Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 1
“Marketing?” you ask. “Who, us? We’re a nonprofit. We shouldn’t be thinking about marketing—we need to concentrate on our mission.”
Let’s get two things straight: marketing is just as applicable to .orgs as it is to .coms, and a nonprofit can and should approach marketing the same way as (if not better than) a for-profit. Marketing is attracting attention to and building demand for what you’ve created. Or, in nonprofit terms, marketing is informing people about your mission and attracting those who care about your cause to your organization.
Digital—i.e., online—marketing can be a powerful tool for nonprofits. To help illustrate this point, I’ll be doing a series of posts describing GuideStar’s digital marketing journey. Every organization is different and must create and evolve strategies to meet its users’ needs. But I hope that you’ll be able to apply key points in GuideStar’s experience to your organization.
Meet the Attention Economy
We are currently living in an attention economy. The digital world is inundated with products, brands, and people seeking attention. To attract eyes to your organization, you must be more interesting than your prospect’s current subject of attention.
“In an attention economy (like this one), marketers struggle for attention. If you don’t have it, you lose.” —Seth Godin, best-selling author of Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Tribes
The best way to break a potential prospect’s preoccupation is to incite a feeling of curiosity, wonder, or concern. The good news is, nonprofits tend to have a natural advantage provoking these feelings compared to their for-profit counterparts, because their missions are generally geared toward inspiring change.
The GuideStar Experience: Personas
GuideStar attracts more than 7 million unique users a year, and those users visit GuideStar for a wide variety of reasons. That’s a lot of attention focused on many different parts of our organization. To best serve our users, we identified and segmented these visitors into 17 different personas.
Segmenting our audience in this way allows us to create a vast library of different messaging and content for our multiple value propositions as well as a different user experience for each persona. With this tailored approach, we can educate our users on how GuideStar can best help them achieve their goals on our site.
Wait! What is a persona?
“A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables a marketer to focus on a manageable and memorable group of users, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals.”
Defining personas is one of the first steps in creating a top-down, funnel approach to marketing. The funnel approach not only lets you create your footprint in digital marketing but also an ever-increasing, evergreen (i.e., ongoing) system of strategies that will keep your organization marketing successfully far into the future. We’ll dive more deeply into these topics in future posts, and we’ll also go over an agile framework that will help you manage your newly blossoming strategies.
But first things first:
How Good Is Your Website?
Before you begin extensive outreach, you must ensure that your website offers your users an optimal experience. This process can be simple as making sure your landing pages are clear and concise with intuitively navigable conversion/registration points. Pretend you’re a first-time visitor. Does the page load quickly? Do the hyperlinks, tabs, or pull-down menus work? Are the content and next steps easily navigable? Was there an easy transition to the next page?
The next blog post will touch on the top-two segments of the marketing funnel, because if you want to attract and educate your visitors (potential customers/donors/members, etc.), you need to do more than simply build a site: you need to optimize it. Come back in a couple weeks, when I will go over easy ways to educate visitors at the top of your funnel, create easily navigable user paths, and the beginning stages of SEO (search engine optimization).