The Stats: CRM Response Rates

We have a question for you: How long after a constituent writes a Member of Congress does it take for the Member to send back a response using our CRM?

We wanted to know. So we crunched some numbers, which we think are a great barometer of staff productivity.

Here’s what we did: We sampled 15 offices that had a previous generation’s CRM product and are now on the Constituent Gateway CRM; Freshman didn’t count because there was no data to compare against. To come up with the numbers, we looked at Member data for the duration they've had the CRM against the same time period the previous year. For example, if the Member started on the CRM in December 2010, the data from December 2010-2011 is compared to the period from December 2009-2010.

Here’s what we found:

  • 86% of our customers have improved their response rate since using the CRM.
  • The office that showed the biggest improvement in response rate became 7.6 times more efficient at responding to constituent mail, from 23 days to 3 days on the CRM.  The runner-up became 5.4 times faster, going from an average of 84 days down to 15 days.
  • On average, Constituent Gateway CRM customers respond to constituents 2.4 times faster than their older products.  
  • One office has an average response rate of less than one day!

We want to know: How do you measure staff productivity? Do you have a target response rate?

Mutual Attraction: Inbound Links And Your Site

Attracting people to your site is all about cross-pollination — of comments, ideas, and people. One of the more overlooked aspects to achieving this idea is attracting inbound links to your site. Inbound links — links that appear on external sites — bring new users to your site. By focusing on boosting your potential for inbound links, you can get more viewers, which ultimately gets your message heard.

So how do you attract more inbound links?

  1. Google Alerts. Keep up with Google Alerts. When you sign up with this monitoring tool, you’ll get notified when your keywords come up. Armed with this information, you can then respond, comment, and bring your unique perspective to current events. By keeping newsworthy and up-to-date, others will surely notice.
  2. Compelling content:It sounds obvious, but it’s sadly often overlooked. When you have something important and interesting to say, people won’t be able to resist sharing it with others.
  3. Invite other voices:  When you have thought leaders and well-known people show up on your site, people will remember and want to spread the word. Not only does it establish your own credibility, but it gives people more incentive to link.

We Want to Know:How do you attract inbound links? 

When's the best time to tweet?

We found a great little tool today on when the best time to tweet is: http://tweetwhen.com/.  What's your best time?  

Traffic Jam: Who's Writing You?

It’s valuable knowing your inbound traffic patterns. This way, you can know who wants to get — and stay — in touch.  Over a recent 60-day period, we gathered some interesting statistics about our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and inbound traffic:

  • Each Congressman receives an average of 145 new pieces of email correspondence a day.
  • iConstituent receives an average of 6,500 emails to the House CRM data center a day.
  • Of those 6,500 daily emails, an average of 87.75% come from constituents who have written their Member of Congress previously.

Based on this information, iConstituent product manager Derek Haller says that advocacy groups are probably using the same opt-in lists over and over.

“Knowing your constituency is vital, as the same people are reaching you,” says Haller. “Knowing your unique touches is equally vital, as they are very likely to become an advocate for their Congressman.” 

We want to know:Do you collect this kind of information? If so, is it useful to you? If not, why not?

The Key To A Winning Press Release? Key Words!

A press release can cover anything from a speech by your boss, information about an upcoming bill, or current events that affect your constituents. Press releases may not be the most exciting thing on your site, but they do give you the chance to increase your visibility — a chance too many offices are letting pass by.

That’s because not many people think about integrating SEO (search engine optimization) into their press release content. If you start now, you’ll still be ahead of the game. Here are some ways to begin:

  1. Figure out some general key words with your press team.
  2. Narrow them down to the most important: 3-5 words that absolutely define your Congressional brand.
  3. Put the most important words in the headline and sub-headline.
  4. Sprinkle the rest throughout the document.
  5. Even though you are inserting keywords, make sure the copy doesn’t sound forced —it should flow normally and naturally.
  6. Hyperlink keywords to other areas of your website
  7. Use these same keywords in your social media strategy. 

We want to know: Do you have someone in charge of SEO? Do you use keywords for your press releases?

Are You A True Fan? Turn Facebook “likes” into Active Fans

Some people are afraid of commitment. That’s why they might just choose to “like” you on Facebook instead of becoming a full-fledged fan. It’s normal to have cold feet, but you don’t want your “likes” to be afraid of commitment for the long haul. Want to know how to turn these commitment-phobes into fans? Here’s a few ideas to get people to take the plunge.

  • Create a Dialogue.  
    Make sure your page isn’t just a bunch of announcements. Instead, encourage your fans to write on your page. And if they do, start a dialogue by sending them back a note or a comment. If your readers know that you are there and listening, they just might want to get more involved.
  • Keep them informed.
    Let your fans know about breaking news, something interesting happening on the Hill, a new issue debate that constituents might want to talk about. Send emails, postings, and notifications so they can stay in the loop.
  • Encourage them to act.
    Ask them questions and they are more likely to respond. Ask them to do something like weigh in on an issue or sign up for your RSS feed.
  • Use pictures and videos. Compelling images just might be the tipping point for your likes to make the switch to fans.
  • Provide compelling content:  Give them a good reason to be a fan by providing content that is educational and interesting. And focus on keeping your loyal following by being consistent about posting and updating.

Even if you have a lot of likes, don’t fear: a like is better than nothing! And if they choose not to go the next step to fandom, don’t worry — you can always just be friends. 

A Webinar: Building Your Subscriber List

Recently, Andrew Foxwell from iConstituent hosted a webinar on how to grow your subscriber list in Congress.  The event went over many key points and addressed the most productive ways to ensure more people are signing up for your enewsletter.  Below we hit some of the key points and if you have 20 minutes you can also watch the video.  

Quick List of Key Points Made:

  • One question surveys that require a yes, no, or maybe answer work really well.  For example, "the budget plan was just released, do you support, oppose, or are you unsure about the proposal?" And that's it.  Quick surveys work like a charm.  These surveys are best used if sent to your all contacts list and have gone through the Franking commission.
  • Use microtargeting within your data to its fullest extent.  Why not build a list of people from a certain area and mail relevant news to those people? 
  • Use the constituent mapping feature in the Constituent Gateway to see a map of where you're hitting and where you could do a better job of outreach in your district.
  • Ensure you're targeting those that answered again, as these people are your 'interactive champions.'  Reward them and thank them for answering your survey.
  • Use the share-via links within the Constituent Gateway that allows constituents to share your enewsletter throughout their network.  This will make your echo-chamber much bigger.
  • Consider open-rates and when you send the email.  Remember: the new concept is email is homework, so give your constituents homework when they have the time to do it.
  • Consider integrating as many interactive options in your email newsletter as possible.
  • Think about how you can make your email worthy of archiving.  Include useful charts or statistics.  
  • Facebook advertisements are a huge way to bring traffic to your site and increase your subscribers.  Contact us about running them for you today.

You can access the recorded webinar here: http://bit.ly/dSy87h

Going for Gold: The Top 10 Improvements To Make to Your Site Today

Is Your Website Gold Mouse-Worthy? In our third installment about getting your site up to speed for the Gold Mouse Awards, we’d like to offer 10 easy steps from the Congressional Management Foundation that you can take right now to improve the look, feel, and ease of your site.

  1. Click on every link to make sure each one works.
  2. Test all your forms (such as email forms and search feature) to make sure they function correctly.
  3. Update legislative pages to make sure they accurately reflect your message
  4. .Give clear guidance about how constituents can communicate with your office.
  5. Add links to roll call votes.
  6. Provide links to the chamber’s schedule and floor proceedings.
  7. Include links to educate constituents about how Congress works.
  8. Add Census and other useful demographic information about your information about your state/district.
  9. Add press contact information.
  10. Ensure you have connected your official Facebook, Twitter, or other social media tools to your website.

We want to know: What changes have you already made?

 

Catch The (Gold) Mouse: Four Easy Steps Getting Your Website Ready

We know that everybody likes a winner.  We also know every one of your constituents loves a winning website that serves their needs.  In our last blog, we talked about last year’s Gold Mouse Awards: The winning websites knew their audience, had timely content, and were easy to use. On the other end, some didn’t even have a basic functioning search engine. We at iConstituent want to help so you don’t get caught in this latter category.

For some direction, the Congressional Management Foundation offers up some guidelines about how to boost your chances of making it to the top. Following these guidelines is a win/win situation: Even if you don’t win the Award, you’ll still have an improved website to better serve your constituents.  These top line fixes are things you should start thinking about to get your site ready.

  1. Usability
    1. Navigation: Is it easy for the constituent to find the information they want through site navigation or search?
    2. Ease of use: Can the user get around the site without confusion or getting lost? 
    3. Broken links: Does every single one of your links work?
  2. Timeliness
    1. Content: Is all of your content updated? Are photos relevant? Are parts of your site live that shouldn't be?  
    2. Relevance: Are the issue positions still relevant?
  3. Information on issues
    1. Accuracy: Do you give accurate information about what’s happening in Congress — and highlight what’s important to the Member? Do you post the Member's voting record?
  4. Constituent Services and Casework
    1. Does your site have casework forms online?  Is there an easy-to-use constituent portal online?
    2. Does it state clearly what can my Member help me with — and how exactly can they get started?

We want to know: Which of these areas do you need the most work?

The Gold Mouse Awards: Is Your Site In The Race?

The 112th Golden Mouse Awards — garnered to members of Congress who use the Internet for communicating with their constituents in an outstanding way — are coming. Don’t let them sneak up on you.  Awarded by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation, the group keeps tabs on the best Congressional websites.

After last year’s awards, CMF reported a “digital divide” among websites, with an equal number of sites scoring either an “A” or an “F,” noticing that many members' websites didn’t incorporate basic features, such as a functioning search engine and easy to find contact information.

“It looks like half of the Congress is racing to the top while the other half race to the bottom,” said Beverly Bell, executive director of the nonpartisan nonprofit CMF. “The outstanding sites follow best practices, leverage the power of social media, and serve their constituents well. Those offices falling behind are losing a great opportunity to interact with their constituents in ways the public has grown to expect.”

What is your grade? In our next blog, we’ll talk about specific areas to focus on — and give you 10 improvements you can make immediately so you can get ready for the Awards.

We want to know:  What can you learn from past Golden Mouse winners?