Drive Extraordinary Outcomes Through Lifecycle-Forward Measurement
Many think of nonprofit marketing measurement in a purely performance-based environment. How many clicks did you drive to the landing page? How many of those clicks turned into actions or donations?
This performance-based thinking allows you to assess whether the efforts put into the market drive the immediate goal you are looking to achieve. But, they don't always tell you a critical piece of information — where the audience is in their relationship with your nonprofit when they took action and how that action deepened their relationship with your organization. This is where lifecycle-forward measurement comes into play.
Lifecycle-forward measurement assumes that every interaction a supporter takes with a nonprofit needs to be contextualized within your organization’s marketing lifecycle — not just the funnel for the particular conversion you want to drive supporters through in the here and now (although, this is still highly important to measure). It helps you take data — about how a person interacts with an ad, email or webpage — to leverage it to optimize performance, and then contextualize and assess it for the ultimate goal of driving impact.
What Is Lifecycle Marketing?
To take a step back, traditional lifecycle marketing represents a mix of strategies that work together holistically to move the target audience through different stages of a sales cycle. For nonprofits, the “what” for the cycle will vary by each organization’s mission.
For example, small grassroots organizations may be more focused on an advocacy lifecycle to influence legislation, whereas larger nonprofits that rely on supporter funding may be more focused on a fundraising lifecycle to drive their work. But, no matter the mission of your nonprofit, the lifecycle will follow a few key stages:
Awareness. An audience member is just beginning to learn about your organization, what their mission is and what they have to offer.
Engagement and Lead Entry. An audience member is interacting with your organization — by way of joining the email list, directly navigating to the website or following your organization on social media.
Evaluation. In a traditional sales lifecycle, this stage focuses on decisions. An audience member is typically weighing the value behind the sale and whether the product is the right fit for them. For nonprofits, this means considering whether they are going to take a deeper action, such as donating, volunteering or calling a legislator, as well as what value that action will provide.
Conversion. An audience member takes the intended action. This is where much of performance marketing and measurement is focused, with the goal of getting people into this stage as quickly as possible.
Retention. Traditional marketing funnels might assume that the conversion is the end of the funnel. But, a strong marketing program will encourage your audience to come back, take action again and continue to engage with your nonprofit to boost the lifetime value of your organization.
Upgrade and Advocacy. This is the final stage of a marketing lifecycle. An audience member not only comes back to take action again, but they deepen their support for your nonprofit by taking higher bar actions and referring people to your organization to expand reach.
It’s important to note that, while possible, audiences may not follow each phase linearly. You may see audience members skip steps along the way or even go back and forth among the lifecycle stages.
Track the Lifecycle
As you set up tracking, remember that you won’t always have a complete picture of how audiences move through your nonprofit’s marketing lifecycle, particularly in the early stages. For example, it is notoriously difficult to get first-party, user-level tracking for the awareness phase unless your organization uses an analytics-first customer relationship management (CRM) system. And, even then, the data can only be tracked back to first-party user data once someone submits their information.
When developing a lifecycle-forward measurement strategy, the first step is to establish what you want to know about how users move through your organization’s marketing lifecycle and how that data will be put into action.
An equally important step is to clearly define and critically think about how that information will be tracked and collected. The final key to success is ensuring that, no matter where the data is collected, connectivity is in place to be able to tie the data together — either through an integration in your organization’s tech stack or simply through the use of unique and consistent values applied for UTM and source code tracking within the platforms.
Where Does Measurement Come Into Play?
Data is most powerful when it speaks to the goals that you are trying to reach. It provides you with information on whether you reached those goals and the reasons why, giving you the insight needed to decide what to repeat in the future and what tactics to strengthen or bench.
This is where the lifecycle stages come into play. When developing any marketing measurement strategy, it’s not enough to just look at performance marketing metrics, such as a click-through rate, cost per lead or conversion rate. You also have to look at the context for where those users are in their lifecycle with your organization and what they are doing after that action to deepen your understanding of the value of that action.
See the Difference
For example, if you’re launching a new paid lead generation campaign to gear up for the end-of-year fundraising season, you might launch awareness ads into the market to build awareness of your organization (the first lifecycle phase), followed by a handful of lead generation ads to bring users onto your email list ahead of the end of the year.
Users who join the email file via a lead generation ad are introduced to your organization through a welcome series, a fun quiz to test their knowledge about your organization's mission, and a cultivation message detailing your organization’s successes and continued need for support before being solicited with end-of-year fundraising appeals.
A performance-based measurement plan for this strategy might include performance metrics, such as total impressions, cost per click, cost per lead, email click-through rate, email unsubscribe rate, and eventually, email donation response rate and revenue per 1,000 email recipients.
But, when you widen it out to lifecycle-based measurement, you will bring in data to answer the following questions to deepen your understanding of how users are moving through the lifecycle:
- What percent of new leads are clicking through engagement and cultivation emails?
- What percent of new leads took the quiz?
- What percent of leads donate during the end-of-year campaign?
- What percent of leads donate again within 12 months of their initial donation?
- What percent of leads make a sustaining gift to upgrade their commitment?
- What is the net promoter score for these leads?
- What is the lifetime value at six, 12 and 18 months for these leads?
Asking these lifecycle measurement questions, alongside a typical performance measurement, can help your organization deepen its understanding of the value of efforts over time and develop strategies rooted in multiple touch points, as opposed to one, to meet your audience where they are and deepen the relationship.
Leverage Data to Drive Bigger and Better Outcomes
When you situate performance data along a lifecycle — such as understanding how those new leads you generated go on to donate, retain and spread the word about your organization — you unlock a new vault of data that can help guide your organization to optimize not just the quality of leads you bring in but every touch point along the way for success.
It’s not enough for nonprofit marketers to just optimize performance for one piece or touch point in the lifecycle. Instead, always optimize and measure for both immediate success and long-term outcomes.
A sure way to sell yourself short of providing a best-in-class experience for your target audience — and also receiving best-in-class results for your organization — is by only using one touch point as your measure of success and assuming that the success of one part of the user lifecycle will trickle into success for another. Lifecycle measurement, though, will certainly give you a more holistic view of your audiences to better inform your strategies and, ultimately, achieve your goals.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Measuring Impact: 5 KPIs Your Nonprofit Needs To Be Tracking
Kristen Friedel leads Media Cause's data analytics specialty, where she applies her strong technical and soft skills to strategically leverage data that will move missions forward.
Kristen has nearly 10 years of nonprofit experience, working both in-house and in agency settings. Over her career, Kristen has worked with more than two dozen nonprofits to develop actionable marketing reports, create automated data pipelines and design experiments geared at optimizing performance.