Most people not involved in the world of non-profit, or not-for-profit, organizations might not put those two terms together. But, despite the nobility of the cause, these charitable entities must "market" their mission.
So, the question that often comes up is whether content marketing is a good fit for non-profit promotional strategy? Before we answer that, let's look at what non-profits are trying to achieve with their outreach and awareness efforts.
We May Be a Non-Profit, But We Need Money
While some folks might shy from using the term "marketing" for what non-profits must engage in, the fact is that, profit or no, organizations need money to function. And, more to the point, non-profits need money to achieve their collective missions.
And, strictly speaking, marketing can be defined as simply promoting something.
According to Google, marketing is:
“the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
If one where to leave off the "selling" component, the definition still serves sufficiently to describe the basic essence of marketing. Consequently, what every non-profit, for-profit, employee or prospective date or spouse engages in at some point, is marketing.
The BalanceSMB website goes a step further with this explanation:
"Nonprofit marketing is the use of marketing tactics by a nonprofit organization, that promotes the message and the organization. Marketing is particularly important for a nonprofit organization, as they usually need ways to market their cause to volunteers who would want to help and to donors that will give to their cause."
So, with that clarified, we need to ask: What are non-profits promoting?
Essentially, two things. They must promote the vision behind their mission in order to engage and win the support of prospective donors, sponsors and volunteers. Secondly, they must promote their ongoing need for funding. The two are usually intertwined, especially in the case of donors and sponsors, but the major tool for accomplishing this is marketing.
Traditional Advertising, Direct Mail, and Events
While there is certainly nothing wrong with these tactics, the fact is that the Internet, social media and the rise of new generation of media users has shifted the efficacy of marketing. There was a time when even the concept of "content marketing" was unknown. At least by that terminology. However, content has always been "king', even in the traditional marketing realm.
And, for a variety of reasons, these approaches are still effective, valid and likely to be the norm in the world of non-profits for years to come.
But content marketing can offer a nitro-charged impact on the collective marketing efforts of any non-profit, if executed properly. And it can work in tandem with the more traditional tactics in what is sometimes known as a cross-channel, or multi-channel, strategy.
The folks at WordStream describes it as follows:
Multi-channel marketing is the practice of using multiple channels to reach customers. Also known as cross-channel marketing, multi-channel marketing also makes it easy for customers to complete desired conversions on whatever medium they are most comfortable with. Multi-channel marketing lets the user decide, giving them a choice.Retail store, PPC, Website, Direct mail, Email, Mail order, catalog, and Mobile
In today’s modern marketing era, there are many channels a business can take advantage of in order to reach potential customers. These channels include:
However, for the purposes of this post we want to focus on some tips for using content marketing as a main component of your existing marketing strategy.
Using Content to Educate, Inform and Engage
Actually, using content marketing in non-profit promotion efforts isn't all that new. However, much of the activity has been by happenstance or merely random and unstructured. Many organizations don't even realize that many of their marketing tactics actually fall under the umbrella of "content marketing."
Dr. Gloria Horsley is Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping others deal with grief and loss. She stated in an article in Forbes.com,
"...I've learned many things about marketing, including new platforms and technologies that enable reaching our target audience in a much more effective way.
As content marketing has grown in popularity among business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, I've also realized how extremely valuable the right type of content is for nonprofit organizations in order to educate, inform and engage with donors, volunteers and those we intend to help."
Dr. Horsley continues in her article to highlight a number common content marketing mistakes made by non-profits including:
- delivering content that lacks educational value,
- transferring existing print content online, and
- failing to focus on high-quality writing.
In that spirit, here are some tips on improving your own non-profit content marketing tactics.
Tips and Best Practices for Non-Profit Content Marketing
1. Define and articulate the "how and why" for your nonprofit
Author Ann Gynn at Content Marketing Institute notes:
"Your organization’s mission and purpose aren’t the same. If you don’t distinguish between the two, your content marketing doesn’t stand a chance at being effective. A mission is your organization’s reason for existing – your why. A purpose is your organization’s way to implement its mission – your how."
2. Acknowledge the efficacy of content marketing to drive staff buy-in
Not everyone is easily convinced that an integrated content marketing strategy is effective or needed. But the fact is that 95 percent of donors and members consider content created by nonprofits as trustworthy. Which means they read it and believe it.
In addition, 47 percent consume three to five pieces of content before taking an action such as signing up, donating, or volunteering. And 51 percent rely on your content to research your organization and make purchasing or donation decisions.
3. Don't avoid or overlook proven and effective channels for content distribution
While some might not hold social media in high regard, the kicker for content marketing is that social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and email marketing are the top three channels for driving content distribution.
And when it comes to social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the top three most utilized. But keep in mind that another "best practice" is to be agile, flexible and ready to shift when the changing seas of social media dictate.
4. Remember to engage your website in content distribution with your blog
Many for-profit businesses make this mistake, as well, and that is either undervaluing or neglecting the power of regular blog posts. While it is easier to have someone write up a brief highlight or update, the value of a blog post lies in the depth and relevance of the topic.
For example, long-form blog posts generate as many as eight or nine times more visits from search traffic than short (400 or 500 word) pieces. People will and do read engaging, relevant and informative posts.
5. Document and manage your content marketing strategy
Again, this is a common oversight of businesses and is more so among non-profits. Those with documented content strategies are the most effective. In fact, over 50 percent of those surveyed have said as much. Like many other plans, strategies and initiatives, if it isn't written down it is just an idea.
Along with documenting your strategy plan, assigning one staff member to oversee and manage the process is key. According to Winspire,
"Nonprofits that are the most effective at content marketing have someone in place to direct the initiative. 86% of nonprofit marketers who rated themselves as 'Most Effective' have someone who oversees content marketing."
Getting Help With Your Content Marketing Strategy
You may already know that implementing content marketing can boost traffic for your non-profit, but did you know that achieving your content marketing objectives takes time? Unfortunately, it won't happen with a few blog posts or some other great content.
People will need to consume your content for a while before they contact you. Yet, without your content compelling them to contact you, your goals may never be met.
The good news is that you don't have to figure out alone. In fact, one of the best investments you can make with your marketing budget is to partner with a solid firm like BroadVision marketing. Click this link to get your free Complimentary Inbound Marketing Session so you can make an informed decision, or call BroadVision Marketing at 707-799-1238.