By Kristie Swenk Benson, Director of Communications, High Museum of Art
On July 16, I landed in Washington, D.C. for my very first Nonprofit Marketing Conference. Being new to the nonprofit industry, I thought this conference would be a great entry point for me as the director of communications for the High Museum of Art. Thanks to a scholarship from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable initiative, I was able to interact with 300+ conference participants and many expert presenters. I’ve summarized what I heard and learned so that other members of the Audience Building Roundtable can get a taste of the wide-ranging discussions about nonprofit marketing.
Concise is Nice
One of the breakout sessions was Doing More with Less. This session provided some interesting ideas for building audiences through micro campaigns. Micro campaigns are small, hyper-targeted promotions that give organizations an opportunity to test a marketing idea over a short period of time.
Micro campaigns typically last three to four days as opposed to the three- to four-month cycle of a usual communications or marketing campaign. These brief campaigns offer less expensive ways to track progress and they allow organizations to course-correct – faster—in order to get better results.
Micro campaigns require you think—in a short cycle—about: What are you trying to achieve? What are your goals? What perceptions are you trying to change? Do you want to educate or persuade?
As a result of this session, The High Museum is now exploring ways to incorporate micro campaigns into our overall marketing and development strategy. Using this method for membership pushes, as a recruitment tool for docents, or to fundraise offers us a more targeted, focused way to build audience engagement in a short timeframe.
Presenting Data in a New Way
The concept of infographics is not new. I’ve seen infographics used in a variety of ways, and since I am a visual person, I’ve always liked the way infographics make mundane data fun and creative. But data visualization sparked new and exciting ideas that made me look at narrative and storytelling in a different way. Data can make your head spin and eyes glaze over. Why? Because it’s boring. What is the data really saying? What are you trying to convey to your audience? These are questions we’ve all asked ourselves during meetings where data was being presented.
Data visualization gives us an opportunity to provide very important information in a more thoughtful way. Data visualization—by way of infographics—allows us to do the following:
- Elevate data by using visuals to tell an organization’s story
- Empower people to share an organization’s data easily
- Easy to obtain by making data accessible
- Entertain by making the content relevant
- Entice people to return to an organization because they want to learn more
- Educate people about a cause and how your organization is making a difference for that cause
Hearing this information immediately made me think of the ways we could incorporate infographics into our marketing strategy. I asked our team to share their 2017 successes through data that could be put into an infographic. It was not easy for the marketing team to pull their successes together in this new way, but they liked the idea of presenting their data in a new way and so we forged ahead.
During our September Communications Committee meeting, we shared our 2017 successes through an infographic that was displayed in a PowerPoint. The committee loved it; the graphic made it easy to tell a great story and highlight a couple of successes in each area we highlighted.
I also shared the data visualization information with our Membership Department. This information was timely: October was our rollout of a new membership campaign that simplified 19 membership levels into nine. We discussed how we could make membership simpler by using infographics to distinguish differences in the levels. The data visualization infographic made it easier for the membership team to talk about the simplified membership levels. The campaign launched in October, and we have received great feedback from members, not-yet-members and staff about how easy it is to read and understand.
Mapping the Web Experience
Websites are critical to our organizations. They either provide great sources of information or great sources of frustration for visitors. There are many reason why websites can be ineffective communication vehicles. They are either outdated, too slow, cluttered or riddled with broken links. The High Museum launched its new website on July 10 – the first day of the American Marketing Association Nonprofit Conference I attended. I was interested in learning new tips and tools that might be helpful as adjustments continued since edits to a website are never really “done.”
The Actionable Analytics: Digital Strategy session taught me about behavioral maps. Understanding the function of each tool gave me information to go back and share with our Multimedia Technology team. It also made me feel empowered with new and exciting information.
Heat maps show the road most traveled when visitors enter your site. Are they going where you expected? Are they getting stuck altogether and leaving your site? These are all important questions that must be tracked and answered so you can improve your overall site analytics.
It’s valuable to understand the habits of our visitors, so we started tracking that website traffic data immediately.
Scroll maps are a great source of information too. Scroll maps tell you how far down the page visitors go to get information. If you are highlighting a program or event at the bottom of your page, but visitors are only will to scroll half way down, they may have missed some very vital information that could impact your bottom line.
Scroll map information is very important to the overall health of a website. While this concept may seem simple, many sites fail to reach their visitors and provide them with relevant information. We now use scroll maps to test out new pages on the website and revise pages that have large amounts of information. This has been helpful on our “home page” and our “support” page.
Here are other ways you can improve your site:
- Add script on every page of the site
- Declutter – look at pages with zero views/most popular pages
- Add filters – exclude internal traffic – added IP address will skew page views – separate filters for every site
- Evaluate social platforms – what posts are driving people to the site?
- Look at demographics – where are visitors coming from?
One more important thing
We often underestimate the power of our people: our employees. People are our most valuable asset, and organizations that make people the priority benefit greatly from high productivity, low turnover and a healthy organizational culture. These people, your people, are brand ambassadors and storytellers. They can provide the best—or the worst—advertising for your organization.
During the Collaboration Leadership: Building Strategic Marketing Strategy session, one thing that really struck a chord with me is giving your people an opportunity to openly collaborate on ideas. Leadership can sometimes operate in a vacuum, but there are great voices in your organization—voices that should be heard.
We get in our daily routines of meeting and reporting out information in ways that are sometimes mundane and boring. I hate boring. Boring stifles creativity, and I think everyone reading this blog is creative—so start creating! The facilitator of the workshop called her creative sessions a “collaboratorium,” in which you give people the opportunity to collaborate on ideas. The idea is to say every crazy thing, and let no idea go unsaid. It reminds me of an aspect of design thinking. I believe creating that type of environment is invaluable to the overall health of your people and your organization.
I don’t know if I’ll call my creative brainstorming sessions a collaboratorium, but I will definitely find ways to break up the “meeting and reporting out” cycle that we so often find ourselves in.
The conference provided very useful information that I was able to bring back to the High Museum of Art. After every conference that someone attends, we share what we learn and talk about new ideas – and ways to improve what we are already doing. The ideas I’ve mentioned in this blog been very valuable nuggets for my organization—from marketing to development. I am grateful that initiatives like The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable exist and give nonprofits—small and large—opportunities to expand the knowledge in our toolboxes.