Make a tastier communications cake: A recipe for multichannel marketing

Digital marketing strategies come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you don’t have a fully baked strategy, you probably have all the ingredients you need. So let’s mix it up!

Remember who you’re baking for

A successful digital marketing strategy starts with an examination of the people you are trying to reach and convert. Who are they? What excites them? Where do they hang out? I am a big fan of developing personas, or shorthand descriptions of the key groups you need to reach, because I can test my ideas against an imaginary person: “How would Sam react to this?” Even if you’re lucky enough to have data-driven segmenting as the centerpiece of your marketing strategy, you are not off the hook. You need to know who your targets are, otherwise you’ll be serving cheesecake to vegans.

Choose your tools wisely

My friend’s grandma thinks I buy billboards for work. To her, marketing is advertising and she knows I work for a nonprofit, so she knows expensive TV advertising is out of the question. Ergo, she’s convinced outdoor advertising is what I do. As much as I’d love to see NTEN’s work writ large on the Highway 1, it would be grossly inappropriate for an organization with members in Baltimore and Bangalore to target hundreds of thousands of motorists who would not consider NTEN membership relevant to their lives.

It’s a ridiculous story but it’s a mistake nonprofit marketers make every day: failing to use the right channel for the market. If the bulk of your conversions come from your email marketing and there is growth in your content marketing program, you don’t spend all your dough on Snapchat—you double down on what works and expand areas of opportunity. That same grandma has been using the same antique oven pan to make Yorkshire pudding since the 1960s for the same reason: she knows it works. A good digital marketer will understand their channels and how they differ, and be able to identify the ones that work the best for their needs.

Technique matters

If you have ever cut corners baking, you’ll know firsthand that the order of your ingredients and how you treat them can mean the difference between macaroons and maca-ruined. Tactics combine your understanding of your targets and the channels you identify as the most effective, but process is also important. It’s not just about the individual tactics you choose: it’s how they work together. Cinnamon is bitter. Sugar is saccharine. But together, they’re heavenly.

Let’s say you’re developing a multichannel campaign to promote an education campaign. Maybe you have a loyal list of email subscribers, an engaged social media following and friendly local media, so those are the three channels you decide to leverage. Which comes first?

You could start with email, encouraging your subscribers to take a challenge or show their support on social media. Your campaign grows large and interesting enough to be newsworthy and so you leverage a good relationship with local journalists to cover not just the campaign but the issue you’re trying to address. Your digital communications strategy is what allows you to put the pieces of this campaign together and combine for success.


Is your digital communications strategy a delightful croquembouche or a sticky mess? Join us at a Nonprofit Tech Roundup in New Mexico or Oregon this fall, to learn from the experts.

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