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.

Midsized Company Marketing Communications – Five Major Considerations For 2014

Another year is ending, and economic uncertainty and Washington’s gridlock continue to plague consumers, companies and brands.

That said, life must go on. And whether you’re a business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), or nonprofit organization, the question remains as to what marketing and marketing communications investments, strategies and tactics should you employ in the year ahead. My thoughts on achieving profitable sales growth are as follows. Some may surprise you.

  1. It’s Time to Increase Marketing Communications Spending
    You probably haven’t heard many pundits talk about increasing marketing communications investments in 2014. However, you probably haven’t heard much about what Congress is considering in this area either. Did you know that Congress is now reviewing a reduction of the current 100 percent deductibility of advertising spending?

    The current discussions center on permitting a deduction of only 50 percent of the costs in the year the advertising runs, and then amortizing the remaining 50 percent over the subsequent five or ten year period. In reality, a new tax on advertising.

    Both parties are pushing this, and while it is doubtful that anything will make it into law in 2014, once the process has started it’s very difficult to get it stopped. So, consider the significant opportunity that exists – for at least a year – to use increased spending to profitably build your brand in 2014.

  2. Employ Market Research to Further Understand Your Customer
    Many B2C and B2B marketers believe they understand everything that is important to their customers and prospects. But do they really?

    Rather than “thinking” you understand what’s really important to them, and how they perceive your brand versus competition, doesn’t it make good sense to conduct market research to uncover the real truth?

    In today’s fast changing world, your target audience has multiple ways of evaluating your product or service well before entering a store, placing an online order, or speaking with a sales person. And unless you constantly monitor their conversations on social media, you’ll never know, for sure, their attitudes and perceptions (or, perhaps more importantly, their misperceptions).

    Before you invest your precious marketing and marketing communications money and time, make it a priority to invest in fully understanding your target audience. Look before you leap!

  3. Improve Your Brand’s ROI with a Marketing Communications Audit
    Consider conducting a marketing communications audit to determine when, where and how to invest your time and money. An audit can provide you with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your existing program as a whole, as well how each marketing tactic does or does not meet your objectives.

    A marketing communications audit will help you determine:

    • What subject matter should be emphasized (or de-emphasized);
    • How to improve your budget allocation and media mix;
    • The fit of existing or planned theming, graphics, and tone and manner of all messaging;
    • A roadmap of how messages should be delivered across all media, both traditional and “new”

    Integrating your marketing communications in a holistic manner (with messaging that is important to your audience) before you commit marketing dollars can provide a significant opportunity to improve ROI.

  4. Recognize the Importance of the Creative Product
    With all of the focus over the past few years on the efficiency of media delivery, some marketers have forgotten that the creative product itself has been – and always will be – the key to effective marketing communications.

    If the creative product doesn’t break through the clutter and increase awareness, and if it doesn’t improve your image and convince your customers and prospects to buy, the delivery system you employ really won’t matter.

    This is true in all aspects of your communications – the website, content marketing communications, advertising, social media, public relations, direct mail, collateral materials, and even that latest cure all, “native advertising”.

    As Tom Bradley, head of marketing at Nestle once said, “the best source of marketing communications leverage is the quality of message. It’s not the media vehicle, new or traditional, that does or does not deliver.”

    And don’t settle for unproven creative practitioners or cut corners because of cost. Good creative work is priceless, so nurture the creative professionals you have to constantly deliver impactful messages that your audience can relate to and be engaged by. Make sure someone in your organization has the expertise to not only encourage brilliant creative work, but also to recognize it when he sees it. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”.

  5. Marketing and Marketing Communications Consultants Can Improve ROI
    There will be challenges in the year ahead. Consumers are more demanding and knowledgeable, and along with businesses, have learned to purchase in new ways. Rapid changes in technology have created an “always on” media environment. A recent study by Forrester reports that 34 percent of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change.

    If this hits home with you, now may be the time to tap into established, experienced, media neutral consultants. It’s an efficient use of your resources and can provide much needed objectivity to the choices you have to make.

    In this uncertain economic landscape, B2C and B2B marketers are already stretched to the limit. Many will benefit from candid and apolitical “fresh eyes” who are willing to tell it like it is.

    Above all, search for consultants with broad scope and senior level experience across industries and brands. This diversity of experience and their network of like-minded professionals can expand your horizons while keeping you on budget.

Success in the Year Ahead
There will be many other factors for marketers to consider in 2014 – recognizing a rapidly growing older population, the importance of the Latino community, globalization, the effectiveness of various content marketing tactics-to name a few. Hopefully, the five major considerations discussed above will challenge you to even deeper thinking for a more profitable year.

Mid-Market Company Marketing Communications – Five Tips To Improve ROI

For the moment, the economy is chugging along, financial markets are recovering, summer vacations are about to start and, hopefully, your B2C, B2B or nonprofit brand is growing. What could be better? Perhaps, your outlook for the future.

You’ve worked very hard to sustain your brand through the recent economic challenges, so perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate your situation, and focus on improving your marketing communications for the road ahead.

While competitors may be taking a breather, now may be the time for you to be aggressive and take a fresh look at your plans for the future, both short and long term. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you do so.

Knowledge Of Your Target Audience Trumps Opinion
Often, middle market brands believe they fully understand the wants and needs of their customers or constituents. However, consider employing market research to uncover their awareness of your brand, and how they really feel about you and your competition on various key attributes.

Doesn’t investing in research make sense before you spend your limited marketing communication budget? The good news is that research might confirm what you already know; the better news is that you might learn something new about how your audience really feels, and then be able to employ communications to correct what’s bothering them or highlight what’s important.

Understanding – rather than guessing – the wants and needs of your customers and prospects (as well as, perhaps, your own employees) can go a long way toward improving your marketing ROI.

Marketing Communications Audits Provide Real Value
If you haven’t recently (or ever) conducted a marketing communications audit, now is the ideal time to consider this tactic. Done properly, it will help you determine when, where and how to invest your time and money. At its core, you’ll be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing program as a whole, as well as how effective each tactic is in communicating your objectives.

The results of this type of audit will provide you with an actionable and coordinated road map of message delivery and spending allocation, across traditional and new media, events, content marketing, promotion and employee knowledge – and, like a financial audit, a tool for improving your profitability.

Promote Your Brand’s Anniversary
If your brand has an anniversary milestone coming up in the next two years, start planning for it now. It presents a unique opportunity to create a significant, fully integrated 12 to 18 month program, allowing you to focus on and energize your various constituents in a way that can’t be matched by your competitors. But recognize that, to be successful, you can’t just develop a new anniversary logo or throw a celebratory party. Like any other marketing tool, it must be grounded in meaningful and consistent messages.

Your corporate past is often the best criterion for your customers, prospects, employees and other audiences to judge your future performance. And, your 10th or 35th anniversary can be used to tell your story as effectively as a traditional 50th or 75th milestone.

Be Neutral When Evaluating Traditional And New Media
Don’t get caught up in all the excitement about the latest new media tactic you read about. New media does offer exciting potential and will continue to grow in importance. But don’t forget to consider traditional media. You might be surprised to know that, despite the advertising windfall generated by the Olympics and political advertising in 2012, total U/S. advertising dollars increased by only 0.9 percent in 2013. And, according to Kantar Media:

  • While network television and local newspapers decreased by only 3.4 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2013;
  • Cable television increased by 7.3 percent; consumer magazines increased by 2.6 percent; outdoor increased by 4.4 percent; free standing inserts increased by 3.4 percent; and, Spanish television increased by 2.9 percent.

Without question, digital media and content marketing increased dramatically during this time. However, you must remember that there are many options to consider. While efficiency is important, more important is maintaining your neutrality to understand and evaluate the relative effectiveness of each alternative in achieving your strategic goals.

Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value
Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, your own resources are probably already stretched to the limit. Unfortunately, you may not be able to allocate the physical or intellectual capital to the short or long term tasks at hand.

So don’t go it alone. Consider partnering with established, senior level consultants to help you and your team develop, refine and implement your plans.

Look for consultants who aren’t selling one particular discipline or a boilerplate “one size fits all” solution. Importantly, any consultant you consider should have extensive experience across industries and brands, both large and small. And be sure they’re willing to “tell it like it is”, so candor will flourish. Apolitical, fresh eyes can be an efficient use of your resources, and can provide objectivity to the decisions you need to make.

Improving marketing communications ROI is a constant challenge. It may seem like a daunting task but, as Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”