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International Strategic Planning Month… Here are TOP elements you need in your plan to soar next fiscal year.

It is International Strategic Planning month, and time for organizations to develop their strategic plans for the year. Although it can seem cumbersome, strategic plans are vital to ensuring your organization meets its goals and objectives. It also aids your team in knowing where to properly manage time and resources and effectively reach your targeted audiences.

By answering the following questions, you will position your organization to soar this fiscal year.

International Strategic Planning Month… Here are TOP elements you need in your plan to soar next fiscal year.

1. Why does your organization need a strategic plan?

The first step in developing an annual strategic plan is to know why you want and need one. Consider the needs of your organization and the needs of your stakeholders. Perhaps your organization has never thought to put a strategic plan together in general. You might just be starting and need a new direction. Or maybe you had a tough year like many municipalities, foundations, and other organizations have had due to COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) created its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan 2021 (SPRP2021) in follow-up to the organization’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. These strategic actions focused on the new challenges, for example, to lessen the risks related to new variants—such as the safe, equitable, and effective delivery of diagnostics and vaccines.

The benefits of using a strategic plan include:

  • Paints a picture to stakeholders on progress within the organization
  • Promotes mission-driven values within the organization
  • Shows your organization is guided by success
  • Invites staff to be future-focused
  • Furthers the organization’s mission

2. What are your goals?

After understanding the purpose behind your organization’s strategic plan, the next step is to determine your goals. Goals and objectives should be specific and detailed. Decide what you want each department to develop and achieve, and your organization’s holistic goals and objectives based on the needs of your stakeholders.

– What if you can’t determine strategic goals and objectives?

Conducting a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (S.W.O.T.) analysis can help you get there. This should be done at least once per year.

A S.W.O.T. analysis is done in order to help your organization formulate objectives.

Take the time to brainstorm internally to determine:

  • Strengths (internal) – What your organization does well.
  • Weaknesses (internal) – Where your organization can improve.
  • Opportunities (external) – What market trends could positively impact your organization.
  • Threats (external) – Which external factors (competitors, pandemic, etc.) could have a negative impact on your organization?

In addition to an internal S.W.O.T analysis, interviews, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and town hall meetings are other forms of stakeholder research and examples of how your organization could better understand the needs of your stakeholders, which in turn helps to determine the goals and objectives of the organization.

3. What is your organization’s plans for the future?

It’s important to know why you’re creating a strategic plan for your organization so you can know where your organization is heading into the future. Consider the premises of your organization in order to determine the best future course of action.

– What are the internal and external premises of your organization?

Internal premises come from the organization itself. It is the beliefs, behaviors, and values of the executives and employees of the organization. Examples of internal premises include the forecasts, policies, and programs of the organization, competence of management, organizational capabilities, and other resources of the organization in the form of practices and, in some cases, profits.

External premises come from outside of the organization. It comprises of the cultural, economic, political, social, and technological environment and cannot be controlled by the organization. Examples of external premises include government policies and the rate of growth in the population and economy.

Crafting premises based on internal and external factors will ensure your organization’s strategic plan is feasible and sustainable. In addition to internal and external premises, feedback from downstream and upstream stakeholders should also be taken into account.

– What are downstream and upstream stakeholders?

Downstream stakeholders are the target audience. They’re those the organization seeks to influence and reach. It includes the general public, residents, visitors, media, advocacy influencers, and potential partners.

Upstream stakeholders develop the product to bring to the target audience. They are the other audience members that do not necessarily have to be influenced based on the information itself. Rather, their influence is in the dissemination of information and actively promoting the organization and its offerings.

4. How can your strategic plan aid in organizational sustainability?

international strategic planning

Knowing the internal and external premises and the kind of stakeholders your organization has is not the only way to forecast the future. Researching other ways in which your organization could achieve its goals is another avenue.

Aside from the S.W.O.T. analysis and knowing the feedback from your stakeholders, a community needs assessment or environmental scan can help your municipality or organization obtain information from the environment.

A community needs assessment provides municipalities and organizations with a picture of the local policy, systems, and environmental change strategies currently in place. The assessment seeks to understand the needs of the community by gathering accurate information. It can help municipalities and organizations to identify areas for improvement in its services to their communities.

An environmental scan includes the ongoing tracking of trends and occurrences in an organization’s internal and external environment. Currently and in the future, these internal and external trends determine its success.

5. Which plan will your organization choose?

Once you’ve gathered all of the data you can to support your goals, it’s time to decide which plan or which model your organization will choose to implement. There are dozens of plans and models to choose from, portrayed in this article from ClearPoint Strategy, which features 16 of the most popular ones. In our last article, PivotPath introduced you to the PESO model for developing an effective communications and visibility plan. So how will you know which is best for your organization?

strategic plan

Before setting yourself up for confusion, consider these questions:

– Is it expensive?

Your organization will want to pay the least amount of money possible for whichever strategic plan or model you choose.

– Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Make sure your organization chooses the strategic plan or model that has more positive potential outcomes than negative ones.

– Is it fixed?

Finally, you’ll want a strategic plan or model that isn’t rigid or fixed but adaptable should things change with your objectives during the planning process.

– What will be your supporting plans?

After the initial strategic plan is in place, it’s important to determine a secondary, supporting plan to meet your goals. Some organizations can do this in their annual report that happens once per year, while the strategic planning timeline can take place anywhere from every one to five years.

Never made an annual report? No worries! PivotPath can help you to create your best annual report yet.

The benefits of using an annual report include:

  • Strengthens the relationship with the strategic plan by crafting newer strategies that further the strategic plan’s goals.
  • Supports the mission of the organization in daily practice.
  • Gives staff a clear course on their responsibilities to the plan and their department.

6. Are you listening?

The most important takeaway from creating your strategic plan is to make sure you’re listening and connecting with your stakeholders. Strategic planning and the background research involved may take anywhere from six to nine months. But it ensures that your organization will know what its stakeholders want and need, which will aid your organization in achieving its goals and objectives.

PivotPath has experience in B2G marketing and communications. We can help you implement your most successful strategic plan yet. Contact us for a FREE strategy session.

Keys to Developing an Effective Communications and Visibility Plan for Your Intergovernmental Organization

Communications can either make or break your market, and when you’re working in an intergovernmental organization like the European Union or United Nations, every bit of strategy helps. Marketing communications is worth its weight in gold as it captures the attention of beneficiaries, community-based organizations, and strategic partners alike and informs them of your programming and the excellent work your organization does. Even better, though, robust communication strategies are a surefire way to ensure maximum visibility. This article will go over crucial tactics you need to include within your communications and visibility plan, how strategy can impact your organization, and how to implement it most effectively.

Keys to Developing an Effective Communications and Visibility Plan for Your Intergovernmental Organization

What a Communications Strategy Is and What It Is Not.

Fundamentally, a marketing communications strategy is an effort to reach your target audiences through communication. Your organization could communicate these strategies through a host of methods such as television, radio, social media, games, events, graphics, publications, emails, public speaking, or any other medium that can communicate the message effectively. However, “communications strategy” is a mouthful, which is why many often use a shorthand: Public Relations, or PR, interchangeably.

Now, let us be the first to tell you: public relations and a communications strategy are NOT the same things. Sure, they may be closely related—both serve as forms of communication between an organization and its beneficiaries, investors, and the general public. However, the critical difference is that public relations often imply the relationship between an organization and the larger public. Communication strategies instead focus on promoting an organization’s products or services to its beneficiaries.

When it comes down to it, there are three essential aspects to the strategy: the message, the target, and the medium.

The message is what you want to say.

The target is who you are speaking to.

The medium is what channels you are using, in other words, where your message is to be said.

Each aspect is equally important. A successful communications strategy almost always frames these three elements in a complementary manner. This builds trust in your organization, reaches the right audiences, and achieves a positive ROI.

Key #1: Set Concrete, Clear Goals and Objectives

There’s nothing worse than jumping the gun, and we’re all guilty of doing it in one way or another in communications. As tempting as it may seem, trying to take the bull by the horns without planning is a common yet troubling pitfall. It can often lead to mismanagement down the road, or worse, overwhelm your staff, often leading to the strategy never getting off the ground. With concrete, clear goals and objectives, you mitigate that risk, managing it in smaller, clear milestones.

 

We recommend referring to the SMART system, illustrated by the Coaching Tools Company, to set your communication strategy goals into a viable roadmap.

Key #2: Pinpoint and Prioritize Your Target Audiences

Speaking of jumping the gun, it’s equally as important to identify who your target audience is before you begin. Further, if you want to gain the attention of a different audience, be sure to segment the audience based on common needs or interests, then craft your message specific to that audience.

Perhaps the easiest way to segment your target audience would be to conduct surveys or interviews. Be sure to ask questions about their values, needs, wants, and so on. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions to have an easier time developing your audience:

  • What groups or individuals do you want/need to engage to help you reach your goals?
  • Who would benefit the most from your organization?
  • What actions do you want the audience to take?
  • Who do you generally engage in your programs, projects, and initiatives?
  • What are the challenges that hold back your supporters from contributing, if any?
  • What do your supporters have in common?
  • How do individuals find your organization? What is the easiest method? (e.g., social media, events, word of mouth, etc.)

These surveys are often more important than people realize. They are crucial for creating highly targeted marketing messages that your audience can relate to. Once you have gathered enough data on your target audience and know what they want, you’ll be able to move on to the next step.

Key #3: Craft an Important, Compelling Message

Regardless of who it is, target audiences will have different motivators and barriers that are quite different from one target to the next. Therefore, the last thing you want to do is have a too general message because otherwise, it will fall short. Always try to keep your message clear, concise, personalized, and uncomplicated—because it won’t do any good if your message is buried in jargon.

Often, compelling messages can be quite challenging to form, even if you know the behaviors that drive your target audience. Here are four key elements that must be tailored to each audience:

  • The Key Message – The core takeaway, or message, that you want your audience to know.
  • The Secondary Message(s) – A secondary message is supporting information that helps bolster your key or original point.
  • Proof Points – A proof point is precisely what it sounds like: factual evidence that affirms your earlier messages.
  • Call to Action – Perhaps the most important aspect, a call to action instructs your audience to contact your business.

Key #4: A Little Integrated Strategy Never Hurt Anybody

This is where the communications plan comes in. While an integrated strategy sounds intimidating, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategies bring a blend of communication goals, tactics, and methods that you employ to devise the best possible plan that works for your organization. PivotPath can help you with this, as we did for the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone.

Many frameworks could help brainstorm what approach you want to take in communication, but the most widely-known framework is the PESO model, originally illustrated below by Spin Sucks.

The PESO Model places the highest importance on the following information:

  • P: Paid Media — Promotional efforts such as social media ads, sponsored posts, and native advertising, all of which involve paying for placements on third-party channels. These include native advertising, event sponsorships, paid search such as Google AdWords, etc.
  • E: Earned Media — Buzz generated by the public (e.g., the press, your audience, your communications team, etc.) through traditional public relations, word of mouth, television, influencer marketing/relations, etc.
  • S: Shared Media — Content on social media channels designed to prioritize driven engagement between an organization and its audience. This includes social media content (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and user-generated content like reviews, videos, comments, etc.
  • O: Owned Media — Your organizations’ media—websites, blogs, events, etc.

When developing your tactics, be wary of the 80/20 rule. It states that you should only allot 20 percent of social media content for direct tasks (i.e., donations, event registration, etc.) and allocate the remaining 80 percent for building community through engaging content.

Key #5: Build Up Your Budget

Setting up a budget plan means that your organization must account for financials at all project steps. Being effective and cost-effective is the name of the game. Getting cost-effective press for your business through influencers, journalists, and bloggers with stories of your organization, brand, and products. Be sure to contact people linking similar content or even utilize tools such as Crunchbase or JustReachOut. Building a budget is also a fundamental resource for assessing your plan’s return on investment.

To get building, it helps to consider the following:

  • Does your organization have an existing budget allocated for communications activities?
  • How much will each line item in the tactical portion of your plan cost?
  • If applicable, what are the projected vs. actual costs for previous campaign implementations?

Your budget should serve as a guardrail to help keep your plan on time and track. To avoid frivolous spending, be sure only to allot spending within your budget unless you’re confident that you absolutely need it.

Key #6: Map Out an Actionable Timeline

The final key in any strategy is to map out your activities in a timeline. Believe it or not, timelines are essential in ensuring that you stay on track when transitioning from the planning phase to the implementation phase. Monthly or quarterly timelines apply to these types of marketing strategies, but be sure to keep in mind any significant events and holidays that you want to leverage, as it could be a worthwhile endeavor.

An innovative, well-rounded communications plan can reward your time, patience, and effort and ensure that you launch a successful campaign, program, or service. However, be sure to tailor the steps to achieve the best goals you’re aiming for. Again: this is NOT a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Be sure to take notes if an aspect of the plan does not work out.

Key #7: Monitoring Your Success – Evaluation

Even when your organization has pulled the plan off, it’s just as important to monitor the plan’s effectiveness. Was there a shift in audience or supporters? Were people responding to your community insights? Regardless, marketing is the engine that drives attention and engagement to your brand and values. Marketing measurement tools like Google Analytics, marketing analytics software, and surveys will help you see what works versus what doesn’t in terms of engagement through your marketing efforts.

Are you interested in developing an effective communications plan for your business? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to improve your marketing strategy!

gdpr guidelines

Five Big Questions Related to GDPR | What You Need To Know

First things first. We’re not lawyers, and what follows does not constitute legal advice. We have a vested interest in the success of our partnership and want to provide information to collectively aid us through this process. If you want true legal advice, we advise you seek out private counsel. Let’s get you prepared for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect May 25, 2018. Download guide here

Here are five big questions related to GDPR:

  1. What is GDPR?
  2. Does it affect our company or organization?
  3. How does this change the way we collect and store data?
  4. Does this change the way we communicate and market?
  5. How do we get started?

WHAT IS GDPR? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

(Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). The European Union currently has data protection regulation that determines how personal information can be used by companies, the government, and other organizations. GDPR changes the definition of personal information and how data is obtained and used. Within GDPR, there are 99 articles setting out the rights of individuals to have easier access to the information data companies collect about them, determinations of fines related to non-compliance, and responsibilities for obtaining consent and usage of personal information. This law provides greater transparency, enhanced rights for EU citizens, and increased accountability.

gdpr guidelines

DOES IT AFFECT OUR COMPANY OR ORGANIZATION?

GDPR regulations apply to any company that processes EU consumer data, no matter where the company resides or where the servers that collect the data are located. These provisions promote accountability and governance. These measures were designed to minimize the risk of breaches and uphold the protection of personal data. Compliance for GDPR does not lay at just the feet of marketers, but in all processes of data storage, collection, and usage, and thus should become a boardroom topic if it has not already. Additionally, companies that have “regular and systematic monitoring” of individuals at a large scale or process a lot of sensitive personal data may have to designate a data protection officer (DPO).

 

HOW DOES THIS CHANGE THE WAY WE COLLECT AND STORE DATA?

LAWFULNESS Not every one that handles the personal data of individuals is the same, and GDPR regulation falls within two main categories: controller and processor. A controller is an entity that decides the purpose and manner in which personal data can be used. This is your role. A processor is a person (or team) that processes data on behalf of the controller; and includes obtaining, recording, adapting, or holding personal data. GDPR requirements are different for each. In addition, the controller is responsible for and must be able to demonstrate, compliance with GDPR principles.

Bottom line: for data processing to be lawful under GDPR, companies need to identify a lawful basis for processing personal data, and be able to document this.

gdpr guidelines

HOW DOES THIS CHANGE THE WAY WE COMMUNICATE AND MARKET?

As long as you don’t get bogged down by the hype (remember Y2K), most marketers will understand that GDPR is actually a blessing. It forces us to be responsible and better marketers—and to provide our subscribers with exactly what they want. And that’s the way we all should be marketing. Think of this as a new (albeit required) goal to only communicate with those who want to hear from us, be ever-present in true permission-based marketing, and to have all data in order which can only build trust and loyalty with subscribers.

HOW DO WE GET STARTED?

Having a full understanding of GDPR is important, as it may impact a number of facets of your business practices. The place to start is in education, and while there is a myriad of articles and resources on the net, we find the information from the Information Commissioner’s Office— the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest—to be the most credible.

Interested in learning more about how to ensure your communications are GDPR compliant? We are here to help.

[Video] A Survival Guide for Municipalities During COVID-19

The past year has welcomed several unprecedented challenges. Towns and cities are among some of the most vulnerable victims to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite these challenges, there are things you can do to help your community thrive. Continue reading this survival guide to ensure that your municipality is doing everything it can to survive these times.

Survival Tip #1: Be communicative.

Two-way communication involves active engagement and responsiveness. To communicate effectively, it’s essential that you listen to each of your stakeholders. Stakeholders act as various operators, including, but not limited to, residents, tourists, local government officials, local law enforcement, and public safety officials. 

Your stakeholders, and the relationships you build with them, are the backbone of your community. Mutually beneficial relationships are built on trust. When you fail to communicate effectively, you promote dishonesty and inauthenticity, which can destroy the trust of your stakeholders. Therefore, it’s important for your community to effectively communicate with each of its stakeholders to build and maintain trustworthy relationships.

Survival Tip #2: Avoid homogeneity. 

Homogeneity is the belief that everyone is the same. It’s common for individuals to resort to homogeneity when assessing their audience. Your communication efforts are sure to fail when you misinterpret all areas of your audience as one and the same. This mistake is heightened for those who operate communities, as they tend to believe that a shared location means shared values and beliefs.

Demographic information isn’t isolated to geographic location but also includes race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and political identity. You can understand your audience on a larger, more in-depth level by assessing all components of demographic information. By avoiding homogeneity, you can shape your communication efforts to include and gain support from all members of your audience. Your audience’s support can help your community withstand the test of time.

Conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis.

A S.W.O.T. analysis assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an entity. Many mistakenly believe that this kind of analysis is only applicable to businesses, but a S.W.O.T. analysis is beneficial for anyone looking to develop a plan or strategy, including communities. Conducting a S.W.O.T. analysis can help your community grow in ways that it hasn’t considered before.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal, things that you have some control over and can change. If you follow the two previously mentioned tips, you’re sure to have audience communication as a strength. However, it’s important to understand that the presence of strengths doesn’t make your weaknesses disappear.

Opportunities and threats are external. Typically, there’s little to no control of these factors. You can take advantage of opportunities and protect against threats, but you can’t change them. The COVID-19 pandemic is surely a threat for businesses, non-profit organizations, and communities around the world. However, sometimes threats can present us with opportunities. For example, your community can take this time to strengthen its internal operations by addressing other needs that it’s brushed off. 

Reach out for help.

Survival is difficult as is, but when a force as powerful as COVID-19 is acting against you, it can be difficult to even see survival as an option. Don’t let this scare you! By following this survival guide, you can ensure that your municipality is doing everything it can to thrive during these times. PivotPath understands that implementing change isn’t always easy. Contact us for a free consultation today. Our team of innovative creatives can help your community carry out this survival guide.

5 Ways to Promote Your City or Town to Increase Tourism

At a time when travel restrictions are implemented, cities and towns are frantically searching for ways to increase tourism.

The internet is filled with travel guides and firsthand accounts of visitors detailing their experiences. It’s more difficult to come across tips from a local—someone who knows the ins and outs of the area. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of knowing someone within our destination’s limits. Consider these five tips when communicating your community’s charm to increase tourism:

Highlight the history and culture 

Every destination has its own unique story.

Aside from the well-known attractions, consider sharing some of your community’s lesser-known treasures. This may involve obscure facts about your town’s early settlers or the spooky tale about the mansion on Main Street. A picture of these treasures with a description of their significance is an opportunity for you to highlight your community’s unique history to increase tourism.

Share your tasty tips

There’s no feeling better than a full stomach after a day of exploring.

Food largely defines a community’s culture. When promoting your city or town, be sure to discuss local dishes and the best places to try them. Consider explaining the flavor profile of the dish and the best way to eat it. With ketchup? With a root beer? At midnight? Who knows, maybe visitors will find their new favorite food or restaurant and come back for more!

Offer visitors a breath of fresh air

We all crave a breath of fresh air.

Provide visitors with the best spots to catch their breath and revel in the wonder of your community’s natural beauty. Be sure to detail the best seasons and times of day for visitors to capture the full essence of the landscape. Also, include any materials that they should consider bringing or leaving behind for their visit.

Catch your breath in nature

Suggest local stores and businesses

The word souvenir is French for “to remember.”

Tokens of remembrance can be as simple as a keychain or as complex as a scarf woven by natives. Present visitors with an opportunity to remember their visit to your community with recommendations for local stores and businesses. This is also an opportunity for you to help local businesses during these difficult times.

Local stores and businesses

Include your personal testimony

They say that home is where the heart is.

Share the little things that you love about your city or town. This may include how you love the transition between one season to another, or your favorite road to drive down in the summer. Personal testimonies appeal to an audience’s emotions. Provide insight into the small and special things that define your love for your community.

Tip: Include hashtags (i.e., #NewOrleans, #ExploringTheCity, #GetInMyBelly) and/or create a page for your city or town. This will help potential visitors easily locate your stories and recommendations.

When implementing the tips listed above, be sure to consider all audiences (independent travelers, couples, families, and seniors). By showcasing your community’s local treasures and adding a personal touch, you can offer visitors valuable information on what to experience when visiting your community.

Enlist PivotPath’s team of innovative creators to help you fulfill these tips and increase your city or town’s tourism. Contact us today for a consultation. 

3 Reasons Your Pop Ups Aren’t Increasing Conversions

What are Pop Ups?

Have you ever been reading an article or shopping online and come across some random advertisement that’s taken you to a different website? If so, you, like every other internet user, have stumbled upon what is known as a pop up ad. These pop up ads, while they reach a wide range of viewers, don’t attract any real business in a meaningful way.

In marketing, there is a concept known as “customer pain points.” These pain points come in many forms. However, they all represent a problem that a potential customer is experiencing while interacting with an ad. Oftentimes, potential customers will have one or more of these pain points when interacting with pop ups. The two main pain points customers might experience with pop ups are: “productivity.” This means that they’re time consuming and “support” pain points, which means the pop up is inconvenient or poorly placed. You might be asking yourself, “If pop up ads are the most viewed form of advertisement, then why are they so ineffective?” I’ll give you three reasons why pop up ads are the least effective form of advertising.

They’re Outdated:

The first reason that pop up ads are so ineffective is because they’re an outdated form of advertising. Pop up ads first came into existence in the late 1990’s when the internet was still a relatively new thing. They really took off in the early 2000’s when you could hardly go on any websites. This is of course without being dragged to a different website in a different window.

In this instance, a customer would experience a productivity pain point because being brought to a different site is time consuming! Now, pop up ads have evolved slightly and are known as “hover ads” where an ad will briefly come across your screen rather than take you to an entirely different site. While this form of advertising was once all the rage, it has slowly become increasingly less effective as the internet and its users have developed.

The Creation of Ad Blocker Software:

The second reason that pop up ads are so ineffective is because of the introduction of ad blocker software. Have you ever been annoyed by pop up ads and wished there was something that would prevent them from sprouting up every time you tried to read an article?

Well, thanks to new ad blocking software that you can download online, there is now a software that will automatically block any pop up ads. It’s difficult for an ad to be even remotely effective at attracting business if the intended target audience has never seen the ad. What makes this reason incredibly important is the fact that most of these softwares are completely free, which makes downloading them a no brainer!

Pop Up Ads Are Annoying!:

The third reason why pop up ads are so ineffective is that they’re incredibly annoying. What’s your typical response when you see a pop up ad come across the screen of your computer, phone, or tablet? Do you analyze the ad with genuine curiosity, or are you like me and click out of the ad as quickly as humanly possible?

Most of you reading this probably click out of the ad as fast as possible.

Customers will experience what is known as the “support pain point” because they’re being inconvenienced with a pop up at a time that isn’t appropriate. Pop up ads are so much of a nuisance that the man that created them, Ethan Zuckerman, has publicly apologized for creating them on numerous occasions! It is hard to effectively market a product or a service when the audience is already turned off to the product because of how it’s marketed.

Are All Pop Ups Bad?

The answer to this question is simply “no.” Pop ups can be a very effective form of marketing at times if they are implemented correctly. Pop ups are featured on nearly every website and reach a very large audience providing the ad and company with lots of exposure. The way pop ups can be implemented correctly depend on three major factors: the positioning, the timing, and the call to action. An example of an effective pop up can be found in articles online.

After you’ve been reading an article and are either half way through or close to the end, a pop up might come up. At this point, the reader has already committed to reading the article and is interested in the content that the site has to offer. So when a pop up suggests subscribing to the site or “clicking here to learn more information,” it’s received much better by the reader than if they were to see it at the very beginning.

When dealing with pop ups like these, customers won’t experience productivity or support pain points because the pop up occurred at an appropriate place and didn’t waste any of their time. 

Alternatives:

My advice to companies still using pop up ads to market their products is simple: think like a consumer. You wouldn’t buy an unpopular and outdated product, so why would you advertise your own products that way? Think of quality rather than quantity; who cares if you’re able to reach a massive audience of people if the majority of the engagement with the ad is just to “X” it out. There are numerous ways to effectively market your products or services online by utilizing the popularity of social media. However, pop up ads are not one of these ways. To effectively use digital marketing to promote your company or products, contact us here at PivotPath. We specialize in brand strategy development and web design development that focuses on engagement and real results!

John Quinn is a recent graduate from Manhattan College where he majored in English and minored in business. He is an avid storyteller and a passionate writer. When he’s not writing his own story, he’s trying to learn from others. Check out his LinkedIn account here.

improve your site

10 Ways to Improve Your Website

improve your site

In a rapidly changing world of technology, it’s easy for your website to be out of date. We constantly need to look into ways to improve it and stay updated. Of course, it helps when your website is built with a strong foundation at the time of its conception. Even so, websites demand constant care and maintenance to thrive online. 

We often talk about online presence and what steps to take to improve and maintain our website. And a big portion of it is taking care of your business’ flagship as it runs 24/7, one of your most powerful assets for lead generation. You may be asking yourself, do I need to redesign or re-build it then? The answer is…Not necessarily. Sometimes, small tweaks here and there can make drastic improvements. 

At the core of these enhancements is User Experience and it is different for everyone who visits your website. What makes a great user experience then? By now, you have probably identified your audience or your website visitors, and by knowing who they are, what they need, and how you solve that challenge/”problem”. Your website must reflect that.

How exactly do you do that?  Here are 10 ways:  

Use more white space. 

Don’t be afraid of using white space on your website. Sometimes it may feel like its a bare piece of online space that needs to be filled with images or ads. White space makes your website simple and elegant thus allowing users to better focus on the more important elements such as content and images. Simplicity on your website’s background creates a more open, modern and fresh feel. 

Simple Navigation

Make it easy for your website visitors to go through your website. Ensure your navigation bar functions properly so your visitors stay longer on your site. Remember your navigation bar serves as a compass to your visitors so have it visible at all times. Make sure you label the pages on your menu distinctly and use familiar words so users can guess the content before the click. Remember, a poor navigation design can hurt your website’s bounce rate. The moment users can’t find the way around or have difficulty finding what they are looking for, then they will leave, causing your exit rates to increase. 

Optimized images (atl images)

Images bring life to your website whether it be via blogs or homepage. To optimize your images, check your competition if they are using the same stock photos, so ensure that your images are unique to your brand. If you are using stock photography, use images that do not use too many filters and use natural lighting. The more realistic it looks, the better. If you prefer to use illustrations, ensure that they are licensed and should follow a specific theme. Bear in mind, optimized images affect your SEO performance.  

Page Speed 

Your website shouldn't work at a snail's pace

Nothing is more frustrating than a slow website so make sure site speed is optimized. When you want to read or watch content, you want it right away. And waiting for a website to load is just a deal-breaker. Users leave- at once. There goes your bounce rate. In this day and age where everyone uses all types of devices, mobile phones, smart TVs, you need to make sure your site is optimized across all mediums. 

So how do you go about fixing that page speed? Google is the best alternative as it offers information on your page speed, load time all across devices, and provides you with recommendations on how to improve it. 

Also, start by evaluating the images that you use, and see if they are compressed before they are loaded into the website. If not, look for websites like compressor.io to help you improve that page speed drastically. This all sound too draining and cumbersome? We can conduct a website analysis to determine the best ways to optimize your site and get it running!

Calls to Action to Website

This nifty feature is a powerful one when used. A call to action is a button/text that prompts the user to act. Common examples are: Learn More, Sign Up, Subscribe, Download Now, etc. One of the biggest considerations is the use of color. The psychology of color is known to be very effective at how website users respond to the call to action. So choose your colors well, taking into consideration, complementing colors, easy on the eyes, and colors that evoke your target behavior.. Also,  ensure your action words catch the user’s attention by using value offerings. This means that the actions will benefit the user and prompt them to move forward with the action.  

Social Share Buttons  

Since social media platforms have taken the world by storm, you would want your website to have a strong online presence on social media. Adding social share buttons on every page of your website are similar to calls to action- as it prompts the user to share your content to the word. Remember part of a solid SEO campaign would be to ensure you rank in social media traffic  – otherwise, it will be a little challenging and costly to rank your website without these buttons. Ensure that your social media links are properly configured on your website and your social media accounts are live and maintained.  

Testimonial Pages

Pages like testimonials give your website more credibility and allow you to showcase your top clients. If you have clients who have great things to say about you, go ahead and post their testimonials. Most users won’t go directly to a testimonial page so make sure you strategically place them on your homepage, or throughout the pages on your site. This is an extra selling point for your business so make sure you post a couple of testimonials from your top clients. Including their company name and logo can also bring your website some added benefits.  

Value Proposition 

Why do you need to do this?  Having a mission or vision statement, allows your users to know your services and products and why you are in business and how users will benefit if they buy or subscribe to your products and services. A value proposition statement should be found on the Home page section, as much as possible in the headline or near the headline.  

You can start your statement with title such as Who We Are, What We Do, or come up with a brief statement such as: “ We are an email marketing company from Nashville, with the goal to bring your business to the next level of digital transformation and capture your target audience with dynamic marketing campaigns custom fit to your business size and budget.” 

Sharing your business goals and objectives helps users determine if you are the right company they can bring their business into. Try to make sure that your mission/ vision helps them understand that you are there to help, and how beneficial you are to them.

Optimize responsive and mobile-friendliness 

If you haven’t worked on this optimization step, then chances are your site is not user-friendly on all types of devices. Since the core purpose of improving your website is User Experience, this is an essential element.  

Google may penalize sites that are not optimized for mobile devices and this is something you want to avoid. There is an emphasis on the importance of your website’s responsiveness as more users use mobile devices more than ever.

Remember, accessibility to all devices can be very assuring to your users, as they know that you can be accessed anytime, at any device with the same great positive user experience. This lowers bounce rates and increases website traffic and returning users.  

Be mindful of 404s. 

It is imperative that each link that your users’ click will take them to the page they want to go. Again, once users are directed to a blank page or a 404 page, this affects your user experience, affecting your bounce rate and overall website metrics; plus it’s annoying. 

How do you determine pages that have potential 404 errors?  Simply use this free tool by Google, called the Google Search Console. This is a webmaster tool that will crawl your pages and send you a report on pages with errors, that way you catch them early on and do a fix. If just in case one of your pages need more time to fix, or its been taken down due to some major redesign, ensure that you create page redirects or some creative 404 pages to let your users know you are aware and that page will be back soon. Here are some cool ideas and ways to show your 404 pages just in case. 

Make us your partner as you move into your business’ digital transformation. Get your free guide on The Use Content Marketing to Boost Your Website Traffic & Digital Presence.

5 Signs Your County needs a new website

Your county website should be all about functionality, efficiency and user experience. Anyone who visits a local government site (or any government site for that matter) expects only the best user experience to help them with any query.

Credibility is a big factor when it comes to websites and you would want to avoid a user interface that is slow, inefficient and does not provide the public the results they were expecting.  

What makes a government website different from a business website is that it serves the public sector, so the site is assumed to be created to provide the best service and the best state of the art website for your county.

More users are going online to find government sites to provide them with the service and information they need, so you need to have a strongly built website to create a positive user experience. If lately, you have been receiving feedback about having fewer visitors, then your county’s website might be due for a redesign.  

Here are some telltale signs that your county needs a new website:  

 Your county site is not mobile-friendly

Most people visit websites via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. So ensure that your website is optimized for mobile users. Many website developers now use a technique referred to as responsive design. Essentially, your website’s design and functionality are automatically reformatted and scaled to fit and function on mobile screen sizes.  Aside from functionality, having a mobile-friendly site gives the public the assurance that your website is accessible everywhere, anytime at the tip of their fingers. Positive user experience is of utmost importance. 

 So what does it mean that your site it not optimized for mobile devices? Try to browse and go your county’s site and see if it comes up as a “mini” version of your site. Does it show you the desktop version with letters are so small you have to pinch and adjust the screen to see? Then that means your website was not developed for a mobile browser-and its time to change that.  

 No Location data awareness 

Aside from being mobile-friendly, you would want to have a site that automatically detects your location. As soon as users log in, they should be asked to choose their location and show them a map of nearby government agencies that they are searching for. Location data from smartphones automatically detects user information based on their locations if users turn on the location function on their smartphones, and most likely most people today do. 

 The convenience your website detecting location is vital as the user needs to be guided on the right government agency they are looking for. No one wants to get misguided information online, most especially if its about government services. 

No county notification services

Offering free service to text subscribers with alerts such as traffic, weather, and emergency events, as well as reminders on important events can take your county’s website to the next level. Public service using notification services are widely used nowadays by top government sites. 

Combining features such as mapping and sign up options for newsletters and alerts make your county citizen’s feel that they are taken cared of by their city/county/state and have a sense of community and belonging. Add on social media links to the website and encourage engagement and social sharing, local awareness, and concern. 

Your website is slow 

A 3-second rule should apply to your website. It should load within that time, otherwise, your site might need troubleshooting, The problem with slow sites is that visitors leave because your site takes too long to load – thus creating a negative user experience. And this is something you want to fix right away. 

A good website should load fast on ANY browser, so if it loads faster on Firefox than on Chrome, then you might want to re-think and optimize your site speed optimization settings, especially if most of your users (via Google Analytics) are using Chrome. Whether it is on mobile or desktop, website speed is essential. If troubleshooting your website does not improve anything, then it’s time for a redesign. 

To determine this, PivotPath can run a website analysis and test your site speed. If it doesn’t load in three seconds, then reconsider your website’s design and interface as it may also be one of the causes why it is loading slow.

Your site design is out of date  

Consumer preferences change over time. Website design is just as important as site functionality. Aesthetics are important because first impressions do last. When your citizens visit your county’s website, you would want them to feel the pride of belonging to the locale. Images and welcoming content should resonate to its citizens- making them browse further and  discover. 

Having a beautifully designed website, with easy navigation and responsive and fast is essential to especially to a government website. Having a poorly functioning website will make you lose your citizen’s loyalty and gratitude, as well as make a really bad impression and representation of the local government; we are here to ensure that won’t be the case.  

If you have these 5 signs or symptoms on your website, then it’s time to take action. Here at PivotPath, we can help you create an extraordinary website for your county that makes a great impression, and give your website visitors the best user experience. 

Competitive Analysis Checklist: Understanding Your Brand Competitors

Your brand defines who you are and how you set yourself apart from your competitors. and it’s always good practice to know where you stand among other brand contenders. When it comes to creating a truly authentic brand, maintaining a competitive edge should always be the goal as this is what keeps you maintain your market share and position. 

So how do you stay on the cutting edge of things? PivotPath can show you how to monitor the attributes and actions that make up your industry’s competitive landscape so you can identify the opportunities and improve your brand identity and image. If you are looking into doing rebranding or repositioning your brand, this checklist will be a great start.

First things first. You need to build a strategy that will ensure you are effectively tracking your competition on a regular basis. Competitive analysis entails a more structured way of keeping tabs on competitors compared to just monitoring them on social media. Having this process in place helps you stay updated and get a more in-depth understanding of your industry’s key players. 

 In this post, we will share a checklist of some strategies to further your understanding of brand competitors, and how to maintain your foothold in the market. 

Research  

Start by compartmentalizing your competitors and similar brands into two types: 

  • Direct competitors – companies offering the same service or products in the same geographical area with the same target audience, fulfilling the same market need.
  • Indirect competitors  – companies offering the same service or products in the same geographical area but with a different target market or fulfilling a different market need. 

Categorize and Organize

Make a list of at least 5 -10 direct and indirect competitors and enter them into a spreadsheet. 

If you haven’t identified your competitors yet, then you can find them on search engines like Google or use tools such as SEMRush (free) or Ahrefs (paid). These tools provide a lot of insights as you go deep into your competitor research.  

Once you have them laid out on the spreadsheet, add the basic detailed company profile information such as:  

  • Annual revenue 
  • Products and services offered
  • Clients 
  • Number of offices and locations
  • Number of employees
  • Locations
  • Homepage / Website 
  • Social media accounts
  • Featured products 
  • Price and product range 
  • Selling point 
  • Target market 
  • Email marketing tactics
  • PPC campaigns 
  • Special offers and discounts  
  • Google and Yelp Reviews
  • Other significant attributes that you think are significant to you. 

Going through each of your identified competitors’ profiles allows you to step into your target market shoes and go through a customer journey. Take it further by subscribing to their newsletters and weekly blogs or webinars; be a part of their marketing circle so that you can gauge and compare how you fare versus your competition. 

Experiencing the competition by creating a database of their information will give you a lot of insight from a customer and a competitor’s perspective and soon enough you will know each one like the back of your hand.  

Check market positioning 

The best way to do this is to run website metrics and diagnostics with free tools like Google Analytics, SEMRush or if you have the budget, Ahrefs, Buzzsumo or Moz. These online tools will work their magic, providing a drill-down of where your brand is in terms of online presence, social media engagement, active users, sales, the locations of users/clients and the like. 

You can run weekly metrics and track your progress; at the same time, make the necessary adjustments you need to keep up (Paid Ad campaigns, social media engagement, SEO optimization, etc.).

Doing keyword research is also one of the best ways on how to determine where you stand among the competition. You can keyword research using Google Search Console, Ubersuggest, MOZ keyword explorer, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and more tools here

On a less technical side, you can go back to basics and make a list of all your brand strengths and weaknesses. Be objective when you do this, and make a consumer’s point of view when doing this. After that, create a list of your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and compare notes. You will be surprised at how much you will learn if you do this process objectively. 

Reviews  

Google and Yelp reviews are also one of the best ways to understand your competition and a great opportunity to outdo them when it comes to customer engagements. Check their reviews and determine where the clients are from, and what products or services get most reviews.

You may also want to take a look at the number of reviews, and how responsive they are to their audience. Gauging customer experience through these reviews gives you the chance to look within your business and makes steps on how to improve. Doing this helps motivate you to optimize your business listings to be at par with the competition.  

Implement  

Data without action is a futile exercise. Having spent so much time collecting data and putting a plan or strategy into action will keep you from being blind-sided by your competitors. Once you have run a comparison between your product and your competitor, formulate a strategy based on your findings, and execute your plans, after which you can monitor and re-adjust as needed.  

Don’t have the time to collect competitor data? PivotPath can help you do your competitive brand analysis. Click here to get started.  

How PivotPath can Maximize your Tourism Bureau Website

Are you currently on the quest for ways to boost your city, county, state, or nations’ tourism site? If you feel that you have exhausted all your marketing campaigns, look no further.

Being a city manager or clerk requires you to wear different hats everyday. Part of your job entails you perform sales and marketing as well as all the other tasks. With the help of PivotPath, you won’t have to miss time from important tasks or deals in the pipeline and can focus on more important matters.  Let’s get you one step closer to your goals of maximizing your tourism bureau website.

Here are the 4 things we can do for you: 

Branding Strategy

Creating a strategic plan for your tourism website increases your chances of success because it allows you to develop a step-by-step guide for your business initiatives. Most brilliant marketing plans go awry when it is not put into writing, so it is important to have a branding strategy document to use as a guide and update as your strategy evolves. 

It’s important for you to identify your goals and objectives for your website; as this will be the base of all marketing initiatives as we launch your marketing campaign. Is the goal of your tourism (CVB) site to attract tourists to the new shopping center? Beautiful wedding venues? Neighborhoods to reside?

From your goals, we will help you determine and segment your target audience. In this case, focus on each traveler type and hyper-target the marketing efforts to each. Then identify which marketing channels are most effective to use depending on the segment. This is a crucial step in every marketing campaign as you need to zero in on a target market and position strategic content to capture their attention for engagement

SEO-Optimization  

SEO or Search Engine Optimization requires a lot of time and attention but is essential to the success of your tourism/CVB website. Investing the time in SEO will tremendously help to gain visibility on the search engine results page.

The more website traffic you get, the more Google (and other search engines) remembers that your website has the authority and the relevant content that is worth ranking high in searches.  Not only that, you want repeat visitors on your website, so SEO is an essential part of this process to ensure repeat visits and social media shares. 

While it is necessary, SEO is not for the faint of heart; leave it to the experts. Here at PivotPath, we will optimize your website with an attractive custom theme, stunning photos that capture the audience’s attention, and SEO-optimized content that converts. Our SEO technical expertise can help you make that all happen. 

Content Marketing

Just like SEO, chances are you’ve heard of the quote, “Content is King”. Indeed it is. The key to a higher Google visibility is to ensure your website is more informative, valuable and useful than your competitors. Here at PivotPath, we will create a content strategy for your tourism or CVB website to make sure that you capture the right audience. We also develop a keyword strategy campaign to make your website more searchable and visible on Google or other search engines. 

Along with content, images are also part of content marketing. One crucial ingredient for a tourism website is stunning images of your locale to capture travelers and potential visitors. Since travelers do have quite a number of online travel resources they look to, it’s important that your website belongs to the short-list. Creating stunning videos of your area (city, county, state, etc.) is also another way to optimize content. 

Blog posts are another fun way to do content marketing – don’t have time? We can do that for you too. Blogs are a great way to feature travel spots and destinations and provide detailed descriptions of the place and what to expect, what to do and what not to do. Sharing helpful tips that travelers can use when visiting your place or share a top five must do list when traveling to your destination is a must. 

Social Media Marketing

Always an effective and efficient way to share your content to the world. But it’s not just a matter of posting any type of content on your social media accounts. There must be a strategy behind every successful social campaign. Just like content management, posts and images are planned strategically and set on a timely manner to capture the right audience. 

At PivotPath, we help you share your most unique experiences and events in your city, help you highlight what’s new in your area, especially with holiday posts to keep your visitors in the know about the latest events and the fun things to do when they visit.  Tools like SocialMention also help you in sharing user-generated content in social media. 

Extra Tourism Website Tip:

It is also important to optimize your website on the mobile version since most travelers rely on their phones as a source of information. We will help you optimize your website to be more mobile friendly and accessible. Take note that millenials and Gen-Z spend more time on their phones than any other device, and they do travel more than any generation, so ensure that your website is always on its uptime and accessible anytime. 

Bring your travel website to the next level – start marketing with PivotPath today.   

Government Marketing vs B2B and B2C: Know the Difference

Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-Consumer (B2C), and Business-to-Government (B2G). We’ve all read these terms somewhere. What do these terms mean and why should it matter to you as a marketer? Or even as a consumer?

The steady rise of digital marketing is undeniable, and marketing companies have sprouted out of the woodwork as a result. With high technology as a steady partner, brand marketing companies thrive due to these innovations that are developed to support it.

So what do these differences between both marketing types mean to your agency? Is it really worth the effort in procuring the requirements to be a government contractor? 

B2B Marketing

Business-to-Business includes marketing to businesses that conduct business for a profit and to those organizations that have a non-profit charter. B2B  focuses on selling products and services to other businesses rather than to the government or specific consumers.

B2C Marketing

On the flip side, B2C, or business-to-consumer marketing, takes place when a business—such as an online store, manufacturer, online medical information organization—markets their products or services to the public. This involves identifying buyer personas, and engaging with them on the omni-channels such as social media, email marketing campaigns and customer calls. 

B2G Marketing

Government Marketing or B2G (Business to Government) is a derivative of B2B. As a small business, this involves bidding on contracts set by government agencies who are in search for marketing agencies to set up marketing campaigns for any type of industry. Most commonly, landing marketing government contracts are available to industries such as environmental, financial, information technology, logistics and energy.  

Government marketing is certainly a great resource to tap into. But how to get started on this venture requires a few different steps than what you are normally used to within other sectors. 

Here are some helpful steps to get started: 

  1. Do your research: Conduct thorough research on finding government consumers. Check the GSA schedules program or the Federal Procurement Data System database to search for potential markets. Look around for agencies that need your services and make them a priority in your list. 
  2. Register your SAM profile: This is a very essential step when you want to land a federal government contract, so be certain that your profile is optimized. Be very clear about your capabilities as a contractor by sharing your past successes and how they can benefit from your agency. Do extensive research on competitor companies. Remember, you will be bidding against a lot of competition so make sure you stand out in a unique way.

B2G marketing may use the same strategies of B2B, especially for marketing destination conventions and visitor or travel bureaus (CVB). Ensuring a solid marketing strategy for government marketing can help your agency reach new levels of success.

Defining the purpose, focus, and objective of a government agency’s CVB website will help gauge the targeted audience and user experience. Is the agency looking to promote a new shopping mall? Vast variety of wedding venues? Knowing this information will help in developing  SEO-optimized branding (website) and increase the agency’s web traffic. 

Create Engaging Marketing Content

Content marketing is identified as the top five marketing trends over the past years, simply because consumer behavior thrives on content. It’s not only important that your target markets read the content, but that they resonate with the messaging. Having your target consumers read and share your content increases brand credibility and consumer confidence.  

Whether you engage in either of these types of marketing, the most important thing to remember is to always, always know your market. Developing a solid marketing strategy for each different type of industry is made easier by the automated marketing tools available anywhere. And, being in such a competitive race, you have to clearly distinguish yourself from the rest. 

Ready to build or upgrade your CVB site? Contact PivotPath today for a consultation!