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Tactics To Improve Nonprofit Marketing – Your Anniversary And A Marketing Communications Audit

With revenues at nonprofit organizations increasing by only 0.9 percent, to $298 billion in 2011, according to Giving USA, it is no secret how difficult fundraising has become in today’s environment. Add to that the possibilities of an upcoming fiscal cliff and the loss of tax deductions for charitable contributions and you wind up with a very daunting picture.

Your advisory board, committee members and staff all want to help, and look to organization leadership for direction. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the development of a meaningful marketing communications plan to profitably improve your fundraising efforts.

As you develop your plan, and evaluate various directions and opportunities, I suggest you consider two tactics that have proven successful for improving marketing ROI.

Market Your Anniversary
Your anniversary offers a unique opportunity to rekindle enthusiasm and galvanize all of your constituents to the relevance, importance and needs of the organization. It gives you the chance to tell your story, not just about your past, but more importantly, about your plans and goals for the future. And don’t think that an anniversary has to be only in multiples of 25 years. Your 33rd, properly marketed, can be as meaningful as your 50th.

Some communications tactics to consider in marketing your anniversary include creating:

  • An event or events to provide the maximum amount of interaction among existing and potential donors, volunteers, staff, foundations and the local community. But make sure your event doesn’t isolate your various constituencies. They want to talk to one another, not be lectured. Interaction leads to engagement.
  • A special theme and logo. But also consider a historical book and CD, or a one of a kind commemorative piece of artwork (that can also be used on your website). And employ a meaningful mix of both traditional and new media to create excitement.
  • A corporate – nonprofit partnership. Your anniversary can provide the trigger point for new collaborations with business partners, bringing in real rewards for both organizations. And these new relationships can last for many years.

These examples are just a start. But we encourage you to start thinking of your anniversary as a 12 to 18 month marketing communications program and branding tool to improve your ROI.

Conduct A Marketing Communications Audit
As was recently pointed out by Tom Buday, head of marketing and communications at Nestle, the best source of marketing communications leverage in the for profit world is the quality of the messaging. It’s not the media vehicle that does or does not deliver, rather it’s the quality of the messaging.

Applying this to nonprofits means that it is imperative for you to evaluate your program and its elements. Invariably, nonprofits employ a media mix of direct mail, events, newsletters, public relations, social media, emailing and advertising in some combination. A marketing communications audit can help you determine how your program is working as a whole, while also evaluating how each message is performing against your established objectives.

This type of audit will help you determine whether the elements of your creative approach – graphics, tone and manner, and subject manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message. Ultimately, the results of an audit will not only improve the quality and integration of your messaging but also help you determine how your media mix and budgets should be tailored.

Whether or not you take advantage of marketing your anniversary, a marketing communications audit can make a significant difference to your programs and ROI. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your programs before your commit significant dollars and time behind them?

Marketing Consultants Can Help
If you’re like most nonprofits, the majority of your time, talent and treasury is devoted to your passion for the people, programs and services you provide. The same is probably true of many of your most committed volunteers.

Given that, does your organization have the marketing and marketing communications talent and experience to develop the strategies, plans and tactics that are necessary to help you succeed in today’s environment? Trying to find this among your already overworked and underfunded staff or your volunteers doesn’t make much sense.

Your budgets are tight but can you really afford not to bring in outside help? Look for marketing communications consulting partners to help you and your team develop and execute these programs. Above all, select consultants with broad scope and extensive senior level experience across industries and brands, in both the for profit and nonprofit arenas.

Importantly, they should be media neutral, not selling one particular marketing solution, and willing to “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish. Their fresh eyes will go a long way when it comes to improving your ROI.

Small and Midsized Company 2016 Marketing Communications Forecasts

By now, you’ve probably seen the forecasts referring to 2016 as an “OK” year, with US GDP growth of about 2.6 percent, unemployment at 4.8 percent, wage growth of 2.7 percent, and increased volatility in financial and political arenas.

Why would any B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer feel comfortable with this outlook? In fact, the December Chief Executive Magazine’s “Confidence Index” for the year ahead is at its lowest since June, 2014.

Marketing Communications Forecasts

With so many macro strategic and tactical issues on the horizon, it’s difficult to know where to start. But corporate and nonprofit marketers will still have to make decisions about their businesses, so here are my top five forecasts for you to consider as they relate to your marketing communications needs in the coming year.

1. Current client-agency relationships are at a very low level, and there will be an increase in the use of outside marketing communications consultants and groups to help small and midsized organizations.

Over time, client’s lack of trust in their agencies, combined with the huge overhead garnered by the larger agencies, has resulted in a weakening of the bond between clients and agencies. As an example, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently hired two consulting firms to investigate allegations of undisclosed rebates in digital media flowing to agencies. Much to the chagrin of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the ANA is working without their involvement.

Is it any wonder there was/is $30 billion under review in 2015? Transparency is the new black.

2. Content marketing will become even more important, as marketers learn to use market research and data analysis to deliver more meaningful information to customers and prospects. Further, as the number of people in the US blocking ads rose to 45 million in the second quarter of 2015 (up 48 percent from a year earlier), the economic viability of digital media is threatened. Taken together, this offers a unique opportunity to provide customers, prospects and donors with better information once the marketer understand what they really want to know. Look before you leap.

3. How marketers gather, analyze and integrate data about customers and prospects will help determine how well they achieve marketing and profitable sales success. By 2017, 69 percent of marketers say they expect data to drive most of their decisions (Gartner).

Everyone agrees there is an overwhelming amount of data. That’s the good news. The challenge is knowing how to interpret it and being able to communicate the implications correctly and effectively. Without this skill set, the entire marketing communications ROI is just another fancy name.

4. In 2016, with political advertising dominating media, many small and midsized companies and nonprofits will be priced out, finding it difficult to secure and/or afford many media and marketing tactical services. Next year, Advertising Age estimates that media will account for 54 percent of spending, while other marketing services will account for 46 percent.

Specifically, direct marketing is projected to account for one-third of all spending, followed by television at 23 percent, digital at 15 percent, plus newspapers and sponsorships, each at six percent. More than ever, being flexible and media neutral should be the first priority.

5. Despite the seemingly daily appearance of new online marketing tactics, human connections will, in fact, become more important. The explosion of digital tactics has created a unique opportunity to efficiently build awareness and initiate a dialogue. However, it’s also left behind a lot of clutter in its wake.

If you want to close a sale, you may have to resort to the “old” method of face to face relationships. In fact, nearly eight out of ten B2B and B2C marketers use in-person events for just that reason. Importantly, employees who understand the category and believe in the product can provide the quality, sincerity and emotional connection that are missing in most digital dialogues. Your own employees can not only be significant brand ambassadors but can also be an important source of customer feedback. Don’t be afraid to use them.

There are many other areas of prognostication worthy of discussion – including mobile, native advertising, baby boomers vs. millennials, internal communications, ROI measurement, videos, etc., etc. – but I believe the forecasts discussed above will have a significant impact not just on 2016 but the years ahead. The question then becomes what to do about them.

Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value

With all of the changes in the years ahead, consumers, buyers and donors will be forced to become more knowledgeable and more demanding, and will become even more cautious about how to spend their money. The rapid changes in technology have created an “always on” media environment. And a recent study by Forrester Research reports that over one-third of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change.

I believe the 2016 will be the year of people, not technology or media or brands or companies. In almost all organizations, but especially in small and midsized ones, people are probably stretched to the limit and/or simply do not possess the background or expertise to handle the marketing communications challenges of 2016.

Because of this, an increasing number of for profit and nonprofit organizations have partnered with established senior level consultants to help develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement ROI focused programs. Look for people with broad industry and brand experience, across organizations, large and small. Candor should flourish. Look to make your future better than your past.

Marketing Communications Professionals – Customer Communications Management Heralds a New Paradigm

Marketing Communications professionals should develop a vision for enterprise marketing communications before rushing into inviting Customer Communications Management Suppliers to demonstrate how their products could help your company.

A new vision has to be developed because marketing communications professionals now have a completely new way of working.

Gone are the days where a companies direct mail and transactional mail need to be separated and handled by different company functions or different suppliers. Gone are the days where large project teams have to be formed to make simple changes to documents. Gone are the days where the task of making a change to corporate positioning are a huge and expensive task and gone are the days of fragmented customer messaging due to disparate customer communications processes.

Companies have always tried to derive a corporate vision for customer communications, a grand plan and a grand scheme to give the markets it serves clarity of brand understanding, but the issue of complexity has always been a barrier to this plan.

Now, the opportunity that unified Customer Communications Management offers is one of fulfillment of vision, of an ability to execute and of an ability to drive business advantage.

It is because of this opportunity to execute that the marketing communications professional should focus on a new vision first and not a rehash of the old version made easier. The scope is now broader.

Now, it is possible to communicate across a diverse set of channels with ease, to deliver coherent meaningful messages into differing market segments but to retain an appeal in each of those segments. It is about the opportunity to interact, to learn and to deliver value, a value that is meaningful to each customer as an individual.

The vision should come back to marketing basics. Segment the market, identify a product, service or overall company appeal and learn to drive value in those communications. It means that a company can drive its brand values in a fashion that is adaptive to changing market conditions.

In doing this, we don’t just communicate differently, we create a new kind of company, a company that is adaptive, that is continuously learning, that delivers its key objectives in a measurable, proven fashion.

Marketing communications professionals have new power in their hands. A way to reach the market that was previously impossible. It is only in very recent years that this has become possible. It means that a product does not have to be marketed with common brand values across different segments. Companies can continue to focus upon core segments but can become much more adaptive to emerging segments, segments in which it would previously have been a very difficult, length and costly environment to compete.

We call this marketing agility, the ability to take reasoned, measured analysis and quickly deliver a response to that analysis, to test the credibility of the analysis and to improve on the next iteration, bringing market segments into focus not on the basis of a hunch or, just a historical analysis (this is important still) but on live events, events to which the changing response can materialise faster than ever before.

This is in our view, a new paradigm for marketers and one whose impacts much be considered carefully before jumping straight into the focus of technology and process decisions – this can come once the vision for the agile marketing communications organisation has been established.

Avoid what you used to do but just a little better, take hold of this new agility, embrace it and define it. This is how Customer Communications Management can be utilised to deliver marketing excellence.