I have been thinking more and more about one of the fundamental failures communicators are making in their work and was reminded of it when I drove into my local ShopRite parking lot the other day.

After renovations which made grocery shopping fun and delicious (new food court in the actual store!), traffic went through the roof. But the store didn’t stop there.

Thinking about the user experience even before we walk in the door, the management realized while shopping inside the store was fun, getting a parking spot wasn’t anymore.

putting audience first

So what did they do? Call them crazy, but I now have free valet parking at my grocery store. The first in the entire state apparently.

What are you doing to make the experience of your guests, audience, followers, supporters and volunteers to be a WOW-experience? Where can you go further to put their needs first?

If I looked at your website, is it really tuned for first time visitors? Or is your content set up in a way that “everyone else does it”?

Do you talk more about what you need from your supporters (like tons of “give give give! Just give us money!” type messaging) vs what they might really want to explore or hear about regarding their opportunity to participate in impactful work?

Do you talk more about you, as in your “institution” organization? Or do you really celebrate “you,” the person reading your content — you know, the volunteers, supporters, constituents who are the real heros, without which you wouldn’t have a job?

What can you do to pull out all the stops to out to put your audience first, kind of like giving free valet parking for me to run in and grab a carton of milk at my ShopRite?

I’ve written about usability testing a couple of times here because if you’re developing a digital footprint, it is important to test test test.  And it doesn’t take as much you think to do it properly.  As Wikipedia puts it:

Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users…in contrast with usability inspection methods where experts use different methods to evaluate a user interface without involving users.

Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product’s capacity to meet its intended purpose…[it] involves watching people trying to use something for its intended purpose

Today, I interviewed Tony Albanese, product marketer over at ZURB.  They offer a suite of website development apps including SolidifyApp.com, VerifyApp.com and Notableapp.com.

I have been using VerifyApp.com recently on live site development projects I’m leading currently and it has been a great tool to validate what we’ve intended to build as well as identify some things from the users’ perspective that we never would have thought about without user testing input.

Useability testing allows you to address navigation, content presentation, and other items to improve the user experience which in turn increases the likelihood of the site to deliver on the original objectives for user engagement.

Here’s the interview video below.  Watch it and I’ll join you afterwards below:

Here’s an real-life example of what Verifyapp.com was able to uncover regarding a client’s website recently.  Although there were 3 different ways to sign-up for a newsletter or email list on the home page of a website, over 40% of the users didn’t know where to click when prompted to sign-up for free content, email lists or newsletters from the site.  That tells you that there is a communication issue going on.  Either the site is too busy and has distracting elements, or the calls to action are not clear, or placement of the sign-up forms are not visible enough given the current layout.  This is prompting a look at how to narrow the user experience so that sign-up for permission based email list relationships is one of the core pieces of the homepage offerings.  Of course, we’ll test out sample layouts along the way to ensure we’re improving the success rate.  That is what user testing can do for your website.

If you are a nonprofit, does your site clearly allow visitors to find and use the donation forms on your site?

If you are a church, does your site make it easy for prospective visitors to find the appropriate information they need in order to decide and plan on a visit?

If you are a cause-related organization, are the volunteer opportunities being promoted on your pages presented in a way so that the most urgent yet relevant positions can be seen?

Those are just some of the initial questions we can begin to address with user testing.

So what are you curious about with your own website?  What *assumed* function can you test to see if you really should be concerned enough to do something about it?

When you produce any messaging for your audience, who are you writing for? Does it really show in your writing?

You see, so many times we end up writing for the wrong “me”

Instead of writing for “me” the reader who is going to end up reading the materials you are producing, many marketers write for “me” — literally themselves. Their writing ends up for their own edification. To serve themselves or their organization. Does this make sense?

user-centric messaging

Check out the awesome packaging I found in medicine aisle at Duane Reade recently. Imagine you have a cold, stuffy nose, cough and/or have a headache at the same time. You need to find something to make you feel better…pronto. When you walk down this aisle, which packages will grab our attention first?

The product marketers here took a very bold move and produced packaging with product copy that completely served the “me” that is the potential customer. Not the corporate brand that is trying to gain market share, brand equity, etc. Nope, this drug maker is completely focused on what is important at that moment in Duane Reade — the sick customer. Wonderful. I love it. Don’t you?

Now look back at your latest marketing collateral piece and tell me if you honestly can say that you produced it with the right “me” in mind.

This week I got this interesting email from the Croc’s email list I’ve been on.

Check it out below and tell me what stands out to you in the messaging?

Email List Marketing Appreciation Tactic

 

What stands out for you that you don’t get with your usual mailing list messages?

I bet you it was the celebration of the 1-year of loyalty for staying on the email list.  At least that is what it was for me.

I felt appreciated.  And giving me a 20% off code to anything in their store was a nice incentive for me to click through and see if I could find anything that might be worth it to use it.

The great part of this is that you don’t have to offer all of your subscribers the same discount.  This is all done through an autoresponder.  In your email list marketing service (Aweber, Mail Chimp, etc), you can easily set-up the feature where a specific email is triggered based on the number of days from the day of sign-up.

Imagine if you reward your email list subscribers in incremental fashion?  Give them something at 90 days, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, and more!   For a retail operation, discounts or bonus goods are obvious.

But what could a nonprofit or church organization do to reward the subscriber?  How about some of the following to get your brainstorming started:

  • “Certificate” for a free coffee or meal with a staff member or leader
  • Create some downloadable eBooks or recordings that are of value to your subscribers
  • Arrange for discounts to events or attractions.
  • iTunes or Amazon mp3 gift card for a song download? Redbox code for a rental?
  • Branded merchandise that your audience will actually use or wear (don’t be cheap!)

What else could a nonprofit or church organization give away as a reward that is affordable yet of high perceived value to the subscriber?  Please leave an idea or two in the comments.

 

Have you started a 365 Project yet?  A photo-a-day? A blog-post-a-week?  A journal project?

These can be an amazing way to highlight the year at the end of the next year.  But you have to spend a few minutes this week to plan for the content when you need it in 11 months from now.

Planning year-end highlight videos now

 

Here’s a fun little video that my friends Sim & Bek just released — as you can tell, it was 9 months in the making.  BUT —  if you think about how they produced it, it is something anyone (even you! ha!) can execute on if you just plan it out in advance.

Take a looksie and I’ll join you further down the page after you watch the fun vid:

 

As of this post’s publishing they’ve already garnered over 1,000 video views.  Would you love that for any of your organization’s videos too?

All this creative couple needed was a still camera — an iPhone cam would do perfectly; a regular spot for the camera to sit; and a regular spot for Bek to stand when taking a couple of snaps each month.

If you review the video again, they only take 3-6 shots for any given milestone.  Easy-peasy!

The more important thing to think out now is the workflow — You can easily email the photos to yourself with the same subject line (easy to search for at the end of the year) or sync/transfer the photos into a project folder that you set up now.

At the end of the project, all you have to do then is simply import them into iMovie or Windows Movie Maker and overlay a track of music to fit the mood.  That’s it!

What kind of project could you create in 2013 if you started today?  Check out these fun photo-lapse videos to spark your creativity:

 

Imagine taking a photo a day of your staff at work in the office.  They can hold up ipads or printouts or chalkboard with whatever big project you’re working on that month?

What about a photo a week for every Sunday at your church?

Or have someone hold up signs that feature flyers / posters / marketing collateral featuring your monthly events, message series, etc.

A simple one is to create a simple sign that says “We HEART our volunteers” or “supporters” and then take snaps shots whenever you meet one anywhere.   The key here is that you have a sign or some other device that stays constant in all of the photos.

Do you launch customer projects all across the country?  Why not create simple signs that your sales force brings around and snaps with their customers?

Or get a small whiteboard and have people answer a fill in the blank statement that talks about something related to your mission.

Imagine a year-end review video flipping through the photos of all of these various series of photos.

 

All it takes is a simple snap of a photo TODAY to get things going!  Can you help me pick a project for myself?  Drop a comment here to suggest one!

Nanalew - Puppy's First Christmas Video on YouTube

Have you seen the latest trending viral YouTube video this Christmas season?

It’s a cute 96 second video against a 1 1/2 minute music track.  Short, simple, cute.  Perhaps people just want to watch anything other than Gangnam Style, but this is a sharable, watchable fun video in its own right.

Take a look:

You can easily see how this video has racked up 4.5 MILLION video views on YouTube, at least as of this post.

While viral videos can never be architected, there are a couple of things you can learn from this viral video and apply right now:

1) Timing.  Just like the timing of PR and any newsjacking piece you are employing, timing of content publishing is important.  This video tapped into the Christmastime season as well as the niche trend of families getting new puppies for the holidays.  The lesson here? Take your intended message, subject or idea and try to tie it thematically with a current trend, news piece or movement.  You’ll hopefully be able to harness the momentum others have already begun so that your video is not trying to depend on pick-up from scratch.

2) Short & Sweet Music Track. The mechanics of the actual video are quite simple.  While there a couple of moments that are timed to the actual song, most of the video clips used in the montage are simple and almost random cuts that anyone (like you!) can put together.  The key here is that they picked a short and sweet upbeat song to use as the backdrop of the video.  By using a music track as the basis for creating the video, it becomes a much easier task to assemble clips to fill in the parts of the song — vs — building a script from scratch, and then trying to source background music to fit / match the storyline. The lesson here?  Try planning a video project by using the music track as the constraint and see what happens.

3) Lots of different views.  Did you notice all the different camera angles, and varied ways the puppy was shot by the camera?  This video took one subject, one idea.  And then shot tons of various video clips of the subject (the puppy!).  This makes is relatively easy to shoot.  Are you shooting a volunteer celebration video?  Go out and shoot various scenes of your volunteers in action, high-fiving each other, working together, etc.  The lesson here?  Don’t make it super complicated and hard on yourself.  Find simple approaches in producing your film.

4) Just Publish.  If you look at Nanalew’s YouTube channel, this isn’t the only video produced and published this year.  In fact, once you start watching the other videos in the account, you’ll see that there a bunch that are nothing close to 4.5-million-view-worthiness.  The thing Nanalew understands is that the Internet rewards a bias for action when it comes to publishing content.  Many coaching clients I have worked with continue to look at web content as single-event, milestone-like publishing.  That’s what you did in the Gutenberg era.  But in the Google era, you want to be able to publish a *stream* of content so that your audience on the web can help lift up the winners.  That’s exactly what happend with PSY and his 1 Billion View Video.  He’s been a Korean pop-star for a decade, pumping out song after song.  It was the YouTube audience that decided to make Gangnam Style the king of web video.  The lesson here?  Stop planning on planning it out.  Just start the project and drive it to completion so you can publish it.  Remember you always have the option to take it down in the end.  But please, just publish.

What else can you see working with Puppy’s First Christmas video that might be applicable to videos for your organization, cause or campaign?

3 Trends for 2013

 

 

My colleague Rich Birch over at UnSeminary.com has spotlighted 3 important trends ministry leaders need to watch out for in the coming year:

  1. Everything is going mobile – from announcements to giving to community participation to social sharing.  You need to open your eyes and see that everyone’s phone is more than just a phone.
  2. Compassion action – individuals in today’s culture want to change the world, not just sit and soak in the pews.  What are you doing to help your people fulfill the call for mercy and justice beyond the walls of your building?  Whether it be down the block or around the world, the opportunity is here and now.
  3. Data can drive everything The Church is known for being stuck in the Gutenberg world while everything else has raced ahead into the Google world. If you start to look at some simple data about your people, about what’s happening, you can respond and provide better environments for discipleship, better engagement with your community, better experiences for visitors.  Forget about the fancy shmancy stuff. 38% of church leaders reading this don’t even have a church website in 2012.  Heck, if you can budget just $2000 and I’ll build you a clean basic one just to get something up on the web.

What other trends do you think we’ll see in 2013? 

American Express Open Forum recently featured some of my tips for holiday commerce tactics. I love the site for all of the practical advice and case examples they share for the small business / entrepreneur. First, go take a quick read of this article on “The Holiday Home Stretch”

Kenny Jahng marketing expert featured in American Express Open Forum article

 

The general ideas presented in this article are fair game for non-profit, ministry and cause-related efforts.   Mark Batterson’s National Community Church has taken the idea of gift catalogs and wrapped it around missions giving.  A Christmastime catalog of giving opportunities.  The program has become so successful that they are making it an annual tradition at their church.

 

national-community-church-missions-catalog

 

Some of the keys to success here are:

  • Positioning things that normally aren’t thought of in a giving paradigm into one that makes it sharable with someone else.
  • Presenting the opportunities so that they are in various price categories.  People need to have access to various entry points for giving.
  • Showing the transformation or impact in a tangible way so that someone understands HOW their contribution will make a difference.
  • Ensuring there is a diversity of opportunities — types of gifts, recurring vs one-time, price levels, bundles that appeal to different demographic groups (kids vs. adults. women vs. men, family vs. singles, individual vs. groups, etc).

What can you do with your giving opportunities to “put a bow on it”?

The New Year is almost here — and it’s time to think ahead about what BHAG’s you can come up with for 2013.  One of my goals is to publish a series of books (most on the Kindle platform) to help more individuals, non-profits and ministry leaders ramp up their communications efforts.

For one of them, I am inviting you to become a contributor in an effort to help empower more people to harness the power of social media for their own cause.  Simply submit your contribution below to get started.

When it comes to end-of-year charitable giving, the number one questions a donor usually ask is: Where can my donation make the greatest impact in the lives of others?

Well, ROI Ministry, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization of market place believers and Christian leaders who desire to make the greatest Kingdom impact possible with their God-given resources.  And to answer the question, ROIministry.org went out and challenged exhaustive research on non-profits, historical advice and giving patterns of strategic givers and the largest Christian foundations in the world. After a reviewing nearly 1,000 causes, the donor advocacy group has produced a list of the 10 most impactful Christian charities.

Typically, non-profits’ 990 forms are reviewed by donors to ascertain program verse overhead expense, however this group felt that a biblical approach also requires evaluating “good lasting fruit” from gifts. In addition, many of the Christian charities in the survey also responded with physical needs met per dollar, amount per meal, clean water, etc. Others emphasized the spiritual part of a person, as “this had to be included, because people are the only thing that last forever.” To verify and evaluate, this ended up being many trips to specific ministries and to the “ends of the earth” to see the “fruit” and employ checks and balances used to track this.

The result? ROIministry.org found that the most impactful Christian charities serve the “least of these” billion people at the “ends of the earth” who are currently only receiving 1/3 of one percent of all Christian giving today.

Most impactful Christian charities list

TOP 10 MOST IMPACTFUL CHRISTIAN CHARITIES OF 2012

  1. “You” – A reminder that individuals like you have ability to increase giving impact substantially more than organized charities

  2. Jesus Film Harvest Partners

  3. Compassion International

  4. Legacy World Mission

  5. 410 Bridge

  6. Faith Comes By Hearing

  7. Global Media Outreach

  8. Gospel for Asia

  9. International Leadership Institute

  10. Equip

ROI Ministry has also partnered with the National Christian Foundation (NCF) to develop a free web-site to give anonymously to the Top 10 ministries, available at www.roiministry.org/top-10   The organization does not charge fees and receives no compensation from ministries highlighted. One hundred percent of all giving goes to the ministry’s specific program that achieves the greatest impact per dollar. More information can be found at www.roiministry.org

Do you think faith-based charities can be more effective than secular charities?  Please share your thoughts and leave a comment below.