In this webinar, Beth Brodovsky will show you what savvy nonprofit marketers do to build engagement and turn it into action.
Steven:All right, Beth, is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Steven:All right, cool. Good afternoon everyone if you’re on the East Coast, good morning, if you’re on the West Coast, I should say. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “How Savvy Marketing Translates to More Donations.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.
As always, just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here, I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’re going to be sending out the slides and the recording later on this afternoon, so have no fear you’ll get all that good stuff today. I’ll get it in your hands by email for sure. So if you have to leave early or maybe you just want to review the content later on, don’t worry, I’ll get all that good stuff to you today.
Most importantly, send in your questions and comments throughout the hour. Use that chat box right there on your ReadyTalk window. I know a lot of you already have, that’s awesome. If you haven’t, chat in, tell us about yourself, tell us where you got in from and don’t sit on those hands during presentation. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A.
You can also send us your questions and comments over Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on that. I know a couple of you like to do that so I’ll be keeping an eye there.
And if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, rather than totally giving up on it or throwing your computer out the window, you can dial in by phone for our audio. So if you don’t mind doing that, that’ll be comfortable for you. You’ve got to try, if you have any trouble since it doesn’t rely in internet connections or browsers or operating systems or any of that stuff, just a good old fashion phone will be solid for you. Just check the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago today and you’ll find that phone number you can dial.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. To you first timers, we do these webinars every single week usually on Thursday. This is a special Wednesday edition but you’ll find a session every week at Bloomerang except for those holiday weeks a couple of times a year. We bring out a great guest, educational presentation, really good stuff, I’m really proud of it.
But if you are interested in what Bloomerang does beyond that we’re actually a provider of donor management software, donor database software. So if you are maybe in the market for that or thinking of switching or just want to check us out, you can do that. Check out our website. You can watch a quick video demo, see the software in action and more and more.
But don’t do that now because you are all in for a real treat for the next 57 minutes or so. We’ve got a long time pal of mine, first time Bloomerang webinar guest though, it’s been way too long for her to make her debut but I am remedying that. We’ve got Beth Brodovsky joining us today from beautiful Philly. How’s it going Beth?
Steven:I’m so happy to be here.
Steven:Yeah. I just want to brag on you real quick before I turn things over to you. If you guys don’t know Beth, she’s awesome. She’s the President over at Iris Creative Group. They do really, really good, very strong work and branding graphic designs, marketing, check them out, you’re going to want to after the end of this presentation, I guarantee it. She’s got over 20 years of experience helping nonprofits with branding, storytelling, communications, all that good stuff, helping them market like a pro. You’re going to get some of that knowledge here over the next hour or so.
She’s also the host of a really cool podcast called “Driving Participation.” That’s one you’re going to want to subscribe to and checkout. She has really, really good guests, really good conversations. You’re going to want to look into that as well. And if you see here at a conference on the schedule, definitely, attend her presentation because she speaks a lot and she’s really good at it and I don’t want to take any more time away from her for all those reasons. So, Beth, I’m going to hand things over to you to tell us all about savvy marketing. You take it away, my friend.
Beth:Well, what a lovely introduction. So today we’re going to be talking about how the marketing connects to the fundraising side of the work that you do. And since Steven gave me a such a lovely introduction I’m not going to go on and on about myself but I would like to say that Steven has actually been one of the guests on the “Driving Participation” podcast. If I was smart, I would have actually looked up which episode it was before coming on today but I totally forgot. But you can find it on iTunes, on Stitcher, wherever you find podcasts, it’s out there. It’s free.
We talk to people all over the country and from all over the world about how they’re getting people to participate in their work and what participation even means to them in a way that actually helps them thrive. What we found is that a lot of people were getting stuck on the idea of just, people paying attention and becoming aware of them and not really thinking through what do we actually want them to do and what do we need them to do in order for us to be successful in creating the things that we both want to have happen.
So it’s been such a pleasure, we’re actually coming up this spring on our 200th episode and that’s been terrific. So you can find me there, you can find me at Iris, and we also teach classes online through our nonprofit toolkit on the basics of marketing because so many people, and probably many of you, we always joke that our people seem to be like all the theater, poli-sci, and like history majors of the world that end up working at nonprofits and then at some point somebody says, “Hey, could you just update our website? Would you mind just posting some stuff on social media?” And the next thing you know, like the things that you were brought in to do, you now have to do something else.
And so part of the reason I love talking and doing our classes and talking to you guys through this work with Steven is it helps people who maybe are ending up doing marketing, get better at it. And if we’re better at marketing it’s good for our organization.
One of the interesting things that I heard is this great quote that I heard from a woman named, Anne Samilov. As a podcaster myself I listen to lots of other people’s podcasts and she said this thing that I thought was such a brilliant insight on especially the kind of marketing that we do, you know, in the nonprofit world. And she said, “If you keep making withdrawals without making any deposits, you’ll eventually hit zero.”
And I suppose that that can apply to a lot of things but it really made me think about how a lot of nonprofits’ communications are really focused on the donation aspect of our work, funding ourselves, getting the money in so that we can survive. And if you think about that, in doing so, we’re doing a lot of asking, asking, asking, asking, and that’s a lot of taking withdrawals, getting people to do things for us. And when we do that all the time without ever giving and we’re asking a lot of get, eventually, people get burned out on it. And so I find that a lot of people in nonprofits start to have questions around, “Well, how often can I ask and how many appeals can we put out?”
And what I find is that sometimes asking those questions doesn’t actually get to the heart of what the problem is with nonprofit communications. So that’s really what we’re going to be talking about today. How do you create a great flow so that you get what you need to thrive but that your community also gets what they need to feel connected and involved in your work?
So a pretty common communication cycle goes a lot like how I just described it. You have an event, and by event I mean, you know, a literal event like a gala or a fun walk or a run or an event could mean we’re doing an annual campaign or we’re doing a capital campaign, a thing that’s happening where we’re asking people to do stuff. And to get people to do stuff we have to sell. We’ve got to say, “do this thing, do this thing, do this thing,” over and over again to get people to do it.
And for most of us, especially those of us that were trained in sales or trained in marketing, that can take a lot of energy and it could be really exhausting, especially if we’re working in our nonprofit because we, like, deeply care about our work and the work that the organization does, selling can feel really uncomfortable. And so when we have to do it, once we’re done, what happens is silence. “Finally, we got people. We finished our appeal. We got people to show up at our event. We’re done.” And then you basically take a break because you want to like give people a break from hearing from you until the next time you need something from them.
And in doing so what we end up is creating this big, I call them “troughs of silence.” So sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, nothing until we sell again. And what happens is people always ask me, “Oh, well, how often can we email? What’s the right amount of emails to send? How many times should we do an appeal a year? Oh, I don’t want to ask people too often.” And we start backing off our communications with people because we’re really afraid that we’re going to . . . I always hear the term, “We’re going to burn out our list.” And that people are going to start unsubscribing and jumping off in droves because we’re communicating too much.
But what I really see is the problem is not purely with your frequency. The problem is the content. We’re doing too much conversion getting people to do stuff for us and not enough conversation. And I want to explain what those words mean because I always try and pay attention to what we call the “jargon alert” so it’s as we’re going through this today I use a word that you’re like, “Well, Beth, that’s a marketing word, we don’t know that term,” post it over on the Q&A. And, Steven, if you see something where people are like, “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” jump in and give me a heads-up so I can make sure that I clarify any of these words that may seem weird to you because you know what? When I first started working in nonprofits I actually had worked for a nonprofit for eight years before I started my company, so I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I know nonprofit.”
Our nonprofit was more like a “Consumer Reports” for medical devices. So we had engineers that tested stuff and writers that wrote stuff and we sold our products, so we were a self-funded nonprofit through our work. I didn’t know anything about fundraising. So I had to go take a class on all of the things that fundraisers do so I understood the language and the jargon.
So I always want to tell people, especially people who are new to the marketing side of their work, don’t feel bad because this isn’t the world you came from. It is absolutely learnable. My background and training is actually, I was trained to as an illustrator and then I learned graphic design and then I learned marketing. So you can learn this and it’s very applicable to the work we do in other sides of our organization.
So conversion marketing, what I mean by conversion is it’s the kind of marketing that we’re doing when we’re asking people to do a specific thing. So it’s direct sales and I know that in nonprofits we don’t typically use the word “sales” but when you are asking people to sign up for an event, you’re selling. When you’re asking somebody to give you money as a donation, you’re selling. You’re specifically saying, “I need you to take this action right now.” Think of it as a transaction. What sort of a transaction are we getting people to do? So we’re focusing on getting them to take actions and the outcomes that come out of it.
Now, we contrast that with what I would call relationship marketing or you could call this conversation marketing. These are the other things that people want to have happen when they’re talking about marketing. People talk all the time about we want awareness or sometimes they’ll say, “planned awareness.” We want people to value or work and to understand what we do. We want people to do the things that Steven focuses on lot—engagement marketing. How do we get people to start talking to us, telling us what they love, what they want, what they’re experiences are working with us? It tends to be more responsive rather than trying to drive a response from people.
So they’re really different types of marketing and they’re both important and have value in your organization. The big functional difference of them is conversion marketing is often called “push marketing.” We’re getting our message out there and we want people to do what we want them to do. Now, every client I think I’ve ever had has asked me “How do we get people to want to do what we want them to do?” My answer is usually, “Do you have children?” because any of us that have children know how hard it is to get anybody to do what you want them to do even if they know you really well.
So getting people to do what we want them to do is a challenge but the reality is we need people to take what I call desirable actions. We need people to take these key actions at our organizations for us to thrive. If people come in and they’re super engaged and they love you and they talk about you and they post on your Facebook page and they send you responses to things but they never sign up for your events and they never give you money, you’re going to have a real dynamic engaged interesting organization that fails because you can’t financially thrive as an organization.
So you need to know those things. You need to get people to do them. But the way to get them to do them is often sometimes a little more bass-ackwards than you would think. It takes a little bit of both the direct asking and the nurturing in order to create the environment that a sale can happen and that’s really the definition of marketing. It creates the environment where a sale can happen.
So the way a healthy marketing cycle looks is a little bit of a blend. It’s selling, selling, selling, and you have that event but then in between that event and your next event, what can you do to be more about polling and giving and supporting and nurturing your audience than asking them to do something on your behalf? How can you pique their interest? How can you inspire them? How can you educate them? Where you can you show gratitude? How can you maybe intersperse a little bit of fun, show the impact of the thing that you just asked them to do?
Ultimately it’s about kind of filling that trough with things that surprise them, amaze them, and just delight them and make them feel that you are the perfect partner for them to facilitate their dreams. And that’s a phrase that I use a lot, that we have a tendency as organizations to think that people give to us. But the reality is nobody gives money so that you exist.
They don’t care that you exist. They give money to facilitate their dreams, for the impact that they are creating through you. And so how can you use the times that you’re not directly selling and even those times that you are selling to constantly think about how do we facilitate the dreams of our community so that through us what they want to see happen in the world comes to be.
To do this, the trick is you’ve got to move your audience from information recipient into an engaged action taker. And the thing is about that is that your brain works in different ways. There’s half of your brain, and I’m not a scientist, I went into design when I almost failed chemistry and decided that being a doctor wasn’t going to happen for me. But I do know that there’s parts of your brain that when it receives information sifts through that information and processes it. And that’s different than the part of your brain, it’s called the limbic system, that processes emotions.
And if we can’t get people from this thinking side of our brain over to the emotional side of the brain, it’s very hard to get them to take action. Most of the people that we work with say, “Oh, we need to get more people to know about us. We need to get more people to understand what we do. We need to provide them with more information.” And that’s not untrue. There is an aspect of your work that if people don’t understand what you do they’re not going to be able to start even connecting to you at the love level.
So there is that part, but thinking that the fact that people are not giving to you, coming to your events and supporting you is because they don’t know what you do or understand you is actually a limited way of looking at marketing. People can understand what you do and still not care and still not feel connected and still not understand.
It reminds me of a volunteer job that I had. I was invited to be on a committee of a school that has a trade program to help train kids in graphic design, something I totally love and I’m interested in and I was walking around the world complaining that there weren’t good enough people to hire. And I decided, “Well, I can’t go around complaining about it if I’m not going to do something to make a difference.” So I joined this committee and the first year of the committee was going into a phase of work that was a lot of work. It was tedious, it was hard and frustrating and I didn’t know any of the school’s language and I was getting close to thinking, you know, “I got to them through this process, thank you, very much, I’m done.”
School closes for the summer, the summer goes by, we come back in and in the fall, in our very first meeting they said, “Thank you very much for being on this committee, for working through that difficult process. Come down to the classroom and let us show you what you helped us create.” And we walked into this classroom and I saw rows and rows of the state of the art latest level technology for graphic designers, Macintoshs, printers, amazing stuff, and I walked in and just seeing it in person I had this epiphany that, “Oh, my gosh, how different these kids’ education is going to be now that they have these tools, and they wouldn’t have had them if I didn’t go through this difficult process,” and it changed me forever.
I’ve now been on this committee for 16 years and I’m the chair. I will never let these people go because I connected with the outcome, the meaning of what I did. And so that’s what we have to do through our marketing. Get people from the thinking part of why you’re doing this thing over to, “These kids wouldn’t have it without me.” And it’s amazing the difference you make when you have it.
So what does it take to get there? Emotion, as I’ve just been talking about. It’s really easy to think that big is going to sell. You know, when we look at the for-profit world, you see people like McDonald’s that are out there selling 18 million hamburgers sold. And in that world, the size and scope of what they’ve accomplished has this huge impact. It’s amazing.
When it comes to nonprofits, however, telling that big story often means talking about the size and scale of a problem yet to be solved. That story is often overwhelming to donors. And so when we talk about the data and the numbers and the big stuff solely, it can often frighten people and overwhelm them into not really being able to move from the information side of the brain over to the emotional side of the brain.
What actually works is telling a tiny story, a specific story. How did you help one person? How did you save one more dog? How did you help one farmer with support food insecurity? It doesn’t have to be a person. Everyone often thinks that you have to tell that person’s story but in your nonprofit the outcome story may not be about a person. You can still scale it down to one emotional story of change and outcomes that were created through the participation of the donor.
It’s not that you created that outcome. It’s because of you the donor, with you the donor, because of your interest, through your help, together we made this thing happen. That kind of a tiny tight story can be really connective for a donor especially when it’s paired with clarity.
So, many of us that work in nonprofits are well-educated, are good writers and deeply care about our work. So we have a tendency to speak from an inside baseball perspective, as a friend of mine always says. We sometimes slip into using jargon words, acronyms, things that we know that seem commonplace language to us but when you’re attracting someone new, no idea. They’re lost. We also have a tendency to want to give people the big picture. “Well, if I only talk about this tiny project they’re never going to know all these other things that we do.” So we tend to talk about what we do with a lot of “and this,” “and that,” “and this.” And one of the things I say all the time is “and” is the death of brand.
The more you start saying, “Would you like this? Would you like this? Would you like this? Here all the things that we could do, which of these things might you be interested in?” donors hit overwhelm really fast. New audiences are scanning the world for things that they’re interested in and you have to capture them.
I heard the director of digital for the Metropolitan Museum of Art one time called it a thumb-stopper. You’ve got to make your marketing be a thumb-stopper, whether it’s digital print, you’ve got that person that is going through their mail, standing over their recycle bin, what’s going to make them say, “Wait, I should open this envelope.” What’s going to make them say, “I should stop sprawling on my feed and take a look and read.” It’s not that your audience isn’t smart. It’s that they’re busy.
So we’ve got to bring the level of what we talk about down to simple. It’s got to be readable and processable by, I always say, a third grader. The national standard for marketing copy should be at a sixth grade level. And you can actually check that. If you’re writing in Word, there’s a box. And everyone has different versions of Word but the same box where you would go and check your word count, if you click on that area that shows your word count it will pop up a box that will also show you the reading level so that you can see what reading level that you’re writing to.
Most of us have a tendency to write to like 13th grade and I can tell you when we’re writing that way it’s really hard for the average person, even the smart average person who’s busy, to follow it. So you need to start being really specific. You need to focus in and ask people to do one thing at a time.
When you’re writing an annual appeal don’t stretch, throwing in, “and P.S.” with a, “But wait, there’s more. You get two versions of this,” or throw in a different program. I see this all the time. You write a great annual appeal letter but then in your P.S. you introduce a whole new idea that you haven’t talked about in your letter. Well, human beings have a tendency to read their name at the top, scan through the letter and then jump right down and read that P.S. When you talk about something totally different, it’s really creating a confusing story and making people have to make a decision. When people have to make a decision it creates friction, slows them down, and that’s when your letter ends up in the pile of their mail that they never sort through.
The third thing is repetition. The third thing is repetition. If you ever watch Oprah Winfrey, one of the things that she does all the time is she takes a great phrase that she really wants to be impactful and she says it twice and she says it slowly to really make sure that it sinks in and has meaning.
People are afraid now of doing things twice. We feel that because there’s so much media out there that it’s going to make people be overwhelmed by it. But the reality is because people are so busy, that repetition really makes a difference.
And this is not actually even a new technique. Over the course of time, one of the earliest forms of marketing in advertising was newspaper advertising. And the standard statistic for a newspaper advertisement is that people have to see it 12 times before they’re ready to take action, 12 times. That’s a lot of exposure to the exact same message before it really sinks past the information level and actually connects with people enough to take an action.
And so there’s lots of ways that you can address this. So in print, there’s an old term, a very old school term for mailings. It’s called a “bumper mailing,” and what that means is you send out something, a post card, your annual appeal, whatever, and then you send the exact same thing three weeks later. People look at it and go, “This is familiar. This is familiar, I’ve seen this before.” And it starts to kind of sink in and gets them to pay more attention because it gets over the cold call level and gets into that familiarly level.
We also do the same thing with emails. A lot of times you can take the exact same email and send it the second time, especially with conversion marketing. Conversion marketing can get really exhausting because you think, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to keep writing different things to get people to do things.” You honestly don’t. We send the same email frequently over and over again with different . . . we just make little different tweaks and changes. We change the subject line. We take the picture from the top and put it on the bottom. We rearrange the paragraphs. Little tiny tweaks of repetition can make a big difference.
Now, I’m trained as a graphic designer and I can tell you if you’re working with a graphic designer there is nothing that we like more than doing something new every time. So you need to really keep the rains on this and think through what’s good for your organization. What’s that level of repetition to new that it’s a good taste for you and for your community because there is a level of repetition where people see the same things so many times that they go, I call it they go “brand blind” and they don’t even see it anymore and then they start reporting back to you, “Oh, we never got that.”
So it’s a good thing to discuss where can you connect your emotions. How do you make it so that things are clear and simple and then you’re only asking people to do one thing at a time? And then how can you use that methodology multiple times so that it has the opportunity to sink in and communicate to people?
So now we’re going to get into like, okay, that’s the concept of doing it but how do we go out and do it? So in marketing we use the term called channels. All channel means is what pathway are you taking to connect with people, what tools are you using? Are you using a printed and mail it pathway? Are you using an email pathway? Are you using a web pathway, social media, phone? There’s lots of different ways that you can reach an audience. So by channel or multichannel marketing, what they mean is what one or combinations of methods are you using to reach your audience?
So there’s always a lot of discussion on this. And I feel like it’s kind of falls into the extremes. So sometimes people say, “Well, we need a social media strategy or we’re going to create an email campaign.” So we’re focusing on one single channel and honestly, for some projects that can be really, really effective. But for other projects, a great way to address repetition without kind of berating people over and over again through email is to do what was often called multichannel or omnichannel marketing, which means that you take that same look, that same story, that same message and kind of put it in different places where your audience is likely to see it so that it gets that repetition but it’s like, “Wait, I got that postcard in the mail and then I got an email and I just logged on to social and now there’s a post about it. It’s showing up everywhere, it’s time for me to do something.”
So that’s a great way to start to kind of diversify and kind of get into people’s lives in a way that can be really deep. The other thing I also like to say is you don’t have to be everywhere. It’s so easy to get caught up in the marketing trend drama of the world and have a board member walk in and go, “Oh, my gosh, why aren’t we on Snapchat? Oh, you need to do this,” or, “We need to be here.” Everyone has their media darling and a place that they think that you should be. My best advice to you is to be as many places as your audience is and wants to connect with you that you can do effectively, thoroughly, and completely.
If being in too many places stretches you so thin that you end up being an inch deep and a mile wide and you feel like you’re like pulled in a million directions, you’re not going to be effective as an employee, as a deliverer of messages, and it’s not going to be effective for the recipient. So there is nothing wrong with making some good choices about what you can do effectively today and do them really well and add on as you have capacity. I’m giving you marketing permission to say no.
So the next thing to focus on when it comes to your marketing is targeting your audience. So if I could tell you to pick one thing to focus on that would have the biggest impact in having you have more effective marketing, this would be it. When I say to people, “Who is your audience?” what do you think that they say to me? Most people respond with “everyone” because we want our message to be reached by so many people and many of us have a cause that could potentially be valuable to all kinds of different people from all walks of life.
The challenge when it comes to your marketing is that it is exhausting and expensive to be everywhere, as we just talked about. And so when you’re trying to be on multiple platforms talking to multiple different people, you get really thin and distracted and exhausted and it ends up getting less and less effective. If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to figure out who should be in the center of your target. Focusing on the outliers, the people in that outside ring, you’re much more likely to miss the target entirely than if you focus on the center of the target and trust that if you’re perfect for the people in the middle you’ve got the next ring and the next ring and the next ring that you have the potential to connect with people before you miss them entirely. But when you’re shooting for the outside, you never really have the chance to deeply connect with the most loyal supporters that you have.
So a good thing to think about is who are your lovers now? Who are your likers now? And who are the people that are in the outside rings that if you focus on them you really might miss out on the people the people that really love you? The most effective marketing has you understand who loves you now and who are the people in that next ring out that has the potential to come into the center. If you focus your marketing and make it perfect for those people, trust me, the right people will get pulled in.
As I heard somebody say once that they just follow in the wake, that when you’re clear and focused and targeted on the people that you know or have the highest potential, why spend the bulk of your limited marketing time focusing on the people that are the least likely and the longest pull, like they’re the furthest out, and the effort to take them from outlier to lover is a giant leap? The effort to take a liker to a lover tiny leap easier, faster, less expensive.
So ultimately what I often want is to get people to think about is many of us, especially those of you that are in smaller organizations, we don’t have the capacity to segment our marketing and make it perfect for the media, perfect for the government, perfect for the people that love us, perfect for the people that never heard of us. That’s really hard. And we don’t have the like staff, the people, the tools, whatever to be able to do that. And so because we can’t do that, we have a tendency to genericize that message, water it down, and that’s when we start throwing in, “If you were in the media or a government official, if you like horses or goats or chickens, then you can all find your happy place here,” and it just starts throwing everything into the mix and nobody really sees themselves in it.
If you focus your message on exactly the right person, believe it or not, you can do a better job without segmenting because it deeply connects with people and they’re the ones that are going to bring other people to you. So it’s not the problem that you’re not segmenting. It’s the problem that you’re watering down your message that’s really impacting the quality of your marketing.
So I want to show you a couple of examples. So this is one of our clients. We’ve been working with them for many years and they are an international organization but they’re based in Israel. They breed and train guide dogs for blinded Israeli citizens. And so when my team first got this as a client they thought, “Yay, this is awesome, cute puppies. We can sell this.”
And so in talking with the client and getting to know his audience and his community what we discovered is one thing, that the organization and the puppies are in Israel. So he doesn’t have the opportunity to trot out cute puppies here in the United States. So that even wasn’t like a technical thing that we could do really well. The other thing is lots of organizations have cute puppies. There’s lots of shelters and humane societies and all kinds of different organizations that the story is about adopting and getting a cute puppy. If we were limiting to that story it really, really helps his whole story.
What we learned about his audience is that to them, the puppy is a vehicle to create independence for people. So what they cared about wasn’t even the story of okay, you get a puppy, it was once a blinded Israeli gets that puppy, what changes in their life? What are they able to do? How are they now able to contribute back to society, back to their family, and get back to living as a full person? That’s a different story entirely, so now in everything that we do then we keep that in mind.
Their audience is the kind of person, and so it’s not about demographics. It’s about psychographics, understanding what does this person wants to see in the world? So it gets back to this idea of how do we facilitate their dreams? If you don’t know what their dream is, you can’t help them create it.
So we learned this audience’s dream is to see blinded Israeli citizens get back to their lives, and so we tell all kinds of really interesting stories. We make sure that our P.S.s reinforce that story and that’s allowed us to tell really interesting stories.
So this story that we happened to tell is about . . . we’ve already told a lot of stories of the recipients and their stories so this is a story about a puppy raiser. So in between the time where a puppy is born and a puppy is placed, that puppy has young adult families, college students, that help raise the puppies. And so one of thing things that we did as we took the story of one of their puppy raisers and we discovered in talking to the client that throughout the whole time a puppy raiser is raising a puppy, they’re taking pictures and collecting different milestones of that puppy and reporting in on how that puppy is doing. “Oh, there’s a story there.”
And so this puppy raiser wrote a story to their puppy saying goodbye to that puppy and it is like a tear-jerker story of, you know, “I had you since you were a little puppy and I watched you learn to do this and I taught you to do this and now you’re going off and I’m going to miss you so much but you’re going on to do good work.” Anyone that’s ever a lost an animal is going to feel that but it also connects with this needed service that we don’t talk about a whole lot.
So when we get into this whole flow that up and down, so the event is that letter, we’re mailing that out letter, we want people to give money. How do we fill the trough? How we use that story and expand it to connect with people? So we use these pictures of four months, five months, six months, of all these different puppy raisers, and created different types of picture combinations to go out into social. We reused the picture of this specific puppy raiser over and over again in different ways to tell her specific story.
We then told stories about the different ways that the puppy raisers connect with the new people that are receiving the dogs, the clients as they call them. So the organization had this whole event where the puppy raisers come to meet the client and they call them the new partnerships. It’s like a partnership day. But they invite this people and so it’s basically shining a little light on what’s this process like, how do we get to the point where there’s this paring made up. And what are the different roles that need financial support so that this can happen? So there’s lots of stuff about, “It takes a village and here’s what our village looks like.”
But they then intersperse these cute stories of sweet adorable moments and I love what they wrote here. “A puppy raiser returns to see how their dog is taking to training. Do you think the puppy remembers him?” So the interspersed sweet stories, different moments showing the impact of the work, engaging the community to give feedback, getting them to kind of support and cheer on these pairings so that when we tell the story of what happened, we now built this whole movement behind it where people are rooting for success.
Next way that you can improve your communications, really make your marketing work effectively, is this boring simple tactic of cleaning up your list. So we all have databases, we all have places that we put things and the thing is, as I’m sure Steven would say, your database is only as good as the information that you put into it and that if it gets old and out of date, it doesn’t work as well. So a great way to have a wonderful database is to use it, is to get it out there because people change their addresses all the time, people change jobs, people move, and so addresses go bad.
And as you’re emailing and mailing and sending these things, you’re wasting money with mail that doesn’t get to the delivery and when you’re emailing to bad email addresses, that starts to actually degrade your reputation, shall we say, as an emailer with your emailing host. And even people that have said, “Yes, I want to receive an email from you,” will start to get that email into their junk folder. This is often shocking to a lot of people that it can impact even the people that want to hear from you.
So you’ve got to really be cleaning your list and one way to do it is to kind of go in and look at each thing and kind of clean them up slowly but if you’re using it, if you’re emailing, if you’re sending it out there, you now have a list of bounces, a list of different things of ways that you can go in and make sure that list is clean.
The other thing is you need to look at your other data, you need to look at what is actually happening at your organization. So we did this with another client and they had a list of 46,000. Well, I’m sure you guys can imagine how expensive it is to mail to 46,000 names. And so we asked them, “Could you please look into your database, look into the data and information that you have and tell us like how many of those 46,000 people have given like or givers in the last let’s say three years?”
They come back and they told me, ready, “280.” Two hundred and eighty. Oh, my gosh, that’s crazy, the amount of money that they’re spending on the outliers, that outside ring of the target. And what I say is hope is not a marketing strategy. Keeping these people on your list forever, for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years in hope that maybe someday they’re going to give to you, for some organizations, can end up being a way to really bleed out of a lot of money that could be used better.
So we did a couple of things for them. One, they were telling an operational story. “Oh, Dr. Smith has just come to this thing and she’s working on this experiment.” They were talking about more annual report type topics. They were giving updates of their organization instead of talking about the outcome of what happens because you gave to that organization.
So we switched it around and we created a character called Michael, who was a recipient of incredibly life-altering dental support and we told his story and then we connected that, so we did a little multichannel. They had previously just been doing a direct mail page so we created a page on their website. We created an email for them. We created some social for them and we let them be a little more multichannel. Tell that same story in different ways. And the biggest thing that we did is we cut off everybody that hadn’t given in the last . . . if they hadn’t given three years and beyond we did not mail for them.
So we cut their list down from 46,000 to 4,600. You know, you don’t want to go down to 280 because that’s getting a little extreme. But we made a multiple of 10 factor reduction in their list. And their goal was to raise 10% more than last year and by doing this, focusing the topic, telling a great story, a little bit of multichannel, and cutting that list by a huge factor, we increased 20% of their donations over last year. So it’s shocking that sometimes doing a smaller more focused effort can have better results but it really works.
Next, make a plan. A lot of times marketing is a struggle because we end up doing it, I call it like we have a marketing seizure and we’re all running around like a chicken with our head cut off like, “Oh, my gosh, we need another flyer. Oh, my gosh, we have to get this in the mail. Oh, get some social media up there.” And it’s just like you’re shooting from the hip and doing kind of whatever somebody walks into your office today says that they need version of marketing. That is a great way to at the end of the year be completely exhausted, having spent your whole budget, and look at what you’ve done and feel like it doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its parts.
You don’t have to make planning complicated. It just takes a little bit of thinking and when you do that, what a lot of times we find is we make people start at the day you want something delivered. So whether it’s the day you want it posted online or the day that you want that letter in someone’s hands, look at that date and then back your dates up backwards so that you can actually really think about like how many days we need to do this, how many days is it going to take in the mail, how many days does the printer need? How many days does it going to take us to do revisions? Back it all the way back up and nine times out of ten our clients find, “Oh, we should have started writing two weeks ago.” That happens all the time. So it really helps you with a reality check.
So putting together a little calendar that just says, “Okay, we’re going to be doing this event in November, what are we doing, where are our selling points, and where are our sharing points?” To make sure that you can create that flow, sometimes it’s helps to do it for a specific project. Like this is an example of an annual package. So if it’s your annual appeal you’ve got to have a mail and you’ve got your email, you’ve got all these different components but you can also do it with your overall marketing calendar and say, “Well, we need to drop our invitation for the gala in November so that means that in October or September we should put out a newsletter, that’s just news. And then we should have another one in November or December after it. Maybe we’ll do it in November because then in December we’re going to be asking for a gift.”
So it helps you sort of plan. I had somebody tell me they call that image, “the marketing heartbeat.” So you want to plan out your marketing heartbeat so that you have your intensities and your pauses so that your community feels engaged and not overwhelmed.
So here’s an example of when you plan things out and think in this multichannel way, you know, where you can get to. So this is another one of our clients that had this little “Adopt a Patient” campaign that they had just done with their staff. So it was a staff giving day, giving request, that they had over a couple of weeks and they asked us to help them expand it so that it would grow beyond staff.
So we took the looks that they already had and we translated it into lots of different media but as you can see it all looks very similar. So designers, we all want to make everything look different, simple, simple message, simple graphic, strong simple consistent color. They then were able to take it through. They did some onsite work. They did some video work.
Doing all these stuff got them really noticed so they were able to get some PR, and some media coverage. And so they’re able to tell this story that started with before it happened and then captured stuff on the days that it happened and then that gave them resources and assets that they could use to talk about [inaudible 00:48:55] after it happened.
So by planning and thinking about all the components that they needed, they were able to create a much bigger footprint of marketing than they would have if they were just like, “Oh, somebody call Channel 10. Oh, somebody post something on social media.” And the whole thing was calmer and less chaotic.
So we’re getting near the end so if you have questions please throw them into the chat now, put them out to Steven, and we can make sure that we capture any questions that you guys have. So we’re going to talk a little bit as we wrap up here on your keys to success.
Tactics. You really need to think about your team, your time, and your budget. It’s easy to have a great idea. It’s easy for a board member to walk in with a great idea and says a lot of “we should” when it comes to marketing. But when you are doing something with a small team, even if it’s a big team, like your assets are what you have, your tools are what you have. You have to think about what you have the capacity to do and do well. So choose the things that you can do that are going to have the biggest impact on your primary audience the fastest and do those first.
This isn’t to say that the other ideas aren’t a good idea but there’s a tremendous value in creating what we call a parking lot, a place where you can put great ideas that you don’t yet have the capacity to do. And the more you start thinking about what you can do from the inside out that will grow and build on each other rather than ransom ideas disconnected, it’s really going to have a much stronger impact on connecting your marketing and awareness efforts to your giving and fundraising and donations and conversion efforts.
Tech. There’s lots of big ideas, there’s lots of different tech out there but do you have tools like Bloomerang to support you in the things that you want to do. Is your site mobile? Can you capture emails? Do you have all the logins you need to get into those things or did your last intern take them with you when they left? You’ve got to have the right tech that matches up and supports your ideas and that doesn’t necessary mean fancy. You do not have to go full AI to be able to function in today’s marketing world. You have to make sure that the tech that you have, though, does support you and help you get further along in what you want to do.
If you’re finding you’re doing a lot of stuff manually, that makes a great time to start looking at what are some tools that you want to do next. If you want to start capturing emails and doing repeat and recurring marketing, having a database that lets you know what you’ve done in the past can be a tremendous asset.
Planning. Work backwards, as I said. A big thing to think about when you’re looking at your timelines are consider who needs to review and how accessible they are. We all have been to August, right, when we’ve got stuff that were getting ready and we’re like, “Oh, we’re going to start our gala stuff early.” And then everything comes to a dead standstill because this week Jones is on vacation and next week Mark is on vacation and you can’t get a quorum together to actually approve everything and it just feels like it’s inching forward. When things move too fast it can fall apart, but also, surprisingly, when things move too slow they can fall apart because we all forget where they are and in what stage and there’s a lot of time that gets wasted in having to like refresh ourselves.
So think about everything from your schedule to the reviewer’s schedule. And think about what needs to be done before the next thing needs to be done. If you really think all the way backwards, you’ll know you’ve got to write your letter copy for your print direct mail before . . . and then if you have that, you’ve got that to then start iterating off of to create your emails. And then if you have that, you can iterate off of that to create your social media posts rather than saying, “I need to start off with social media posts.”
So that’s what I have for you today and a great way to get started in really getting your hands, getting your arms around what’s going on with your marketing and do we actually have the tools that we need to do what we want to do and what are we actually spending our time on is to do a little what I called a little mini communication audit. It’s to just take a whole bunch of examples of your stuff and throw it on a table and take a look at it, what are we really spending our time doing?
So I have a little tool to help you do that. It’s just at two-sided checklist that’s going to help you kind of take a look at the different buckets of marketing things that many people often have. And Steven is going to be helping me connect with you and I will be sending that to you guys either later this week or early next week so that you get a sample of this that you can download it and use it in your organizations. So that’s what I have for you. Steven, are there any questions?
Steven:Yeah, there are, but first I just want to say thanks for being here and sharing all that knowledge with us, really awesome stuff. This was great. So thanks for being here. We owe you one big time and I know I shifted around the schedule on this one so Beth was nice enough to accommodate me. So if you enjoyed this, give a shout out to Beth from the chat, send her a tweet, let her know you liked it because I like it and I thought it’s pretty good. So yeah, we’ve got some questions here. We probably don’t have time enough for everyone but you can see Beth’s contact information. I assume it’s okay if they reach out to you Beth, is that cool?
Beth:Yes, absolutely. And if you like if you can’t stay or if you’re listening, like in the future, if you’re listening to the recording and you have a question that because you weren’t live you didn’t get to, please feel free to email me. I’m happy to answer you. I’m going to be emailing you this communication audit checklist and thanks, Lori, glad you liked it. We should visit. If you’re a local to the Philadelphia area, hey, come, you know, say hi. Please feel free to reach out to me on, connect with me on LinkedIn, I love, love connecting with people there and let’s see.
Steven, can you pick out a question that’s a good one to answer for people?
Steven:Yeah. My favorite question in here, I love this question. What’s the ideal relationship between the marketing department and the fundraising department? Any experience with those silos? I am married to a nonprofit marketer that has to interface with the fundraising department so I love this question. Beth, I’m curious with your take on it.
Beth:Okay. So you guys are not crazy, it’s a problem. So a lot of times what happens is it’s like you have like two warring fiefdoms and like the head of marketing and the head of development, both want to own the story. And I see this a lot professionally in big organizations. I don’t know if it happens as much in small ones because there’s not always two, like, power heads. But this happens a lot in organizations and it is the number one killer of participation. Over the five years that we’ve been doing the podcast, collaboration is the number two thing that people bring up as a key driver in participation. God, I’ve been saying the word for five years and I can’t say it.
And so one of the massive things that we are seeing is that when you want things to work smoothly in your organization, people have to be willing to compromise and to work together. And so creating things like I’m going to—okay, ready, jargon alert—cross functional teams. You know, creating teams of people that are kind of representing different aspects of your organization and often unrelated aspects of your organization.
We always joke that our vice president here comes from a marketing background but not a design background and in the early years she would come over and like give her like art direction opinion and we’d be like, “That’s not your job.” But the reality is she’s been with us for 16 years. This is what she knows now, so like us getting to this stage where we weren’t dismissive of somebody that didn’t have a design background giving design input has been transformational because we now are open to hearing what like somebody that isn’t a designer is going to respond to for design because guess what? That’s 90% of the people that look at design, that use the design.
Beth:So it’s been so helpful like getting that perspective. So creating an organization where you become open to that and breaking down these things. So starting by creating like even little tiny teams and having even little innovation sessions where you bring different people from different areas of your organization and even people outside, bring some of your lovers, likers and outliers together to give you feedback, it’s a huge help.
Steven:I love it. More than a couple of people have asked about events, so galas, golf tournaments, all that good stuff. What advice do you have for people who like your advice and maybe want to apply it to the event side?
Beth:Okay, that’s a great, great question. And I can actually tell you this from personal experience because we do a lot of testing on this. So I know I talked about this idea of you can’t just sell down people’s throats all the time, you’ve got to intersperse it with sharing and giving other things. I can tell you what we have found, though, when we’re in a selling cycle.
So for us, we teach, we have an online class series and so we teach an online marketing class every single month. And so that means you’ve got to market, market, market and fill that class and then take a little breather and then market again. So we have that same cycle that you guys do. So we definitely have filled our downtime with a great news letter and information and education. But we’ve tested interspersing that like educational aspect into our sales emails and I have to say, they tank.
Like I’ve tried like here’s a selling email and then here’s a blog version like where I’m going to give you three paragraphs of education and then at the end try and sell. I have found personally that doesn’t always work as well. But my advice to you is experiment. Try it. Like, experiment doesn’t mean do a whole bunch of crazy things that people think. Experiment means literally a semi-scientific version of it, try one thing at a time and pay attention to what happens.
If you’re in a sales cycle for an event, a gala, golf outing, whatever, you send out a very direct sales message, click here, donate, click here, register. And then the next one you send out is maybe a little bit more of a story that at the end gets to, “And that’s why you should come to this event,” you’ve got to be watching what’s the difference. Now, I can tell you there’s unfortunately also a million variables. You’re never going to get a clean test unless you do what’s called split testing which we do not have the time to get into here. Because the reality is that, you know, more people will often buy for some things like we find we get a ton of people that buy on the last email. Well, that last email isn’t necessarily any better or different than anything else, it’s just that’s when people are ready to buy.
But my advice is we’ve found that when you’re in a focused selling mode focused on selling, experiment a little bit with interspersing your other things but you have to be . . . I think it goes to the clarity thing. You can’t ask people to pay attention to too many different things at once and so by mixing in too many different things while you’re selling, they get distracted. So I would suggest mostly keeping your trough filling to in between your selling time, focusing, as you will know if you go back and listen to Steven’s podcast episode that he did with me, focused heavily on the thanking and the gratitude promptly as a trough filler afterwards and keep your selling as tight as possible, don’t let it go on forever. And then pick one thing to experiment with in each selling cycle. That would be my advice.
Steven:I love it. And this awesome Beth, it’s a little after 2:00 so I want to be respectful of everyone’s time that registered and attended but no way to get to all the questions so I apologize for that. It’s too much good stuff but please reach out to Beth, right, Beth, you can take questions over email, that’s cool with you?
Steven:Do it, and check out all of her resources.
Beth:Yeah. So you’ll be getting the checklist from me in a couple of days, I promise, and please, come find me on Twitter, come find me on LinkedIn, happy to connect with other people that are trying to figure this marketing stuff out.
Steven:I love it. Yeah, and say hi to her if you’re in Philly. Look her up.
Steven:She’s a cool person obviously.
Well, this is fun. Thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so. You’ll get the checklist from Beth, you’ll get the recording from me, you’re going to get all kinds of good stuff here in the next day or so. So be on the lookout for that.
We’ve got some more webinars coming up. We got a special Valentine’s Day themed webinar next Thursday. I couldn’t resist it, fiscal sponsorships, yeah. So we’re going to talk about relationships with those fiscal sponsors. We’re going to have some fun. Yes, that’s sounds like a boring topic but it’s not, and Greg is going to make it fun. Greg Nielsen, he’s an awesome guy, really knows his stuff when it come to fiscal sponsorship and it’s a topic that we got a lot of requests for. So here you go, so register for it, a week from tomorrow, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, it’ll be fun for sure.
So register for it and if you’re not quite into that topic or maybe if you’re taking Valentine’s Day off or something, there’s lots of other webinars you can register for on out into the future and Beth we’ll have back for sure because this is a lot of fun. So we’ll call it a day there. Look for emails from Beth and I. We’ll get some good stuff in your hands and hopefully we’ll see again next week. So have a good rest of your Wednesday. If you’re watching this in the future I hope you’re having a good day in general and hopefully, we’ll talk you again soon.