Inbound marketing, calls-to-action, engagement, A/B testing...these are all terms that I find incredibly powerful and brimming with potential. However, I'm not writing a marketing blog here, so I'm going to take these marketing terms and translate them into actions you can do on your nonprofit website in order to improve your online presence.
Creating your call to action
As a nonprofit organization, you most likely have an online presence that is (ideally) meant to achieve certain goals...to encourage (persuade) your public to perform certain actions. So, what is the best way to get your website visitors to perform these actions? You want to ask them directly...but to have the highest success rate, do it at the right moment, and in the right way.
When marketing people talk about inbound marketing, they are referring to creating a wealth of information on your website that is useful to the "inbound" website visitor. They might have found their way to you via Google's search, clicking links on your social media sites, or through some other manner...the point is that they voluntarily chose to click on a piece of material that was of interest to them.
This is in direct opposition to interuption, or outbound, marketing where you (spam) people with emails, phone calls, snail mail etc. Carrying on an inbound marketing campaign is a lot of work...there's a big commitment that has to be made to ongoing content creation and curation. That's why it is so important to take advantage of the opportunity those interested website visitors are presenting you.
You will do this by creating a call to action that is appropriate to the action(s) they are presently taking on your website.
Determining the "right" call to action
I suspect the only answer to the question "what is the right call to action" would be...you won't know until you start testing! This is why I mentioned A/B testing in the first line of this blog posting. If you want a quick intro to A/B testing, watch this video on how to use the Google Website Optimizer for A/B testing.
Let's walk through a series of actions that a website visitor might take, consider potential calls to action, and then address how to get those on your website.
- You have posted a link on your nonprofit's Facebook page.
- One of your Facebook fans clicks on the link, which brings them to your website page, giving them information on your latest campaign (we'll assume it is centred around youth & homelessness).
- You now have an interested supporter on your website, reading on a topic that is important to him/her. What is your website now "guiding" them to do?
Odds are, the current calls to action on your nonprofit website are relatively general, inviting the visitor to donate, sign up to a newsletter, or maybe subscribe to a blog. These are indeed important and definitely can increase engagement...but if you want to improve "conversion rates" on your call to action, you want to consider getting a little more strategic!
What if you figured out a way to offer this website visitor more information that was relevant to the particular interest they were demonstrating at that moment? If they are currently reading on how your after school programs are helping to positively impact youth homelessness, you might have a context related call to action suggesting they support or learn more about your after school programs. Or, you might have something suggesting they sign up to receive a "package" of information about youth homelessness and the progress your programs have made.
Which is the "right" call to action? You can use Google's Website Optimizer tool do easy A/B testing. After around 100 visits to each of the A and B options, you will be able to choose the one which brings about the greatest engagement.
How to build call to action blocks
Once you have decided that you want to test some "strategic" calls to action, you need to get those blocks of information onto your website.
If you are using a website CMS (Content Management System) like Drupal this isn't too difficult, and in fact you can configure your website so that your call to action blocks only appear on certain pages (see the image). So, while your supporter is on the after school programs section of your website, you have configured your sidebar blocks to be customized to that section. This increases your chances of engagement.
In general your call to action blocks will come from one of the following sources:
- A third party website, such as an email tool like Constant Contact. In this case you are typically given a code snippet which you will paste in the block.
- A block that is automatically generated by your website CMS. For example, you might have a "newsletter signup" feature enabled on your website, where the necessary block is automatically generated by the website CMS.
- A custom website form that you can make yourself.
Pasting in code snippet
Pasting in code snippet is quite simple...the key is to turn off your "rich text editor" before you paste in the HTML snippet supplied by your third party. Here is a screenshot where I have turned off the rich text editor (see bottom left corner of editor) and pasted in some HTML form code. Once you "Save" the block your new form is ready to be placed in the sidebar.
Building a custom website form for a call to action
There may be cases where you want to create a custom form as your call to action. This is incredibly easy to do in the Drupal website CMS...and telling the form to present itself as a block in the sidebar on particular pages is also quite easy to do. Simply determine what you fields of information you want to collect, create your form, and place it where it will have the most impact.
Having people on your website, reading your nonprofit materials, is a huge opportunity for your organization to increase engagement. By practicing creating custom calls to action, and testing them via A/B testing and other metrics, you can enhance your channels of building support beyond the standard donations and newsletter subscriptions.
Question: Does your nonprofit website have one or more "calls to action"? Have you tried optimizing the color, text, or placement before? If yes, which had the biggest impact?