2011's Most Useful Marketing Lessons
Like many of you, reflection always tops my New Year's to-do list. This year, in my role as publisher of the GettingAttention.org e-news and blog, I wanted to 1) motivate nonprofit communicators to reflect so they'll increase the impact of their work this year and 2) share the core lessons learned with their peers. Thus the "most valuable marketing lessons learned in 2010" survey was born.
The marketing lessons shared below, just a sampling of what we heard from you and your colleagues, are thoughtful, focused, practical and based on experience. In many cases, I couldn't have said it better myself.
Everyone is a marketer, so make sure staff is skilled at it
"All staff members, volunteers and board members who answer the phone (or have any other public-facing role — or simply mention the organization at a party) are marketing your organization. Make sure they do it well. Our part-time data base staffer was recently deluged with calls from angry members unable to register for our sold-out conference. I crafted talking points for her and the rest of the staff on how to break the bad news in the most positive way possible so callers would renew their annual memberships."
More stories, fewer stats
"Remember that my donors need more stories they can connect to and fewer statistics about what we are doing."
Without a marketing plan, it's all action and no traction
"Have a marketing plan, and refer to it frequently. It's so easy to get distracted by the day-to-day (week-to-week, month-to-month) tasks. But the result is that you end up with nothing but a lot of projects you've checked off your list. What you don't get is any real, cohesive advancement in communicating your mission or engaging your target audiences."
Branding goes bust without leadership support
"Branding doesn't work unless it comes from the top down. If you don't have buy-in at the top, you'll never get it at the bottom."
Nix marketing decrees
"Don't jump at every suggestion made (even those with some degree of forcefulness) by directors or senior management. Step back and ask: What resources do we need, and are you willing to help find them? What is the expected outcome of this project? In a client's case (a very small nonprofit), some thought that a Facebook presence was a cool thing the organization had to have — with no clear idea of target audience, what they wanted to accomplish, who would provide fresh content or even just 'why?'"
— Betty Skov, marketing communications consultant
Trust your gut
"No matter what I read about not mailing out an annual report, it proved to be successful for our organization! I think you have to trust 'gut instincts' and/or your experiences as to what works for you."
Test, test, test
"Before launching every campaign, put yourself in the shoes of a donor and try giving a donation using a variety of platforms and payment methods. Given the complexity of the tools today, and the speed with which we invariably put things together, errors do get made, and you want to be the one to find them, not the donor!"
Keep content brief, accessible
"Brevity! I always struggle with this, and avoiding use of jargon. I keep a note on my desk to remind me that only 37 percent of Americans are familiar with the term 'planned giving.'
"People don't care about statistics and appeals and campaigns — they just want to make a difference and be connected to something that matters. Make sure your language connects with them!"
Practice damage control
"People tell one or two friends or colleagues about good experiences but tell everyone about bad experiences. If you are faced with handling someone's bad experience, do everything you can to make her story end with 'but you know, they treated me well.'"
Plan for unexpected expenses
"Give your budget a little wiggle room. Unforeseen events (aka opportunities) may come up that require marketing/financial resources."
"Donor-centricity is critical, but it is not widely or well understood. And that lack of understanding costs fundraisers, and the nonprofits that employ them, huge amounts of lost revenue every year. What happens when a charity DOES grasp true donor-centricity? A children's hospital ditched its self-centered newsletter for a donor-centered one instead — and increased giving 1,000 percent, from $5,000 per issue to $50,000 per issue. Donor-centricity is just customer-centricity by another name. Good marketers are customer-centered because the customer provides the cash. Why be donor-centered? Same reason."
What's the biggest marketing lesson you've learned recently? Please share it with me at email@example.com