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Navigating Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 recap:

  • The two Os of marketing—Optimization and Outreach
  • Applying on-page optimization
  • Blog and social media strategies
  • The importance of paid advertising

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

“How big of an impact can marketing really have on my organization?” you ask.

Very big.

I get it. You may still have some residual doubts about the power of marketing. And you may still be concerned about diverting resources from your programs. But the purpose of digital nonprofit marketing is to generate more resources with which to work toward your mission. Those resources can include board members and volunteers as well as donations.

Not too long ago, marketing was a barely distinct function, didn’t often align with the rest of an organization’s aims, and was a bit siloed from users/customers/donors. Marketing planning was run with a yearly cadence using a “by the book” strategy.

Nowadays, marketing has become a rapid, innovative growth machine that exists for engagement, navigates pitfalls in any landscape, and is directly entangled in the web of business operations. Marketing has become incredibly arduous—but it has also become incredibly beneficial and necessary. Being able to analyze, track, and monitor your organization’s visitor behavior all the way down to any and every dollar he or she contributes to your bottom line definitively shows that. As Scott Brinker, author of Hacking Marketing, wrote, “We have entered the golden age of marketing.”

It might be accurate to say, “We have entered the golden age of behavioral marketing.”

What Is Behavioral Marketing?

Behavioral marketing takes contact information and uses it to tailor interactions and messages to your website’s users.

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User BehaviorThe image on the right is “step two” in GuideStar’s registration process. One of the main reasons organizations like ours ask for “Industry” and “Role” information is so that we can tailor our messaging to better educate specific user groups on how GuideStar can help. Behavioral marketing cuts out the “noise” for your users and hyper focuses on what is relative to them.

Tactic #1: Create Welcome Nurture Tracks

Welcome nurture tracks (new registrant onboarding) are also known as drip campaigns, because (a) they include multiple touches (emails), and (b) you are nurturing new registrants to eventual conversion.

For your welcome nurture track to succeed, you need to segment your users into different personas. Segmenting allows you to get more personal with your audience and speak to what matters to them most.

Here at GuideStar, users self-identify at registration. We then use that data to send them industry-specific welcome emails. Of course, to engage in this tactic you will first need to check your marketing inventory for a couple of things:

  • Marketing Automation Platform—If you don’t yet have one, purchase immediately. I will happily discuss affordable options with anyone. (Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.)
  • Contact Opt-In Vehicles
    • Newsletter—bi-monthly, quarterly, or annually
    • Blog—posts you can share in your newsletter and on social media to acquire more registrants
    • Other—see Part 3 of this blog series for additional ideas

Once you’ve completed your inventory, create your welcome nurture tracks.

Here is an example of a welcome email GuideStar sends to our new nonprofit registrants:

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Welcome emails are highly anticipated, frequently opened, and simple to automate. Keep in mind that new prospects in your database should be treated differently than the ones that have been with you for weeks or months. By turning your welcome emails into a drip campaign, you can introduce these new prospects to your company, product, or service at a comfortable pace, instead of flooding them with information right off the bat. Remember to remind them why they converted, confirm their opt-in, and start providing them with light educational content to build awareness and keep them interested.”
—Jenna Hanington, Pardot

The first welcome email should be personalized and open the door to who you are and how you can help the recipient.

Send additional messages on a regular schedule. GuideStar’s welcome nurture track cadence looks like this:

  • 1st email: 10 minutes after registration
  • 2nd email: 1 week after registration
  • 3rd email: 2 weeks after registration

A welcome nurture track is the beginning of how you can guide user behavior.

Tactic #2: Set Up Behavioral Trigger Emails

Marketing has become more measurable—and therefore more accountable—in its impact on customers. But it's also given us greater empathy with them. Marketing has become far more attuned to customer experience across the entire buyer's journey, starting from a prospect's very first touchpoint with us. We're not just theorizing about abstract personas on the wall anymore. We're engaging with living, breathing human beings. Marketing culture increasingly champions a customer-centric worldview."
—Scott Brinker

A study by MarketingSherpa found that 39 percent of marketers said “automatically sending emails based on triggers” (a visit to a web page, filling out a form, and so forth) is the most effective tactic for improving email engagement. Behavioral emails are one of the most productive marketing strategies a nonprofit can use to engage its audience.

So, what is behavioral email?

Behavioral email is the practice of sending automated, targeted emails to the contacts in your database based on their interactions with your company across multiple channels: social media, email, your website and beyond.”
—Isaac Moche, HubSpot

Consider this: In a traditional email campaign, the marketer develops an offer such as an eBook, infographic, or whitepaper. He or she then identifies a segment of people that might find that offer valuable. Finally, he or she emails that group of people, often out of the blue.

In contrast, behavioral emails are all about adopting a user-focused approach to sending email. The actions visitors to your site take dictates which emails they receive and when—not a decision made by a marketer.

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Tactic #3: Remarketing (Behavioral Ads)

Remarketing is simply Google’s term for “retargeting” through its AdWords platform. Remarketing uses web analytics (see Part 2), computer applications and cookies, browsing and search history, and IP addresses to create user profiles for individual consumers. With that information, the website’s ad server then generates relevant and targeted content or advertisements that appeals to each users’ interests.

Google provide a special tracking code that you can place in every page of your website. Then, when specific visitors land on your website, you can track and target them with marketing messages across the Google Display Network. You can decide which users to target based on specific behavioral variables, such as the web pages they visit and the time they spend on your site. Remarketing is a type of Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing. It can produce significant improvements in conversion rate at lower acquisition costs than other marketing tactics. 

For example, we have a remarketing campaign set up for users who place one of our products in their shopping carts but don’t purchase. As they search other websites in the Google Display Network, this ad appears reminding them to purchase:

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Bonus Tactic

Does the content management system (CMS) for your website include “dynamic page” capabilities? If so, I highly recommend taking advantage of this feature. We are in the early stages of testing our dynamic webpage functionality at GuideStar, and it has already yielded wonderful results. Take a look at two versions of our product overview page:

Standard Product Overview Page

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Dynamic Product Overview Page for Nonprofits

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User Behavior

Any GuideStar user who has self-identified at registration as a nonprofit sees the second page. Everyone else views the first page. The page dynamically displays the most applicable information to specific users.

In part 3 of this series, I explained the benefits of outreach and optimization and how they work to bring people to your website. Today’s post should help you strategize on what to do once the visitors reach your website. Welcome nurture tracks will help them better navigate your site and offer up easy conversion points. Trigger emails will keep you in contact with your website visitors after the have bounced from your site. Remarketing ads will keep your content fresh in their minds as they search across the web. Some of these strategies, like creating dynamic pages, may involve expensive platforms your organization can’t yet afford. If this is the case, feel free to reach out to me in the comment section below, and we can discuss alternatives. All the strategies in these blog posts are presented to help your organization optimize your digital outreach in the most cost-efficient yet effective way possible. 

Coming Attractions

Come back in a few weeks, when we will dive into branding and the best way to approach logos and slogans for your organization.

In the meantime, check out these articles/sites to increase your marketing intelligence:

Navigating Digital Nonprofit Marketing, Part 4: Guiding User BehaviorDavid Mundy is GuideStar's director of marketing.

Topics: Nonprofit Marketing digital nonprofit marketing