Effective Marketing for Nonprofits: part 1
If you read a lot of the marketing advice, it’s going to tell you that the secret to getting a response from donors is to tell your story and use the latest tactics.
While this isn’t bad advice, it’s shallow; tomorrow the words will change as will all the newest tricks. If you want effective marketing, you need to go to the deepest principles, and use those to inform your strategy. How can you do that? Here’s a thought to start:
Marketing is inherently relational. It’s just building relationships with people at scale.
By “relational”, I mean that it’s about building relationships. If this is true, then relational skills are key to marketing. They will help you be more principled, natural, and effective in attracting and retaining donors.
When trying to reach many people at scale, most of us think, “if I use an attention-grabbing headline and a good story, they will come.”
Good headlines are wonderful, but we forget that it’s asking questions and showing interest that draws people to in. In other words, people like us when we are good listeners!
Deep Marketing Principles that Have Long-Lasting Effectiveness
In digital marketing it’s too easy to forget about listening and to do all the talking ourselves. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that we lack better relationships with the people in our audience.
Because of this, let’s learn how to transfer active listening into your marketing to make it effective. First, here’s a quick definition: Active listening is a technique in which,
The therapist listens to a client closely, asking questions as needed, in order to fully understand the content of the message and the depth of the client’s emotion. The therapist typically restates what has been said to ensure accurate understanding. Active listening is particularly associated with client-centered therapy.”American Psychology Association Dictionary
The main things to notice from this definition are:
- listening closely
- asking questions as needed to fully understand both the message and the emotion
- restating what was said to ensure accuracy
- client-centered (or donor-centered)
While this concept can be applied in many ways, let’s look at how you can active listen in social media and in ad copy. In the next article we’ll explore how you can apply active listening to your website and email.
Active Listening in Social Media Marketing
Although social media is the ideal place to use active listening in marketing, it feels like very few people do. It’s more like a place where no one listens and everyone has something to say about themselves.
This article by Hubspot shares the impact in social media that questions have on likes, comments, and shares. In short, asking questions elicits more responses (but less likes and shares). This might discourage you from asking more questions, however, there are two questions to consider:
- Do likes and shares or comments (replies) help you build relationships with people in your audience?
- What is your goal for the post you are making?
Let’s address each of these considerations briefly:
- Comments/Replies can do much more to build a relationship with people than a like or a share, especially if you continue the conversation. Invite the person who replied to share more; link them to a quiz or survey where they can tell their own story.
- There are obviously many goals for social media marketing, including growing your audience, serving your audience, and building relationships. However, more quantitative engagement is not always better – often a big win is just a few quality interactions.
How to Use Active Listening in Social Media to Build Relationships
- Follow relevant hashtags so that you can see what others are posting and sharing
- Like, comment, and reply to these posts when appropriate. Support your audience or other people talking about relevant topics, and make them feel good
- Respond to your Facebook fundraisers with a public thank you (companies like GivePanel can automate this)
- Invite people to message your organization through your Facebook page and monitor the Messenger inbox
- Build community using tools like Facebook groups. If you get a group of a reasonable size, have one person on staff take time to foster that community
Social media is a natural place where relational skills can help you to market more effectively, especially when you can use tools automate some of it.
Active Listening in Google Search Ads
When running a search ad campaign, active listening makes writing amazing ad copy much easier. By the way, a good search ad program for nonprofits is the free Google Ad Grant!
Unlike other forms of advertising, which interrupt the user’s activity, Google search ads are much more like a conversation. Think about it:
- The conversation starts when a user types in a question, problem, or subject they want to know more about.
- Behind the scenes, Google gives the user as relevant results as possible. Their algorithm aims to both match the terms the user entered and as technology improves, the user’s intent.
- Finally, you respond to the user with your ad. The better you listen, the more the user will think, “You get me!” and click on your ad as the best one.
If you write ad copy hoping users will think about what you care about, your mindset will hinder success. This is like a conversation where instead of listening to you, the other person is busy thinking about what they want to say the moment you finish talking.
To counter this tendency, your approach in writing ads should be, “How can I actively listen to my audience and write ads that show I understand what they are looking for?”
Writing Better Ads
Most people spend only a couple of seconds scanning the Google results before making a decision to click. Unlike true active listening, which repeats the speaker for the sake of accuracy while drawing out the meaning and emotion, in a Google ad all you need to do to actively listen is to restate what they said. In other words, repeat a user’s exact keywords in your ad headline. Doing this shows that you are listening and that what they have to say is important.
Using this principle, here’s one way you can write a good search ad:
Headline 1: Repeat back to the user what they searched (close to word-for-word) Headline 2: Summarize the main question, problem or emotion Headline 3: Share how you can help Description: Share what you’re offering and provide a call to action for them to take.
*Advanced tip: use dynamic keyword insertion to allow Google’s AI to add some of the user’s search terms into your headline!
Effective marketing is not about growing quantitative numbers, with the aim that whoever has the higher number wins. Using relational skills to be effective helps you remember that marketing is about serving and building relationships with real people.
Lastly, because we looked at search ads and how these can be very effective for nonprofits, you might be interested to know whether the Google Grants program could be an effective way to grow relationships with new donors.
If you’re curious to whether this program could be valuable for your nonprofit, we’ve created a free quiz: