Effective Marketing for Nonprofits: part 2
As I shared in the previous article on active listening in social media and Google ads, marketing is inherently relational. So if you want to get a response, the skills that serve you in real-life relationships serve you well here. While the latest marketing tactics change all the time, relational skills will always be effective.
This means is it’s wise to use marketing to listen more, ask questions and give opportunities for your audience to share, rather than always being the one to talk.
As a quick reminder from the previous article, the definition of active listening is:
“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 I notice from this definition are:
- listen closely
- ask questions as needed to fully understand both the message and the emotion
- restate what is said to ensure accuracy
- be client-centered (or donor centered)
In this article, I want to show how you can apply this concept to your website and emails.
Active Listening with your Website
Before a visitor even comes to your website, you can start to show active listening through your ads. When they do arrive, you have even more chances to listen in order to keep building a relationship.
There are several ways your website can be responsive to visitors; here are three specific strategies I want to highlight:
Use short polls to see if visitors are getting the information they are looking for, then ask them for feedback. Here are three examples of questions you can ask:
- “Is our organization’s mission clear and understandable from this page?” (Y / N)
- “Are you finding everything you are looking for?” (Y / No – What are you looking for?______)
- “What information do you wish we also included on this page?” (Fill in the blank answer)
Hotjar is a free resource you can use to create these small, simple polls to invite user feedback. There are several tools on Hotjar you can use to “listen” to your users’ behavior and make your website responsive. However, polls are the most direct way to ask for feedback and show visitors that you want to listen.
Embed surveys on confirmation pages so that supporters see them after taking action, like joining your email list or donating.
On these surveys, ask them questions like:
- Tell us your story. How does this cause connect to you?
- Was it easy to ______ (action taken)?
- What is your vision for this cause? What do you hope to see happen, and how can we help be part of that?
Using surveys in this way has three benefits. They help you:
- Find supporters who are passionate about your cause and reach out to those who are engaged.
- Discover the motivations behind why your supporters or donors took a specific action.
- Learn words or phrases you can use when making the same appeal to others in the future!
If you take the time to review users’ behavior on your site, you can “listen” to their non-verbal communication and use what you learn to improve their experience. This point could be an entire series of articles in and of itself, but if you approach reviewing your website analytics from the perspective of someone listening and trying to care for others, it will affect your response and ultimately make your website more responsive.
Active Listening in Email Marketing
To borrow a phrase from Virtuous CRM, good marketing is responsive relationship-building at scale. You can very effectively apply this concept in email marketing.
To start, let’s consider typical email metrics: your open rate and click rate. While these are helpful to understand your audience’s response, they aren’t a good measure of your relationship! Instead, the most effective metric (and goal) for building a relationship through email is replies!
Therefore, to be more relational in email, encourage your subscribers to reply and reinforce it by responding to their replies when they do.
The second way you can actively listen through email is to pay attention to your subscribers’ actions, including opens and clicks, and build your email strategy taking these responses into account. Since you can’t always converse with each subscriber one on one (especially if you have thousands of subscribers), listen to their “body language.”
Let me give some examples of how this could work.
1) Letting people go
When subscribers stop opening your emails, consider what that means and plan accordingly. It could mean they don’t feel like your emails are helpful, relevant, or valuable right now. Regardless of what happened, it’s important to listen and plan your response in this situation.
So what can you do for subscribers who stop engaging? One response you can plan: create a workflow that automatically puts subscribers who stop opening emails into a campaign that sends them a few last emails. Ask unengaged subscribers if they are no longer interested in hearing from you. Offer them something of value and let them know if they click it they will remain subscribed. On the other hand, let them know if they don’t want to hear from you anymore, you’ll automatically unsubscribe them within a few days (as long as they don’t click any links).
By letting them go you’re both caring for them and improving your own email delivery (the more “unengaged” subscribers you have, the lower your delivery rate!).
2) Inviting people in
Let’s examine the other side of the equation. If you “listen” to your subscribers, you can find people who are engaged, so that you know who would be interested in volunteering, attending your fundraising event, or donating. One example: you could have subscribers who open and/or click a certain # of emails automatically put into a sequence that invites them to set up a call with your development team to share their story and what motivates them most about your cause.
One nonprofit we work with has an “Insider’s Team” (which is not the same as their donor list) and occasionally invites regular subscribers to join it. Those who join receive special emails that ask for additional feedback on content, ideas to help the organization improve, and are invited into a deeper relationship with the organization. Their Insider’s Team regularly has 40% open rates and very high engagement with the organization.
There is a lot more that you can do through email marketing to actively listen to your subscribers. The main point here is that the marketing automation tools available today make it far easier for you to respond, if you start by listening!
He Who Has Ears to Hear
If you want to build a relationship with someone through marketing – whether through your mission, or with volunteers and donors – start by listening to them.
If you approach marketing with this mindset and create opportunities for your audience to share, you will naturally build relationships, which will ultimately lead to a greater reach of your mission and a consistently growing donor base.
To conclude, the APA definition of active listening is a helpful reminder; if you care for the people in new or old relationships with your organization by:
- inviting them to speak and listening closely
- restating what was said to ensure accuracy
- responding and learning from what they share
You will naturally attract people who care about you, too!