Apple Pay, Twitter Buy, Facebook e-commerce, and your nonprofit

Did your mood change between the first six words of this headline, and the last two? Did your technological curiosity shift to something short of terror when the headline suggested that these technologies might have an impact on something bigger than how you buy a Big Mac or a sweater?

Good. You get it.

I think I’m a cool mobile/social consumer every time I order a coffee at Starbucks and pay for it with my mobile app, linked to my PayPal account. However, mobile and social e-commerce is advancing quickly, and your nonprofit needs to get on board. Consider these recent developments:

Apple Pay, the mobile payment technology that allows you to pay for things with credit cards tied to your iPhone, is launching in McDonald’s and Whole Foods. But… according to the same article, “you’ll be able to pay for your Uber, buy baseball tickets with MLB.com and order food from Seamless with one click.” Which means there’s no reason iPhone users can’t also just as easily donate to your organization, or buy tickets to your event. No reason, except, you’re not ready for it.

Twitter just announced a “Buy Now” feature that will appear in certain tweets, allowing subscribers to purchase a product (or make a gift) through a Twitter app, also using existing credit cards. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get donations through tweets as easily as @Megadeth sells concert tickets and tee-shirts. Once you figure out how, when, and for how much, to ask.

And, Facebook has begun adding “buy” buttons into the ads it places into users’ newsfeeds. This allows users to directly purchase items and services offered for sale. Since 62% of Facebooks’ revenue is now coming from mobile users, the combination of mobile and social with e-commerce is staggering. An article in Institutional Investor’s blog says, “Simply put, Facebook newsfeed ads deposit users directly into the mouths of the sales funnels of mobile-first companies.”

And, if the above isn’t scary enough, this just in from @NonProfitTimes :
“United Way Worldwide (UWW) is joining the digital currency world, announcing that it would begin accepting bitcoin donations. It is the latest 501(c)(3) to adopt the digital currency.”  Let’s just leave this one off the table for now. It even scares me.

I’m not suggesting that you abandon efforts to improve your next direct mail letter. That’s going to bring in more net money this fiscal year than any of the above. But you have to carve out some time to start playing in these mobile/social sandboxes, and get comfortable, because there’s a lot of opportunity there, especially among influential early adopters.

What is your nonprofit doing in mobile/social and ecommerce?

Are you investing enough in digital?

ALS home page featuring Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Association home page

No, this is NOT another “ice bucket challenge” blog post. That’s been covered, and that story isn’t even new. It just validates what Heather Fignar and I, and many others, have been saying for years: give people a reason to have fun, express their creativity, employ social media and mobile technology, integrate it across all channels and all parts of your organization (especially media relations) and you have a good chance at making a splash, (pun intended) if not some real money.

No, this is about meaningful, ongoing investment in digital advertising, and why your nonprofit is probably woefully behind the times. So far behind, that I had to go to big box retail to show you the way. That’s right… a company selling hammers, power saws, kitchen cabinets, and 2″x4″s is kicking your butt in digital revenue.

Home Depot is investing 36% of its total ad budget into digital media, especially email messaging and social media. Print only gets 10%. Digital’s share is increasing. “We like the ROI” says their Chief Financial Officer.

The company says its continued transition to online sales and digital marketing are also key, according to Craig Menear, President, U.S. Retail.

“We’ve shifted to more targeted personalized messaging to become more relevant to customers, and as a result, costs attributable to print advertising are down 60% since 2010, and have been shifted to more efficient advertising.”

So how much does Home Depot sell online? Less than three percent of its sales originate at its new website. What? How can it make money by investing 36% of its ad budget (translation: fundraising budget) in a medium that generates less then three percent of its revenue? Because one doesn’t allocate one’s investment in growth based on the past; one invests based on the future, and Home Depot is betting on digital to drive future sales.

Also, Home Depot knows that the value of its digital investment goes way beyond the amount of orders actually placed online. It knows that handymen and handywomen scope out new product ideas, watch how-to videos, read emails with special offers, and then go into the store to do business “the old-fashioned” way.

Lest you think this is a new trend, an article from 2011 lays out the plan. Home Depot had just embarked on a $1.1 Billion investment in its new website, despite then-current online sales of just one percent of total retail. They knew, according to industry research, that “around 48% of retail sales will be influenced by the Internet in 2011 and projects this to rise to 53% by 2014.”

Sadly, many healthcare nonprofits I know budget their digital investment as if it were part of their continuing, proven, direct mail budget, expecting it to return $4 or $5 in revenue this year from every dollar invested. Then, they don’t even do a good job of measuring the impact of that paltry investment beyond the online donation page.

 

 

 

Are you testing enough? Neckties and Tactics

wrong ties

In the past, we preached, based on testing, that one longer donation page resulted in more completed gifts than several pages that each asked for pieces of the donation. No longer, it seems.

Test results release at last week’s New York Nonprofit Conference, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation, indicated that users have changed, and multi-page donation processes are worth testing again.

More testing ideas:

Test the color of the “Donate Now” button. Yes, the marketing/communications people want it to blend in with your home page header. YOU want it to stand out. While red may stand out, a member of the audience pointed out that 10% of men, and 3% of women, are red-blue colorblind.

How much are you cultivating your new email subscribers before determining if they are returning enough in gifts to cover their cost of acquisition? Maybe not long enough. Most of us apply a direct mail thought process to this equation, which is based on the typical single-use permission of a rented name. When you get an email subscriber, you have permission to contact them until they decide otherwise.  Going slow — as many as eight or ten emails before a blatant fundraising appeal — might yield better results.

Are you testing gift arrays, on both your mail reply forms and web forms? (Warning: the best array may be different for each). The National Park Foundation found they were getting many $25 gifts, even though their gift array started at $35 and went up from there. So they tested a $25 amount, and found a 17% lift in response rate, with only a 4% drop in average gift.

Are you talking to event participants about the event when you contact them for further follow-up, or are they getting the same email everyone else is?

Are you testing re-marketing? There are ad networks that can show your ads on other websites that are visited by people who’ve come to your site but not made a gift. Google runs one of them. One nonprofit found that 18% of the 1,500 site visitors they re-marketed ultimately made a gift. (Yes, many of them would have someday made a gift anyway.)

Personalized copy on the outer envelope seems to get it opened more. “Donor Since 20xx” is one line (printed right under the donor’s name) that seems to work.

Warning: I suspect much of testing results include a certain “Hawthorne Effect” – the new test works because it’s new, not because it’s universally better.  Results increase at first, then decline. Remember the Eagles’ hit There’s a New Kid in Town” or those too-wide and too-skinny neckties in your closet, waiting for the fashion pendulum to swing back the other way.

What tests have you run lately? How have they worked?

 

Are you a mobile, social healthcare fundraiser?

coffee_dollar

What do Starbucks’ and Facebook’s recent record-breaking quarterly results have to do with healthcare fundraising? Let’s explore.

Sure, mobile has been big with Facebook over the past year, but it continues to grow. Nearly 4 out of every 5 daily users of Facebook access it on their mobile device every day. Advertisers – for-profits and non-profits alike – are showing ads to these mobile users, as mobile ad revenue to Facebook now exceeds its ad revenue from desktops and laptops.

What ads are people viewing, and responding to, on Facebook? Starbucks also reported record income yesterday, and two reasons are its customer loyalty program, combined with its mobile platform. According to Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, “mobile payment now accounts for over 15% of all transactions in our U.S. company operated stores and we are now processing on average 6 million mobile transactions in the U.S. every week alone.”

I’ll bet that a large number of your donors drink Starbucks coffee and are active Facebook users. Sure, the stereotypical little old lady writing checks is still a significant portion of your annual fund income, but maybe that’s because you’re putting most of your fundraising efforts into the channel that attracted her (and her mother before her). Boomers, who control 70% of the disposable income in America, are all drinking Starbucks and using Facebook to talk to their grandchildren.

The good news for you is that you don’t need to invest heavily in a mobile app. Just make your site work well on the major mobile platforms – a task you can outsource for a few thousand dollars. Then, get engaged more heavily on Facebook. Use Twitter and Facebook to get people to subscribe to your email newsletter list, and communicate with them on all of those channels.

Make it easy to donate online, and then give your supporters good reasons to donate, and you’ll find digital revenue growing. My fiancé posted a fundraising message on Facebook for one of her favorite nonprofits. I viewed it on my mobile, clicked on the “donate” button, and was able to make a gift very easily. She’s raised $160 from her friends in less than 24 hours from her Facebook “event.”

Heed these words from Starbucks’ CEO: “We have invested well ahead of the curve to create opportunities for our customers to engage with their social and digital networks on mobile devices and are now beginning to see the payoff of these investments.” It’s no longer “well ahead of the curve” but modest investment on your part now will position you well in the coming year – even this year’s holiday peak.

Special offer: If you’d like a glimpse into social media use by your healthcare market segment: cancer centers, children’s hospitals, etc., contact me about participating in a free study.

Video is a great way to attract engaged web visitors

Social-Referrals-That-Matter-Mar-2014

It’s great to have an inspiring video with music and kids, like the one I blogged about from Connecticut Children’s Hospital.  But almost any video will draw web visitors and engage them, according to Shareaholic’s “Social Referrals That Matter” Report. They studied six month’s worth of social media referrals over 200,000+ sites reaching more than 250 million unique monthly visitors to get a sense of which social network drives the most engaged visitors. This is important for healthcare fundraisers.

Their number one pick doesn’t surprise me: YouTube, convincingly, in all three metrics studied:

  • Time spent on site: almost four minutes – about the length of two YouTube videos.
  • Pages viewed: 2.99 means they clicked around a bit.
  • Bounce rate: well below 50% (“Bounce Rate” is the percent of people who view only the page they clicked, then “bounce” away from the site, so the lower number is better here).

I said I wasn’t surprised. I’ve long held that web visitors would prefer to “do” a web page — engage in a quiz, game, or contest. Their second choice is to “watch” a page — a video or animation clip, and “skimming” a web page is a distant third. Note I said “skimming” and not “reading.” Reading doesn’t happen much. Did you read every word of this blog up until now? Or did you scan the headline, the graphic, the links, and the bullet points?

Healthcare organizations have lots of great video opportunities. If you’re not interviewing researchers and caregivers, patients and providers, you’re missing great opportunities. It doesn’t require Hollywood-style equipment or talent. Just grab a video camera, visit the “talent” where they are, and get them talking (or, better yet, demonstrating). Edit it to remove the awkward pauses and reduce the time to 90 to 120 seconds, then:

  • Post it on YouTube (the second busiest search engine behind it’s owner, Google);
  • Embed the YouTube video in a landing page on your site, with a call to action (like, “donate now”);
  • Talk about it in an upcoming email to supporters;
  • And, yes, post it on your other social media.

For added kick, include one or more of these videos as follow-up  in  your three most important, and most overlooked, cultivation opportunities:

  • The “Thank You” page for signing up for your email newsletter;
  • The “Thank You” email that’s sent to new subscribers;
  • The “Thank You” page for online donations

These three pages are often virtually blank and disrupt a very powerful action sequence that a supporter has initiated.

How else are you using video?

Cultivating new email subscribers

Most of the money being raised digitally is still the result of sending the right email message to the right person at the right time. So, a good email fundraising program must be a priority for your development team. The critical stages of email fundraising include:

  1. Making it easy to sign up
  2. Finding ways to grow your list
  3. Cultivating new subscribers
  4. Managing campaigns
from AllAboutBirds.org

from AllAboutBirds.org

At the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#14NTC) just ended, I learned from the tiny  Cornell Lab of Ornithology how they successfully cultivate new subscribers. It can easily work for healthcare organizations. Their main website email newsletter is the boring old way to do things, but they offer a free download of many owl sounds (to play on your computer, or use as a ringtone?). Go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_horned_owl/sounds or search on their main page for “owl sounds” and choose the owl of your choice. When you click the download button, you’re asked for just your first and last name and email address.

  • First of all, their welcoming email is great. It’s simple, thoughtful, and helpful.
  • Then, three days later, they send more information about owl sounds.
  • Three days after that, they offer more content in another email.
  • Finally, six days later, there is an email invitation to become a member (various levels starting at $39).

That’s it. Four carefully timed and crafted messages in just under two weeks. From then on, you will receive their monthly e-newsletter. Slow and steady wins the race. The average first donation is given 78 days after the first download (though that varies greatly and is influenced by the season). Between four and five percent of those who download ultimately give online. Those who also provide a postal address with their subscription are included with their  direct mail acquisition program, and this is their most responsive prospect list.

One of our healthcare clients provides similar information. They reported to us that, while initial donations from a campaign to grow their list were small, they ultimately converted (within a year) at a rate of just over two percent, and that was with just a monthly email and their few email appeal messages.

You and your colleagues may have two concerns:

  1. It’s a lot of work to create an effective email welcome series, and to send these messages at the right time (if people are signing up every day, then within two weeks, you’re sending four messages every day, to the people who signed up today and 3, 6, and 12 days ago). A good email tool or online marketing platform will make it much easier to manage.
  2. You’re concerned about “over-emailing” (let’s not use the S-word) your list. This is not an excessive saturation of the list. You should track your unsubscribe rate and be concerned if it exceeds one percent per email, but you should receive very few complaints. You should also test variations to the timing and content to find the optimum sequence for your audience.

Give your donors what they need – where they need it

Do your donors (or potential donors) have the information they need so they can move to the next step of the donation process? A recent exchange with a colleague made me want to revisit this concept.

I invited our Creative Director to submit some recent brilliance to a competition hosted by the Integrated Marketing Advisory Board on whose board I sit. My email to her was as follows:

Subject: Free Industry awards competition, and I’m on the board

I’d be pleased if we can submit some recent award nominations into the IMAB competition. Deadline is Feb 7. [I included a link to the submissions page.]

Thanks.

She wrote back and said, “I don’t see anything about entry costs.”

Now mind you, this Creative Director is (a) brilliant and (b) writes and edits email copy for a living! But she missed the word “free” in my email subject line. “Free” was not mentioned in either my email copy or, embarrassingly, on the entry page (we’ve since fixed it).

The moral? Using “Free” in the subject line may have helped her decide to open the email, but it needed to be mentioned again within the email body, and/or on the landing page, to convince her that entering this competition wouldn’t bust her budget.

A long time ago, another brilliant copywriter explained to me that each piece of a direct mail package had to stand on its own. The letter and reply device, and all other inserts, had to have the organization’s name and address visible, in case they became separated from the reply envelope. This kind of redundancy is low-cost and increases response incrementally.

Ditto for an online encounter. Tease them in the subject line to get them to open it, but don’t expect them to read the subject line once they get inside the email. The email body should incite them to click the link, whereupon they will forget what was in the email. Give them all the information they need on the page where they are now.

Right now the biggest online fundraising gap is between the top of your donation page and the bottom. That is, 20% or so of people who click to the page finish it. Why do 80% bail out? Maybe you’re giving them too many options elsewhere, or too little information (or emotional reinforcement) on the page itself.

Would you like me to look at your online donation process? Contact me for an audit.