Anyone involved in marketing for non-profit organizations knows that marketing methods have changed dramatically over the last few years. But change is nothing new. We know the adage: “The more things change the more they stay the same.” But did you know that the first recorded use of that phrase goes back to a French novelist, Alphonse Karr (1808–1890)?
It used to be that non-profits had to compete for attention (with other non-profits and with for profit businesses) in the mailbox. It was a major challenge to get “found” in a stack of mail a homeowner brought into the house.
While direct mail is still a very valid part of an overall marketing strategy, there is no doubt that there has been a huge shift to online marketing over the past few years. According to HubSpot, 78 percent of Internet users conduct product research online.1 It’s a safe bet that people are gathering information about non-profit organizations the same way. The method has changed, but the problem—getting found and standing out from the crowd—remains. It’s a brave new needle-in-the-haystack world.
Some businesses and non-profits have attempted to address this problem with pay-per-click campaigns. And that strategy still has its place. But as far back as 2007 Marketing Sherpa was reporting that 70 percent of the links that search users click on were organic—not paid. That trend has continued.
That’s why it’s so important that the content on your site be optimized. As the folks at HupSpot say, “Your new business card is not a business card—it’s Google!”
However, optimizing your web content involves more than simply picking a few key words and sprinkling them liberally throughout your home page. That approach is really no different from the old direct mail “personalization” technique some organizations used a couple of decades ago. Nobody was really convinced that having their name appear five times in a letter meant that the letter was really written to them.
Genuine optimization involves talking about your organization and services using the same terms your constituents use to search on the Internet. It means blogging, and tweeting, and posting on Facebook about topics that are of interest to them—and tying those blogs back to additional information on your website. It means using all the social media tools at your disposal so that your constituents have multiple ways to find you. Marketers used to talk about targeting their audience (and we still do). But today we focus increasingly on helping our audience target us.
Change is nothing new. But there are new ways to address the old “needle-in-the-haystack” problem. What have you found effective in helping your constituents find you?