FYI Blog

Thinking Beyond Shiny and New

Baby Shiny Toy

With so much movement in the digital market, and new strategies and technologies coming at us daily from every direction, what should we focus on before committing our digital marketing dollars?

Justin Perkins of Care2 wrote a smart piece in The Nonprofit Times recently, in which he laid out what successful digital marketing looks like – what we should be paying attention to and what we can ignore for now; where opportunities lie and pitfalls await; and what technology deserves further study.

Some of Perkins’ points really resonated with me, and bear repeating:

      • Focus 90 percent of your resources on what predictably works and save 10 percent for occasional experimentation in new channels…In other words, build the list. This is good advice. Successful digital marketing depends on building a qualified email list that is primed and ready to deploy whenever necessary. And, for best results, send frequent emails.

    • Understand the size of your target market, and come up with realistic goals for gaining market share (mind share) of your key audience. Perkins recommends visiting for more direction on what you can reasonably expect from assorted variables when allocating your digital marketing budget – including how fast/slowly your email list will really grow.

    • Study industry benchmarks to get a sense of what’s in the realm of possible. In other words, email campaigns aren’t free – and they require as much strategy, set-up, and analysis as direct mail marketing campaigns. As Perkins writes, “…growing a one-million- person list with a $20,000 budget and one intern is impossible – but maybe your stake holders don’t understand that. Use industry benchmarks to prove your point.

    • The key metrics (Key Performance Indicators) to understand are average gift, conversion rates, frequency of emailing, growth rates, and percentage of revenue that are driven by email, traffic, social, mobile, etc. Get a handle on the relevant KPIs so you can truly measure your results, campaign by campaign, and across multiple communications channels.

In The Agitator, Tom Belford echoes much of what Justin Perkins has to say, and sympathizes with people whose bosses bellow, “We need to raise more money online. Get on it!” Sound familiar? Well, in Belford’s opinion, if that order has been barked at you, don’t turn to Facebook for all of the answers. He notes that most people who give online aren’t giving through social media – according to Blackbaud, only 1% of all online fundraising can be attributed to social media.

And Belford concurs with Perkins that looking to your email file first is the way to go. Are your emails mobile-friendly? How are solicitations handled on your website – in a compelling, easy-to-convert way? He also recommends producing an online video, which he believes …could help you on all fronts — email appeals, mobile impact and website conversion.

One thing is certain in digital marketing – there’s the tried and true strategy and there’s the shiny new thing. I’m in full agreement that tried and true is often the way to go to build a solid a program that will be sustainable year after year. But sometimes taking the risk, making the big swing, and being an early adopter can mean the difference between a program that grows incrementally and one that sees real increases that can be banked and built upon. So keep an eye on trends to see what’s really catching on in the industry and what shiny new toys fizzle out quickly. And leave a little bit of room and time to test innovative ideas yourself.