Nonprofit marketers are probably some of the most overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated marketing professionals out there. And while many nonprofit marketers would agree that marketing automation is great for business— and their sanity— it can be tough to prove nonprofits need Marketing Automation right away, especially if they’re working on a shoestring budget.
Automation works with your existing marketing strategy— it doesn’t just create one out of thin air and do it for you. Before you even consider whether or not to invest in automation you need to make sure you have a solid marketing strategy in place, and at least one person (if not a team) dedicated to overseeing, maintaining, and adapting the system as your nonprofit grows and changes. A good marketing strategy should include systems and processes for:
- Getting, nurturing, and developing leads
- Creating and sharing valuable content (both free and gated/paid)
- Connecting with your ideal buyer at each stage of their buyer journey
- Analyzing your progress
- Adapting your techniques according to challenges and opportunities, without doing a total revamp or overhaul every time something changes
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out if your nonprofit really needs marketing automation:
- Are we generating a stream of leads (for donors) that is consistent, and relevant to our mission?
- Is the number of our leads increasing?
- Are the leads becoming extremely difficult to track, nurture, and manage?
If your database is too small, an automation system would just overwhelm your leads with contact and content. However, if you’re having consistent growth of your donor base, and maintaining it is overwhelming, it may be time to consider marketing automation for your nonprofit.
Another thing to consider is the complexity of your communication system. For instance:
- Are you writing tons of emails over and over?
- Do you lose track of which donors get which emails?
- Do you simply recycle old emails and newsletters?
Although marketing automation has many features, email workflows are one of the most time-saving ones for many entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders. If you rely heavily on email cycles for your brand storytelling and donor/pledge/sponsor recruitment, it may be time to consider an email automation tool to streamline your content marketing. [Don’t forget to have your email cycles planned and drafted before trying to set up the automation software.]
Automation is very useful in another important way. It uses triggers to send content to relevant leads. Gone are the days when everyone gets the same newsletter every week. You can have unique content drafted for a variety of scenarios (a follow-up email when they download an ebook, a welcome email when they join your mailing list, and so on).
Marketing automation can also be very helpful if you’re engaging on multiple channels (multiple landing pages, social media platforms, etc. There’s software out there that can help you manage your content posting and sharing easily, and help you find the optimal times to post it.
Even if you can’t afford a fancy automation system right now, there are still plenty of things you can do to make your marketing strategy more streamlined.
Here are some suggestions for how to make “manual automation” work for you:
A Marketing Plan:
Having a marketing plan that includes content, workflows, and buyer personas will go a long way to making your marketing and messaging more consistent
Email templates and mail merges:
Using templates for emails you write all the time cuts down on your busy work significantly, and mail merges make them easy to customize, send, and track.
While automation is always going to be an investment of time and planning, there are free and low-cost tools you can use to get your automation off the ground. [And it never hurts to find out if the paid versions offer discounts for nonprofits.]
Hire a marketing staff/volunteer/board member:
You need someone in your corner to monitor content, analytics, and engagement. That way none of your potential donors fall through the cracks.
If you’re a nonprofit professional, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Whether tech or manual, automation is essential to keep your donor base happy. It also allows you to grow, so you can stay focused on realizing your mission. How can we help your nonprofit meet your marketing goals? Talk to us!