It sounds like a non-sensical question. And it highlights another major difference between offline and online direct marketing — trackability.
Those who live in the digital marketing space are used to being able to track what happens with their emails and campaigns down to the user level. They complain when tracking pixels don’t work quite the way they are supposed to on every device and aim for ever better attribution models to understand where their investments are going.
Those in the offline space are used to sending something out and waiting for results. And waiting. And waiting.
Further, they are used to looking at packages as a whole. They get one result: did someone donate (OK, two: and how much)? Because of this, it’s tempting to think of mail testing as the thumbs up or thumbs down as in the Roman coliseum.
But you can find out things like your offline open rates and tweak them to your heart’s content. Take a simple 2X2 testing matrix.
While you won’t be able to tell what your actual open rate was, you can to content yourself with relative open rates. With online, you have an intuitive feel for whether a 20% open rate is good or bad compared with the emails around it (and whether they generally are opened at 10% or 30%). This same relative weighing works well in mail. If 20% more people donating with envelope A than with envelope B all other things being equal, then you have a 20% better open rate with envelope A.
Similarly, if letter C does better than letter D by 30% with the other parts of the mail piece staying constant, you have a 30% better “click-through” rate.
And you probably already know the trick that you only have to test three of the four quadrants here. If envelope A beats B when they both use letter D and letter C beats D when they both use envelope B, chances are pretty good that the winning test is envelope A with letter C, even though that wasn’t a tested combination.
But what you may not know is the right algorithm can do this writ large with a wide variety of variables. Ask your vendor(s) if they can run permutations that will allow you to figure out what happens when you five envelopes, four offers, three letter permutations, six different ask strings, and so on. They should be able to create a variablized stew that helps you run a number of tests at once.
The other thing that I’d recommend is not just taking a page from the online playbook, but using online tools to test your efforts first. Don’t know if your teaser copy will work well? Try it as an email subject line or a CPC ad headline first. While the audiences are a bit different online and offline, catchy is generally catchy and boring is boring. Working out details like this online can save your testing for things that can actually help you get to know your donor better, leading to more valuable communications and donors.
Facebook is the nexus of a lot of debate as to how best to incorporate social media into other marketing efforts. My argument will be there is a twofold Facebook strategy: 1) using organic content to engage your superfans and 2) using addressable media to reach everyone else.
500 million users. How quaint.
Like Google, the base of the Facebook algorithm (EdgeRank) is fairly easy:
Affinity: How close the person creating the content is to the person receiving it.
Weight: How much the post has been interacted with it, with deeper interactions counting more
Time decay: How long it has been since it has been posted.
These interactions are multiplied together and summed, roughly.
Like Google, however, it has been altered over time significantly. There are now significant machine learning components baked in that help with spam detection and bias toward quality content. Additionally, now users can prioritize their News Feeds themselves. Finally, because of the sheer amount of content available, the organic reach of an average post is single digit percentages or below, meaning that if you have 100,000 likes, maybe 2,000 people will see your average post.
The implications of this base algorithms are stark:
Organic reach on Facebook is for the people who really love you. Many people think of Facebook as a new constituent acquisition system. However, people who come in dry will almost never see your posts.
Consequently, only things that connect with your core will have any broader distribution. Think of who is in the top two percent of your constituents: employees, top volunteers, board members, and that may be about it. If those people don’t give the post weight, no one outside of this group will see it.
What you have done for them lately has outsized weight. Research into Facebook interactions shows that Facebook gives outsized weight to what a person as interacted with in their last 50 interactions.
Facebook is not for logorrhea like Twitter. Think of your posts as a currency you spend each time. If your post gets above average interactions, you will move your average up and interact with more people; if not, your reach will lose. Posting too many times (which varies from organization to organization) will diminish your audience as average reach will decline). Additionally, all of the things you have to post for organizational reasons (e.g., sponsor thank yous) are spending your audience and you have to assess how much you are willing to spend to fulfill those objectives.
This all adds up to the uber-rule: Facebook is for things your core supporters will interact with quickly. If they don’t, it won’t reach your more distant supporters and it will lessen the likelihood that your next post will reach them as well.
It also relates to the second uber-rule: because Facebook can change its algorithm as it wishes, you should not build your house on rented land. The best thing you can do with your interactions is to direct them to your site, to engage your content and sign up for your list.
This all sounds a bit dire, so I should also highlight how to reach the other 98%(ish) of your Facebook audience as well as some of your non-Facebook audience on Facebook: addressable media.
Facebook allows you to upload a list of your supporters and target advertising to them specifically whether or not they are current Facebook likers of you. You can learn more about this on my CPC ads post here. This also goes into lookalike audiences, a way of getting people who aren’t who you talk to currently, but look a lot like them, a nifty acquisition trick. Since organic reach won’t get you to these loosely and non-affiliated people, this is the only way to achieve that reach. And, since it is cost-per-click, you can control your investment and your results.
But like discussed above, these campaigns should be to build your relationship to people outside of Facebook. For the same reason companies advertising on CBS don’t work to build a greater relationship to CBS, but rather to the advertising companies, your advertising on Facebook shouldn’t be aimed at getting Mark Zuckerberg et al more friends — they have over a billion of them already.
Additionally, sites with log-in functionality – Google, Amazon, social networks, and so on – not only know where you’ve been going, but who you actually are IRL (in real life, which used to be a cool acronym, but isn’t anymore because I just used it).
As consumers, we can blanch in horror and retire to our fainting couches. As marketers, there is a significant advantage to be had here. So here are four tactics that work with the new new media.
Remarketing. This is what happens when you go to a site, then leave, then ads follow you around the Internet saying “would you like those shoes you were looking at now? How about now? Maybe now?” until you want to go back to abacuses. While you were on that site, they put a cookie on your computer, which lets that site and other sites know where you were. They then spread the word to the ad network that so-and-so was this close to buying shoes.
I make this sound sinister, but which would you rather see: an ad for something you are interested in or a random ad? Personally, I like that advertising is at least trying to be relevant.
What works for shoes can work for your nonprofit. With a few simple tools provided to you by remarketer (there are a number of them, including AdRoll, Bing, Chango, Google, Google properties like YouTube, Retargeter, Perfect Audience, Wiland, etc.; if you want a review of some of these sites, try this Kissmetrics blog), you can put a cookie on your site and begin asking the people who have come to your site if they’d like to take the next step.
Cotargeting. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and some outside firms like Wiland will now allow you to upload your list of donors, newsletter subscribers, volunteers, or whatever other group you want to target, with their email addresses. The match rates for Google and Facebook are really quite impressive (hat tip to Wordstream)
Then, these services will market your message to those specific people.
It’s like we are living in the future.
The next step (and it’s started pilot testing, as I understand it) is for your TV box (whether cable or satellite or cord cut or whatever) to customize as well. I applaud this development. I’m a semi-avid football fan who does not drink beer and will never own a truck. Eighty percent of football advertising is wasted on me. It would be lovely to say to those companies “you save your money; I’ll save my time” and we part as friends.
You’ve heard me preach multichannel/omnichannel-ness on this blog; now you have a way to replicate and reinforce the messages you are giving out through other media through advertising. Your broadcast messaging just became a direct marketing one. Huzzah.
Lookalike audiences. Remarketing and cotargeting can help you get the people who have already sought you out. Lookalike audiences are people who are very much like these people, according to the model of whatever ad networks you are using. This way, you can try to acquire donations from the people who look like your donors and Web traffic from people who look like they would like your site.
The supporter cards that Wagner was processing in Des Moines were feeding into the computers at Strategic Telemetry’s Capitol Hill office. Those commitments, along with some traditional polling, had already helped to refine Obama’s back-of-the-envelope vote goals in Iowa. But the real power of Strasma’s black box, like all microtargeting models, was extrapolatory: the names of whose had signed supporter cards went in, and out came the names of other Iowans who looked like them. These algorithms were matched to 800 consumer variables and the results of a survey of 10,000 Iowans.
Low-budget advertising. I promised you a trick on Tuesday and earlier in this very piece. The trick is a two-step process:
Use an ad network that uses cost-per-click advertising rates and places ads by the amount you are willing to bid, rather than on the amount of gross revenue they are going to make (that is, don’t use Google or systems with Google-like quality scores).
Create bad ads. That is, create ads that get your message out, but without the call to action. Let’s say you target people who are getting your matching gift mail piece, email, and telemarketing with an ad about your organization and the good work that it is doing (think of the ads that run during the Sunday morning news shows that have slogans like “BP: We barely even have oil anymore”), but doesn’t mention clicking, a matching gift, a donation, or anything else that would encourage a click. This way, you can put up your online billboard and get the awareness and good feelings from it, but not be charged to have it up.
This is certainly a short-term strategy, but can be used to boost a campaign in a pinch.
Hope you enjoyed online acquisition week. In honor of it, I’d create ads to follow you wherever you go, but since I don’t really have a revenue model yet, that would be kind of counterproductive (“I’m advertising to try to get people to come to a site that I don’t make money on.” “How do you hope to get money from that strategy?” “Volume!”).
Please let me know at email@example.com or in the comments what topic(s) you’d like to see in the future. Thanks!
Over the past couple of days, I talked about Google Grants and other CPC search engine tactics for driving people to your site.
But nothing beats getting people to your site without paying for them (or Google paying for them for you). That’s where having quality content coming in.
There are three layers to having quality content in the sense that I’m using it – content that gets you to the conversion you are looking for.
First, the content has to be attractive to machines. That is, a person looking for the content has to be able to find it on the Internet through search engines. There is a whole science to this called search engine optimization and plumbing its depths is a topic for another time. However, you can get a good portion of the way there by looking the keywords that you’ve selected for your CPC ads. Focus on how many times they are searched for and how well they convert for you. From this, you should get a strong perspective on the types of content people are looking for and what they want answered. You can then write that content, using the keywords that people use to find such content.
I use write here even though there are other types of content that are not in written form. However, to be searched for effectively, there should be some sort of written aspect that corresponds to your video, audio, picture, etc. Search engines deal best with the written word.
Second, the content has to be attractive to people. This probably goes without saying, but your content has to be on a valuable topic and written well.
Having attractive imagery or people in your ad will likely also help.
Thanks for the assist, Chris.
Third, the content has to make a person want to take the next step. What that next step is is up to you. You can approach it either with the end in mind (“I want people to email their legislators through our advocacy system; what would make them want to do that?”) or from what is in the content (“I have this white paper here on the dangers of bovine flatulence; what would be a logical thing to do as a result of this”) – either way works. The latter is good for a content audit: collecting all of your assets and determine their use. However, if you are starting from scratch, it’s probably best to have the end in mind when you set virtual pen to virtual paper, lest you write a great piece that don’t achieve your goals.
While I’ve done quite a few blog posts here on the site now with little else, it doesn’t really pay to have the same type of content or same type of next step over and over. Varying your content types is a good way not only to prevent your constituents from getting board, but also segmenting your constituents for the future – e.g., this cluster like action alerts, these like surveys, etc.
I mention action alerts and surveys, because these are two generally nicely converting content types, because their existence is set up to cause people to interact with them. Others include polls, pleas to share your story, petitions, contests, etc – anything with a form on it or a question is going to be a bit better at capturing constituents than anything without.
Speaking of, I’ve been writing mostly on things that interest me; what interests you? I’d love to do a day or a week on the topics that would be more valuable to you. Simply leave a note in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original cost-per-click (CPC) search engines did their listings strictly by what you were willing to pay per click. (I actually used Goto.com for CPC listings, before it become Overture Services, before it became Yahoo! Search Marketing. Nothing like Internet time to make one feel old).
Yes. This was once a thing. A big thing.
Google’s algorithm, however, takes the quality of the ad and the site into account. This is partly because you will come back if you have positive experiences on the site and partly because it maximizes profits. For the same reason that you would look at gross revenue per mail piece/phone contact/email/carrier pigeon instead of just response rate in isolation, Google looks at gross revenue per ad shown as the backbone of its infrastructure.
Thus, it is in your interest to maximize your click-through rate (except in one very special case I’ll discuss on Friday); you can pass your better bidding brethren by beating them on quality. Hence the focus on things like negative keywords and phrase matching yesterday: you want to get your clicks on as few ads as possible. An average quality score from Google is a 5. If you are at a 10, your cost per click goes down by 50%; if you are at a 1, it goes up by 400%.
Targeting smarter also helps you get clicks from the people from whom you want to get clicks, instead of those who didn’t understand what they were getting into from your ad.
So here are a few techniques to help get to the next level of pay-per-click success:
Check in on your keywords regularly. This should be at least weekly; daily would be better. It doesn’t have to be for long, but Google will keep giving you helpful tips on additional strategies and keywords to try. You can also see what is performing and what isn’t, retooling ad copy for underperforming ads and learning which landing pages aren’t converting as well.
Set up conversion tracking. In the beginning, Internet advertising was sold in CPM – cost per thousand impressions and the earth was without form, and void. Then came CPC – cost per click – where you pay for an action, rather than a view. The ultimate is going to be cost per conversion, where you only pay when you get a donor (or other person you are desiring), and you can set your goals accordingly. Companies won’t want to do this because they have to rely on you to convert, rather than themselves, but it is semi-inevitable.
You can have this advantage right now if you set up conversion tracking. You will be able to see how many people convert and, if they give donations, how much you get from the campaign. Seeing how much you get from a campaign ahead of time, then bidding, is like playing poker with all of the cards face up – it’s remarkable how much better it makes you.
Unbounce your page. Not every page converts well. With conversion tracking set up, you can tell if your page is repulsing potential constituents. Testing with Google solutions or a solution like Optimizely can help you convert more people and lower your CPC costs as your quality score goes up.
Set up dynamic keyword targeting. A person is more likely to click an ad that has the exact words that they put into the search engine in it. The trick is that people put all sorts of things into search engines. With dynamic keyword targeting, it doesn’t matter if they put “rainforest deforestation,” “rain forest deforestation,” “tropical forest deforestation,” “destruction of the rainforest,” “tropic rainforest deforestation,” etc., into the search bar, you can add those specific words into your ad.
Geotarget your ads. This is especially true if you are a nonprofit with a limited geographic reach. If you are an early childhood intervention provider in Dallas, you likely don’t want Seattle searchers. However, this applies even to national and international nonprofits. If you have chapters, or state-specific content, you can direct those specific searchers to the area more relevant for them. This works especially well for things like walks and other events, where people will likely only come from a certain distance around to the event.
Go for broke. If you do get a Google Grant, try to use every cent. Not only will it get you more traffic, more constituents, and more donors, but it will also allow you to apply for more money. Your first steps to worldwide nonprofit domination await.
I hope these are helpful. Please leave any tips you’ve found useful in the comments section below.
I’ve mentioned the need for you to get a Google Grant before. If you haven’t yet availed yourself of this in-kind contribution of advertising, go for it now – getting that will be significantly more important than anything I write in this post.
Once you have this great tool, here are the basics to get you started with AdWords.
First, find the pages to which you want to drive traffic. These should be pages that convert – pages that aim to turn a visitor into a constituent. These include donation forms, surveys, gated white papers, advocacy alerts, pledges – anything that gets someone to put in their email address and opt in. If it doesn’t have an opt in, you don’t want to set traffic there – your goal is to convert, not to inform.
Once you have you a few basic keywords and your AdWords account set up, it’s time to get suggestions for additional keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner is a good way of thinking about phrases and other terms for what you’ve already put in. In fact, you can put in the URL of your landing page and Google will make suggestions for you based on what is on the page.
The ideal keywords are ones that are searched very frequently and cost very little. Because there is free market bidding, however, price usually correlates to search volume (but also to the things that people can make money from).
As you look through search terms, you should be selecting not only what you are going to use, but also what you are going to actively avoid. For example, looking at Bing, the most expensive two search terms are “lawyer” and “attorney” (the fact that these aren’t the same seems like an arbitrage opportunity, but I digress). Number four is “DUI.”
Obviously, being a DUI attorney/lawyer is really profitable, to the point that you are willing to pay $70-110 for one click to get someone to your site.
If you are Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you don’t want to play in that same pool. You believe (and this may be shocking to some) that the easiest way not to get convicted of a DUI is not to drive drunk.
So you need to use negative keywords. These are words that you put into your search terms with a minus sign in front to make sure that you are not bidding on searches that include that term. MADD might, for example, bid on DUI, but have lawyer and attorney as negative keywords. These function similar to a suppression list; even if a search does have the positive keywords in it, it will not show the ad if there are negative keywords included.. Generally, you want to decide whether you want to use a term (bid on it) or not to and negate it out, with little wishy-washiness. Wordstream has a negative keyword generator here that can help out.
You will also want to look at phrase match and exact match. The former will match if the phrase is in the search term with no intervening terms; the latter will be shown only if the person searches exactly for that one term.
Once you have your keywords, you will want to organize them into campaigns and ad groups. Generally, ads will perform better if they have similar words to the search itself, so if the person searches for DUI, they get a DUI, and not a drunk driving, ad (and vice versa).