People-Based Marketing: Reading the Signals
Signals are all around us, from the “Don’t Walk” sign when you cross the street to the microwave beeping when your food is done. Even the most seemingly insignificant signals help us operate more efficiently, taking the guesswork out of day-to-day tasks.
From a marketing perspective, signals play an equally crucial role in nonprofit fundraising efforts. We tend to focus heavily on communicating the right message in the right place at the right time—a key component of our overall approach. But after we deliver our message, are we actively listening for feedback? This is the stage where properly identifying and interpreting signals can help us maximize budgets, strengthen relationships with donors, and inform a more effective donor journey.
The first step in capitalizing on the value of signals is to review the systems you already have in place. After mapping out the entire donor journey, you can identify missed opportunities to collect donor preferences, comments and affinities. Do you know how a donor is connected to a cause? His or her motivation for giving? Collecting this information is often as simple as adding a question to specific current communications or including a survey—it’s a minimal financial investment that can help you craft deeply personalized messaging and increase response.
The next step is to examine donor behavior that falls outside of standard response patterns. Is your gift processing center receiving gifts from donors who are adding a stamp to a Business Reply Envelope? This display of cost consciousness is a subtle but powerful indication of their commitment to the cause. Have you heard from donors who had the forethought to alert your call center that they’ve changed residences? We should be attentive to the implicit meaning behind this proactive behavior.
Analyzing online, mobile and site data adds another layer of insight—what types of content are donors viewing on your site? Are they signing up for webinars? Are they showing interest in volunteering or participating in specific events?
Finally, you can invest in third-party data to pinpoint a deeper layer of signals. Many organizations view data as an unnecessary expense, when in reality, it’s a vital asset to any marketing strategy. Even if you spend the bottom 5 to10 percent of your budget on data, you’ll see a ROI if you use the insights wisely.
Start by investigating all internal data available—make sure you are looking at the complete picture of the donor by seeking data outside of your fundraising purview. You’ll want to determine how donors are interacting with the entire organization. Have they changed to giving outside of your specific program? Are they now giving online versus the mail?
Then you can invest in external demographic, psychographic or behavioral data and life event data to get a more complete picture of your donors. What’s their financial profile? Are they nearing retirement? Overlay digital behavior-based insights to get the online picture. What kind of media do they consume? What are their interests? How can this information be used to target potential donors? The answers to these questions should always inform your strategic blueprint.
All of this information can help us make real connections with donors that inspire lifelong giving trends.
Needless to say, the signals are out there. We just need to know how to use them in the context of a people-based marketing strategy.
Richard Heimsoth is the senior director of Customer Strategy at Merkle.