2018 has come to a close and it’s now time to look forward to the new year. You probably have high hopes that 2019 will be the year your nonprofit soars to new heights and brings its mission to an ever-wider audience. Hopefully, this will be the year for those things, but it couldn’t hurt to be aware of some trends in digital marketing to help stack the deck in your favor.
Here are the up-and-coming major players on the digital marketing horizon for 2019. Learn about them and find ways to integrate them into your org’s marketing strategy this year!
Chatbots are a type of software program used to literally chat with customers, clients, patrons, donors, etc. These chatbots simulate human conversations and are often used for customer-service type functions or even for cultivating leads (in your case, donor leads). You see them most often on websites that have a live chat function and you are going to start seeing them more and more like an automated response to social media messages sent to businesses and organizations.
I know that many are kinda freaked out by the rise of robots and such taking on roles that we expect real live humans to take on instead. But let me turn that perspective on its head for a second.
Are there things a real live human should be doing? Of course. Is it also true that nonprofit workers are almost always spread too thin and need smarter ways to work so they don’t burn out at alarming rates? Ummm….that’s a big fat “yes”.
So don’t think of chatbots as replacing human interaction. Rather, think of them as augmenting it. A well-placed chatbot can help you get more done in less time, eliminate the need to respond to easy questions which a chatbot could answer instead, and easily touch base with patrons or donors to let them know they are important and on the org’s “mind” (without spending precious hours doing it).
And of course, you can and should still spend time responding to more complicated or high-level requests and use the information you get from chatbot interactions to take your in-person interactions to the next level.
Chatbots could be a really great way for a nonprofit to allow their actual workers to focus on higher-level tasks and at the same time deliver faster, round-the-clock responses and help to donors, patrons, and community members.
Want more info on chatbots? Check out this great, in-depth article on them from Sprout Social.
2. Smart devices/artificial intelligence
When I say “smart devices” and “artificial intelligence” I’m talking about things like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home and their ability to interact directly with you, answer questions, and even perform tasks like order office supplies.
And although these devices have been around for a few years now, many businesses have been slow to see the potential in them. That’s changing more quickly now and in 2019 you should expect to see many businesses creating “skills” and other assets tailor-made for these platforms.
They are doing this because it’s still a relatively unsaturated market and it’s still easy to get your message and your brand in front of people in a way that turns them into fans (and in the case of nonprofits, into donors).
Take a cue from these early-adopter businesses and start thinking about how you can add value in the form of smart device/AI skills to the lives of your donors and patrons. If you’re a symphony orchestra, you could easily do a short clip of “Morning Music” to help music lovers start their day (and remind them why they need to buy season tickets in the process).
Likewise, any arts & culture orgs could take advantage of this. Create 365 little trivia factoids about whatever your org does. Make sure they are interesting or entertaining and you have a whole year's worth of great stuff to offer your audience.
Want to learn more about how to create your org’s first Alexa skill without knowing how to code? Check out this article from pocket-lint.com on how to do it.
3. Working with local influencers
In 2019 you are going to see less and less of celebrities and larger than life figures marketing things and more influencers having success in this space. What’s an influencer? It’s typically someone who has authority in a certain subject. Let me give you an example.
Say you need to buy a new car. Are you more likely to be swayed by a glossy commercial starring a Kardashian or are you more likely to trust your cousin who’s a total car nut, has spent the past 30+ years learning everything there is to know and works in the industry. Right…you’ll trust your cousin.
An influencer is basically your cousin, but with more exposure. It’s someone who knows a subject really well, has authority in that arena, and people know it. They are prominent in their area of expertise and people trust their advice.
You see this all the time on social media. But in 2019 we are going to start seeing more local influencers on the scene. So instead of someone with 1 billion followers on Instagram marketing something, you’ll start to see more local authorities promoting for companies and organizations within their own communities.
This is good news for nonprofits because it should be an easy thing for you to get in on. Find out who in your community or your region is an authority on what you do (or whose area of expertise could pair well with what you do). Then approach them and talk about ways to partner. They should promote you and your organization’s offerings and in return, they may get free tickets, access to exclusive exhibits or performances, a backstage pass to meet artists one-on-one, or something along those lines.
Be creative and reach out to a few people this year. This is a technique where you could have a lot of fun and see a huge return on your efforts.
4. Live video
Video has been big for a while and it will continue to be a big deal in 2019. But in 2019 we will most likely start to see a bigger return on live video. Think Facebook Lives, Instagram Lives, YouTube lives, stories, and basically any platform that allows you to reach your audience live and unscripted.
Data has shown in the past few years that people actually engage more often with unpolished, raw videos than they do with polished, professionally edited videos. Because today more than ever before, people are hungry for authenticity. They don’t care so much about crazy graphics and special effects. They want to hear your message and know you mean it.
So give them what they want. Get on camera, live, and actually talk and interact with your audience. Be real, be humorous, embrace flaws and mistakes, and get out there. Take people behind the scenes, ask for the opinions, and show them things about your work they may not otherwise see.
Done consistently and over enough time, you will start to see returns on this effort in the form of engagement and increased donations and attendance.
5. Content Marketing
Content marketing is NOT new. I’ve written about it many times before. In fact. But content is still king and in 2019 you will continue to see content marketing playing a prominent role in who thrives and who just gets by in the marketing space.
If your nonprofit has not used content marketing to its advantage in the past, 2019 is the time to start and it’s never been easier to pull off. Check out this past article of mine on getting started with content marketing for some entry-level ideas.
6. Email personalization
Email marketing has been around for a while, and hopefully, it’s something your organization is already doing. Having said that, in 2019 those who are most successful at it will be taking full advantage of email personalization to drive that success.
No, I don’t just mean making sure each email starts off by addressing the subscriber by name. You should totally be doing that, but by itself, that’s so 2015.
Rather, I mean personalizing the actual content to each of your subscribers. Now, when I type that out it kinda sounds exhausting. You and I both know that no one has time to create individual emails for hundreds or thousands of subscribers.
But take heart! The best email service providers (ESP’s) today have ways around this. Most give you ways to tag subscribers based on their actions. For example, if someone clicks on a link about local artist exhibitions, you could tag them as being interested in local art. Then you can use that tag to send more targeted info about local art to everyone on your email list with that tag, thereby giving them exactly what they want.
Most ESP’s also give you ways to segment your list. Think of segments like file folders or in this case, a way to organize the people on your list into distinct groups.
Let’s say you are a community arts center and your center offers visual arts classes, exhibitions, musical performances, and dance classes. That’s a lot and not everyone who’s interested in visual art is going to also want information on dance classes, right?
With email segments, you can organize subscribers into dance, art, and music segments based on their tags and then only send them the information they will be interested in. This increases the chances that they will actually open your emails and act on them by engaging with your organization, making a donation, or attending an event.
And it lets people know that you’re paying attention. You care about what they think and want and you get them. That’s invaluable nowadays and people recognize it. Use this strategy to turn people into true blue fans of your organization and its mission.
Those are my best tips for taking advantage of marketing trends in 2019. Now, take a moment to leave me a comment and tell me which trends you want to take advantage of, your thoughts on these trends, or what has worked best for you in past years.
I want to hear from YOU!