Most people think of traditional for profit business when they hear the word "marketing." Let's start by discussing what exactly "marketing" is, and why it is directly approachable, applicable and valuable to your non-profit organization.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is the process of creating relationships with customers, or in this case donors. That's all it is. That probably sounds a lot like what you do everyday right now! That's the thing about marketing, it's not about enticing or tricking people into giving you money with complex, confusing strategies (though that is the tactic of many); it's about building an authentic relationship with those you truly believe will both draw and add value to what you do! This is the elusive "win-win" we all strive for and should be the goal of your marketing campaigns.
Before we move into what the benefits of marketing are and how you can start doing it, let's lay a good foundation. Before you get started you should have a specific idea of who you're trying to reach with your content. You need to have a specific picture of your target demographic. A great exercise is to create a "character" that perfectly describes exactly who you plan and envision being a part of what you're doing. It's very easy to just say "everybody" especially when you're doing good work! But you must narrow your demographic to get as specific as possible. If there's one thing that kills a marketing campaign it's being ambiguous.
So you need to pick a target demographic. You can get very specific and should be as specific as you can!
Here's a few points to define to get started:
-How old is your demographic
-What does your demographic do for a living
-Where does your demographic live
-What is your demographic's level of income
-What is your demographics family dynamic / status
The next thing you need to do is get very specific with the goal of your marketing, what channels you're going to use to reach your audience and what medium you're going to use.
You need to know exactly what you want to accomplish by spending your time, energy and resources on creating this marketing content.
Here's a two basic categories of marketing goals:
1. Awareness: This is you posting content purely to get in front of more people. You're not asking anybody for anything! A great tactic here is to use case studies. Get someone you've helped to get on video, or write a statement of how much you helped them. Here you're just hoping to get your name in front of more people and for more people to know what you do.
2. Conversions: Conversions is when you put an ask in front of your audience. A simple example is "Hey click this link to get [this thing]" then you track how many people click the link. Normally the goal of this would be to receive a donation, capture contact information generating a lead or to get them to show up somewhere or take other further action. Again it's generally a good idea to do some "awareness" marketing before trying to get your audience to convert aka presenting them with an ask.
A channel is simply what service or portal your target demographic is going to be consuming your content through. Here's an example of some channels:
-In person (seminars, conferences)
The key to keep in mind when choosing your channels is that you should not spread your self too thin. You should choose 1-2 channels to really hone in and focus on. If you try to hit all the channels at the beginning you will get overwhelmed and not be effective in any one of the channels. You should choose the channel that you are most familiar and comfortable with to get started. It's very important to be consistent with the channel of your choice! Pick one, stick with it, get it down then consider expanding to other channels.
The medium of your content is what type of content it is. Do you run a podcast, a blog, or post videos? Well that's your medium! Again you should play to your strengths here and get specific. You should choose 1-2 mediums that you're most comfortable with and start there.
If you're consistent, work hard and put out great, focused content you will begin to see traction in your channels.
So now that we have a better idea of what marketing is, let's look at why you should be doing it.
Here's a quick punch-list of benefits you'll get from marketing
-Engage with your audience / demographic
-Build your brand (yes your non-profit is still a brand)
-Paint yourself as an authority in the space
-Build your audience through exposure to new relationships
How to get started:
The first thing you need to do to get started is choose your channel and build your organization into it. For example if you decide that you want to use Facebook and your Website (a great place to start) then you, of course, need to have a website and a Facebook account for your organization. Once you have these built out, it's time to start making content!
Starting out your goal is not to get your audience / demographic to do anything or give you anything. This is a key point and where most new marketers make a critical error. Think about it, you're asking people that don't know you or what you do to give you something whether that be time or money.
Here's an example of what not to do:
You have an event coming up that you want to market to get it in front of more people. So, a week before the event you get on your organization's Facebook page (which you only update when you're asking people for things) and post about the event inviting people to come out. Then you boost the post (pay for ads, AKA more traffic on your post) and don't understand why nobody signed up. Here's why:
They don't know you! They have no relationship with you, and frankly don't care about your event.
Picture a close friend inviting you somewhere; then picture a random person stopping you on the street and asking you to go somewhere with them. One is exciting, the other is annoying at best! Now here's the hard part: your event is probably going to be awesome and the people seeing the ads might really love it! But they won't even pay attention because they don't yet know or trust you!
Your goal is to build relationship. Don't ask for anything! You haven't earned that yet.
Post content that your demographic will find:
Do this consistently through your best medium and you will build traction and see results. Then once you have built a brand and a reputation, present your ask. That's the process. There's no quick fixes, shortcuts or easy ways out. If you try that you'll end up burning ad dollars with little to no impact.
Ad boosting posts early in the process:
Now that we have a better understanding of the process, how can we speed it up a bit? Building organic traction can take months or years! I know that not everybody has that type of time. When you're starting out it can be hard to get the ball rolling. This is where ad boosting posts early in the process adds value. Ad boosting a post puts it in front of lots more people, people that would otherwise never see your content. Keep the posts the same: No ask, just valuable content. Target the ad narrowly to your specific demographic(narrow casting, not broadcasting), set your budget and if you have quality content and the right demographic you will see substantially increased growth rates.
Another fundamental practice to get started and keep the ball rolling is to set up a marketing calendar. For instance if you want to post one video and one blog per week; set up a recurring calendar event and delegate out the different responsibilities to get things out consistently!
When should you ask?
Timing your ask is important. You don't want to scare off new followers with an ask too quickly; but you also don't want to wait too long and miss out on opportunity. Unfortunately there's no one size fits all solution here. Go with your gut but you should probably force yourself to be more patient than you think you have to be!
What's the outcome?
Back to our scenario, but this time you present your ask inviting your audience to your event AFTER putting in the leg work, building traction and authority over the last six months to a year. Now when your audience sees a post from you they are expecting to be educated or entertained with content that pertains to them and their interests. They see an invite to an event and assume it's quality based on the trust they've developed with your brand. Now they're much more likely to show interest in and sign up for your event. You've essentially turned a cold lead into a warm lead. That's a big deal!
If you're not marketing, start marketing. If you are marketing and aren't seeing success, start trying to add value to your audience's day with your content instead of constantly asking them for something!
Have questions? Want to connect? Reach out!