Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Be Channel Agnostic

I received this email last week from Sarah Waters, Director of Communications for The Hearing and Speech Agency.

Hi Jocelyn,

I have a simple, boring question...but it means a lot to a small non-profit:

Do we keep spending $500 to $1,000 on yellow pages ads? I think "no way" (Last time I cracked open a Yellow Pages was back in the 90s on a road trip away from my computer). But my Executive Director is afraid to let go.
Do you have any thoughts?

I love this question because I suspect that (while we won't admit it) most of us are wedded to a particular marketing tactic or technique. Whether it's advertising via the Yellow Pages, sponsoring a local event for the 10th year in a row, or sending out a monthly e-news, we've all been guilty of choosing the channel over the results.

Here is my advice to Sarah.
Be channel agnostic! Don't advertise to advertise. Don't send an annual report by mail just because that's what you've always done. Let your marketing be driven by research and results.

How? Track the number of "leads" you get from each of your outreach tactics for a month. Better yet, encourage everyone in your organization to ask new clients, donors and members, "how did you hear about us?" And, log this information in your database.
By doing this research, you will gain valuable insight regarding how to best reach your stakeholders and you'll have the empirical data to show your Executive Director whether the Yellow Pages work or not!
1 caveat: If the goal of your marketing is brand awareness vs. lead generation then you may want to do some general awareness advertising. However, it's still your responsibility to steward your donor's resources wisely. So even if brand awareness is your end game you should develop some metrics to determine if you're achieving your goals.



Bryan said...

Fantastic post! And how timely in today's market/economy. We keep hearing from more and more small business owners similar concerns: where do we spend the limited dollars we've allocated? Fear permeates practice, and like frightened turtles, the retract into their "what-we-know-worked-before" shells.

Coaxing them to track what they do, understand how its performing, and reassess spend as a continual practice -- is challenging.

But isn't anything "new" a little uncomfortable at first? :)


~Bryan Jennewein (email, facebook)
Tweet2Market (twitter)

Jocelyn said...

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for the comment. And 'yes' we always fear what is new. However, especially for nonprofits, it's important to make financial decisions that make the best use of donors' resources. And that may mean moving away from the tried and true and trying something new!


Phyllis Alesia said...

I am so glad somewhat thought to ask this question. And Bryant's response is relevant too.

For me the fear comes in trying something new for marketing, getting poor results and having to explain to my colleagues why I spent the time and/or money to do it when we have so little time or money.

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