Maximise donor income and impact by giving your stakeholders an experience they will never forget.
The terms content marketing and content strategy are tossed around a lot in the digital world. What they actually mean will change depending on who you ask, but leading SEO firm Moz offers up a solid definition. Essentially, they say, a content marketing strategy sits at the intersection between your content strategy, and your content marketing.
Confused? Don’t worry, all will become clear. And when it does, you’ll understand what an awesome impact content could have on your charity’s approach to marketing.
What could content marketing mean to small charities?
At its heart, content is about people. It is about understanding and building connections. A strategy determines who those people are and what they want, where marketing refers to the actual mechanisms by which you deliver content to your chosen audiences.
Very few organisations successfully take advantage of content in this way. There are a number of reasons for this:
- It can seem like a lot of work for little pay-off
- It can be difficult to get your head around
- It requires consistent investment
But the benefits can be transformative. You can reach an ever-increasing number of people with a well-planned content strategy, increasing your website traffic, building your brand authority and deepening stakeholder trust.
In real terms, this simply means you can build a more sustainable and impactful organisation.
Content marketing in action
The term content marketing strategy does sound pretty grandiose, doesn’t it? A lot of people overthink it, but it can be extremely straightforward. To demonstrate, let’s take a look at a basic, fictional strategy:
*Our charity supports people with eating disorders. In many cases, we are contacted by friends and family members of those with disordered eating. They are looking for answers to specific questions and need to feel supported by what we offer. We will develop content that not only provides answers but also offers them a “next step” action, ensuring that they receive all the help they need.
Initially, we will produce three pieces of content focusing on the following themes:
- I suspect my daughter has an eating disorder, how can I find out for sure and what can I do to help?
- A close friend died as a result of disordered eating and I need some support
- My brother keeps vomiting but refuses to talk about it, what should I do?
Each piece of content will contain quotes from service users and tips from experts. It will also contain a “call to action”, a next step for the reader to get support. This might be to phone our helpline or to contact emergency services. We will publish three pieces of content like this each month.*
Hopefully you can see the power of this sort of content. If you can’t, consider for a moment how prevalent Google is in our daily lives. It is where we go when seeking answers to just about everything. By developing a consistent stream of relevant content that addresses your service user needs, your charity could own the space in which you work. By showing up when you’re needed most, trust and authority is established.
Unfortunately, very few charities market themselves in this way. In the example above we looked at some very specific scenarios. This means that smaller charities, those who work in niche areas, are already perfectly poised to take advantage of content marketing.
What concerns do your service users and donors have that you can pre-emptively address? Take a piece of paper and roughly begin drafting your strategy based on the example above, using questions specific to you and your stakeholders.
A content marketing strategy is incomplete without a follow-up
So far we have looked at how a content marketing strategy for your charity could put you in front of people at a time when they need you most. But content really comes into its own when you automate processes to keep in touch with stakeholders after that initial touchpoint.
A CRM database allows you to configure journeys depending on the specific audience. For example, after a service user has called your helpline or spoken via web chat, you may wish to send them a survey to get their feedback. After that, you might ask for a donation. These automated journeys, when well-planned, can completely change the way you nurture your stakeholder relationships.
This level of sophistication is not only available to the big players in the sector. Smaller charities are able to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, too. Implementations into the major website platform are simple, Mailchimp offers automation and service integrators like Zapier can take your comms to the next level. And of course, Beacon offers a suite of time-saving tools also.
Imagine crafting an automated system that will basically take care of your core communications for you? That’s the dream!
How to get started creating your content marketing strategy
Hopefully you’re feeling pretty excited by now, so here are some specific areas of focus for you to get started on.
Who are you targeting?
Stakeholders are people with a vested interest in the organisation, such as donors, volunteers and trustees. But you’re going to need to know more than that to set a successful strategy in motion. Begin by asking the following questions of each stakeholder group:
- What are they hoping to achieve when they engage with us?
- How might they have failed to achieve what they want in the past?
- How are they feeling right now?
- How do they want to feel about themselves?
- What experiences may have led them to us?
By exploring these questions, ideally as a team, your charity will develop a fresh understanding of the people you serve. Capture it all on sticky notes and big sheets of paper.
What do they want?
Once you know your community you’ll have a fairly good idea of what their needs are. For example, a donor to your women’s refuge is deeply concerned about violence towards women. In this scenario, your content should reflect their concerns. A few ideas might include:
- What to do if you hear shouting and banging coming from next door
- What to do if your husband won’t let you have your own bank card
- How to get away from a violent parent
This content is angled at donors, abuse survivors and friends & acquaintances of abuse victims. Here are a couple of potential next steps:
- Call to action: Make a donation
- How your solution helps the person: Feel like you’re making a difference. Help prevent others going through what you or a loved one experienced.
- Call to action: Call our helpline
- How your solution helps the person: Feel like you’re taking a first step to escaping your situation.
By being there when you’re needed, and offering a first-step solution to their problem, you cement yourself as someone to trust.
What happens next?
Can you sense how this strategy could fundamentally shape the way you communicate with your stakeholders? The more helpful you are, the more trust you’ll earn. The more prolific you are, the more people you’ll reach. Over time, you’ll need ways to manage stakeholders at volume. As discussed earlier, this is when a CRM database becomes vital. Explore the following questions with your team:
- What happens after somebody makes a donation? Hint: a one-off contribution could become a recurring donation if you ask nicely.
- How do we segment our stakeholders?
- What does a long-term donor relationship look like?
- What’s our desired income goal from this appeal?
- How do our stakeholder relationships feed into our theory of change?
When you investigate these topics it becomes clear that one comms manager alone is not enough. In fact an army of them would not be adequate. But a database can form a part of the answer to these questions, and level-up your comms to match that of the largest, most digitally-savvy charities.
You can do this, today
Without a doubt the most challenging aspects of content marketing are doing it well, and doing it consistently. Your strategy will most likely be ineffective if you don’t invest in executing it to a high standard and taking a long-term view.
The comms manager could take responsibility for generating ideas and a content writer might be sought on a freelance basis, or perhaps as a volunteer role. This might seem expensive at first, but consider the return on this investment over time.
With each stakeholder concern you address, you reach a new audience. One that will be happy to support you for years to come.