Top 5 Reasons Your Nonprofit Will Fail Absent Inbound Marketing

Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball

I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!

Earlier this year I posted on the ONE big thing nonprofits absolutely must do in 2014: Adopt an integrated (fundraising combined with communications – no more silos, please!) inbound marketing strategy.

Well… it seems like a lot of folks didn’t know what I meant.  Or if they did know, they had a whole bunch of reasons why they thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.

Apparently I have some ‘splainin’ to do!

First, let’s just look at the definition of inbound marketing:

Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content… in contrast to outbound marketing where [you] “buy, beg, or bug the way in.”

The reason I want you to do it is because… drumroll…

Inbound Marketing Will Bring You a Huge ROI

If you don’t believe me, check out research from Hubspot on inbound marketing ROI, (I’m not endorsing their software here, just pointing you to some stuff it’s good to know).  Or if you’re a visual learner, check out 23 Reasons Inbound Marketing Trumps Outbound Marketing [Infographic].  If what you’re after is increased awareness and fundraising, it’s going to be difficult to get what you want in 2014 and beyond — without an inbound marketing strategy.

Okay, now let’s move on to all those reasons you think it’s not for you.  Taylor Corrado wrote a great article on the subject, 14 Inbound Marketing Myths Nonprofits Should Stop Believing.   Here I’m going to pick my top five and tell you why I think you should give this some serious thought. [But do check out the full article].

Top 5 Reasons You Need Inbound Marketing

1.”Our organization isn’t ready for inbound marketing.”

Once upon a time I’m guessing you weren’t ready for email or a website either.  That didn’t stop the rest of the world, did it? If you think you’re not ready, it’s time to get ready.  I’ll bet you’ve got a website and email and have probably even dipped your toes into the social media waters.  If so, you’re ready. Now you’ve just got to develop an integrated marketing strategy.  That means making a plan (with goals, measurable objectives and specific strategies) and putting in place the resources you need to implement the plan.

Don’t get into planning paralysis here. Start with a simple, short-term plan you can implement now.  Maybe it’s just starting a blog. You can’t keep winging it here, or tip-toeing around that elephant in the room.  The world is online.  It’s being called “Generation C” (i.e., Generation Connected) and it knows no demographic boundaries.

2. “We should be simply focusing on raising awareness.”

This excuse really gets to me. Yes, you want to raise awareness!  Guess what?  That’s exactly what inbound marketing is for.  It works much better than simply broadcasting out ads and messages that are all about you.  Inbound marketing, like donor-centered fundraising, discovers who your constituents really are… what they care about and value… and what needs they have.  You have an opportunity to get to know them, meet their needs and be of service.  You invite them in and ask their permission to develop a relationship.  You move folks along a continuum, from awareness… to interest… to involvement… to investment.

3.  “We’re too busy planning and running events to worry about our website.”

This one gets to me too.  First of all, events are the least cost-effective form of fundraising, generally yielding only 50 cents on the dollar – and that’s if you’re super successful! So even if you’re telling me you want to do fundraising at the expense of marketing (and that’s another story, because in my humble opinion development and marketing are one and the same and cannot be separated), just putting on events in a vacuum is not very smart.  Any time you do an event it’s an opportunity to create awareness… generate interest… create greater involvement… and, ultimately, generate increased investment in your cause.  You see where I’m going, don’t you? Leverage what you’re doing offline through online channels. Everything can be shared through social media, email, a blog and your website.  Registration, silent auction, peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities, tweets from the event, reports about your success and so forth.

4. “We don’t have time to create new content.”

I hear you, but the truth in 2014 is that you don’t have time not to. Content is king, and your content is why people will support you.  And I’m betting you have a lot of content that’s never seeing the light of day. You’ve got stories of people being helped and stories of people helping. Yes, you’re going to need a content marketing plan to tell these stories. And you’re going to need to assign some people to work this plan. But don’t get yourself into the situation where the kingdom is lost for want of a nail.  Get yourself a blog, and think of it as your content hub.  That way, none of this will be a waste of time.  You can repurpose this content over and over – on your website and in your newsletters, fundraising appeals, grant proposals and thoughtfully selected social media.

5. “Every dollar should go to the mission. We can’t spare money for technology.”

You can’t do anything if you don’t have the supporters you need to see your mission through to fruition.  That’s the bottom line. So embrace overhead [and watch this TED talk by Dan Pallotta if you’ve managed to miss it]. You’ve got to spend money to make money.  These days that means investing in staff and technology that allows you to build relationships online. The digital revolution has ended business as usual. IMHO what used to be (1) newsletter; (2) press release/ads and (3) remit envelope is evolving into (1) blog; (2) social media and (3) customized landing pages.

You can find some actionable tips to get you started with inbound marketing here. Fundraisers need this too; not just marketers! We’re all in fundraising. We’re all in marketing. We’re all in sales.  Got it?

How are you going to adopt an inbound marketing strategy this year?

May I recommend the new E-Course: Charity Blogging Gold by me and Mazarine Treyz?   It’s jam-packed with actionable tips you can use right away to get more attention for your cause and begin to raise more money too! Grab the Early Bird discount before it flies away. On sale for $30 off until  February 28th, 2014100% guarantee!

Grab a free sample preview here.[Don’t worry, the real typeface won’t be as funky when you take the course.]

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  1. I could not agree more. I have not found a better method of engaging with your audience than by making it easy for them to find you, and Inbound Marketing does that better than anything else I’ve found.
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  1. […] tip: I’m guessing you may already have an e-newsletter. I’d encourage you also to adopt a more inbound marketing strategy, expanding to a blog and judicious use of social media that offers your constituents opportunities […]

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