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10 Things You Can Do Today To Boost The Effectiveness of Your Marketing Program (Part 2, 6-10)

Aug 18, 2007
It is human nature to try and improve upon the conditions around us. For organizations, there have been many theories expounded over the years about quality improvement, continuous improvement, conscious improvement and a slew of others - clearly getting better at what you do as an organization is a key component to success.

If you think of your outreach marketing program as the volume control for the information, it would be a simple impulse to turn up that switch when you needed more members, or wanted to launch a new program - one simple motion.

Unfortunately it's not really that simple. However, there are lots of small things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your outreach marketing - some of them as easy and inexpensive as turning up that volume control.

Some may seem obvious, but in aggregate, they should boost response, increase participation, build membership and loyalty, and increase retention in your organization.

6) Benefits, Benefits, Benefits!
"What's in it for me" is the phrase that you can use to evaluate all your activities geared toward communicating with members and prospects. The full range of communications vehicles can all benefit from this exercise. If it's not clear what the member gets in return for their participation, in cold hard prose, then write the piece so it is clear. If they have to work to understand your value proposition for their business, their career or their personal development, you've lost them before you start.

If you begin with the mindset that recipients read to find something in it for them, you'll be highlighting benefits rather than outlining features. Your organization offers great benefits to its members, or it wouldn't exist - tighten the copy to focus on benefits - it forces you to crystallize the value proposition and is extremely persuasive.

TO DO: Dig out the last broad membership promotion you created, and see if you can extract 5 tangible, relevant benefits - if you can't find five, it's time to rework your outreach recruitment efforts to focus on the needs of your audience.

7) Crank Up the Creativity - Reach Out in a New Way
Promotions, especially direct mail collateral pieces, are most effective when they take the recipient by surprise. In other words - Get Creative! Because of the cyclic nature of most non-profit marketing, the temptation is to update materials or recycle concepts from prior years. This can save you some time, but it can be deadly to take a previously-used piece of creative material and simply change the dates and the city. Don't fall into that trap.

Change formats, use an unusual paper stock, bring out the bright colors, if you normally use type, try an original illustration, if you've used illustration, try photography.

The new concept behind the execution is even more critical. Stick out of the mailbox with a dimensional mailing of unusual proportion or odd shape. Try a contest, a multi-part mailing, a premium, bundle several offers into one themed piece. If you've done it before, eject it from the start and see what you can come up with that still resonates with the audience.

Mail still pulls response beautifully if executed well, and something truly new and exciting is still extremely effective. It's hard to deliver a sample of a product with an e-mail! Use the advantage that mail offers you and get personal with the audience. With today's digital production techniques, there's no reason that each collateral piece can't be virtually unique to the recipient - that alone makes it different and engaging. The trick is to get the audience's attention.

TO DO: Try this exercise - Gather your creative staff around a flip chart. The goal is to create an ad for your next meeting to run in your house member publication in an hour. Get your staff together and brainstorm 5 concepts, each extending the original concept one degree further out than the last. Start with headlines, images, copy points, whatever works for you. The only rule is, you can't have used the idea before anywhere in the organization previously. By the time you get to the fifth concept, you should be breaking some new ground.

8) Deliver The Message In a Way They'd Like To Receive It
Someone famous said "The medium is the message" - never has that been more true than now, in the age of multi-media, electronic, digital, satellite, cell phone, PDA, blackberry, text message driven society. A good message sent via the wrong medium will almost certainly fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. On the other hand, a good match of medium and message can multiply the impact.

The good news is, after doing your research, updating your database, and creating groundbreaking creative, you can deliver this new marketing communications miracle in the way that the recipient would like to receive it, simply by asking them.

For you, permission-based delivery:
* Makes your job of reaching them easier
* Makes the task of delivery more efficient and effective
* Cements your relationship to the recipient
* Improves the chance that the recipient will take action
* Broadens your potential audience through the use of alternative media

For the recipient, it
* Delivers the message where, when and how they want to see it
* Give them the freedom of choice
* Gives them control of their relationship with you
* Lets them respond in a way that is easy for them on their schedule

All these benefits can be yours for the taking, if you just ask for the information.

How do you get this information, and how do you keep it all straight? The answer is in the structure of your recipient database. If you've noted that a certain subset of your house list seems to respond well to e-mail rather than mail, be sure that this group receives the promotion via e-mail almost exclusively - save the postage.

If you've noted that a fax to a certain group, or about a certain issue seems to pull well, flag them for faxing as a matter of routine - save the postage and printing. If you've noticed that a certain type of offer works best only when mailed, create a whole series of mailers on that topic and mail away. The trick is to reach people in a way that works for THEM.

TO DO: Gather up the registration cards, order blanks, response coupons, and other ordering devices you routinely use throughout the years to prompt and record an order. Lay them out and review each, and see if there's room for a simple multiple choice question: "How would you like to receive information about this (organization, product, activity, issue)? Mail, Fax, E-mail, Phone, text message, other." Armed with this information on your members and prospects, your response rate for all of them is bound to rise if you just use it.

9) Cross Promote Whenever Possible - Strength in Numbers
When does 1+1+1 = 5? When each of those "1"s cross-promotes to the others. Chances are your organization has several different departments, each promoting their product, program, event or benefit. Chances are also good that several of those outgoing promotions are going to the same individual, either member or prospect.

If your database is so equipped, from number 2, and all the departments share that database, then you can flag them as multiples, and at least bundle them into a common envelope and save on materials and postage. If it happens a lot, you'll save a bit of money, but eventually everyone will get everything going out in one envelope, and your targeting goes out the window.

Cross promotion is the answer. A piece of collateral promoting the latest book might also mention that there's a newsletter on a similar topic available to members only, and it might mention that there's a seminar session at the annual meeting on that topic for top executive members only. On the other hand, seminar attendees receiving a meeting promotion could also have a book list inserted, with the relevant titles highlighted, based on the sessions they've attended in the past.

The key is to find a common thread or common denominator to help cross over the recipient to take advantage of more than one service or product you offer. Each time one piece sent to a subgroup of members or prospects mentions another service they might find appealing, it acts as a multiplier, at no cost, for the effectiveness of the program. But how do you carry that out?

Once again, it's the database to the rescue. It should show you all the activity of the members, and also what each prospect has received, at least for the previous year, hopefully farther back than that. All that information is waiting to be put to use, like money in the bank. It's up to you to use it.

TO DO: Pull together a year's worth of promotions from the past year from all the various departments, and search each one for mentions of other services, products or events by other departments. Try to find 5 instances where cross promotion could be inserted in any one of them, promoting 5 related benefits, even if it's just a web address for the other product or service. If you can't find all 5, this technique could be used more regularly to boost participation and save money within your organization.

10) Leave No Stone Unturned - Use Alternative Media and Bring Big Results
Marketing an organization, especially a member-based one, is a full-time 24/7/365 effort, but that doesn't mean you have to work that long or that hard - you can let technology do some of the work for you. Used properly and appropriately, technology, including traditional phones, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberry devices and other computer based message equipment can be doing the job when you're home enjoying your own time.

The goal is to be "top-of-mind" for members for the benefits you offer - you have to be the number one brand for those particular products or services so that whenever they think of those things or need those things, they think of you as the best, the quickest, the highest quality, indeed the ONLY place to get those things, and if they stop being a member, they lose all that access. In order to do that, you need to be a ubiquitous presence in their working lives. One way to do that is by using a variety of media to reach them.

Say a fax arrives in their office promoting a meeting, then several days later, a brochure with full registration information arrives in the mail. The member calls the organization for an unrelated service, and during the brief period he's on "Hold" he hears a promotion for the meeting's keynote speaker, in his own voice, offering 3 tips for how to get more out of their meeting attendance.

Three days before the meeting, an e-mail arrives, with links to the meeting webpage, containing a pre-populated registration form on which they simply complete the payment info and hit "submit".

Two days before the meeting, the recipient's cell phone receives a text message with last minute hotel rates at the meeting hotel and a 800 number, and a local number for the local golf course to arrange for a tee time.

That member has been hit with six different media, all promoting different aspects of the same meeting, with cohesive messaging, coherent branding, personalized information and they've gotten the message at different times, for different reasons, on different devices, in different environments. Computer technology can make this all possible, and in many cases, automatic to the point of being hands-off.

TO DO: Investigate your organization's capability to use all possible media for outgoing messages, including e-mail, pop-ups, live web links and PURLS (Personalized, Uniform Resource Locator), broadcast e-mail, broadcast Fax, broadcast text messages, on-hold recordings, automated voice mail, IP-based registration or automated orderform pages with unique log-in, and any other technology that can deliver a message. Once this inventory has been completed, see if there is a way to drive them all from your in-house database. Once the technology is hooked up and interacting, the sky's the limit for using various combinations to reach members and prospects in unique ways.
About the Author
David Poulos, Chief Consultant at Granite Partners has been offering marketing guidance to firms for over 25 years. Specialties include non-profit marketing and full-scale strategic marketing campaigns. He can be reached at http://www.granite-part.com, or 410-472-4570.
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