Here’s One Way We Can Help Nonprofit Customers Budget Smarter
Who can deny the importance of digital marketing? Certainly not printers! If you’re like my company, the way you reach out to and work with customers now pairs print marketing with digital efforts.
But have you ever dug into just how effective digital marketing really is?
Believe me, I know it’s easy to get swept up in the wonders of the digital age and just assume your budget dollars should be going to things like social media, content marketing, and web design.
At my company, we’ve actually been trying to work less from assumptions and more from metrics. So, we’ve been retooling our marketing efforts to make them much more quantifiable.
We don’t just publish content on our blog, such as this post on how nonprofits can reduce printing costs. We track our efforts rigorously.
We want to know exactly what’s working and what’s not, why that is, and adjust accordingly. Thus far, I’d have to say so far, so good.
But I can’t help but think about print customers out there, in particular the nonprofits that work in a world where tight budget constraints are the norm. As more and more of them are migrating to digitally focused marketing efforts, are they making assumptions that could actually hurt their marketing efforts?
The Digital Picture Is More Gray Than Rosy
I’ll admit that it may seem self-serving for a printer to question what now seems to be the conventional wisdom about digital — namely that its ROI is almost without question better than offline efforts like print.
But I suspect that “wisdom” is a big part of why print-oriented nonprofit marketing efforts are way more vulnerable to budget cuts.
But should they be?
I want to be clear that when it comes to serving our nonprofit customers, I’m not so much pro-print as I am anti-assumption. In other words, I’m skeptical when customers want to make drastic moves away from print but can’t say with certainty why that is. And I’m in favor of whatever means can actually help them raise funds and carry out their missions successfully.
But how can they really know those things? Just like my company, they need to start measuring their own marketing efforts in order to make informed decisions on where their marketing dollars should go, rather than rely on assumptions.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Evidence
I know that gathering internal metrics on marketing performance is easier said than done. But here’s one way to help your nonprofit customers ease into that direction: Get them to reconsider their assumptions about digital marketing by sharing evidence like the following:
- Indications of stagnant online revenue growth. The 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study tells us that nonprofit online revenue for 2018 increased by just 1%, stating, “This marks the first time in 13 years . . . that we are reporting average revenue growth in the single digits";
- Discouraging email response rates. When it comes to email fundraising, M+R says that “nonprofits are facing serious challenges.” For example, findings include a reduction in response rates for advocacy emails (1.8%, down by 15%) and fundraising emails (.06%, down by 13%);
- Digital’s dominance not so clear-cut. In the Donor Mindset Study, nonprofit donors were asked which method of communication they prefer, email or direct mail. In short, donors were almost evenly divided in their responses with 37% favoring direct mail, 35% email, and 28% saying either would be okay;
- Weaker trust in digital. A MarketingSherpa survey found that three of the top five most trusted advertising channels were either print or signage (the other two were TV and radio ads);
- Everyone is not on the internet. The Pew Research Center reports that one in every 10 adults in the U.S. (25+ million people) doesn’t use the internet, a number that has actually remained steady for the past four years despite various efforts to encourage internet use in underserved regions.
What We Owe Our Nonprofit Customers
Asking for money is hard, and doing it successfully is even harder. That’s why I think we owe it to our nonprofit customers to raise tough questions about what they're achieving through their various marketing efforts. Even if it’s just planting a seed that gets them thinking, “Hey, why are we doing it this way again?”
If you’ve established strong customer relationships based on mutual trust, if you feel you have customers that are open to your being both a printer and an advisor, I think they’ll welcome your informed perspective.
Encourage your nonprofit customers to start quantifying what’s really working for them and what’s not. Maybe that will lead to them cranking up their print efforts. Or maybe it won’t. The point is you’re trying to help them be successful.
And in the world of nonprofits, success is a marathon way more than it is a sprint. Getting them to question their assumptions and finding ways to help them achieve success will ultimately benefit everyone in the long run.
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 27 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. POV Solution provides printing services from Cleveland, Ohio, servicing clients coast-to-coast with commercial printing, graphic design and spot UV printing for finishing services.