Becoming Great at People-Based Marketing
In an industry where 75 percent of revenue comes from individuals, it’s only logical that we should be putting people first in our marketing efforts. It’s time that fundraisers learn how to become great at people-based marketing. Sounds reasonable, right? So why aren’t more of us doing it?
People-based marketing requires a shift in engagement strategy to provide relevant, personal and rewarding experiences for those individuals who support your organizations, either financially or through service.
There’s no doubt, it can be challenging. The dynamics of the consumer marketplace are changing rapidly, forcing businesses in all industries to think differently about their customer strategy. Nonprofits are no different; like every other sector, promises are being made to constituents and expectations established. The difference is that consumer brands are setting new standards by which relationships and experiences are measured, and they are doing so across more channels and media than ever before. Nonprofits must get on board quickly or risk falling further and further behind.
How to Be Great
Being great at people-based marketing is about moving away from focusing solely on messaging and toward creating ongoing conversations—meaningful dialog where the nonprofit converses with constituents directly throughout their journey with the organization and across all channels. And it’s about shifting focus from targeting to decisioning. While knowing the who, what and when are still fundamental to your marketing strategy and the experiences you provide, the important distinction is in how you orchestrate decisions. It’s no longer enough to know who your donor is, but rather what you know about your donor; what messages, offers, content, creative, services or functionality are most relevant to them.
Fundraisers must embrace the reality that donors are customers, in that they can choose the time, place, and means of engagement. This is forcing our industry to think more like brand marketers and to refocus fixed campaign strategies into always-on, responsive conversations that are informed by data and insights at every turn. Nonprofits are brands, after all, and therefore must create personalized experiences—defining, managing and interacting with the donor/prospect who is constantly maneuvering among channels and across devices.
The new norm is that we live in an age where advertising is addressable, providing a powerful stimulus to trigger someone to action. And once engaged, the consumer’s relationship with the brand must evolve into an orchestrated and personalized experience; not just because it’s appreciated, but because it’s now expected.
To be great means you must seize the opportunities that media platforms are now providing—the ability to target one-to-one, efficiently and at scale. Just think about all the valuable information that is now available to you (web behavior data, motivational, intent data, as well as traditional data, such as demographics) to help make experiences as relevant, intimate and meaningful to the constituent as possible, recognizing their expectations, regardless of the channels or devices they use. Experience in other industries has shown that brands that deploy a people-based customer strategy outperform those who focus only on incremental improvements in individual tactics. They also report increased customer value, better retention, higher levels of satisfaction and affinity/loyalty. All of these benefits translate to improved constituent performance and greater long-term value for the organization.
As fundraisers, we should all aspire to be great at people-based marketing, so take the first step today by becoming good at putting people first. If you look for the truth in the data, you will find proof in the performance.
Greg Fox is vice president of nonprofit vertical strategy at Merkle. He joined the company in 2000 to establish a data-driven, strategic fundraising agency group. Fox is a 30-year veteran of direct response fundraising, with expertise in developing innovative fundraising marketing strategies and solutions. He has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for many of the largest and most respected fundraising brands in America, and while he has broad-based fundraising experience, he is highly regarded as a leader in the national health-charity sector. Prior to joining Merkle, Fox was a founding partner in TheraCom, a leading provider of full-service specialty pharmacy solutions and marketing strategies that served the healthcare and charitable industries. He also served as vice president of direct response fundraising at the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he started his career and created the organization’s first national direct response program. Fox is an industry thought-leader, frequent speaker at industry conferences and an active participant in the DMA nonprofit federation. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.