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Guest Relations Marketing just completed a comprehensive rebranding of Juvenile Justice Foundation to…

drum roll, please…


Radically changing up a brand’s identity should never be taken lightly. Especially as it pertains to the brand name. In this case, there were several mitigating factors that ultimately led to a radical rebranding, including a new name.

youthSpark is aptly named to give voice and justice to youth. This organization is literally in the streets on a white-hot issue: underage prostitution and trafficking. Human sex trafficking is a global issue and unfortunately Atlanta is one of the leading centers for this illegal activity. youthSpark is committed to exposing this subject, promoting justice for our youth and helping them be restored to a productive future.  Join in on Facebook and Twitter to affirm your support!

In 2006 CURE Childhood Cancer and Guest Relations Marketing teamed up to transform the CURE brand from that of a grassroots organization to the renowned nonprofit that it is today. 

We are immensely proud of the work CURE does on a day-to-day basis and are even more proud of our own April Voris, who is currently Board President for CURE. CURE’s transformation was recently featured in the Georgia Center for Nonprofits April Newsletter, which we are pleased to share:

GCN member CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based nonprofit cancer research foundation dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancer, knew they had to make some major changes in order to effectively carry out their mission. In a recent conversation, executive director Kristin Connor and board chair April Voris shared highlights of the organization’s “inside-out” transformation over the past three years.

“We wanted to transform CURE from more of a grassroots organization to a much more professional, sophisticated, higher-impact organization,” says Kristin Connor, Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer.

The process began in 2006 with a successful growth pattern that resulted from CURE’s inaugural annual campaign; but, as Connor observed, this was only a start. At a point, “we realized that we had captured the low-hanging fruit,” acknowledges Connor, who recognized the need “to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of how to really do annual fundraising right.” They made a major strategic shift, moving away from an emphasis on special events to focusing on major gifts. A development audit conducted in 2009 formed a critical step forward in clarifying direction, but left Connor and her board without the capacity to move from plan to execution. A GrantsPlus coaching grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta enabled the organization to push forward.

CURE tapped GCN Consulting Services and partnered with consultant Cara Schroeder, who worked closely with the executive team and board to provide hands-on training. Connor credits the process of “literally walking us through an entire fiscal year of major gift and annual campaign fundraising, step- by-step” with providing CURE with the breakthrough it needed. Through one-on-one and group coaching, staff and board learned the “how-to’s” to systematically and strategically approach the process. Board members were trained to solicit donations through personalized appeals – which, with the help of scripts to allay intimidation, proved a successful tactic.

The results speak for themselves: In 2010-11, CURE received 69 new major gifts and 640 annual gifts to their annual campaign.

The organization then chose to hire its first-ever Director of Development, a department that has now expanded to a 3-person team.

A Brand Makeover

Another transformation instrumental in building CURE’s fundraising capacity is a rebranding, led by board president April Voris of Guest Relations Marketing. The “before” image of CURE was “a pink teddy bear, unprofessional documents printed on a home computer, and a low level of professionalism.” The “after” is a transformed brand “built from the bottom-up” that reflects CURE’s mission and vision, while resonating deeply with CURE’s core audience: families of children with cancer.

Identifying those who are passionate about CURE’s mission – our “zealots” – explains Voris, has been the key to developing effective branding and marketing strategies. An early adapter of social media, CURE recognized that a Facebook page not only offered their constituents a place to build a community of supporters, but could act as a story-telling platform. The momentum grew quickly. Voris cites CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer, a fundraising initiative they launched during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, with a goal of raising $30,000 online. Over 30 days, 60 families were honored and the momentum grew quickly, eventually raising $170,000.

CURE’s marketing program continues to grow from the inside-out through an overall marketing philosophy, which Voris explains is much like a “spider web approach,” each piece is interconnected and strengthening the others. “Your customers take the lead on how they want to interact with your brand,” says Voris, “so you must be prepared to engage and accept them from all points of entry.” Reflecting on the journey, Connor and Voris offer some insight to fellow nonprofits with similar challenges. The first steps toward positive change? “Really looking at ourselves”; honestly evaluating core competencies; and asking both “where are we needed?” and “what do we not need to be doing?”

CURE Childhood Cancer has been instrumental in serving the children and families that depend on timely research. Through a transformation on the inside, they have been furthered their ability to transform lives on the outside.

The biggest single myth surrounding social media is that it is a replacement in some form for other advertising or marketing channels. Social media destroys traditional linear marketing communications models. At heart, social media is an engagement point that can be started by customer, company, competitor, or onlooker. Anyone.

Online & social media is a two-fold communications addition:

1. An exploratory touchpoint prior to sales

2. A follow-up, referral and word-of-mouth to prospective customers and to enhance repeat purchases

As this chart demonstrates, social media is a new touchpoint. One of research initiated by prospects. It is a new step in the purchase cycle, not replacing any traditional element.

Zealotry actions (referral, reviews and other engagements) are extremely valuable, but they work best as authentic elements within this new stage of exploration.

From Seth Godin – a fitting rally cry to all for 2012:

“The thing is, we still live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity — we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

That’s why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with. You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence.”

More on this terrific treatise here.

McKinsey Quarterly has an excellent article on the changing role and expansion of marketing.

The old organization no longer works. Integrating brand, touchpoints and data is more critical than ever.

The CMO role is growing in importance. Consider what a person in the role of  “Director of Customer Engagement” might bring to the party.

For starters, think about the cost of client acquisition and the value of customer retention. There are new tools and new methods to make this happen.

But, they do not fit within the traditional marketing and sales department organization.

Click here to read more.

LL Bean has about 3,600 people answering its phones, and 10 “wading boot-deep into social media,” according to the New York Times. They further report: the retailer typically fields about 100,000 phone calls a day, but records only about “50,000 social-media mentions on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and YouTube” a month.

Social Media is not easily “slotted” into existing company organizations, limiting impact and effectiveness. It is more than simply “outbound” marketing. It’s also customer service. It’s media relations. It’s a branding vehicle. In short, social media can be a tool for several departments. This cross-organizational function is the primary reason many companies are not pro-active in social media.

Guest Relations Marketing can help establish a work plan and training that allows correct implementation inside your company. We also consult on best social media practices for your business and resources. Of course, we handle social media in a turn-key manner for clients as well.

Regardless of whether you engage us or another firm, we highly recommend an internal strategic plan that identifies where and how you plan to engage in social media. As the New York Times article pointed out, “in many ways, these digital conversations are not all that different from those by phone, which can be chats about favorite Bean products, and speak to the company’s 99-year tradition of warm-and-fuzzy customer service.”

There is lots of marketing talk related to loyalty, customer retention and how to leverage new media for fantastic results.  But, in reality, most loyalty and traditional frequency programs have dubious payouts for companies. They may trigger initial response and traffic, but most fall woefully short when analyzed against the overall return against costs.

Instead, the same things that have driven people for hundreds of years still hold true today for great brands. That is “word of mouth” or referral.

The best brands have the most effective marketing vehicle ever invented or discovered – their own Zealots! Zealots, as defined in marketing terms, are passionate followers or customers.

In a compilation of research, Harvard Busness Review determined the number one indicator of long-term brand profitabilty is the likelihood of a company’s customers to recommend their product or service to others. Referral. The higher the percentage of “Zealotry” customers, the higher the company was in the black. More referral = more profits.

So, that is the aegis of why Guest Relations is about building more Zealots for our clients. It’s about creating more profits.

If you follow Guest Relations Marketing, you know we are usually discussing three things: how to build brands; finding and developing more Zealots for your brand; and how to build Zealotry actions through Social Media. While those three things may seem a little odd and not well connected, they all fit nicely (at least in our minds) under this umbrella concept called Zealotry Marketing.

Our term is Zealots. Others may refer to these select customers as advocates, referral agents or extremists. We prefer Zealots. The word Zealot has an edge. There is an energy – a passion – that we believe more accurately fits the notion.

Our definition of Zealots: those who are passionate about a brand’s products or services, enough to freely share their enthusiasm and experience without provocation or compensation. In marketing terms, Zealots are willing to participate, often at their own expense, to further the brand because of their belief in what it stands for.

Because Zealots are the most authentic form of referral, it is only logical to build marketing programs from their perspectives.

Doing so is simply more profitable.

Much can be said about the power of tying your business (or brand) to the community or a charitable cause. The relationship created with your target audience, especially the one in your own community, through a good-will event, is intangible compared to any sales tactic.

Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln recently hosted Soap Box on the South Side, a partnership between the dealership and the Dunwoody Kiwanis Club, in an effort to bring the soap box derby to the South Side of the city.

The event was held at the Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln dealership in Morrow, GA, but brought participants and spectators from multiple states. Because the dealership prides itself on community involvement, it was eager to be a part of this great family sport.

With all proceeds benefiting CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based non-profit which funds research for childhood cancers, the event was truly one to be proud of. More than 30 racers and their families were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the dealership and the Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln staff, especially the T-Bird employees, who kept the restaurant open late to ensure everyone had a nice meal.

Jimmie Byers traveled from Tallahassee, FL to watch her grandchildren race in the Derby. Jimmie stated, “My son and I both need new Fords, and because of the generosity of the Allan Vigil Dealership and the kindness of the employees, we will definitely make the 250 mile drive from home to purchase our next vehicles here.”

CURE Childhood Cancer’s Annual “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time” campaign just completed its third year. This year was the most successful year yet, inspiring hundreds of donors to join the fight against childhood cancer.

During the month of September, CURE Childhood Cancer honored and remembered children affected by cancer; these children representing the 12,700 children diagnosed each year. The money raised from this campaign is directed towards children’s cancer research, in hopes of someday finding a cure.

This campaign, promoted through Social Media and Online, raised $263,000 this year alone, and more than $640,000 collectively in the last 3 years, while at the same time almost doubling database numbers.

Just another example of the power of tapping into the Zealots for your brand (or cause), in combination with an emotionally driven fundraising campaign.

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