MarketingSherpa’s complimentary Marketing Wisdom for 2011 special report — a collection of real-life stories, test results and lessons learned from the previous year — was released last week.  We’ve been combing over the report to highlight a few of the best nonprofit-sector submissions.

Scott D. Meyer of 9Clouds submitted this tip on how targeted Facebook promotion grew event attendance:

The Festival of Books is a statewide, three‐day festival featuring over 50 authors who share their knowledge and experience as writers. As the premiere event for the nonprofit South Dakota Humanities Council, it is important to attract a large audience to ensure future funding for the nonprofit and to maximize exposure for the organization.

Our company was hired only two weeks before the 2010 festival when just 400 tickets had been reserved online. The Humanities Council was looking for a quick boost in ticket sales and advertising.

To get quick results, we used a combination of social media marketing, email marketing and Facebook ads. First, we used the Humanities Council’s email list of 2,400 to attract new connections on Facebook. We created clear calls to action in both the invitation emails and on the Facebook page to drive ticket sales.

Additionally, we targeted the largest regional Facebook pages and posted messages on their pages and to key influencers on their page about the festival. While growing the page organically, we created a series of Facebook ads targeted at friends of members of the Facebook page. We ran two groups of ads targeted at 20,000 people. One group asked them to “Like” the page which had a link to ticket sales. The second group of ads went directly to the online ticket reservation page.

The campaign had great success, increasing ticket reservations from 400 to 1,200 in two weeks. This works out to half of their email list converting via social media and email. The Facebook page also grew substantially from 900 likes to 1,540 in two weeks. Not only did the community grow, but the interaction did as well, increasing weekly visits to the Facebook page from 392 to 1,308 the first week and then to 1,554 the week of the festival along with active users increasing from 399 to 870 in the first week of the campaign and finally to 1,623 the week of the festival.

Most importantly, the Humanities Council put on a great festival and was pleased with record attendance and measurable marketing that has created a new, renewable channel for them to promote their organization.

The second tip comes from Carolyn Goodman of Goodman Marketing Partners:

[Our client] wanted to increase renewal rates among members completing their first year of membership. After auditing their current communications efforts we concluded that members didn’t clearly understand all of the benefits available.

Since we knew very little about these members, we decided to ask seven survey questions (a known threshold for research participation) and segment members into four key life stages based on answers of participants (households with no kids, households with kids under the age of 13, households with kids aged 14-18, and non-participants) and create benefit messaging by life stage segment. After pouring over MarketingSherpa’s Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook, we recommended a “postcard”-type email format to deliver single-focused messaging.

The outcome was a series of email blasts, by life stage segment, that were blasted every two weeks, PLUS a series of “special” emails that universal appeal, which were blasted based on calendar date or triggered event. Open rates of the first “Welcome” email were 2.5x higher than the previous benchmark and clickthrough rates nearly 300% higher. Open rates of the first segment-specific email were nearly 350% higher than the benchmark and clickthroughs, depending on the subject matter in the email, were well above benchmark metrics.

After 16 weeks of blasting, segments were still at 30% open rates and 15% clickthrough. Event-triggered emails enjoy open rates of 50-80% with clickthrough rates between 70 and 95%. While retention rates are just starting to be measured, we know we increased engagement with the brand, so we’re hopeful that we see that reflected in renewal rates.

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