Here’s what you know—The economy is stalled, with no improvement in sight. Jobs are scarce and instability is rampant. Beyond that, we’ve all been let down by people, institutions and processes we thought we could rely on for the duration—politicians and other leaders falling from grace, the swallowing up of social supports, and more.
What you may not realize is exactly how these factors can weaken your organization’s relationships with your supporters and prospects. Most people (including your target audiences, colleagues and leadership) are feeling:
- More anxious
- Less optimistic
- More skeptical of the ever-increasing barrage of content of all kinds, now delivered in more ways—online and offline.
As a result, their wants, values and preferences are changing. Your audiences are likely to be:
- More cautious, which means they are making decisions more slowly and donating at the same level or less
- Less likely to volunteer or participate in a program (or other non-essentials) due to budget and time restrictions
- Seeking to be understood, and the resulting connection
- Yearning for reliability and trustworthiness.
Your Solution: Get Personal to Get Relevant
Increased relevance is your absolute priority in 2012.
At a time of high stress and uncertainty, relevance is the only way to connect with your target audiences—marketing has to be more on target, messages resonate more intensely, and interaction designed to incorporate choices and discussion (leave your megaphone at home). Since getting it right is rare, your doing so will be valued all the more.
It’s really very simple, and something that you probably do on a personal level all the time: Getting to know and understand others with whom you want to build a friendship, learning what’s important to them and how their days go, then connecting with them by focusing on what’s important or interesting to both of you—via a platform (cell phone, text or visit), at a time that of mutual convenience. Once you get started, you factor in the way your relationship evolves to figure out the next step.
Similarly, your audiences have to feel you "get them;" that you understand their values, interests, wants and habits so that your messages and call to action are as meaningful to them as they are to you, that you note their responses (or lack thereof) to your outreach and adapt accordingly. You want them to think to themselves, “Yep, that’s exactly how I feel about fracking,” or “That donor’s quote sounds like something I’d say.”
How to Get to Know Your Target Audiences
Here’s how to learn what’s important to your network.
NOTE: A vital prerequisite to effective personalization is having a system and processes firmly in place that ensure the quick, thorough and accurate tracking, logging and sharing of your audience profiles or records.
1. Pinpoint three or fewer audiences—
Those who can do the most to move your marketing goals forward in 2012, and who are most likely to do so.
Example—Target audiences for an animal shelter seeking to build its volunteer and donor base:
- Friends of current volunteers who are pet lovers
- Customers of pet-related businesses in the region
- Clients of vets in the region.
If there are meaningful and distinct groups within each audience (individuals linked by shared values, wants and/or perspectives that provide stronger avenues of connection for you), segment them out (no more than three per audience).
2. Get to know your audiences and segments
Research their values, habits, preferences, dislikes, behaviors—including how they interact with your organization—then analyze your findings.
- Begin with each individual’s interactions with your organization, which you have (or will have) on hand. Capture and note elements such as:
- Time, date and level of donations
- Gift focus (general or program- or fund-specific)
- Event participation
- Volunteer participation
- Responses to various messages, content and formats.
- Move on to more meaty dimensions of your audiences—values, wants, priorities, preferences and interests. These insights will help you build the deep and really meaningful understanding that will enable you to connect with people at a core emotional level.
Here are six quick and inexpensive approaches to getting to know your audiences (links lead to detailed guidance):
How To Capture, Manage and Share What You Learn
The value of what you learn about your audiences grows exponentially when you log, share and analyze it across your organization, in a way that’s easy to access and search.
Create, use and update regularly your contact database of your current network and prospects (a.k.a.), where you can note all that you know.
Ask and train your colleagues to do the same. The more robust your insight into each person you’re hoping to engage, the greater your probability of doing so—if you base the form and focus of your outreach on these profiles.
How to Use the Personal to Get Relevant
1. Personalize messages and content to connect
Take the understanding you’ve gained to hone your messages or content as specifically as possible to each individual, as you would in a conversation.
- Your insights enable you to craft emotional messages. We respond first through the heart, then through the head; the right brain decides, the left brain justifies. You succeed here only when you really understand whom you’re speaking with.
- Focus on the sweet spot—the overlap of your audiences’ wants and values, and those of your organization. It can't be all about them, because it wouldn't serve your organization's needs or get you to your mission.
- Write short. Give your network only what they need to motivate them to act, and nothing more.
2. Use the tools now inexpensively available to match each name with the right call to action
Core tools include your database, and a reputable and flexible email service which enable you fine-tune your outreach:
- Segment by patterns of engagement with your organization, issues of greatest interest or other dimensions of your audiences. For example, send email A to the group of donors new in the last 6 months who aren't otherwise active in your nonprofit, and email B to those who also volunteer.
- Test what messages, look and feel, and formats work best for each audience group, using A & B versions. Use results to shape future outreach.
- Analyze your website, email and social media usage stats.
3. Go where your audiences already are
As the number of channels or platforms increases, usage pattern diversify. So track and analyze how your network is interacting with you so you’re in the right place in the right way.
A 2012 priority is likely to be making your website and emails mobile device-friendly.
Dig into your analytics (a.k.a. website and email stats) to see how many of your email and enews lists, and site users, access your content via cell phones and tablets.
If that’s 20% or more of your user base, make the change pronto.
4. Stay consistent across channels
Make sure that your communications and conversations are recognizable in a flash across channels, offline and online. Consistent use of core messages and "look and feel" are cues to your audiences that your outreach is coming from your organization. That makes it easier for them to digest your content and act.
Inconsistency confuses, and confusion is one of the biggest barriers to attention and action.
The Getting Attention blog
offers pithy, punchy insights on the world of nonprofit marketing and communications, and how you can do it better, and you can get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader.NANCY SCHWARTZ & COMPANY
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