The amount of strategy and planning you’ll need to make marketing automation effective usually means that you won’t be saving time – at least not at first. But don’t get disheartened. Your early investment will pay off in the long run as you automate your engagement strategies. The most important decision at this early stage is “What do you want to achieve?”
Before you spend hours googling software solutions or writing automated series into your communications plan, take a few steps back. What does success really look like for a new marketing automation program? What are the right kinds of goals to set? Remember that marketing automation is a technology that must be supported by clear strategy, thorough tactics and killer content—it is not a goal in and of itself. And given the fact that automation takes considerable time and expense to set up, its potential hinges on starting with a clear and realistic vision of success.
If you could improve the engagement of any specific group of supporters in your file—which target audience would offer the most revenue growth or mission success? Would it be getting more supporters to become email list members? First time donors to become monthly donors? Online advocates to become offline volunteers? Your answer will depend on the size of that audience and the relative value of converting them to a higher level of engagement.
Typically, an automated marketing series should help you move a supporter from an initial level of engagement to a higher one. Do you have a starting point clearly defined? Whether they are an e-newsletter subscriber or a first-time online advocate—what is the experience and motivation of your target audience when they begin that journey?
What action do you want your audience to take next? Do insights or experience tell you what calls to action will be most compelling? Do you know how many people are taking that action now, and how much you’ll need to raise that number before you claim success?
If your initial marketing automation series proves successful at moving your audience from point A to point B—what’s next? Do you have other transactions that could trigger future series?
Clarity is key, but you also need to assess how realistic it will be to achieve your vision. The following list includes some questions you might ask to decide how realistically achievable that vision is:
If you only have a few new subscribers joining each month or a small pool of donors, then even the highest rates of return won’t justify the set-up of an automated system.
The content you’ll need to create for a meaningful engagement journey reaches beyond an automated email. Without a report to download, an informative quiz to take, or an offline event to invite people to—you won’t have much of a “Point B” to funnel people toward. If you don’t have it already, can you build it from the knowledge at your disposal?
You may not need to add staff members, but you’ll need strategy, tech, and content development skills— and lots of time. Do you have the people you’ll need in house? Or do you have available support from a consultant or outside vendor?
This one is obvious, but crucial. If you don’t have the budget to set up the marketing automation tools and technology you’ll need—then you’re not ready to dive in.
Having one person act as the driving force and cheerleader for the effort can be crucial for effectively making the case to your organization’s leadership, maintaining the momentum for change, and bearing responsibility for the ups and downs the project. Are you ready to take on that role?
Get more insights on how to get started with marketing automation our paper Tips for Nonprofit Marketing Automation below. It will help your organization evaluate where you are and where you want to be with marketing automation. You’ll hear directly from nonprofit communication pioneers from DonorsChoose.org, Greenbelt Alliance, Sierra Club and more who have taken the plunge into marketing automation. Inside you’ll learn insights on how to approach a new marketing automation effort, what to look out for, and how to make the most of this technology.
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