What can a large company learn from a small non-profit? Not much, it would seem at first glance. When you break down certain areas, though, even the biggest company’s marketers can learn a few things from their non-profit marketing expert counterparts.
I’ve spent more than half of my life working in various communication fields, and more than ten years have been spent working in non-profit development and marketing. There are many fantastic things a corporate marketing expert can do with a significant budget, don’t get me wrong. From the incredible way Super Bowl advertisers prompted football fans to check out — and even crash — their Web sites to the amazing new technology making things like augmented reality and Pokémo Go a reality, the opportunities are endless.
For most small non-profits, though, a marketing budget is a wonderful dream. As a supporter of the mission, you want to to reach as many people as possible who might also be interested in supporting the mission, finding your target audience and producing creative, compelling pieces that will pique the interest of the broader community. But, as a supporter of the mission, you also want to see as much funding as possible be used to take care of the recipients of the non-profit’s services, understanding that as much as you want the new camera, the clients and recipients come first.
A marketing expert for a non-profit might not have the same resources — and your small business might not, either. Here are ten lessons from non-profit marketing you can use today to boost your marketing.
Keep it Simple
Knowing that a non-profit has little to no marketing budget, a small non-profit marketing expert can’t really think about hiring a huge production team for a high-budget informational video, let alone a series of advertisements. (Yes, a grant might make this a possibility, but the competitive nature of most grants doesn’t make this a probability).
Don’t have the money for that camera? Pick up a small point-and-shoot or, better than spending any money, pull out your phone. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. smartphone users have an iPhone, so learn how to use the technology in your pocket. Practice some of these tips to get great photos with your iPhone, like keeping your lens clean, don’t use the zoom or flash, and find a great editing program.
Your marketing doesn’t have to be complicated or hard-to-manage to be effective. It needs to resonate with your target audience, and with some practice, something to-the-point and simple can be just as impactful and a highly-scripted shoot.
Good Communication Requires Good Communication
I am a huge fan of good, thorough communication. I love lists and color-coding to keep everyone on the same page. Whether you’re a marketing expert, a business owner, or a team member working with coworkers or with your target audience, mastering good communication should be a goal.
Good communication comes when a time-sensitive or timely message is clearly and efficiently delivered, received and understood. What does that mean?
- Working with your team: If you’re the owner or supervisor, make sure your marketing department has the information the need. Learn to estimate the time and finances that might need to go into your project. Develop a standardized procedure and make sure each participant knows their specific role in completing the task.
- Working with your target audience: Have you noticed that Facebook lets you know how quickly a business or organization responds to a message? Reports are regularly published about the level of connectedness in our society — people are hardwired to expect instant gratification, says marketing expert Neil Patel, warning that once you start to provide this, it becomes the expected standard.
This doesn’t mean you need to stretch yourself to answer every message the second you receive the notification. However, it can shape how you build your Web site and social media. What are the questions most people are asking? What information do they want? Spell it out clearly, make it easily accessible, and then provide links to act as arrows that point your target audience members to the information.
A thorough, clear response is always better than a confusing, muddled message, even if it takes a bit longer to receive.
Understand Your Analytics
Data analysis is a big focus, and knowing how to read and extrapolate information from your Web site and social media analytics can help you direct your future posts. Luckily, you don’t need an advanced statistics or mathematics education to learn more about what your target audience prefers.
Start to track one area of your analytics. You may want to start by looking at the numbers tied to your text-only, photo, and video posts. What is your organic reach on each post? What has the most shares? Then, look at the content of each of those posts. You’ll start to see what your followers prefer as far as the type and delivery of the content. Don’t be surprised to see different results from different social media platforms, as the demographics of each network’s user base are different.
Another example: look at the time your fans and followers are most active. Posting at those times gives your message a better chance at being seen.
This goes for the analytics program running on your Web site, the platform you choose for e-mail marketing or automated marketing, and other trackable activities. Make it a habit to look at the trends in each area and develop your publications and plans around them. Speaking of plans…
Almost any activity is more fruitful and effective if planning is involved. Developing a plan gives you the framework to build your daily schedule, your long-term marketing activities, and the coordination of each moving part.
A marketing plan and content calendar is a vital tool for any marketing expert because of the ability and growth it can generate for the business. It helps you to set measurable, meaningful, and manageable goals and develop the strategy that will help you complete each of them. It challenges you to more in-depth thinking about your target audience and the messages and content that will meet their needs.
If you’re getting started, a marketing plan template is the best way to incorporate this into your marketing activities. As you develop your plan, you may think of additional pieces you want to add. This plan should be a living document that you refer to on a regular basis. You may plan one activity that doesn’t work as well as you’d expected, but approaching the goal from a different direction produces much better results.
Get Creative With What You’ve Got
When you have little to no marketing budget, it’s time to think outside the box. Look for new and creative ways to reach your target audience.
- Develop an experiential marketing campaign: Invite prospects and potential customers to a face-to-face encounter with your brand. This could be a behind-the-scenes tour, a local impact event like the Google Impact Challenge, or even co-marketing, like Google and Zappos. You might put together a team to hit the streets, a brand ambassador program, or try holding a contest.
- Teach something: You could offer a class on-site, create an interactive instruction manual, or produce some how-to videos that give prospects a deeper understanding of what you do.
- Create outstanding content: Most marketing boils down to the content. From your social media and blog posts to your flyers and brochures, your target audience members want meaningful, valuable content. Lists, collections, and even employee happenings all make great starting points.
Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Something New
The marketing industry changes on a regular basis as new technology and trends are developed and target audiences shift in terms of the most effective messaging. Even the best marketing expert still takes continuing education courses, subscribes to blogs, and incorporates new areas of marketing.
While you might be working on developing your content creation habits, you should also work on your content consumption habits. Whether you want to improve your SEO, develop a PPC ad program, or post a video on YouTube, instruction manuals abound. Set one personal or professional goal and seek out the resources that can help you accomplish your goal.
Focus Your Efforts
Why is laser-cutting so effective? All of the energy from that light is concentrated on one spot. A small non-profit doesn’t typically have a large marketing department; most small businesses don’t, either. Instead of starting 12 projects and scrambling to keep up with them, put your efforts into one concentrated, multi-pronged project.
Perhaps you want to increase traffic to your Web site. Start by increasing the number of blog posts. Use a compelling call to action, and give your readers content that captivates. Use your analytics to see which blog posts are retaining your readers and how long they are staying on each post.
Work the Room
Are you a member of a local business organization? Consider joining a networking group. Chambers of commerce, professional groups, and even non-profits offer networking opportunities. Take advantage of the benefits of your membership by attending these events. You’ll meet people who are there to get to know others in their local business community and learn more about the options to their own customers. This could mean finding a future marketing partner, an ally who makes regular referrals to your business, or even your next faithful customer.
Other local professional groups may hold events with speakers. Lend your experience and expertise by giving a presentation. You’ll make yourself — and your business known — while adding value to prospects’ lives and establishing trust and authority with listeners.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Don’t make a post and expect it to go viral overnight. It can happen unexpectedly, but most high-traffic brand marketing is established over months and years of brand building. This includes raising awareness of the brand, getting to know your target audience and the content they like to share, and crafting content that catches their attention.
A skilled marketing expert knows that successful, lasting increase doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop and execute a plan. Be patient and faithful to your plan, change course if your long-term plan doesn’t generate the results you’d expected, and celebrate every victory, from your first 1,000 shares to the one customer comment that speaks volumes about your work.
None of this matters if you don’t put it into action. Marketing isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it field. It’s a creative, hands-on, data-driven field that can be done with any budget, exceptional patience, and carefully thought-out planning.
As any non-profit knows, results don’t happen on their own. Whether you’re sheltering homeless animals, raising awareness about a cause, or operating a gym, the marketing of the mission requires people who are excited about the mission and the message and willing to do whatever it takes to spread the word.
Non-profits are passionate about their causes. A marketing expert has passion for the product they are marketing — but you don’t have to be a marketing expert or work at a non-profit to have that same passion for your product. The biggest lesson non-profit marketing can teach any business is that if you’re excited about your product, your customers will be, as well.
Show, don’t sell: Show them the results your product or service offers.
Inform, don’t intrude: Join them in their own goals for their lives and show them how you can help them achieve those goals.
If you’re not sure where to start, give us a call. Business Marketing Engine specializes in small business marketing, helping you to grow. Better yet, take advantage of our free consultation (another non-profit marketing tip — find free consultations and audits to learn more about available resources for your business). Our team of experts will help you find the best path to grow your business at any budget.