Archives for March 2012

Creating a “FIVE STAR” Footprint on the Internet for Pastors

Five StarThere is no question that the Internet has become a major source of acquiring information, about topics and about people.  As a result, many pastors are discovering that it behooves them to have a substantial presence on the Internet, a Five Star Footprint, if you would, that helps to further the church they serve and the ministry that it offers.  With that thought in mind, I have put pen to paper to help those individuals who do, in fact, want to accomplish this particular goal.

The first thing a pastor needs to do is decide is whether they want to be “covert” or “overt” when it comes to the Internet.  If, as you are reading this, you decide that your decision is to be “covert” you need not bother reading any further, as this article is being drafted for those individuals who want a higher profile when it comes to the Internet.  If you have not yet made this decision, a major determining factor is this:  If you believe that many people choose a church because of how they feel about the Senior Pastor, you will definitely want to develop an overt persona, to ensure that you are not a “mystery” to potential new members.

It must also be understood that, like it or not, the Internet will contain information about you. Understanding this basic fact is pastor and Church Marketing 101. The question is, if people check you out online what do you want them to find?  Do you want them discover a random jumbalaya that Google assembles, or a concentrated effort that you have orchestrated and put together?  If you opt for the latter, what you will be doing is developing your own online profile rather than relying on what Google might come up with.  The thing to remember is, if you leave it up to Google , what viewers see might be positive, benign, or adverse.  Google doesn’t filter the material, they just display it. But effective internet marketing doesn’t leave these important matters to chance.

My contention is that if you are going to be “overt” you might as well be ubiquitous as well!  So, to create a Five Star Footprint you will want to begin with the Search Engines, of which there are three main ones: Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Google is the dominant engine, and in that channel there are several “Google Searches,” and you will want to make sure that you show up in all of them.

1. Tackle the Search Engines, Google First – Your first step is to show up in a “general” Google Search, which displays everything on the Internet.  There is also an Image Search, a Video Search, a Local Search (known as “Maps”), a News Search and lesser searches such as Books, Blogs and so on.  As a result, your number one priority in establishing your Five Star Footprint is to “tackle” Google.  Once you have done that, you can then concentrate on Yahoo, Bing, and other places.

To begin the process, “Google” yourself and see what shows up.  In doing this, use every variation of your name as possible:  Rev. Bob Smith; Rev. Robert Smith; Rev. Robert E. Smith; Pastor Bob Smith; Pastor Robert Smith; Pastor Robert E. Smith and so forth.  Once you determine what shows up for you in these searches you need to identify the items you feel positive about.  For example, if GOOGLE displays your FACEBOOK page and you like your FACEBOOK page, this is a web property you need to concentrate on developing further.  You do this by adding content to that web property first, then finding ways to build backlinks to it. Make this your pattern: Concentrate on developing web properties that already show up in a Google, Yahoo or Bing search that you have control over. They are low-hanging fruit that you can more easily influence.

2. Take on the Social Networks – Other channels where you will want to make sure you position yourself by developing a presence include: creating a FACEBOOK Page and possibly a FACEBOOK Profile; make sure you have an account on LINKEDIN, that you have a personal website, a Twitter Account, are on YouTube and possibly Vimeo.  Once you have opened all of these Accounts and continue to add content to them they will most liekly show up as well on a GOOGLE search of your name.  If you don’t currently have any videos you need to start doing them – – on your sermons, or a “Scriptural Seconds” series.  Videos can get you listed in a both a general set of search results as well as Video Search resuls.

3. Populate the Web with Your Photos – Displaying photos of yourself is another good way to develop a Five Star Footprint.  If you don’t have a Flicker Account get one as soon as possible.  Upload your photos so that they are “optimized” to your name.  You accomplish this by entitling the files “PastorRyanSmith_DesMoinesIowa” rather than “img9356.jpg”.  You can also get into FLICKER and write a Title and a short paragraph about each photo.  Remember, GOOGLE “interprets” text, not images, so once you upload your images, give it a proper file name, proper title (Pastor Smith Preaching in Pedusky), and description. Then, if someone searches “Pastor Smith,” GOOGLE will potentially bring up the photo in the display results.  You can also put photos on your Blog (make sure they are titled properly too!) and on your FACEBOOK Page.  Be sure to back link from Flicker, FACEBOOK, and your Blog to your website.  By posting and optimizing your videos and photos onto the web in these various places, like Facebook Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, etc, you are providing the internet with images that you want people see, rather than leaving matters to chance.

4. Move into Advanced Footprinting – Once you’ve begun to get your web properties, social networks, videos and images populating the web on searches for your name, you can move into advanced areas of branding and footprinting. These would include things like regular blogging using a ministry blog or  premier blogging service, Facebook posting, tweeting, article submissions, link building, social bookmarking, local listings, and so on. You might even graduate to targeting keywords beyond the variations of your name, or using online marketing tools like SEOMoz, aHREFs, SheerSEO and others. In many of these cases, you may even want to retain the professional services of a non profit consultant, like Pathmaker Marketing.

You may want to take a few moments and Google the following individuals to see how they have established their Five Star Footprint. Evaluate each person to see what is showing up. In some cases,  you might be able to replicate their paths to success. The first, Dr Michael D Evans, totally dominates “page one” rankings on Google Search, Google Images, and Google Video, which, obviously, is a very good position to be in! But others do too, and you can as well, with some time and effort taken to get yourself there.

Dr. Michael D Evans

T D Jakes

Billy Graham

Bill Hybels

Luis Palau

The importance of establishing a Five Star Footprint, as we previously mentioned, is that it allows you to control what people find when they Google your name, rather than leaving what they discover to chance.  As people rely on the Internet more and more to help them make decisions of where to go and what to see, ensuring that you have a positive presence online is not only a good idea, it is a veritable must!

Disclaimer: The process above can go quickly and smoothly for some pastors who have uncommon or unusual names. For those with common names – ones that many other high profile people share – the process will be more protracted and results deferred. Don’t get discouraged by this. Most of these results take time to developed, meaning 6-12 months or longer to get establish a pervasive, ubiquitous Five Start Footprint developed. If you want my personal assistance in this regard, call me at my office at 623-322-3334 or Skype me at Pathmaker.Marketing

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How to Establish Yourself as an Expert and Generate Sales

Generate SalesWhether you are a premier blogging service, non-profit consultant or a fundraising company, the bottom line is you need to generate revenues. Do you know how to make people buy from you? Well, they have to trust you. Do you know how to make them trust you? Basically, they have to believe that you know what you are talking about. In short you have to be viewed as the expert that they can count on in your field.

In this post, I will detail the things that you need to do in order to push your brand and be seen as an expert in your field. Once you have accomplished this, you can be sure that you can easily generate sales through your blog. Here’s how:

  1. Write contents that they would be willing to share – The first thing that you should do is to write contents that are share worthy. This means that on top of the facts that you are going to present, it has to be an interesting read and helpful to the readers. If the content you wrote is share worthy, people will recommend it to their connections and this will increase your online exposure to a wide range of audience. This will bring awareness to who you are and the kind of knowledge that you bring.
  2. Use multimedia – When I say contents, I don’t mean only written ones. You can also share your expertise using audio and video. You can for example upload  talks on Blog Talk Radio or create a podcast at Blubbery. All these can be automatically uploaded to iTunes for greater exposure. And you should not forget to start your own YouTube channel because the exposure that you will get here is simply awesome.
  3. Use the features of the social media – Give links to your contents in Twitter, answer questions in LinkedIn Answers, interact on Facebook. In short, using the social media can be helpful.
  4. Join groups that are looking for experts for media exposure – Facebook and LinkedIn have groups that are constantly looking for experts for media exposure. Look for these groups and join them and then answer queries related to your expertise. Profnet  from PR Newswire is also a good place to brush elbows with journalist and authors to further your exposure.
  5. Interconnect your efforts – Your business marketing promotion online should be integrated so that you can exploit its power. You can interconnect your Internet business marketing promotion website and Ministry blogs with Facebook through its social plugins and use tools like Twitter feed so that you can feed them to Tweeter as well. Aside from the exposure that you will get, you will also increase the PR of your website and blogs through these links.

Unless people see you as an expert, you cannot expect them to part with their money. By making enough credible noise, people will begin to see you as somebody who knows what you are talking about. Take note, you have to make credible noise and not just any noise. This means accountability on your part because the moment that you publish something erroneous, that would be the end of your online fund raising career.

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How to Use Animated GIFs for Email Fundraising Impact

concept mouse on the moneyWe have emphasized the importance of a tailored message in your email fundraising campaign and animated GIF is just another way to infuse more personality to it. Although this technique is no longer as famous as it used to be in Internet business marketing promotion still, it’s very effective and as a professional fundraiser it’s still worth your time.

With the exception of Outlook, animated GIFs are compatible with most email clients and therefore, you can be sure that your animation will be viewed by your recipient. Here are a few tips on how to do it:

  1. Display a complete message in the first frame – In case the entire animation does not display well with the recipient’s email client, make sure that the first frame conveys the entire message. This is to ensure that what you wanted your clients to know will get to them even when things don’t work as expected.
  2. Small is better than big – In the case of animated GIFs, small is better than big. This is so because you want to avoid the spam filters of most email clients. Another thing is, you want to maintain the speed of the way your email loads because if it’s too slow, you know already what your recipient will do with it.
  3. Let the animation cycle for several times – Allowing the animation cycle for several times will ensure that the viewer can see the entire message. After this, allow it to go static for 30 seconds. This is also another reason why you have to keep it small.
  4. Consider how the email would look like without the animation – There are email clients that are intentionally set to block animation and that is why, you have to consider how your email would look like without it. The point here is to avoid relying solely on animation to convey the message. You have to remember that your purpose of using it is just to spice it up a bit but not to cripple the entire campaign just because the animation part does not display well.
  5. Avoid overusing animation – In relation to the above, avoid using animation too much. There are a lot of disadvantages of overusing animation and that is why, you have to use it sparingly. Aside from slowing the loading down, it can create a visual mess when not used properly. You have to remember that you don’t want to irritate your recipient and too much animation is the best way to accomplish that.

Although a lot of professional fundraisers have abandoned the use of animated GIFs in their email fundraising campaigns, still we suggest that you reconsider using it. It is a great way to customize your mails and add a little bit of personality to it. If done properly, you can be sure that it will bring a great deal of conversion to your overall online fundraising campaign.

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Church Outreach Ideas — How to Use a Prayer Wall

Prayer WallA prayer wall is a web application where you can conveniently post prayers and pray for others as well. It’s so easy to use and the convenience will put prayer chains to shame. Updates on past prayers are easy to do; you don’t need to send hundreds of emails to keep people informed. Talk about Church outreach ideas, this is the best there is. Here is how to use it:

  1. Post your prayer request like a tweet – The best way to post a prayer is to make it concise so that those who will pray for you will not have a hard time remembering your request. Added to that, there are also details that you want to intentionally miss out especially if they are too personal. You can think of this as a tweet except that it’s a prayer.
  2. Post a prayer for others too – Don’t just pray for yourself, pray for others as well. Intercession is a virtue that is highly encouraged in the church and what better way to help your brethren than to pray for them and encourage others to pray for them too?
  3. Avoid correcting the prayers of others  – If you disagree with other peoples’ prayer request, there is no point in correcting them. You have to remember that the prayer wall is a public environment and making a public correction to someone else’s prayer is just too insulting.
  4. Avoid gossips in your prayers requests – It’s easy to fall into this trap. What was intended to be a genuine concern that needs to be prayed for progresses into a gossip. If you think that a request is a gossip in the making, you can flag it as such. The admins of the church website will then remove it from the prayer requests and decide if it is indeed a gossip. Just like other Outreach Ideas, this too has to be protected from misuse.
  5. Truly pray – If you want to pray for a request, all you need to do is press the “pray” button and the number of those who prayed will increase. On the downside, you can actually just press the button without actually praying and the person on the other side will actually believe that the number of those who prayed are actually a lot. This just defeats the purpose of a prayer wall and should be avoided. We have to remember that we are accountable to God and dishonesty just doesn’t pay.

 A prayer wall is just a web app that makes the job of prayer warriors a little easy. This will encourage more prayers and a great way to see your ministry being fruitful. All you need to do get in touch with Pathmaker Marketing and have it installed in your Church’s website or ministry blog. If you have any other Church Outreach Ideas, we would like to hear about it too.

 For examples of some Prayer Walls we’ve installed, go here:

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What Are the True Costs of Email Marketing?

hiresEmail marketing and email fundraising have been known to have a good return on investment (ROI), but a good business person will not simply disregard all the expenses incurred in the entire business marketing promotion online. Knowing the actual cost of an email marketing or email fundraising campaign will help you get the best value for your money. In this article, we will break down the actual cost of email marketing for you. Knowing the cost of an undertaking will help prevent surprises that could be unpleasant down the road.

  1. The number of campaigns  – Knowing the number of campaigns is the most obvious determinant of the cost of any Internet business marketing promotion. When you are just starting out, this is not going to matter the most because you will obviously have lesser campaigns to make. But as your business grows bigger, you will have to begin to plan the number of campaigns that you are going to make because this can be potentially burn a hole in your pocket.
  2. Number of contacts and emails you want to send – Another thing that you have to look at is the number of contacts which correlates to the number of emails that you want to send every month. The higher this goes, the higher you will have to spend.
  3. Fees for marketing manager or agency – For those who are just starting out, the tendency is to hire a cheaper ESP (Email Service Provider), but these may have certain caveat. Sometimes cheap is also synonymous with lousy service and that is why you have to be very careful in the selection process. As your business grows, it stands to reason that you have to consider hiring a top tier fundraising company which means, higher fees as well.
  4. The cost of the email list – For those who are too lazy to build an email list from scratch, you would have to count also the cost of renting an email list. As we have warned in our previous posts, this can also mean low conversion because of low relevance.
  5. Fees for technical support – Depending on the plan that you bought, some fundraising companies do offer technical support for an extra fee. This will give you certain advantage but you have to remember that this could mean extra expenses too.

Since cost is the most important factor in every business decision, knowing the cost of an email marketing campaign has a lot of advantages. But despite its cost, email marketing has great return of investment and therefore should not be ignored by any online business person. Studies have shown that for every dollar that you spend on email marketing, it will have an ROI of $42. Planning for it though, will even give you a better bang for every buck.

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How to Coordinate Your Email Fundraising with Direct Mail

efundraising with direct mailEmail fundraising is not something that only the professional fundraisers can do to raise funds. Even a newbie fundraiser can do such if he/she knows the secrets of this campaign. Just like any Internet business marketing promotion, targeting a hungry niche is of topmost importance otherwise, you will be wasting your time because all your mails will be instantly deleted. Here are some tips:

 1. Customize your email  – Do not send a “one-size-fits-all” email to all your targets. This is an instant turn off because people will just know it when the mail is not really for them. Take your time to create a customized email for the specific niche that you are sending it to. Generic email is a sign that you are being lazy and believe me, people can sense it.

 2. List quality is very important – It is common knowledge among professional fundraisers that paid addresses will always perform less than those gathered organically (e.g., if the donor gave you’re their email address). Although it’s not a totally bad idea to have paid addresses, you should make it your aim to have more organic addresses than paid ones.

 3. Don’t overlook your landing page – It is often said in SEO communities that you have to treat all parts of your website as a landing page because you don’t know where a prospect will land when following a link. You can bring a visitor to your site but if it is not optimized to convert them to donate, you will be missing a lot of opportunities there.

 4. Don’t just ask for money – Again this is an automatic turn off. People will not just give their money without knowing the value of what you are trying to do. Before you send a solicitation email, make sure that you already have sent at least two that tells a compelling success story, something that recognizes the donors and volunteers and similar things.

 5. Personalize your email – With all the information available online, there is no reason that your donor should receive a “Dear Donor” type of mail. Generic or a one-size-fits-all kind of mail will easily find its way to the recycle bin and that is why you need to personalize it. Put the name of the donor in your opening remarks and it is even better if you can tailor the asked amounts based on the giving history of each of your donor.

If you are trying to win a non-supporter, send a customized email designed to welcome them to your cause and to introduce them to your core programs. This can be accomplished through compelling story contents which will convert them to donors in no time.

Email fundraising has its own downside but following the tips provided above will greatly improve your batting average and of course, donations will increase too. Although email fundraising is not rocket science, you don’t have to take it lightly to the point that nobody believes you at all.

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Top 6 Mistakes for Email Fundraising

email_fundraisingNo matter how much you avoid it, it happens. An email fundraising mishap makes you want to recall all the emails that you have just sent to your donors!. The efficiency of modern technology can be a double edge sword to wound its wielder if you are not careful. The moment you press the send button, all those mails will be in the inbox of all your recipients and if they contain things that are broken, problematic, or included stuff you are not supposed to say, there is no way to bring them back. Hopefully for you that doesn’t mean “Hasta la Vista, Baby!”

Well if you get a next time to send, you can take some simple steps to avoid the worst issues, and that is why I would like to share with you the things that you should avoid in your email fundraising campaigns. Here they are:

1. Failure to personalize – An email with a “Dear Friend” in the opening is a good candidate for deletion. I mean, try to put yourself in the shoes of your donor — why do you think he should support your cause AGAIN if you don’t even know his name? With all the digital information available online, it’s just a sign of sloppy email fundraising not to be able to use the FIRST name. Usually, I ALWAYS have the First name personlization utilized in the BODY of my email. In addition, I use Subject line personalization on resends to non-opens to create something different at first glance.

2.  UNDER soliciting your donors – Yes. I said UNDER! Most fundraisers might be scared about running too many campaigns at the same time and asking too much from the same donors. They typically worry about people unsubscribing because they find your email in their inbox too often. Well,  I know that can occur, but in my experience most clients err on the side of too much caution. So I’m proposing the reverse is true. The main problem is undersolicitation. My typical rule of thumb is to send out fundraising emails at the same time every month – I prefer the 15th through the 30th. I also Split Test at least 3 email variations and send every 3-4 days during that period of time. That means you could be emailing up to 5-6 times in two weeks. Then we stop any soliciations for two weeks. I’ve found this system works well, and have used it for over 4 years to help one client raise over $725,000.

3.  Failure to test through checkout – The #1 thing that can go wrong with any email campaign is that your checkout process doesn’t work. That’s why you MUST send yourself test emails in advance and open, click through them, and complete the checkout process to be sure it works.  The meltdown scenario is you don’t test through checkout and you send 150,000 emails out to see Page Not Found error messages on your forms two days later!  Ouch.  There are mistakes and then there are mistakes. Overlooking a typo in the Subject Line is a major blunder, but a broken or busted checkout process is the #1 ALL TIME Biggest Show Stopper Mistake ever. That problem stops everything dead in its tracks, so test your checkout process religiously to make sure you capture the gift or donation.

4.  Failure to keep up with the times – Are you still relying solely on email that only renders on the PC? You can multiply the power of your campaign if you include with it full social sharing on Facebook, Twitter. Use Addthis. Harness the power of social media for your emails. ALSO, don’t overalook mobile either. This is rapidly becoming a required component of any email fundraising campaign. This will make your life much easier because it will complement what you cannot include in a garden variety email. Ease of communication, ease of donating, seeing videos and pictures all add to the overall power that you cannot accomplish with email alone.

5. Only use the shotgun approach – Trying to cover all campaigns in one single mail is what you call the shotgun approach. By definition a shotgun is best used in SELF-DEFENSE cause it sprays “shot” in all directions. Instead, try to be surgical in your approach and by that, I mean try to limit the scope of your campaign. Use rifles or pistols that can hit specific targets. The way to accomplish this is by getting better DATA from your donors. Make sure your Profile Management pages are functional — use them and/or surveys to harvest more information. As your database grows, you can better segment and focus email sends on specific interests, groups, demographics, or behavior patterns of your donors.

6. Failure to TEST – At the end of the day, all the email marketers in the world can tell you what they think will work, but even the “experts” are only speculating unless their guesses are backed up by real time results. Get around the guessing by testing. Try this and that. Test this and that. Testing helps you find out what really works. Constantly test. Because even when something works one month, it may not work the next, because our results are a combination of two things: those things we control, and the outside forces we do not control. As you test, develop a Lessons Learned document which will give you guidance going forward in regard to things that have been proven to work at one point in time.

Although there are still plenty of “oopps” in email fundraising that are in my list, these six are the most frequent and sadly, the least avoided. Taking these to heart will prevent you from committing them again. Just remember that the moment you press that “send” button, there is no way to get those mails back.

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