead weight: money you spent that’s just wasting away without earning you anything.“ Joel Spolsky
I discovered a new tool for quick survey of the series of tubes of the web (Daily Show fun) – AllTop.com which lets you get a single feed around topics that you can create, or others have created. The ‘generic’ page led me to Joel’s blog post today.
But Joel’s thought on inventory struck me. I have different posts in ‘draft’ stage. I have different ideas in planning stages. I have different relationships in development stage – I promised to get them some useful information (by their feedback) that I have not. This inventory (or more appropriately WIP-Work In Progress) is not creating value for me, or more importantly for others. I am short-changing myself, and others, and I need to stop that.
I notice so many people I respect are not getting hung up in working on getting ‘it’ perfect, before they publish/post/deliver/share so few opportunities are missed. The value they are reflecting is important. So the question becomes, how I do that myself?
I am finally not only hearing the need for creating, sharing and niching, but delivering. Whether that means publishing, posting or just hitting send more often. Thank you Seth Godin, and the many who have preached this newer concept over the old framework of: design, develop, test, fix, retest, fix, retest, fix, retest….. deliver an outdated design for a changing world and market.
So this year there will be more posting, more ideas and consequently more mistakkes as I ‘iterate’ and continually improve. How are you going to change your models to improve this year?
This the third part of my suggestions for a site redo/site refresh. Part one is at https://seodamian.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/site-redo/
Part two is Here
The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.
Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website.
Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes recommendations a challenge. But here are some suggestions for new pages to add to the site:
- Consider creating a leadership page that lists biographies and links of the leaders. This should include high resolution and low resolution images that could be used by the press, as well as how to contact for more information.
- Create a page with links to other related sites, including Main Street Alliance, Citizen Action and other key partners.
- Create a How To Get Involved page:
- This page outline the existing resources that we have in our annoying for people to plug into.
- They should also list other ways to get involved from across the country:
- If there is a desire to create other groups throughout the state. It may also be interested in advancing across. Obviously this needs to be managed in a properly controlled so as to not create a group that fights against ourselves, but this is a great opportunity for a way to make it easier for someone further down state to create a group supporting our cause in adding legitimacy to our overall organization.
- How to donate.
- How to contribute informational material, such as:
- Other blogs,
- Blog postings,
- Letters to the editor,
- How to share our voice page:
- List of e-mail addresses and fax numbers for letter to the editor sites.
- List of suggested letter to the editor topics.
- Links to Existing letters to editor that are either pro or con that we are asking others to comment on appropriately to increase the visibility as well as to link back to our site. This creates an action page for members to check back to on a regular basis. This also creates a focal point where key talking points can be shared in an easy to digest format.
- A calendar page. This could list past events as well as future events and again is a good way of creating credibility both within Google and by the press by showing how active we are and how often were meeting both as a entire organization as well as subgroups. Ideally, this would contain not only press releases, press briefings, but also key events from the national organization, key votes and commission committee sessions of important legislation, historical reminders of progressive accomplishments. Overlaying the legislative calendars would be a great way to help show a more clear focus of our agenda and intent.
These are more individual pages, again depending on the amount of commitment to website, that can be helpful in acheiving a variety of goals from:
- increased traffic,
- more links on the web,
- greater press communication
- increased membership
- increased involvement of membership
- greater understanding of our legislative leaders
What pages do you feel should be on this site?