Time for Holiday Marketing

A guest post from colleague Ray Braun, a graphic designer based in the Emerald City.

By Ray Braun
Copyright © Ray Braun. Used with permission.

Autumn is here and you know what that means: the winter holidays aren’t far away. For many businesses, it means end-of-year sales activity. For nonprofits, it means holiday appeal letters and special event announcements.

RayBraunDesignMy father was a photographer who ran three photo studios in southern Idaho and Oregon. He had his own business for over 65 years! He told me that half of his business occurred in the last three months of the year. I suspect that may be true for other businesses and nonprofits, as well.

Now is the perfect time to begin planning and executing your fall/winter holiday promotions. You don’t want your messages to get lost in the avalanche of other communications and distractions at the end of the year.

It takes time to convert your ideas into a finished marketing piece. For example, I recommend four to six weeks to create a printed piece from concept to postal mailbox.

Key Questions

1. What are your plans for a brochure, ad, mailing, calendar or signage that needs to be done?
2. Do you need to announce any upcoming events?
3. How soon do ads or announcements need to happen?
4. Have you written out specific deadlines and due dates?

The above questions are a great start.

To get a free marketing/project calendar for planning purposes, send an email to Ray Braun Design or call us at 206-789-2723.

Ray Braun Design is an award-winning graphic design firm located in Seattle, Washington.


Raising Money and Community Spirit

Recently I wrote an annual fund letter for the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, Illinois. The target audience was foundations, but the letter will also be adapted to target donors.

I suggested a few possible themes, including community spirit, the chosen theme. Weaving the theme throughout the letter and capturing the right tone were probably the two main challenges.

Read the Gorton Annual Fund Letter.

When Speaking to Book Clubs, Do Like Bestselling Author Erik Larson

Erik Larson is one of my favorite authors. He lives in Seattle (my former home) and he writes narrative nonfiction. Not only have I enjoyed reading his books such as Isaac’s Storm and Devil in the White City, as a writer (and now author), I learned about research and storytelling from them.

Last week I stumbled onto his site and happened to read his policy on book clubs. Maybe all of us should adopt it.

ErikLarsonNote: I do attend book group meetings when circumstances permit, so please ask, especially if you know I’ll be passing through your part of the country. I have a couple of rules: First, I cannot be present during the actual critique of my book(s). I’m too thin-skinned and things might get ugly. Second, I don’t do prepared talks for book clubs, but I’ll answer any and all questions, and we’ll have a nice time. Third, I require that my host or hostess hand me a glass of excellent red wine as soon as I walk through the door.

Sounds like my kind of author and guy.

5 Worst Excuses for Not Having a Mobile Friendly Website

By Kirsti Scott
Copyright © Scott Design. Used with permission.

We feel pretty strongly that you should make sure your website is mobile friendly, so visitors have a great experience no matter their screen size. What’s your excuse for not getting your site ready for mobile visitors?

Here are our top 5 worst excuses:

1. You’re pretty sure this mobile thing is just a fad that will blow over soon. If your favorite sayings include “Let’s not rock the boat” or “Because that’s the way we have always done it,” then you probably shouldn’t make any changes to your site.

2. You and your customers are exactly the same when it comes to mobile use, and you don’t even have a smart phone. In fact, your idea of modern technology is the fax machine in the corner of your office. “Hey, you kids! Get your smart phones off my yard!”

3. You are only after the 10% of users who don’t use their phones or tablets to access the web. The other 90%? They can just wait until they get back to their desk to see your content, which is more convenient for you, after all.

4. You have more customers than you can handle. You don’t need any more of those educated, affluent smart phone users. Start getting that “mobile friendly” designation from Google and you might be overrun with customers finding you online.

5. Your website was state-of-the-art when you updated it five years ago. You’re pretty sure it can go another three years before you have to do an update. Kind of like that cool flip phone you have from 2010.

If these are the excuses keeping you from updating your website, it’s probably time that you finally make your website mobile-friendly. And while you’re at it, be sure to update your emails so the half of your subscribers who read emails on their phones and tablets have a great experience, too.

Seriously, whether your organization is B2C, B2B, nonprofit, or government, mobile devices are increasingly the place your audience will interact with your website. There’s no excuse for ignoring your growing mobile audience.

(Stats on smart phone use: Pew Research Center’s U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015)

Scott Design helps innovative companies reach their audiences through mobile friendly websites, emails, online apps and integrated marketing campaigns. It works with industry leaders, including Adobe, Autodesk and Intuit, as well as with mid-size organizations and nonprofits.

Writing and Raising Money for 5 Universities and Colleges

Beginning in 2005, I’ve written annual fund appeals and other communications that have helped major universities and colleges raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. (See samples on Portfolio page, scrolling to “University Development.”)

1. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland). I worked with multiple people in the Annual Fund office to craft appeals for various colleges within Johns Hopkins, signers and audiences. I learned and honed a fundraising workhorse during this time. (See 5 Elements of a Magnetic Appeal.)

2. University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware). I did similar projects for University of Delaware, writing a range of appeals for multiple audiences, as well as writing for the university’s website. Here’s a letter from David Morris, senior associate director of Annual Giving, that tells how I helped increase giving by nearly 30%.

3. Roanoke College (Salem, Virginia). In my own backyard, I wrote many appeals for The Roanoke Fund during two annual fundraising cycles. “The Roanoke Fund is at its highest level since 2008,” the director said in an email, “and, once again, your letters helped make that happen.”

4. Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia). Also in my backyard, I’ve done advertising and fall solicitation projects for the University Development department at Virginia Tech.

5. Heritage University (Toppenish, Washington). When a longtime client became vice president of marketing and communications at Heritage University, he called on me to help with messaging for a new center.

+1: In the 2007 timeframe, I wrote a major brochure for Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia) while working as a freelancer for Charles Ryan Associates based in Glen Allen, Virginia.

+2: University of North Carolina Greensboro (Greensboro, North Carolina).

+3: Cornell University Law School (Ithaca, New York).


A Free Service to Help Writers and Their Books

By Dan Smith
Director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference

My old friend and colleague Darrell Laurant, the retired journalist-turned author-turned writing magnate, is starting a free service aimed at authors who are having difficulty getting exposure for their books. This is something Darrell is good at. He was the founder of the late Writers Bridge, which helped get writers of all stripes jobs in their craft.

Did I mention the new service is FREE?

He had to disband WB when he moved to New York after retiring as an award-winning metro columnist (25 years) for the Lynchburg News-Advance. He had previously founded the Sedalia Writers Conference in Bedford County (on which the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference is based) and was a regular teacher at RRWC for several years. He’s always been there for writers.

His new venture is “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” (here), a free service for authors, which “arose out of my experiences trying to market [his new novel] The Kudzu Kid,” he wrote me in an e-mail the other day.

Darrell goes on: “As you know, the game has changed. With more than 12 million books (one and a half times the population of New York City) on Amazon, it’s not about getting published any more — given the advances in technology, anyone who really wants to can do that. It’s now about getting noticed.

“Very quickly, I realized that there was absolutely no reason why someone would randomly pick my book up off a shelf, or click on its Amazon page. The vast majority of people in the world have no idea who I am, and our tendency is always to go with what we know when money is involved. I get that.

“A fact that a lot of writers seem to miss (or ignore) is this: Everybody isn’t going to like, or be interested in, their books. .. Trying to market to everybody is a waste of time and a recipe for frustration. … The blog will run twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ll take a single book — I accept both fiction and non-fiction — lift it out of the blizzard of books surrounding it, and give the author some ‘alone’ time with visitors to the blog.

The template we use is extensive, the idea being to allow the authors a chance to convey the background behind the book and about themselves. I send press releases to all the print media in the authors’ area about two weeks out, and e-mail a preview blurb to the blog followers a couple of days before that book appears.”I screen these books, because our collective credibility depends on it. I’m also looking for work that is different — I wouldn’t automatically reject a vampire tale or romance novel or serial killer epic, but I’d want the approach to that subject to be unique. … Every author is asked to send e-mails to friends, relatives, fellow writers, etc., announcing that he or she will be featured, and so each person will theoretically draw a different audience.

“Once we get up to 1,000 or followers, which I truly believe will happen quickly, media outlets will start printing those press releases instead of deleting them. Moreover, I can ask an indy bookstore in that author’s area to carry copies of that book, on consignment, for a month after the author is featured. In return for giving that book something of a prominent place in the store, I will run a brief article about that bookstore on the blog.”

Darrell believes word will spread quickly: “Getting what I call ‘micro-publicity’ for books is good for writers, bookstores and publishers — even Amazon. Meanwhile, other publicists can use it as just another arrow in their quiver.”

If you have a book out there, it’s probably struggling from a sales standpoint, because almost all do. Maybe Darrell can help.