Episode 94 – Telling people what they want isn’t a successful strategy.

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Episode 94 – Telling people what they want isn’t a successful strategy.

Telling people what they want isn't a successful strategy | Sideways8

My guest on the show today is Mari Considine. Mari is the Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing for Robins’ Nest Inc, a large integrated health services nonprofit in New Jersey. In her role, Mari leads the marketing division and is responsible for developing and implementing leading edge marketing and communication strategies as well as providing vision and direction for all digital marketing, communications, print, public relations, key messaging, storytelling, and brand experience. Mari also serves on the board of directors of the American Marketing Association, New Jersey, where she is the current president-elect.

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 Sideways Eight, 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.


[00:29] My guest on the show today is Mari Considine. Mari is the Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing for Robins’ Nest Inc, a large integrated health services nonprofit in New Jersey. In her role, Mari leads the marketing division and is responsible for developing and implementing leading edge marketing and communication strategies as well as providing vision and direction for all digital marketing, communications, print, public relations, key messaging, storytelling, and brand experience. Mari also serves on the board of directors of the American Marketing Association, New Jersey, where she is the current president elect. Mari, welcome to the show.


Mari: [01:06] Thank you for having me. Excited to be here today.


Adam: [01:09] That bio is like, all the stuff that you’re over, makes me feel like a slacker. I feel like I should be over more stuff. That’s great. I love it. I love it.


Mari: [01:17] Wonderful. Thank you.


Adam: [01:19] Well, if you’re ready, let’s dive on in. I love to get into discussion questions around digital marketing. So, related to digital marketing, first, can you tell us something that’s working well for you?


Mari: [01:30] Absolutely. I think a couple of things are working really well. I think a solid content marketing strategy has really been successful to us and we have continued to go down this path. Where I work, we have over 80 different programs. We employee almost 500 experts, therapists, social workers, people who are really cutting edge in their field. So we’ve been able to really utilize a lot of our internal resources and expertise to produce some really excellent shareable content. We’ve really maximized our blog, social, website, and then really taken that even beyond digital with presentations out in the community, thought leadership at different conferences and events, and then certainly networking.


[02:17] We haven’t abandoned content marketing, that’s certainly something that we will continue to utilize and something that’s really been working for us. Also in the digital space, data and analytics continues to be really successful for us. We meet every two weeks. We look at our website, we look at the user experience, and we make adjustments as needed. I think what’s been exciting about digital marketing is the ability to be more agile and pivot and make changes as needed. We’re no longer doing a massive web overhaul. We’re really tweaking as necessary and utilizing the data to do that. And that’s been very exciting and working very well for us.


Adam: [03:03] Oh, I love that. I love it. So, related to content marketing, I just have to say props to you for utilizing your people, right? I mean, I feel like that’s one of the things that nonprofits tend to kind of forget about is we have these people, we have these resources, and a lot of times even we have these huge groups of volunteers that are very, very, very good at what they do, very passionate about what they do and they are capable of creating really high quality content related to what they do that is then extremely valuable content for web, for marketing, for all kinds of other purposes. I think that’s really, really fantastic. And on the data analytics side, I love that. I’m curious, too. Related to your website, is there like a particular set of analytics that you’re looking at the most? So for example, like are you actively doing AB testing? Are you looking at heat maps more or are you just primarily looking at what content is getting the most visits and how they’re getting there? Like, what are your top few criteria that you’re really honed in on each time you talk about that?


Mari: [04:04] Well, I think it’s a little bit of all the above, but I think we’re paying particular attention to a users’ path on our website, and are they getting lost? What content are they looking at? Who is our user? And really, we want to drive them to the content that we would like them to see as well. So, we’ve gotten rid of ancillary pages where it looked like users were getting lost. We’ve really been working to improve bounce rate, making sure when somebody is on our site, they’re taking the time to really dig in and look at the content that’s on there. So we have changed pages, eliminated pages that seemed to be problematic for our user. We’re looking at keywords.


[04:49] I mean, we’re really looking at the Google analytics side. We certainly have a lot of advertising through Google adwords and kind of really looking at everything. We have a very comprehensive metrics report that we review every two weeks and we make real time changes. And so the growth on our website has been really tremendous due to really taking a look at what people want, what people don’t want in many cases and really refining from there. So we have continued to have significant growth since we’ve really taken the time to kind of hone in on the user experience and really use those analytics. I mean, it’s very easy to get lost in a lot of the analytics because there really is so much out there.


[05:37] But we really just want people to get what they need from our site. I know in my experience, we want to tell people what they want and that really isn’t a successful strategy, but really being able to use the data that the users provide when they’re visiting the site and tweaking, whether it’s really what you think is necessary or not, is really been wonderful for us and has been very successful. That’s something that’s definitely been working.


Adam: [06:08] I love that you mentioned that telling people what they want is not a successful strategy. I think a lot of time there’s been this mentality, this kind of like Apple mentality. Apple mentality famously was we don’t really care what the customers want. We’ll tell you what you want. And they’ve kind of famously delivered on that in a lot of ways. But when that begins to trickle down into other organizations, I don’t think it quite works the same way, even though we’d like for it to sometimes. And so I think you’re right. You’ve got to understand your users, understand what they want, and then cater to those needs rather than us constantly trying to tell them what we want to tell them. So, that’s really great. So question number two: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well, that we can learn from?


Mari: [06:50] Well, I mean, I think for us it’s definitely a too much, too soon, or too much without proper capacity when it comes to digital marketing. I work for a rather large nonprofit. We are lucky enough to have a development team and marketing team, really wonderful skilled staff, but we are a nonprofit, we are working on a small budget and we really don’t have the time to do everything. So I think, for us, initially, we wanted to do everything so we wanted to be active on social, we wanted to have a fabulous website, we wanted our email to be very engaging, and we really discovered that we couldn’t do it all. We’re great at social. So we’ve been generating donations, engagement, advocacy, awareness. Our website’s been growing.


[07:45] However, our email response rate, not so good. So when we were trying to do all of those things, we really weren’t as successful as when we decided, you know what? Let’s table email for now. Let’s really hone in on social, hone in on our website, get the numbers where they need to be and then we can revisit our email. So now, we’re at a point where we’re raising more money on Facebook than we’ve ever raised through an email campaign. So we really took the time to do that. Instead of trying to do all things kind of well, we decided to pick a couple of things and do them very well. So now, for 2019, we’re looking at email and what can we do? We feel comfortable with the other areas and we know that the focus needs to go back to email and I think it’s a much better strategy than when we were trying to do it all at once. It just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to work. For nonprofits, it’s tough because we are limited with money and human resources as well.


Adam: [08:47] That’s right. And you have to pick one lane and just own it, just absolutely own it. And then when you do that, it then begins to get more scalable, and then you can start to own the next lane, the next lane, the next lane. But if you’re not willing to really dig into that one space that you can just absolutely master, then everything’s going to suffer. I totally agree with you on that. That’s really, really, really smart. Okay. Question number three, I’m really excited about this one. Maybe my favorite question of the three. Related to digital marketing, can you tell me something you are excited about?


Mari: [09:18] I am super excited about artificial intelligence and being able to apply that in the nonprofit sector. We are very lucky here. We utilize salesforce in our development and marketing functions and they have been rolling out some wonderful tools to really help fundraisers gain these real time insights. We’re able to use our time and maximize our donor involvement so we’re not sitting there having to mine the data like we used to be. We’re really getting some real time ideas from salesforce that will really help us to get more donations and they reflect on past engagement and things like that. So we’re not having to do all the problem solving ourselves.


[10:09] We really have this tool that is helping us to kind of create a path for our donors and I think that’s very exciting because it’s something that I’m really interested in and love, but certainly more externally. It’s not really something that’s necessarily in the nonprofit space. But the fact that we have this tool that now is going to allow us to do that, and we’re still very much in the early stages of implementing all of this, but I’m very excited about it, particularly having the opportunity to use that type of data and insights and really having something help us direct our donors in a way that we’re able to raise more money but then be more efficient on staff time.


Adam: [10:58] That’s right. That’s right. And that’s ultimately what AI does. I mean, it augments our learning. It helps us to get a more holistic picture by bringing together insights from vast amounts of data and then we’re able to make better strategic paths for those users based on that data that we could just never do otherwise. We could never synthesize that amount of information otherwise. So I think that’s really, really smart here. I think you’re one of the few nonprofit marketers that I’ve talked to that’s actually actively working on that. So lots of people are excited about the idea of it, but it sounds like you’re actually trying to put that idea into practice, which I think is really fantastic. So props to you for that. Well, Mari, let me see if I can recap our conversation thus far to give users take away and then I’ll ask you for some final thoughts here.


[11:41] So, question number one: related to digital marketing, what is working well for you? You said content marketing strategies are working well. You’ve got 80 programs, 500 employees, and you’re utilizing internal resources to create high level content from those people. You’re maximizing the blog, social website, and also even outside like community presentations out in the real world of all things to create, to do content marketing, which is great. You also mentioned networking and then data and analysis, that you discuss every two weeks the analytics from the website and you take an agile iterative approach towards website tweaks, so you’re not doing just website wholesale rebuild. You’re actually doing incremental tweaks along the way to improve user engagement, and really in particular, to improve user paths so they’re not getting lost so you understand who your user is, you’re improving the bounce rate.


[12:29] And to quote you, you said “Telling people what they want isn’t a successful strategy.” I’ve got that in bold in my notes. I think that’s really fantastic. For question number two: what has not worked well that we can learn from? You said too much, too soon, or too much without capacity. So you can’t do everything. You said you were originally trying to do social website and email, but email really just wasn’t working as well because you couldn’t put the focus on it. So you had to table that to focus on social and website, and since, social and website have improved dramatically and you’re raising more funds through Facebook than ever before. Then you can sort of circle back and see what you need to do about email after the fact, which I think is a really clever option.


[13:09] And then question three: what are you excited about? AI, artificial intelligence, and being able to begin to apply that in the nonprofit sector, in particular, using vast amounts of data through salesforce to be able to identify new paths for donors and see what you can do to really connect with them and help them to engage more deeply with your nonprofit. So did I miss anything from that little recap there?


Mari: [13:32] No. Great Recap. Thank you. That was great.


Adam: [13:35] Fantastic. Well, Mari, do you have any final thoughts you want to share with our listeners?


Mari: [13:38] One final thought would be is what’s important to me and my team is constant training. I tell people all the time, there’s just a plethora of free trainings and webinars and things that are out there in the digital marketing space. So for smaller nonprofits and organizations that are really struggling here, I mean, I look at my staff’s calendar a month in advance and the amount of free webinars and free trainings that they’re taking advantage of so we’re able to improve and always be on the cutting edge is really phenomenal. And that would be such a great recommendation I think for everybody out there, even people who aren’t working and are looking to kind of get into this space. I’m not sure how aware people are of the free opportunities that are available. So I definitely encourage a growth mindset and for people to continue learning.


Adam: [14:31] I love that and I agree. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to learn, a lot of courses, a lot of webinars, and we’re too often just completely unaware of them. Just a couple of Google searches and we can find all kinds of information that would be really helpful. Well, Mari, this was really great. I really appreciate your insight, so helpful to me in particular, and hopefully to the listeners as well. And I’d love to have you back on the show again soon.


Mari: [14:53] I’d love to be back. Thank you so much.


Adam: [14:59] 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 @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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