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Encouraging Word-of-Mouth Marketing for Your Nonprofit

By Allison Gauss
Newspaper Classifieds

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

How to Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing …

Have you been seeing cars with pink mustaches lately?

If so, you probably live in one of the 60 cities where the ride-sharing service, Lyft, is operating. A few months ago, my friend Adam got a job driving for Lyft and was excited to tell his friends all about it. Soon my friends and I were using Lyft regularly and now I am quick to suggest the service to others. The thing is, I probably never would have tried Lyft if a friend hadn’t told me how great it was.

This is a perfect example of how word-of-mouth can be a huge marketing asset.

As the marketing industry moves away from traditional advertising and toward permission-based marketing, word-of-mouth marketing is another great asset for nonprofits who want to spread their message and reach new donors.

Trust-Based Marketing

There’s a good reason that so many businesses offer prizes or discounts when their customer refers a friend: it is a very effective form of marketing. Many people are suspicious of traditional advertising and some even ignore online ads altogether. Word-of-mouth marketing, however, is rooted in the trust people place in their friends and family. A survey of more than 58,000 people by Forrester Research found that 70% of American consumers trusted brand recommendations from friends and family. Conversely, only 10% trusted website ads.

And more importantly, people don’t just trust their friends’ recommendations, they often act on them. A 2010 survey by Morpace, a retail consulting organization, found that “Nearly 68 percent of consumers say that a ‘positive referral from a Facebook friend makes them more likely to buy a specific product or visit a certain retailer.’”

It is clear that positive word-of-mouth and referrals can be a powerful tool for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers, but how do you encourage and create great word-of-mouth? Isn’t that out of your control?

Not entirely.

Ask and You Might Receive

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. You are probably already asking your community to donate and fundraise for you, but have you asked them to tell their friends about your organization? It may not have occurred to a supporter that simply letting people know about you can be helpful. This is a particularly good option for supporters who are not in a position to donate. Explain that because so much of your budget is devoted to programs, it’s hard to spread your message through traditional marketing.

For the best results, it is a good idea to ask supporters one-on-one or in personal emails to tell their friends about the organization. Research into the Bystander Effect has found that when people are in a situation with a group, there is a diffusion of responsibility. People are less likely to take action because they assume others will do so instead. So you might have more success by personally asking a few key supporters to spread the word, rather than sending an email blast for subscribers to “tell your friends!” You might just be surprised by how much people are willing to help when you ask them. Research shows that we tend to greatly underestimate how likely others are to help us.

Reinforcement is Key

One of the coolest things about social media is that it puts regular people, celebrities, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies all on the same level. A teenager from Iowa can get a retweet from their favorite singer, a customer can get product instructions from a company’s Twitter account, and your supporters can speak to you directly. Social media is conversation on a global scale, so you should be paying attention and participating!

When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, responding to posts, comments, and tweets about your organization is a great way to encourage online discussion. This shows your community that you are listening and want their feedback. One survey found that when a brand responds to an online consumer review, 41 percent of respondents said it made them feel that the company really cares about its customers. In fact, 7 in 10 respondents said that when a company responded to a negative review it changed their perception of the brand. Taking a moment to retweet a compliment or thank a follower for mentioning you takes little effort, but it might turn a casual donor into an advocate.

And with social media monitoring applications, it is easier than ever to be aware of your presence on Twitter and Facebook. Some of our favorite tools include Buffer, Swayy and Hootsuite. They also offer all kinds of statistics and reports to help you post more effectively. However, there are tons of tools out there with a wide variety of features, so if you really want to delve into the many options, try browsing this list, here.

Give Them Something to Talk About

Your community’s discussion and opinions of you influence word-of-mouth marketing, but that doesn’t mean it is totally out of your control. Friends influence our decisions. Therefore, asking friends to talk about you can influence others to take action on behalf of your organization. Try asking a few key supporters to tell their friends about your organization and if you can, ask them one-on-one.

Despite the term “word-of-mouth,” part of your strategy should also be listening and contributing to the discussion of your nonprofit of social media. Recognize those who promote you and take negative comments as a chance to show excellent donor stewardship. This is a form of marketing that any organization can afford. Paid advertisement and direct mail materials are expensive, but fortunately for nonprofits, talk is cheap.

Communications Strategy Guide for Nonprofits

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