CDE project 18 appen­dix 2: Sticky Mar­ket­ing & Dig­i­tal Selling

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 09, 2017

Sticky Marketing & Digital Selling – An audience with Grant Leboff

In November 2016, Rory White, founder of Flow Caritas, hosted an event with Grant Leboff, author of ‘Sticky Marketing’ and ‘Digital Selling’. A group of Directors of Fundraising were invited to hear his views on marketing, and how it applies to fundraising. Here is an edited transcript of his key address to the group, reproduced with permission from Grant and Rory. 

Grant Leboff: 17th November 2016

‘For the first time in history everyone is now a channel - this is the revolution in a nutshell because essentially it changes several things.

The first thing that it changes is the way we get our information. Go back ten years and we got all the information exclusively from media companies. We woke up in the morning and our news came from a newspaper, the radio, and from the TV. You would get on the train and read the same. Or perhaps you would read a book, and the book was from a publishing business. You might listen to music put out by a record company - which is essentially another media business.

Almost all the information as you go to work was published by media businesses - even business to business trade magazines such as Haymarket publications. So, everything we got was put out by official media companies. That is still happening of course. Media companies are just putting more out, but then you're putting information out too. For example, every charity has a website with a YouTube channel, a Facebook page or a Twitter account. All those things are media channels. And finally, individuals have got those channels as well. There are 1.6 billion people on Facebook - that's 1.6 billion people who have used Facebook in the last month. Half the population of the UK log onto Facebook every day from a mobile device. 

That changes a couple of things that are fundamental.

The direct effect of living in world of abundance of information is scarcity of attention. Why does that matter? Firstly, for fundraising if you don't have people's attention then they won't donate. The traditional sales model of a wide cone down to a narrow cone was codified in 1898. That wide cone worked in a world where attention was relatively easy to get. In America, they used to call it “spray and pray”. If I chuck out a load of mail or I chuck out a load of advertising essentially attention is plentiful enough that I will get people to look at it. You will only get a small amount of responses because it always works on the premise that only a small amount of people are in the market to buy what you've got and it's going to touch them at that particular moment. So, there was always going to be a small response rate. That’s fine - but the idea was that attention was plentiful.

The problem is that we live in a world today where attention is scarce and the top of that funnel works on the premise that attention is plentiful. So, if you chuck out your 100,000 mailers you will get your 2% response - but not anymore. So, the response by many charities is let's just do it more often. So, then of course, the world gets upset because we're being bombarded by charity - which is the news story that came out. I’m not sure that was the most sensible response – “it's not working let’s do more”. So, you can see why it doesn't work. You need to understand why it doesn’t work, because the model is based on the assumption that attention is plentiful. In 2016 it isn't. So, that's why you've got the failure of that model.

The digital sales funnel now has a narrow top because it reflects the fact that the attention is hard to get [see diagram]. The reason you have a wide middle is because once you got someone's attention, which is now the most precious thing in the world today, you have to keep it. With the old model, attention was plentiful, so, we just kept bombarding people and working transactionally so they donate. And a couple of months later we do it again, or six months later, or whenever, depending on the frequency of our activity. So, that's the first situation you have as a result of the changing world.

There is a second situation. You are media channels. You have all become media moguls because you own media channels. What is your website? Your website is just dead space on the internet. If you have a Facebook page what is it? It is dead space on the biggest social media platform in the world. What makes it interesting? Content. The BBC is a set of cables a licence to broadcast. What makes the BBC good, or not, is the programs. The reason content becomes important because it becomes the currency owning a media channel. Without content, it's dead space - it's boring. So, you own a media channel. That fundamentally changes your fundraising activity and it fundamentally changes your marketing and communications as well. 

Marketing (and fundraising is a form or marketing with an outcome of a donation) used to be the art of interrupting someone else's audience. If you had chuggers on the street no one came down the street just in case there were people were collecting. You went to the high street because you're attracted by the likes of John Lewis and M&S, and the chuggers interrupted you. If you were doing it in a magazine you don't buy a magazine in case there's an advert for a charity - you buy the magazine to read the content of the magazine but you would ‘interrupt’ if you deemed it to be the right audience. Same with TV, same with radio. With direct mail it's the Royal Mail distribution system and you have interrupted it by buying stamps, but essentially you are interrupting someone else's audience. Here's the challenge - your website doesn't have an audience. No one wakes up and goes “I must go on your charities website” - it doesn't work like that - neither does your Facebook page and neither does YouTube. So now what you now have to do in marketing is build an audience and retain it. That is a fundamentally different skill from interrupting someone else's audience which is completely transactional. 

If you're interrupting someone else's audience it's just a transactional thing I interrupt you, and you give, or you go, and you're on your way. Suddenly I'm trying to build an audience and retain it. It is a completely different discipline. Which is why most marketing departments aren't fit for purpose, because they are full of people that if they know what they're doing, they know how to interrupt someone else's audience but do not know how to build an audience and retain it. It's a fundamentally different mindset. Then you're into content creation. And you need to ask what content will an audience find valuable so they will engage with us? Even if all your website says is “donate to us now”, and even if it says what the cause is, people aren't going to keep on coming back to your website to see a “donate now” message because it’s not compelling - so you have to give value to your audience.

In a world where everyone has got a channel there are two currencies: one is content because without content there is no media, and the other one is social sharing - how that content spreads. Your best marketers and your best fundraisers today are not you. Your best marketers and fundraisers are the people - the ecosystem - you create around - the audience you build. You can say that you are worthy cause, and you are a brilliant charity and I probably won't believe you because we don't believe in authoritative structures. In a we are witnessing that with BREXIT votes and Trump. We don't trust the establishment anymore. Your best marketers are when a friend of mine shares shared a video with me or a piece of content with me saying “this is really great” I'm absolutely going to look it. That is how you cut through in a world where we have attention deficit disorder because I might not be looking at official channels but I will look at what my friends say. In the UK, more people get their news from Facebook than any other platform including TV and radio and newspapers. This is also true of the entire Western industrialized world. More people learn about things through social channels than anything else. You now need to understand that.

This fundamentally changes marketing for a second time. The first time you now need to build an audience and retain it, and in the old days you were just transacting. And the other time is you used to produce interesting content just for your audience. If you were going to direct mail 10,000 people you were producing content for those 10,000 people. Now you're going to produce content to share - because that is the new currency. And that’s a different skill. It still has to engage me otherwise I'm not going to press the share button. But engaging me is not enough. You've got to engage me and encourage me to share in some way as well. And the way to think about that is “social capital”. People share things to increase their own social capital. I share something because I know it's going to make you laugh or you're going to find it useful or you're going to find it interesting. So, it becomes about me - even though people aren’t thinking about that when they do share. No one is going to share a piece of material that reflects badly on them. The opposite is true they are going to share material that’s going to reflect well on them. So, you need to think about that when you start to build your marketing.

Engagement becomes important because it’s important to retain the audience. That’s what it is - engagement. Although no one seems to know what engagement means. Why is it traditional that before you get married you get engaged? When you lock the toilet door what does it say on the other side? Engaged means busy occupied or taken - that's it. So, all you need to ask is how often is my audience that I am building busy or occupied or taken with me? You need to decide what is the frequency of that business because they're not going to engage with you everyday. You need to decide what that engagement will look like realistically for the content you are putting out. So, for example Tesco's engage clients every week. That isn’t stupid on the basis 84% of the UK population go supermarket shopping at least once a week. If you don’t engage with Tesco’s for 3 weeks there are only three conclusions: you’re on holiday, you’ve gone shopping with someone else, or you might of have died.

You shouldn't measure less than quarterly. Because if you go to six monthly it’s so sporadic people will forget who you are – and it’s about mindshare. So, I would say a minimum is on a quarterly basis. Then you just need the tools to measure it, such as social media monitoring software - so you know someone has retweeted you. You also need the back end of your website, though an application interface, or direct, so your CRM systems talk to each other. So, if someone goes onto your website and watching a video how do you know unless they are talking to each other? 

It's not enough to just create content. Creating content that engages an audience is great, but, it's not enough. So, a website of cute fluffy dogs will lead to traffic but will it lead to any sort of donation? Because if it doesn’t the traffic becomes vanity - it doesn’t mean anything. So, you need to understand what are the “buyer motivations” to engage with you - not to donate to you, to engage with you. Is it because they want to be part of your movement what is it you need to understand what those motivations are. If you have less than three motivations you're in trouble because if you can't think of three compelling reasons why someone should interact with in you’ve got to ask if you have got any reasons why someone would interact with you. And if you've got more than six then you're getting too granular. These are big helicopter motivations. So, they will “believe in our cause”, but define the cause - they “believe in the cause of x”. That would be a motivation because there are lots of nuances below that. You are looking for between three and six motivations, and every piece of content that you could use you have to be able to internally link back to one of those motivations. If you are not producing content that links back on an emotional level back to those buying motivations you are going to miss the mark. So, it's ok to use pictures of cute fluffy dogs, but what is the context of those pictures and how does that link back to buyer motivation?

Then there is one of the thing you need to do ask yourself this question: what is it I want my customers to do next? You should never ever have a piece of content anywhere where there isn’t another call to action. I've seen a picture of a cute fluffy dog so can I adopt a dog? Or is it they can watch a video on fluffy dogs? Is there a webinar on fluffy dogs? Click there. So, you understand the journey you are taking your customer/donor on. They won’t all go on that journey - they will drop out at different times. That is also quite telling, so you are then able to refine journey and make it better. You will never understand the sensible customer journey if you don't understand the buyer motivation that content leads back to. For example, a recruitment agency may focus on the buying motivation of finding the right candidate. So, they could focus on, for example, interview techniques - producing ten killer interviewer questions on a piece of content - which you understand internally links back to the buyer motivation of getting the right candidate. Then you can come with sensible next steps in terms of a download, a seminar, a video, or a webinar.

Otherwise you're in danger in a digital world of building a nice audience but receiving no donation or no leads - in which case it’s ultimately a waste of time. 

Although the book is about digital selling you really must think about it as fundraising and marketing and not as digital. Digital is going to be the major platform because the one thing never changes in marketing is you have to be where your customers are. And your customers are on digital today. So, if you are not on digital you just aren’t going to be where your customer and donors are. It's very unhelpful to think of it just as digital. It’s marketing strategy. It shouldn't be thought of as digital marketing you should think of it as marketing in a digital world. Talking about digital marketing silos it in a way that is really unhelpful. Even when you do offline stuff it has to integrate with your online stuff. 

It is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking and that’s the challenge. 

You need to know WHO your market is (as Trump did). And then you create a HOW that that market will find compelling. It’s not your WHAT - there are too many great causes.

When you live in a world of social sharing it's the die-hards, or early adopters, that spread the message for you. For example, those that queue for an Apple product. Those are your early adopters. Very few people queue for an Apple product but it's those dedicated few that cause the ripple effect leads to the TV station to go down – even if there are only 500 people queuing at the store, which in the grand scheme of a country of 63 million is not significant. But it makes other people think it must be a good product. It’s those early adopters who help get attention through social sharing.

How do you make money out of news? Take a newspaper like The Guardian. It's not what they're presenting, it's WHO they do it for and HOW they present it which makes it interesting.

Charities need to do exactly the same, otherwise, none of this will work. So, one of your biggest challenges is to really define your marketplace. And then make sure your marketing resource and your marketing goals are aligned.

By understanding what your mission is (your WHY), your HOW changes. And then if you understand your WHO - that market you are going to appeal to - this becomes a really powerful fit together. 

Google’s mission was to document the world’s information. Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg stated at the age of 19, “I don’t have a company I am on the mission to connect the world”. Microsoft’s mission was “a computer on every desk in every home”. It achieved this and then in the 90’s it lost the plot. It started three social networks no one can remember. It started to play “And me”. They completely lost their focus - because they achieved their mission - and had no reason to exist. Now they seem to be getting it back - they are a business platform (for example buying LinkedIn makes sense in this context). 

Charities probably don’t need to reengineer your mission. I think you just need to be bolder in articulating your mission. That’s scary. In a digital world we need to do that.

We live in world of information overload because everyone has a channel. We can’t cope. So, we are creating digital ecosystems around ourselves to cope with volume on information. Spam filters, even getting rid of tracks on an album, or even a bespoke Times newspaper. All of us are creating our own ecosystems. Birds of feather flock together and mix with people with similar views and aspirations. So, similar views reinforce my own ideals and view of the world. If you only get the stuff you want to listen to - the world becomes more polarised. If you don’t have a strong position - a cut through - people won’t filter you in. You just become part of the general noise. So, you need to know who your WHO is. Trump knew who he had to get out to vote.

Our own ecosystems we build around us prevent us from seeing the reality

As marketers, and fundraisers, you now have to be in touch with your audience. You need to educate yourself as what is going on in the wider population. So, you should read the SUN because it’s the most read newspaper in the country even though you may not enjoy it. You should watch the biggest TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing for the same reason. And you also need to be in touch with your WHO as well because your WHO might not be the wider population. You used to, not to, have to, do that!

We are in great danger to dismiss BREXIT and Trump supporters as dumb. It misses the point. A leading behavioural psychologist Antonio Damasio said “Human beings are feeling machines that think we’re not thinking machines that feel”

Take an election (donations too) a lot of people don’t on vote on facts - even intelligent people don’t vote on facts. For example, how many of us have ever read a party manifesto? We don’t download manifestos. Generally, we vote on our belief system and values. It becomes fairly emotive, and then on gut feel. When people vote for Trump you have to ask what is the underlying emotional stuff that is going on? From a marketing and comms view these things are based on authenticity (never a complete lie). So, when Trump says “Washington is corrupt’ and ‘the politicians have let you down’ and ‘a lot of America has been left behind”, there is a lot we can all agree with there. He tapped into an emotion that is real. It is dangerous to ignore it. People are angry and Trump tapped into that. And this is how people make decisions. To ignore it is very dangerous. 

From a communications point of view you need to have a really clear idea of what your emotional proposition to your customer is? Do you sell candles or romance? If you sell romance what colour is your logo? What language do you use on your website?

When you think about your mission, your WHY, and your WHO, the other thing to think about is your emotional proposition, because that is how people make decisions, including donating to charity.’ 

Grant Leboff, 17 November 2016, London, UK.

With thanks to Flow Caritas for organising and hosting the event.

Click on the image below to view project 18 in full - PDF format.

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

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