5 Steps to Successfully Implementing Marketing Automation

The digital world has altered our expectations when it comes to connecting with organizations we want to give back to. According to research done by Accenture, more than 44% of donors have reported feeling more willing to donate to an organization that gives them a personalized experience. Donors want more meaningful connections with the organizations they support and with a marketing automation strategy in place, the opportunities to connect with donors are endless.

Once your organization has decided to take on marketing automation, you may feel overwhelmed thinking about where to begin. But there’s no need to get bogged down by all of the functions and new possibilities of these platforms. Stick to these five basic steps and you’ll be on your way to nurturing stronger connections with donors in no time:

1. Choose a Marketing Automation Software

There are various marketing automation software solutions to choose from. When it comes to selecting the right one for your organization, you’ll need to evaluate your organization’s needs, budget and capacity to execute beforehand. Later in this series, we’ll break down the most important things to consider in the search for the best marketing automation software for your organization.

When it comes to cost, all-in-one software solutions that include both CRM and marketing automation capabilities can be considerably pricey, but there are plenty of vendors that start as low as $29 per month, like Hatchbuck.

2. Get Your Marketing and Development Teams Together

If your marketing and development teams aren’t already working together, they should be! There’s no better time to align these integral parts of your team than while you’re shifting to using a marketing automation solution. For most nonprofit organizations, these teams traditionally work in silos. Donor development teams use a database to track prospects, their potential level of giving and other donor-related details, while marketing teams are keeping a separate database of contacts to communicate with. When these databases aren’t integrated, the donor development teams are missing out on valuable information about prospects, which can be used to attract support.

The lack of integration between the two sides of the organization can cause frustration internally — or worse — with your donors. Using the same database will simplify tasks and prevent donors from feeling overwhelmed by too many competing messages during the same time period. When both teams are working in silos, activities can cancel each other out, dissuading donor engagement.

Getting these teams together generates tremendous results in terms of retaining and attracting more donors — ultimately raising more funds to support your mission. When both teams are working together and using the same database, your organization can ensure that its current and prospective donors are receiving personalized messages and content, driving a deeper connection between them and your cause.

Through our work with nonprofits, we have seen firsthand the kind of results that bringing these two pieces of your organization can have on the overall function of your internal operations, as well as its ability to attract more long-term support for your mission.

3. Import and Segment Your Database

Once you’ve successfully identified the right marketing automation solution for your organization, you’ll want to begin importing your contact list. This is arguably the most important step in the implementation process, as these are the individuals you’ll be connecting with.

Beyond simply importing your lists, you’ll want to segment your database to truly drive stronger connections with your donors. One of the most influential functions of marketing automation software solutions is the ability to segment your contact list. Segmenting prospects as they begin making connections with your organization — such as downloading gated content pieces or visiting specific pages on your website — presents an opportunity to continue reaching them with content they’re interested in through email marketing campaigns.

At MagnifyGood, we use segmentation in our marketing efforts to share content with detailed personas. Using these fictionalized representations of our target audiences, we distribute carefully crafted, specific and personalized email drip campaigns, one for each of our personas. For example, we share content related to fundraising tips and development strategies with our donor development contacts, but we send our marketing contacts tips to enhance branding and marketing strategies. Your donors have unique needs and won’t gravitate toward the same type of content. Segmenting your contact lists paves the way for an optimal experience for your donor.

4. Take an Inventory of Your Existing Content

Fully taking advantage of your marketing automation software’s capabilities means having a clear content strategy in place. Content is the driving force behind engaging with your donors — but don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you have to focus on creating a bunch of new content pieces. Resources such as donor stories, impact reports and photos from the field are all pieces of content you likely already have that can be repurposed in your email marketing campaigns.

Taking an inventory of your existing content increases content effectiveness. When you consider the volume and frequency in which you’ll need to post content, you’ll appreciate the proactive steps made to ensure that your organization is prepared to meet its donors with relevant content.

5. Run Your First Campaign

Once you’ve chosen the right marketing automation vendor, brought your donor development and marketing teams together, segmented your database and identified your organization’s most powerful content, you’ll be more than prepared to run your first email marketing campaign.

Most software solutions come equipped with pre-designed email templates that you can update with your organization’s branding. Having ready-to-use email newsletter templates will kickstart your campaign efforts. Additionally, marketing automation vendors like SharpSpring give users the option of transforming standard email newsletters with dynamic content that can be matched to each of your organization’s personas, fitting their specific needs and interests.

There are various tools embedded in marketing automation software that helps you gauge campaign engagement through lead tracking, providing your organization insight into the interest level of your prospects. Scoring capabilities enable alerts that can be sent automatically to your donor development team when prospects show continued interest in specific areas of your website, such as a “how to donate” page.

This gives your organization the tools and knowledge to be more prepared than ever before when the opportunity to speak to a prospect or current donor arises.

The rise of the internet has brought forth various challenges for nonprofits. Marketing automation harnesses the power to turn these challenges into opportunities to create stronger, more emotional connections.

Introducing these systems to your team and integrating them into your already existing processes and workflows takes time and intentional steps. It’s not about working harder, or putting in longer hours. It’s a paradigm shift and once you’ve successfully implemented marketing automation, the benefits will prove to be worth the effort.

With a harmonious relationship between donor development and communications, you can streamline projects, be more strategic and, ultimately, raise more money for your mission. We call this process of alignment connective impact, and we’ve seen firsthand its power to increase donor engagement and loyalty. You can download our eBook on connective impact here.

If you haven’t read our article on what marketing automation can do to supercharge your marketing efforts, you can find it here.


This blog was published as a guest article for Nonprofit Pro, the go-to source for nonprofit management and strategy.

Photo Credit: Jake Hills via Unsplash

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