Most of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that I’m a big advocate for nonprofits learning the ins and outs of smart marketing. But all marketing strategies are not created equal, which is why I want to introduce you to Content Marketing.
If you’ve never heard the term ‘Content Marketing’ before, let me provide you with a quick definition before we dive into this blog post:
Content Marketing is a marketing strategy consisting of delivering a steady stream of relevant, online content to a targeted audience. This content can come in the form of blog posts, videos, social media posts, images, podcasts, or a number of other mediums. The most important thing is that new content must come out regularly and it must provide value to its audience.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because I truly believe that marketing is an important tool for furthering the mission and reputation of any nonprofit.
With the arts becoming more and more of an endangered species in American life, it’s critical that arts orgs learn how to market effectively so they can communicate their worth and help attract the next generation of arts patrons.
And since Content Marketing is one of the most effective marketing strategies out there, I want to make sure you know how to use it to your org’s advantage (and why you should).
5 Reasons to Start Using Content Marketing Now:
1. It’s the best marketing strategy out there
First, let’s start with some relevant stats (source):
- 72% of internet users want to learn about products, events, and opportunities through content; not through ads.
- 84% of people expect brands and organizations to provide them with content that entertains, tells a story, creates a certain type of experience, and/or helps them solve a problem
What this means is that content marketing, which is essentially a vehicle for providing people valuable content and information, has become the norm and is now expected. It’s not that traditional marketing methods don’t work. They do. But the data suggests that they don’t work nearly as well as letting your audience get to know who you are, what your org does, and the impact it makes every day.
Think about how you react to content marketing in your own life. Chances are good that you are on at least one social media platform. Or maybe you follow an individual or organization on their blog or through their email newsletter. Through these mediums you have gotten to know them, gotten to know what they do, and come to value their perspective. And when it’s time to choose an event, class, product, or cause on which you are willing to spend time and money, they have a good shot at getting you to choose them.
2. It’s low-cost
There are lots of marketing strategies out there which, traditionally, have been pay to play. When you place an ad in a newspaper or other publication, you have to pay for the ad space. If you run radio ads, you pay for air time. When you create a brochure or other print piece, you have to pay a designer and a printer to make them.
Typically costs for these marketing methods range from $50 all the way up into the thousands of dollars. Which is great if you’ve got the budget for it, but who does? And more importantly, if you could find smart, lower cost ways to market why would you spend that money?
Luckily, content marketing costs little to nothing and packs a pretty big punch in terms of results. You can easily and quickly add a blog to your nonprofit’s website, open social media accounts, or upload a video to YouTube, all for free. By doing this, you can gain access to thousands of users who are already on those platforms (or can be driven back to your blog from those platforms), casting a wider net for your potential audience.
3. It keeps people coming back, keeping your org top-of-mind
The most important goal of marketing is to stay at the forefront of your patrons’ minds so that when they want to make a purchase they are more likely to purchase from you (or donate, or volunteer, or whatever else you offer).
Again, unless you have the budget to continuously run high profile ads or produce glossy brochures, the easiest and lowest cost way to stay on the minds of your target audience is to frequently release new, engaging, valuable content which they can interact with.
For example, if you write humorous blog posts that give patrons a backstage peek at symphony life you will develop an audience who checks on your blog to see what they might have missed. And everytime they check on your blog, they are spending time on your website, which means they are also seeing the information you’ve put up about your latest events and classes, seeing the prominent ‘Donate’ button on each page, and learning about any new opportunities they may have to interact with your org.
Experts agree that on average, it takes a person seeing something 7 times before they will act on it. If your website is static or you have no social media with which people interact, they may see information about your organization once and then never again. Which means they haven’t seen it enough times to act on it.
However, if you’ve piqued their interest enough for them to repeatedly check your social media feeds, videos, or blog posts then you are much more likely to convert them to patrons, donors, sponsors, volunteers, and advocates.
4. It builds trust
In marketing there is something called the “know, like, & trust factor” which is essential to getting individuals to engage with you. Basically it means that no one will buy/donate/engage unless they know, like, and trust you.
So the primary task of nonprofit marketing is to build that trust in your organization, its mission, and the staff who execute that mission. Thankfully, Content Marketing is an excellent medium for you to do this.
Data shows that when someone can put a face and/or a voice with an organization, they are more likely to get to know them and eventually trust them. Which is why videos, photos, and podcasts are all fantastic ways to utilize Content Marketing to your advantage.
Likewise, us humans are more likely to put our faith (and hard-earned dollars) in an organization which we’ve seen, read about, and heard about before. This probably holds true in your own life as well. When you go to buy a new car or even purchase a food item from the grocery store, you don’t typically gamble on unknown brands and products. You go with the ones you know are good quality and you can trust, right?
And how exactly did you get to know and trust them? They’ve been around, they’ve been visible, and have positioned their brand as a quality brand through the use of marketing, word of mouth, and by providing value.
You may not have the budget to attack your marketing strategy the way Coca Cola has, but you absolutely can generate buzz, mentions, and trust through writing articles, releasing videos, sharing testimonials and the like.
5. It positions your org as an authority or leader in your area
Content Marketing allows you to put out a steady stream of curated, controlled information about what your org does and the impact it’s making. When done right, this should make your organization look like an expert in its niche.
This concept feeds back into the “know, like, & trust factor” mentioned in #4. People know, like, and trust people and organizations which they perceive as authorities in a given field. And they are vastly more likely to spend time and money on an organization which they believe is of the highest caliber.
So make sure that when someone in your community brings up the arts (or symphonic music or ballet or community theater) that they think of your nonprofit as the go-to in that realm.
Content Marketing is an incredibly powerful tool to have in your marketing arsenal. And because it’s so cheap to do, there’s little risk in trying it out. I recommend to all arts nonprofits that they give it a chance for at least 6 months to see what kind of impact it can make on their audience engagement as well as on their bottom line.
If you’re sold on trying it, but not sure exactly how to get started, I’ve created a list for you below.
- Create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter (or some combination of those) and post at least once a week.
- If you’re posting to social media, consider posting content they can’t get from your website or from coming to a concert or gallery opening. This could include behind-the-scenes photos, videos of event set-up, or interviews with staff, artists, and performers.
- Add a blog to your nonprofit’s website and post something at least 1-2x per month. Again, I suggest interviews, historical information on the art your org showcases, and other information that can add value to their arts experiences.
- Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Everything you post doesn’t have to be super polished and professional (and I would argue that it shouldn’t be). Show them the human side of your work.
- Also don’t underestimate the power of video as a medium to tell a story. Even a quick, 15-second clip of something can be incredibly engaging for a viewer (and all the latest data shows that video is the absolute best way to engage your audience).
As with everything in life, if you want to get better at something you need to practice and learn.
So I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a list of my favorite Content Marketing experts. These people and websites have helped me immensely and I know they can help you, too. The resources on this list are not tailored to nonprofits, but you shouldn’t let this stop you. What they have to teach you is not limited to for-profit companies and can easily be adapted for nonprofit purposes.
Enjoy getting to know these marketing experts and good luck with your Content Marketing endeavors. If you have any questions or could use some insight on implementing Content Marketing for your nonprofit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!