Responsive marketing has been around for a while now, but if you’ve never heard that term before, don’t feel bad. It’s not something that gets talked about a lot in the nonprofit sector. Which is a shame, because it could really boost engagement with nonprofit patrons and donors and who doesn’t need a little more of that?
Responsive marketing is essentially a marketing method that takes the focus off of driving sales (or in this case, ticket sales, donations, event RSVPs, etc.) and instead, focuses on creating conversations with your audience on the topics they care about most. Those topics may or may not be directly related to your organization’s work, either.
If you’ve never tried it before, it may sound a bit misguided to create a marketing campaign that isn’t focused on what your organization does. But hear me out. There are plenty of studies and data out there showing that people today don’t want to be “sold to”. They don’t want to be pitched, they don’t want you to ask them to spend money, donate, or attend one more event out of the goodness of their hearts.
And that sucks because isn’t that basically the model we’ve all used in the nonprofit sector for ages? It’s what we know and are comfortable with, certainly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change.
Think about your own life. Are you more likely to buy something or go to an event because some random company or organization told you that you should? Or are you more likely to go because people are excited about it? Because there’s buzz and the organization in question is carrying on an entertaining, two-way conversation with its audience?
Option number 2, of course.
You may not have even noticed this subtle shift in yourself, but chances are good that you have made that shift in deciding how you will spend your time and cash. Most of us have. And so has your nonprofit’s audience. I’m simply asking you to cater to that with an updated approach.
Let me give you a great example of the type of responsive marketing I’m talking about.
In 2013, the Baltimore Ravens were battling it out against the San Francisco 49’ers during Super Bowl XLVII when the lights in the stadium suddenly went out. And then they stayed out for 34 minutes in an unprecedented power outage. Companies with smart marketing teams were watching the game and capitalized on this blackout.
Probably the one that made the biggest splash was Oreo, who created this gem of responsive marketing in the minutes after the blackout:
Does a power outage or football have anything to do with cookies? Nope. But they knew that football fans were frustrated and cooling their heels so they took this opportunity to create a super simple graphic that they knew would make people laugh and then they posted it on their social media feeds. It went viral and the ROI from that simple post far exceeded any paid ads running on television during the game.
I’m not suggesting that you need to wait with bated breath for something to happen so you can create a post like Oreo’s. Or even that you have to do this on social media at all. This is merely an example to show you that you can create content aimed at what’s happening in your audience’s lives that doesn’t ask anything of them and that it can (and often will) result in greater loyalty to and engagement with your organization directly because of its authenticity and playful nature. And that typically leads to greater revenue from earned income streams and donations down the road!
If you’re ready to take advantage of responsive marketing for your nonprofit, here’s my strategy roadmap, created just for you:
STEP 1: Create a listing of upcoming events and trends
Get out a sheet of paper or fire up your favorite word processing or spreadsheet program. Then make a list of anything coming up in the months ahead which your audience would care about. Remember, it doesn’t have to be directly related to what your org does. It could be the opening of a restaurant nearby, the upcoming presidential election, or something silly like the ongoing beauty trend of having gigantic, bold eyebrows (I know, I just upset about half of you who love that trend. Sorry).
STEP 2: Think through how your audience might feel about these events and trends
Create another column in that spreadsheet or a section on your paper and list out how your audience might respond to the topics you identified. The goal here isn’t to cater to every viewpoint or be so generic that you don’t actually have anything to say. But the goal also isn’t to piss off your audience. Seek to understand how most of your audience feels and then try taking a lighthearted approach, looking for something that will make them laugh, or something that will spark conversation.
STEP 3: Develop copy and imagery around these topics
Start writing some copy around the topics you’ve identified. Remember, the shorter the better and it should ideally be funny, lighthearted, or entertaining in some way. Once you have your copy, create some quick graphics or pair it up with a photo. Don’t spend a ton of time creating the perfect graphic, either. Remember the Oreo ad? Simple works just fine.
STEP 4: Choose your platforms
Create another column in your spreadsheet or a section on your paper and start listing out which platforms you want to use to reach people with your responsive marketing campaigns. You could use social media, email, paid ads, newsletters, flyers, or something else altogether.
STEP 5: Pre-Schedule everything
You don’t want to spend a bunch of time every day or week on your various platforms getting things set up. That would be a huge time suck. Instead, use social media, email, and ad scheduling tools to load everything up all at once and then schedule everything to publish on the dates and times you want.
STEP 6: Monitor Feedback and be Ready to Respond
One of the most important features of responsive marketing is being responsive. Setting up these campaigns is only half the job – the other half is engaging with your audience once they start to react. This means that you will need to monitor feedback. If you are using social media, you can do this easily by using a social management tool like HootSuite. If you are using email, you can use your service provider’s built-in functionality. Or you could use Zapier to create custom ways to collect and respond to feedback. (For more info on using these tools to reduce your and time spent on tasks like these, check out my last blog post on automation.)
Make your responses genuine and if possible, witty. Your audience will love it and it will build great rapport!
STEP 7: Watch audience engagement grow!
If you identify things your audience cares about, create entertaining or thought-provoking messages about them, and then directly engage in the conversation with followers, you will start to grow your engagement. And revenue from donations and earned income streams is sure to follow because people love an organization they can interact with and which they feel really gets them. Be that organization.
If you want more information aimed at helping arts and culture nonprofits create smart digital strategies, consider signing up for my upcoming Digital Marketing & Fundraising Mastery Workshop on May 28th!