Episode 27 – Let Digital Be the Entryway into Something Larger than Itself

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Episode 27 – Let Digital Be the Entryway into Something Larger than Itself

Episode 27 - Let Digital Be the Entryway into Something Larger than Itself

My guest on the show today is Chris MaddocksChris Maddocks is the Chief Marketing Officer for March of Dimes. He is a nonprofit executive with progressive experience across annual giving, campaign planning, marketing and communications and development operations. Currently serving as the Chief Marketing Officer at the March of Dimes where he is the building brand, modernizing and helping drive growth to improve birth outcomes for mothers and infants. Motivated by strategy development, transforming teams and capacity while delivering measurable impact.

Highlights from this Conversation

    1. What has worked well for you?
      1. Easy to get caught up on channel metrics
      2. Need to think about metrics as a whole, people are people
  • Think of digital as a fabric and people come in and go out in different places
    1. What hasn’t worked well that we can learn from?
      1. Brand gets a bad wrap sometimes in talking digital marketing
      2. Sometimes waving the flag of the cause can be too much for people
        1. People often really care about connecting with each other
    2. What are you excited about?
      1. Opportunities to move digital followers into physical action and activity in the world
  • Let digital be the entryway into something larger than itself

Interview Transcript

Adam: [00:00:09] Hi and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about nonprofit digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people at good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a digital marketing agency that specializes in nonprofit work and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.

 

[00:00:30] My guest today is Chris Maddocks. Chris is the chief marketing officer for March of Dimes. He is a nonprofit executive with progressive experience across annual giving, campaign planning, marketing and communications, and development operations. He’s currently serving as the chief marketing officer for March of Dimes, where he is building the brand, modernizing, and helping drive growth to improve birth outcomes for mothers and infants. He’s motivated by strategy, development, transforming teams, and capacity, while delivering measurable impact. Chris do you have anything to add to that bio?

 

Chris: [00:01:03] No it sounds great. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you, Adam.

 

Adam: [00:01:06] I’m excited to chat with you. I love what you’re doing. Love the cause that you stand for and I’m happy to hear about how you’re furthering that cause and the good that you’re doing in the world through nonprofit digital marketing, so let’s go ahead and dive in then. Question number one, can you share with us something that has worked well for you related to digital marketing ?

 

Chris: [00:01:29] Yeah. I think one of the things that we talk a lot about with my digital teams is I think if you’re the social person, or the email person, or the website person, or the advertising person in the digital marketing team, it’s easy to get caught up on your kind of channel metrics. Everybody thinks that they have to hit certain numbers in isolation. One thing that I found, both in my career overall and managing these teams specifically, is to really think of it as a whole. People aren’t email people, or social people, or ad people, or site people, they’re people.

 

[00:02:10] We’re really kind of looking to shift how we think of it as a team and think about digital as a fabric that people come in and out in different places and not get too hung up, we want to be accountable for outcomes, but we don’t want to get too hung up on kind of the e-mail-by-e-mail, flight-by-flight, post-by-post metrics. We want to take a little bit of a step back and a step up in terms of thinking about how is the channel as a whole performing, how are we moving people through these different levers at different times. I think that’s been a key driver for me and kind of insight to helping organizations mature and take that leap in the digital marketing space.

 

Adam: [00:02:51] Yeah I love that, the idea that people are people. I think that’s what you said and they’re not just traffic, and they’re not just email opens, and they’re not just clicks, and they’re not just downloads, but they’re actual individuals that we’re connecting with on a person by person, on an individual by individual basis, and we’re sharing our stories, and we’re sharing our problems, and we’re sharing our triumphs, and we need to deal with them as individuals, right?

 

Chris: [00:03:15] That’s absolutely right. I think that’s where being able to have that be an open conversation so that each member of the team knows that, again, if you’re the social person, you’re the social person, so you’re focusing on implementing posts and on community management and things, but just to remember that you’ve got your colleague in the cube next door designing e-mails to that same person.

 

[00:03:39] Again, I think that by building a team that breaks that down and just fundamentally understands that it is one audience that touches us in different ways. It also creates that kind of a positive team influence so folks know to send a paper airplane over the cube wall and talk to their colleagues around what’s happening, what’s performing, and what’s moving people because usually, from what I find, is that what’s good in one channel is usually a good insight at least to start testing in another. It can be a really proactive collaboration if we can get that right.

 

Adam: [00:04:14] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think your quote, I tried to write it down verbatim. Tell me if I got this right. You said think of digital as a fabric and people come in and go out in different places. I think that’s incredibly insightful.

 

Chris: [00:04:27] Yeah, absolutely.

 

Adam: [00:04:28] Yeah, they come in in an email list or a visitor, they go out different places, they interact with us in different ways. That’s really unbelievable. I really like that a lot. Next question related to digital marketing for nonprofits, share something that has not worked well for you that we can learn from.

 

Chris: [00:04:47] Yeah, I think the one thing that we have found that does not work is every organization has an issue space and there are lots of ways to frame that. There are positive frames of hope and aspiration or reaching goals. There are negative frames of presenting a social ill or pushing back against politicians of this stripe or that stripe or this policy or that policy.

 

[00:05:24] I think one of the things that I’ve found is that because I also, in addition to digital and chief marketing, I’m also over brand. I think brand gets a little bit of a bad rap sometimes when we’re talking in digital marketing. I think it’s easy to get caught up in thinking well, we need an urgent image that gets people thumb-stopping content. If we don’t do that with a hard to read image or something that gets people mad or anxious or what have you, that we’re not doing the right work.

 

[00:05:58] I think that one of the things that I’ve found and I’ve been surprised by is that, especially last year we did a campaign for one of our peer-to-peer events and we started using what I would say is kind of the standard tried and true playbook. Do a campaign and help us prevent this bad outcome. What we ended up finding through some good multivariate testing and some good A/B stuff is that people want to stop the social ill, but what they really cared about was connecting with each other or coming together as a community.

 

[00:06:38] I think for me it was a good reminder that even when the world is tough and our issues might not be winning, it’s really important to keep that hope and that vision for the future and to keep coming back to that as a reminder. I think when we have failed we’ve let ourselves get distracted by driving click rates and really valuable metrics but ones that might miss the forest for the trees a little bit.

 

Adam: [00:07:12] Right. Yeah, I totally agree. I mean it seems to me that as non-profit marketers we get so focused on our cause, we get so focused on our passion, our goals, what we’re going after, how we’re trying to improve the world, and the problems that we’re trying to solve that we sort of thrust that at people and sometimes that’s not why they want to engage with us. Sometimes they just want to engage with us for their own internal reasons, not necessarily for our own external ones. We have to be careful I think to speak to what their needs actually happen to be in that moment, more so sometimes than what our needs happen to be in that moment.

 

Chris: [00:07:47] Yeah, I think it’s also an issue of audience. Obviously we all have our super advocates or our super supporters who when asked are going to do what we’re asking. We know that that’s a response rate. We can expect certain amounts of that. But I think that’s where it gets really important and tricky to remember not everybody comes to our causes fully baked, drinking the Kool-Aid, and ready to go. People need (08:15 inaudible) as well.

 

[00:08:16] Again, I think that that’s one of those tricky balances is especially during a time of separation and passion and partisanship, it’s easy to go to the farthest side and forget actually so March of Dimes we’re trying to build a movement for the health of moms and babies. It’s not partisan. We believe every mom and every baby deserves the best start to life. But if we were to drive all of our mission and messaging to one extreme or the other, it’s easy to miss that you need to bring people along too and that that’s okay. Not everybody’s going to be super advocates, super (08:56 inaudible), super grassroots. There are going to be people that are on the continuum. We need to speak to all of those folks in as fluid a way as possible.

 

Adam: [00:09:05] Yeah. Yeah, I totally agree. I love that. Being able to sort of in some ways dial up and dial down exactly how emphatic we are towards our goals, towards our messaging because some people will get on board just to do good in the world and they’re just happy that you’re doing good and they want to do good with you. Some people are a lot more passionate about your particular area of focus and I think we have to be aware of that.

 

Chris: [00:09:31] Yeah and it’s tricky too. From a brand perspective, you don’t want to be ten different things today to ten different people, but that’s the balancing act right. How do you modulate tone or identify audience segments that you know are 100% in? For those that maybe are still coming up to speed or are transactional or kind of white on your issues, you’ll also beyond that capacity to get them further along, ladder of engagement type stuff.

 

[00:10:00] That’s something over the last couple of years where we’ve not done well. We’ve let ourselves let the pendulum swing all the way. When we’re at our best we’re kind of helping people move along and take those steps to then opt in, engage higher, take that next step, opposed to pushing them all the way down.

 

Adam: [00:10:23] Right. I love that. Next question and I love this one. Related to nonprofit digital marketing, tell us something you’re excited about.

 

Chris: [00:10:33] I think the thing that I continue to be excited about is opportunities to move, I know that we’re talking digital, but I really think that the in real life opportunities are significant. I think that some nonprofits have done a great job of thinking about how do they move digital followers into physical action and activity in the world. But I think that whether that’s the women’s march or we’ve seen in the last year or so really amazing moments of communities coming together, not just digitally, like, kind of getting over the hump and saying nope. It has to be we feel so passionately about whatever the issue is that we want to come together right. We want to be physically united.

 

[00:11:29] I think that that’s one of those things that I really am so excited about is how do we at a core competency as a nonprofit, don’t make digital do everything digitally. Let digital be the entry way that then starts to connect people to those really meaningful – again, I’m speaking personally not professionally, but I participated in the women’s march. It was an amazing moment. If that was just a digital webinar or tweet storm, I wouldn’t have any identity bound up in it. It was that (12:08 inaudible) moment that kind of slung shot me and my family, and our identity for social good forward.

 

[00:12:14] I think that that’s something that really excites me is how can every cause stop telling digital to just be the digital thing, but let digital be kind of part of that gateway and entry into more systematic, more fundamental change in real life experiences.

 

Adam: [00:12:32] I love that. I think you said, I wanted to write it down, you said, let digital be the entryway into something larger than itself. If you had only participated in that march from a digital perspective, you certainly would not talk about it on a podcast after the fact. It wouldn’t have made that kind of an impact on you but because the digital led way to the physical and to creating more community and more impact on your life and the life of your family around that, it made enough impact where you’re still talking about it. I think you said it’s a part of the fabric of identity of who you are and who your family is.

 

Chris: [00:13:06] Absolutely. I think that that’s where digital I think in nonprofits still can sometimes be seen as either the cash register or the megaphone. Blare out this thing or let’s get X number of people to convert. I think that that’s where if we can acknowledge some of the limits of digital but also see that it can also be a very powerful mobilizing tool and community tool and think about ways in which we let it do its job and do its job really well and efficiently in using data and evidence, but also use that as a hand off.

 

[00:13:41] I think for nonprofits, for those that I’ve worked in and worked with, is it’s really easy for the digital team to stay the digital team, opposed to an organization that knows it has to operate in the digital era. Those are two fundamentally different capacities to just have a digital team versus to know that your organization is operating digitally but in a broader context.

 

Adam: [00:14:06] Yeah. Well, it’s like you said earlier, where digital is a fabric and people are coming in and out. It’s a fabric that’s a part of a larger whole of your marketing efforts and that’s really a part of a larger whole of your storytelling efforts. That’s really a part of who your brand is and what you’re about and what your identity is.

 

Chris: [00:14:23] I think that’s where an organization like March of Dimes is an interesting case study here is that we celebrated our eightieth anniversary. I think we could probably argue with a couple organizations on who started the peer-to-peer movement but at least for us like 1938, there are kids walking around door to door collecting dimes. We are literally the March of Dimes. People (14:45 inaudible )to  The White House.

 

[00:14:46] I think it’s fascinating for an organization like this to rethink, the answer is not just to have a donate button. If we’re going to reclaim that mantle of being the march of mass mobilization for a better future for people, it’s got to be both sides. We have to transform from our mail into digital and from our digital down into advocacy or mobilization or movement.

 

[00:15:13] Again, you asked what excites me, I think the promise of that both for March of Dimes, but for a lot of organizations, to make that pivot and to be part of the world of good not just the digital, you know the news feed story and sounding box, but really part of a new approach to making good things happen in the world. I think that’s really exciting. I think there are a lot of fun potential there.

 

Adam: [00:15:41] Yeah. I love that. I love that. Well, Chris, if I can let me see if I can recap what we’ve talked about so that our listeners can have some tangible things to take away. I’ll kind of roll through this and you can sort of chime in and add to it as you’d like.

 

[00:15:55] Number one I asked what’s worked well for you and you said it’s easy to get caught up in channel by channel matrix but you find that it’s best when you look at metrics as a whole, recognizing that people are people. They’re not numbers, they’re not visits, they’re not clicks, they’re not downloads, but they’re actual people that you’re actually connecting with.

 

[00:16:13] You said, and I love this quote. I put it in bold in my notes. Think of digital as a fabric and people come in and go out in different places. I really love that. Is there anything you’d like to add to the what’s working well section there?

 

Chris: [00:16:25] No, I think that that’s great.

 

Adam: [00:16:25] All right, number two what’s not working well you said sometimes the brand gets a bad rap from digital marketing so you kind of have to be aware of what the brand is and looping the brand in. Also that sometimes, and this is my paraphrase, of course, but waving the flag of your cause too emphatically can sometimes be too much for people and we have to sort of meet people where they’re at. Sometimes that means that we’re pushing our particular priorities very hard because that connects with them and sometimes maybe it’s a little more of a soft sell.

 

[00:17:00] Ultimately, I think to your point, we have to stay on brand, so we can’t dilute it, we can’t have different messaging but it may be a question of sort of dialing up and dialing down a bit to be aware of who our audience is what their needs are. Does that sound about right to you?

 

Chris: [00:17:13] Yeah, I would just say also it’s okay in digital for not everybody to be our most committed supporter. We should acknowledge people and make sure that we’re not just crafting our digital strategies for that X percent. Whatever our extreme is, it’s really important to remember there’s a life cycle and a continuum and that part of our role in digital marketing is educating too; it’s not just conversions. There are other things that (17:42 inaudible)

 

Adam: [00:17:44] Yeah, totally agree. Totally agree. That’s great. For number three what are you excited about, you said opportunities to move digital followers into physical action and activity in the world. What I wrote down and bolded there was a paraphrase which was let digital be the entryway into something larger than itself. I love that. Anything to add there

 

Chris: [00:18:04] No, I think that that’s spot on because I think the other thing that we’ll find with continued digital saturation is that if we’re measured only on our opens and clicks, I think we all know that those are going to be harder to come by in the future and that if we don’t understand that digital is part of the organization’s core capacity, teams are going get squeezed and people are going to start looking other places to achieve success, despite the fact we know that this is such a core capacity and capability for the future.

 

[00:18:33] I think that’s where we really have to reach across the divide and figure out how do we take digital and megaphone it and do the best work there, but then also bring it back into, again, in real life create opportunities to make meaningful, physical impacts in the world.

 

Adam: [00:18:49] Yeah, I totally agree. Well, Chris, this has been great. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our listeners?

 

Chris: [00:18:55] No, keep up the great work everyone. It’s an exciting time and look forward to seeing good stuff and social good in the world.

 

Adam: [00:19:02] Me too and I appreciate the work that you’re doing and I really appreciate you being a guest on the podcast. Thank you to our listeners for listening to Good People Good Marketing. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs and other fun resources.

 

[00:19:20] Also if you want to find me, Adam, your host, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog adamjwalker.com, where I blog about leadership, habit building, productivity, having five kids and other random things that interest me. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.

 

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