5 Ways to be #unselfie on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday and the True Holiday Spirit

Among the holiday rush to shop and celebrate is an observance that rings in the month of December with a big heart and a special opportunity to get into the true spirit of giving. #GivingTuesday will be held on December 2 and has become a tradition among millions of people from charities, businesses and schools around the globe. On this day, donors come together to celebrate generosity and to give via the #GivingTuesday conversation.

Last year on #GivingTuesday, online donations increased 90% for 3,800 nonprofits–more than $19.2 million–compared to 2012, according to Blackbaud, a nonprofit technology provider. In 2013 there were 320,000 tweets using #GiftGiving and that number is sure to double with all the new interest and activity. Bill and Melinda Gates, The United Nations Foundation, PayPal, Facebook and LinkedIn are just a few participating partners.

But you don’t need to be an entrepreneur, international peacekeeper or startup to participate on #GivingTuesday. All you need is the creativity, motivation and ability to take to the social networks to raise awareness.

Although only a week away, there is still time to get involved and inspire others to give to your charity of choice. Let’s review five steps to get started:

1. Choose a nonprofit organization that is meaningful to you. 

During the holidays, many nonprofits are in desperate need of volunteer hours as well as in-kind and cash donations. You could inspire others to give non-perishable goods to a food pantry or pet shelter, contribute to a coat drive, or fund the building of a school overseas with one tweet or post.

You can also use sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar to measure the effectiveness and financial stability of your chosen organization.

When getting the word out on social media, keep your post short and sweet for the best chances of engagement. Use the hashtag #GivingTuesday, #unselfie, include a link to your charity, and add your own personal message.

Here’s what Melinda Gates is sharing on Facebook:

#GivingTuesday and the True Holiday Spirit

2. Get giving with CrowdRise.

An exciting addition to #GivingTuesday is the crowdsourcing site CrowdRise. The company has created an App called the Giving Tower, which will help individuals setup a fundraising page and choose a charity to fundraise for the day. Each brick on the Giving Tower represents a donation to a great cause. It looks like it’s going to be a fun mobile tool to use on #GivingTuesday! According to CrowdRise, the Giving Tower App allows you to see the world’s charitable efforts grow in real time in the form of a tower made in augmented reality. They want you to think of it as a really cool hologram.

#GivingTuesday and the True Holiday Spirit

3. Match those gifts.

If you’re a business owner or an employee your company may want in on the giving action as well. Inquire about matching your donations on #GivingTuesday. They could match your time donated to helping a charity that day by giving you time off or they may even double your dollars.

4. Inspire others with your story.

Consider writing an op-ed piece for your local paper about your cause and experience on #GivingTuesday. You could also submit your story as a guest blogger. By keeping the story going, you may extend the giving beyond just the one-day experience and may even recruit givers for December 2, 2015.

5. Amplify your reach. Share your cause-related or company news with #GivingTuesday.

It seems they really want to hear from their partners around the globe and encourage you to use their branded materials. They offer many tools and resources on their website to get you started including videos, graphics, volunteer forms and case studies. In fact, people donate 38% more on branded donation pages than compared to generic ones.

On Facebook, GivingTuesday asks,What are you plans for the big day? Twitter Chat? GoogleHangout? Giving Party? Share your #GivingTuesday plans with us and we will promote and participate. Email us at Givingtuesday@gmail.com with the subject “Plans”.” You can also attend their upcoming free events to help you plan and promote your giving campaigns.

#GivingTuesday Inspired by a Special Friend

#GivingTuesday and the True Holiday Spirit

This #GivingTuesday inBLOOM is raising a paw and donations for the Grey Muzzle Organization and their efforts to give homeless senior dogs the love and dignity they deserve in their final days. The choice was inspired by the passing of Little Girl, a sweet senior pup who lived with my family for two very special years. Here’s a bit about her that I shared with friends when she died in September at the golden age of maybe 16:

#GivingTuesday and the True Holiday Spirit

♥ Little Girl 

We picked up Little Girl in Brooklyn after seeing her on an Urgent Death Row Dogs post on Facebook in Sept. 2012. She left her big, beautiful world this evening. We learned so much from her and enjoyed getting to know her. She was a little fighter. I nicknamed her Lazarus because she always rose up no matter how creaky her bones. No animal should ever leave this world feeling afraid and unloved. Consider adopting a senior. They give back so much even if for only a few years. We now have an eternity of love thanks to our Little Girl.

All of us at inBLOOM hope you’ll consider making a donation to honor Little Girl or a senior pup in your life by supporting the inspirational work of the Grey Muzzle Organization.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @inbloombuzz, Instagram @inBLOOMlife and inBLOOM Communications on Facebook to help share our message of support for homeless senior pups on #GivingTuesday. We’ll share back!

Learn more about the Grey Muzzle Organization here.

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6 Holiday Marketing Tips to Stay Off Your Customer’s Naughty List

6 Holiday Tips to Keep You Off Your Customer’s Naughty List

Photo: Viktor Hanacek

The holiday season is a hectic time of year. Your business is working on marketing strategies to compete with others, both larger and smaller, for the best holiday deals and with all the events and promotions going on, your business still needs to have good customer service. Are you getting back to people in a timely fashion? Are you being courteous with a warm, friendly attitude?

On top of all things business related, you and your employees also need to deal with personal holiday agendas. Planning vacations, making time for family, figuring out what to get your 10 year old niece (what are kids that age even into these days?) And if you’re hosting a holiday at your house, forget it!

It’s easy to let these issues get the best of you, but rather than coming across as crazed and stressed, it’s better to be personable, warm and friendly for both you and your business. It’s helpful to do this by planning ahead, reprioritizing and realizing that the little things matter during the holiday season.

As W. C. Jones said, “The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s’ burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.” 

Now that we’ve got you in the holiday spirit, whether you’re feeling cheerful or crazed, let’s review a few marketing tips that will keep you off your customer’s naughty list.

1. Know the holidays.

This time of year is jam packed with holidays, other than just the well-known Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s, celebrated daily, weekly and monthly. Did you know that December 12 is National Poinsettia Day? Until recently, neither did we! Don’t miss out opportunities to celebrate holidays you may not be aware of. Do some research and keep a calendar organized by month with all the holidays that your business should celebrate or incorporate into your marketing strategy through blog posts and social media with related graphics and hashtags.

Here are just a few daily holidays to mark down for November and December 2014.

  • November 28: Black Friday
  • November 29: Small Business Saturday
  • November 30: Cyber Sunday
  • December 1: Cyber Monday
  • December 2: Giving Tuesday
  • December 8: Green Monday
  • December 12: National Poinsetta Day
  • December 18: Free Shipping Day
  • December 20: Super Saturday
  • December 21: First Day of Winter
  • December 22: Last Sleigh Day

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re having Black Friday sales, make sure your website is mobile friendly. According to TechCrunch, in 2013, 24.9% of all online traffic on Black Friday came from smartphones – that compares to tablets at 14.2%.

2. Be responsive.

Although it’s a busy time of year, make sure you’re getting back to people. The last thing you want to do is let your email inbox pile up to the point where you’ve got unread emails from days ago or you’ve read the emails but forgotten to respond. It’s helpful to dedicate a chunk of time each day to email reading/responding.

However, if that chunk of time happens to midnight to 1 a.m., you might want to consider scheduling your emails to go out at a more appropriate time – yes, being woken up by an email alert at 1 a.m. will put you on the naughty list. You can install an application such as Boomerang for Gmail, which allows you to write an email and have it be sent automatically at the time you choose.

Make sure you’re checking your social media messages as well. Customers enjoy communicating this way and it would be a shame if you lost business by missing a message.

Okay, so you’ve got your email inbox under control but don’t forget your voicemail inbox! Of course, the best thing to do is listen to the message right when you notice it and get back to the person ASAP, but that’s not always easy when you’re swamped and have multiple phones lines.

A helpful tool for keeping track of messages is Google Voice. With Google Voice, you can have your voicemail for all of your forwarding phones in one place, with transcriptions, access to your past voicemails, and voicemail sharing options. You can check your voicemail on the web or through your phone and you can also add notes to a voicemail if there’s a particular part of a message that you’d like to remember without going through and listening to the message again.

These tools will surely help you stay responsive. With all those sugar plums dancing in your head, it’s not easy staying on top of things!

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re out of office during a certain period of time, it’s a good idea to use a temporary or out of office voicemail greeting and response email to let people know why you’re unable to get in touch with them.

3. Follow proper business etiquette. 

Treat people with consideration, respect, and honesty and be aware of how your actions affect those around you this holiday season. Consider your audience and employees – do they practice different religions? If this is the case, stay neutral with decorations, greetings and celebrations. If you put up a Christmas tree, display a Menorah as well.

Send holiday greeting cards, both digital and paper. Holiday cards may seem like a waste of time and money when your marketing budget is tight, but remember that people want to do business with people that value them and make them feel important during the holidays and throughout the year. Cards leave a lasting impression and let others know you’re thinking about them.

Constant Contact has holiday templates for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, Lunar New Year, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. Let your customers know you wish them well and maybe even include a special coupon or promo code.

Look for expert resources on business etiquette such as Emily Post. Although these values may seem old fashioned, they still hold true today.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: The best time to mail holiday greeting cards is the second week of December. You want to be sure your cards are received before vacations begin.

 

4. ‘Tis better to give than to receive – don’t be a grinch.

Giving is more joyous than receiving, especially during the holidays, so use this time of year as an opportunity to give to those in need. Maybe your business is already affiliated with a charity or multiple charities. If not, do some research and choose a cause that you and your employees care about.

inBLOOM’s client Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts is collecting pet toys, collars, leashes, bedding, and nonperishables for local animal shelters and rescue groups in partnership with the Purr’n Pooch Foundation for Animals through November 30.

Our client the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, in conjunction with the United States Marines Combat Logistics Battalion 25 in Red Bank, NJ, is currently collecting new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Corps Reserve 2014 Toys for Tots Program.

Maybe your customers could benefit from your business giving to a certain charity?  For instance, during the past two years many businesses around the Jersey Shore were making disaster-related charitable donations as a way to help customers affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Of course you’re donating to charity for altruistic reasons, but it’s beneficial to both your business and the charity to publicize your donations of goods or services by sending a press release to the media. Include your charitable involvement in your marketing campaign as well.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: When searching for a partner charity, you can use websites such as Charity Navigator, Philanthropedia and GreatNonprofits.

 

5. Include clear and correct messaging in your promotional graphics and website.

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s around the corner, now is the time to set holiday business hours. It’s crucial that you indicate on your website, social media, voicemail and at your business location if you’ll be open certain hours or closed on certain days.

Make sure this messaging is clearly visible and correct wherever you post it. Otherwise, on the naughty list you’ll go! Your customers will not appreciate it if they show up at your business for goods on Black Friday and you’re lights are off and doors are locked when you gave no indication you’d be closed.

If you’re hosting any holiday events, create promotional graphics and post details on social media, your website and send through Constant Contact. We understand that planning these festive events can take up so much time and energy that you may not be promoting them as much as you should. Don’t be afraid to seek help with your marketing efforts.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: Post your holiday business hours on Facebook a few days before the holiday and then pin the post to the top of your Page the day of.

 

6. Do something special for employees and customers.

Dust off that apron on a lazy (or not so busy) Sunday and bake some holiday goods for the office. Something as simple as a tray of cookies in the lobby with coffee and hot cocoa will have your business come across as warm and personable. Show your employees and customers you appreciate them while spreading some holiday cheer. It will create a positive atmosphere and maybe even bring you some 5 star reviews on your online business listings!

Another idea you may want to consider is having a giveaway or special promotion. Woman’s Day Magazine is having a Holiday to Remember Sweepstakes where participants enter to win $10,000 to decorate their home for the holidays. Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts is currently having an Annual Holiday Photo Contest where participants submit their pet’s photo for a chance to be featured on Purr’n Pooch’s holiday greeting card and email, and also receive a complimentary day of boarding in a luxury suite and bath upon check-out.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re running a photo contest on Facebook, we recommend using the Offerpop app.

 

Hopefully these marketing tips will help your business come across as personable, warm and friendly, rather than crazed and stressed, this holiday season. Be the calm within the storm. We hope you can find some holiday cheer in all the hectic hubbub. If you need a helping hand, feel free to reach out to us for assistance. Even Santa can’t do it all on his own – thank goodness for those elves!

 

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Honoring Veterans Who Served: Inspiration from Resilience

Honoring Veterans Who Served: Inspiration from Resilience

Photo: Stephen O’Byrne

Today the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation (NJVVMF)  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the NJ Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel, NJ. Last year, I enjoyed the beautiful day as clear skies and the cool fall air set the stage for special guest Senator Cory Booker. Tears were shed as family and friends joined the Senator in paying tribute to their loved ones among a crowd of more than 1,000 guests.

The scene was one of thousands across the country on Veterans Day – emotional, authentic and patriotic. It’s impossible not to be touched by the voices heard on the day.

New Jersey’s Vietnam Era veterans continue to heal, 40 years later. They are resilient. They inspire us to go beyond our best, each and every day. To be kinder. To work harder. To be thankful.

I had not visited the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial or its adjacent Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center until the nonprofit became my client in May 2013. Today, my staff and I have the honor of learning history first-hand from the veterans and sharing their experiences with the press and a connected community on social media. It’s been an honor to serve them and give a voice to their service.

This Veterans Day, I hope you will please consider honoring those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces by sharing our recent press coverage on the NJVVMF.

Lest We Forget: The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial, New Jersey Monthly Magazine

Healing begins for two Marines reunited in Holmdel, NJ, The Star-Ledger, NJ.com

2 Vietnam veterans reunite after 48 Years, News12 New Jersey

Project aims to preserve the stories of lost heroes, My Central Jersey.com

Veterans Day, Styrk.com 

 

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3 Ways to Tell If Your Marketing Has the Goods to Go Viral

3 Ways to Tell If Your Marketing Has the Goods to Go Viral

Today consumers are inundated daily with shocking television commercials, viral videos and social media ads. So you’re probably not surprised at the lengths many companies and nonprofit organizations go to capture your attention in the hopes that their creations go “viral”.

You may even feel inspired by the really good ones enough to launch your own viral marketing campaign. According to social media scientist Dan Zarella, viral marketing is a strategy by which a marketer creates a campaign focused around the goal of causing viewers of that promotion to spontaneously spread it by sending it to friends.

But you need to make sure that your marketing benefits your business, instead of damaging it. How do you venture beyond your comfort zone to successfully attract business instead of repelling it? Let’s review some successful company campaigns and the right stuff they had in place to succeed.

1. You resonate with your target audience.

3 Ways to Tell If Your Marketing Has the Goods to Go Viral

Does your marketing speak directly to the people you want to attract? Will it easily be communicated on social media with creative copy and imagery that compels people to share? Will you partner with a charity or another business to amplify your reach? Are you choosing content for the sake of shocking people into learning more about your business, or does your content give an authentic voice to your cause or product?

For example, Geico’s camel in their Hump Day commercials (always puts a smile on my face) or the slim downed dancing hamsters in KIA cars work for these companies because their cheeky ads are directed to a specific audience. But this same anthropomorphic shtick wouldn’t work for couture designers or jewelers who are selling to a luxury market.

One of my favorite marketing campaigns was from a few years ago when Lush Cosmetics joined Shark Savers to ban the shark fin trade and consumption. The company invited the public to its North American stores to sign petitions to their local government officials, demanding that they outlaw the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins. In partnership with marine conservation organization Shark Savers, LUSH asked the public to pledge not to eat shark fin soup. And in a dramatic illustration of how sharks are caught on longlines and slaughtered for their fins, a LUSH employee was suspended by shark hooks inside a San Francisco LUSH store. The company also created a limited edition product, Shark Fin Soap made of seaweed and sea salt with 100% of the proceeds going to Shark Savers’ work. The campaign attracted both worldwide media and new customers.

2. You see value in funding an impactful budget.

Once you have chosen a campaign theme and possibly a partnership that works for you, it’s key to invest in high quality, professional images, graphics and copywriting that make a big impact with your audience. It’s up to you to invest in the resources and advertising that will give your marketing campaign the best chances of being seen by your target market.

Alex and Ani is one company heavily investing in its viral marketing efforts. The jeweler’s SuperBowl commercial, ‘Main Street America’ was voted #8 in effectiveness by BrandAds and is a favorite commercial of mine for its beauty and simple message. Main Street has long been a part of the cultural fabric of America: the essence of our thriving economy. It’s where people gather to live, work and play and the jewelry company recaptured Main Street, America in its commercial attracting customers nationwide who believe in purchasing products made in the U.S.A. It was relatable to many people on so many levels.

Okay so you may not have the blockbuster budget to create a television commercial or purchase SuperBowl airtime like Alex and Ani, but you can hire a highly-recommended local videographer to capture your vision in video, which can then be added to your website for sharing on your social accounts and with interested media and bloggers.

Next week, inBLOOM’s Julia Palazzo will write about her success participating in, and marketing, a lip dub video to Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” she created with Phi Sigma Sigma’s Gamma Nu Chapter at Rutgers University. The video has received over 48,000 views so far and they are on their way to raising more than $40,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, inspiration for the video.

3. You understand the needs of your media contacts.

Will your campaign attract the attention of local, regional or national media? Are you sharing information or a story that resonates with the media outlet’s audience? Does your campaign include statistical information of interest to others? Will bloggers find your materials professional, engaging, and helpful to their subscribers? Do you have an authentic story to tell or does your pitch come across as a marketing stunt to get coverage?

If you understand your target market, then you’ll easily have a sense of which media to pitch your release with details on the marketing campaign. If you’re co-branding with a business or nonprofit, then you’ll often have a broader reach.

When contacting the media, make sure to do your homework and only share information that is necessary. Clogging their inbox with large files and lengthy releases will end your campaign before its even begun.

Be sure to also signup for HARO alerts. Help A Reporter Out connects news sources with journalists. You just never know the type of content reporters may be looking for that you have to offer. But respond quickly because HARO has grown to gigantic subscriber proportions and many people have their eyeballs on the inquiries for sources.

Overall, if your new marketing is entertaining, professional, and true to your company values and vision, it should be successful and go “viral”. You’ll also have fun creating and promoting it!

cover photo: miuenski

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