Grumpy About the Cost of Digital?

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Lessons Learned from the International Women’s Writing Guild

Right now, my own digital marketing person is trying to get me to focus on a website refresh and to send a monthly email. The whole thing makes me grumpy. Keeping one’s digital marketing house in order takes so much money. And don’t even get me started on how much time composing, proofing, testing and sending one company email takes!

It is enough to get you to ask, “Is it all worth it? What would really happen if I didn’t put in the effort?”

This mini case study provides the unequivocal answer.

We rarely have the opportunity these days to look at virgin soil—the control group of control groups. An entity that has done virtually no digital marketing. But last year, tmg-e*media got the chance. I was introduced to the International Women’s Writing Guild, an organization founded on the principle of empowering women by helping them find their writing voices. Its 84-year-old founder, a true visionary in writerly things, had never ventured far out of the analog world. We redid their website and collaborated on an aggressive email campaign targeted to the IWWG conferences. And along the way, we discovered some key lessons:


1. People are paying attention

When you’re in a small organization with a lightly trafficked site, it’s easy to question how much your site matters. Is anyone paying attention? It turns out they are. Upon the launch of the new IWWG site, word spread among members who had not been actively engaged in the organization for ages. I got emails from women I didn’t even know who said, “Hey! Great site!” It allowed the IWWG to reconnect with its member base.




2. A website is key to setting expectations

Whether it’s access to your bio picture so someone can spot you at a networking event, or getting the word out about how you interact with customers, a site gives you the chance to set key expectations.

For the IWWG, expectations of the IWWG Summer Conference event had become a real pain point. A shift in venue in 2010 produced near pandemonium. After being in one location for over 30 years, members had to re-adjust to a new campus. Where was the dining hall? Why was it such a long walk to the sessions? Where were the classrooms anyway? Member dissatisfaction soared and the new venue was rejected as a site for 2011. Which meant yet another change.

Yale won the IWWG business, but the organization ran the risk of having the same, even worse, problem. The website was used in a common-sense way, but one we often forget. We simply put up campus maps, room descriptions, directions to and from housing to the dining hall. We did this thoroughly. And lo-and-behold, attendees had fewer complaints.


3. Websites are validation.

The previous IWWG website did not speak to the values and prestige of the organization. Therefore, it did not help convert conference-considerers to convert to conference attendees. When people hear about you or your event, the first thing they do is go to the website and check it out. We heard from attendee after attendee that they went to the site and got a good feel for the conference. And then, the conference itself had the same feel. This consistency produces a sense of stability, trust and reliability.

See Before and After above.


4. Digital media works hand in hand with other media.

To promote this year’s summer conference, we had emails, radio ads, the site, meetups and word of mouth. Conference attendees reported it took two or more contacts for them to make a decision to attend. For example, one woman said she received an email and filed it. Then a radio ad prompted her to look it up again. Alas, it was lost and she did not remember the web address. She Googled madly for women’s writing conferences and that’s when our SEO-conscious site redo paid off.


5. Use the web to provide choice

Air conditioning or no air conditioning?–That was the summer question. Only some of the Yale housing provided air conditioning. There was concern about a general uproar. No air conditioning? At a summer conference? So we used the web to set pricing and give attendees choice: The non air conditioned rooms were available, or a person could have air conditioning for a higher price.

Contrary to some extreme initial fears, we got no complaints regarding AC.


So when you get grumpy about the time it takes to do digital marketing, consider the lessons above. You don’t have to accomplish the most bleeding-edge strategy. But covering the bases in a common-sense and consistent way has a big payoff, even for a lightly trafficked site for a small organization.