This episode has two listener questions, both from Palliative Care ACT.
Dave Burnett asks “What’s the best way to argue the return on investment of marketing for NFP’s and are paid advertisements on social media worth it?” and Tracey Gillard asks, “Our charity’s purpose is to advocate and support quality palliative care. However, death is not an easy sell…what advice do you have re: marketing something that is not talked about/is taboo across many cultures?”
This episode is the sixth in an eight-part series answering listener questions. For each episode and question, an amazing marketer from my network will join us and provide some different points of view and advice.
In this episode, Gail Hopkins, Managing Director at Make It Happen, an agency that offers NFP marketing services, joins us to answer Dave and Tracey’s questions.
You can connect with Gail and find out more about Make It Happen at mih.com.au
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
Gail, welcome to the show. Tell us a little bit about your agency, Make It Happen.
So Make It Happen, we’re a full service marketing creative agency, focusing on B2B and not-for-profit. We’ve been going since 2000. That’s a lot of years of experience in this space.
Everything except advertising, really. We do everything else that’s below the line. Some of our clients are obviously playing in the digital advertising space as part of their overall strategy, but we’re not an advertising agency. It’s all about return on marketing investment for us and have been for a long, long time.
You mentioned your experience and focus on NFP. Now, Gail, I have two questions for you and that’s because of your experience in the NFP space. The first one comes from Dave Burnett from Palliative Care ACT. And Dave asks, “What’s the best way to argue the return on investment of marketing for NFPs? And are paid advertisements on social media really worth it?”
Now really that’s two questions. So let’s start with the first part. What’s the best way to argue that return on investment that executives are looking for on marketing when you’re working in an NFP?
At the end of the day, you have to determine who are you trying to influence with the marketing that you’re doing? What is the purpose of that marketing and how does it play into supporting the overall business objectives of the company?
So, it’s about not being too influenced by trends and really starting to think about how does that play against who my target audiences are? What do I know about them? Have I done the work of understanding what their motivations are? Do I know how my organization needs to connect to them? Where is the mutual benefit in any kind of connection between us as an organization and them as a target market?
A lot of people don’t do that legwork. And so, when you don’t do that legwork, you end up doing piecemeal things. And when you do piecemeal things, it’s very hard to stand up, hand on heart, and justify to your management about why that was such a great idea.
I think one of the advantages we have right now in marketing across the board, is that return on marketing investment comes down to being able to measure how it was before. And what has happened since.
And so many organizations use largely digital marketing as their platform to do that. And there’s a squillion marketing measurement tools out there. You can tell how successful were you? What was your analytics like before you started? And what was your analytics like afterwards?
Chief executives and financial people and anybody else who holds the purse strings love to see graphs. So, I mean, we’ve never been gifted with more tools as marketers than the generation of graphs. And so, I think you can justify that by saying that you’re targeting the right people, with the right message, to generate the right outcome.
What I wanted to ask as a bit of a followup to that is, when you talk about the lack of legwork that people do in this space, but that there is a real need for understanding on a number of different fronts about your target audience and how to connect and what you’re trying to get them to do. How important is it, if you actually do the legwork and there is some sort of understanding in the organization, that it’s actually documented?
It has to be documented, but it also has to be revisited. So, we’re living… Particularly in the not-for-profit space, there’s thousands of them. So, just because you’re big doesn’t mean that you have an advantage. So in lots of areas in not-for-profit, it becomes cause related, issue related, timeliness related.
So, unless you continue to visit what you’re doing, what your competition’s doing, what the overall marketplace sentiment is doing and updating it on a relatively regular basis, you could still do all the leg work, but you’re following the little legs in the wrong direction. So, that kind of stuff is incredibly important.
Dave’s second part to his question was around social media and are paid ads on social media for not-for-profits worth it? Gail, it’s hard for any business not to feel the pull of social media, if not simply for the pure volume of people that are on social media.
I know that you’ll probably say a good consultant’s answer and say that it depends. And of course, it totally does. I agree, but maybe you could provide some examples or context where maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea for social media ads. And then, maybe where it might be a good idea for some social media ads.
Again, it comes down to what are you trying to get people to do? You’re putting a social media ad up for what purpose? Because unless you can drive some kind of connection, some kind of action from an ad to something else.
Are you driving them to the website because you want them to download a report? Do you want them to register to come to an event that you’re having? Do you want them to donate? Do you want them to engage with a really recent example of something that you’ve done that’s amazing that’s going to change the world? What is the focus of it?
So, to generally run paid advertising as awareness in a not-for-profit space where there is so much competition, you’ve got to be kidding. It doesn’t work. I mean, and there are a lot of incentives from organizations like Google to help support not-for-profits in terms of giving them funding, seed funding for advertising so they can try some different things and do some different stuff in that area.
But unless you can be something that’s memorable, you’ve seen anybody who uses social media sees how many sponsored posts there are. How are you going to stand out in that space? What have you got that’s different? And the other side of it, is what does your organization allow you to do that is a bit different?
A lot of stuff is you’re constrained by it. There’s a, do you have permission if you’re trying to share stories of things that you’ve done that changed people’s lives or improved people’s lives. I mean, as in the case with palliative care. Do you have permission to do that? Is it something that the organization wants to say? And is that something that they want represented?
I think it’s a really good option to boost engagement for a particular purpose, but it’s not the easy, set and forget way of increasing awareness. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not a set and forget thing.
As I mentioned earlier, I have two questions for you. And the second one comes from Palliative Care ACT as well, by way of Tracy Gilad. And Tracy asks, “Our charities purpose is to advocate and support quality, palliative care. However, death is not an easy sell. What advice do you have around marketing something that’s not talked about or is taboo across many cultures?”
And for me, Gail, it’s an interesting question because so many charities are about raising money to treat the cause, to find a cure, or to reduce impact around something. But palliative care is about making the inevitable, death, a better experience for many people in our communities. What advice do you have for them in terms of their marketing, their fundraising activities essentially, when the subject is not one that people really want to talk about and engage with?
I guess it’s the reality that a lot of people and lots of families and lots of connections to people, have to go through this at some point. It’s kind of buying funeral insurance, isn’t it? Something you don’t want to have to do but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of people out there who… You see a lot of advertising about funeral directors.
So, it’s a financial thing that exists. So I guess, first thing I would say is it shouldn’t be seen as a taboo topic because it’s a real topic. And what you’re providing to people is an opportunity to have as peaceful, as high quality exit from this world as possible. Which should be able to be told in such a way that it becomes a positive story rather than a hide it under the bed and hope it doesn’t happen to me story.
So, now death is a part of the life’s journey for everybody. So I think in that particular case, when somebody is suffering from an illness or we have a lot of instances where this is the outcome for many people who have had other kinds of things happen to them in their life.
If I was the marketing person in that organization and the organization was behind the fact that it’s about people, I would be trying to get people to tell their story of how palliative care has improved the life of, not only the person that’s receiving the care, but the family who care about that person who’s receiving the care.
So, it’s about people telling stories about people. That’s what the general public engage with. It’s what gives people hope at a time when there’s little hope. So, I think that there’s a lot of optimistic ways that that message can be presented to the public. And I don’t think people are naive enough to think that that may or may not happen to them.
And Gail, is that storytelling all around trying to tell that story and really connect with the emotion and the comfort, and the peace and the exit of it all, rather than the pain of it all, do you think?
Well, I think it’s about giving people dignity and quality of life, isn’t it? That’s the message. And I don’t see that as being played out with the hearts in the background and the dim lighting and the whatever else. Right. I mean, I think this is about a story of being able to give people that hope that, yes, life-ending illness is a sad, sad thing.
But if you can be in an environment where you’ve got good care around you, that people care that you’re as comfortable as you can be, it gives your family a little bit of respite, a little bit of support at a time when things are really bad. Then I think that that’s the message. And the way that that’s represented needs to be done in such a way that it’s relatable.
So we’re not talking about cinematic experiences here. We’re talking about having real people being interviewed about how this has made a difference to the life of the person whose life is ending. And the people that are being left behind, who are going to feel as though… That part of people’s lives are a major burden for those around them. This helps them with that burden.
Thankfully, I haven’t had an experience, but I’ve had friends who go through palliative care and they also feel like they’re imposing. Their requirements are taking over their other family members lives. And so, this is a way of being able to say, “Everybody’s helping here.” So, I don’t know. I would probably take that, but that depends on the organization and how willing they are to be able to do that. And how they share that request for content in the nicest possible way with the people who are going through the experience.
For me as well, that’s the key. You mentioned it earlier before, and it is that permission, but trying to get people to engage in that content creation and the storytelling during what is a very, very difficult time, not just for the person in palliative care, but their support around them as well. It potentially might be the last thing that they really want to be doing, but it is important work because it will help smooth the way and engage people going forward, won’t it?
Yeah. I’m not sure that that kind of activity would be a fundraising activity. It’s an awareness activity. I’m not sure that you would tie some kind of ask on the end of something like that. But I think realistically, it’s about that they have an opportunity to increase awareness of the importance of the role it plays. And I guess that helps in terms of overall funding from government bodies and health providers in the importance of this service.
Well, in terms of tying calls to action for donations to the end of things like this, that they might be creating. Traditionally, a lot of charities do it, a lot of NFPs do it. They will create something that’s highly emotional, that will bring a tear to people’s eye. As you said before, tug on the heartstrings. Is that a legitimate way to go around asking for donations and support, or is there a better tack to take?
You’ve seen over time, I mean, depending on how old we are, we can all remember horrific images of African children in destitute situations being shared with us by UNICEF and whatever else. So, I think there’s a place for that, but I also think that there is the place for optimism and growth and change.
So, I mean, we do a lot of work in indigenous not-for-profits. And the focus and the preferred focus with some of the providers that we work with is about the opportunity to change lives, change courses of lives with education and healthcare and housing and things like that. Rather than talk about the destruction of the family unit and the issues that we know unfortunately, goes on in many environments like that. But let’s focus on the upside and what can be done to change that process rather than just deal with it as it is.
So, I see that as being a really positive way of being able to let people know that these things don’t always have to be that way. There are ways that we can try to implement change and that change costs money to do. And you can be part of that change by engaging with it and being part of the solution rather than crying about the problem.
Oh, I 100% agree. That’s great advice. Gail Hopkins, if Tracy or David or anybody else wants to get in contact with you and continue this chat, get some advice, maybe work with your organization, what can they do? Where can they go?
So, we obviously have a website. So Make It Happen is mih.com.au. They can certainly go there and have a little look, see what we do. We spend a lot of time talking to people and giving advice. A lot of our conversations are about trying to get people to improve the way they’re doing things and do a bring it themselves.
We’re not one of those agencies that are… I’m not going to end up living in The Bahamas anytime soon, Daniel. But I quite enjoy what we do. We do selective projects on pro bono basis for people who really don’t have the internal resources to do things and we try to help some people out. But ultimately, it’s about making a difference and that’s what I’m happy to do.
Excellent. Gail Hopkins, managing director at Make It Happen. Thanks for joining us and sharing your expertise and advice and answering some listener questions. It’s been much appreciated.
Very welcome, Daniel. Enjoy your day.