This article is for anyone involved in marketing/outreach/growth/movement-building for an EA organisation; it explains some key marketing best-practices in an EA context, and is written for a lay audience by a marketing professional.
“If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together,” Sir Dave Brailsford explains the marginal gains philosophy that enabled the Great British cycling team to dominate at the 2008 Olympics, winning no less than 14 medals. The same philosophy applies to marketing.
We can systematically scale up EA donations and volunteers by marketing more effectively. By understanding the stages of your customer’s journey, you can communicate the right information to the right people at the right time. By measuring progress from one step to the next, you can pinpoint specific, actionable changes that enable your organisation to have the greatest impact. Follow these four steps to optimize your EA marketing.
1. Define Measurable Objectives
What is your organisation trying to achieve? What are the best metrics to use to quantify your overall success as an organisation? Is there one main objective, or several? What core outcomes are necessary and sufficient for your organisation to be successful?
It is important that your core outcomes are measurable, so that you can quantify the effectiveness of different marketing activities. Some likely outcomes for EA marketing:
- EA charities: dollars moved to effective causes
- Fundraising: dollars donated and / or dollars pledged
- EA careers: Number of significant career changes
- EA local chapters: Number of people in EA roles of responsibility*
Take care in choosing the right metrics e.g. if you aim to maximize dollars donated rather than dollars pledged, you may choose to market to high-value donors, while if you aim to maximize dollars pledged rather than dollars donated, you may choose to target students and recent graduates on lucrative career paths.
*This top-level metric is based on the (untested) observation that taking on an EA role of responsibility closely approximates necessary and sufficient conditions for someone to ‘fall down the EA rabbit hole’. Assumption: it is unlikely for someone to become deeply engaged with the EA movement without taking on an EA role of responsibility, and having taken on an EA role of responsibility one is likely to become deeply engaged with the movement.
2. Understand your Customer’s Journey
Marketing aims to change behaviour. Whether you are aiming to attract donations, volunteers or something else entirely, you are aiming for a particular group (or groups) of people to change their behaviour. Effective marketing nudges customers towards specific desired behaviours in a strategic and predictable way.
The diagram above depicts a marketing and sales funnel, which outlines the key stages that every prospective customer goes through to arrive at your desired behaviour. In most for-profit companies, the desired behaviour is for the customer to make a purchase; for EA organisations, the desired behaviour is likely to be about impact e.g. for the customer to volunteer, donate, pledge, or change career path.
The funnel gets narrower at each stage, as only a proportion of customers move from one stage to the next. Your challenge is to increase the proportion of people who move toward the final stage, and thus maximize the total number of people who complete a purchase (donate, volunteer, etc.). Consider, how does your organisation perform at each stage?:
- Awareness: How do they find out about you?
- Marketing tactics: News articles, online forums, 3rd party email lists, posters, ‘trade’ shows (including freshers’ fairs), search engines, social media, EA speakers at public events, word of mouth, etc.
- Tip: Be clear who your target audience is, find out where they are (online and offline) and create a brand presence in these places.
- Opinion: What is their first impression of your brand and of what you offer?
- Marketing tactics: Clear unique value proposition, brand identity (visual & tone of voice), top-line messaging, elevator pitch, storytelling, content that evokes emotion, website landing pages, word of mouth, etc.
- Tip: Be clear on what makes your brand uniquely valuable and differentiate yourself around this. Focus primarily on the benefits for your customers, rather than the features of what you offer.
- Consideration: How do they take a closer look?
- Marketing tactics: Website content (landing pages, blog posts, intro videos, infographics, webinars, intuitive information architecture, good user experience across devices, etc.), local introductory events / Meetup events, email list signup forms, printed brochures, intro books, 1:1 phone calls, face-to-face meeting, etc.
- Tip: Imagine your typical prospective customer at this stage in the process, put yourself in their shoes and consider what questions they are likely to be asking, what information they would want to find to evaluate your brand and offer, how this information should be phased, and in what media they would want to receive it.
- Preference: What convinces them that they should ‘buy’ (donate, volunteer, etc.) from you?
- Marketing/Sales tactics: Intro events, intro books, intro training, 1:1 conversations, 1:1 email exchanges, objection-handling, bulk email campaigns for lead-nurture, schedule follow up calls/meetings, personally invite people to events, etc.
- Tip: Be consistent, and consistently helpful. Expect to use a number of different marketing and sales tactics together. Assign a specific ‘sales rep’ to each prospect, in order to better manage each relationship.
- Purchase: How do you close the deal?
- Marketing/Sales tactics: Volunteer sign up form (online & offline), make a donation form (online & offline), helping the prospect to fill out the form (in person / over the phone), invite volunteer commitment (by email or in person), etc.
- Tip: Have a clear, simple, explicit and prominent call to action - tell your prospective customers what you want them to do.
2.a. Understand Your Customer’s Journey - Local Chapter Examples:
To put these stages into context, here are some examples of what a customer journey may look like for an EA local chapter:
- Sally found out about her local EA chapter from a friend who was already an EA volunteer.
- Sally’s friend was super enthusiastic about EA so Sally came to a local Meetup to check it out for herself.
- Sally had some interesting conversations with other people at the Meetup and was left with many questions about EA. She wanted to know more.
- Sally’s friend was persistent and encouraging, lent her an introductory book, and invited her to the next Meetup. Sally read the book, went to the Meetup, and decided she wanted to get more involved in EA.
- Sally asked her friend and the Meetup organisers what she could do to get more involved. The answers she got were vague suggestions of helping to promote EA locally and an invitation to attend the next committee meeting.
- Sally attended the next committee meeting but still had no clear role that she could actively take on.
- A month later, still with no clear role, Sally had the opportunity to pursue another passion and play a lead role in an amateur dramatics production. This seems like a much more tangible and rewarding way to spend her free time so she took the part.
- Sally still speaks about EA with her friend sometimes but other than that is not involved in the movement.
- James recently found out about EA by browsing local Meetup groups on Meetup.com.
- James came to a local EA Meetup but felt rather out of place as conversation was quite specialised and serious. He started chatting with another person who was also attending the Meetup for the first time. They both concluded that EA was a bit too cliquey and uninviting. They did not stay for long and do not intend to go back.
- Ahmed found out about EA from an email circulated to his first year undergraduate Philosophy class.
- Ahmed was immediately interested and read a whole bunch of articles from links in the email. The email did not contain any information about his local chapter so he never knew that this was something he could get involved in.
- Ahmed had lots of free time as an undergraduate and spent much of this chatting with his friends about philosophy and how to make an impact. He did not have a good grounding in EA theory or a clear way to put his good intentions into practice.
- Ahmed went on to be a school teacher in order to satisfy his desire to do something meaningful and give back to society. He donates regularly to Cancer Research.
- Len found out about his EA local chapter from reading an article in his local newspaper with details on an upcoming ‘introduction to EA’ film screening.
- Len attended the film screening out of curiosity. At the end of the screening, the host invited all attendees to participate in a weekly ‘introduction to EA learning group’ running over the next four weeks. Len was unsure but, after speaking to one of the event co-hosts, saw how the learning group could be really beneficial and decided to attend.
- During the first learning group session, Len was shocked to find out that his donations to Oxfam could have done far more good elsewhere.
- At the end of the first learning group session, the group host recommended that all attendees would benefit from having an EA Buddy. The role of the Buddy, he explained, was to help them work out how to personally have the most impact and to connect them to relevant opportunities within the movement. Motivated by the chance to increase his personal impact, Len signed up for a Buddy.
- Len attended the remaining three learning group sessions and met up with his Buddy once a week during this period.
- By the end of the three weeks, on the recommendation of his Buddy, Len had signed up to a careers workshop run by 80,000 Hours. Of his own accord, Len had also cancelled his standing order to Oxfam and set up a regular donation to AMF.
While every individual’s journey is unique, many customers will abort their journey with your brand for similar reasons. Different organisations find that different marketing tactics work best for them. As a rule of thumb, the greater the commitment you are asking from your prospective customers, the more personal the tactics need to be.
Customers typically engage with a brand many times before completing a purchase (volunteering, donating, etc.), so expect to use a range of mutually-reinforcing marketing tactics to keep people moving through the funnel.
3. Measure the Conversion Rate between each Stage
What are the key measurable steps customers go through to fulfil your organisation’s core objectives? Aim to pick out a handful of key metrics for your most important marketing and sales tactics, with a view to calculating the conversion rate from one stage of the funnel to the next.
For example, a local EA chapter could measure:
- The number of people reached through 3rd party email lists & freshers fairs
- The number of people who sign up to a mailing list or attend an intro event as a result
- The number of people who go on to attend a second event or intro training course
- The number of people who volunteer for a role of responsibility
These metrics are simple to track and allow easy calculation of the conversion rate from one step in the process to the next. For example, divide the number of people who attend a second event by the number of people who attend an initial intro event and you get the conversion rate for the event (which roughly approximates the conversion rate from consideration to preference).
4. Optimize your Marketing
By calculating the conversion rate of your key marketing activities, you give yourself a powerful quantitative measure of your marketing effectiveness. This doubles as a benchmark against which you can test changes to your marketing efforts. For example, the local EA chapter could test what happens if they include, at the end of their intro event, a five minute presentation about upcoming EA introductory training and handout a signup sheet to each attendee. If this significantly increases the conversion rate of the event, it is probably a sound tactic to repeat and recommend to other EA chapters.
To market most effectively, identify bottlenecks in your organisation’s funnel and address them as a priority. Look for realistic ways to double (yes, double) the conversion rate from any one stage to the next and make these changes first. Perhaps you notice that you have minimal brand awareness within your target audience and could easily increase your reach, or that your target audience is very much aware of your brand but typically does not engage with you, or that lots of people engage but very few go on to donate or volunteer.
Be forensic and identify exactly where people are getting stuck. Walk through that part of the customer journey yourself and develop some hypotheses of why this might be the case. It could be as simple as introducing a clear call to action, to invite people to do what you want them to do (while highlighting the benefits).
Note that the conversion rates between each step are compounded: if you double the conversion rate from any stage to the next, you double your overall sales (donors, volunteers, etc.); if any stage in the funnel is underperforming, your overall performance will suffer in proportion.
Tailor and target your messaging to people at each step in the process, using the channels and tactics that are likely to most effectively motivate your prospective customers. Use appropriate calls to action at each stage to nudge people a step closer to what you ultimately want them to do.
Keep track of key marketing data points and calculate conversion rates to benchmark your effectiveness. Keep doing what works and change what doesn’t work. Having addressed the bottlenecks in your funnel, continue to hypothesize, test, measure and iterate to fine-tune your marketing machine.
If you want to implement the recommendations in this article, or generally improve your marketing, first write a marketing plan:
If you want to know more about marketing analytics and measurement:
- Marketing analytics and measurement - detailed introductory guide, recommended for marketing professionals and anyone with professional aspirations in this field
- Google (website) Analytics guide, highly recommended for any organisation with a website
- Mailing list software (Mailchimp) analytics overview, recommended for organisations running mass email campaigns
About the Author
I am a freelance digital marketing consultant: I plan and implement integrated digital marketing campaigns, mainly for SMEs in the UK, and have worked in this field for the last five years.
I have set aside some pro bono time to consult for EA aligned organisations to help increase their impact, so feel free to message me with any requests! oliverbramford @ gmail.com
P.S. This article is part of the EA Marketing Resource Bank project led by Intentional Insights.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Boris Yakubchik, Szun Tay, Chris “Waterguy” Watkins, Brendan Eappen, Alfredo Parra, Dony Christie, Gleb Tsipursky, Ahir Datta, and others who wished to remain anonymous for feedback on earlier stages of this draft. They are in no way responsible for the thoughts expressed here and any oversights remaining are those of the author.