Crowdfunding 101: What It is, Why it Matters, and How to Choose the Right Platform

Crowdfunding 101

Crowdfunding is a phrase we’re hearing more and more, so we thought it would make sense to do a post on the who, what, where, when, and why around this popular topic. Let’s get to it.

What, exactly, is crowdfunding?
One of the best visual examples we can offer is this: you know that scene at the end of the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life where all of George Bailey’s friends and family show up at his house on Christmas Eve and offer money (thanks to a call made by George’s wife) to help save him from the evil Mr. Potter? That’s crowdfunding at work.

Crowdfunding is when a group of people collectively pool their money to support a specific endeavor. It could be a business endeavor (e.g. funding the manufacturing of a new product), a creative endeavor (funding a film), or charitable endeavor (funding a nonprofit’s specific need, like a new roof on a soup kitchen). Monetary donations can range from small, like one dollar, all the way up into the thousands.

On crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, the person or organization creating the campaign sets a monetary goal and deadline (such as one month). If the monetary goal is met, the endeavor (whatever it is) moves forward. If the monetary goal isn’t met, then the endeavor *usually* doesn’t happen (and donors aren’t charged). The crowdfunding site *usually* gets a percentage of the funds raised IF the campaign is successfully funded and moves forward. We say “usually” because other crowdfunding platforms do exist that employ different models, such as a personal “stake” in the venture in exchange for funds. Bottom line: before choosing a crowdfunding platform, it’s important to understand the model it’s using. Always read the fine print. Continue reading “Crowdfunding 101: What It is, Why it Matters, and How to Choose the Right Platform”

Social Media for Charity – A Way for Small Businesses to Give Back

It’s that time of year when we think more about giving back, both as individuals and as people involved in small business. Here’s a fun and easy way to “give back” and to involve customers, employees, and social media fans.

1. Choose a charity. Don’t over think this too much. Choose something that your business has supported in the past, ask your employees to make suggestions, or even ask your fans in social media to provide their favorite charities. Wondering if the charity you’re thinking of supporting is legit? Use Charity Navigator to vet the health and legitimacy of the charity in question. Continue reading “Social Media for Charity – A Way for Small Businesses to Give Back”

5 Awesome Promotional Products for Walk-a-thons & Road Races

As the summer comes to an end, preparations for fall walk-a-thons and road races go into high gear, like those that are organized for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Here are six awesome promotional products to stock up on now.

1. Breast Cancer Awareness Products. From pins to bracelets to everything in between (like the pink ribbon white visor pictured below), Amsterdam Printing has plenty to choose from.


2. Stainless Steel Water Bottles. Encourage participants to stay hydrated and promote your cause at the same time with these ergonomic water bottles. The extra wide neck makes it easy to add ice cubes, too. Continue reading “5 Awesome Promotional Products for Walk-a-thons & Road Races”

Industry Highlight – Nonprofit Promotional Products

Working for a nonprofit organization…it’s a labor of love, isn’t it? So many things to do, including making sure your nonprofit is visible in the community. Here are six recommended products or see the full category of nonprofit promotional products that will help you do just that.

1. Custom keychains. You can’t go wrong with tried and true custom keychains. They’re economical, useful, and a great way to have your nonprofit’s logo/name featured on something people use almost every day. Continue reading “Industry Highlight – Nonprofit Promotional Products”

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits

Non-profits, we salute you. You work long hours on causes that matter and make a difference in our world. We know how important marketing is to help get the word out and raise money. So we thought we’d share some interesting marketing ideas for non-profits that we’ve come across…ideas that might re-inspire your team and your supporters while raising funds for your organization.

1. Naming campaigns. These are fun and fairly straightforward to implement. One example is a “buy a brick” campaign, where people buy a brick (could be for a new building or even a brick path in a local park) and the person’s name will be included on the brick.

2. Restaurant proceeds. We’ve seen this work especially well with religious organizations. Team up with a local restaurant and declare the first Monday of the month your organization’s “Awesome Restaurant Day.” When people dine or get take out from Awesome Restaurant – and they mention they’re with your organization – a portion of each bill will go towards your organization. It’s great for the community, for the restaurant, for your supporters, and for your non-profit.

3. Competitions. Whether it’s a cake bake-off or a gingerbread house showdown, competitions are a great way to build buzz in a community and reach people who might not normally know much about your non-profit. One idea we’ve seen works like this:

  • Invite local high school students to submit designs for a cake.
  • Get local bakeries to donate their time and a cake.
  • Select five (or however many) design finalists and assign each finalist to a bakery, which then turns the design into reality.
  • Designate a “cake design competition” day, where people in the community are invited to stop by some central location – could be a community or youth center – where people vote on the cake they like the best. (And, of course, you’d have plenty of visuals and literature available about your non-profit, since your organization would be sponsoring the event.)
  • The winning designer and baker get a prize.

This can be an effective campaign because of its potential “reach.”  The finalists would promote the competition to their family and friends, the schools would promote the contest to faculty and the entire student body, the bakeries would promote the contest to their customers (and, ideally, through social media), and it’s the type of feel-good story that the local press might be interested in covering.

4. Bake sales. Okay, so it might be easy to dismiss this idea as “done to death,” but bake sales are still extremely effective because  1) they’re easy to set up 2) they’re easy to explain 3) they cater to “impulse buyers” and 4) they’re fun!

5. Sponsored walks (and other sporting events). While these can take more work and coordination to set up, they also have great community and media reach. Make it an annual event that you center your other marketing activities around.

For the last three ideas above, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have the right promotional products available to give away. Here are some that we recommend to customers:

  • Banner Custom Keychains. Keychains are economical and easy to display at busy events, like bake sales and competitions.

Custom Keychains

Small Business Marketing Magic – 9 Business Blogs That Will Inspire You

We love checking out what other business bloggers are doing. It’s a great place to get marketing and copy ideas (we’re not suggesting plagiarizing…just getting inspired!) and to see how other businesses make a “go” of blogging.

Here are some of our favorite business blogs for people to check out, learn from, and aspire to.

1. HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Blog. HubSpot is the thought leader on all things inbound marketing, a term cofounder and CEO Brian Halligan coined. Blog posts are geared towards business owners and marketers and contain practical, easy-to-implement-right-now ideas.

2. Seth Godin’s Blog. If you’re not familiar with Seth Godin, get thee to his site and Seth Godin's Blogsubscribe now. His marketing insights are always on target and just the sort of advice you need to get your day going.

3. Mashable. Keep up with all things technology and social media, both of which affect business owners.

4. Web Ink Now. This is David Meerman Scott’s marketing blog. David is another well-known name in marketing circles, and his blog provides valuable tips and resources.

5. Marketing Sherpa. Often considered the granddaddy of all marketing blogs, this site is full of free info and paid content.

6. Copyblogger. What’s great about this blog is that it’s not ALL about copy, yet the posts that do talk about copywriting approach the topic from a straightforward perspective (in other words, you won’t feel as if you’re sitting in your ninth grade English class).

7. Empowered. Part of the Forrester Research blog collection, this blog describes itself as “…for readers interested in social applications and technology empowerment inside and outside companies.” Sounds a little intimidating, but the articles are usually pretty down to earth with content that makes you think.

8. Search Engine Land. If you have a website and you want to get business from it, you or someone on your team needs to understand the ins and outs of search engine optimization. This blog is a good place to start.

9. MarketingProfs. Described as “marketing resources for marketing professionals,” the MarketingProfs site is a gold mine and filled with free and for-a-fee content. They also offer great webinars and educational courses.

What business or marketing blogs do you follow regularly? Share in the comments.

The Numbers Are In: Customer Surveys Are Great for Business

How asking simple customer satisfaction survey questions can help grow your business

Customer Satisfaction SurveyIf getting to know your customers better was on your list of New Year’s resolutions, surveys are a great way to go!

Whether it’s a card to fill out at checkout or an online questionnaire, a survey gives you a yardstick to measure how you’re doing overall, what’s working well, and what could use some improvement. Your survey tells your customers that you care about serving them better, plus it can be a great source of ideas. And even negative comments can be a boost if they alert you to a problem that could have led to lost business down the road.

Fortunately, it’s easy to conduct an effective customer survey without spending a lot of time and money. Just keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Keep your survey short and to-the-point.  Do a few test runs with employees or family members; if it takes more than a few minutes to complete, you might want to do some editing.
  • Make the questions simple.  Use simple wording that all of your customers will understand.  Using complex terminology can result in customer frustration.
  • Allow customers to remain anonymous so that they can feel comfortable being completely honest with you. Continue reading “The Numbers Are In: Customer Surveys Are Great for Business”