Regularly tracking and measuring your nonprofit’s marketing efforts is one thing. Actually putting that data to work is another. If you're consistently tracking your marketing metrics on a monthly basis, you should absolutely be turning your data into insights that you can use for future marketing efforts.
So, how can you build this practice into your marketing work? It all starts with asking questions of your data. Here’s a list of questions you can use each time you update your marketing metrics tracking system to make the most of your data.
The 4 Essential Questions
One of my favorite strategy books is Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s a must-read for any nonprofit professional, no matter what kind of work you do. The premise of the book is all about developing strategy based on your organization’s unfair advantages. These are typically tactics that come easy to your organization and ones that tend to get great results. The authors have a four-question framework they use to help organizations determine this.
I’ve altered these questions slightly to make them useful for your marketing data so that you can find your unfair marketing advantages.
- Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we keep doing at the same level?
- Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we do more of?
- Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we stop doing?
- Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we start doing?
These questions are designed to help you clearly see what’s working and what’s not in order to adjust your strategies and tactics. Personally, I love question 3 because I often find nonprofits keep doing #AllTheThings because they think they should when in fact there are likely things that just aren’t working that they would be better off stopping. Consider it permission to pare back.
Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, make a quick list of changes you want to implement for the next month. You may be tempted to make a huge laundry list of new ideas and changes, but challenge yourself to focus. Pick one to three changes you’ll focus on for the next 30 days. You’re more likely to follow through and see measurable results when you focus.
More Metrics-to-Insights Questions to Ask
Asking questions of your data is the best way to use your marketing metrics to improve your marketing outcomes. Here are some more questions that you can use to drill down into insights from specific aspects of your marketing program.
- What are your website's most popular pages or posts? Can you leverage these to send traffic to other places on your website?
- What are your top traffic referrals to your website? Can you do anything to improve your average monthly results?
- Did you have a particular social post that got especially good engagement? What factors might have played a role in its success? Can you integrate these factors into other content?
- What’s driving your email list growth? What other tactics could amplify your results?
- Considering your website's stats, what can you try to increase the time spent on your site and decrease your bounce rate?
The theme of these questions is trying to identify which 20% of your marketing efforts are driving 80% of your results. This is the Pareto Principle in action. The idea is to understand the (usually) small portion of your efforts that drive the majority of the outcomes. Knowing this for the different aspects of your marketing program will help you continue to focus on what’s working rather than pouring too many resources into tactics and channels that simply aren’t getting results.
Make an Action Plan
The most important advice I can give you about using your metrics to improve your nonprofit’s marketing is that you actually have to use your insights. It’s easy to track your metrics but never really do anything with them. It’s also easy to ask questions of your metrics but again never really do anything with the answers. The best thing you can do to change this pattern is to create a clear action plan for the next 30 days every time you finish updating your metrics tracking system.
This shouldn't be an entirely new marketing plan or a massive laundry list of to-dos; be strategic and create a short list of high-impact action items. Try this quick list:
- Restate your goals for the month.
- Break out the spaces you want to focus your marketing efforts in, like email, direct mail, Google AdWords, and social media.
- Add email or mailer send dates, social media posting dates, or AdWords updates to your planner or calendar.
And finally, the biggest question your marketing metrics should be answering: Is awareness for your mission growing? All signs should point to "Yes!" Your marketing data (like your fundraising data) is a super valuable tool; make the most of it each month and get ready to experience a new level of marketing momentum.