A few years ago, a common marketing approach was “spray and pray.” Spread lots of messages and hope someone sees, hears and responds. It was not very efficient or effective. Who read that newsletter? What did our supporters need? Unless they told you, it was hard to know because you couldn’t monitor their behaviors.
Today you have many tools to connect with supporters and gauge their behaviors. You can see what emails they open, what they forward, read, share, etc. With this information, you can stop spraying your messages and hone in on communicating to like-minded people – your best prospects.
Your approach needs to shift.
Instead of trying to convince everyone of your nonprofit’s worth, make yourself available to like-minded people who are already attracted to what you do. Stop running after people who won’t connect to you. Stand still and be available and easy to find. This is called “inbound marketing.” Instead of going outbound and spreading your message, hoping someone responds, stand strong in your message and make your organization easy to find. When people are interested in your cause and go looking, there you are! And because they have self-identified as “interested,” you already know they think your mission is worthy and valuable.
Draw like-minded people to you.
Standing strong in your message and being easy-to-find means keeping your site updated, blogging, posting and tweeting relevant information, and having solid SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. This also means looking at how you spend your money and the return you’re getting for that investment.
A local private school used to spend a large portion of its marketing budget every year on advertising (spray and pray outbound marketing). When they surveyed their families, they found that only three percent of them said that they learned about the school through advertising. The school’s most effective form of marketing was word of mouth from families, friends, and coworkers. This is the best example of inbound marketing. The school is now cutting back on ads and using that money on events and materials that help current families share about their school experiences with prospective families.
But no one has ever heard of us.
A common complaint we hear is, “No one has ever heard of us.” Our response is, “So what?” Who are these people? Does it matter if they haven’t heard about you? Are they likely prospects? Convincing absolutely everyone that your organization is worthy and valuable only to have most of them not become supporters is a waste of your valuable time, energy and money.
It may seem counter-intuitive to not chase after prospects. It feels like you’re not doing your job. But when you focus on sharing stories of value and interest, being helpful, available and findable, your best prospects will respond. It will get you off the communications treadmill and will get you results.