Marketing experts weigh-in on how your non-profit can break through the noise


Just the other day my spouse and I were sitting on the coach unwinding from another busy day when this Geico commercial came on television:

chicken

 

I blurted out, “Oh, I just love this commercial.” My partner’s response was “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one.

Of course, this commercial has been airing for weeks, and it has taken a long time for it to break through the noise for my partner. It was this revelation that got me thinking about this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme “Breaking Through the Noise” being hosted by RAD Blog.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve scratched my head wondering what could I possibly add to this topic that smarter marketing professionals haven’t already said, which is when it hit me:

Go ask the experts!

Over the last year, I’ve had two amazing marketing professionals in my life. I decided to just ask them to say something wise about how non-profit organizations can break through the everyday noise and information overload that our donors, supporters, volunteers, and prospective supporters and donors experience.

This is what they very graciously shared . . .


Meet Noel Childs

noelI first met Noel more than a year ago when I signed a capacity building contract with Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra focused on resource development and board development. He is a board volunteer who currently serves as the organization’s Vice President.

As I got to know Noel, I discovered he is one of those creative-types who understands how people communicate. He is the President & Founder of 9ine, and this is how he describes himself on his personal website:

Designer. Artist. Father. Founder.
Arsenal FC Gunner. Guild navigator.
Dirt farmer. Marten herder. Folk hero. Lover.
Fighter.

Did that break through the noise for you? Yeah, it did for me too, which is why I asked Noel to weigh-in on the question of how non-profit organizations can go about breaking through the noise with their communications strategies and efforts.

Here is what Noel had to say:

Stay true to your core mission

Progressive non-profits are realizing that with institutions dying and culture in flux they need to innovate more then every before when it comes to marketing and communications. Changing with the times is essential, but not at the cost of your mission. Find new tactical ways to engage your stakeholders, but all strategy must flow from your purpose — your “why you exist“.

Assess your digital ecology

Take a closer look at all of your online channels, websites, social media, mobile initiatives, digital marketing, and advertising to make sure it’s interconnected without barriers. Stakeholders (both existing and potential) expect to easily flow between channels and if you’re digital ecology has disconnects you’re missing opportunities.

Identify online communities

Online users behave differently from one another. Conduct research to understand their habits and desires and group them. Seek out the influencers that are at the hub of these groups. They are your key to a higher level of engagement. Create communications that will connect at a deep, sub-conscious level.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it

Cut out the marketing and communications that don’t have some metric tied to it. With a lean budget, not being able to assess a communication’s ROI is like burning money.

Authentic storytelling cuts through the noise

Traditional advertising and marketing is outdated. People are skeptical of being sold to. Millennials completely ignore it. Show the real value of your non-profit though true stories that connect via content marketing.


Meet John Mitchell

john mitchellJohn is the other marketing guy who has been in my life for the last year.

I first met John during a capital campaign project with Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington. He is one of the busiest cats I know, and he graciously agreed to serve as the chair of the Club’s capital campaign Communications Task Force. He is the Owner & Executive Director (and self-described ping pong guru) of Monarch Media Studios.

John has a very strong and powerful point of view when it comes to cutting through the din that everyone now experiences while watching television, sitting at your computer, driving to work . . . in fact just living.

Like Noel, I consider John to be a communications genius which is why I asked him to weigh-in on how your non-profit organization can break through the noise and reach those with whom you need to speak.

Here is what John had to say:

There is a worsening marketing NOISE developing that is causing the process of messaging to become both more difficult and simpler at the same time….I’ll explain.

While you’re reading this, you’re probably receiving an email, a push notification, and a news alert about something that you will likely ignore while promising yourself that you will find a way to unsubscribe when you have time.

It has never been easier to get your message in front of your target audience, but it has never been harder to make them pay attention.  The most profound of messages will likely be lost in a sea of sports scores, political updates, cat videos, and free wal-mart gift card opportunities.

It sounds overwhelming, but the noise has actually provided an opportunity as well.

The opportunity is for a return to honest sentiment and simple truth. Whiteboard sessions that focus on semantics and tag lines can now be replaced with coffee house meetings over stories of real life change and passion.

Call me naive, but I believe the way to cut through the growing marketing noise is with simple, honest, clear, and real messaging.  It stands out in a sea of swooshes, sexy hamburgers, talking animals, and 3-D billboards.

In this way, not-for-profit messaging has never been at a bigger advantage, when it comes to getting the attention of potential donors.

If I’m selling a widget, I have to dig deep to find a profound, honest message that speaks through the noise.  This is why marketing has started to look more like visual gymnastics than like intentional messaging.  When an organization has a message that is driven by human story (i.e Boys and Girls Clubs stories), passion and compelling calls to action become the low hanging fruit.

So, my advice to non-profit organizations (as a marketing minion who has done more visual backflips than I care to admit), is to lean into your advantage in the midst of the noise.

  • Look for the human stories.  People make us care.  Stories make us move!
  • Find the common denominators in your stories.
  • Speak clearly and honestly to your audience.

Good news . . . you have the power to break through the NOISE.


So, what did you think? Did the advice of these two marketing pros resonate with you? What is your non-profit organization doing to break through the increasing noise of the world around us? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

A special thanks to both Noel and John for taking time out of their incredibly busy and creative days to share their thoughts. Won’t you please do the same? We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on March 26, 2015, in marketing, nonprofit and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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