Hootville is beginning to hold a grudge against the term “communications”. We don’t think that nonprofit “communications” professionals are really in the communications game. Or at least they shouldn’t be. We think that they should be in the conversion game.
After all, “communications” is all about telling, informing and (oh dear) raising awareness. Aren’t we more about getting people to change their minds, alter behaviour and take action? Don’t we want Jane Citizen to join up, fork out or jump on board? That’s what conversion is all about. The only point in communicating to Jan is to convert her into a staff member, volunteer, donor, activist or client.
Salespeople want to convert browsers into buyers. You should feel likewise. Our definition of conversion may entail having someone donate, volunteer, attend an event, use a service, refer a friend or lobby a politician. It can be as simple as converting a website visitor into an email subscriber.
Conversion should be an ongoing obsession for communications people. People are already aware of lots of things from child poverty to obesity. Who cares? Unless they are converted into taking action, nothing changes. Corporate marketers don’t give a damn about “communicating”; to them it’s all about converting.
There are formulae for all sorts of things; maths mainly. Euler’s formula is considered a mathematical classic and rated by scientists as one of the world’s most “beautiful” formulae. We are ill-placed to critique this claim. Never mind; we’ve been ogling the above conversion formula which comes to us from MECLABS.
Decisions to buy, volunteer, donate, apply, subscribe, attend (different conversions) do not happen for one reason. There are multiple factor behind whether anyone takes an action (is converted).
C = conversion. If it helps, think of converting as making a sale. Naturally you want to maximise this.
M = motivation. Motivation could be substituted for words such as: excitement, desire, openness to suggestion or eagerness. The creators of this formula at MECLAB see it as important (thus the 4m). The more motivated the target, the easier the conversion. Your targets experience different levels of motivation at different times. Eg: tax time may motivate donors (seeking tax deductions). Significant media coverage of your issue may create a more motivated target for you the following day.
Events in people’s lives create huge, often short-lived surges in motivation. Those finishing secondary school (and their parents) are suddenly highly motivated to investigate tertiary education options; new parents may feel suddenly motivated to take out insurance or learn some parenting skills; moving house motivates endless purchasing and may create a desire for social connections. Retirement may spark a motivation for safe investments and volunteer options.
What do / can you do to approach your target when she is more motivated? Well you can communicate in a way that sparks strong reactions so motivation increases. Your approach may be positive or negative but no marketer has ever milded a target into action. From the words you write to the images you utilise – ensure that they increase the likelihood of conversion.
Timing is important to increase conversions. Clearly you want to reach people when they are most motivated or open to your suggestions whether that be time of year (Christmas, birthday, tax time, school terms) or event-based.
Time of year events are easy to plan for. Mind you; every other marketer tries to use these opportunities. We think that the latter category, events; holds promise. Shape your offer (aka value proposition) to the motivation du jour.
V = value proposition. Each and every time you talk to someone via your marketing you need to clearly and persuasively explain why you are the right choice; the best, the leader. Don’t just promote foster caring – promote your organisation as the one through which to foster. Are you the environmental group that fights the BIG battles? Tell ‘em. Do you get more people with disabilities more work, more often? Let ‘em know. Nonprofits are generally weak in this regard. This is a great article on value propositions. A strong value proposition makes you irresistible and motivates people to choose you, you alone and to choose you now.
I = incentive. Can you create an incentive? Maybe it’s financial such as an early-bird discount. Perhaps it’s a special offer such as an upgrade or 2 for 1. Want a bigger email database? Offer an incentive cheapskate.
It’s not all about greed. Many prospective foster carers delay actingon their good impulses for years. We advised foster care recruiters to promote attending a July information night by explaining that by attending in July they might be ready to give a foster child a home for Christmas. This aims to create an incentive to get people off the couch and attending the information night. Incentives inspire action NOW not later.
F = friction. Here’s where it gets tough. Meet friction. Friction is everything that stops people taking action now. You know how some NFPs think it’s OK to ask readers to print off an application form and mail it back? That’s friction. So too is the inability to register and pay for a course on the spot. So too is a long-winded speech when a short one would suffice. So too is a slow or hard to navigate website or far-flung venue. So too is voicemail as opposed to having a call answered first-up. It goes on. Banish self-inflicted headwinds.
A = anxiety. People are not generally pre-disposed to joining in, getting involved or giving money. They might not use the term “anxiety” to describe their thinking but in their heads are many questions: “If I sign up will I be pestered with 1000 emails?” “Will they use my money wisely?” “Is the proposed solution likely to work?” “Is this a lost cause?” Use words, testimonials and whatever else is at your disposal to overtly quell such anxieties. 30-day money back guarantees are all aimed to counter anxiety. So are 12-month warranties, back-up coaching following a training session, easy unsubscribe options. Anticipate and quell anxieties.
Questions to ask. Review your communications and probe yourself accordingly:
Conversion: Are we specifically trying to convert targets or just communicate? (Be honest.) Do our words and images really motivate people? Or are they just vanilla? List some conversions for which you can aim.
Motivation: What efforts do we make to connect to targets when they are particularly motivated? Do we consider what people are doing at certain times and change our approach accordingly? Could we find ways to detect what might be happening in people’s lives so that we can connect to them at the opportune moment?
Could you partner with an organisation to reach targets at opportune, motivated times? Could schools link you to parents of kids about to drop out of education? Could Councils alert you to new pet owners or recent arrivals?
Incentives: How often do we offer incentives? Incentives can be material – never underestimate what people will do for an iAnything. Do we offer early bird bonuses, Oxfam Fairtrade gifts et al? Do we explain the connection between upgrading a donation from $50 to $100 to the delivery of an extra place in your course for parents of kids with autism?
Value proposition: how well do we explain why we are the organisation to trust and support? What makes us special and the best? How well do we express this?
Friction: Where do we slow, annoy, confuse and befuddle our way out of conversions?
Anxiety: What worries our targets and how can we allay these fears?
Your thoughts most welcome.