Marketing / 03.07.18
Turning Online Interest Into Action
There’s a lot of competition for eyeballs in this 24/7 world of ours. With more than 1.5 billion websites on the internet, how can you make yours stand out? And even if you do attract people, how can you turn those visits into dollars?
According to Liz Hiers, manager of digital solutions at Blackbaud, it goes beyond just having a great website. “It’s really difficult today to get people engaged…to get them to do something,” she says.
At the 2018 INTIX conference in Baltimore, Hiers shared tips for turning online interest into action by attracting the right audience and giving them exactly what they want.
Know Your Audience
If your organization or venue is designing a new website or updating an existing one, Hiers recommends you first really get to know your target audiences.
“A common mistake our clients make,” Hiers says, “is reaching out to everyone. You need to narrow it down to specific groups, whether it’s members, donors, ticket purchasers, volunteers or event participants.”
Before you begin to communicate with anyone, you also need to identify your goals. Are you trying to sell tickets? Get donations? Depending on what you hope to accomplish, you could be reaching out to entirely different audiences.
Once you know your goals and the people you are targeting, Hiers suggests creating a variety of personas or character sketches, then giving them names. This goes beyond simple demographics and incorporates personal preferences, behavior, lifestyle choices and attitudes. She suggests finding photos of people who capture the essence of each persona ― a fan, a donor, a volunteer and so on.
“Pull that person’s picture in and then start asking, ‘Where do these people typically live? What is their typical age range? What’s their education? What do they care about?’ Dig deeper into things like their online habits, asking what would someone like this do online? Does he search for news? How does she use social media? Then zero in on what they might be looking for on your own website or in social media related to your organization or venue,” says Hiers. “Once that’s done, ask yourself how you are going to speak to them in a way that’s intuitive, so you can give them relevant and meaningful information.”
The idea is to get to know what motivates your audiences and how they are likely to use your website or social media platforms to achieve their goals.
“By building out this sort of structure of each different audience group and what they care about, what they're looking for…we can start thinking about the role and the content and making sure that we're delivering messages that are more personalized, more aligned with those individuals and how they prefer to be communicated with,” says Hiers.
Research has shown that this approach makes websites much more effective and easier for people to use. With email campaigns, Hiers says you can expect to see a doubling of your open rate and a click-through rate that is five times higher.
“When you try to communicate with everyone, you end up communicating with no one. So, you want to figure out how to narrow things down to the individuals who really matter and then target your messages and content in a way that is relevant to them,” recommends Hiers. “And, not only do you need a visually engaging responsive design, you need to provide a mobile first experience.”
Call to Action
When people come to your website, it’s not just about presenting your organization or venue, although that is a big part of it. You also need a bold call to action.
“What are the things you want people to do when they come to your site? Make sure that call to action is bold and clear,” says Hiers. “You don't need a lot of sentences around what you want them to do; just make that ask.”
It is also important to make sure you have removed any barriers from a visitor’s desire to act.
“If you're asking someone to buy tickets, when they click ‘buy a ticket,’ take them to purchase tickets. If you ask them to donate, take them to a donation form. Once someone takes that action and says, ‘I want to buy a ticket or become a member,’ they're ready to do that,” says Hiers. “They've probably already received all the information that they need…so the more steps you put in front of them, the less likely they are to convert. You want to make it super easy on your visitors…without barriers or obstacles being put in their way.”
As an example, Hiers points to the website of the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina.
“At the end of the day, their primary motive in terms of driving action are their ticket sales. That’s what keeps them alive,” says Hiers. “As you go through their site, they provide multiple different paths to buy their tickets.”
By understanding the audiences that are important to your organization, you can create content using messages that are personalized and aligned with those individuals. Hiers suggests getting feedback from your audience so they will feel more vested. “If you ask for their opinion on how you should do things for your website, they’re going to get excited about it and feel like they're part of the project,” she says.
Hiers suggests using Optimal Sort, a free tool that provides objective feedback on organizing your website and creating a site map that ensures an intuitive user experience. Then, ask a group of constituents to use the tool to drag and drop pieces of your content into categories and groups that make sense to them. This will demonstrate that everybody thinks in slightly different ways, but you’ll see certain trends developing in terms of how they want to see the information organized. The exercise also allows for anecdotal feedback from participants to go along with the objective feedback.
Getting People to Your Website
To get more people to come to shows or become members, you need to get them into your funnel. But, with so many websites competing for attention, “Build it and they will come” is now little more than a cliché.
It takes a lot of work to get people to your website. Hiers says that work begins with a baseline perspective to see where you are today. She recommends the free Google Search Console to check your current indexing status. Once you have that information, use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, including keywords and meta tags, to improve your standing.
“The wise use of keywords is a great way to impact your rankings,” says Hiers. “The goal really is not just to drive traffic from your name. Think of keywords that people might be searching for to find organizations like yours. Group them into themes like membership information, ticket purchase information and participant information so people can find exactly what they are searching for.”
Hiers suggests using the Keyword Planner, a free Google tool that helps pick appropriate words to use.
Search Engines Becoming More Demanding
Even the best keywords and meta data won’t necessarily be enough to build your audiences. These days, search engines look for much more, including up-to-date and sharable content.
“Think about how you can evolve your content to make it relevant and keep it fresh,” advises Hiers. “If you have information about events that are six months old, that’s not going to do as well as something that’s coming up in three months.”
Your website may also benefit from online reviews, as search engines are increasingly looking for engagement and awarding sites better rankings when they score high in this area.
The Changing Face of Facebook
If you rely heavily on Facebook to promote your organization and its events, you could be disappointed with the results. Despite all the time and effort that you put into organic posts, Hiers says 90 percent of the fans that follow your page will never see them. Facebook is increasingly prioritizing posts from family and friends. “This doesn’t mean that you should abandon social media,” says Hiers, “but it is becoming harder for organizations to be seen and heard.”
Investing in Facebook ads or sponsored posts may offer some hope. Social media advertising is estimated to be eight times more effective than regular web advertising. “The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can really target and hone in on your constituents,” says Hiers. To be effective, however, you need to include a call to action. “If we think of best practices, looking at Facebook ads, you should always be asking something of your visitors,” she adds.
Hiers says organizations also have to become better “social listeners” — tuning in and understanding online conversations involving their fans, members and donors. Then, she recommends using that information to create personalized, timely messages and calls to action.
“With the changes that have been made to the Facebook algorithm in terms of how people are finding you, it's going to be more important for your organizations to start listening to the conversations that people you care about are having, so that you can become part of those conversations.”
There are different tools that can be used to gather this information. Blackbaud, for example, has a social listening tool that searches thousands of different social channels from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google Plus. It aggregates information and provides insight to help turn your supporters into social media ambassadors.
Email continues to be one of the most popular communication channels for organizations because it has proven successful in driving results. Currently, the return on investment for every dollar spent on a strategic email campaign is $38 and email accounts for 26 percent of all online revenues. Hiers cautions, however, that organizations should take time to cultivate a relationship with email subscribers.
“If I give you my email address, you shouldn’t get back to me with something like, ‘Hey, aren’t we wonderful? Give me $25.’ Take time to introduce your organization, provide them with information, tell them a story, cultivate them,” she says.
When it becomes appropriate to make an ask, Hiers recommends being extremely clear in your subject line. She emphasizes it is important to remove obstacles, perhaps by linking directly to a page where those reading your email can donate or buy tickets. If your ask doesn’t work the first time, try again. Depending on the initial response to an email blast, you may want to change your message. Perhaps make it more personal and strategic. Eventually, you will reap the rewards by turning that online interest into action.
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Tags: Social Media , Digital Marketing , Facebook , INTIX 2018