While we’re long past the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home (WFH) era isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with in-person interactions limited by distance, people are spending more and more time online.
As we continue to hunker down in our homes, businesses and nonprofits need to connect with audiences in new and innovative ways. So, we’ve compiled some of our favorite strategies for engagement that will set you up for success in the last few months of the year.
These strategies all fall under a term we like to call Smart Engagement. Essentially, this practice involves using technology and automated processes to make better decisions and make the most of your team’s resources.
Useful Smart Engagement strategies that any business or organization can apply include:
- Analyzing data to optimize outreach.
- Segmenting your audience with useful criteria.
- Enabling automation to save time.
- Personalizing communications where possible.
- Aligning with the values of your community.
We’ll go through each of these to explore how they can help your nonprofit or organization boost engagement. At SalsaLabs, we specialize in helping nonprofits leverage technology to establish and cultivate relationships with supporters. However, these engagement tactics can be used to connect with any kind of audience with great results. Let’s jump in!
1. Analyze data to optimize outreach
Smart marketing strategies must build on a foundation of knowledge about your audience and current tactics. In order to optimize your engagement, you must harness this knowledge. Luckily, today’s digital tools make the process of gathering and analyzing data feasible for organizations of all sizes.
According to Accudata, modern data-based marketing is much more powerful and specific than traditional efforts, leading to improved efficiency, up to five times higher ROI, and stronger campaign success. By leveraging engagement data to inform future campaigns, you can get more clicks, page views, conversions, and donations.
For maximum efficacy, you can collect engagement data in-house and invest in additional prospect research data to gain a comprehensive view of your audience.
If you use a robust customer management system or donor database like Salsa CRM that integrates with your marketing software, collecting and managing engagement data as it relates to audience demographics will be a simple process. If you have a less integrated marketing strategy, you may need to collect piecemeal data from different platforms to get a full picture.
Regardless of your data source, analyze the information you’ve collected from past campaigns or conduct A/B testing to determine the optimal performance of engagement data points including:
- Message send time/post time and day of the week
- Content type (text, video, image)
- Email subject line
By seeing what strategies work well or perform sub-optimally, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions for future efforts. This can help you connect more effectively with prospective donors and customers alike. For best results, continue to regularly update and clean your database as things inevitably change.
The idea of data-driven marketing is not a brand-new concept. But as we continue into the last months of 2020, these principles will become even more critical as audiences are inundated with year-end communications, including campaign advertising. You need to make sure your mission can stand out above the noise.
2. Segment your audience with useful criteria
The more information you gather about your audience, the more you’ll discover a pressing need to address different subgroups in different ways. This can be achieved through segmentation, or organizing your audience into different subgroups based on different characteristics.
As discussed in this guide on donor segmentation, this practice makes it possible to tailor content so that it can resonate more effectively with each group.
Whether you use a customer relationship management system or a constituent relationship management system, your CRM should be able to create audience segments based on pre-loaded and custom characteristics.
Consider creating segments based on criteria including:
- Basic demographics. Characteristics like age, gender, and geographic location are basic but useful criteria upon which to build segments.
- Communication preferences. Divide your audience based on whether they prefer communication via text, email, social media, phone, direct mail, or another platform.
- Engagement history. Consider how they have interacted with your organization in the past. This includes past donations and purchases.
- Organization-specific information. You may want to group by data that relates to your specific needs. For example, a pet store may want to divide customers between cat lovers and dog lovers.
Tailoring your engagement strategy to specific groups will generate stronger results than just sending a message to the entire audience. A CRM can boost conversion rates by 300%, and segmentation is one of the key reasons why.
3. Personalize communications where possible
Take your personalization even further by ensuring your communications include details pertaining to the individual recipient. Personalized emails are more likely to be opened, clicked on, and engaged with.
By incorporating consumer or supporter information into your marketing, you can foster a stronger connection with the recipient. For example, if you’re an animal shelter reaching out to a recent donor, you could reference the impact of a recent donation: “Your contribution of $50 fed 10 dogs this week.”
With the right marketing software, you can add personalization based on details including:
- Geographic location
- Donation or purchase history
Just a small detail goes a long way! But be careful—if your data is inaccurate, this strategy can backfire and cause damage to consumer experiences and even your reputation.
4. Enable automation to save time
The best engagement tools will allow your team to work more efficiently, yielding stronger results with less effort. To save time, incorporate automation features into your engagement strategies.
Today’s automation technology makes it possible to automate common workflows, social media posts, and even entire communication streams.
You can leverage the power of automation in two main ways:
- Internal process automation. Streamline team workflows to fully automate tasks that don’t require a human touch. For those that do, you can still automate notifications so that the right team member gets flagged at the right time. This can help you prioritize the highest-impact activities. Internal automation is especially useful for remote work environments to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Marketing automation. You can automate marketing campaigns to execute engagement strategies without anyone on your team lifting a finger. Of course, you can incorporate automation into scheduling social media posts or one-time emails, but there are even more possibilities beyond that. One of our favorite marketing automation tactics is a drip email campaign that is triggered by a prospect action (like signing up for a newsletter) and continues until another action occurs (like making a donation).
These strategies can boost the productivity of your team as well as the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Then, your marketing team will have more attention to turn to more thought-intensive tasks like crafting campaign messaging and planning content.
5. Align with the values of your community
Once you’ve developed a data-informed understanding of your audience, you should have a better idea of their motivations, values, and goals. Use this knowledge to discern how you could better align your organization’s initiatives with the interest of your audience.
This has been a major concern for some demographics already, but it becomes especially critical as we move into the final months of 2020. As the November election approaches, audiences will crave connections with organizations they feel they can trust and relate to. Research has shown that social impact initiatives are especially important to connect with millennial and Gen Z audiences.
Of course, the specifics of this strategy will depend on your sector, but even nonprofits already dedicated to social causes can incorporate this tip.
If you’re a nonprofit, you’re already a driving force for social impact, but consider new initiatives that align your mission and values with your audience. What aspects of your mission do your supporters find most compelling?
One possibility is to plan an online advocacy campaign. This kind of campaign helps generate awareness of an issue and provides support for related legislation. Supporters can sign petitions, contact elected officials, and more, boosting engagement with your nonprofit while also making a broader impact.
If you’re a for-profit business, you know that corporate social responsibility is on the rise. Consumers are increasingly concerned with the social and environmental impact of the companies they choose from.
If you are involved in making key business decisions, consider implementing a new CSR program to drive engagement with consumers and employees.
A few popular ways to do this include:
- Environmental sustainability initiative
- Direct donations to nonprofits
- Corporate foundation
- Volunteer grant program
- Matching gift program
If your role doesn’t enable you to create such company-wide initiatives, consider how your marketing or brand positioning could better highlight the initiatives you already have in place.
The last few months of 2020 will be overwhelmed by continued pandemic concerns, remote work, and the November election. Make sure your business or nonprofit can rise above the noise with these smart engagement strategies.