Taylor Shanklin will share the three simple keys to digital marketing success in a framework that breaks digital down and makes it accessible.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Taylor, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Taylor: We’re good. Let’s roll.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, welcome, everybody. Good afternoon. Good morning, if you’re on the West Coast, I should say, if you’re watching the recording, wherever you are, hope you’re having a good day. You’re in the right place because we’re going to be talking about “Three Steps to Digital Marketing Success.” I can’t wait to see what those three steps are. It’s going to be a good one. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, Bloomerang home office at least, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So if you have to leave early, if you got another appointment, you get interrupted, some kids barge into your room, driving you nuts, don’t worry. I’ll send all that stuff to you.

You should already have the slides. I sent those out about an hour ago, but if you didn’t get the slides, don’t worry, we’ll get them to you later on today. But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments you have along the way. We love to hear from you. There’s a chat box, there’s a Q&A box, you can use either of those. I’ll keep an eye on them throughout the whole session, or try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, we’d love to hear from you. You could tweet us. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well. And if you haven’t already introduced yourself, go ahead and do that. We’d love to hear from you and know a little bit more about you.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar specifically, welcome, we love doing these webinars. We’re actually doing three of them this week. We normally do one, but we’ve just been doing a lot more sessions recently because we love it. It’s one of my favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But if you’re not familiar with us, if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, check us out, you know, you can visit our website. There’s all kinds of videos to watch. We’re pretty easy to find. Don’t do that right now though, because we got a friend of the program joining us from beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, right, Taylor? How’s it going? Taylor Shanklin. You doing okay?

Taylor: Mm-hmm. You got that right. I’m good. I’m real good. How are you?

Steven: I’m good. I’m excited to have you. I feel like, you know, we haven’t done a webinar together, which is really weird because we’ve been buddies for so long, we’ve collaborated on other things. When we were going to conferences, we used to run into each other all the time, and I feel like we were kind of righting a wrong here having you on officially.

If you all don’t know, Taylor, check her out. She’s got a really awesome podcast. She calls it the “Soar” podcast. Good conversations there. We’ll send a link out to that. We’ll connect you with that for sure. Her day to day, she’s the VP of Growth, I should say, over at Firefly Partners. Really cool agency.

I’ve gotten to know Firefly since Taylor joined and they got some wicked smart people over there and they do really good work. So if you’re looking for an agency partner just on the DL, you might want to check out Firefly. But like I said, super involved in the nonprofit sector, has been in client services for many, many years.

And just one thing I love about Taylor is she just is very generous in sharing her knowledge from the work she does and her clients. Like I said, usually, we’re hearing from her at conferences, but we’ll have to let a webinar suffice. Just as good, I would say. So, Taylor, I’m going to turn things over to you. I’m going to stop sharing and I’ll let you bring up those beautiful slides. And you can take them away.

Taylor: All right. Let’s get this going and please keep this interactive, everyone. Can you see this now, Steven?

Steven: Yeah, it looks like it’s working.

Taylor: Awesome. Great. So please keep this interactive. If you’ve got any questions, type those into Steven and, Steven, just, you know, like, say, “Hey. Hey, girl. Hey, T-shank. We’ve got a question,” and you can interrupt me as we go. I like to keep these interactive. Like Steven, I love webinars. I don’t, you know, it’s just something I’ve been doing for a long time. I love interacting with people, I love sharing ideas, and we already came up with our next one. So we’re righting . . . No. I never felt like it was righting a wrong. So happy to be here. I am going to be talking about “Three Steps to Digital Marketing Success” today. I think there are three really core components when you think about digital marketing for your nonprofit, and I’m going to get into some weeds in those and how to think about them a little bit differently, how to be successful with messaging, motivation, and measurement in this digital world.

So Steven already introduced me, so I’ll skip right through this pretty quickly. But I am Taylor Shanklin, my friends call me T-shank. I’m the VP of Growth at Firefly Partners. We are a digital marketing agency. We help organizations with their nonprofit technology to make sure everything’s talking to each other and working appropriately because there’s a lot of systems that you probably use now. And so we really help organizations find the right strategy around using their system, have a great looking website, and then communicate appropriately to your supporters with those systems. And there’s my email address. Feel free to shoot me an email. I am taylor@fireflypartners.com, and let’s get the show going, huh? All right. So welcome to the apocalypse, right? I shared this slide because I know we’re all in this really weird space right now. We’ve all been stuck at home for a long time.

Steven and I are used to seeing each other at conferences, and now we’re just having to, like, connect all the time on the phone and on this virtual world. And you might be feeling a little bit like a zombie right now and thinking about digital channels, like, one more, you know, thing behind a computer screen. I get it. It might be making you feel like this, and you don’t want your supporters to feel like this either. So I’m hoping to give you some tips today to really kind of liven up the digital conversation with people who are following you and supporting the cause. Sound good? Because here’s the thing. Like, we are all living behind our computer screens right now. So just like you’re living behind your phone and your tablet maybe, and your laptop, your supporters are hyper, hyper-connected too. And something that we need to be really mindful of when you think about the experiences that we give to them in this online hyper-connected world. Right? We’re all living in it. So we all understand what it’s like.

You’re also probably juggling a thousand things, right? Like, “Okay, what’s this Facebook fundraising thing? Should I do that? How does it all plug in? Maybe to my CRM,” if you’re using Bloomerang or something like that, or maybe you have an online shopping cart that you’re using to sell other things and do some sort of e-commerce venture or advocacy. There’s all of these systems in place, and that often can create a), a disconnect, because it’s hard to just feel like you’re juggling all of the things, and it’s also hard to really give people a connected experience.

I think digital can also feel a little bit like this vast blue ocean of, “I’m not quite sure what to do with it” because many people just think about digital experiences and digital fundraising with a nonprofit brand like this. It feels very transactional oftentimes. Like, I’m just going to put up a form on a website and it’s going to take some money and that’s going to be great. But I actually think there’s a lot more to it than that. And because of that, like, we’re juggling all of the things, we’re looking at this in this transactional frame of mind, many digital brand experiences feel very disconnected despite the fact that we’re actually, like, hyper-connected too.

So there’s these weird feelings that we have sometimes that are sitting, like, juxtaposed, right? But your supporters aren’t transactions, right? People who are visiting you on the other side of the phone screen or the computer screen are people that want to connect that are supporting you for a reason and they’re showing up, right? They’re showing up to give to you. When we could get together, they were showing up to your events, maybe your walk, or your ride, or your gala. And now we need to think a little bit differently about how we look at the fact that they’re all unique, beautiful humans, that human-to-human digital experience is the future.

So that’s the way that my team and I like to really think about digital, is how do we connect all of the dots between all those things that you’re juggling and your brand, your authentic voice to talk uniquely to the people on other side of that screen, right? I like to think about it as the lady at the switchboard in the old days and connecting all of the people on the telephone, right? Like, there’s the technologies, and we use that and we need to use digital technology to empower those human connections, but at the end of the day, there’s always a human on the other end of it. And so how do we best use digital technology and strategy in thinking about marketing in the digital world to support that human connection, right?

All right. So I’m going to get into how do you do that? Okay, cool. So that’s seems interesting, right? Maybe like, yeah, I want to connect with humans more. It’s about people-to-people, right? But how do we do that? I think the three keys are really about messaging, well, what are you saying in the digital space? Motivation, how are you driving engagement when someone lands on your website or they see something on Facebook or they get a text message from you, right? How are you actually motivating them? And how are you measuring that on the backend of it so that you can actually continue to iterate and optimize that experience, right? And how are you getting a feedback loop?

And so I’m first going to start today with talking about messaging, because I actually think that that’s one of the most important things to start with is like, well, what are you saying when they get there, right? When someone goes to my website for the first time, what’s that experience that they’re getting? How are we communicating what we do in the first place? And when they’re getting an email from us, how are we actually communicating about the value that we bring to them?

All right, so let’s get into the one-on-one on messaging. By the way, this is, like, my favorite topic so I kind of nerd out this stuff. This and Canva. I’ve got a friend, his name is David Brier. He wrote a book called “Brand Intervention” and something that he says in this book is if you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand story for you. I think this is really true. I think we often allow people to write the story about what we do in their head. And how do we do that?

Sometimes it’s by being too vague about the work that we do, sometimes it’s just by giving people too much to read, and then it’s just too much to consume, but we often do this. We make our supporters guess a little bit too much about what we do. That often puts them to sleep, right? So it’s really important that we communicate clearly and that we bring them value. And I’ll show some examples a little bit later with like, thinking about how to frame your emails or your social media posts, because we don’t want to give our supporters a new snooze fest when they show up to the website, or they read an email, or they get a petition, right? We want to very clearly give them information that connects with their reason to connect into to the cause. And we connect all those dots for them.

So messaging is super, super important. All right. Here are some questions. When you think about your own messaging, maybe you’re already starting to think about, like, “What do we say on our website?” Right? “What do we say in our emails?” I want you to start asking these questions that actually matter to the person on the other side of that computer screen. So this is about how to create with your messaging, that human to human experience. So ask yourself, like, “First off, why is someone coming to us? And do we very clearly communicate how we’re going to bring them value when they land on our homepage or they read that email? And also, how do we fit into our donors’ lives or our volunteers’ lives? How do we fit into their life aspirations?” Maybe you see a theme here. And the theme is, it’s not so much about us. It’s really about them.

It’s about the audience, because at the end of the day, humans, like, our very nature, our DNA is like, you know, despite it maybe sounding selfish, the truth is, like, people are motivated by what’s in it for them at the end of the day. Maybe what’s in it for them is they want to be a part of something bigger. And that’s a really nice intrinsic motivation, right? Maybe they know a loved one affected by your mission, right? But there’s some reason that they’re showing up to find you, to give to you, to be a part of your community, and when we think about your messaging, your brand, I want you to start thinking about what those motivations are. How do you tap into that? How do you fit into that? How do you bring them value? Makes sense?

All right. So then you need to start answering those questions in your messaging through a few key elements. Authenticity, first and foremost, and we’re going to get a little bit into that, and relevance and clarity. Like, again, are what you are communicating, are those things that you’re communicating actually relevant to the other person on the other side of that telephone or that computer screen? And how do you do that fast? How do you connect with humans? That’s through storytelling, honestly, like stories create common ground, they create ways to relate to each other, so the more storytelling you can do, the better.

All right. I have a framework for authenticity and I’m going to stop and pause for just a moment on authenticity, because I think this part is so important. And if you can nail this, people are going to start following you in the digital space. When you think about authenticity, it’s actually a word that gets thrown out a lot with branding these days.

I think we’re in a really interesting moment in time where we’re all letting our guard down and being more authentic, right? We’ve seeing into each other’s homes. We’re seeing, you know, our kids, I’m sure, Steven, this has happened to you, it’s certainly happened to me, our kids coming in the door and being like, “Hey,” even while you’re doing your webinar, right? Like, we’re seeing this level of authenticity that’s new that maybe we haven’t experienced so much in our work lives before. I think that’s something to really tap into when you think about your messaging and your brand. And when I talk about authenticity, what I think it seems is it’s tying together originality, the fact that you do something like no other organization does. You have a unique value that no other organization or brand does. When you communicate that value very clearly and with conviction, like, you know where you stand, even if you have a cause where you sometimes have to draw a line in the sand.

I think showing up with originality, clarity of message, and conviction in what you do and who you are and what you bring to the table, that is when your authentic voice in your branding and your messaging shows up, and that is actually what people like. That’s what people relate to. It doesn’t put them to sleep, right?

So when you’re thinking about how do we keep people, like, really excited about being involved? Tap into that authentic voice and really think about this framework and what it means for your organization. You know, how are you original? How can you be more clear about that? And what is your conviction? How do you show up with that, and, you know, very clearly communicate what you do, where you stand, and who you are?

All right. Then, I mean, honestly, guys, it’s just like a two-step. Start owning it, own that message and that level of authenticity and replicate it with intense consistency across all of your channels. You might even look at how in the digital space, maybe you can try some things because it’s easier to try things, like, in an email or social posts than it is in your direct mail, but look at how that works in digital and then you might even replicate it across other channels as you’re thinking about mail and different channels and ways of, you know, really relating to and engaging your donors. So find that authentic voice, own it, and just replicate it with intense consistency.

I think sometimes we think like, “Oh, we’ve got to say a lot of different things all the time to stay interesting,” right? I actually think it takes people a long, long time to see your brand, to really understand what you do, and they need that repetition to say, “Oh, that organization, I very clearly know what they do because they’re saying the same thing all the time. I get it.” And that connects the dots. So don’t feel like you have to come up with too many different messages all the time. Instead, come up with what your clear core messages and positioning are, and then replicate them with intense consistency.

I’m going to give you some examples of some of my favorite, you know, real-world branding and messaging tip lines, I guess, you could call them. The first one is Apple. I mean, I know that sometimes we can look at Apple and be like, “Okay, well, I’m not Apple. I’m a nonprofit and I have a small budget. How do I actually replicate that Apple experience?” Because what Apple does is they do give people an experience that’s very focused on them and the value that Apple brings to them.

And this is my favorite example, maybe of all time in advertising. It was when the iPod came out and they said, “1000 songs in your pocket.” They didn’t say, “We’ve got the most gigabytes of storage for an MP3 player.” They said, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” And at the time, I don’t know if you guys were like me, but we were driving around with giant books and CDs, or like a big old dorky Walkman, like, you know, and having to carry these huge things or pull over to change the CD in the car, and all of a sudden, you see this thing where you’re like, “How could I get 1,000 songs in my pocket? It makes you stop and think, and it also very clearly communicates what value they are bringing to you. “So wait, you’re saying, I can carry around all of this music in one tiny device? That’s worth checking out. That’s focused on me and the value that it brings to me.”

So there’s something like that, that you have. There’s an “1,000 songs in your pocket” that you have to give to those people who are supporting you. It’s just about looking at that authentic voice, defining what it is that is that unique value that you’re bringing to people, and very clearly and succinctly putting that nugget in their mind and replicating that again, and again, and again, in your messaging.

I also liked this example. Oops, one of my little things is in the show-up. This is an organization we work with, National LGBTQ Task Force. We recently helped them with this Queer the Census campaign. And the reason why I wanted to show this, again, as we’re talking about messaging and focusing on the donor and really, like, tapping into that human connection, what I wanted to point out is just the use of clear, simple language of this is what you get to do, this is how you’re a part of it, and this is why it matters to you.

If you haven’t tuned in on it yet, I’ve said the word “you” a lot. You, the donor, you, the audience, you know, just the use of stay informed. Do you want? Check, check, check, right? The census counts, so do you. Be you, be counted. That focus on you language I think is really clear and really strong for someone who shows up and feels like, “Oh, this is how it matters to me.” So this is an example of an organization putting that into practice.

Here’s a great example I found recently. I was scrolling through Instagram and getting targeted by Be The Match. And I love this. I took a series of screenshots on my phone of how this video ad played out. So as you’re thinking about how some of this stuff translated into your world, right, the simple, clear language, I love how, you know, the video starts out with this picture of this girl, 27 hospital visits, and then it scrolls to 4 surgeries. “One life that you can save. The power to cure is inside you. Be the match, join the registry.” So, again, this is just a great example of donor-centric, language and messaging and something that’s really, really simple, but also very impactful about look at this life that’s really tormented, right? This little girl that’s having to go through all of this hell. You can be a part of the cure to fix it, right? So again, it’s tapping into people’s, you know, life aspirations.

All right. Lastly, I want to talk about creating a connection to crisis because this might be something that you’re still trying to work through in this current moment in time. And I know that this is a shoe company, New Balance, but I wanted to show this because I think no matter what your cause is, you have some connection to this current crisis that we’re in, right? I know a lot of organizations that we work with that I talked to, you know, at the beginning of the year, we’re in this moment of feeling very stuck about what to say, and much of the feedback I was getting was that, “Well, we don’t directly relate to the pandemic. We’re not a food bank. We’re not in healthcare. We do this.” And I actually think everything connects to it because this thing is affecting all of us in some way and it’s affecting all of your donors and your supporters in some way.

So I like this example from the New Balance Shoe Company. And they said, “We made shoes yesterday. We’re making masks today,” right? So you might not be making masks, you might not be a shoe company. I get that. But there’s something that you were doing or can do in your community, or can do to even just provide emotional support to people who have given to you or volunteered to you, right, that connects to the current crisis. And, seriously, like reach out if you want help with this, again, shoot me an email. We’ll share my emails on the slide deck. If you’re still struggling with this at this moment in time, reach out, I’m always happy to get on the phone for 20 minutes or something and just give some feedback. So feel free to ping me directly.

All right. So at the end of the day, when we think about, you know, I want to kind of bring it in on messaging before we get into the other stuff. When you really think about your brand and how you show up in the digital channels and really across all channels, it’s about owning your voice, showing up with it through stories, visualization, and proof of how you bring value into someone’s life. When you think about messaging and what do you say in emails and what do you stay on your website? What do you stay on Instagram? And you know, blah, blah, blah, there’s so many digital channels, right? If you say things authentically with stories and visualization and proof of how you tap in to the person on the other side of that phone screen, how you tap into their life’s aspirations and bring them value, you’re going to start to see higher engagement.

All right, let’s get into motivating. So, okay. You’re saying the right things now, how are you actually motivating people to action? Right? Because at the end of the day, like, if we’re saying the right things, we also need to convert that message into actual action, right? We do need the donations. We do need the advocacy petition, you know, filled out and shared. We do need people to sign up and come to our events and give to our event, even if it’s in a virtual setting like now.

So the first thing I’ll say on this is just be Captain Obvious. You know, when you think about your call to action or your CTA, as we marketers call it, I want you to not make people guess too hard about what you’re asking them to do. So you’re super clear with your messaging about who you are, what you do, how you bring value, and then you’re super obvious about, “And here’s what you can do to be a part of that.” Okay? Sometimes I think we try to get a little bit too cute or creative, and then it’s just, like, confusing. So use very, very clear Captain Obvious language when you’re trying to actually convert action.

Keep it simple too, you know, if you are trying to get someone to do one specific thing, don’t give them too many things to think about. And what I mean by that is give them one CTA, right? One call to action. One simple thing. You don’t want to send out an email that has, like, an ask, and a volunteer sign up, and five other calls to action in it if you really want to see success. People get distracted. We humans, our brains, like, we can’t take too many things, right? Like, we need simple . . . I think there’s something in psychology, you know, that says people can really only take three things. Keep it as simple as possible in your emails, your calls to action, your social media posts, you know, and ask for one action only at a time as best as you can.

Here’s some examples of that, that I like. Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. We helped them build out their, like, online events and stuff and I really like that when you go to their website, this is one of the things that I like that they do in their branding. This is very clear and very simple, you know, a lot of people who are going to their website might be going to their website because they have someone affected who’s just been diagnosed, right? And so they’re saying, “Hey, if you’re newly diagnosed, there’s things to do now. There’s things to know now.” Or, “Join the fight,” right? But it’s very clear, very simple calls to action.

Here’s an example of social media posts from American Kidney Fund. “Are you at risk? Learn more.” They’re not trying to jam too many things into one small space, right? It’s just very clear language, very simple, one real strong call to action.

Let’s talk a little bit about length in your messaging on digital channels. Take a second to think about maybe your own emails that you get either as like a subscriber or maybe your own emails, if you’re, you know, on your marketing team or communications team, and you’re writing your email. Take a second to think about the list of emails and what actually gets and keeps your attention. I think oftentimes we think, like, “Well, I got to say all of this stuff,” and we end up sending out these really long emails that aren’t really that focused on the end of the day on the person on the other side of the screen, right? It’s not really thinking about their time, right? It’s thinking about, “I’ve got to send out all this stuff and say all of this stuff.” Keep it simple. I don’t think emails need to be particularly long.

These are just a couple of screenshots of, like, event follow-up emails, where they’re super simple and short and easy to digest. And as you can see in this top one, they’re really only talking about one thing, right? There’s one thing that they’re saying, “Hey, guess what? We’re now on Apple Pay. You can actually go and sign up for this event using Apple Pay now.” Right? So super, super simple . . . Here’s another, you know, this was a follow-up thank you email and it’s very simple. So think about length when you really want to motivate people to action. If you give them too much to digest, they’ll often just tune out and eventually they might just stop reading your emails. That’s my personal opinion, at least.

Here’s another example of some simple emails that I think are very focused on motivating the person on the other end of the screen. This is an event that I signed up for recently, that was a virtual, like, run challenge event, and every week in my inbox, as I’m doing this virtual event, you know, like, they’re reminding me to run and they’re not always asking me to give my money or fundraise more, although those emails come too.

But in this Monday motivation email that I get, it’s really always just about the simple motivation. And it doesn’t have to be long, it’s super simple, and you know what I like, is it’s authentic. It’s, like, coming to me from the event director, Jen, right? And it’s really, really simple. And she probably sent this out from some automated system, but it really sure feels like a personal email that she sent me directly to my inbox. So those are some things that I like about that level of, like, speaking about motivation too. It’s not always about motivating people to ask, it’s about motivating them to just dial in and tune in because you’re getting something simple and interesting for them to feel good about.

All right, another thing you can do, especially in this virtual world as we’re trying to, like, figure out how to motivate people to engage with us is keep it fun. People work off of incentives. And so I liked how Be the Match Foundation, again to use them because they do great work, we set up these gamification badges for their event. They were doing an online, you know, fundraising event, trying to figure out how to get people engaged, and so we gave people different options, like, what actually is relevant to you, go choose a way in which you want to be involved, and then along the way, we’re going to give you all of these different things to, like, keep you incentivized along the way and make it fun and send you fun emails and give you a fun badges on your page as you’re getting to that goal.

And so think about how to just, like, make things fun. Again, people like fun, especially right now, a lot of us miss fun, right? And so I think as much as you can, try to stay light and fun and incentivize people to want to get involved through that.

All right, I’m going to do a time check here. How am I doing Steven? Are there any questions that have come in so far?

Steven: You’re doing great. We’ve got plenty of time, it looks like. We do have some questions. Actually, on a similar topic, a couple of people have asked about audiences. It sounds like they have organizations that have some broad service area. I don’t know if you’re going to talk about maybe personas or audiences, but I assume a lot of this should be tailored for the type people that you’re talking to. Pun intended, Taylor.

Taylor: Correct? Yes, totally. And I can talk a little bit about that. I don’t have a slide necessarily on personas or audiences or segmentation, but I will say that defining those key audiences, yes, is super important. When we get into measurement, I can talk about some different things to measure kind of like a high level, but there are a lot of tools now, tech tools, that make it a lot easier to really understand your audiences now and then connect with those audiences appropriately so that you can, yes, send the right message to the right person. If you’re on Bloomerang, Bloomerang has great tools and there’s a lot of different, like, even beyond that, things that can work alongside your CRM, whatever you’re using, on your email campaigns, if you’re using MailChimp or anything like that. There’s a lot of great like AI tools now that will plug into your CRM tools and things like that, that will help you even better define your audiences based on people’s past behavior.

So the more granular you can get or more targeted you can get in your messaging on key audiences is really important, again, so that you’re talking into what actually motivates that one unique person to be involved with you. Right? And I know it’s not necessarily like, well, we can’t send everyone, like, you know, unique emails. I’m not saying that, because marketing automation is our friend, but if you can build groups of things, let’s just keep it simple, right? Like sustained donors, they get something unique versus people who have only maybe been to your gala one time, versus people who have maybe been to a peer-to-peer fundraising event before. So I think there are definitely different ways to look at segmenting those audiences, and I definitely recommend it. And if you want to follow up on that more, happy to, like, chat about your particular programs and audiences and all of that.

Cool. So I think this is my maybe last example here on this part. Again, just another example of creating very clear paths to action. What I wanted to highlight on this particular website is the interactive map. So, again, giving people something interactive, a clear path to action, you know, I like how they just very clearly define that, “Our interactive map tracks movement of progressive policy efforts across the country. Go use it to find what’s happening in your state.” So again, just very clear, interactive pathway to help people get the information that matters to them.

All right. So let’s get into measuring. Measuring can be something that if you’re not a data guru or data nerd, it can feel a little bit like, ah, this is a lot. And I actually am glad that you asked that audience question because you can, like, you can get so granular sometimes that you can go down a path of then just being overwhelmed. I’ll talk to you guys a little bit more today about measuring and, like, what really matters and what’s important at a high level, and then definitely we can talk a little bit about how to get a little bit more granular with that.

Measuring what matters, when you’re thinking about digital channels, there’s a lot of data now available to us and that’s where I think measurement can become overwhelming. When I really think about, like, what actually matters to measure, it falls into these three buckets of traffic, how much traffic are we actually driving to our web pages or landing pages or donation forms or events page? Engagement, are people actually engage ng in some way?

Are they clicking around? Are they commenting back on our posts on social media? And conversion, are people actually signing up for a newsletter? Are they giving a donation? Are they coming to an event? So when you think about, you know, what, in the, for-profit marketing space is called lead gen, I like to think about that for our space in nonprofits in these terms too. Traffic, you’ve got to drive traffic there, you got to engage people once they get there, and then you’ve got to convert people.

And these are the things that you really want to look for in terms of actually tracking your digital success and your digital footprint, because all of the messaging and the motivation and all of that really plays into them being able to understand, are what you’re saying, like, is it making a difference? Is it engaging people? Is it actually the right CTA that we use to get them to convert? And if it’s not, then you can change it and try something different. So a constant feedback and measurement cycle is really important. I recommend looking at all of these things at least on a monthly basis, and if you haven’t really done this much yet, just get started with something and then start to track that measurement over time.

If you’re already tracking things, there might be things that you want to tweak and get a little bit more granular about in each of these areas. And when you think about like, measuring outcomes to goals, right? I like to think about measurement as aligned to some goal I’m trying to get to, right? So when you think about traffic, the big question is, “Are more people showing up?” Right? If you’re doing Facebook ads or organic social, or sending emails, are more people actually showing up based on those efforts, right? So at a very high level, you want to start tracking that traffic. And then, once people are showing up, are they engaging in different ways, right? Maybe there are different goals or milestones that you have set based on your strategic goals of the organization. That’s the strategic goals of your particular digital efforts, right?

This could be things like participation milestones for like, peer to peer, DIY fundraising campaign. It could be other fundraising milestones, maybe have some big campaign, and you’re thinking about end of year and goals you’re trying to set for that. Other ways of looking at whether or not people are engaging is are they actually opening your emails? Are they clicking on those emails? When you put stuff out on social, are people commenting back on your posts? Are they liking it? Are they sharing it? And so, when you think about engagement, it can fall into all of these different buckets, but I really think it’s important and key to align whatever you’re measuring to some goal that you have. And then when you’re looking at conversion, what does that actually mean? Are your donations going up? Is your email list growing? Is your social following growing? That’s the actual metric. Or you’re seeing, “Okay. Is this ticking in the upward direction?” If it’s not, let’s look at maybe why by understanding the data, right?

At a very, very high level, if you’re looking at, like, “Well, what should I measure specifically for each of these different buckets of digital engagement?” Because there are different buckets, there’s email campaigns, there’s social media, there’s your website. This is a good starting place for anyone who’s looking at like, “Okay, well, if I should measure everything on a monthly basis or a weekly basis or whatever you decide, what should I be looking at least at the bare minimum?” Okay. You can get a lot more granular than live in this, but at the bare minimum, what should I start paying attention to? So when you think about your email, I want you to be looking at open rates, click-through rates, social shares, and bounced emails.

Now, explaining to those open rates are people opening your emails, right? Click through rates are people clicking through and actually clicking, not just opening, but clicking on the links. You’re going to expect an open rate to be higher than a click-through rate, so if you see those very different that’s okay. But trying to get the higher click-through rate means people are opening your emails and they’re clicking on it. If you have a really high open rate but your click-through rate is, like, 0.002, then there’s something happening in that email that’s causing people to not really engage with it and not actually click through to whatever you’re communicating.

The open rate’s important, but click-through rate is really important. And click through the rate could tell you more about how your messaging is performing, how your call to actions are performing, and those are some of the things that you’ll want to test in email. And emails are really great testing ground to try some new messages and things.

And then, are people sharing what you say on social and are they bouncing? If an email is bouncing, it means it’s probably not a good email anymore, and you’ll want to get it off of your list. You don’t want to have a high bounce rate that will eventually affect your deliverability with your emails.

With social, I like to look at things like engagement, reach, impressions, and referrals. So engagement is like likes and comments. And I actually think something that’s really, it’s harder to look at, but I think it’s important to look at and you can maybe do this even just a little bit by kind of tracking what you’re doing, is what are people actually commenting on?

So moving beyond just the little like button, you know, which we do all love, you know, getting that like, are people commenting? Are they actually reposting? Are they sharing? And if so, what is it that is the content that people seem to reshare or comment on the most? And if you start looking for patterns and, like, “Oh, when we share this kind of thing, it gets a lot of engagement. And when we share this kind of thing, it doesn’t get very much engagement.”

Start looking for patterns because that’ll start helping you kind of dial in your messaging and realizing, like, “Oh, this kind of stuff actually gets a lot of social engagement and we should do more of this.” Maybe it’s more like stories or videos or just some way of talking that’s a little bit different than, you know, if you’re posting a webinar or something like that. So really think about how people are actually engaging with your content.

Impressions is sort of like this big number. One way to think about it is like if you’re running Facebook ads, how many impressions did you get? Like, how many eyeballs saw it? How many times was it shown? And then referrals is how many times are you actually getting referred back to your site from social, like organic or paid? So look at that. Because you’re going to, especially if you’re running social ads, they’re going to want to look at, “Okay. If people actually go and land on our website from a social post, are they doing that from an organic post, something that we posted, or from paid?” and you’re going to want to start to kind of like, just look at the differences between that. It might tell you that if you are spending a lot of money on paid social, and it’s not actually referring people back to the actual landing page you’re trying to get them to go to, then you might want to rethink that page strategy. You might need to tweak your messaging and your CTA or things like that.

And then, lastly, when you look at your website, these are some of the key things to really think about, like how many visitors are coming. So, again, that kind of factors into that traffic. Bounce rates, are people hitting your website and leaving right away? If they’re not staying on your website, there might be a reason why. They might’ve landed on your website, and then they’re like, “Well, this isn’t what I was looking for.” And that just sometimes happens. But maybe also, you are actually what they’re looking for, but again, going back to the messaging, they don’t understand that you’re what they’re looking for maybe because the message isn’t communicated clearly, or maybe your site loads slowly. There’s a bunch of different factors that can go into bounce rate, but that’s a really important thing to look at with your website and you can do it with Google Analytics and tracking stuff.

A few of these other metrics down here, site health, search position, search queries, and keywords, these are really SEO related terms to look at and things to look at. And I’m going to show you a couple of tools that you can use to really track, like, are people finding you? What’s your search position? What are people searching for and then landing on you for? You’re going to want to start to speak about how to actually track all of that so that you’re using the right keywords and meta descriptions on your website and things like that so that people do find you for what they should be finding you for.

All right. So just getting into tools and I’ll be wrapping it up because up here in a minute. We’ll open up for questions. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up on your website, definitely get it set up. It’s free. It’s really relatively easy to get tracking on your website. And a lot of these metrics that I showed you as baseline things to look at for your website and like referrals and all of that, you can track with Google Analytics.

We do have a Google Analytics checklist. Steven, I’ll send it out if you want to share it out, like, with the recording of this webinar, people can look at it. It’s a good little just like, “Hey, am I doing this? Am I doing this? Do I have this turned on?” And it can help you be really successful with tracking that website traffic and engagement.

Here’s just a quick example of kind of what it can look like. And again, I’d talked about organic traffic versus other traffic and paid users. This one I think is just like a little funny demo site that I have set up so it doesn’t have a bunch of data in it, but at the very high level, you’ll be able to start to see this kind of information about your website traffic if you have Google Analytics installed.

Lastly, there’s another tool that we really like to use at Firefly. We use it when we’re helping organizations with their SEO, like, to get sound better, to use a really technical term. I’m SEMrush is a great tool. It’s not free like Google Analytics, but it’ll happen help you do a ton of research and measurement around your website, maybe competitive nonprofit organizations or agencies. You can see what kinds of keywords they’re using, how you fall in line, you know, with those keywords and things like that. And you can really use this tool to track the positioning. You can also use it to understand keywords and things like that, that you should use both on social media, like hashtags and things. You can do hashtag research, keyword research to know what to put in your descriptions on your website and all that good stuff to, again, help you better track the performance of your site and your digital footprint, and then report back on it and iterate and optimize.

And there’s just an example of the kinds of dashboards that you can build out in SEMrush that, again, can give you really good insight into, like, the health of your site, what to fix, it’ll give you all these warnings, you see these warnings over here? It’ll tell you like, “Hey, here’s what broken, and if you fix this, your SEO will improve.” And so we often work with organizations to go through an audit like this, and then through some simple changes sometimes, you can see huge improvement in your site health.

So those are just a couple of tools to measure. When you think about just, like, testing and optimization, there are a lot of different things you can think about again at a very high-level test. That’s what I love about digital. It’s easy to test things. It’s cheap to test things. You know, A/B tests are something that you can use both on, like, landing pages on your website and also in email.

And you’ve probably heard this term used before, maybe around email campaigns where you send an A/B test. What does that really mean? It means maybe we just tried one subject line to half of our audience and another subject line to the other half. And we decided, you know, and then we test what performed better. You can get more granular than that but that’s one really simple way to think about A/B testing in email. You can also A/B test things like in landing pages and donations forms where you send half of the traffic to one page and half of the traffic to another, and then you can actually see which one performs better. You’ll see there’s all different combinations you can test out, and again, that’s something that’s exciting about digital, is it’s really like a good testing ground for messaging and communication and CTAs because you can see what works very quickly, get measurements on it, and then make adjustments as needed.

All right. And that, okay, good. We’ve got nine minutes left. So that really leaves me at the end. Should we open it up for Q&A?

Steven: Yeah, let’s do it. Wow. You covered a lot of topics there and in a short amount of time there, Taylor. That was awesome.

Taylor: Yeah, it’s a lot. That’s why I am sharing my email address because sometimes, like, I know I’ll throw a lot of big ideas at you and it can be a lot to digest. So if you’ve got follow-up questions, please reach out, seriously.

Steven: Yeah. Take her up on that. She’s obviously a wealth of knowledge and it’s a kind offer and also on Twitter. Right? Taylor, you tweet occasionally, I think?

Taylor: Yeah.

Steven: I love it.

Taylor: Yeah. Occasionally. I’m bad at Twitter. No, I’m kidding.

Steven: No. That’s not true. That’s not true at all. You know, we talked a little bit about personas and I’m sensing that a lot of folks that, you know, typically listen to these webinars, smaller nonprofits, maybe one-person shop, two-person shop, what do you think they should focus on first if they’ve never really kind of dived into the whole digital arena, they’re trying to do everything in addition to fundraising, trying to, you know, actually do the services as well? Where should they start?

Taylor: Yeah. Yeah. I would say like, just in the context of personas do focus on just some simple key audiences based on whatever, like, behavior, you kind of understand about them that you can get in your CRM. Like, when was the last time they gave? Have they ever opened our email? How much did they give? There’s that RFM model, recency, frequency, monetary. How often are they giving . . . sorry, when did they last give, how often are they giving, and how much did they give? And if you even just start to break down your data and your audience segmentation based on that, you’re going to be able to start communicating better to someone who has only given $25 one time versus someone who’s maybe like a mid-level donor and they’ve given you $1000 a year for the last 10 years.

So try to understand some of those simple RFM metrics first, when you’re thinking about like your audiences and your communication. From there, you can start to get more granular if you do do events and things like that. Try to understand if they’ve been to an event, if they gave at an event, maybe they participated in a walk or something like that, and that is another level of granularity you can get at when you’re thinking about, “Okay, I’ve got this campaign or this goal that I need to do. Who in this whole donor database should I be communicating to about it?” Does that help?

Steven: I love it. Got a fun question here from Jill. I’m curious what you think, Taylor, because I know, you know, being in client services, maybe you’ve experienced this on some level where you’re new to an organization, you come in, there’s kind of an existing, you know, digital fundraising, marketing mechanism. What advice would you have for people that have maybe inherit that and are looking at an audience that exists but maybe there is not much engagement there, they’re seeing not much has been done. What, you know, we talk about new organizations starting from scratch, but what if you kind of inherit something that exists but is kind of laying dormant?

Taylor: Hmm. Good question. I’ve been there before. First thing I’ll say, go with, like, have fun with it because to be honest, it’s like, I think that that’s opportunity. If not much has been done, that’s an opportunity for you to go in and start doing even some simple things and making a big difference in terms of engagement to have fun with it. I would say that that is a moment in time where it’s an opportunity to look at whatever has been done in the past, is try to measure it a little bit, and figure out maybe what worked and what didn’t work. It could be that you just have to go around and talk to different stakeholders in the organization, you know, you talk colleagues to try to understand maybe what they feel didn’t work or it didn’t work.

It could be that you just send out like a simple survey to people and say like, “Hey, what do you like hearing about from us?” Right? And like, survey your donors and ask them what they like best to try to start to understand them and know them and get some feedback. Give some of them a call, pick, you know, 20 that you’re going to call and just have a conversation with them. So start to look for some feedback opportunities that can help you then drive like, “Okay, here’s what I’ve heard. Here’s what I think works. Here’s who I think these people are. Here’s how I now think we should maybe tweak our messaging here and there.”

Steven: I love it. Here’s one about social media. I think a lot of people are struggling with maybe not getting their posts seen. It seems like they’re changing algorithms all the time and the content just doesn’t reach the audience even if they opt in to like those pages. Any advice, Taylor, to just increase the visibility of social media posts? Is that something that you should even really care about or how would you do it if so?

Taylor: Yeah, I think you should definitely care about it. I think that’s where that authenticity comes in. I think trying to create real conversations from real people is what works on social media the most. I know that in particular, it kind of depends on what platform you’re looking at. I can talk about LinkedIn all day long. I think it’s a really effective platform for organic engagement. If you’re like, “Hey, I need to start doing some stuff on social with a higher value audience,” start doing it on LinkedIn. You actually don’t have to spend money on LinkedIn, in my opinion, if you start posting interesting content to engage people there. I think that it’s not just a place anymore for, like, the job postings, in my opinion. It’s actually a place to create dialogue.

Facebook, I mean, honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about Facebook these days, other than Facebook fundraisers work really well. They still raise a lot of money. I think that that’s something that Facebook has focused on as a company to show even in an organic way. So if you have people doing Facebook fundraising for your organization, help to facilitate that and promote that. Otherwise, it is true, Facebook pages, I believe still don’t get a lot of organic reach and that’s where you have to kind of pay to play.

Instagram, really good for organic too, in my opinion. So if you’re like, “I don’t want to do the Facebook thing and I’m don’t want to pay for it,” focus on two things. Focus on LinkedIn, target, you know, high-value donors there with interesting content about the stories of the work that you’re doing, and storytell on Instagram and try to build a following there.

Steven: Cool. Yeah. Whenever I see a birthday Facebook fundraiser, it’s hard not to donate to it. It’s just like, it’s so easy. It’s usually a friend and there’s a heartfelt . . . I wonder if, you know, folks could start to encourage those loyal supporters that go out and do it for them. That seems to make a lot more sense than worrying about the brand page, you know?

Taylor: Totally. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. If anyone, like, I always donate when a friend asks me on Facebook to donate for them. Because it’s just like, “Okay. Cool. Yeah.”

Steven: “Of course. I support you. It’s two clicks. Yeah.” I know there’s a lot of weird things about Facebook but . . .

Taylor: Yeah. It’s crazy.

Steven: Yeah, but, you know, I’m looking at this slide you got up here, Taylor, maybe a good way to close it out. We were kind of joking before we started about the fact that you stay up on all of these tools that come out it seems like every day. What should folks pay attention to? Should they just leave it to nerds like us? Should they try to follow every single publication out there? What would you say to that?

Taylor: Ooh, that’s a good question. Yeah. I mean, nerds like us will break down the information for you for sure, so follow Steven, most definitely, because Steven . . . you probably already are because you’re on this webinar, but keep following Steven. If you go to fireflypartners.com we do a lot of resources like this too. We’ll highlight different technologies that have come out, you know, what to know about them, and different types of nonprofit tech that you might use for different things. So like differences between CRM versus peer-to-peer fundraising and stuff like that.

And I would also say, like, I like other people to follow, I like Nonprofit PRO. They put out a lot of good stuff. Nhu, she’s the editor in chief over there. She put that, like, a weekly little video on Friday where she gives you a quick digest on all the highlights. So follow them. Friends over at NextAfter put out very good stuff. Brady Josephson, he does a ton of stuff around, like, optimization and testing and putting out reports on that. So don’t feel like you have to go and, like, boil the ocean on your own. A lot of us digest this information every day, so, you know, those are a few of the other ones that I would recommend checking out.

Steven: That’s good advice no matter what context. Don’t try to boil the ocean. I love it. And that guide to the tools.

Taylor: Yeah. And listen to podcasts.

Steven: Yeah. Oh yeah. We’re going to link you to that. Folks should grab that guide to the tools you’re seeing there on the slides. Awesome resource. And reach out to Taylor. We’re all about out of time. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but, you know, we’ve got her email address there. Taylor, this was awesome. I’m glad we finally got a webinar on the bag.

Taylor: Thanks. Well, me too. Me too. Thanks for having me and hopefully this was helpful to folks. I appreciate everyone joining and, seriously, like, reach out if you’ve got questions.

Steven: And we’re going to have you back to talk about Canva, which is . . .

Taylor: We’re going to talk about Canva.

Steven: That’s going to be fun.

Taylor: Yeah. That’s going to be fun.

Steven: We’ll get that scheduled.

Taylor: It’s going to be like hands-on explaining.

Steven: Yeah. Speaking of the schedule, we got a webinar tomorrow, folks. I’m doing three this week. Because I’m just a glutton for punishment, apparently. My buddy Marc Pitman is going to come on. He’s a good coach. He’s a good interpersonal coach. And if people are driving you a little more up the wall than normal, I think that’s normal considering what we’re going through right now, it’s going to help you deal with all that. And maybe coworkers, maybe donors, who knows, it’d be a good one. But Marc’s going to join us, 2:00 p.m. Eastern. 24 hours exactly from right now. Totally free. Go ahead and register if you’re free then. If you can’t make it, we’re going to record it don’t worry. We’re recording this one. I’ll send out the recording, slides. You’ll get some goodies from Taylor and, hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session. So we’ll call it a day there. Have a good rest of your Wednesday, if you’re watching the recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter what day it is. We will talk to you again on the next session. Bye, now.

Taylor: Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.