Pop quiz! Sorry, I know you weren’t expecting this. I promise there’s a good reason for it.
- How many ads do you think the typical person sees or hears in a day?
- How many nonprofits do you think there are in the US?
Take a wild guess. Don’t worry, I’m not grading your answers.
If you guessed more than 4,000 ads and 1.6 million nonprofits you must have cheated. Those numbers are shockingly high. And, even if those numbers are inflated, the point is that there is a lot of what we in marketing call “noise” that you have to cut through even to be found.
So, how do you cut through the noise and inspire someone to get involved in your mission?
1. Know Thy Audience…
No, really. I believe this is the most important step for success and whenever someone asks me for quick insight into how they can better reach their audience, this is where I start. Because, if you get this right and truly understand your audience, then you have a great foundation for making a meaningful connection and getting them to take action.
It may sound intuitive, but it’s amazing how difficult it can be to push past demographic information and get to the core of who your audience is and what’s important to them. It’s all about the detail and how specific and targeted you can be about them. And, that’s why some organizations will develop what we call a customer “persona”, or more simply a visual documentation of your customer and everything you know about them. If you’ve ever been in an office and heard someone referencing Frugal Fred or Millennial Molly, there is likely a persona behind it.
So, how well do you know your customer?
With a quick search of “marketing personas”, you’ll find a ton of templates out there, but here are a few truly meaningful questions to help get you started:
- How do they spend their free time outside of work?
- What causes matter to them? Why?
- How do they currently solve the pain you are trying to solve for them?
The most important reason for developing personas, is to force you to put yourself in your customers shoes. Why is that important? Because it’s not about you, it’s about them!
One last thing. It’s important to remember that getting to know your audience will be a process. You’ll have multiple personas and they will evolve over time as you learn more. But be as specific and targeted as possible because your audience isn’t everyone with money and free time. It might not even be everyone who cares about your cause. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know much about them now. Get out there and start talking to your ideal customers! It’s the most valuable way to spend your time.
2. Map Out Their Journey (With You)
Now that you have a pretty good understanding of your audience, it’s time to think about their journey to becoming a lifelong customer, donor, partner or volunteer of yours. In general, there are five steps:
As you can see, the first two steps of Awareness and Consideration can happen without you. Most people use the internet, their friends, and family to find and evaluate solutions. Your goal is to make sure you are in the consideration set and that you’ve built a clear reason why you are the right choice.
So, here are some helpful questions to think about along the way:
- Awareness – Are you present where your audience is?
- Credibility – Why you? What’s the reason to believe?
- Purchase – Can they justify the donation/time to their family?
- Delivery – Are you doing what you promised?
- Advocacy – Are they satisfied enough to tell someone else about you?
Think about your most engaged customers, donors or volunteers. Try to retrace that path to you. Now how do you repeat it?
Great marketers and organizations make a living tracking and analyzing lifetime customer value along this journey to help optimize their efforts. There are numerous ways to keep track of this, including your customer relationship management (CRM) system, but this is a topic for another time.
3. Make Your Story “Sticky”
The final step in the process is all about telling a great story (your messaging).
This is likely the hardest part. But, have you heard the story about the “kidney theft ring”? Some poor fellow gets seduced by a pretty woman only to wake up the next day in a bathtub with his kidney missing? Likely you’ve heard some variation on the story or some other urban legends over the years. Not surprisingly, it’s a hoax!
Why does this lie travel the world and your story never sees the light of day? Well, Chip and Dan Heath wrote a book analyzing just that, called Made to Stick. A must read, in the book they give an acronym (SUCCESs) you can use as a checklist to evaluate your messaging based on years of research into what makes a great story.
So, what does SUCCESs mean?
- Simple – focus on a core message
- Unexpected – use the element of surprise
- Concrete – make it memorable with detail
- Credible – give a reason to believe
- Emotional – make someone feel it
- Stories – tell a story
It takes time and practice to get better at making your messaging sticky (and even this article could have been stickier), but the framework is great for keeping track of your progress.
Alright, I know I’ve covered a lot of ground and probably should have made it shorter. But, generally speaking we’re talking about knowing your audience, their decision making journey, and how you get better at connecting with them through sticky messaging.
If you’d like to see how we can help you cut through the noise and find your best customers, donors, and volunteers (or if you’ve got a great urban legend you’d like to share), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.