By: Alyson Weiss, YNPN Boston Communications & Marketing Ambassador | Young Professional Outreach Coordinator & Social Media Specialist at Career Moves – a division of JVS
Does this scenario sound familiar: It’s 4 PM and all of a sudden you realize you haven’t posted anything to your nonprofit’s social media channels. “Hey!” you bellow to your unpaid intern. “Do you have time to find something related to [insert cause here] to post before you go?”
Many nonprofits know that social media, blogs, websites, and other forms of digital communication are critical to their success, but have no idea how to use these platforms strategically. This misunderstanding is costing them money, publicity, and time.
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that utilizes content + strategy to create a funnel that encourages more involvement at every level – Twitter followers begin to attend events, event attendees begin to volunteer or become a client, etc. This strategy, when used well, makes your online presence start to work for you instead of it feeling like work.
It may sound scary – but we’re going to take you step-by-step through the process! I designed & implemented an inbound marketing strategy at Career Moves – a division of JVS a year ago and I can help you do the same!
Step One: Strategize
Before you make a single change to your online presence, think about what outcome you would like to produce in an ideal world. Do you want website visitors to sign a petition? Join an elist? Volunteer? Attend an event?
List your ‘asks’ from most desired but biggest ask to least desired by ‘softest’ ask. When I did this with the staff of Career Moves – a division of JVS, this is what we identified:
- Audiences become paid one-on-one clients & enroll in career counseling, job search coaching, and/or social media training.
- Audiences attend a paid group workshop.
- Audiences attend a free group event, like our monthly Lunch & Learn series.
- Audience download a free resource and leave us their contact information so we can follow up.
- Audiences sign up for our elist to stay in the loop and hopefully attend an event, workshop, or one-on-one session in the future.
- Audiences read our blog & become engrossed. They stay on the blog, reading a few articles, and eventually decide they would like to get more involved by doing ask 1-4.
You will not use every ‘ask’ every time – you will tailor it to each occasion – but this is a good way for you to sort out your organization’s priorities to focus your online marketing efforts.
Step Two: Identify Your Audience
Next, think about who your audience is, both online and in real life. Are there patterns in age? Demographics? Profession? Needs?
Critically analyze the barriers that prevent you from effectively reaching your audience. Are you on the wrong platform, posting at the wrong time, or not answering a frequently asked question?
One of the biggest challenges for Career Moves – a division of JVS was explaining the difference between our three types of one-on-one services. Though to you, dear reader, career counseling may sound exactly the same as job search coaching (it certainly did for me when I started the job!), they are actually two different types of career services that address different needs and that different staff people are qualified to deliver. Therefore, we had to create content that would: 1. Explain the difference between our services & 2. Convince readers to use them.
Step Three: Create Content
Now that you have identified who your audience is, what they need, and what your nonprofit needs, it’s time to create strategic content. Strategic content addresses your audience’s needs and directs them through the funnel of asks you identified in Step One.
A blog can be a great space to create long-form content, but you could focus on your website instead if you do not have a blog. For Career Moves – a division of JVS, I worked with my colleagues to create an introductory blog post and a landing page on our website for each of our three services. For an example, check out Career Counseling 101 on our blog and our career counseling landing page on our website (with a link to the blog for more information).
Regardless of which platform you use, it’s crucial that your content contains:
- High-quality information that your audience needs and can immediately use. This will establish your nonprofit as an expert that your reader actually wants to work with.
- A funnel of asks at the bottom. Don’t leave your audience wondering what the next steps are! Give them direct calls to action, ordered by what you would like them to do the most to what you would like them to do the least. Cap your asks at three and include at least one passive ask, like joining an elist or reading another article.
Step Four: Capture Contact Information
No matter how impressive and worthy your organization is, the odds are that you need your audience more than they need you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be marketing at all.
Therefore, it’s crucial that your inbound marketing strategy includes a component where you can capture passive audiences’ contact information so you can follow up accordingly.
The most common method for this is through free downloads. This download could be a new research report you just wrote, an exercise you give clients, or an ebook you wrote just for this inbound marketing effort. The cost of this download isn’t money – it’s their contact information.
Career Moves – a division of JVS’s most popular free download is our LinkedIn Headline Generator, a brainstorming worksheet that helps users write their LinkedIn Headlines. It has been downloaded 360 times in the last year – that’s almost once a day!
Once you have the contact information – use it wisely! Do NOT spam, but do use the opportunity to send them targeted follow-up information. After someone downloads the LinkedIn Headline Generator, I may send them a link to our upcoming LinkedIn workshop (an ask two above the free download). I further target my information by asking them about their biggest career challenges on the download form. Also, on our download page we ask if they would like to opt in to our elist and be followed up with individually.
Step Five: Spread the Word
Once you have high-quality, strategic content, it’s time to get some readers! Use your free social media channels to link to your blog posts and/or website landing pages. Tag relevant people or organizations and ask them to spread the word. Guest blog for other organizations and include links (like this post!). Create multimedia representations of your content like infographics or SlideShares. Take advantage of Google AdWord’s free nonprofit accounts.
Don’t hesitate to recycle your content and post it more than once in different ways. For example, I may create three separate social media posts about my social media training blog, the social media training landing page, and the LinkedIn Headline Generator.
In addition to using your social media accounts, think of other ways you can use this content to bring your audience through your funnel of asks. We created a general inquiry email that describes our three services with links to the blogs to learn more and a half-sheet that we pass out at workshops to convert attendees into one-on-one clients.
Step Six: Rinse, Measure, Repeat
Set up a trial period that you will try out your technique before evaluating its effectiveness and making changes based on that evaluation. We chose to measure the results in one year.
In one year, we had 450 downloads. 193 people asked to be added to our elist (44%) and 120 asked to be individually contacted (27%). Additionally, 32 people filled out our general inquiry form to ask for more information about one-on-one services.
Though inbound marketing requires an investment of time to set up, a well-done inbound marketing campaign will pay off. Inbound marketing maximizes the efficiency of your marketing to save you time and (hopefully) make your organization money.