At USGBC, the articles on our website serve many different purposes: sharing information; encouraging advocacy; and promoting our products, events and education. It goes without saying that a registration launch or an update to LEED deserves an article—but what about those webpages or aspects of certification that our customers may not be aware of, or may not quite understand?
Pointing people to existing resources and helping answer more of their questions became a big priority for me in my second year at USGBC. I wanted to dig deeper into how content marketing could support our organization and our customers alike. One way I did this was by creating the “LEED Link” article campaign.
This campaign has been a win-win: We are able to publish LEED-centered content even during times when USGBC doesn’t have major announcements or case studies, and we are able to give people searching for specific topics a quick summary with links to deeper engagement.
Consider these questions when planning a campaign to drive traffic to your existing site resources.
What are people looking for?
Start by taking a look at Google—both on the analytics side and by playing around with searches. On the Google Analytics Home section for your own website, review the stats under “What pages do your users visit?” and “What are your top-selling products?” Under Behavior/Site Search, find out what terms people are looking up on your site.
I like to periodically search Google for keywords and questions related to products of ours. This shows me what is coming up first in public search results. Sometimes, it’s our relevant webpages. Other times, it’s coverage of our resources by another organization. Obviously, we’d like our USGBC pages to be the first links that come up, so that we can ensure people are getting accurate information. Learn about ways to enhance your search engine rankings.
A top-searched term on our website recently has been “regional priority credits.” I published a LEED Link explaining what these LEED credits were and linking to additional information on our website. Now, this article is the first Google result for those keywords.
What’s useful, but not in your main navigation?
Like many organizations, we try to keep our main nav clean and high-level, with just a few landing pages, which in turn link to further information. This is a UX best practice, but it also means that some very useful info can be “hidden” on the site. If this is true of your website as well, create articles that bring those resource pages to the surface. For example:
- LEED Online is our portal for LEED project management, but it’s not in our main nav. Our LEED Link on that topic is now the third Google result after the two actual portal URLs, with pageview stats in approximately the top 5% of our total articles.
- After LEED v4 was launched in 2017, I drilled down into the new landing page content and discovered “impact categories,” which in the new version of the rating system had been updated to better reflect the goals of LEED.
- Similarly, the LEED credit library is used and searched for constantly, but is not directly linked from our top nav.
What do you want people to know more about?
This falls into two categories:
- New content. If USGBC has recently launched an update to LEED or a new study pathway for aspiring credential holders, I will put out a LEED Link about it a few weeks after the initial launch campaign. You may have done a first round of promotion for your latest and greatest resource, but don’t stop there. You’ll get even more eyes on it—or remind people who were interested the first time, but didn’t click—if you do a follow-up piece.
- Underused content. We have a stellar, searchable project directory where buildings and sites that have achieved LEED certification can have a profile page to share photos and descriptions. However, project teams don’t always take advantage of this resource, so I promoted it in a LEED Link. If there are pages on your website that you think people would find useful if they used them more, promote them!
This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. I love exploring the nooks and crannies of our website and our analytics to create content that leads people to what they need to know, what they want to know—and what they didn’t know they didn’t know. As a content marketer, you have to also be a detective. Get out your magnifying glass and see what you learn.
The fight for the email inbox is getting more and more competitive. Subscribers are smarter than ever, and grabbing their attention is only getting harder. That’s why an effective subject line is key to a successful email.
The subject line is your email’s first impression. Your email could be filled with the most engaging content ever, but if no one is compelled to open it, all the content (not to mention all the work that went into it!) goes to waste.
Here are some “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind next time you’re crafting a subject line:
Do get personal. Using personalization (beyond the first name) is a great way to show the subscriber that you’re paying attention to what they’ve shared with you. The Open Table subject line below is a great example of personalization done right. It includes my name, reservation timing and restaurant name, so that I’m inspired to confirm the reservation.
Example: “Ursula, let Chez Billy Sud know you’re coming tomorrow”
Don’t use spam words like “free,” “buy now,” “act now,” or “this isn’t spam” (take a look into your own spam folder for some examples of what not to include).
Do pay attention to character count relative to where your emails are being read. While a longer subject line may be ideal for desktop, it’s not going to work if most of your subscribers are reading emails on their phones. Also, please don’t include the word “newsletter” in your email. It’s redundant, and you’re wasting valuable real estate.
Don’t lie about the content in the email. In accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act, your subject line should reflect the content of the email. Our USGBC candidate handbook emails are a great example of being straightforward. There’s no confusion with a subject line that says, “Here’s your LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook.” The subscriber knows exactly what to expect in this email—the candidate handbook.
Do be timely. Caviar, a food delivery service, sent me an email the day after Easter, with the call to action of “eat a salad.” It’s relatable and funny because of its timeliness. Bonus points for relevant emoji use!
Example: “So you need to eat healthy because 🍭🐰🍫”
Do A/B test. Subject line A/B testing is an easy place to start. Each test is a chance to learn about your subscribers. You never know what may work.
Examples we’ve tested here at USGBC include:
“Last chance to register for the Wintergreen Leadership Awards next week” vs. “Knock it out of the park at the leadership awards next week ⚾”
“Join a live LEED v4.1 session on Materials and Indoor Environmental Quality next week ✅️” vs. “Get your LEED v4.1 questions answered ✅️”
When collaborating with vendors to produce merchandise for USGBC’s online store and for giveaways at various in-person events throughout the year, like our annual Greenbuild show, we always prioritize quality products over volume quantity discounts, and try to partner with vendors with a like-minded ethos.
- Our popular USGBC-branded custom insulated bottles are produced by Kleen Kanteen, a certified B Corporation working to reduce single-use containers.
- TS Designs produces many of our favorite T-shirt designs, including our LEED ampersand shirts, our award-winning screen-printed tees, and the tiniest tees of all—”My Crib is LEED Certified” baby onesies. Most of these shirts are printed on Cotton of the Carolinas, a T-shirt brand that keeps all of its operations to a 600-mile radius. Each t-shirt can be tracked “from dirt to shirt” by locating the unique color threads found on the inside of each shirt or by visiting the TS Designs website.
- Our Pela iPhone cases, laser-engraved with the USGBC logo, have become a fan favorite. Pela claims that its phone case, fabricated out of a material called Flaxstic, is durable and shock-absorbing, while also being biodegradable.
Any vendors missing from our list? Let us know in the comments.
As a designer, one of my biggest fears is getting tunnel vision. So how do I ensure I am up to date on current design trends? Look. At. Everything. I mean everything! I take time out of every day to read or look over at least one thing that gives me insight into current branding, design, font or logo trends in the world. It helps influence my daily design and keep me on my toes. It’s easy to fall into a rut—especially when you work in-house.
Let me share a few resources that have helped me track trends so far in 2019.
Adweek is an amazing source of news and insight across platforms including print, digital, events, podcasts, social media and so on. I have a BFA in advertising design, and I love reading about how to create meaningful brands. I need this kind of content to help me do my job better. Adweek’s recent article on branding pointed out some really key points we need to remember at USGBC for 2019:
“…brands need to accomplish three things: delivering the products and services they say they’re going to deliver, improving people’s lives and playing a role in society.”
99 Designs is a global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to collaborate and connect. It’s a great resource for quick reads about current design trends. “10 Creative Branding Trends for 2019” talks about how to present yourself as a brand and effectively use branding trends. I pulled out a few main trends to remember as we take USGBC forward this year:
The branding trends for 2019 divert into two definitive and opposing paths, “futuristic” and “nostalgic,” and consumers use these trends as signals to determine which side your company falls into.
Serifs—those little tags at the end of letter strokes—have been a big “no-no” for modern, minimalist branding in the past. But they’re making a comeback in 2019, perhaps because of a return of old-fashioned styles, but mainly due to their unique ability to communicate a brand’s personality.
Minimalism: even less details, even more negative space, combined with flashy colors and bold typography, etc.
Pentagram is the world’s largest independently owned design studio. Their work includes graphics and identity, architecture and interiors, products and packaging, exhibitions and installations, websites and digital experiences, and advertising and communications. Pentagram is a fantastic source of current design, and it comes from all 23 partners. I recently looked at an environmental digital installation in Bangkok that can help influence our presence at conferences and events.
As designers, we have a responsibility to see what else is out there. It’s how we do our job better. Picasso once said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” and I think that’s something to remember. Looking at current trends should influence your work. You shouldn’t actually be stealing designs, but it’s important to focus on where design is moving, so you aren’t left behind.
Being a meaningful brand can seem like a daunting task, but by looking at everything around you and reading varying perspectives on trends, you can educate yourself to avoid tunnel vision.
The hardest part is done—you’ve pulled together information and framed it with the right messaging, and now you have an article, blog update or press release. Ready to post? Not quite. Next comes the essential step of proofreading and shaping the text.
When you’re a writer, marketing expert or PR professional, you may not always have access to editors who can fix errors and help polish your work—and for those times, you’ll need to know the basics, so you can be your own editor.
Here’s a quick rundown of ways to keep your writing clean and expressive.
Check the structure.
Is your piece using the right structure? In the process of writing, you may have placed some of the most relevant information further down, rather than at the top. Make sure you don’t “bury the lede,” and always include the main takeaway for the reader in the opening paragraphs.
Imagine that a reader would follow a link to your content, then scan only the first few lines before clicking away—what would you want the person to learn in that time?
At the end of the piece, insert a call to action, or leave the reader with a memorable statement about the subject.
Review the punctuation.
Punctuation is how we break up text to make reading English easy and understandable. If you’re not sure whether to use a comma or semicolon, stick with a sentence structure that you know is correct, or browse the internet for tips.
Depending on whether you use AP, Chicago or another stylebook (or your organization’s house style), certain preferences are worth making a habit, so that all material from your company appears consistent. For example, at USGBC, we use AP style, which means we don’t use the serial comma.
As an editor, I also look up usage questions in the AP style guide almost daily, to make sure I’ve got things right—it only takes a moment, and it’s worth it for the consistency of our content.
Eliminate extra words.
“Omit needless words,” counselled Strunk and White in their classic 1918 guide “The Elements of Style.”
A first draft usually contains redundancies. That’s just how writing works, as you put ideas onto the page. As your own editor, you must go back and examine where you can make your content more succinct. Streamlining your message will enhance its impact on the reader.
This advice also applies to the title itself—is the title short enough to work for a digital format, but still descriptive of exactly what the piece is about?
In an ideal world, you’ll have time to let content sit for a day or two before reviewing it, but attending to another task for even a couple of hours can make it easier to go back to a piece of writing with fresh eyes.
Run spell check—and then do your own spell check.
Always run the own spelling and grammar check provided in your software, or use another plugin. Nobody’s perfect, and chances are, something has slipped past your first review.
It’s easy to rush past common misuse errors, such as putting “principle” where you meant “principal.” These types of mistakes won’t be caught by automated spell check, so look carefully at context to make sure you’re using the right words.
Also, to avoid embarrassment later, double-check any proper nouns like the names of people, organizations and geographic locations.
With a little extra attention, you can ensure much cleaner, more professional-looking copy. It’s not just about correctness—having enough respect for your readers to put in this effort will pay off, as your readers will, in turn, have greater respect for your organization and trust in its message.
Here at USGBC, we serve a wide audience. Architects, policymakers, builders and manufactures come to us for green building content.
While their interests have a common theme, all these people from different industries are looking for specific content that is relevant to them. For example, a teacher looking for educational content wouldn’t be interested in a technical update for LEED Building Design and Construction.
Consumers expect a personalized experience. Email marketing offers that though a method called segmentation. Segmentation is the process of dividing your users into smaller groups based on their information.
A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) is a database that tracks attributes about your users, such as location, industry and job title. As a marketer, you can use these records to serve highly targeted content to the people who will find it relevant.
Email segmentation is only as good as the CRM, so keeping your data clean is key. The more data points you have on your users, the more customized an experience you can give them.
Here are some tips on how to maximize your data to create the most personalized experience:
- Make it easy for users to provide their information. Allow users to edit their profiles within their accounts.
- Don’t overwhelm them with too many required fields. Realize what data points are important to you, and only ask for those. Too many fields will result in no fields.
- Make it easy to select different email subscriptions. Users should be able to select only the channels they are interested in. Don’t make your digest all or nothing.
- Create a dropdown menu to list choices. There are unlimited job titles, so create a list and allow users to choose the one that matches their title most closely.
- Leverage automation if a user registers for your conference. Make sure that their record is updated to reflect registration. You wouldn’t want to send promotional material about a conference for which someone has already registered. Instead, send them an email about session details and hotel deals.
- Make sure you capture geography. Where a user works is often the most relevant data point. It’s good to capture what state and country they are in but segmenting by zip code is even better.
- Connect your other data. Keep a record of your customers’ past purchases. Make sure that the database updates your CRM. What people buy is a pretty good indicator of what they are interested in.
When it comes to email lists, a good marketer would take a smaller, more targeted list over a larger, unqualified list any day. Good data plus segmentation equals a personalized experience that will appeal to your customers.
As we’ve learned at USGBC, quizzes are a popular way to engage customers. Since content can be placed into any kind of container—article, social post, podcast—marketers have license to get creative with the methods they use to share information. The interactive format invites people to take a moment out of their day to play a little, so a quiz is the ultimate clickbait.
Here are three things quizzes can do for your marketing strategy:
1. Funnel people to the things they need.
Using quizzes to promote your events lets you kill two birds with one stone: bring attention to registration and help attendees narrow their focus to which education sessions will help with their current challenges. We did this for one of our regional conferences with “What’s the right IMPACT session for you?” Asking potential attendees about their current job roles, pain points and goals, we generated session track recommendations for them with links to individual sessions.
Similarly, to promote our professional courses, we published “What’s the right Education @USGBC course for you?” Filtering for job title, experience level, and current green building interests, we gave people customized recommendations for a particular education course.
2. Strike up a friendly conversation.
Your customers are people too, and a quiz is a great place to use a friendly, informal tone to relate to your audience, even—or maybe especially—if your corporate voice is usually more buttoned-up. With “How well do you know your LEED trivia?” we inserted facts about famous LEED buildings and links to further details. The post-question feedback was breezy as well as informative:
3. Allow customers to test their expertise.
Structured around our LEED professional credentials, the “LEED Green Associate Playbook” and “LEED AP Playbook” marketing campaigns were among USGBC’s top-performing in 2017 and 2018. We knew that our customer base was deeply interested in content related to achieving these credentials, so we built an article series for each.
Sample questions from the credential exams went into “Are you ready to take your LEED Green Associate exam?” With more than 13,000 pageviews, the article is among our all-time best on usgbc.org. The quiz itself has been completed over 3,800 times. For our smaller, more expert LEED AP candidate pool, we posted “Are you ready for the BD+C exam?“, which has been completed almost 1,500 times.
By offering real sample questions, we allowed readers to test their knowledge of the rigorous exam content, and we included customized responses for different levels of success. For those who didn’t do as well on the quiz questions, we linked to further exam prep resources.
Keep it short, but put in the work.
For the best quiz completion rate, ask about 5–10 questions. People are busy and won’t always finish a long quiz, so you have the best chance of engaging them with a brief series of questions.
However, for the best user experience, you’ll need to make plenty of time on your end to come up with good questions and add useful responses and links for each answer. The more targeted and specific your responses, the more likely your quiz will result in conversions.