Every year, event marketers and fundraisers continue to search for the next big thing—the industry-wide hot topic that will make or break the success of their interactive event marketing programs for the coming year. As event participants and their donors continue to turn to email, mobile, Facebook, and Twitter more than ever before, it’s imperative that nonprofit marketers strive to meet constituents where they’re at in order to maximize engagement and opportunity.

As you look at your 2011 event marketing goals and labor over your budget, we’ve compiled five resolutions in order to help you stay current with constituent demands and maintain a successful interactive marketing program the whole year through.  But this year, we’re not just providing you with resolutions to make—we’re helping you keep them too. While diets and exercise programs might taper off just months after the start of the new year, these initiatives are 5 Resolutions Marketers Should Make—and Keep—in 2011.

1) I will make data the foundation of my event marketing

This past year, you’ve probably heard a lot of industry buzz around “data.” With 600 Tweets, 34,000 Google searches, and 700 Facebook posts per second, marketers are no longer in control of their brands. You know that data is at the heart of relevancy, and you’ve even heard that Data is the New Creative. But, let’s be clear— the concept of collecting data isn’t new. Using it is.

Marketers inherently know that data should fuel their marketing programs and overall business decisions. Thus, collecting data from constituents has never been a problem. But, achieving visibility—and usability—with that data has not always been possible. Information has been stored in all sorts of ways that require tedious exporting in order to take any action on it whatsoever. At the same time, today’s interactive outlets like email, text messaging, and social media make managing data at the same pace as the speed of technology even more difficult. In fact, marketers are missing out on opportunities to engage with constituents because their information and processes have become outdated before the data is even aggregated and sorted.

Having greater visibility into your subscriber data doesn’t just help you be more organized. Ask yourself: “How much of my work week is devoted to sifting through data?” According to some marketers, 40% of time at work is spent managing data and attempting to make it more usable for campaign purposes. But when data comes together in a single platform, efficient information flow actually frees up marketers’ time and resources, helping them be more strategic in their interactive marketing programs.

REAL WAYS TO TAKE ACTION

You’ve got data. Now what? Start implementing easy tactics to help you easily utilize subscriber information:

  • ASSESS YOUR DATA. Making a change to the way you currently use data starts with an assessment. What data do you have access to? Where is it coming from? Understand what tools you have to work with before you take action.
  • IMPLEMENT A PROGRAM. Decide how you’re going to use your data. What do you want to accomplish? How often will you revisit the data? Taking action starts with intentionality and specific goals.
  • MEASURE OFTEN. After you’ve begun using your data, don’t forget to measure your program’s effectiveness. Measure often, adjust often, and test, test, test. What’s “moving the needle?” What’s impacting your bottom line? If you’ve sent a communication to subscribers that doesn’t seem to be impacting your goals, discontinue it and try something new.
  • INVESTIGATE. Use your data to work backwards. By understanding what information is driving your click-through rates, find out what it is your subscribers are clicking through to. From that point, drive conversions using that content. Track how many of your subscribers are clicking through to content, browsing online, registering for an event, donating, etc. Use data to turns clicks into revenue.

2) I will use mobile to connect with my event participants and donors

It seems every year we hear “this is the year of mobile.” Yet, as email and social media become more and more sophisticated, mobile marketing is often left overshadowed. So why is 2011 truly the year to make mobile a priority?

As consumers begin to move more rapidly from “regular” phones to smartphones, they increase their expectation that everything (especially information) should be portable. In fact, 17% of Americans now own smartphones, according to a report from Forrester Research, and 43% of all U.S. adult cell phone users have mobile apps, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. And the rates will only continue to rise.

Consumers now expect the freedom to interact with their peers and their favorite causes at any time. Additionally, causes are expected to meet their constituents where they’re at—interacting with them whether they’re in front of their computer or on-the-go.

As your supporters become more and more available no matter their location, it’s easy to see that we’ve become a “NOW generation.” And the best way to reach your subscribers NOW (and at any other point) is through their mobile phone. This year, pay special attention to:

  • Web usage vs. mobile web usage
  • Email vs. mobile email
  • Social usage vs. social via apps

What does this mean for marketers? Mobile must be incorporated into your interactive marketing plan.  Not only should you resolve to “use mobile to connect with your supporters,” but you should also “talk to your audience through the channels they’re using.” In 2011, it’s no longer a choice.

REAL EASY TIPS TO BEGIN USING MOBILE MARKETING

  • ADD TEXT. SMS messaging is the easiest—and most cost-effective—way to begin mobile marketing.  As 97% of mobile phones today are equipped with text messaging capabilities, creating text-in voting programs, Q&A text response campaigns, and event registration coupons for your subscribers is an easy way to engage people.
  • BE MOBILE-SPECIFIC. Content is often created with only email or social in mind. But, how will it render on mobile phones? Integrate your marketing channels by creating campaigns that deliver the same messaging, but in various forms that work well with each interactive outlet. Remember to “design for the third screen” by creating short, easy-to-digest content that mobile users can engage with.
  • CREATE YOUR MOBILE “VISION.” What does your mobile marketing plan look like in the long-term? Don’t just stop at easy-to-implement mobile tactics. Consider how mobile will become a vital part of your interactive marketing strategy. This might include increased transactional messaging or even the creation of your organization’s very own mobile app.

3) I will market to my audience like the individuals they are

Constituents value good constituent service. After all, they can either say positive things about your brand or negative things about your brand—solely based on how you treat them. In 2011, not only should your SUBSCRIBERS RULE! by honoring their unique preferences, but your marketing messages should provide more impact and value—rather than standard “interruption” via irrelevant “one size fits all” direct marketing. This year, effectively marketing to your supporters should be more about the level of service you provide—not necessarily the creativity of your advertising.

REAL IDEAS FOR PUTTING SERVICE FIRST

  • PREFERENCE CENTERS. Want to know more about your subscribers? Sometimes it’s as easy as just asking. Subscriber preference centers allow people to identify their interests, preferred channels, appropriate messaging frequency, and content that is applicable to their lives. Let your subscribers tell you about themselves and create trust by honoring those preferences instead of implementing irrelevant “batch and blast” campaigns. 
  • LISTEN VIA SOCIAL MEDIA. People are in constant conversation about your cause and issue area.  Listen. Be a part of it. With social tools like Twitter and Facebook, connecting with your supporters and responding to their questions and comments is easier than ever. And with tools like CoTweet, managing the conversation on Twitter makes it easy for causes to see the conversation—right as it’s happening.
  • BRING VALUE TO YOUR SUBSCRIBERS. Many marketers today will send out an email, post a Tweet, or create a Facebook fan page—but they don’t know why. Utilizing interactive marketing to its full potential is not about participating in channels just to participate. It’s about serving your audience through a particular channel because that’s where they’re most comfortable communicating with you. In order to bring value to your subscribers, you must first understand your unique value proposition and why it’s important to your supporters. If no value exists in the eyes of your audience, there’s no reason for them to stay engaged or subscribed.

4) I will make social media a real part of my marketing mix

For many, 2010 marked the year that social media became a reality instead of just a trend for marketers to watch out for. Communications have become more interactive with social icons at the bottom of emails, links to Facebook fan pages, and Twitter handles included in email copy. But that’s still not enough. While including ShareThis icons in your communications is a simple and effective way to ease into social media, integrating it into your interactive marketing campaigns and overall strategy is vital in 2011.

REAL QUICK WINS TO GET THE MOST FROM SOCIAL

  • SOCIAL “SOUL SEARCHING.” Remember those social media icons you included at the bottom of your email? Don’t forget to go back and gather metrics about what’s resonating among your Subscribers, Fans, & Followers. What content is being retweeted among your twitter followers? When are your Facebook friends clicking “like?” If you’ve discovered that content “A” is creating more engagement than content “B,” it’s easy to see that increasing your promotion of content “A” will do more to make your subscribers happy.
  • GET LOCAL. With the onset of geolocation devices and mobile apps, it’s easy to meet your audience where they’re at—literally. Apps like Foursquare give you the opportunity to find out which subscribers are attending your events. Use this information to test different calls-to-action for these people. Relevant messaging will help your supporters understand that meeting them where they’re at is not about spamming them—it’s about connecting with them better.

The bottom line? Conversations about your cause are happening whether you’re participating in them or not. It’s up to you as a marketer to either contribute to the messaging about your cause or simply let your audience dictate it for you. People today now have megaphones to speak about your cause through interactive tools like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. In the past, event participants who had a bad experience with your organization would share it with 5-10 of their friends. Today, a bad experience could lead to negative information about your event sent out to 1,000 Twitter followers or more. It’s up to you to respond to those conversations and prove the value of your brand by how willingly you connect with the disgruntled event participant to make things right.

5) I will use automation to save time and better meet my constituents’ needs

Meeting people’s needs is all about knowing who they are. In order to do that, you must know as much as you can about them—their likes, dislikes, behaviors, donation history, event history, etc. But with all the information you’ve collected, the information they’ve volunteered, and the information you’ve inferred about them, you’re often left swimming in loads of information that are too vast to manage. In order to access the data, you must perform various imports, exports, segmenting, and searches to transform the information into a usable state. And at the end of the day, let’s face it—there’s simply no way you can manage all of your data with an Excel spreadsheet.

AUTOMATE FOR EFFICIENCY

We promise—there’s light at the end of the tunnel. With automation, tasks like segmentation and targeting become easy through “set it and forget it” functionality. Automating birthday email campaigns and recurring newsletters is a simple way to free up time and energy.

But in 2011, automation can’t just stop there. With the onset of the “real-time web” and the “NOW generation” of consumers, it’s critical that subscriber preferences and new constituent data become integrated into each and every communication you send. When a subscriber changes his or her preferences (for instance, due to a change in lifestyle like starting college or getting married), it’s important to pay attention to how the subscribers respond to your communications. If you’ve set automations that only run once a month or once a week, there’s a possibility that your subscriber’s interest—or disinterest—in a particular communication could be completely overlooked, resulting in frustrated supporter who choose to opt out of your messages. Enter “Smart Automation.”

REAL SMART WAYS TO AUTOMATE

  • SMART AUTOMATION. This year, engage in “smart automation.” Bring in social data, web analytics data, etc.—richer data that will help you better serve your subscribers with more relevant messaging. Too complex, you say? Automating intelligently just requires that you monitor the conversation about your brand across all channels. Monitor click-through rates on email, Tweets on Twitter, likes on Facebook, text responses via mobile. As you collect data, maintain your databases so that information is always kept current and automations don’t regulate communications that are irrelevant to your subscribers.
  • THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTOMATION IN 2011. Marketing budgets aren’t getting any bigger—so marketers must find a way to work smarter, not harder. After all, marketers must find a way to manage the conversation about their brand over more than 60 interactive marketing channels and the individual companies within each of those channels (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). With so much data, automation is the only way to make it usable.

In today’s digital world, you’re continually being asked to do more—with less. The last thing you have time for is executing the same tedious tasks over and over again. Event 360’s consulting services make it easier than ever to automate every aspect of your online communications program—from welcome emails to an entire campaign—so you can spend time focusing on strategy and optimization of your program instead of sweating the small stuff.

CONCLUSION

Each new year offers a blank slate and a new outlook to start the year off right. And while you may not stay as organized as you’d like or as in shape as you had hoped by mid-year, making resolutions to improve your interactive marketing program can be easy—especially if you have a little help along the way. This year, resolve to stay true to subscribers with resolutions like:

By pledging to improve your marketing program with these five initiatives, your subscribers will see the difference—resulting in more satisfied supporters, increased engagement, and better ROI. And with those kinds of results, who knows? Your resolutions might just keep themselves.

Source:ExactTarget. Event 360’s partner for on-demand email marketing and interactive marketing programs.

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