Reach, Inspire and Activate Nonprofit Supporters by Getting Personal
When I’m running a meeting, there are very few rules. Feel free to interrupt, doodle, stand up, walk around, hell – you can curse if want to. But you can’t use one word: Creepy. When I’m around, “creepy” is a four-letter word. (I mean – it’s not, but you get my point.)
Saying things these kinds of things could get you put in the meeting room naughty corner:
“Use retargeting ads? That’s creepy!”
“Send them an email with more information about an article they read on our website last week? So creepy!”
“Tell them to take action on a petition they looked at but didn’t sign? Creeeeepy!”
I’m serious. That word is verboten.
As a marketer, it’s my professional mission to successfully execute campaigns using the tools at my disposal. Success means reaching, inspiring, and activating users to become supporters or deepen their level of support. The challenge is that there are an increasing number of brands vying for the same pool of consumers, asking them to essentially take the same actions: pay attention, take action, and spend money. And we all have the same online channels at our disposal: Paid Search, Display Ads, Third Party Petition Sites and Email (amongst some others). Banner ads clog websites, and email inboxes are full. Everyone seems to want a piece of the pie, and consumers are being asked to make dozens if not hundreds of decisions about what to open, click, and act on every day.
So how do marketers cut through the noise online and capture the attention, mindshare, and wallet-share of users? Get personal. And don’t for a moment feel creepy (shudders) about it.
Actually, let’s take a moment to think of words to use instead of the “C” word.
Phew! That feels better. Because the truth is that the information we can gather from actions taken, or glean from user behavior and third party data, is extremely valuable, not just for our organizations but for the users as well.
After reading this post, you’ll better understand the power of individualized and personalized interactions, the difference between them, and where you can put them to work to make an impact for your organization.
Experian’s 2013 Email Benchmark Report determined that “personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates and revenue per email than non-personalized email.” SIX TIMES!!!
But… “The majority of marketers ask customers for data, but then don’t use it to personalize their emails. In fact, 70 percent of brands are not personalizing emails sent to subscribers.” Womp womp.
Sit with that for a second. Every email you send out without personalizing is essentially costing your organization in engagement and revenue.
You should also be really, really stoked about the opportunity you just uncovered.
The amount of data available to you as a marketer is astounding. To start, there’s the data you actively collect from constituents through actions they take on your site or through promotions.
- Interests (if requested during registration)
- …and many more
You also have some information you can deduce because of the data the user provides through their interactions:
- Legislative Districts
- Members of Congress
- Local Elected Officials
- Local Offices & Chapters
- Local Events
- …just to name a few
There’s also activity data:
- Donation History (how recently, how often, how much)
- Event attendance
- Petitions signs/actions taken
- What emails they open and how often they open them
- What emails they clicked and how often they click on things
- …other trackable actions
And you can append data to a user’s file using third-party partners:
- Social Network Profile Information
- Household Income
- Adult w/ Children
- Affinities and Affiliations
- The opportunities here are basically endless…
And that’s just a start.
This may be a good time to take a peek at what data you currently have on file about your supporters. Also, see what fields are empty – that’s what you could gather but haven’t quite yet!
Marketers have been using data for segmentation for years in their mail and email campaigns. Perhaps you’ve segmented your active donors and lapsed donors, or your mid-level donors and sustaining donors. You send each of these segments a different, tailored message based on a very broad categorization. And maybe in your email campaign, you’ve segmented leads from donors and send each of them a different message during an email campaign.
When this was all a constituent management system could do, it was absolutely best practices to do it. But now, you can do so much more.
Rather than simply sending messages to big segments of your supporters, you can use the data you have within each supporter record to create custom and personalized messages. These individualized messages will not just reach your target audience, but speak directly to each of them about their existing relationship with your organization, and give them specific actions to take that are in line with their interests, ideals, and past behaviors. You can push them along the path of engagement, or thank them for all they’ve done to date. Data is power. And the power is in your hands. (A little dramatic flair never hurt anyone!)
This is a good time for a Glossary Pit Stop.
Segmentation: Creating subsets of your supporter base using any data available.
Targeting: Sending messages to only certain segments.
Customization: This is the overarching term we’ll use to describe anytime you alter a standard message to speak to a smaller audience, or further, each member within that audience.
Personalization: To personalize is to add a name in the address field and distribute the same message to an entire list.
Individualization: To make your message individualized, you are truly trying to create a message for as small a group as possible that speaks not just to their name, but to things you know they care about.
The most power lies in developing truly individualized campaigns. Again, remember emails that have personalized content have more impact, result in more actions taken, and can increase donation amounts.
There are a few different ways to use data to make each user interaction more meaningful. Take emails for instance…
You can create individualized email blasts by:
- Merging in supporter data: “Say My Name” – Fierce hip-hop song, and effective marketing tactic. By doing something as simple as using a supporter’s name in the email salutation or subject line, you are saying to that person, “We know you, and recognize that you’re a valuable member of our community. We honor that relationship.” Don’t have all the names of all your supporters? Have a fallback salutation inserted dynamically when that’s the case. Think about merging in location, as well, to make your cause hit close to home.
- Inserting content depending on which group(s) your supporters belong to: Everyone likes to feel like they are part of a group. Feeling like they are unique, important, and valued. By creating groups of constituents based on their interests, event attendance, actions, location, level of support, etc. enables you to speak to each of these groups directly, even within the same email send. For instance – you have an event coming up, and you’re announcing it to your full list of supporters. Consider creating dynamic content for various groups:
- Last Year’s Attendees: “As [someone who joined us for our successful Walkathon last year], we’re excited to tell you this year’s Walkathon will be held July 3rd in the park!”
- Last Year’s Volunteers: “As [someone who helped make last year’s Walkathon possible], we’re excited to tell you this year’s Walkathon will be held July 3rd in the park!”
- Donors: “As [a valuable supporter of our organization], we’re excited to tell you this year’s Walkathon will be held July 3rd in the park!”
- Advocates: “As [someone who believes so strongly in our mission and has helped work toward making real changes on our organization’s behalf], we’re excited to tell you this year’s Walkathon will be held July 3rd in the park!”
You can see the vast majority of the copy stays the same, but a small change in copy acknowledges the supporter, and will increase the likelihood they’ll read your message and take action.
- Suggesting donation amounts based on previous donation history: When it comes to giving donations, many supporters “give and go.” (It’s not just a basketball play anymore!) They give their donation, and go on to other things. They may not remember what they gave last time; they may not know that a few extra dollars could go a long way. Organizations can capitalize on this in a few ways. First, you can remind a user of their last or highest gift amount in the email copy, and encourage them to increase their giving level to help further support your cause. Secondly, you can recommend a donation level that is just higher than their last or highest donation without including what that was. This way, you’re gently urging them to give more. These are just a few examples – I’m sure your team can come up with many more!
- Providing legislator information (name, contact info, etc.) customized to your supporter's constituency: “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (or K.I.S.S.) is an acronym to remind us to design things cleanly and simply. But, “Make It Simple, Stupid” (or M.I.S.S.) is the acronym I use to when developing conversion experiences. Users are busy. They have a lot going on, and a lot of things competing for their attention online AND off. There are instant messages flashing, emails filling their inbox, texts buzzing, kids playing, dogs barking… And if you don’t want to MISS out on an opportunity to get a conversion, make it as simple as possible to take the action you’re proposing. Let’s take advocacy as an example: If you want a supporter to contact their legislator, don’t have them click through to find out who it is, put it right in the email – their name, phone number, email address, website, picture…. anything a user could need to seamlessly, simply take the desired action. And, you can do this for your entire list, dynamically, since legislators can typically be matched by zip code. Just make sure you’re collecting zip codes!
I’ll leave you with this thought: While we have the data available to use for these positive purposes, it’s also important to be respectful of users when using their data, and not being, well, creepy about it. Here are some tips:
- Make the user feel good about having more customized communication – show benefits, provide valuable content, and improve their experience
- Give the user an ability to update their preferences, and strictly abide by those preferences
- Have clear privacy laws and have them available on your website
“Creepy.” I ban it in meetings for a reason. It’s not only inaccurate, but maligning marketing techniques that will help your organization achieve its goals doesn’t really serve anyone. Instead, start to incorporate a few of these tactics at a time. Become familiar with the tools available to you. Understand what pieces of data you have, what you want, and how you can get it. Then, go forth and raise hell. Or money. Or both.