Content Marketing: Key Strategy for Non-profits

One of the areas I have not discussed in my blogs is the growth of content marketing , especially as it relates to non-profits. For those of you who are not knowledgeable about content marketing I will use the definition from a very reliable source. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Non-profits try hard to plan online content to connect with the right audiences. This concept of creating content to engage with your audience is nothing new, but nowadays it is becoming more important to achieving online success.

While 92% of nonprofit professionals use content marketing, just a quarter of those professionals believe they are effective. They reportedly each use, on average, 11 different content marketing tactics, with in-person events, social media, online articles, electronic newsletters, and videos being the most common.

Non-profit communication is changing-and not just because of social media. Thanks to content marketing, instead of simply keeping donors up to date, non-profit communicators and fundraisers are directly tying more long-term goals to communication and seeing great results. You can use content marketing in many different ways — the goal is really up to you.

Many people advocate content marketing as a way to grow your mailing list or to drive traffic to your website. But those are really just tactical uses of content that should lead somewhere else, like attracting new program participants, or keeping current volunteers engaged, or diversifying your individual donor base, or getting the media or decision makers to call you for your perspectives. And all of those desired outcomes require that you position your nonprofit in those people’s minds in certain ways.

How you use content in your marketing is what connects the dots between someone signing up for your mailing list or visiting your website and then eventually turning into a donor, volunteer, participant or advocate.

There are a number of ways you can use the content you create to position your nonprofit to meet your goals. Content marketing can position your nonprofit as a helpful friend, a trusted authority, an influential thinker, a reliable performer, or as an innovative change maker.  http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2014/25817/what-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge-can-teach-us-about-content-marketing

Content marketing means using your existing content to attract people to your cause. Putting out irresistible content can encourage people to connect with you because they want to know more. But when you’re just keeping them up to date with a newsletter or asking for money with an appeal, you’re not giving them anything, so your message can seem like an interruption.

With so much emphasis on “finding your target audience,” “identifying your target audience,” and “messaging for your target audience,” it can be hard to rethink who you’re talking to and why. Instead of focusing on your supporters and their demographics as a “target” to be aimed for and an “audience” to broadcast at, think of your supporters as your partners. Although it’s still a good idea to segment the people you’re communicating with, it’s important to think of them as people who are interested in dialogue. By engaging in content marketing and truly informing supporters, you can develop a back-and-forth conversation that encourages regular communication and lays the foundation for a lasting relationship.

The more you participate in continuous dialogue with your supporters, the greater your chance of becoming a favorite cause. If donors put you at the top of their list, you’ll reap huge rewards: more donations over time for bigger amounts and more regularly. And how do you remain a favorite cause? You keep communicating! http://www.fundraising123.org/article/3-reasons-why-your-nonprofit-needs-content-marketing#.Vh_CKCtoCvU

Some 60% of Business to Consumer marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget this year according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. But it’s not enough to just create content anymore; success lies in creating content that engages your audience and motivates them to spread the word.

So the search for non-profits is on for a “formula” that gets people sharing, and any brand or cause that succeeds is worth learning from.

The most recent success story is the ALS ice bucket challenge. If you somehow haven’t seen it here’s how the challenge works: People post videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and donations for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); they then challenge friends to dump water on themselves or donate $100 to the cause.

 

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Now you would probably think that this is very silly but ALS Association collected $5.7 million in donations within two weeks in the USA. The Ice Bucket Challenge in Canada raised $16.2 million for research over a year. More than 260,000 Canadians contributed to the challenge. The campaign is raising awareness and funds to fight a debilitating disease. It’s also a great case study for content marketers looking to capture the attention of their audiences. ALS societies will invest $10 million in ALS research and $6 million in programs that deliver support to Canadians living with ALS. The Canadian government will match the research funds dollar for dollar, taking the total investment to $20 million.

So what have we learned from the ice bucket challenge. Here are three things this particular phenomenon can teach us about content marketing according to Lauren Covello who manages content marketing at Ripen eCommerce, a full-service digital agency that specializes in building custom marketing and development solutions for online retailers.

  1. Its unique, simple, and just crazy enough

Who doesn’t want to see their friends getting “tortured?” The ALS #icebucketchallenge feels like a good-nature clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos or a prank pulled on YouTube. But it’s done with the user’s consent, it is extremely entertaining to watch, and it has a great follow-up message.

Along with its lightheartedness, the #icebucketchallenge is also very simple. Bucket, ice, hashtag, post. No entering, no email, no external sites. Low commitment is extremely important if you’re trying to get a large number of people involved.

It’s also a new way of “going viral.” Instead of one piece of great content being shared over and over, each video is viral within that participant’s immediate circle, and the videos are linked by a simple, memorable hashtag. Instead of becoming a meme, it began as one.

And who had this brilliant idea in the first place? The originator of the campaign wasn’t some evil marketing consultant on behalf of the ALS Association. It was started by Peter Frates, a former Boston College baseball player living with ALS.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from this ice storm is that people like to interact with people—not organizations.

  1. It hits both ends of the sad-to-happy emotional spectrum

Although ALS is nothing to laugh about, it’s hard getting people to share content when the air of a campaign is all doom and gloom. People want to be a positive force in their community, and they like to have fun.

Some people are comparing the challenge to a modern-day bake sale. Do cookies and brownies have anything to do with refurbishing your local religious institution or raising money for a school baseball team? Not really, but they get people excited to help out.

And, in the end, when you’re freezing cold and drenching wet, you are still left with the warm feeling that you made a difference. Not a bad emotional mix for a 10-second video.

  1. The call to action is fun and free

Although donations are encouraged, there is no part of this campaign that demands users buy or give up personal information to participate. The only thing it stipulates is “pour water over your head or donate.”

Theoretically, that approach could have backfired tremendously if everyone participated but no one donated. However, it seems “just raising awareness” can be enough: The ALS Association reports a 1,000% spike in donations to the national office in the 10-day period up from $14,500 (during the equivalent period a year earlier) to $160,000.

A Final Lesson

Unfortunately, as hard as we might try, the vast majority of our content will never approach virality. Only 6% of Upworthy posts have reached 100,000 views, and only 0.42% have surpassed 1 million, according to the viral content experts at Upworthy.

Virality is hard. But content marketers can look to examples like the ALS challenge to create and promote content that their audience will appreciate.

So, the final lesson for marketers is this: The trick isn’t to copy or mimic a great campaign; it’s to learn from it and incorporate the lessons into future ideas.

The #icebucketchallenge is fun, it’s for a good cause, it has perfect timing, it doesn’t feel corporate, and it’s new.

So if you are a non-profit not taking full advantage of content marketing you may want to look at you marketing or communications plans and increase your involvement in innovative uses of content marketing.

 

 

 

 

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Marketing Articles to Read this Summer

Summer is a good time to catch up on your reading. Here are 11 articles on marketing which should keep you up to date on some very important developments in the world of marketing.  Trying reading them while enjoying your favourite beverage.

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4 Tips for Adopting a Customer-Centric Mindset

If you’re taking an integrated marketing approach, your customers need to be driving the decisions your company makes.

Otherwise, your brand could risk becoming irrelevant—or, worse, offensive—to your audience.

When customers are embedded in your DNA—from customer service to marketing to product design—you start to think from their perspective. As a result, you gain insights into not only what you could do but also what you should do as a company.

By harnessing your customers’ wants and needs and infusing that knowledge into every marketing decision, you can establish lifelong relationships that will inevitably grow your business.

The customer-centric mindset is actually similar to a brand-centric one—it just starts with the customer rather than the brand.

The Idea Generation Formula: How to Consistently Deliver Great Ideas

Ideas are the lifeblood of any content marketing campaign. Without new ideas, campaigns—no matter what their aims—will quickly become stagnant. But creating ideas can be hard.

No doubt your team are full of creativity, but producing actionable ideas that can achieve your objectives is the hard part. In this article Ben Harper who is a co-founder of Datify, a data-driven content marketing agency discusses how to keep your brand ahead by consistently delivering winning ideas over the long term. The three main stages of that process are:

  • Idea generation
  • Idea evaluation
  • Campaign creation

How Survey Research Can Aid in PR and Marketing Planning

This article by Lynda B Starr suggests “If you haven’t asked the question, how you will know the answer?” That old saying is a pithy summation of the rationale behind conducting a survey to find out information about your customers.

Survey research, however, is not as simple as asking questions: The right questions must be asked of the right people. You must first determine what information you want to collect, which then guides you to choosing which questions to ask, how to ask them, and of whom.

The article discusses when conducting a survey is appropriate; and offers some tips on survey design; and explores how to incorporate survey results into PR and marketing activities.

Stop Focusing On Your Brand’s Social Media Posting, Here’s What You Should Be Focusing On Instead

Jordan Con states that owned social (what your brand posts) as a powerful business driver is a thing of the past. If anything has been made clear over the last few years, it’s that organic reach on social isn’t guaranteed. Only the biggest publishers are seeing significant organic reach, and it’s because they have deals with Facebook.

Clamoring about the best ways to marginally increase your organic reach is short-sighted. The social networks can change their algorithms or cut it off completely at their discretion. When you play on someone else’s platform, you don’t get the luxury of control.

He provides seven things that you should be focusing on instead.

The Four Principles of a Better #Digital Brief Social Media Marketing

This article by Jeff Roach discusses how to get the best out of your digital marketing department and digital agencies. You want digital marketing that makes an emotional connection with consumers, propels your brand across technology platforms, and engages audiences in digital channels with real value to your brand.

He feels that most briefs are simply too long, too specific, and too tactical. The inspired digital creative—the work that connects with audiences, propels fandom, builds brands in the digital world—doesn’t start with a technology mandatory or an app-vs.-website specificity.

His agency looked at their history of writing briefs and working with brands all over the world, and they distilled their observations into a set of simple, applicable guidelines that can help any marketer create a better digital brief and gives four principles that will lead to better digital briefs.

2 Million Blog Posts Are Written Every Day, Here’s How You Can Stand Out

If you are creating 500-word me-too blog posts that get read by no one, you are completely and absolutely wasting your time. According to Puranjay Singh it’s not your fault. You’ve been told by so-called experts for years that if you blog consistently, you will see truckloads of traffic, thousands of subscribers, and millions of dollars in sales. The thing is, a lot of these experts cut their teeth in the early years of the Web, when 500-word blog posts could win you fame and fortune. If you’re serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts pumped out every day, he provides advice on what you need to start doing.

The Key to Successful Positioning: ‘3 Cs’ Research

Lawson Abinanti feels that Positioning shouldn’t be left to chance. Unless you do your research, your message to the market has almost no chance of getting through and hitting the mark.

This article explains why you must understand the 3 Cs of successful positioning—your customer, channel, and competition—as well as how to understand your B2B product, service, solution, or company. And it offers suggestions for how to go about it.

One reason organizations fail to thoroughly research the 3 Cs is that they don’t have time to do it: It can take weeks.

One way to speed up the process is to start with your channel: how you sell—direct or through partners, or both.

16 Free Marketing Tactics for Promoting Your Business

Tommy Laundry points out that with all the talk about bootstrapping and growth hacking, it has become clear that more marketers want to self-fund their businesses at least in the early stages of building them out. In the old days, you mostly had to pay to advertise for any marketing benefits to come your way. Today, we have a wider range of paid and free options available to us. Since many of us want to start out with no or low cost options in the early going, we should all be aware of what we might do to move the needle without budget. Tommy provides 16 things to promote your own business.

Seven Tips for Developing Good, Relevant, and Actually Interesting Content

Sarah Bricker states that content is not always easy to write; in fact, depending on the topic or the industry, it can be downright difficult. Throughout their careers, marketers will experience a variety of clients—B2B, B2C (including e-commerce), and special interest clients from an array of industries. Each requires unique content, and each has specific strategies or presentation elements they consider good and bad.

When developing content, you need to consider a few things:

  • Products or services most desired by consumers may change month to month or season to season.
  • Content is built for the long term and the short term.
  • Consumers will read it only if they can understand it, and fast.

She provides seven helpful tips for developing relevant, engaging, and creative content.

How Consumers Find and Use Mobile Apps

Most consumers first hear about mobile apps from friends and family, according to a recent report from Google and Ipsos.

The report was based on data from an online survey conducted in September 2014 of 8,470 people age 18-64. Respondents were asked about how they find, buy, and use smartphone applications.

Some 52% of respondents say they usually become aware of mobile apps from friends and family. Other common discovery methods are app stores (40%), search engines (27%), company websites (24%), and television (22%).

Marketers’ Biggest Social Media Challenges Social Media Marketing

Marketers say measuring ROI is the biggest challenge they face with their social media efforts, according to a recent report from Simply Measured and TrustRadius.

The report was based on data from a survey of nearly 600 social media practitioners that was conducted in February and March 2015.

Some 60% of respondents say measuring ROI is one of the most challenging aspects of their social program; other top challenges include tying social activities to business outcomes (50% cite), developing a social media strategy (48%), and securing enough internal resources (40%).

Why Email Marketing Beats Social Media in Lead Generation, And What You Can Do About It

Social media has many legitimate marketing uses. When used right, social lets you build a genuine relationship with your customers. It helps you find out what people are saying about your brand and it enables you to share interesting content with your audience. Regardless of whether they’re in B2B or B2C, most businesses today can’t afford not to have a social media presence.

But there’s one thing that social media isn’t great for: lead generation. Social media works effectively for many marketing activities, but generating new leads isn’t one of them. In fact, when it comes to generating leads, the good ol’ email will always beat social media. One 2014 study from management consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggests that email conversion rates are 40 times higher compared to Facebook and Twitter combined. “The rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher,” according to the report.

An understanding of its drawbacks as a lead gen tool is critical to getting the most out of social media marketing. So why is email, a relatively old channel, better suited for generating leads?

 

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