Over the last couple of years, since entering the wide world of inbound marketing, I've gotten an idea of how nonprofit organizations who are comfortable with their marketing plan are uncertain about making the jump from traditional marketing to inbound marketing. My first impression was that this fear didn't make any sense and I thought they were one chicken nugget short of a happy meal. But now that I've gotten used to the idea and more comfortable around working with nonprofits, I can see how that concern actually makes sense.
The ROI Illusion of Traditional Marketing
Before I knew the incredible power of inbound, I was terrified of marketing. You got me. Guility as charged.
The thought of frustrating people with a regular marketing message, tied to an equally frustrating sales process, made my stomach churn. I don't like being someone that people shun away from. I like humans, and I like it when they like me. I thrive on positive interactions and communication. As someone who relies on communications and networking to support your nonprofit organization, I'm sure you do too!
We are all human beings that have limits on how much marketing we can handle before we make the call to tune it out. Once a potential donor or supporter has tuned out your marketing, is it possible to reach them anymore?
As marketers for our organizations, we have this perceived notion that traditional marketing is the best way to go because we can get quicker results and metrics on our campaigns. That's what our board of directors wants, right? Immediate feedback to analyze just so they can repeat the same marketing campaign process? Of course they do!
The biggest problem with this method of marketing though is that it's not sustainable. The only way to keep it working is to continue to throw money at it. Once the budget ends, the marketing stops, and the potential reach of your efforts halts as quickly as it started. How can you go through life like that?!
Don't get me wrong. Traditional marketing has its place in the world, but it isn't the only (or best) way to spend your time, focus and energy.
The Honest Truth About Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing (aka digital marketing, content marketing or permission marketing) does away with the concept of disrupting your target audience and replaces it with being helpful and informative. Now, this isn't going to give you the instant ROI results that your executive directors expect. But if you give it the focus and patience it requires, you could start seeing the impact of your efforts in as little as 6-12 months.
Now you're probably thinking: 6-12 MONTHS?!? I DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME!
I understand that you are a nonprofit and that time and energy are precious. Currently, as a tiny operation, I'm in the same boat. For example, I spend one day a week on marketing action items for Octave Media. The rest of the week is for my customers.
On that one day a week, I work on the following:
- Review social media interactions and reports, respond to any incoming messages or tweets, and schedule a new batch of messages to avoid having to manually post or tweet all week
- Work on drafts for future emails to customers and leads. Once ready, I can schedule them to go out when I feel is appropriate
- Spend time researching and writing blog posts for the upcoming week
- Review action items I can work on to improve the quality of my website and its content
- Review and update my ongoing marketing plan
So for a few hours or less a week, I can maintain my marketing and not take time away from that which matters most.
In a nutshell, this is how it works: Instead of spending time creating traditional campaigns or marketing materials, spend time on generating content for your industry that helps your audience find answers to what they are looking for. As they search for answers, they will notice that your nonprofit starts to appear in search results more and more, thus keeping your organization and your cause on their radar. When the time comes for them to choose an organization to support or donate to, your odds of being thought of first increase greatly.
Sure, this comes with a lot of extra work upfront to establish a process of generating content and producing ways for new leads to convert into customers. But all of that's just day-to-day operational stuff.
The First Rule to Implementing
The first rule to implementing a strategy, is that you SHOULD NOT make a clean cut from traditional to inbound. That could be bad for your organization and its mission!
Instead, think of them working in tandem, reducing a little bit from your traditional strategy and putting those efforts toward implementing your digital strategy. Over time, you can either balance their responsibilities or put more into digital while gradually reducing your dependence on traditional marketing.
So the next time you think that it isn't for your organization, just remember: Inbound Marketing is for everyone!