As the Marketing Manager at Blackbaud, I have to keep my ear close to the ground when it comes to the latest trends and innovations in the world of marketing. However, anyone – from marketing professionals through to the general consumer – would have had to have been living on Saturn’s smallest moon (Mimas, if you’re wondering) for the last couple of years not to notice the most significant shift in the way that marketing is done these days.
Whether you know the name for it or not, more and more companies are relying on Inbound Marketing to drive interest and awareness. Variously known under other guises, most commonly ‘Content Marketing‘, this is a strategy that is growing at exponential rates. It came about principally to combat the marketing fatigue that consumers experience. Whether in our working lives (B2B) or personal lives (B2C) we are all pummelled with more advertising and promotional messages than ever before. Stats vary, but some research shows we may be subjected to over 100 marketing messages each and every day. Inbound Marketing is the way that more and more organisations are attempting to cut through the noise.
Let me give you an example.
Remember those Barclays ads on TV, where Joe/Jenny Bloggs from the street would give you some advice about how to get better deals when shopping online or how to create an email address that is suitable to put on your CV? The one thing that may have stood out to you is that the advice they were giving had absolutely nothing to do with banking. They weren’t explaining why their interest rates were preferable to any other banks, or why you should use them for your small business banking. What they were doing was the essence of Inbound Marketing: they were holding out the hand of rich content, in exchange for the audience’s attention. They were giving you something useful; firstly because it made you more likely to listen to that ad than yet another one about variable APR, but secondly because the next time you are in the market for a new bank account or credit card, you may just have a warmer and fuzzier feeling about Barclays than about all the other banks who haven’t ever, yet, given you anything useful.
As a non-profit in an increasingly crowded space, the harsh reality is that most people don’t care about your cause. That’s a statement that stands nicely out as a blog article, so let me qualify it slightly. Most people don’t care about your cause enough to give you a donation or get involved as a volunteer. That’s a self-evident statement, otherwise every organisation would have tens of millions of donors. You will have your core supporters and your occasional donors, and probably an invisible group of people who do care about your cause but never actually act on it for various legitimate reasons. But beyond that, most people don’t care enough about your cause – or have enough awareness of your cause – do anything to help.
My challenge to you as a non-profit, is how do you harness the trend of inbound marketing from the commercial world? Just as it isn’t enough for Barclays to try and have the best products to appeal to a potential new customer, it is no longer enough for you just to have the most compelling story about the positive difference your organisation makes in the world. What value can you offer that will gain the attention of an audience?
Your potential supporters are getting pummelled with messages from umpteen directions hundreds of times a week, and all of those messages want firstly their attention, and secondly their money. Some of them will be from other non-profits, many will be from commercial companies, some may even be from charities with a similar mission to yours. What Inbound Marketing strategy can you execute that will allow your organisation to stand out?
- Could you use your expertise in events management to create a blog that helps parents organise better birthday parties for their kids?
- Could you evoke humour, leveraging the phenomenon of the meme to gain a following of individuals poking on their smartphones while bored in the evening.
- Could you stay so close to current affairs that you’re always ready to inform your audience and offer an opinion?
- Do you have volunteers and workers in other parts of the world, who could post regular images of locations that the commuter could look at on his phone for a few seconds’ escapism?
You see how broad the pool of opportunities could be? Your content can be close to your cause, but it doesn’t have to be. And to ‘be useful’ it doesn’t necessarily need to be serious. People are looking to be entertained as much as they’re looking for help and information.
Just try it. Not everything will be suitable for every non-rofit, of course. But jump in to Inbound Marketing and see where it goes. Some of your ideas will be rubbish and go nowhere. But some – I guarantee – will strike a chord. And by leveraging blogs and social media to expand your reach, you’ll come up with content that increases awareness of your organisation (and then, your cause) in a way that simply promoting the cause itself may not have.
You need to cut through the noise. You need to hold out that hand of rich content to do that. What could you do today to take your first step?