Marketing Automation: It’s Not Going Away
Last week, this piece on marketing automation ran in the Huffington Post, pushing nonprofits to invest in marketing automation. I am here to beat the drum again, as it may be one of our most important conversations.
Whether you recognize it or not, you are the target of marketing automation deployed by many organizations, including my own. Here are some examples to show how it works:
Example 1: Instead of loading a list into an email campaigner, you load a list into a CRM. The email campaign deploys off what fields are marked in the CRM. Your campaign can be built with triggers and filters to send very specialized campaigns.
Example 2: For those of you who use online fundraising platforms, instead of just sending the bounce back “thank you” email for donating or registering for an event, imagine being able to automatically tailor that bounce back email based on whether your target was a major giver, had never donated before or was registered for a special event for the first time.
Example 3: Imagine someone hits your website, and that person is unknown to you. They are organically hitting your site because they have a pre-existing interest. They hit your site three or four times, nibbling information about you. Imagine that, eventually, they fill out a form. Your platform automatically reverse populates their activity and elevates their lead status to inform you that you have a very interested party who just filled out a form, as opposed to someone who hit the site once and filled out the form. When you go check out the very interested party, you can see which pages they were checking out, which helps you know what to say when you call them up.
While automated marketing is relatively new to nonprofits, its use has proven to be for for-profits in the last 15 years. And as successful as the technology has proven to be for profits, there is reason to believe it can be even more powerful when used to raise funds. The statistics around this sort of automation are staggering. Personalized one-to-one emails based on real-time behavioral data have shown to increase open rates by 50 percent and conversion rates by 350 percent, and nurturing relationships with leads who aren’t ready to “buy” can result in 50 percent more leads at a 33 percent lower cost.
My nonprofit clients struggle more with bandwidth than anything else. Marketing automation helps fix that problem. Although more effort to set up and integrate with existing technology, marketing automation impacts the bandwidth issue in a big way, because you can truly “set it and forget it”—at least until it’s time to update the pattern. Bandwidth release plus better effectiveness equals more revenue and mission advancement.
In the past year, Turnkey has invested in becoming an automated marketing agency, which can affordably provide these tools to our clients. Our goal is to move every single client onto a marketing automation platform, even if we have to do it “a la carte” on singular campaigns as opposed to using an integration system. The benefits are too impressive for our industry to ignore and for my company to ignore. As a business mentor of mine used to say, “Don’t be the employee who sits in the corner office, refusing to try that new email thing.”
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.