Adam: [00:08] Hi and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency, and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.
[00:27] My guest on the show today is Gabe Cooper. Gabe is the Founder and CEO of Virtuous Software, a CRM and marketing platform helping charities increase their impact and do more good. His drive stems from a passion to create market-defining software and help charities reimagine generosity. Gabe, welcome to the show.
Gabe: [00:48] Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Adam: [00:51] I love your bio. Passion to create market-defining software and help charities reimagine generosity. Man, I love that that’s your focus and you’re creating a really robust and focused tool around that one thing. That’s really exciting.
Gabe: [01:05] Yeah, yeah. And we’re loving it too.
Adam: [01:08] Well, I mean, it makes sense, right? Because the needs of a nonprofit, especially around generosity, are so unique and so individual that if you can create a software to meet those needs really specific to a nonprofit, they should, theoretically, be able to be more successful in raising more money and do more good in the world. And so really by creating this software, ideally you’re creating opportunities for nonprofits to do more good in the world, right?
Gabe: [01:34] Yeah, that’s exactly right. We want nonprofits to be more efficient, to be better stewards of their money. Honestly, the big thing for us is in the last fifteen years, the world of marketing has sort of shifted from one-to-many mass marketing to one-to-one personalized marketing. So, my Amazon page knows I need to reorder glow-in-the-dark footballs for my kids or my ESPN app knows I like (unclear 01:57) soccer, whatever. Every brand experience I have in 2019 is personalized to me. There’s so much opportunity there for nonprofits to create that same sort of personal connection with their donors, and by and large, nonprofits have sort of missed the boat there. So it’s like how do you provide the technology for nonprofits to come alongside of their donors in a much more personalized way to create new generosity?
Adam: [02:21] That’s right. I love your example of Amazon knowing that you need to order more glow-in-the-dark footballs. It’s really an oddly specific example. So, let’s move into our questions. Related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has worked well for you?
Gabe: [02:40] Yeah, so for the nonprofits we serve, one of the best low hanging fruit I think is a new donor welcome series. This sort of falls in the category digital marketing. There’s a lot of paid stuff I can talk about, but sometimes something as unsexy as email and doing it well is the stuff that works best. So for a lot of our orgs, we’re just encouraging them, “Hey, you know what, let’s try to thank your donors four or five times before you ask them again for gifts.” So if somebody gives to you for the first time, they should get a few different emails over the next month that are highly relevant, that don’t ask for money, they just say thank you, that provide good value-added content that engages them in a more deep way in your organization. I know it’s just email and it doesn’t sound like anything fancy, but man, it can move the needle in terms of donor retention.
Adam: [03:30] You said it yourself, right? It’s providing value-added content and I think that’s where nonprofit marketers in particular tend to lose their way because they want to just shout the vision, the vision, the vision, the vision, the mission, the mission, the mission to help, help, help, help, help instead of thinking, “How do I add value to this individual and what’s going to matter to them and then how do I tie that into the broader conversation around our nonprofit, around our organization?” Right?
Gabe: [03:59] Yeah, that’s exactly right. We try to encourage the nonprofits we work with to be generous. Some of them get the idea of saying thank you, but they’re trying to get people to give to them without first giving. So it’s really thinking about, “How do I give back to that donor? How do I help them understand the world better? How do I give them value in a way that enriches their life before I go about asking for money or asking for whatever?” It’s a hard concept, but once nonprofits understand that generosity begets generosity, it’s a game changer.
Adam: [04:35] Oh, I love that. Generosity begets generosity. That might be the title of this particular podcast. That’s kind of amazing. I’m going to write that down right now. I love that. Okay. So now question number two: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?
Gabe: [04:52] Yeah, and I think it’s back to what I said at the first of the show which is that mass marketing just does not work the same way that it did twenty years ago. We see this as particularly true with social and email, blasting out the same message, especially if it’s a very institutional message. If the message is all about me as a nonprofit organization, all the cool things I do, how cool my brand is, and then you blast that same message out to a million people on your Twitter or a million people via email, it’s just not as effective anymore. It’s effectively the same as a big mass direct mail where you get just really low engagement. And so it’s how do I flip that on its head to be much more relevant and personalized?
Adam: [05:40] That’s right. That’s right. That’s a great question. Not to just overtly promote your software, but that’s what a CRM does, right? It helps you to really micro-target these individuals so that you can communicate with them on their level, meeting their needs, not just blasting out some generic newsletter. Right?
Gabe: [06:02] Yeah, that’s exactly right. And what we’ve seen is, and I think like 70% of all businesses use marketing automation to create personalized messages to their customers. If I go look at a pair of Nikes on Nike’s website or on Facebook, I’m going to be lit up with retargeted ads about that same set of Nikes on everywhere I visit on the Internet and it’s hyper-personalized. What that does, it uses some platform for retargeting and then it uses something called marketing automation. The emails that I get, or the phone calls that I get are all hyper-targeted as well. That term, marketing automation, most nonprofits don’t even know that. They’re totally not familiar with the concept. So really, a big part of what we’re trying to do is educate nonprofits to say, “Hey, that same personalized experience you’re getting that creeps you out on Facebook with Nike, you can use that for good at your nonprofit. It’s called marketing automation, it’s called retargeting. Here’s how it works.” And so, it’s taking that concept of a CRM to the next level.
Adam: [06:57] That’s right. That’s right. And that’s what you’ve got to do to stay relevant and to really compete for people’s attention. I was listening to a podcast recently about the attention economy that we live in and we’re vying for people’s attention when we’re sending them these targeted messages. If they’re not specific to them, we’re not going to be able to grab their attention. We’re not going to be able to engage with them and then they’re not going to engage with our organizations through volunteering or through donating or whatever else, right?
Gabe: [07:25] Yeah, that’s exactly right. One of the exercises that we really encourage nonprofits to do is at the very least create three different personas of what a typical donor or volunteer looks like at your organization. That persona should say something about what they care about like, “Oh, they’re really more about clean water. They’re really more about fixing the malaria problem,” and then sort of do they like giving time or money better and how did they initially engage with the organization? And you define a couple of personas. So this is Jenny, our stay-at-home mom. She really likes these issues and she gives in this way. And then what you do is you take your content and you start mapping it to each of those personas like, “Oh, like these four blogs really appeal to Jenny, and this one podcast or video really appeals to Jenny.” At the very least, you can start sort of segmenting people according to those three or four personas. You really, with very little effort, can ramp up the relevance of your communication within just a couple of weeks of iterating on that concept.
Adam: [08:29] Yeah. That’s totally great. I mean, that’s right. We need to have personas and we need to be intentional about how we are connecting those messages to those individual personas. I think that’s fantastic. Okay. Now question number three: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something you are excited about?
Gabe: [08:52] There’s so many things out there. One of the things that we’ve been thinking more and more about is multi-channel marketing. How do you have a conversation across multiple channels with people that all remain consistent? Something that shows up in their Facebook feed should match something that shows up in their email should match something that shows up in direct mail, and now we’re even thinking about automated SMS and text messages that are on-brand and fit in the conversation, that campaign and then even letters on demand. Letters on demand is a way to slip those communications in a direct mail stream, but in a very one-off basis. So instead of doing all your direct mail at once, you’re just sending one-off pieces of direct mail that are hyper-relevant and hyper-personalized. And so it’s really, how do you use some of these more modern tools to not just do an email drip campaign, but to have a conversation across multiple marketing channels in a coordinated way, which gets super exciting really fast when you think about the possibilities.
Adam: [09:57] Yeah. You’re totally right. I love that idea of direct mail that ties in to a much broader marketing campaign that’s already specific to a segment or an individual, but it all ties into one theme, one message, one unified campaign. Your results on that are always going to be better because people are seeing the same message, they’re seeing the same call-to-action and it takes all those different touch points to get them to pull that trigger and make that engagement. Now, is this the kind of stuff that you’re also looking at looping into your software at some point as a part of that?
Gabe: [10:34] Yeah, it’s actually stuff we’re actively working on in Virtuous right now, to be able to automate direct mail in a very personalized way and then SMS as well, to include it in those automation streams, which is really exciting. But the hard part for us is it’s not a technology challenge as much as it is an education challenge. How do you get nonprofits to be excited about it, to wrap their mind around it and then allow them to sort of wade in the shallow end in a way that creates real measurable results fast? That’s part of what we’re thinking about too.
Adam: [11:06] Yeah. Wow. That’s a really good question and that’s a tough nut to crack. I actually kind of look forward to seeing how you roll that out because I think that could be really powerful. How do you make the complex simple, right? It’s a complex thing. You’ve got to make it simple, make it accessible for everybody. I love that. Okay. Well, Gabe, let me see if I can recap a bit of our conversation up to this point. For question number one, what has worked well for you? You mentioned that a new donor welcome series for nonprofits works really well. You mentioned that, they should thank donors four to five times before asking for anything else and seek to provide value-added content during those thank yous that are ideally, to some degree, personalized to that donor or at least to that donor segment. You said it’s hard to get people to give without first giving to them. I think your specific quote was, “Generosity begets generosity,” and I think that’s going to become the title of this podcast episode. I think that’s fantastic and I totally agree. We need to be generous with how we interact with, connect with, send information to people so that they can then be generous back to the nonprofits that we represent.
[12:13] For question number two, what has not worked well that we can learn from? You mentioned that just mass marketing in general doesn’t work well, especially when it’s kind of those institutional messages that are, “Hey, we’re so great and here’s why we’re so great.” That’s not exactly your quote; that’s my quote. But you get my point, right? And nonprofits really need to use personas. You said, you mentioned that you always recommend at least three personas. They need to use personas to map out who they’re trying to communicate with. Who is this person? What do they do? What’s their profession? What do they care about? Why are they even here? Why are we even talking about them? Do they want to give their time? Do they want to give their money? Because people often want to give one or the other, but not necessarily both. So for targeting a persona for both, you’d better have a really good reason for doing that.
[12:54] Then for question number three, for what are you excited about, related to digital marketing, you mentioned multi-channel marketing, which is essentially a marketing campaign that is a conversation across several different channels. It could be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, direct mail, direct email, automated email, marketing automation, all those different things, all in one unified campaign with one unified message, a unified call-to-action in order to engage people at a deeper level and get them involved in the organization. Does that sound about right? Did I miss anything in my recap?
Gabe: [13:26] That’s awesome, no. I should’ve just let you do it. You’re more succinct with my ideas than I am. It sounded amazing.
Adam: [13:33] Well, I’ve got a lot of practice taking notes, so I’m glad it worked out. It worked out in both of our favors. This is great. Well, Gabe, do you have any final thoughts you want to share with our audience before we go?
Gabe: [13:44] No, I’m just so grateful for the opportunity. I’m encouraged by nonprofits leaning into this sort of technology in this discussion. It’s a lot of fun. And if you want to learn more about us, you can find out more at virtuouscrm.com.
Adam: [13:58] That’s right. I would encourage you to check out the link. I think there’s a lot of value there. So Gabe, thanks for being on the show, man. I’ll have to have you back again soon.
Gabe: [14:06] All right. Thanks so much, Adam.
Adam: [14:09] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, your host, you can find me on Twitter at @ajwalker and on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership, productivity, habit building, and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks and tune in next time.
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Episode 122 - Bring in user-generated content and rely on digital ambassadors
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Episode 119 - Target people that share aspects of your mission.
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