Happy January to all of you!

I’ve had a few instances over the past several weeks that have reminded me of some things that might be useful to share with all of you. Whether you are a small business or non-profit, you undoubtedly have limited resources (read: time and money) for engaging your target audiences (e.g. customers, donors, partners).

Often, we are too busy getting work done to lift our heads up out of the weeds and tell people about what we are doing. Other times, we may have a “What if we…” moment, but we don’t have the skill set in-house to get that idea going. Here are two cheap/free options you may want to pursue.

Upwork

Upwork is an online freelance web hub. Basically, you hire freelancers for discrete jobs. This may be something simple like converting an image from jpg to svg (vector format). Or modifying an image to remove a background. Or converting a Word form to a fillable PDF form. The joy here is that you can search Upwork’s database of freelancers for the specific skills you want, within a certain price range, with a certain customer satisfaction, and more. You decide how much to spend. You don’t pay until you are happy. Everything is handled via Upwork so there are no shady interactions. I’ve used Upwork freelancers for a variety of projects for which I didn’t have the time or skills and I’ve been quite happy so far. Visit them at https://www.upwork.com/. If you need help finding freelancers, let me know.

Mailchimp

I’ve mentioned this before. Mailchimp is a contact management platform (in other words email marketing). You create e-newsletters to engage your audience(s) to take action (buy, donate, sign-up). Mailchimp allows you to configure your website so that every time you post a blog, it automatically gets sent to everyone on your list, automatically gets posted to Facebook, automatically gets posted to Twitter, and more. If you have 2000 or less contacts, IT IS FREE. You really can’t beat this. Of course, nothing is really free. You have to take the time to stop what you are doing and decide to share it with everyone. The best example I have of this is my client Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery (NAHT). Their Executive Director, Dr. George Bellitsos, is excellent at making time to write posts that I post for them on their website. These are configured to automatically get emailed via Mailchimp to their list of contacts and to get automatically posted to their Facebook page. The time he spends on these posts is totally worth it. Here’s why:

  • The posts are formatted to be emailed in a consistent manner. For each email, there is a consistent header and footer. Readers know where to look for the “meat” of the email. (Aside: If you are engaged in email marketing, stop changing your header/fonts/colors with every email. It makes it hard for people on your list to easily read what you are sending. Give your readers’ eyes a rest. Trust me.)
  • The posts are easy to scan. There are defined design elements that highlight subheadings or bullets. They are consistent so the reader can always find them.
  • There is a clear call to action (sign-up, “like” via social media, donate, “share” with others, etc.). These calls are always available.

As an example, the NAHT recently had a “legislative day on the hill” where the Governor signed their proclamation against human trafficking. This was announced on their blog (and therefore via their email newsletter on Mailchimp). They had over 100 people show up in Des Moines for the day on the hill. Incredible. In addition, they’ve been training hotel/motel employees across the state and these trainings are announced via the blog/email. So far, they’ve trained over 75 people. This is a huge impact which took time from Dr. George and a consistent email marketing strategy to achieve.

Of course, I’m also guilty of failing to share what I’m doing too. It’s hard to get beyond your core, day-to-day work to talk to others who might be interested. If you feel you are putting stuff out there and not knowing whether you are reaping benefits, contact me. We can chat about the feedback loop.

So as you know if you read my bio, I started my career with a job at Accenture. As an alumnus, I am invited to free webcasts on various topics of interest such as research they’ve done, programs they are implementing for their employees, client success stories, etc.

In February, I joined one about their predictions for 2015. It was really very interesting. I especially enjoyed two themes they shared.

“Outcome Economy”

By this they mean that people are less interested in hardware and more interested in outcomes. A favorite quote was

People prefer a 1/4″ hole over a 1/4″ drill bit.

“Workforce Reimagined”

One of the studies quoted was about the speed with which humans vs. machines could weld car pieces together. The surprising result was that if one human and one robot worked together, they were 10 times faster than two humans working together or two machines working together. This human-computer interface, or how humans work with machines, has been a lifelong passion of mine. What makes the computer/machine design more efficient for a human? Or more appealing? Or easier to use?

In website design, this is an ever changing target as technology advances and people’s desired outcomes change. This is what challenges me and what I love about my job!

Interested in some great holiday shopping ideas? Check out a few of my clients!

Retail items:

  • Joy Poured Out – buy awesome coffee, benefit one of five non-profits. It’s a win-win!
  • Suzanne Aunan – local artist with paintings, note cards, and ornaments depicting fun scenes around our community

Services:

Non-profits:

Emotions When Hungry

Studies show that children perform better in school when they eat three balanced meals a day. Yet there are kids in our community who are chronically hungry.

Almost two years ago, we began Operation BackPack at my church in partnership with Lucas Elementary. Operation Backpack provides children with nutritious, kid-friendly foods, such as whole grain cereal, canned meat with pasta, fruit in 100% juice, whole grain crackers, 100% fruit juice, 1% white milk, skim chocolate milk, and dried fruit. The food is provided by HACAP and then packed and delivered to the school by our volunteers each Friday that school is in session. Each child brings home approximately 6.5 pounds per food a week.

This has been a wonderful activity, not only for the recipients, but the volunteers. We get people from aged 2 to 82! Interested in starting an Operation BackPack program? Contact Greg Goodell at HACAP to find out more.

The past six months have held some serious cross-training for me when it comes to work and life. (If you don’t know what I mean when I say cross-training, see my newsletter description by clicking here.) It seems every week has been booked with work deadlines, family activities, and volunteer work. Throw in the fact that we recently bought a horse…and life has been hectic!

Here’s what I’ve learned recently:

  • Life is a lot like riding a bike. You have to learn to let go a little or you’ll get sore from gripping the handlebars too tightly.
  • Every time I smugly think I understand a complex situation, I am reminded how ignorant I really am. As our younger daughter says, “You never know what you never know.”
  • Choosing to do or not do something out of fear is no way to make a decision. Decisions made out of joy are so much more fulfilling.
  • I can only handle so much horse time. 🙂